There are a host of horror movies and TV series recommended in the lead up to Halloween. A good amount of them have been or are currently being adapted from comics. So let’s have a look at some horror comics you can read before you watch their movie or TV version!
30 Days of Night
Written by Steve Niles (The October Faction) 30 Days of Night started out as a three-issue miniseries. In this first miniseries, we go to Barrow, Alaska. A real town, by the way. It is so far up north that each Winter the sun sets for a month. This year it will be different from other years, though. A group of vampires has seen a great benefit in a month-long darkness: a feeding frenzy with basically no time limit. With no help coming it’s up to the townspeople to survive 30 days of night.
The first miniseries has been followed with numerous sequels. The most recent of them was released this year, which returned the series to its Alaskan roots after detours to even space. In 2007 a movie adaption was released also called 30 Days of Night directed by David Slade (Hard Candy, Black Mirror’s Metalhead), produced by Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) and starring Josh Hartnett (Penny Dreadful), Melissa George (The Amityville Horror (2005)), and Danny Huston (FRANK3N5T31N). The movie got a direct-to-video sequel called 30 Days of Night: Dark Days in 2010, and a miniseries prequel called 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails in 2007 and a miniseries sequel 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust in 2008 by Fearnet, a US cable network and on-demand service. Ironically the comic came out from a failed movie pitch.
Archie Horror in an imprint of Archie Comics Publications, Inc. and publishes horror versions of their mainstream comics. They have published four series to date, which are all set in their own continuity. Note before reading, Archie Horror takes its sweet time publishing issues.
- Afterlife with Archie: When Reggie drives over and kills Jughead’s dog Hot Dog the latter asks teenage witch Sabrina to resurrect him. She agrees and succeeds, but not completely. Hot Dog returns as a zombie. When the undead dog bites Jughead it is the start of the zombie apocalypse. The series is written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Marvel’s The Stand comic adaption) with art by Francesco Francavilla (Black Panther: The Man Without Fear).
- Jughead: The Hunger: The serial killer “The Riverdale Ripper” is on the loose in, well, Riverdale. Jughead discovers not only that he is the killer but also a werewolf, giving one explanation for the character’s cravings in the mainstream comics. Betty, who comes from a family of werewolf hunters, wants to kill him but is persuaded to a non-lethal solution by Archie. When eventually the slaughtered body of Reggie is found the hunt is on for Jughead. The series is written by Frank Tieri (Deadpool Corps) with art by Michael Walsh (The X-Files: Season 10).
- Vampironica: When Veronica is turned into a vampire she needs to deal with the prospect of feeding on the Riverdale residents. The series is written by Greg and Megan Smallwood with art also by Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight (2016)).
- Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: In the 1960s Sabrina Spellman lives with her aunts Hilda and Zelda in Greendale, neighbouring Riverdale. With her 16th birthday approaching Sabrina has to make a choice: become a witch like her aunts or choose a mortal life with her friends and boyfriend Harvey. Meanwhile, Madam Satan, an old flame of Sabrina’s father, has returned from Hell and wants revenge on the Spellman family. The series is written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Riverdale) with art by Robert Hack. On Friday, October 26 Netflix will release the first of at least two seasons based and named after this comic.
There is no way we can omit one of DC Comics imprint Vertigo’s longest running horror comics, Hellblazer. Which ran between 1988 and 2013. Starring the character introduced in the pages of Alan Moore’s The Saga of Swamp Thing #25, John Constantine. Originally the comic was written by Jamie Delano (Animal Man) and artist John Ridgway (Doctor Who Magazine, 2000 AD), with cover art by Dave McKean (Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth).
The series starts with the “Original Sins” arc in which streetwise magician John Constantine from Liverpool travels to the United States to exorcise the demon Mnemoth, investigate the Damnation’s Army cult, crosses paths with another demon with whom he has history called Nergal, and becomes responsible for the death of a friend and the betrayal of another called Zed. The second arc, “The Devil You Know,” tells us the events of the disastrous exorcism by Constantine of the young girl Astra in Newcastle.
A unique element of the long-running series of 300 issues is that John Constantine ages in real time. Since the conclusion of Hellblazer, another version of John Constantine entered the DC Comics universe proper during its “The New 52” initiative. The character leads two comics since, Justice League Dark and Constantine.
The comics starring John Constantine were adapted to a theatrical movie in 2005, starring Keanu Reeves as a heavily altered version of the character in Los Angeles. The movie was directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) and written by Kevin Brodbin (The Siege of Jadotville). Its story was loosely based upon the story arcs “Original Sins” and “Dangerous Habits.” There was also a tie-in video game which was met with a mixed reception for PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and mobile.
In 2015 NBC aired one season of thirteen episodes of Constantine, a series developed by Daniel Cerone (Charmed) and David S. Goyer (Man of Steel). The series starred a far more comic accurate version of John Constantine played by Matt Ryan. After the series was cancelled it was retroactively made part of the shared DC TV universe by Ryan reprising the role in an episode of Arrow. Later on, he guest starred a number of times on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and will be a regular in Season 4. Next to those live-action performances, Ryan has voiced the character in the DC Animated Movie Universe movies Justice League Dark and Constantine: City of Demons. The latter one is based on the Hellblazer story arc “All His Engines.”
In 1994 Dark Horse Comics introduced us to Mike Mignola’s first Hellboy comic run. Hellboy is a demon brought to Earth as a baby by an occult Nazi experiment during World War II, but was saved and then raised by the Allied Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. The professor was at the foundation of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence (B.P.R.D.) for which Hellboy would eventually work to protect humanity against whatever goes bump in the night. He does this with a host of other supernatural and human characters, most prominently the pyrokinetic Elizabeth “Liz” Sherman and the amphibious man Abraham “Abe” Sapien. Their adversaries are very eclectic. From Lovecraftian nightmares to mad Nazi scientists to fantasy characters like Nimue, the “Lady of the Lake” or the “Queen of Blood.” In the story it is revealed that Hellboy is actually named Anung un Rama and is destined to plunge the world into Hell, this forms the main struggle for Hellboy.
The first story arc of the Hellboy comic is called “Seed of Destruction.” It gives us the origin of Hellboy and sets up the world subsequent stories will be told in. The Hellboy comic has been joined by a number of spinoffs. There is the Abe Sapien solo comic, the B.P.R.D. comic starring other agents, and Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. tells stories set in previous decades from before the Hellboy series. Even set further back is Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder, about the titular character’s fight against evil in Victorian England. Next to that is the Lobster Johnson series, about “the Lobster,” a pulp hero who fights gangsters and supernatural threats in 1930s New York City. Outside those spinoffs, there are a number of miniseries that focus on characters like Rasputin and Koshchei the Deathless.
In 2004 Guillermo del Toro adapted Hellboy to the big screen. In Hellboy, we are introduced to the character and the B.P.R.D. in a story inspired by the story arc “Seed of Destruction.” After the movies modest success and del Toro’s success with Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army was released in 2008. In both movies, Hellboy is portrayed by Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy). Both movies also showcase the eclectic nature of its source material, with the first movie dealing with occult Nazis and Lovecraftian nightmares, while the second deals with elves, trolls, and other such creatures. A third live-action movie sadly never materialized, but the cast of the movies returned to voice two animated movies, Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron.
In 2019 we will see Hellboy return to the big screen in a reboot. This time the character will be played by David Harbour (Stranger Things) in a story based on the story arcs “The Wild Hunt” and “The Storm and The Fury.” The movie will be R-rated, directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent) and will have Nimue or the “Queen of Blood” (Milla Jovovich) as the main antagonist.
Next to all those movies, you can also play as Hellboy in video games. There are two Hellboy games, Hellboy: Dogs of the Night for PC or Hellboy: Asylum Seeker for PlayStation, and Hellboy: The Science of Evil for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PlayStation Portable which stars the voice talents of the actors from the movies. Hellboy is also a playable character in the “Fighter Pack 2” DLC pack for the DC Comics fighting game Injustice 2 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Locke & Key
Welcome to Lovecraft! Welcome to Keyhouse! Locke & Key is an awarded IDW comic series written by Joe Hill (the pen name of Stephen King’s son Joseph) with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. The story starts with the story arc “Welcome to Lovecraft.” After the father of the Locke family is killed in a home invasion the remainder of the family moves in with the father’s brother. The uncle lives in the family home called “Keyhouse” in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. At first, it looks like the family has found a nice place to start over, but there is some weird stuff going on. Why is the well-house off-limits, for example? And things get even weirder when the youngest of the three children start telling stories of having found a key that opens a door where he can become a ghost like his dad. Are these weird things just caused by the trauma of the home invasion, or is there something supernatural going on?
The series started in 2008 and has released issues up to 2013 with a currently final one-shot in 2016. The subsequent stories are going forward and backwards in time, telling the whole story of Keyhouse.
There have been multiple attempts at adapting the comics for the screen. Dimension Films tried to make it a movie with John Davis (Predator) producing. In 2010 Dimension Films lost the rights to DreamWorks with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Star Trek) producing at first a movie trilogy (which was announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2014) and later a TV series with Steven Spielberg added as producer and Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as showrunner. Fox ordered a pilot episode, directed by Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo), but failed to pick it up to series for the 2011-2012 US broadcasting series. In 2017 another TV adaption was in the works for Hulu. This time with Carlton Cuse (The Strain), Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange), and Lindsey Springer (Colony) as producers, and with Derrickson also directing the pilot episode. When Hulu also passed on a Locke & Key series, it was finally Netflix who stepped in and ordered the series.
The upcoming Netflix series is not yet here, but until that time you might want to give the 13-hour audio drama a shot! Next to the actual comic, of course. The 2015 production has the voice talents of Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager) and no less than 50 others, including appearances of Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez, and Stephen King. It was critically well received with four Audie Awards in 2016 from the Audiobook Publisher’s Association of America, including “Best Original Work” and “Excellence in Production.”
After three seasons on American premium cable network Showtime and UK pay-tv broadcaster Sky, Penny Dreadful was cancelled in 2016. The Victoria England set classic horror mash-up by John Logan (Skyfall) did give the feeling the story was not yet finished, even if there was a big “The End” on screen.
Titan Comics published a prequel comic of five issues also called Penny Dreadful. It was written by the series co-executive producer Chris King and writers Krysty Wilson-Cairns and Andrew Hinderaker. The art was provided by Louie De Martinis. It tells the story of why Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) starts the search for her friend Mina Harker. But that was before the series was cancelled.
After the TV series was cancelled Titan Comics announced a sequel comic series set six months after that big “The End” on screen. Again called Penny Dreadful it finds Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) wandering after the events of the TV series. This is until new creatures from the dark are stirring again. And what is dead might not be as dead as one presumes…
The October Faction
Written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) with art from Damien Worm. The October Faction introduces us to the family of Frederick Allan. A university professor in the occult who is also a retired monster hunter. While Fred might have put his previous career behind him in favour of a family with fellow monster hunter Deloris, the past is not done with him. Certainly not when his late teen kids Geoff and Vivian start to have a serious interest in their parents’ former career. What follows is an onslaught of all kinds of supernatural creatures, with a The Addams Family vibe.
IDW has published a first run of 18 issues and two sequel runs called Deadly Season and Supernatural Dreams. Netflix is currently developing a live-action TV series adaption, which should premiere in October, surely? Just recently is was announced that J.C. MacKenzie (Molly’s Game, The OA) and Tamara Taylor (Bones, Altered Carbon) are cast as the parental leads.
These are just some horror comics that are getting attention as possible adaptions for the screen, and definitely not all horror comics available. But with these comics, you are most likely set for this coming Halloween. Happy reading and watching!