Once upon a time I was Reviews Editor for the well-respected comics/pop culture site PopImage (managed by the incredibly talented Chris Butcher, Ed Mathews and lots of other fine writers.) Though PopImage is long gone, some of the content lingers including this piece I wrote about eleven of the most haunting comics available back in 2004.
Halloween Required Reading
October 21, 2004
It’s the time of year for ghosts and goblins to come out of their graves and start haunting up a storm. Herein, you’ll find my list of quality reading for your own All Hallow’s Eve. I had dozens of creators and books to choose from, for my personal best. Works by Rick Veitch, Gahan Wilson, Steve Gerber and Michael Fleisher were all considered as well as single issues of STRAY BULLETS (#2), WASTELAND and even NEGATION (#16). And you could pick up almost any issue of CREEPY, EERIE, or any EC comic and make an evening out of it. But I had criteria for my reading list. Above all, the stories I chose had to truly make your skin crawl. I wasn’t looking for twist-in-the-tales, I wanted stories that were creepy and disturbing in their essence.
Upon compiling my list, I realized that the most creepy and disturbing comics I’ve seen can be counted on two hands (or so) – but the few creators associated with such works do keep turning up: Addams, Moore, Gaiman – and especially, the artists – Wrightson, Ditko, Burns. Maybe you won’t agree with all of my choices, but I promise you – crack at least one of these open – and you’ll likely have a week’s worth of nightmares.
SWAMP THING: DARK GENESIS
by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson
Scientist Alec Holland is enveloped in an explosion while working on his bio-restorative formula. Consumed by flames, he leaps into the murky bayou behind his lab, and emerges later as the tragic, muck-encrusted SWAMP THING.
In comics, Swamp Thing remains the most venerated horror icon. He wasn’t the first muck-monster in comics (The Heap toured the swamps throughout the 40’s), but he was the first one we related to. Wein and Wrightson’s short run in the early 70’s established Swamp Thing as a gothic, modern-day Frankenstein – a man turned swamp creature searching for his lost humanity. Swamp Thing was about identity and alienation. Swamp Thing gave a major outlet to comic’s premier horror artist of the moment, Berni Wrightson. (Wrightson was the only artist to ever draw Cain of HOUSE OF MYSTERY effectively.) Wrightson lush, texturized, moody art kept Swampy in full horror-mode when he could easily have turned into a b-grade superhero (which he would essentially become later). All the early issues are included in the tpb, including Arcane and his un-men.