Roundtable: Our favorite Halloween stories
Since today is Halloween, we thought we would propose some treats—our favorite scary graphic novels, both classics and new releases.
Brigid: Anya’s Ghost is a ghost story that is a good read any time of the year. The horror isn’t just tacked on to this coming-of-age story, it’s woven into the plot. A disaffected teenager with the usual suite of problems (poor body image, popularity, out-of-touch mother) hooks up with a ghost who starts out solving all her problems but ends up messing with her life in very serious ways—and forcing her to rethink her whole view of life. The scariness comes not so much from the ghost as from the loss of control when the ghost starts to take over. It’s a great parable that can apply to a lot of situations, but it’s also a ripping good yarn.
Robin: On the young side, I am delighted to recommend the Glister series by Andi Watson. Glister Butterworth shares a lot with another young heroine from last year’s Halloween list, Courtney Crumrin, in that she’s intelligent, observant, and unflappable in the face of strange goings-on. She resides at the unfortunately named but actually quite hospitable Chillblain Hall with her parents, similarly pragmatic in the face of weirdness. Unlike Courtney’s creepier encounters, the Glister series follows our heroine in charming adventures helping out wayward spirits, locating her house when its gone off in a huff (as it is wont to do), locating the Faerie border, and brewing the best cup of tea. The third installment, Glister and the Faerie Host, takes place during the run up toward Halloween. Sadly, although this series was once published by Image Comics, the four installments are now only available as imports published by Walker in the UK. You can still purchase them via vendors (as I can through Baker and Taylor) or through an online bookseller.
My teen pick is the vivid and wonderfully unsettling Hexed from Michael Alan Nelson and one of my favorite newer ladies in comic art, Emma Rios. Don’t be fooled by Paul Pope’s (admittedly striking) cover: Lucifer is not a pin-up heroine running around in skimpy outfits, but a lean, mean demon-wrangling machine. Lucifer makes her uncertain living as a thief of supernatural and powerful objects for unscrupulous power brokers in the magical underworld. Practical, clever, and armed with keen sense of self-preservation, she’s made it to 19 by avoiding personal involvment and making sure not to cross the wrong people. Her unique sense of humor comes out in how she traps demons in tiny, adorable plushies. In Hexed, however, cute allies cannot protect her when her past comes back to drag her back into unsavory company. Emma Rios’s art is distinctive and as sly as Lucifer herself while Cris Peters’s colors add rich, bright layers. This title also gives us my nomination for one of the most elegantly unsettling villians I’ve seen in years: The Harlot. This is definitely a horror title, so there’s explicit blood and violence making it appropriate for older teens. However, Lucifer’s smart and capable heroine will strongly appeal to fans of Whedon’s Buffy and Fray comics or the creepy mayhem of Locke & Key, Hellsing, or Uzumaki.
Kate: For older teens, I recommend Jill Thompson and Evan Dorkin’s Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites. On paper, the plot sounds kind of corny: a group of cats and dogs team up to solve supernatural mysteries in their home town of Burden Hill. In Thompson and Dorkin’s capable hands, however, Beasts of Burden turns out to be scary, surprising, funny, and touching, offering teen readers just the right mixture of squick and sentiment to hold their interest. The animals’ peppery rapport is a hoot, while Thompson’s beautiful illustrations endow each of the characters with a breed-appropriate personality. A note to parents: though the cover art may appeal to grade-school readers, the series contains a few graphic images that are better suited for the twelve-and-up crowd.
Snow: My friend’s fifth-grade class particularly likes PTA Night by Jeremy Scott. This wordless graphic novel features bold computer graphics and a unique format. Instead of traditional graphic novel panels, PTA Night uses the classrooms of a school as the outlines for the artwork. As readers peer into the cut-away school, they see a variety of things going on: a PTA meeting, cooking in the cafeteria, janitors relaxing, etc. Then, as the pages turn, things in each room gradually change as zombies appear, an alien lands, the moon turns a man into a werewolf, and so on. The story is funny, rather than scary, but uses a lot of familiar horror characters, making it a good choice for kids (like me) who like the idea of monsters, but who are worried about being scared.
Esther: The My Boyfriend is a Monster series put out by Lerner Publishing is a great mix of horror, romance, and fun. In Volume 1, I Love Him to Pieces, Dicey and Jack are a very unlikely couple thrown together for a school health project. But their friendship blossoms into a relationship, until an infection breaks out that turns most of their friends into zombies. Jack just might be one of the casualties. A fun, fast-paced adventure that mixes horror and fun, this is a great middle school read for all the monster-crazed readers.
Scott: Readers looking for a “safe” scare should check out the 4 volumes of Sam and Friends Mysteries published by Kids Can Press. Jennie discovers not only that she can communicate telepathically with the neighbor’s sheepdog Sam, but also that this particular dog has a penchant for solving mysteries. Each book features a different monster—so far we’ve seen vampires, sea monsters, mummies and witches—all of which are debunked in the end by the investigations of Sam, Jennie and Jennie’s best friend Beth. Sam’s runaway imagination and love of monsters will remind readers of the silly, simple plots of the popular chapter book series, The Bailey School Kids.
Mike: My favorite pick for teens is the Marvel Monsters anthology collection that was originally published in 2006. Marvel Comics before the days of publishing super hero comic stories in the 1960s were known for their monster comic books appearing in the pages of “Strange Tales” and “Tales to Astonish” where readers were treated to odd Godzilla-like monsters like Fing Fang Foom, Droom, and Robuu. Marvel paid tribute to their beasts of old in this great anthology collection that features some of Marvel’s more monsterous heroes including the Hulk, the Beast, Giant-Man, and the Thing against the giant beasts. Even mixed in for kicks is Jack Kiby’s 1970s creation Devil Dinosaur who gets to go toe-to-toe with the Hulk. The stories were done by fan favorites including Peter David, Jeff Parker, and Eric Powell – who has done some other fun monster stories himself including The Goon, Godzilla, and the recent Chimichanga. If you’re looking for a lot of 1950s-1960s classic giant monsters vs Marvel Super Hero beasts, you won’t be disappointed.
About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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