Comics and horror share a long, sordid history. Separately, they’ve been blamed for everything from the tainting of wholesome teenage minds to the decline of society as a whole. Together, they’ve led to blacklists and ruined careers.
Through it all, though, horror comics have somehow managed to remain both popular and relevant. Popular works like Stephen King’s The Stand are finding new life in graphic novel adaptations, while venerable characters like Swamp Thing continue to stand side-by-side with their superhero counterparts. In the hands of a talented team of writers and artists, comics can conjure dread, disgust and outright fear just as handily as prose and film.
Which brings us here, to a new series at October Country: Ten Essential October Comics. Between now and Halloween, I’ll be taking a look at some of my choices for the definitive comics of the season. This is by no means comprehensive – even the order in which they fall may be suspect. I hope you’ll share your opinions – good or bad – on these comics (and my taste) in the comments, and share your own Essential October Comics with us all.
Let’s get started with an adaptation of a Halloween standby:
10. Dracula, by Bram Stoker, adapted by Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano
This was the subject of one of my first reviews on October Country, and revisiting it now I continue to be struck by how powerful it is, and how much of Stoker’s original work Thomas and Giordano were able to retain in what is potentially a limiting format. What’s even more amazing are the circumstances in which the two creators were able to produce the work – they began the adaptation in the mid-’70s, and had to abandon it when the magazines running it were canceled by Marvel. 30 years later, the two were brought back together to finish what they’d started, and they never missed a beat.
Thomas retains the original flavor of Stoker’s novel, but the book benefits greatly from the streamlined version presented here. The scripting is perfectly complemented by Giordano’s art, which depicts a hale, hearty and sophisticated Dracula that positively seethes with evil. Giordano places his characters in scenes that are atmospheric, moody and completely captivating, with castles, graveyards and gothic mansions that would look right at home in a Hammer horror film.
Marvel has released two hardback versions of the adaptation – one in the original black-and-white and another in color. Both are laden with extras including reproductions of magazine covers, original penciled layouts, and comments from both creators on what a long, strange trip it was bringing this completed work to the public. While I prefer the black-and-white version, either one is capable of producing chills on a cool Autumn evening, and both are a great way to kick off the countdown to Halloween.