It’s time to ring in the New Year with a look at some pretty cool horror comics that you might want to add to your 2016 reading list.
The following are titles by a wonderful horror writer who has been in the comic game for a while, B. Alex Thompson.
While this comic isn’t exactly horror in the traditional sense, it touches on some real world horror that has been at the forefront of many recent political conversations. The main character, Josh Jones, is a young black man who finds himself the target of some neo-Nazis. Although it seems like everything may revolve around the experience of racism violence, the story is more than just a tragic encounter. The entire issue is wracked with really compelling dialogue, complex characters, and some stylish and well directed art that gets you invested into what is going on.
Nominated for the Glyph Comics Award in 2014, HASS is combining current issues with a timeless feel to engage the reader on a deep emotional level. This title was my favorite out of all of them, not only because I think that real-life horror is something up and coming into the mainstream horror scene, but because all of Thompson’s talents in storytelling are absolutely glowing, making it enjoyable, as well as memorable even after you’ve finished.
Dealing with some supernatural and spiritual forces, a young boy, Luke, is the vessel for vengeful spirits that cannot rest until they can deal with those who have killed him. Finding himself at the center of Luke’s experiences, Oliver, a child psychiatrist with his own haunting past, tries to understand what is going on and seeks to help the boy.
Again, Thompson uses real life horrors to put the reader on the edge of their seat. Like his other works, there is a lot of graphic violence and adult themes, and while some of the story feels a little predictable and cliché at times, Thompson’s dialogue between characters keeps the story moving swiftly, again creating characters that are intriguing and captivating. While the story may feel a little episodic, I think it utilizes the horror genre to pose some questions about morality and what justice really means. And, although some of the story feels predictable and familiar, there are many points that make you cringe in a good way. (Especially when we get to Misha. Oh boy.) Unlike his other works, however, I found the story kind of heartbreaking. While this wasn’t a bad thing, it wasn’t something a feeling I’m familiar with after finishing a horror comic.
This short piece dives right into the classic horror movie tropes, but Thompson puts quite a few spins on some of those motifs that don’t make the story feel cliché or cookie cutter. The back and forth dialogue (something Thompson has a real talent for) really draws you into the characters, quickly investing yourself in them. Although we know what happens to the characters you love in horror movies (nine times out of ten it doesn’t end too well), the energy in investment is not wasted.
Like much of the classic horror genre, there is a lot of sexual tones involved in this book and even though there is sex, nudity, and lots of dirty humor, it does not degrade the integrity of the story or feel lewd and unnecessary. In fact, it fits really well, but may not be just anyone’s cup of tea. Something else to consider with this book is that looks may be incredibly deceiving. Even the words, “Southern hospitality” evoke some sort of negative feelings or assumptions of the south, but I think that is the point. Thompson does a good job on playing with reader’s preconceived notions or what stereotypes they might bring to their imaginations and assumptions about what may or may not happen. He does a good job turning these notions on their heads to make a fun romp into the South really come to life.
Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies
If you’re a fan of boobs, beers, bros, butts, and blood, then Chaos Campus some of Thompson’s early work is the comic you are looking for. While I’m not a huge fan of over-sexualized horror, if you get past the overly busty babes, the nipples through the shirts when shit hits the fan, or the butt and up-skirt shots throughout the comic, there is plenty of classic horror slasher and zombie humor that I feel is an essential to the zombie genre. However, as the story progresses through the issues and the Amazonian-like heroines become effluent zombie slayers, even the emphasis on the T&A begins to evolve into something a little more palpable without abandoning its center of being a mature audience spoof. While this is also due to each artist’s take on the story and their interpretation of the characters, the comic ends up taking itself a little more seriously.
Chaos Campus is a fun romp into funny and mature horror and unlike Southern Hospitality, you won’t find the women totally unclothed.
The Writer: B. Alex Thompson
The writer behind these works has a similar beginning to many of the horror creators out there. From childhood, he was seduced into the world of the spooky and the macabre and was an avid reader of works involving ghosts and cryptozoology. Themes, characters, and the tones of horror and science fiction became his craving and his focus. When he couldn’t get access to films, Thompson turned to the page and read screen novelizations like It’s Alive and The Island of Dr. Moreau.
But, comics as a medium of expression didn’t come into his life until much later.
In high school I was putting together stories that I was expecting to eventually turn into movies or TV shows. But cameras and film were far too expensive to attain on my own. To get extra money, I would sell things—mostly candy. But I was like a mobile pawn shop or eBay…I’d get things cheap and sell them for a profit. I was sold a bulk stack of comics cheaply and I read them. That’s when I realized that comic books were very similar to movies or TV, just on paper. I was already writing and drawing scenes, so I just had to put them all together in sequential format.
His first published comic, of course, was a horror title, Vampires Unlimited: Shades of Things to Come.
Although he grew up with a healthy love of the genre, Thompson feels like the horror genre is an avenue into more.
Also there’s the drama and stakes within horror stories. There are a lot of things about the human condition that can be crammed into a great horror story. So much psychology, drama, and on top of it all the threat of looming death and/or dismemberment. They’re stories of survival and for some characters triumph over adversity and death. I was also a sculptor for a time and I was obsessed with the form and design of monsters/creatures. I liked understanding how their fictional biology was constructed and how their fictional minds worked.
The comics above aren’t all Thompson has to offer. His website is full of titles he’s published, all within the realm of horror and encapsulating what he wants to bring to his medium as a writer. Using horror as a vehicle into the human psyche, Thompson seeks to, “challenge perspectives…flip expectations…and dive into the psychological things even more. I want to send a reader’s mind and body on a journey. Give them an emotional thrill along with giving their brains something to chew on.”
But, metaphorically, we hope.
You can find his issues available on his website or make a request to have them stocked in your local comic shop.
And a big thanks to B. Alex Thompson for sending some of his books for review and answering my questions. If you have horror titles you’d like us to check out, please contact us here.