My mind has been on horror overdrive lately with my new anthology releasing later this year.
I’m happy that I’m getting a lot of these stories out of my head to an audience (most of these stories are about 10 years old), but I’m also looking back at them to gage how scary they actually are.
What makes a horror comic scary is something I’ll go back to in later posts -- I have a lot to say there.
I’m going to be pushing myself to make scarier comics and I’m going to use this “On Horror” blog series to help me with that.
With this first post I want to focus on pulpy horror morality tales. This is extremely common story structure with horror comics and has been done since the early days of comics with EC titles like Tales from the Crypt and Two Fisted Tales. Of course -- stories like this have been around long since comics though— Edgar Allan Poe’s Hop Frog/ The Black Cat/Tell Tale Heart and even the ancient Greek story of Actaeon.
But were any of these stories scary in the first place? The basic rundown of these stories is: Bad guy does an evil deed(s) and meets his end in pulpy ironic way.
Example: Stephen King’s Battlegrounds, where a hitman comes home after completing a contract on a toy maker only to discover a chest of miniature soldiers on his doorstep. The toy soldiers come to life and attack the hitman. They ultimately kill him by setting off a toy nuclear bomb.
For these types of stories to be scary wouldn’t it be necessary for the character to be likable and relatable, so we can care about their well being and hope for their survival? — Rather than revel in watching a villian get their come-ups?
I think these morality tales can be scary if you make a character that walks a grey line. Where we understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, though we may not ethically agree to it.
For example a drug dealer using his profits to pay for an expensive medical procedure on his dying daughter.
In the Ancient Greek story of Actaeon, the main character goes into a part of the woods that’s forbidden in order to hunt with his dogs. He is caught and turned into a deer by Artemis, the goddess of the wilderness. His dogs them rush him after they hear him call out as a deer and rip him to shreds.
Now to make the character a bit more relatable, we could say he was going into the woods to provide for his family during a famine. By simply changing this, we can sympathize with him and stay on his side.
I do think these stories allow for some gruesome ends, but I think the punch could be a lot harder if we had a character we could identify with. Maybe the choice to have a vile villain meet an gruesome end is easier to stomach than someone we connect to.
It's easier to see the murderous convict’s eye getting plucked out by a crow, than just someone who was detained for a traffic violation.
All this said I’m going to *try* to avoid these stories in later anthologies...but they are so much fun and cathartic. It feels good to see the bad guy meet his end in a way he probably wouldn’t in real life.
What do you think about these stories? Are they too dated and overdone in horror comics?