Gail Williams waves a flag for all the great horror comic books.
I'm fairly sure that if you have read any of my articles or set eyes on my website, you'll know that I love comics. Which is why I get defensive when people denigrate them.
Recently another writer, who I somewhat admire, poo-poo-ed a suggestion for a horror anthology title as being “too comic booky, more suited to a graphic novel than a good anthology”. Like literature is the be-all-end-all.
I wanted to slap said writer.
I didn’t, but I wanted to.
Now, I’m a writer, so I love the written word and I’ll carry a banner for literature any day of the week. But the thing is, the writer was not only being unnecessarily insulting and dismissive of the comic book genre, the writer was clearly not aware of all the good horror comic books out there. Such a stance is a virtual guarantee that the person is missing out on one of the liveliest sources of new horror, and a horror market that some of the stalwarts of the genre are moving into. Don’t forget, comics have always had a horror strand - Tales From The Crypt dates back to the 1950s.
I can't draw for toffee. But I love art. And I really love accessible art. I don't live in the Capital and I don’t often go there either, so I miss a lot of the best exhibitions. This may also why I’m a minor Banksy fan. His works are available to the public and they have a tone of irreverence that I admire. It’s all public access artwork.
The point I’ve just rambled away from is that comics provide a readily available source of new art, and art in various styles. Personally I’m not a big fan of Manga, but I can see the artistry and understand why some people are. I prefer the more realistic drawing forms, I love the work of Michael Turner for Witchblade (which could be considered mild horror), but I hate poor drawing, Hellcat for example (not horror but one I've read recently).
I’ve read a number of horror comics, everything from The Evil Within which is something of a gore-fest, to Cthuhlu derived Dark Gods, to quirky kids horror Norman, and Norman Teachers Pet - okay I only put both of these in for blatant self publication, so sue me. There are lots of other titles of course, Preacher, The Walking Dead - yes it was a comic first - Constantine, Lucifer, Hellboy (and the many offshoots), I Feel Sick, Blood and Gourd, The Disciples, the list goes on…
Comic greats write horror, even Alan Moore, arguably the greatest comic book writer (do not miss out on this man’s work, it’s brilliant) writes horror comics. His Lovecraft-influenced stuff like Neonomicon and Providence is fantastic. If you like werewolves that aren’t happy shooting baskets, try Cry Havoc, modern and twisted. If really dark horror is your thing, try the Crossed series - I did, gave me nightmares.
The good thing about a well drawn comic is that you don’t have to waste hours reading descriptions - it’s all there right in front of you. Crowd control is easy, you just draw people in the right place on the pane. Yes, okay, I know it’s not “easy”, but it’s visual and every picture paints a thousand - yada, yada, snore.
A good comic will also have good writing, it’ll show character, pace and plot in much the same way a good book does.
And talking of good books, in a strange twist of the times, even Stephen King is getting into the graphic novel field, The Stand and The Dark Tower are now available in graphic novel form.
This is accessible literature as well as art - give a kid who won’t touch a book a comic and they’ll read it. This is particularly important for young boys who seem to have been somewhat disenfranchised from the literary world.
When good writing and good art come together, they create something really magical. At the moment I am enjoying a series call Black Magick. This is the lighter side of horror, I like the occasional slash and burn, but I like the mystery too. This thing with Black Magick is it is brilliant from start to finish, it captures the reader from issue #1, carries you easily through issue #2, great spell casting in issue #3, throws you straight in with a full frontal autopsy in issue #4, and I can’t wait to see what happens in issue #5 - it's sitting to my right hand and I’m going to read it as soon as I’m done here.
So - in short - don't dis the comic book - it might just come back and bite ya!
Gail Williams lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and
the wonderful she can imagine. Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits
and pieces are a bit wonderful. Well okay, she lives in Swansea with
her husband and daughter. And the world’s most demanding cat. To find
out more about Gail, check out www.gailbwilliams.co.uk - Dare you!