An Overview of Horror Films Transformed into Comics
Forgive the slightly hand-holding title but there is, of course, a very big distinction between comics which were based on horror films and those which spawned films. Very much the errant cousin of film novelisations, this strand of comic allowed the writer and illustrator to ‘finish off’ that which they considered unresolved as well as to depict what was impossible to film, whether due to budget, time or the censors. It was also a win-win for the film studio and the publisher, with existing characters and plotlines facilitating a quick turnaround and an existing audience.
Published in 1989 through Black Horse, the comic adaptation of James Cameron‘s ‘The Abyss’ was a two-issue affair illustrated by Michael Kulata and coloured by Randy Stradley. The film was Cameron’s first after the critically and commercially successful, ‘Aliens’, and ‘The Abyss’ also proved a hit, though lacked an iconic image to associate with its main baddie. Both issues of the comic feature production designs by Moebius and Steve Burg, plus explanations as to what compromises were made in transferring the film to the page.
‘Alien: The Illustrated Story’ was the first comic adaptation of a horror film to make a genuine mark on the mainstream. Published by Heavy Metal in 1979, the same year as the release of the film, it was faithful in terms of plot with only a few minor differences. It was written by Archie Goodwin, a stalwart of ‘Creepy’ and ‘Eerie’, and drawn by Walt Simonson who had recently become one of DC’s golden boys, notably creating the art for ‘Manhunter’.
It was so successful that it became the first comic/graphic novel to break into the New York Times best seller’s list, reaching a high of number 7, and hailed by the paper as, “an eye-filling and vibrant graphic portrayal of the gripping and fantastic tale that is Alien.” It is still held in the highest regard by many, used as the yardstick by which other adaptations are measured.
It could have come as little surprise that when James Cameron released a sequel – ‘Aliens’ – in 1986, publishers circled to secure the rights and bring Xenomorphs to newsagents worldwide. Dark Horse was the victor, though it wasn’t until 1988 that the first comic would appear, continuing the stories of Hicks and Newt across an initial six issues. Written by Mark Verheiden and with highly-detailed art by Mark A. Nelson, the series became known as ‘Aliens Outbreak’, and was followed by ‘Aliens Earth War’ (with art by Sam Kieth) in 1990, a four-issue story which brought Ripley back into the fray. Unhelpfully, the releases of ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien Resurrection’ at the cinema meant a re-think on plotlines and focus of attack (though didn’t stop both films from getting their own comics).
In the long run, it worked out well for Black Horse. The depth of Alien lore and the introduction of new locales and characters gave them the confidence to expand the Alien universe without constraint, to the extent that by the time they handed over the franchise to Marvel in 2019 (a circumstance brought about by Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox), they had published no fewer than 72 titles, including the inevitable, ‘Alien versus Predator’ scenarios. Far from letting it go stale, Marvel not only continued to publish new stories but reprinted many of the older titles.
Carnival of Souls
Before the early 1980s, many people would have given you a blank look if you’d mentioned Herk Hervey‘s 1961 drive-in movie, ‘Carnival of Souls’. Haunting in all senses, it left an impression on those who had seen it, but it wasn’t until books like Michael Weldon‘s ‘The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film’ in 1983 gave the film its due, and the film’s subsequent screenings in festivals in America at the end of the decade that it came to be revered as a cult classic. Writer, Michael H. Price, offers a sizeable and informative introduction of the genesis of the adaptation, at pains to clarify that each should be taken on their own merits, whilst hailing Hervey’s original story. It is illustrated by Todd Camp in black and white stippling and cross-hatching (to varied success) and cuts no corners over its 50 pages.
Hedging their bets somewhat, Innovation Publishing waited until the release of the second film in the ‘Child’s Play’ franchise before releasing their own interpretation, a three-issue release that was written at the same time as ‘Child’s Play 2’ was being filmed in 1990, necessitating the use of storyboards, dailies and production notes. An attempt to continue the story on a monthly basis proved a little too ambitious, stalling after 5 issues, though there were no problems in green-lighting a comic to coincide with ‘Child’s Play 3’, released in 3 comics.
Devil’s Due took over the comic franchise in 2007, releasing a four-issue mini-series created by Brian Pulido which featured significantly more arresting artwork and a plot-line which went beyond the films. There was also a ‘Hack/Slash vs. Chucky’ cross-over comic in 2007, written by Tim Sealey and drawn by Matt Merhoff, which picked up where the ‘Seed of Chucky’ film left off.
As the film itself revolved around the stories in a pulp EC-type horror comic, it was natural that art should imitate… well, art and so it came to pass. The graphic novella was published by Penguin imprint Plume in July 1982 and echoes the stories in the film, consisting of five tales, two of which are based on earlier prose stories by Stephen King, while the remaining three were written specifically for the movie. The book’s interior art is by Bernie Wrightson with Michele Wrightson, with a cover by Jack Kamen.
- “Father’s Day”
- “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” (based on the short story “Weeds”, first published in 1976)
- “Something to Tide You Over”
- “The Crate” (based on the short story “The Crate”, first published in 1979)
- “They’re Creeping Up on You”
There is no introduction or afterword of any kind, although on the back cover, it states, “Stephen King conjures up five jolting tales of horror.” Interestingly, the short stories “Weeds” and “The Crate” have never been collected in a King book.
Despite being written by Peter Benchley, 1977’s ‘The Deep’ was no ‘Jaws’, but it still performed well at the box office and had a sizeable marketing campaign, one which Marvel was happy to jump aboard. The comic adaptation is faithful to the film (and, as much as it can be, the novel) and features typically 70s Marvel artwork by Black Canary creator, Carmine Infantino.
From the House of Charles Band, ‘The Demonic Toys’ series of films (5 so far, plus 3 seasons of a TV series based on one of the most popular characters, Baby Oopsie Daisy) and has, as it were, taken on a life of its own. Published by Eternity, ‘Demonic Toys’ the comic was a four-issue run, each titled ‘Play at your own Risk!’ released in 1993. The action takes place 8 years after the first film, giving familiar characters a slightly different look. The cover art is, it must be said, rather better than that within. ‘Dollman Kills the Full Moon Universe’ is another limited comic series based on the ‘Dollman’ film series and was released from August 2018 to January 2019.
The Devil’s Rejects
Rob Zombies‘ ‘The Devil’s Rejects’…indeed any of his films are rather marmite, and not something I’d have on toast myself, but there’s no denying that the characters he created in his Firefly films have personality. Zombie himself wrote the story for the one-shot comic released in the wake of his second film, allowing Captain Spaulding to become a crypt keeper of sorts and tell the tales of his ne’er do well associates.
There are countless comics featuring Dracula, far too many to go into detail on in this article, not helped when you try to determine which are influenced by the screen more than the source novel. The Comic Code Authority prevented the use of certain horror characters until 1971 – indeed, the guidelines were surprisingly specific:
Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
Zombies remained sidelined for some years after this, but vampires were fast-tracked through, with special dispensation for being literary classics in the first instance, and had fallen into the public domain in the second. Marvel wasted no time in making the most of their new-found freedom, launching ‘Tomb of Dracula’ in 1972. The series got off to an inauspicious start, with a series of writers struggling to find a meaningful story arc and leaving the vampire tapping his foot while a procession of Ms Van Helsing Jnr romances provided little drama.
One factor that remained constant throughout the run was Dracula’s appearance. One can only imagine how much umming and ahhing went on to finalise which screen incarnation would be used, but there would have been long odds on it being neither Christopher Lee nor Bela Lugosi. Illustrator, Gene Colan explains:
“When I heard Marvel was putting out a Dracula book, I confronted [editor] Stan [Lee] about it and asked him to let me do it. He didn’t give me too much trouble but, as it turned out, he took that promise away, saying he had promised it to Bill Everett. Well, right then and there I auditioned for it. Stan didn’t know what I was up to, but I spent a day at home and worked up a sample, using Jack Palance as my inspiration and sent it to Stan. I got a call that very day: ‘It’s yours.'”
It would actually be 1974 before Palance would play the Count onscreen. ‘Tomb of Dracula’ ran for 70 issues over 7 years, the most successful villain as a lead character in any comic. Over the 7 years, inevitable crossovers with other Marvel heroes and villains occurred, including Spiderman and Doctor Strange, the dandy Victorian vampire both debonair and ferocious. After the cancellation of ‘Tomb…’ he would reappear occasionally in the 1990s, most notably battling The X-Men in the ‘Curse of the Mutants’ storyline, with him now rather Steampunk in appearance, with a white ponytail and armour.
Written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Dick Giordano, ‘Dracula Lives!’ existed alongside ‘Tomb…’ and ran for 13 issues until 1975. Each featuring a stand-alone story (sometimes overlapping with ‘Tomb…’), the title is notable for serialising the original Bram Stoker novel (with Drac still in Palance guise), as well as features on films such as ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’.
Battling Marvel in the 70s was Eerie Publications. ‘Terrors of Dracula’ took inspiration from classic gothic vampire lore, with a succession of foes attempting to get him to stay in his coffin for good. As with most Eerie titles, readers were drawn in by lurid, dramatic colour covers and found only monochrome within, although the artwork throughout is excellent. ‘Terrors of Dracula’ became a cult favourite among horror enthusiasts. Well worth investigating is ‘The Dracula File’, a regular feature of the sadly short-lived ‘Scream!’ comic in the mid-80s, adding a rather involved political context for the vampire’s romp around Europe, using the Cold War to amplify the feeling of unease and suspicion.
Quite different was ‘Dracula: A Symphony in Moonlight and Nightmares’, released by Marvel in 1993. Written and painted in stunning watercolours throughout by Jon J Muth, it makes a right old mess of Stoker’s text but delivers on atmosphere in bucketloads. Kurt Busiek introduced ‘Dracula – A Company of Monsters’ in 2010, bringing him fully into the 21st century, battling with and against corporate America who intend to use him as a weapon. Scott Godlewski‘s artwork is excellent, though 12 issues spread the idea a little thin. Dynamite also got in on the act, releasing ‘The Complete Dracula’ in 2009, initially a 5-issue run, later collected into one hardbacked volume. Colton Worley‘s excellent paintings create one of the most faithful adaptations of Stoker’s novel, not least in its depiction of an ancient, white-moustached vampire. Also sticking close to the brief was 2010’s ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, drawn by Staz Johnson.
El Garing and Robert Napton released ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ in 2010, but added something few, if any, had done before. The graphic novel features the distinctive vampire creation of Bela Lugosi, whilst keeping to Stoker’s story (with a few changes, such as the action in England taking place solely in Whitby), a nice addition to a never-ending parade of Counts. One of the most recent outings for Dracula is in the not-really-kid-friendly ‘Dracula Motherf**ker!’ [their own censoring, not mine]. Brought to the page by Erica Henderson and Alex De Campi, Dracula has been resurrected in 70s LA, having been speared to his coffin by his three brides a century earlier. With heavy doses of purple, pink and red imagery, the graphic novel largely focuses on the brides and the black photographer trailing the vamp (Quincy Harker). The clash of noir, blaxploitation and power-femmes gets a bit muddled but it looks great.
Certainly not an obvious film to transform into a comic, but Dark Horse took the plunge, though with some reservations perhaps, producing two issues of ‘Dr Giggles’, the 1992 slasher film whose only really plus point is Larry Drake in the titular role. In fact, the comic far surpasses the film, with a storyline that bounces along nicely, vibrant colours and excellent (and gory) artwork by Kent Burles and Alan J. Burrows throughout. Writer Steven Grant was responsible for the reintroduction of The Punisher as a major character in the Marvel universe in the mid-80s.
There were several more films featuring the diabolical, not to mention abominable, Dr. Phibes after the sequel, ‘Dr. Phibes Rises Again’, alas, none of them ever filmed. Hoorah for Bluewater Comics, who saw the open goal and published ‘The Seven Lives of Dr. Phibes’ as part of its ‘Vincent Price Presents’ series. Boo for Bluewater Comics as they make a complete hash of it. The story is poor, contriving to include Edward Lionheart, Price’s character from ‘Theatre of Blood’ as well, but the artwork is even worse. Thankfully, there was only one issue.
Launching in 2016, Eibon Press announced they were merging with sleaze and shlock blue-ray merchants, Vinegar Syndrome, in 2023, a surefire way of telling that they know their horror onions. Founded by Stephen Romano, they set their stall out early, creating comics that cried out to the obsessive collector and movie fan, bringing a limited-edition vinyl-type aesthetic to their releases, with limited packaging and multiple variants ensuring both glorious comics and empty wallets.
Hooking up with writer, Shawn Lewis, the pair became acquainted with the late Sage Stallone and his company, Grindhouse Releasing, and were commissioned to create a black and white comic adaptation of Lucio Fulci‘s ‘The Beyond’ and later, ‘Zombie’ [aka Zombie Flesh Eaters’]. They were fun, though a little basic and the idea of working with horror movies took a backburner whilst Lewis worked on ‘Bottomfeeder’, his own gory creation, which he asked Romano to edit. With their vision once again polarised, they again looked to more directly bring horror movies to the page, and Lewis negotiated the rights to Lucio Fulci’s whole catalogue – no mean feat. This has allowed the release of completely revamped takes on ‘The Beyond’ and ‘Zombie’, as well as titles like ‘New York Ripper’, ‘House by the Cemetery’, and ‘City of the Living Dead’.
Eibon also transferred William Lustig’s 1980 demented killer gem, ‘Maniac’ to print, as with the other titles, keeping well-loved characters (even specific zombies, as well as pitting Joe Spinell‘s maniac against Fulci’s quacking New York Ripper) in the mix, whilst upping the gore levels and expanding the universe. Much of the artwork is created by Pat Carbajal.
It’s fitting that ‘The Evil Dead’ has had such a significant impact in the comic world, given that the lead character, Ash (played by Bruce Campbell), is such a cartoon-like personality onscreen – certainly by the point of the third film, ‘Army of Darkness’. This is both a blessing and a curse – great for devoted fans, who can see Ash in dozens of different titles, battling new and existing, instantly recognisable enemies in over-the-top action; less great for those who would prefer a return to the claustrophobic darker tone of the first film.
Dark Horse was once again the publisher to strike first, releasing ‘Army of Darkness’ in 1992, 3 issues which followed the plot of the third film in the franchise…despite it being a commercial disaster. The comic looks sensational, with top-tier, almost photo-realistic artwork from John Bolton, and perhaps inevitably, paced far better than the film. Dynamite picked up the baton in 2004, with four issues of ‘Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes’, which could be seen as taking place from the end of the third film, and saw Ash travelling backwards and forwards in time, landing in both Egypt and the shack from the original film along the way. Again, the artwork is excellent (Nick Bradshaw does the honours) but it has a far more comic-book feel, as well it might, of course, but it leaves the action far more throwaway.
Even more ‘kapow’ was ‘Shop Till You Drop’, the 2006 continuation of the series, which sees Ash battling the dead in the supermarket where he works. If you can tolerate this set-up from a film that was once considered too shocking to be viewed, then fill yer boots. This bold step into full-on daftness opened the floodgates. From here, there were no limits to the crimes against horror Ash was allowed to partake in, with many many low points ( Dynamite being particularly guilty, even with open goals like ‘Ash versus Dracula’ and ‘Army of Darkness Versus Reanimator’) punctuated by a few titles well worth investigating.
The skills of Fabiano Neves, Fernando Blanco and Sean Phillips brought readers ‘Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness’, still hobbled by a story that was too much to take but staggering in terms of visuals. For sheer bravado and excess, there’s ‘Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash’, with Ash sandwiched between the two super-murderers – obviously, it’s much better than the ‘Freddy versus Jason’ film. Space Goat Productions tried a different angle in 2016 when it acquired the rights to ‘Evil Dead 2’. Though this didn’t stop the flights of fancy being…well, very fanciful (‘Evil Dead 2: Revenge of Hitler’; ‘Evil Dead 2 – Revenge of Krampus’) it did breathe a semi-rotten breath of fresh air into the franchise. Best of the lot is Rodney Barnes’ ‘Army of Darkness: 1979’ with art by Tom Garcia and Edu Menna, with Ash in 70s New York, essentially pitting him and a gang of Deadites against Warriors-esque thugs.
Rather like the film franchise, ‘Final Destination’, a 5-issue series, sees a group of teens going about their slightly dull business, only to find themselves stalked by death around every corner. It says a lot that they’re quite dull, even though they’re enjoying spring break in Mexico (with their clothes on). The artwork by Lan Medina and Rodel Noora is fine but looks like a zillion other comic books and leaves this as a bit of a dead duck.
‘The Fly: Outbreak’ picked up the action where ‘The Fly 2’ the film left off. Released in 2015 by IDW, the five issues are rather thin and the action is somewhat predictable. On the plus side, the artwork by Menton3 is very distinctive, capturing the eerie glow of the pods from the films and working it into every page, so that there is an unnatural – or hypernatural – tone and atmosphere.
As with Dracula, comic creators have returned to Frankenstein frequently for decades, some plundering the original novel, others transferring the images made popular in films to the page. Dick Briefer was the first at cadaver resurrecting, introducing a monster which was played for laughs as opposed to scares, a regular habit of writers and artists. Given that the first 17 issues were in the 1940s, it’s reasonable to assume that audiences had had quite enough dread and misery outside their front doors, without adding to it, but by 1952, the same publisher, Prize Comics, was happy to up the ante and deliver a flat-headed ghoul on the public.
In 1964, Dell Comics printed a straight adaptation of the 1932 film, with the monster adorned with green skin and a flat head – so far, so normal. However, in 1966, they launched 3-issues of a complete reimagining, with the monster brought back to life by a lightning bolt in the 1960s, appalled to see he is a white-haired, green-skinned beast. He dons a rubber mask to disguise his horrible visage and takes the name Frank Stone from some fallen masonry with ‘Frank’ written on it. You couldn’t make it up, but they did. Frank fights assorted baddies whilst keeping his real identity a secret, all with a complete lack of humour and excitement.
Both DC and Marvel saw Frankenstein’s monster as the perfect antagonist for an array of superheroes, with early appearances seeing him battle against The Phantom Stranger and Superman. Stan Lee himself wrote a 5-page tester, ‘Your Name is Frankenstein’ in 1953, and for some time, it all went quiet. The publication of the first Hulk comic in 1962 meant the introduction of a second monster, both doomed creatures trapped in their own body. A decade later, amid one of the publisher’s horror obsessive periods, Marvel released ‘The Monster of Frankenstein’, shortly to be renamed simply, ‘The Frankenstein Monster’. Introduced with a retelling of the first Universal film and continuing briefly with further Victorian-based frights, it wasn’t long before the monster emerged in the present day, surviving, as much as a corpse can, for nearly 3 years and 18 issues.
Admirably, Marvel created a unique look for the monster, slightly Hulk-like but with a dash of hippy and a significantly larger amount of zombie. They managed to create a tremendously atmospheric series, comparable to their own ‘Werewolf by Night’ strand. The monster underwent some changes over the series, eventually gaining vocal cords but nearly always oblivious to his modern surroundings, goaded into battles with evil scientists and ne’er do wells. Over the years, the monster shared pages with everyone from Spiderman to Iron Man, She-Hulk and even Howard the Duck.
Like Prize’s first incarnation of the monster, ‘Frankie Stein’ has purely a comedic character, a clumsy oaf with massive shoes and a flat head, appearing in many different titles from 1964 through to the 1990s. Generally, the 1990s turned to darker views of the character, from Dark Horse’s retelling of the 1931 film in 1991, to manga incarnations. 2004 saw the publication of the first ‘Doc Frankenstein’ comic from Burlyman Entertainment, the Wachowskis‘ gun-slinging time traveller. Dead Dog’s ‘Monster Mayhem’ series featured the monster attempting to create a whole necropolis. Those with ‘specialist’ cravings can explore a surprisingly large range of erotic comics featuring Frankenstein’s monster.
Written by Jim Woodring and with artwork by Francisco Solano Lopez, ‘Freaks’ was a 4-part retelling of the classic 1932 Tod Browning film, and was released by Fantagraphics. A fine example of using the source material faithfully, and still managing to build on it sympathetically, ‘Freaks’ is densely packed onto each page, giving a feeling you’re slap bang in the middle of the action, and bristles with the noise and sights of life in the curtained areas in a travelling side-show.
Bringing back well-loved characters such as Prince Randian, Schlitze, Johnny Eck and Koo Koo the Bird Girl, the comic is also able to bring in the Tootles the Two-Faced Man, and the orc-like Mr Barnes. Fantagraphics, known not the shirk from portraying things exactly as they are, lets loose with the violence only hinted at in the film, whilst delivering a shock ending that is on a par with the one audiences already know. Also worth investigating is ‘Nobody’s Fool’, Bill Griffiths’ graphic novel telling the life story of everyone’s favourite pinhead, Schlitze.
It took until the 1990s for publishers to see the commercial value of Jason Voorhees as a comic villain, but when they did, there was a tidal wave. Topps opted to adapt ‘Jason Goes to Hell’, the most ‘out-there’ (at least until ‘Jason X’) and supernatural of the franchise, spending 3 issues cramming in what was feasible and adding bits and bobs here and there. 1995 saw Topps delivering what many fans craved – a meeting between Leatherface (of ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’) and Jason. The 3 issues are berserk enough to prevent anyone from stopping to contemplate a storyline that sees them starting as friends and diving into some meaty violence, drawn superbly by Jeff Butler. The timelines are rather all over the place, though this doesn’t detract from them – Jason is at the chained-at-the-bottom-of-the-lake period of his life (‘Part VI – Jason Lives’) whilst in the Leatherface household, the cook and the hitchhiker are still alive.
Rights holders, New Line Cinema joined forces with Avatar in 2005 to bring back Jason again in ‘Friday the 13th: Bloodbath’, written by Brian Pulido and illustrated by Mike Wolfer. Though intestines regularly fly around the woods, it’s a little clunky, rewinding the teens having sex and getting slaughtered theme to tiresome effect. In common with all the comic reimaginings of Jason, he’s the later, heavily built, manic with superhuman strength, not the sly creepy one from parts II and III. The same creative team returned the following year with the two-part, ‘Friday the 13th: Jason vs. Jason X’, a really rather poor excuse to draw guts and boobs in a 6th form kinda way. ‘Friday the 13th: Fearbook’ by Mike Wolfer and Sebastian Fiumara capped off a pretty disastrous sequence of comics with a lazy return to the ‘Bloodbath’ storyline which absolutely no-one was asking for.
Thankfully, the franchise changed hands in 2007, with WildStorm bringing some much-needed revamping to proceedings. This doesn’t translate as hugely innovative plotlines or twists but does bring some nice artwork and steady pacing from Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Adam Archer, and Peter Guzman. There are some nice flashbacks to the film series and Jason is a far more calculating, menacing presence. Also reverential to the films was ‘Friday the 13th: Pamela’s Tale’, a 2-part comic telling the story of Jason’s mother before he was born and giving some insight into his early upbringing. The concept sounds a little desperate and weak but it’s beautifully drawn and treats the source material with respect, without getting all bull in a china shop about it (note to Rob Zombie there).
‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ sets off all sorts of alarm bells as a title for the following 2-part issue, but is actually the worst element. We meet Davie, a young boy with a misshapen skull and a limited expected life expectancy, who’s spending a mini-break at Crystal Lake – as you do. Naturally, Davie is at the receiving end of much merciless taunting from the other teens there, leading to the inevitable arrival of Jason who takes Davie under his wing. There are many deaths. A little barrel-scraping in some respects but at least a meaningful reason for the events to happen, however stretched.
Marz Huddleston‘s ‘Bad Land’ is another 2-parter, both telling stories centuries apart – one (with Jason) in the modern day, the other in an early American trapper settlement, where a pre-Jason entity runs rampage. Obviously, they both end up meeting It’s all rather ‘meh’. ‘Friday the 13th: Abuser and the Abused’, written by Joshua Hale Fialkov with artwork by Andy B, was released as a one-off comic in 2008. Again, it’s an interesting set-up, with an abused woman tricking her boyfriend into a trip to a closed Camp Crystal Lake where she can murder him undetected. Alas, when Jason turns up, it looks like he’s going to get there first, but the woman is determined that she will be the one dispensing justice. The artwork is more…comicy, but it makes a nice change from that which was becoming increasingly predictable. For the ultra fanboy and girl, there are two 6-issue runs of ‘Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash’, which is at least better than the film, ‘Freddy vs Jason’.
Based on the much-loved 1985 film, ‘Fright Night’ was a surprisingly long-running comic book series, initially telling the story of the film over two issues, before developing original storylines. Published by Now Comics, the artwork is fine – certainly nothing remarkable, and the film-based issues hit all the marks you’d expect them to. Much more wayward are the issues that follow, which see Peter and Charley facing a succession of evil foes, not unlike ‘Kolchak’ – but sillier. Jerry Dandridge and Evil Ed return, though they can’t disguise the fact that Squid Man and a character resembling Christopher Lee called Boris Christopher. Sigh. 25 issues!
The ‘Ghostbusters‘ franchise spawned various comic books published by numerous comic book companies through the years starting in 1988 and continuing to the present day. These comics have ranged from being based on ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ animated series to more straight-up themed comics based on the characters from the 1984 film.
The very first comic book addition to the ‘Ghostbusters‘ franchise was ‘The Real Ghostbusters’, based on the animated series of the same name – NOW Comics and Marvel Comics shared the comic book rights to the property. NOW Comics had the rights for publication in North America, while Marvel had the rights in Europe.
NOW Comics began their series in August 1988. The series ran for two volumes, two annuals and one special, the first volume running for 28 issues. When IDW Publishing licensed the comic book rights to the Ghostbusters property, they began to reprint the Now Comics series in a multi-volume series of trade paperbacks called ‘The Real Ghostbusters Omnibus’ beginning in 2012.
Marvel UK published a magazine-sized comic for a mammoth 193 issues that also spawned 4 annuals and 10 specials, each issue containing three to four comic stories, a prose story alternating from a regular tale to one narrated by Winston Zeddemore, a prose entry of ‘Egon Spengler’s Spirit Guide’ typically discussing the entities in the comic, a bio of a character or ghost that appeared in the series, and a short Slimer strip.
Over ten years after the end of ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ comic books, the property returned to comics courtesy of the Quebec-based comic company 88MPH Studios. They published a four-issue mini-series titled ‘Ghostbusters: Legion’ that ran from February through May 2004. Unlike the previous comics, this title (as well as future titles by other publishing companies) would present the characters the way they were portrayed in the original 1984 film but set in 2004 instead of 1984, more serious themed and less cartoonish than ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ series.
When IDW Publishing picked up the franchise they took the opportunity to introduce the characters to other strands already well-known – these included escapades with ‘Mars Attacks!’, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and ‘The X-Files’. Most perverse of all was a 2019 crossover with ‘Transformers’. Efforts have clearly been made to ensure there are strands following both the original film, the cartoon series and separate universes, though these do not yet seem to have factored in the recent film sequels.
The Giant Spider Invasion
‘The Giant Spider Invasion’, the 1975 film directed by Bill Rebane, was a spectacular box office success (though making less than the $300,000 it took to make would’ve been a challenge), but now only seems to exist near the nether region of lists compiling arachnid movies. Admittedly, the googly-eyed, shonky spiders aren’t the greatest, but the film is tremendous fun, as you’d expect a spiders-from-space film to be. The comic released was only available to cinema audiences at the time for many years, until it was reprinted and included with the DVD and Blu-Ray reissue. Short and sweet, it features full-colour classic comic-style artwork and adds to the fun of the film.
Godzilla and other Kaiju
Japan’s most famous monster has appeared in a huge range of comic books that have been published in its home country and the United States. In his native Japan, Godzilla has been featured in various comic books since his inception in 1954. These comics were largely adaptations of the films.
Most of these comics (in particular the comics from the 1950s through the 1970s) were published in children’s magazines such as Bokura, Bouken Oh, and Shonen, while others were published in yellow pages-sized monthly or weekly publications, while still others were published as one-shots and sold in cinemas. Many of the latter comics (1980s–1990s) were published by Shogakukan Comics, Tentomushi Comics, and Kodansya Comics.
Most of the time these adaptations would deviate from the original films and flesh out characters or add scenarios to the stories that were not present in the original film. Outside of these adaptations, many of the original ‘Godzilla’ films also received Asahi Sonorama book-and-record sets to add to the fun.
Godzilla was also featured in original stories – a sequel story to the original film was published in 1955 called ‘The Last Godzilla’, while a sequel story to ‘Godzilla Raids Again’ was published in 1958 called ‘Godzilla 2: Anguirus Strikes Back’. In 1979, the Japanese edition of Starlog featured a two-part illustrated story written by Katsuhiro Otomo called ‘A Space Godzilla’. In 1991 an anthology-style comic featuring different stories by different writers and artists was published called ‘The Godzilla Comic’, followed in 1992 by ‘The Godzilla Comic Strikes Back: Gigantes(sic) The Fire Comic’. . The stories would range from typical Godzilla tales to comedic stories, violent stories, and even “adult” themed stories that featured nudity.
In 2014, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Godzilla and the 40th anniversary of the company’s own ‘Big Comic Original Magazine’, Shogakukan Inc. released the comic ‘Big Comic Original Godzilla Special Issue’. This one-shot comic featured twenty-one Godzilla-themed comic stories from the industry’s top manga artists and writers.
Through the years since 1976, there have been various Godzilla comics published by different comic book publishing companies in America. These range from promotional comics to comics published by large mainstream comic companies such as Marvel Comics. The first Godzilla comic published in the United States was actually a small promotional comic. In the summer of 1976 (as part of the publicity promoting the upcoming U.S. release of the film ‘Godzilla vs. Megalon’), a small 4-page comic book adaptation was published by Cinema Shares International Distribution Corp. and given away for free at cinemas. The comic featured no credits (so the artist and writer are unknown) and featured no cover. It was magazine-sized and published on newsprint. The comic is infamous for getting the names of some of the major characters wrong, with Jet Jaguar referred to as “Robotman,” and Gigan referred to as “Borodan”.
Godzilla’s appearances in the Toho films are alluded to in a few issues. In at least one issue, Godzilla seems like the lesser of two evils. He clashes with a monster far more evil, who generally acts more like an actual animal, albeit one with unusual levels of intelligence. Despite such allusions to the films, Godzilla is depicted as more animal-like than as the highly intelligent, perhaps sentient, creature depicted in the majority of the films by the time of the comics’ printing (1977), in what is considered the Showa period of Godzilla films (1954–75). This version of Godzilla, while intelligent, is not the protector of mankind; however, he does, at times, exhibit compassion for human characters such as “Dum Dum” Dugan, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who is tasked with his capture, destruction, or repulsion from America, and Robert Takiguchi, the grandson of Japanese scientific expert Doctor Yuriko Takiguchi, who regards Godzilla as a hero and who is depicted as being Godzilla’s only friend. Unlike other characters whose actions, thoughts, and feelings are told through thought balloons, Godzilla’s are narrated externally via captions.
Godzilla encounters not only agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the course of the series but many other heroes in the Marvel Comics universe. Among them are the now-defunct group The Champions (sans Ghost Rider, though he was a member at the time), the Fantastic Four, Devil Dinosaur, Moon-Boy and the Avengers, along with a brief cameo by Spider-Man in the last issue of the series.
Godzilla also fights other gigantic monsters, including Yetrigar, a King Kong-esque giant primate, and the alien Mega Monsters. Red Ronin, a giant robotic entity created specifically for the series, reappears in Avengers, Solo Avengers, and an issue of ‘Wolverine’, in which Godzilla is given an oblique nod, being referred to as a “Time Lost Dinosaur,” presumably to avoid legal action by Toho. Marvel had, by then, lost the rights to depict Godzilla. Red Ronin also appears in the series ‘Earth X’.
Despite the loss of copyright, Marvel would continue to use Godzilla for several years afterwards. In ‘Iron Man’ No. 193, one of Godzilla’s primary antagonists from the original series, mad scientist Doctor Demonicus, captures and mutates Godzilla so that he no longer resembles his Toho namesake. This altered version of the monster would appear in ‘Iron Man’ #193 and would return in No. 194, and #196. His last appearance was in ‘The Thing’ No. 31, where he is actually referred to as Godzilla.
Outside of this, Godzilla has been referenced or spoofed in other Marvel comics. In ‘The Web of Spider-Man Annual’ No. 2 from 1986, the character Warlock from The New Mutants turned into Godzilla and then King Kong during a rampage through New York City. In ‘The New Mutants Annual’ No. 3 in 1987, the Impossible Man turns into Godzilla during a battle with Warlock who turns into Red Ronin. In The Amazing Spider-Man No. 413 from 1996, Spider-Man battles a huge robot toy Godzilla (among other giant robotic toys) brought about by the villain Mysterio. In the opening issue of The Mighty Avengers from 2007, a creature bearing a resemblance to the Heisei (1980s and ’90s) Godzilla, appears alongside other giant monsters sent to attack the surface world by the Mole Man. Godzilla is also mentioned in the 2005 one shot comic Marvel Monsters: From the Files of Ulysses Bloodstone and the Monster Hunters.
The Marvel Comics atlas (under the article on Japan) states that the Age of Monsters began in 1954, which is evidently a reference to the original Godzilla film. Additionally, the entry mentions that Godzilla returns years later and is the reason for the construction of Red Ronin and the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Godzilla Squadron. In 2006, Marvel reprinted the entire 24-issue run of ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters’ as a trade paperback collection called ‘Essential Godzilla, King of the Monsters’. Like all of Marvel’s Essential line, the series was published in black and white rather than colour, like in its original printing.
In 1987, Dark Horse Comics acquired the rights to Godzilla and for the next 12 years published various comic books and trade paperbacks based on the character. These ran the gamut from backup stories in anthology titles to one-shots, to mini-series, to an ongoing series, as well as various reprints in the trade paperback format. In 1987, they published a black-and-white one-shot comic called ‘Godzilla King of the Monsters Special’. Between 1988 and 1989, DH published a 6 issue mini-series simply called ‘Godzilla’, which was based on the Japanese version of the film rather than the Americanized version.
In 1993, Godzilla was featured in the anthology series Dark Horse Comics in issues #10 and #11. That year Godzilla was also featured in a pair of one-shot comics. ‘Urban Legends’, which dispells the dual ending myth from the film ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’, as well as ‘Godzilla vs Barkley’, which was based on the commercial ‘Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley’.
In 1995, Godzilla appeared in the one-shot comic ‘Godzilla vs. Hero Zero’. That year Godzilla starred in an ongoing 16-issue series called ‘Godzilla King of the Monsters’. The series features several new monsters for Godzilla to battle and a story arc in which Godzilla is flung through time by a would-be archvillain, who uses him to cause the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, sink the Titanic, and even pit him against the Spanish Armada. Godzilla would be flung into the far flung future as well and would rampage across it before returning to the modern day. The last issue of the Dark Horse series sees Godzilla hurtling back in time to just a few hours before the asteroid, which supposedly destroys the dinosaurs impacted on Earth. This issue first seems to have an ‘it was all a dream’ ending, as Godzilla wakes from his slumber in the modern day, just in case you thought there was nowhere else for Godzilla comics to go.
In 2010, IDW Publishing obtained the rights for the license to Godzilla and began publishing a new 12-issue series in March 2011, called ‘Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters’. Originally titled ‘Godzilla: Monster World’, the new series launched with a painted cover by Alex Rossas well as a record 100-plus variant covers that were mostly retailer incentives. This promotion allowed comic book shop owners to have personalised variants featuring their store being demolished by Godzilla’s foot, if they ordered over 500 copies. Who wouldn’t?
In May 2012, IDW began publishing a new ongoing series, simply called ‘Godzilla’, running for 13 issues. Come June 2013, IDW began publishing their third ongoing series called ‘Godzilla: Rulers of Earth’, collecting the series as a multi-volume trade paperback collection in December 2013.
A 5-issue miniseries called ‘Godzilla: Legends’ was published between November 2011 and March 2012, with another 5-issue series called ‘Godzilla: Cataclysm’ published from August to December 2014.
Unlike the previous companies that licensed Godzilla, IDW was able to acquire the rights to other Toho movie monsters. IDW initially announced Anguirus, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Kumonga, Hedorah, Gigan, Mechagodzilla, Titanosaurus, Battra, Space Godzilla and Destoroyah, but have recently added Moguera, Varan, Manda, Baragon, Gaira, Sanda, Ebirah, Gorosaurus, Gezora, Jet Jaguar, Megalon, Biollante, Orga, Megaguirus, Zilla, Monster X and Keizer Ghidorah to their acquired monsters. If only that were the end of it. One of the most impressive developments from IDW was their ‘Godzilla in Hell’ series which launched in 2015 and over 5 issues saw Stompy fall ever deeper into The Great Pit, taking no nonsense along the way. Punctuating IDW’s relentless release and re-release of ‘zilla titles, Legendary also published ‘Skull Island: The Birth of Kong’, covering events both before and after the 2017 film.
It seems remarkable that the many films of the ‘Halloween’ franchise were not enough to satiate either audiences or artists of all kinds. The first ‘Halloween’ comic was published by Brian Pulido’s Chaos! Comics. Simply titled ‘Halloween’, it was intended to be a one-issue special, but eventually two sequels were spawned: ‘Halloween II: The Blackest Eyes’ and ‘Halloween III: The Devil’s Eyes’. All of the stories were written by Phil Nutman, with Daniel Farrands — writer for ‘Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers’ — assisting on the first issue. Tommy Doyle is the main protagonist in each of the issues, focusing on his attempts to kill Michael Myers. The first issue includes a back-story on Michael’s childhood, which I think we’ve ascertained is a terrible idea while the third picks up after the events of the film ‘Halloween H20’.
These comics were based on Daniel Farrand’s concept for ‘Halloween 8’; he had been approached by the producers to pitch a follow-up to ‘Halloween H20’. His idea was to have Tommy Doyle incarcerated at Smith’s Grove for Michael Myers’ crimes, only to escape and reunite with Lindsay Wallace. Together, they study the journals of Doctor Loomis and find out more about Michael’s childhood. The movie would have explored Michael’s time at Smith’s Grove and his relationship with Doctor Loomis, before returning to Tommy and Lindsay, who are attacked by the adult Michael Myers. Upon defeating him and removing his mask, they discover Laurie Strode, who has taken over her brother’s mantle. Farrand’s logic was that, since Jamie Lee Curtis was contracted to cameo in ‘Halloween 8’, they should make that cameo as significant and surprising as possible. Although the studio did not follow up on his pitch, Farrands was able to tell his story in comic book form.
‘One Good Scare’ was released in 2003; it was written by Stefan Hutchinson and illustrated by Peter Fielding. The main character in this comic is Lindsey Wallace, the young girl who first saw Michael Myers alongside Tommy Doyle in the original 1978 film. Hutchinson wanted to bring the character back to his roots, and away from the “lumbering Jason-clone” the film sequels had made him. ‘One Good Scare’ came about because Hutchinson wanted to produce a comic book to celebrate the series’ twenty-fifth anniversary; it was to be sold as a collectable at a Halloween convention in South Pasadena. Due to the positive reception to ‘One Good Scare’, Hutchinson hoped to use the comic as a “demo” for getting a distribution deal but was unable to due to rights issues.
While waiting to acquire the rights to publish more Halloween comics, Stefan Hutchinson worked on the documentary ‘Halloween: 25 Years of Terror’ with Malek Akkad. Together, they developed ideas for possible Halloween stories that would be “connected into a larger tale, so the idea was that it would use the serial aspect of comic books to create different storylines than would be possible in the films”. On July 25, 2006, as an insert inside the DVD release of ’25 Years of Terror’, Hutchinson released ‘Halloween: Autopsis’. Written by Hutchinson, and artwork by Marcus Smith and Nick Dismas, the story is about a photographer assigned to take pictures of Michael Myers. As the photographer, Carter, follows Doctor Loomis he begins to take on Loomis’s obsession himself, until finally meeting Michael Myers in person, which results in his death.
Rob Zombie’s reboot of the film series ensured that any ‘Halloween’ comics would not be contradicted by upcoming films, allowing Hutchinson creative freedom. Malek Akkad was approached by Devil’s Due Publishing with the possibility of producing a line of ‘Halloween’ comics, and he and Hutchinson worked to make them a reality. Hutchinson was convinced by the strong support of ‘One Good Scare’ that the comic books would have an audience.
In 2008, Stefan Hutchinson released the first issue of his new comic book, ‘Halloween: Nightdance’. This is a four-issue mini-series, and it does not contain any characters – other than Michael – from the films. The four issues are titled, “A Shape in the Void”, “The Silent Clown”, “A Rainbow in One Color”, and “When the Stars Came Crashing Down”. The first issue, “A Shape in the Void”, takes place on October 31, 2000, so that it falls between ‘Halloween H20’ and ‘Halloween Resurrection’. Issue one follows Michael as he stalks Lisa, an eighteen-year-old girl with insecurities and “a chronic fear of darkness”. Hutchinson explains that ‘Nightdance’ was an attempt to escape the dense continuity of the film series and recreate the tone of the 1978 film. Michael becomes inexplicably fixated on Lisa, just as he did with Laurie in the original ‘Halloween’ before the sequels established that a sibling bond was actually his motivation for stalking her. The aim was to once again establish Michael Myers as a “credible and dangerous force”.
August 2008 saw the release of Devil’s Due’s ‘Halloween: 30 Years of Terror’ to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the ‘Halloween’ franchise. This comic book one-shot is a collection of short stories inspired by John Carpenter’s original. “Trick or Treat” features the MacKenzies, unseen characters from the first film whom Tommy and Lindsey run to for help. “P.O.V.” shows a murder from the point of view of both Michael and his victim, “Visiting Hours” sees Laurie Strode reflecting on how her life could have been had Michael never found her in 1978, while “Tommy and the Boogeyman” reveals that Tommy Doyle grew up to write comic books featuring Michael Myers (good grief). In the final story, “Repetition Compulsion”, Doctor Loomis tries to predict where Michael will strike next on Halloween, 1989.
Devil’s Due released a three-issue mini-series ‘Halloween: The First Death of Laurie Strode’ in late 2008. Written by Hutchinson with artwork from Jeff Zornow, the story bridges the gap between ‘Halloween II’ and ‘Halloween H20’ by focusing on Laurie Strode in the aftermath of the 1978 murders. Although Michael appears in the series, it is not clear whether he is real or if the traumatised Laurie is seeing things. Hutchinson is not a fan of the revelation that Laurie and Michael are siblings and took steps to address that problem in the story. Try as they might, rather like the Zombie attempts and the more recent rebooted film trilogy, the comics struggle to let go of what they see as gaps needing to be filled and continuity problems requiring fixing, rather than taking an established character and running with it.
The marketing machine behind Adam Green‘s ‘Hatchet’ films never seems to stop, desperate for the backwoods killer to become recognised among the elite horror icons. In a sense, it seems to have worked – there are certainly plenty of obsessives out there (younger than many horror fans, one suspects) and there have been attempts to find new ways to connect with audiences, whether that be convention appearances or through comics.
The appallingly named killer, Victor Crowley, first appeared in comic form in a one-off issue of ‘Hatchet/Slash’, where he faced off against Cassie Hack (as she also did in an ‘Army of Darkness’ crossover). More committed have been ArieScope and American Mythology, who have released dozens of series and one-shots continuing where the films left off, under the ‘Adam Green’s Hatchet’ banner, lest you not have had it thrust down your throat enough already. These have included limited R-rated covers and autographed copies to encouraged the repeated custom of devotees, as well as an ongoing Halloween special each year. Though the artwork is fun, the stories are too outlandishly silly to add to the lore of the film, with a very ‘the more gore the better’ approach, at the expense of quality.
Both Epic and Boom! have been committed to bringing Clive Barker‘s ‘Hellraiser’ to the pages of comics and graphic novels for many years. As the series of films demonstrate, this is not an easy task, despite the well-developed and iconic characters, they became increasingly disastrous – the 2022 reboot doing little to allay fears, rather than create them as expected. Epic certainly took the challenge very seriously – Barker himself was a consultant on the initial run of 20 comics beginning in 1989, whilst Neil Gaiman was among the notable story writers. Sumptuously drawn and coloured, they really add to the franchise’s mythos and are able to travel through time and locations with much greater fluidity than the films ever allowed.
They also published three special issues from 1992 to 1994, one being a holiday special, in addition to an adaptation of ‘Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth’. Other releases included the limited series ‘Clive Barker’s Book of the Damned’ and ‘Pinhead’, as well as the crossovers ‘Hellraiser vs. Nightbreed: Jihad’ and ‘Pinhead vs. Marshal Law: Law in Hell’. The 6-issue ‘Pinhead’ featured traditional Marvel/DC artwork, significantly reducing the fear factor but still being inventive with storylines, whilst the crossover titles are rather more throwaway.
Boom! were similarly respectful in their series of comics, which suggests they were being watched closely (though doesn’t explain why so many of the films were rotten). Published between 2011 and 2015, ‘The Road Below, ‘Dark Watch’ and ‘Beastiary’, series were relatively short-run (between 4 and 10 issues) storylines, capturing both the horror and S&M of the novels and the films, with artwork ranging from humdrum to noir-esque and impressionist. If there is a criticism of the output from Boom! it is that the focus has been squarely on the cenobites, with the mortals thrown in as fodder. This changed when Seraphim, Barker’s own imprint, took over. Although there have only been tow issued so far, the ‘Anthology’ graphic novels are superb, collecting together tales from different artists and writers (including Barker) to give greater diversity to the franchise…and a good excuse to ignore the films.
The Hills Have Eyes
Surely one of the more unusual comic-book adaptations of a horror film was The Hills Have Eyes, Wes Craven’s 1977 classic, successfully remade in 2006 by Alexandre Aja – folk of a nervous disposition will be relieved to hear that both sequels were ignored. ‘The Hills Have Eyes: The Beginning’ is specifically a graphic novel prequel to the 2006 film, ‘The Hills Have Eyes’. It was released on July 3, 2007, and distributed by Fox Atomic Comics. ‘The Hills Have Eyes: The Beginning’ tells the story of the original families who refused to leave their small New Mexico town once the U.S. government began above-ground atomic testing. Spanning multiple generations, this dark tale reveals how these once-good people slowly devolved into murderous mutants.
‘House I’ was clearly too obvious so in October 1987, Marvel Comics released a comic book adaptation of ‘House II’. It was written by Ralph Macchio, with artwork by Alan Kupperberg on pencils and Kupperberg, Hilary Barta, Danny Bulanadi, Jose Marzan Jr. and Pat Redding on inks.
House of Hammer
Dez Skinn‘s fondly remembered British horror magazine of the 70s and 80s brought a total of 18 Hammer films to excited readers, going above and beyond the call of duty by utilising the original scripts rather than the action onscreen for their illustrated form and thus opening up a whole new world. On the downside, even subjects such as ‘Twins of Evil’ are represented with very PG artwork – understandable but, all the same, disappointing. However, it was pleasing that the scope of films to turn into comic strips went beyond Dracula – ‘The Gorgon’; ‘The Reptile’ and ‘The Plague of the Zombies’ all had their time in the sun, short and sweet but giving the fans what they wanted, not what they should have to learn to accept.
Released in 2017 by Space Goat, ‘Revenge of the Werewolf Queen’ picks up the action immediately after the original film directed by Joe Dante. Given that the seven films in the series have delivered increasingly little and that they have strayed wildly from the original set-up, it can only be a positive thing that everything beyond ‘The Howling’ is ignored. Central to the 8 issues is Marsha Quist, the raven-haired werewolf of the original film, rooting the storyline in something immediately familiar and never getting too silly, with Rob Bottin‘s werewolf designs faithfully reproduced.
If ‘Jaws 2’ the film is famous for anything, it’s that it isn’t ‘Jaws 3-D’. Marvel had an ill-advised run at one-off specials to tie in with major releases. Major might not be the best word – ‘Xanadu’, ‘Santa Claus the Movie’ and ‘Octopussy’ were all given the mouse treatment, in retrospect, a kiss of death.
Broadly speaking, the comic sticks to the action of the film, adding and taking away as one might expect. What might not be expected is the titular shark leaping out of the water to eat a helicopter. The artwork is not half bad, inevitably less impressive than the incredibly enticing cover but with surprisingly gratuitous scenes of innocents being devoured, complete with inky blood. Ensuring that Universal get the requisite amount of coverage for their film, the comic begins with a short chat with the film’s director, Jeannot Szwarc.
‘Jeepers Creepers: Trail of the Beast’ was published by Dynamite in 218, the year after the third instalment of the film franchise. Written by Marc Andreyko and featuring the art of Kewber Baal, there are really no human characters from the films for the comic to latch onto, which is a massive bonus, giving the 5 issues over to a completely fresh storyline but the familiar creature (which is rendered very well indeed). The setup isn’t new – a young guy studying ancient myths stumbles upon a slumbering monster – but I’d suggest it’s more successful than any of the films – you aren’t looking forward to the characters getting ripped to bits and the writing and artwork is clever enough to create suspense whilst unleashing mayhem across the page.
Novella, film, band and, bringing up the rear, comic, Killdozer!’ truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Originally harking from the pen of Theodore Sturgeon, one of the few works he conjured up during the 1941-1945 period when he suffered from chronic writer’s block, the tale tells of a work crew building an airstrip, only for them to accidentally unleash an ancient being which, naturally, possesses their bulldozer.
It wasn’t until 1974 that it broke free of its leafy shackles to burst onto unsuspecting TV screens as one of the best-loved TV Movies of all time; shonky, ridiculous but always satisfying. The same year, Marvel flexed their publishing muscle to bring it back to paper form, as part of their 8-issue strand, ‘Worlds Unknown’, subtitled, “A Thing Called…Killdozer!”. Due to timing issues, the cover proclaimed, “As seen on TV”, though the comic hit the newsstands before the transmission of the film. Written by Gerry Conway, best known as the creator of ‘The Punisher’, and with artwork by Dick Ayers and Ernie Chan, the issue follows the action of the novella closer than the film, though shares the latter’s bizarrely sluggish threat, entertaining but difficult to unequivocally defend. Particularly fun is the cover, artistic license giving the motorised marauder’s eyes, eyebrows, a voice and a bucket at the front equipped with spiky teeth, none of which actually appear in the strip.
Echoing the trend for acknowledging influences both old and modern, the Great Ape has throughout the decades featured in numerous comic book publications from several publishers.
From the film’s first appearance, comic adaptations of ‘King Kong’ have continued to be popular. The producers of both the original 1933 classic and its sequel, ‘Son of Kong’, RKO, recognised the potential and featured comic strips in their press books which accompanied the films and also serialised in national newspapers in the run-up to release. These were presumed lost but an example was sold at auction for $15,000 in 2007.
In Japan, the cartoon version of ‘King Kong’ appeared in a comic strip in issue No. 34 of the Japanese magazine Shonen Magazine. In this issue published in 1967, Kong battles a living version of the Statue of Liberty. Shonen Magazine would publish numerous strips based on the 1960s ‘King Kong’ cartoon throughout the shows run in that country, featuring adaptations of various episodes but also original stories.
Staying away from America, a 1965 Mexican comic company called Ediciones Mexico published a series based on King Kong. The series was published with fully-painted colour covers but with sepia and white interior artwork. A new issue was published every Wednesday and the series would run at least 185 issues. The series was originally called ‘The Gorilla’ (El Gorilla) before being renamed a few issues later to ‘The Gorilla of the Forest’ (El Gorilla del la Selva). A few issues later in 1966, it was renamed again to ‘King Kong’. At this point, the series was now being published by a company called Editorial Orizaba. They continued as the publisher until 1972 when a company called Joma would take over.
The next King Kong comic from Latin America was ‘King Kong in the Microcosmos’ an odd story seeing aliens capture Kong to use as a weapon. The publisher of the series was Editorial America and it was published around 1978, lasting roughly 35 issues.
In 1964, the British comic company IPC Media created a character in the pages of Valiant Comics called ‘Mytek the Mighty’. This character was a giant robot ape that was built by a Professor Boyce. He appeared in various issues published by IPC well into the 1970s. When these comic strips were published in France from 1972–1974, the character’s name was changed to ‘King Kong the Robot’. When the 32-issue comic was reprinted as various collections it was renamed ‘Super King Kong’.
Monster Comics, an imprint of Fantagraphics Books, produced a six-issue black and white comic book in 1991, adapted and illustrated by Don Simpson, and authorised by director Merian C. Cooper’s estate.
It is not, in fact, based on the 1933 film, but instead on the 1932 novelisation by Delos W. Lovelace, and thus differs from the movie in numerous places. Notably, the ship is called the Vastator instead of the Venture and the characters of Charlie the Chinese cook and Second Mate Briggs are absent, replaced by a character from Lovelace’s novel named Lumpy. The comic also contains several scenes not found in the film including the infamous (and long sought-after) “spider pit” scenes and extra encounters with dinosaurs by the search party. Other notable changes include the addition of a character totally original to this comic, Denham’s assistant Wally, and an extended sequence of several dinosaurs joining Kong in attacking the native village.
In the 1990s, Dark Horse Comics was publishing comics based on popular movie monsters such as Alien, Predator, Gamera and Godzilla and inevitably turned their attention to King Kong. There were plans on doing a comic adaptation of the 1933 film, as well as pitting King Kong against the Aliens, the Predators and even the Rocketeer. Furthermore, there were plans to produce a ‘Tarzan vs King Kong’ (aka ‘Tarzan on Skull Island’) story to be written by Frank Cho – this at least makes some kind of sense, though Tarzan has yet to recapture modern audiences’ imaginations. Ultimately the most Dark Horse was able to do was feature King Kong in a one-page segment in the one-shot comic ‘Urban Legends’ published in 1993 that dispels the dual ending myth from the film ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’.
In 2005, Dark Horse Comics and DH Press were able to strike a deal with Universal to license and produce tie-in comic books in connection with King Kong. This included ‘King Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World’ a direct comic book adaptation of the 2005 remake. They were also able to strike a deal with Joe DeVito and Boom! comics a year earlier, to publish an illustrated novel (in both hardcover and softcover editions with differing cover art) called ‘Kong: King of Skull Island’. This story, by Joe DeVito, was an authorized sequel to the original King Kong story commissioned by Merian C Cooper’s estate.
The novel’s story ignores the existence of Son of Kong and continues the story of Skull Island with Carl Denham and Jack Driscoll in the late 1950s, through the novel’s central character, Vincent Denham (Ann Darrow does not appear, but is mentioned several times). The novel also becomes a prequel that reveals the story of the early history of Kong, of Skull Island, and of the natives of the island. On the novel’s official website; it has stated that it would become a major motion picture. It does not have a release date yet.
Staring everyone in the face was the obvious opportunity to link beasts, ‘Kong on the Planet of the Apes’. It works perfectly, with General Ursus and Dr Zaius entering The Forbidden Zone and finding the dead Kong near you-know-what. They then journey to Kong Island and encounter the last of his kind. It works as well as it sounds (assuming you’re feeling positive) and benefits from magnificent artwork by Carlos Magno, who would later also work on the 2016/17 series, ‘Kong of Skull Island’. Legendary weighed in with their own Skull Island four-parter based on the 2017 film, acting as both prequel and sequel, before 2021’s ‘Kingdom Kong’, a prequel to the events of the ‘Godzilla vs Kong’ film.
Kong has also appeared in ‘cameo’ appearances in many other titles, from Marvel favourites to the long-running British title, ‘2000 A.D.’
Released in November 2015, Michael Dougherty’s Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas tells a new story based on his 2015 horror comedy film Krampus from Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures.
It’s extraordinary that ‘Leprechaun’ has a franchise of 8 films – is there another horror character deserving so few with so many? There’s another planned, so one can only assume there is enough demand to make it worthwhile. The comic adaptation was released after ‘only’ 6 in 2009 by Bluewater Productions and dares to even give the behatted murderer a name – ‘Lubdan’ (not worth waiting for, I know). The 6 issues see Lubdan turning up when he’s least expected in different locales around the world, as he searches for his gold coins which have been sold to buyers on an online auction site. It’s not great.
George Romero’s Living Dead
Even before ‘The Walking Dead’ made zombies even cooler than CGI werewolves and foppish vampires, comic publishers were exploiting George Romero’s world of the undead, a handful of books and comics books taking place in the Living Dead universe, some of them are officially endorsed, while others not.
‘Toe Tags’, also known as ‘The Death of Death’ is a six-issue comic book mini-series originally published from December 2004 to May 2005 by DC Comics and was based on an unused script by Romero. It was drawn by Tommy Castillo and Rodney Ramos, with covers by genius horror artist, Berni Wrightson. Romero’s story is actually based on an unused script for a sequel to his Dead films; the miniseries therefore follows his similar tropes: Extreme gore, social commentary, evolving zombies, and the heroes riding off in the end into an unknown fate. Romero followed this with ‘Empire of the Dead’ in 2016, 15 issues which certainly have their moments, though the introduction of vampires is symptomatic of how much Romero had failed to fully find his muse.
‘Escape of the Living Dead’ is a five-issue comic book mini-series originally published from September 2005 to March 2006 by Avatar Press and written by John A. Russo as a sequel to ‘Night of the Living Dead’. This was followed by ‘Escape of the Living Dead: Airborne’, a three-issue comic book mini-series originally published from September 2006 to November 2006 written by John A. Russo and Mike Wolfer. As with many Russo projects, it attempts to resemble George’s original trilogy and then gets far too carried away and drops the ball repeatedly.
‘Night of the Living Dead’ has had several reimaginings, from Fanatco’s faithful(ish) ‘Night of the Living Dead: Prelude’ to ‘Night of the Living Dead: Bloodline/London’, Clive Barker and Steve Niles’ relocation of the zombies to Blighty. Also noteworthy is Avatar’s ‘Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath’, omitting ‘Dawn of the Dead’ from the equation and offering a glimpse of 70s America under lockdown and coping badly. You’ve seen better artwork but there’s plenty of guts on offer.
Avatar have released several ‘Night of the Living Dead’ one-shots of varying quality: ‘Back From the Grave’ feels like it was intended as a series but never got around to it; ‘Just a Girl’ finds out how the girl in the cellar came to have been bitten; ‘Night of the Living Dead: New York’ is a very lazy attempt to show events in Brooklyn concurrent with those in Pittsburgh. It doesn’t work at all. Slightly better (but very thin) are the five issues of ‘Night of the Living Dead: Death Valley’, which shows an admirable commitment to putting a topless girl on as many of the few pages as possible.
Also in serial form, ‘Night of the Living Dead: The Beginning’ takes us through events directly before the film, not straying too far into the past but giving us an idea of how lives were affected before Johnny and Barbara had their day ruined. John Russo again has another stab at it with ‘Night of the Living Dead: Hunger’, a particularly graphic release in 2007. Dead Dog’s ‘Barbara’s Zombie Chronicles’ changes nearly all the story and shifts the style and tone completely, seeing Babs kicking ass and revelling in the rough and tumble of it all.
It was something of a relief when Russo was ousted by George’s own son, George C. Romero, to write ‘The Rise’, a comic version of the prequel script his father was writing at the time of his death, ‘The Rise of the Living Dead’. It looks fantastic, though that is no doubt aided by being bombarded with Avatar’s garish releases.
Further Romero-spawned zombie fun was explored in a series of three ‘Dawn of the Dead’ comics by Steve Niles and a five-issue run of ‘Land of the Dead’, by Chris Ryall and Gabriel Rodriquez.
One of the most unlikely film titles to be given a comic is surely Fritz Lang’s immense ‘M’ from 1931. Even today it’s an unnerving study of a serial killer, and although the moody, expressionistic black and white may look well suited to artwork on the page, it was still a significant risk. Jon J. Muth is the man responsible and it’s a relief to say it was one worth taking. There’s no Peter Lorre involved, but the story stays true to the film, piling on the bleakness and misery as a killer who’s simply one of us commits unthinkable crimes on children. The main changes are allowing us to see more of the killer’s, Beckert’s, thought processes and mental anguish, a man at war with himself. The artwork is incredible, appearing as almost sepia photographs kept as mementoes, and leaving the crimes to the reader’s imagination – like many a great film, this has an even more profound effect than revealing all. A magnificent achievement.
The Man With the X-Ray Eyes
A very early example of a horror film making the switch in formats, Gold Key’s comic of Roger Corman‘s ‘Man With the X-Ray Eyes’ was released in the same year, 1963. Featuring what would comfortably qualify as ‘classic comic art’, it follows the same thread as the film but completely wimps out on the ending. Those who have seen the film will understand why (in 1963) this was the case.
Epic’s ‘Night Breed’ and Booms! ‘Nightbreed’ capture the same Clive Barker universe on the pages of their respective comics, with notable differences. Epic issued 25 comics under the auspices of ‘2000 AD’ alumni, Alan Grant and John Wagner, with the first four issues retelling the events of the film (which for years had no DVD nor Blu-ray release). Beyond these, the storyline is faithful in tone to Barker’s ‘Cabal’ and the film’s original script, and spares no horses in bringing into the fray even more monsters which would have proved all but impossible for make-up artists to bring to life. The stories are very involved and take it as a given that you have already plunged yourself fully into their world, and aren’t for idle readers.
Released in 2014, Boom! took a slightly different approach, not least by removing the space between the two words in the title. The 12 issues take a more regimented march through the director’s cut of the film, giving itself enough room to expand upon scenes which would have been tricky to film without diluting the story.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The popularity of the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ film series has led to several comic book series published by Marvel Comics, Innovation Publishing, Trident Comics, Avatar Press and WildStorm Productions. After the success of ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ remake film in 2003, New Line Cinema created their “House of Horror” licensing division which licensed the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise’ to Avatar Press for use in new comic book stories, the first of which was published in 2005. In 2006, Avatar Press lost the license to DC Comics imprint, WildStorm Productions which has since published several new stories based on the franchise.
In 1989, Marvel Comics released ‘Freddy Krueger’s A Nightmare on Elm Street’ as a black-and-white comic book published in a magazine-sized format. The first and only storyline was the two-part “Dreamstalker” written by Steve Gerber with art by Rich Buckler. Other than the inclusion of the characters Amanda and Freddy Krueger and the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio, the story does not fit seamlessly into the continuity of the films and even contradicts the film continuity in several places. The series immediately proved to be Marvel’s top-selling black and white magazine, even outselling the long-running ‘Savage Sword of Conan’ magazine, but despite distributors soliciting the title through the fifth issue, Marvel quietly cancelled the title after only two issues had been released. New stories had been written and submitted by Buzz Dixon and Peter David. Speculation arose that, despite Marvel clearly labelling the book as a mature reader’s title, ‘Freddy Krueger’s A Nightmare on Elm Street’ could have caused image problems for the publisher who generally catered to younger readers. In 1990, Steve Gerber told ‘Reading For Pleasure’ that Marvel had cancelled the book in anticipation of pressure from various anti-violence advocate groups that were actively protesting violent media in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1991, Innovation Publishing picked up the A Nightmare on Elm Street license and published three series based on the franchise, before the company filed for bankruptcy in 1992. All three series were written by Andy Mangels.
The first series was the six-issue ‘Nightmares On Elm Street’ which featured a collection of protagonists from the first five films, including Nancy Thompson, Neil Gordon, Alice Johnson and Jacob Johnson, uniting to fight Freddy Krueger in his own nightmare world. The events of the final four issues take place in the time period between the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child’ and ‘Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare’ films.
The second series, ‘Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare’, was an adaptation of the film of the same name. The third issue of the series was published in both normal and 3-D formats. The 3-D issue was published in order to recreate the last ten minutes of the film which also used the visual effect.
The last series to be published by Innovation was ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street: The Beginning’. The three-issue mini-series served as a direct sequel to ‘Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare’, as Maggie Burroughs continues to have nightmares about her father, Freddy Krueger, following the events of the film. Travelling back to Springwood with Tracy, another survivor from the film, Maggie researches Freddy’s life leading up to his death at the hands of the Springwood parents. Only the first two issues of the series were released before Innovation’s declaration of bankruptcy, leaving the third issue unpublished and the story incomplete. Mangels has since made the original script for issue number three available on his website.
In May 2005, Freddy Krueger returned to comic books, for the first time in thirteen years, with the ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street Special’ written by former Chaos Comics founder, Brian Pulido and published by Avatar Press in association with New Line Cinema’s “House of Horror” licensing division.
Events from the ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street Special’ would carry over into the ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street: Paranoid’, a three-issue mini-series, published later that same year. Due to Avatar’s erratic publishing schedule, the second and third issues of the series were not released until summer, 2006. The mini-series was followed by a stand-alone issue titled ‘Fearbook’ before Avatar lost the New Line “House of Horror” license.
In 2006, WildStorm Productions, a publishing imprint of DC Comics, acquired the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” license and, in October of the same year, began publication of a new ongoing comic book series.
The first story arc, “Freddy’s War”, centred on a teenager named Jade, who moves to Springwood and learns about Freddy Krueger. Along with her father, a former army ranger, and a young comatose girl, Jade confronts Freddy. After the “Freddy’s War” arc’s completion, a story about Freddy employing a teenager to kill the girl who helped Jade and her father was released. The second story arc, titled “Demon of Sleep”, detailed a group of social outcasts who, after realising they are being killed off one by one, decide to summon an Aztec sleep demon (sigh) to battle Freddy.
In 2007, Wildstorm announced its plan to cancel its ongoing New Line horror comics in favour of publishing mini-series and specials based on the movie franchises. The ongoing ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ series would come to an end after an eight-issue run and be replaced by a mini-series, late in 2007.
In September, Wildstorm released New Line Cinema’s ‘Tales of Horrors’, a one-shot issue featuring separate stories concerning Freddy Krueger and Leatherface. The Freddy Krueger story was written by Christos Gage and Peter Milligan and involves Freddy dealing with an inhabitant of Springwood who has taken to copying his murder style, in a story aptly titled “Copycat”.
Freddy next appeared in the six-issue ‘Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash’, an intercompany crossover with Dynamite Entertainment. The story serves as a sequel to ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ and ‘The Evil Dead’ trilogy, based on the original ‘Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash’ film treatment by Jeff Katz. The comic book series was written by James Kuhoric and illustrated by Jason Craig. A six-issue sequel titled ‘Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors’ followed in 2009 and featured a large cast of supporting characters from the ‘A Nightmare of Elm Street’ and ‘Friday the 13th’ film franchises.
A brief and entertaining aside – in 1990, Phil Tägert released a limited (to 1000 copies) comic as an unlikely print version of Jorg Buttgereit’s notorious ‘Nekromantik’. Alas, the comic is somewhat amateurishly drawn and features none of the explosive gratuitous and innards fornication that the film would lead you to expect. Regardless, the comic is highly prized amongst collectors.
Running away with the prize for the longest gap between film and graphic novel is ‘Nosferatu’. Tome Press had a go in 1992 and botched it completely, looking like an untalented school kid had been given some work experience and the publisher released it by mistake. Viper Comics’ release from 2010 at least looked more interesting, but the shovelled-on lesbian relationship of the protagonists grates very quickly. Far better is ‘Nosferatu: Plague of Terror’, Mark Ellis‘ 1991 four-parter, illustrated by Rik Levins, Richard Pace, and Frank Turner, which tells the tale of Count Orlock from the time of the Crusades, through to Vietnam and contemporary New York. It’s a little bit ‘Highlander’-y, which is not to its credit. Despite Nosferatu emblazoned across the cover, the encounter between Batman and Orlock in the DC one-shot, is a little misleading, being far more similar to ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’.
Don Coscarelli‘s 1979 film, #Phantasm’ introduced a truly original monster to the screen – the Tall Man, though this ingenuity didn’t translate to the same kind of box-office success that many other horror films of the 70s enjoyed (though everyone lived happily ever after in a big house, it’s all relative). However, those who loved it really loved it, albeit nearly a decade before the follow-up and well into the 2010s before it reached its conclusion with part 5, by which time the franchise had developed an enviable merch range.
The ‘Phantasm’ comic launched in 2002 from Xmachina Comics, after the much-derided fourth film. Pulled together by Stephen Romano (now of Eibon Press) and artist Michael Broom from script ideas for a TV series he was pitching, the 4 issues are not advised for those who aren’t at home with the film’s dream-like drift from one idea to the next and a cavalier approach to logic. The artwork is fine, there’s plenty of Tall Man to keep the fans happy but there’s a lot to get your head around.
Plan 9 From Outer Space
Ed Wood’s 1959 film ‘Plan 9’’s reputation for alarming ineptitude actually straddles a blurred line of charming quaintness, a quality which has ensured it has lasted far longer in the minds of the masses than a good many other films from the 1950s.
In 1991, Eternity Comics released a three-issue series titled ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space: Thirty Years Later!’, which served as an unofficial sequel to the film. Bluewater Publishing also told the story of what happens after the film in ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space Strikes Again!’, a 26-page one-issue affair. Fifty years after the alien invasion unleashed the unspeakable horror of Plan 9, a corrupt team of government scientists reactivate the zombie horde in order to lure the aliens back to Earth! Their sinister plan: steal the most hideous weapon known to intergalactic intelligence. Only conspiracy theorist, Eugene, and his mother, a former professional wrestler, can expose the shadowy agenda of the government as they fight off the growing zombie horde. This time, a new alien force invades Earth: the revolutionary followers of the martyred Eros. Eugene and his mother join forces with the last remaining heroes of a corrupt government. Together, they must thwart Plan 9 once again, with all life in the universe hanging in the balance.
Released by Innovation Comics as a very limited 3-issue run, ‘Psycho’ is a straight retelling of the original Hitchcock film, with stunning artwork by Felipe Echevarria. One of those where people get very upset if you call them ‘comics’ and not ‘graphic novels’.
I was never completely happy that the titular monster didn’t have an actual pumpkin for a head, indeed, despite being Stan Winston‘s directorial debut, it’s always felt rather like people have insisted they like it out of loyalty more than anything. Dynamite adapted the film for comic readers, adding six more demons to reflect the deadly sins. It’s a neat enough set-up and therefore a little surprising they stopped after 5 issues. Artwork is courtesy of Blacky Shepherd whilst writer Cullen Bunn went on to write the excellent, ‘Harrow County’.
There’s always a good chance that a film made by Charles Band‘s Full Moon Productions will transfer to comic form and Puppet Master is no exception. Collaborating with Eternity Comics, the six issues keep enough toes in the first film to keep fans happy, though the two take different directions as each progresses. An interesting example of art imitating art imitating art, as the debut comic had ideas that were then introduced into the third film of the franchise. In 2015, Action Lab Comics really went to town, adding 23 issues to the collection. In typical Band fashion, there are a myriad of limited editions of each – unfortunately, they’re pretty good, so completists will have to splash out to own them all.
Based originally on the story by H.P. Lovecraft, the first interpretation was actually routed in the action of Stuart Gordon’s 1985 film, Adventure Comic’s ‘Re-Animator – Dawn of the Re-Animator’.
‘Dawn of the Re-Animator’ is a prequel to the movie, detailing the adventures of young Herbert West as he struggles not only to prove that his serum works, to avoid arrest for murder, and at the same time, to not lose his University funding!
West’s troubles begin when he uses the serum on his colleague Doctor Gruber, apparently dead from a heart attack. Unfortunately, there are some rather grisly and eye-popping (literally!) side effects, none of which seem to include Gruber’s reanimation. This, of course, brings him into conflict with the police, the University’s Board of Inquiry, and Gruber’s estranged daughter. Meanwhile, the powerful Erich Metler, a man obsessed with immortality, wants the secret of West’s formula and has already unleashed his zombie thugs to retrieve it. The four-issue run was the work of Dan Danko with artwork by Joe Malaga.
It was a combination of Lovecraft’s tale and Stuart Gordon’s film adaptation which eventually led to Dynamite Entertainment’s ‘Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator’. Doctor West has made a deal with a mystery man who promised West that if Ash was committed to Arkham Asylum, the mystery man would show the Doctor how to use the Necronomicon to fulfil his dreams of raising the dead.
Herbert West was featured in a story arc in the ‘Hack/Slash’ comic book series but this ran into trouble after a legal battle over the ownership of the cult zombie movie ‘Re-Animator’ spilt over from the courtroom into the comic book world and forced them to choose between pulling the series or getting dumped by their distributor. Creator Tim Seeley’s heroine, Cassie Hack, runs into Stuart Gordon’s version of Lovecraft’s Herbert West as part of a storyline subtly titled “Cassie & Vlad Meet the Re-Animator” – publisher Devil’s Due pulled the run from issue 15 onwards to avoid further trouble. Ultimately, they worked out the distribution themselves though ended the connection with the character soon after.
Last but not least, Zenescope modern update of the classic H.P. Lovecraft story, ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’ sticks closest to its roots. Four volumes followed West’s exploits, the joint talents of
Return of the Living Dead
An unusual title change for this comic adaptation, with ‘Revenge of the Living Dead’ being the title it was released under. Released through UK company, Cult Screenings and written by Gary Smart in a limited run of 350 copies, it adapts the treatment written by Don Calfa (Ernie in the film) which sees the action continue straight after the events of the first film (the nuclear blast assumed to have killed everyone is found to have hit the wrong target!). The artwork by Jason Miller is very cartoony, which is fine, but the resemblance to the characters on-screen isn’t great. However, it’s a brilliant way to see what could have been.
One of recent times most successful franchises had just one crack of the whip (so far) at an inked version, though it was some way into the series before it made an appearance.
‘SAW: Rebirth’ is a non-canonical internet comic book published by IDW Publishing. It was written by R. Eric Lieb and Kris Oprisko with art by Renato Guedes.
The comic book is a one-shot prequel to ‘SAW’, as well as the entire series. It delves into the origins of the tortured John Kramer and his sinister alter-ego, Jigsaw, whilst also fleshing out Jigsaw’s past and motivations and answers some unexplained questions from the first film, such as how he knew all his victims and how a dying old man could concoct such elaborate traps. ‘SAW: Rebirth’ was remade around the release of ‘SAW V’ with a new animation style to supplement the previous and slight edits.
Frustratingly for the comic’s writers, ‘SAW IV’’s backstory on Jigsaw contradicts the one in ‘Rebirth’, thus leaving this as an odd relic of a franchise that hadn’t even started to wind down.
Shaun of the Dead
The 2004 zombie comedy film directed by Edgar Wright and written by Wright and Simon Pegg, enjoyed a surprising amount of success outside of its native Britain and the combination of the re-flourishing zombie genre and well-practised British humour left many wanting more. 2000 AD produced a ‘Shaun of the Dead’ strip called “There’s Something About Mary” written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, with art by Frazer Irving. The strip was published as part of the run-up to the film and followed Mary, the first zombie, and other characters. It was also added as an extra on the DVD release of the film.
IDW Publishing produced a comic book adaptation of the film, written by IDW’s editor-in-chief Chris Ryall and drawn by Zach Howard. It was published as a four-issue mini-series in 2005. The comic was released with the full backing of both Wright and Pegg who also gave the creators access to unseen material.
A nice addition to Arrow’s deluxe Blu-ray edition of Brian Yuzna‘s, ‘Society’ was a comic book that continued the story of the upper-class deviants and those drawn into their weird rituals. First published by Scottish production house, Rough Cut, it suffers from being shrunk down to fit inside the disc packaging but it’s imaginative and clearly shows a lot of love for Yuzna’s creation.
Dark Horse released 4 issues of a ‘Species’ tie-in in 1995, continuing the action from the first film but changing the lead alien hybrid from female to male. Some might say this overlooks the main appeal of the film.
Bending the rules slightly here – the surprisingly entertaining 1997 film is, of course, based on an equally entertaining book by Robert A. Heinlein, a fact reiterated on the comic’s cover. However, the visuals of the two license-holders – Dark Horse and Markosia, borrow heavily from the film. Dark Horses’ graphic stories take the opportunity to explore the un-filmed Bug attack on Port Joe Smith, the backstories of some of the minor characters and also a prequel of sorts, leading into the action of the film itself. The ferocious pace of the film is echoed in print, as are the sexual tensions but this does not mean there is any lack of technical information or attention to detail.
Markosia owned the rights in the UK, an opportunity they have clearly grasped with both hands with already five substantial stories explored. These take a broader overview of the war between humans and arachnids, the dynamic of the seemingly robotic bugs balanced by the emotions and desperation of the humans.
‘Street Trash – The Graphic Novel’. What times we live in. Written and drawn by Mike Lackey, who also played Fred and created the body melt effects in the film, this is no throw-away promo – this is 244 pages of love pouring out for a film that continues to entertain audiences. ‘Street Trash’ gives readers the backstories of the characters in the film, whilst also continuing where the film left off.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
With such a rich history, iconic characters and, in fairness, such frustratingly hit-and-miss sequels, it is fitting that Leatherface and his family have been represented in the comic world.
In 1991, Northstar Comics released a miniseries titled Leatherface — a loose adaptation (and frankly, the looser the better) of ‘Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III’ — that ran for four issues. In 1995, Topps Comics released ‘Jason vs. Leatherface’, a three-issue miniseries that had Jason Voorhees of ‘Friday the 13th’ fame moving in with Leatherface and his cannibalistic family.
After the success of the 2003 remake of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, New Line Cinema set up a “House of Horror” licensing division which licensed the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ franchise to Avatar Press for use in new comic-book stories, the first of which appeared in 2005. In 2006, Avatar Press lost the license to the DC Comics imprint, Wildstorm, which subsequently published new stories based on the franchise.
Northstar’s entry worked from the original script by David Schow and the heavily edited theatrical release of director Jeff Burr, but had more or less free rein to write the story the way it should have been told. Kirk Jarvinen drew the first issue, and Guy Burwell finished the rest of the series.
The comics, not having the same restrictions from the MPAA, featured much more gore than the finished film. The ending, as well as the fates of several characters, also changed. The roles of the Sawyer family members and their personal backgrounds are also elaborated on, clashing badly with the more recent film entries.
After completing ‘Leatherface’, Northstar planned to publish other ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ miniseries and one-shots, which included an adaptation of the original 1974 film written by J. J. Birch, Tim Vigil and Val Mayerik; and two original one-shots entitled ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Portfolio’ and ‘Leatherface Special’, written by Mike Baron, which would have explored Leatherface’s childhood. All of these comic projects went unpublished. They needn’t have worried.
In 1995, Topps Comics released the three-issue miniseries ‘Jason vs. Leatherface’, a non-canonical crossover between the ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ franchises, written by Nancy A. Collins with art by Jeff Butler. It is very much the kind of head-spinning concept that only a comic could get away with.
In 2005, Avatar Press began to release ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ comics, set in the continuity of the 2003 remake of the original film, but serving as prequels to the film. The first comic released, a one-shot entitled ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Special’ (written by Brian Pulido and drawn by Jacen Burrows), involves three escaped convicts and their two female companions encountering the cannibalistic Hewitt family after a botched robbery of Luda Mae Hewitt’s general store. The Hewitts kill all the convicts but keep one of the females, Charity, as she is pregnant. After Charity miscarries she escapes, only to be murdered by Leatherface.
After the release of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Special’, Avatar printed a three-issue miniseries entitled ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Grind’ – written by Brian Pulido with art by Daniel HDR. The mini-series involves a bus full of choir girls, along with their teachers and the teachers’ daughter, becoming stranded in Texas when their bus breaks down near the Hewitt house. The final release by Avatar Press, the one-shot ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Fearbook’, had text written by Antony Johnston with art by Daniel HDR and Mauricio Dias. The premise of this one-shot involves a quartet of friends in the midst of a cross-country trip who run afoul of Sheriff Hoyt, who forcibly takes them to the Hewitt house, where Leatherface runs amok.
After Avatar lost the rights to ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and to New Line Cinema’s other horror properties, Wildstorm started an ongoing series written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with art by Wesley Craig, under the direction of editor Ben Abernathy. Once again, this series featured the continuity established in the 2003 remake.
However, unlike Avatar, Wildstorm’s series contributed to the mythos by picking up one year after the film ended, effectively generating a sequel: Leatherface has one arm, Erin has been placed in a mental institution, the FBI have Sheriff Hoyt’s offices under investigation, and an uncle of Pepper (a victim from the film), one of the senior agents on the case, has the Hewitts in his sights. The storyline followed two new sets of characters, along with the Hewitts themselves: the team of FBI agents, led by the vengeful Agent Baines, and a TV news crew, led by local anchor Kim Burns, eager for a new scoop on the murders in Fuller, Texas.
The series also expanded the roles of some of the more minor characters from the films, such as the Tea Lady, Henrietta and Jedidiah. Whereas the films portray these characters as some of the more relatively harmless members of the family, the comics showed them as just as demented and depraved as Leatherface and Hoyt; in one scene, Henrietta and the Tea Lady carnally assault a drugged FBI agent in an attempt to impregnate themselves, and in another Jedidiah kills an FBI agent (who has attempted to arrest his family) with a cleaver to the face.
In 2007, Wildstorm announced its plan to cancel its ongoing New Line horror comics in favor of publishing mini-series and specials based on the movie franchises. The ongoing ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ series would come to an end after a six-issue run. Replacing them two months later came ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Cut!’, a one-issue special written by Will Pfeifer and with art by Stefano Raffaele. This issue would take place thirty years after the first film, with a group of film students seeking to document the Hewitts. One month later, a second special, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: About a Boy’, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and with art by Joel Gomez, would follow. This issue featured a back story on Thomas Hewitt as a child prior to the events of ‘The Beginning’. A third one-shot titled “Hoyt, By Himself” reunited writers Abnett and Lanning with artist Wesley Craig and focused on Hoyt’s past, in particular expanding on his time as a POW during the Korean War and perforce taking up cannibalism to survive.
In September 2007 Leatherface appeared alongside Freddy Krueger in the first issue of New Line Cinema’s ‘Tales of Horror’ in a story entitled “The Texas Chainsaw Salesman”, written by Christos Gage and Peter Milligan. In late 2008, Wildstorm started a three-issue miniseries, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Raising Cain’, written by Bruce Jones with art by Chris Gugliotti. The mini-series centres around two members of the Hewitt family, twin brothers separated at birth: Cain and Abel, with Abel raised by the Hewitts and Cain by a normal, loving family. With the 2022 Netflix reboot of the film, it remains to be seen whether publishers will bother to try and fill out the family’s backstory going forward, with it now so confusing that it’s become somewhat offputting.
As far back as 1976, the John W. Campbell, Jr. novella, ‘Who Goes There?’, upon which both 1951’s ‘The Thing From Another World’ and 1982’s ‘The Thing’ are based was also published in comic book form in issue 1 of Starstream (script by Arnold Drake and art by Jack Abel).
‘The Thing from Another World’ is a four-part comic miniseries published by Dark Horse Comics, it served as sequel to the film (‘The Thing From Another World’, ‘The Thing From Another World: Climate of Fear’, ‘The Thing From Another World: Eternal Vows’, ‘The Thing From Another World: Questionable Research’), featuring the character of MacReady as the lone human survivor of Outpost #31 and depicting Childs as infected. ‘Questionable Research’ explores a parallel reality where MacReady is not around to stop the Thing and a suspicious scientist must prevent its spread after it has wreaked destruction on Outpost 31.
Darkhorse has released a prequel story to coincide with the release of ‘The Thing’ (2011). ‘The Thing: The Northman Nightmare’ is set hundreds of years before the events of the movie and tells the tale of how Vikings have a nasty encounter with the Thing.
In January 2010, ‘Clarkesworld Magazine’ published “The Things”, a short story by Peter Watts that retells the film events from the alien’s point of view and paints it in a much more sympathetic light, describing the Thing as an alien with an innocent impulse to share with the human race its power of communion and its frightened, not to mention severely saddened, reaction when they attack it. The story received a nomination for the Hugo Award in 2011.
‘Toxic Avenger’ is perhaps one of the best-suited horror film characters to make the cross-over to comics, such is the style of Troma’s brightly-coloured, schlocky superhero. From April 1991 to February 1992, Marvel Comics published ‘The Toxic Avenger’ comic, written by Doug Moench, drawn by Rodney Ramos, and Val Mayerik, lasting for 11 issues. The series focused on Toxie battling against the evil Apocalypse, Inc. and its demonic Chairman.
The title was a mix of traditional superhero storytelling and satire, including the phrase “hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength” being repeated many times and Toxie’s “Tromatons” erupting when he was in danger similar to Spider-Man’s spider-sense. Marvel’s series also contained much in the way of “over-the-top”, cartoonish violence. No other Marvel characters ever appeared in the series, and Toxie never made his way into any other Marvel comic, although a crossover with Marvel’s ‘RoboCop’ title was planned before that series was cancelled.
In July 2000, Troma published an extremely rare comic book entitled ‘The New Adventures of the Toxic Avenger’. This comic was offered to people who donated $75 or more to TromaDance 2007.
Though not directly related the the films, Marvel Comics released an eight-issue comic book series, ‘Toxic Crusaders’. It had no regular writer. A four-book mini-series was written and drawn by David Leach and Jeremy Banx. The series was solicited and the first issue was written and drawn before being cancelled along with all of Marvel’s TV tie-in titles. In the UK, Fleetway published their own ‘Toxic Crusaders’ comic book which would last for ten issues.
Trick ‘r Treat
The 2007 horror anthology was a surprise fan favourite and has developed something of a cult following. The segmented nature left it ripe for the picking to receive an EC-style make-over. DC Comics partner Wildstorm Comics had planned to release a four-issue adaptation of ‘Trick ‘r Treat’ written by Marc Andreyko and illustrated by Fiona Staples, with covers by Michael Dougherty, Breehn Burns and Ragnar. The series was originally going to be released weekly in October 2007, ending on Halloween, but the series was pushed back due to the film’s back-listing. The four comics were instead released as a graphic novel adaptation in October 2009.
In October 2015, Michael Dougherty’s four-part ‘Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead’ was released with artists including Fiona Staples, Stephen Byrne, Stuart Sayger and Zid via a Legendary Comics omnibus.
28 Days Later
Boom! put some real effort into their 24-issue run of comics based on Danny Boyle‘s not-zombies-post-apocalyptic film, bridging the gap between ’28 Days Later’ and ’28 Weeks Later’. As the series progresses, the comics take us to Scotland and the Isle of Wight, veering significantly away from the film (enough to be considered a separate universe), and indeed its sequel, though it retains the dark edge of both. The artwork by Declan Shalvey and Alejandro Aragon is superb and not a million miles away from the style and tone of ‘The Walking Dead’ series. Less successful is ’28 Days Later: The Aftermath’ published by Fox Atomic and written by Steve Niles of ’30 Days of Night’ fame. Again, there is an attempt to add to the narrative by looking at events before and after the first film, but neither the art nor the pay-off is really worth the effort.
Published by Avatar in 2007, ‘2001 Maniacs’ looked to capitalise on the success of the Robert Englund film (2005) which itself was a rehash of Herschell Gordon Lewis‘ seminal film, 2000 Maniacs (1964). This was a bold move as the Tim Sullivan-directed film was largely greeted with complete apathy and has since become just one of countless horror films made in the 2000s (and ongoing) which took a scrap of an idea and cast well-known horror icons to boost interest. There was only one issue and indeed film, though a sequel was threatened. There was a one-shot variant of the comic featuring black and white sketches of the eventual strips and photos from the film.
1988’s ‘Waxwork’ was a great idea for a film, though its entertainment value is linked very strongly to your ability to stomach 1980s filmmaking. Blackthorne Publishing issued a comic in the same year as the film’s release, keeping many of the characters but shrinking and expanding some roles, whilst others end up in entirely different roles. It’s a fun thing to own for those who love the film, but in its own right, is very throwaway and completely lacking in tension, excitement and gore. On the plus side, there’s a nice 3D edition, which will presumably require you to re-mortgage your house to obtain in mint condition.
When ‘WolfCop’ was released in 2014, it was difficult to believe it didn’t stem directly from a comic book character, so well-realised was the character. Dynamite duly obliged two years later, though the 3 issues somehow look and feel rather flat – although the title character looks great, the rest of the assorted characters look very bland and the stories aren’t the most engaging you’ll ever read. Issue 1 does feature a huge wereboar though, so not all is lost.