Terror Times Two – Horror Comic Books, Films Feed Off Each Other

Let’s be honest: We all like to be frightened. That’s why you’re reading this. Whether it’s a good horror story by Stephen King or Edgar Allen Poe, or a good comic book or an increasingly bloody (and, at times, sexy) movie.

But have you ever stopped to think of all the connecting threads among the different horror genres? Films have begotten comic books and vice versa. They help each other and we–horror fanatics–benefit from the synergy therein.

Let’s break down this concept into easy reading. This may be an oversimplification, but (for argument’s sake) we have four basic horror categories in comics and film: vampires, werewolves, man-made monsters and zombies. In no particular order, here goes:

* Vampires: One of the true hot buttons in film horror, what with the ever-continuing ripples of the Twilight trilogy and the plethora of TV fare. But, for my money, they pale by comparison to the originals–Nosferatu and Bela Lugosi’s iconic Count Dracula (though I must admit a real fondness for Twilight, especially Robert Pattinon’s Edward Cullen. And, of course, with his version of The Batman due out next year, interest is high!).

Other Dracula notables, of course, include Christopher Lee and Frank Langella (my personal favorite for both his stage and screen incarnations of the romanticized count). And all this led to the best horror comic book of all time, Tomb of Dracula, by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. This terrific title led to the Blade comics offshoot (and three very entertaining movies with Wesley Snipes) as well as Morbius, The Living Vampire.

* Werewolves: Here, film probably has it all over comics, starting with the classic Wolfman and Lon Chaney Jr., the subsequent revival, The Wolfman and An American Werewolf. Comics never really came close, but tried with Werewolf By Night and Man-Wolf. Marvel never really took this horror category seriously enough, seemingly using the books as testing grounds for upcoming writers and artists. Too bad.

* Man-Made Monsters: This begins and ends with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the classic film. You can still hear: “It’s alive! It’s alive!” Sadly, comics have failed trying to recapture that on the illustrated page, even though both Marvel and DC tried with separate titles at different times. But maybe the monster inspired Stan Lee and Jack Kirby when they created the original gray Hulk. Hmmm?

* Zombies: This category is, I believe, where comics have built on and improved the cinematic “dead who live and walk” theme. Thanks go to George Romero for his Dead film series and TV’s The Walking Dead (based on the award-winning comic book created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore).

This post-apocalyptic comic book series focused on Rick Grimes, a Kentucky deputy shot in the line of duty who awakens from a coma in a zombie apocalypse. As all fans know, after joining with other survivors, Grimes leads a community as it struggles to survive the zombie apocalypse. The series ran for 193 issues, with Kirkman ending the series last year. The book took home the 2007 and 2010 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series at San Diego Comic-Con International and, of course, was adapted into the AMC television series in 2010. And, in the past, comics embraced the “zombie culture” through the wonderful classic pages of EC Comics and the late, lamented Charlton Comics.

Remember: Never underestimate the power of the comic book and the thrills and chills they can bring. As the Bard said: “There’s more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy.” Sweet dreams.

Thomas Tuna
Thomas A. Tuna is a comic book veteran who began his writing career back in the ’70s with Charlton Comics, contributing to such horror titles as Ghost Manor, Haunted, The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves and Ghostly Haunts. Most recently, he has served as a writer and editor (with more than a smattering of horror yarns) for such comic book websites as Hyper Epics and Red Moon Features.

Some of his favorite horror flicks include Jaws, Salem’s Lot, Dracula (with Frank Langella) and Blade. His favorite horror comic books? Tomb of Dracula (by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan) and Swamp Thing (by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson).
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