While we love horror novels here at The Lineup—seriously—at the end of the day, they’re powered by words and imagination alone. And sometimes, you’re in the mood for a more immersive and visual horror experience. Enter horror graphic novels: the best of two art forms, literature and visual art. This exciting medium claims some of the most creative, innovative, and daring minds in the horror genre, from Neil Gaiman to Clive Barker.
Whether you’re a graphic novel fiend or are just discovering the medium for the first time, you’ll find the following recommendations delightfully creepy. But be warned: these horror graphic novels are so absorbing, they’ll keep you up reading long past the witching hour.
The Neil Gaiman Library Volume 1
Horror visionary Neil Gaiman has applied his creative eye for storytelling to mediums as vast and varied as comic books, novels, and films. This exciting new collection pulls together four of his ventures in the realm of graphic horror novels: A Study in Emerald, Murder Mysteries, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, and Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire. Released on June 16, 2020, this essential Gaiman volume will give you the chills with its Lovecraftian tales of terror.
The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
While we’re on the subject of Neil Gaiman, we would be remiss not to mention his Sandman series. At the crossroads of horror and dark fantasy, this series was critically acclaimed and became one of the first graphic novels ever to be on the New York Times bestseller list. The Sandman revolves around Morpheus, a personification of dreams, and the dark kingdom he rules over.
Locke & Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
Creepy old mansions are a staple of the horror genre, and Locke & Key brings the classic Gothic suspense imagery to vivid life. This series revolves around an ancestral family home called Keyhouse, which possesses a portal to another dimension. Written by Joe Hill—the son of Stephen King, and an acclaimed horror author in his own right—and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key has since been adapted into a Netflix original series with one season under its belt, and a second on the way.
The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 1
Did you know that AMC’s beloved and long-running zombie show is based on a horror graphic novel series? Just like its better-known screen adaptation, The Walking Dead takes place in a near-future world that’s been ravaged by a zombie apocalypse. Kentucky sheriff Rick Grimes awakens from a coma to find himself in a vastly different world. He soon becomes the leader of a small group of survivors hellbent on rebuilding society.
30 Days of Night Vol. 1
Of this “short, sharp and unforgiving” graphic novel, Clive Barker remarks: “It's got a catchy title, a wonderfully clever, but simple idea at its chilly heart, and a narrative that starts at a run and never slows down." Each winter, the Earth’s distance from the sun plunges a remote Alaskan town into a month of darkness. It’s the perfect opportunity for a gang of bloodthirsty creatures to infiltrate the town and wreak havoc. 30 Days of Night was adapted into a 2007 horror film of the same name.
My Friend Dahmer
My Friend Dahmer actually falls under the true crime umbrella, but the real-life terror at the heart of the narrative earns it a spot on this list of horror graphic novels. Author and illustrator Derf Backderf was friends with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer back in junior high and high school. This haunting graphic novel introduces the reader to the Jeffrey that Backderf knew: a quiet, troubled teenager who had not yet acted on the bloodlust that would earn him notoriety. Publishers Weekly calls My Friend Dahmer “quietly horrifying,” while Kirkus Reviews characterizes it as “a powerful, unsettling use of the graphic medium to share a profoundly disturbing story.”
Cycle of the Werewolf
Stephen King’s 1983 horror graphic novel is accompanied by visual art made by comic book illustrator Bernie Wrightson. 10-year-old Marty Coslaw notices strange deaths plaguing his small town. Each full moon, the throats of innocent people are slashed in what appears to be the work of a werewolf. Cycle of the Werewolf was adapted into the 1985 film Silver Bullet, which wasn’t particularly successful upon its release but has since evolved into a cult classic.
Gideon Falls Vol. 1: The Black Barn
New York Times bestselling author and award-winning cartoonist Jeff Lemire has built his career on crafting literary graphic novels, but Gideon Falls is his first significant foray into the realm of horror. Rather than relying on gore, the series is a thought-provoking meditation on the nature of evil. This first volume depicts the intersecting storylines of two very different men, a priest and a mentally ill man who wanders the streets. Both of them begin to have disturbing visions of the Black Barn, a building that is said to bring death and destruction in its wake. Though they’re well acquainted with the local lore, neither man is prepared for what actually lies inside the otherworldly structure…
Nailbiter Vol. 1: There Will Be Blood
The retail description for Nailbiter put it best: this illustrated series “mixes Twin Peaks with the horror of Se7en,” resulting in a horror graphic novel with a healthy dose of mystery thrown in for good measure. Buckaroo, Oregon is the hometown of no less than 16 famed serial killers. That can’t be a coincidence, right? NSA Agent Nicholas Finch is dispatched to the town to figure out what exactly is going on. Volume 1, There Will Be Blood, has been called "an impressive and eerie debut that's sure to turn your sweetest dreams into the stuff of nightmares" (IGN).
Hellraiser Vol. 1
We have Clive Barker to thank for the 1987 film Hellraiser, as well as its source material, The Hellbound Heart. Along with other writers, Barker returns to the story of Pinhead and the Cenobites with Hellraiser. With its evocative depictions of torture and frighteningly evil creatures, this is one horror graphic novel that is guaranteed to disturb even the strongest of readers—and yet, one that you won’t be able to resist tearing through in one sitting.
Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Warren Ellis refers to this “immense, majestic work about the Jack the Ripper murders, the dark Victorian world they happened in, and the birth of the 20th century” as his “all-time favorite graphic novel.” And no wonder; From Hell has everything a horror reader could ask for, reimagining the twisted, bloody path of the killer that author Alan Moore believes was behind the Jack the Ripper murders. The result is unforgettable; The Los Angeles Times raves that "Moore's works have often defied the public's expectations of the medium, and his most ambitious work, the massive graphic novel From Hell, is no exception.”
Related: 10 Must-Read Jack the Ripper Books