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    Detective Duo Spencer & Locke Mix it Up

    What happens when writer David Pepose riffs off a beloved comic featuring a boy and stuffed tiger and a gritty crime drama? Well, you get Spencer & Locke, a unique, quirky comic that’s sort of a Calvin & Hobbes meets Sin City.

    Spencer & Locke #1
    Spencer & Locke #1

    Pepose’s Spencer & Locke is  a new limited four-book series from Action Lab – Danger Zone. In our interview Pepose discusses the genesis for his new comic, the comics that influenced him, and collaborating with the right people.

    TFAW: Let’s get this out of the way to start with: Why Calvin & Hobbes?

    David Pepose: Sometimes stories just strike you like a bolt of lightning. And when I thought of the question “what if Calvin & Hobbes grew up in Sin City,” I immediately knew Spencer & Locke was something I had to write. Because if I didn’t, somebody else definitely would have!

    When I first sat down to write a comic, I wanted to write something that used comics’ unique bag of storytelling tricks, something that spoke to comics fans first and foremost. There was this real attraction for remixing known properties to give them a more contemporary and adult sensibility, and it didn’t take long for me to think of Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, the gold standard for comics and cartooning everywhere.

    I knew it would be subversive, maybe even blasphemous to do something like this with such a sacred comic book text. But as I started breaking down Spencer & Locke down as characters, I discovered not just some wonderful, three-dimensional voices behind all their bantering, but I realized there was a really powerful, human story underneath all the crazy action. We might not fill the massive shoes of our inspirations, but I like to think we add something to the mix.

    “At its core, our story is about the traumas of childhood, how we get them and how we face them down.”

    TFAW: How did you come up with the idea of putting these characters in such a disturbing world?
    Pepose: I feel like Spencer & Locke’s brand of pulpy noir was always a natural choice for me, just given the kinds of comics I loved growing up. Frank Miller’s Daredevil: The Man Without Fear was the first book that made me realize that actual writers and artists created comics, and it was Frank’s distinctive voice that made me devour everything else he had ever written.

    Noir as a genre allows for these moody settings and poetic inner monologues. But when you wind up splicing in Calvin & Hobbes, you almost have to lean into how disturbing this world can be, right? But I think while we do have some genuinely shocking moments in our book, it’s all in the service of a greater point. At its core, our story is about the traumas of childhood, how we get them and how we face them down. Everybody has scars, but are we defined by them? Can we overcome them? Or are we always destined to succumb to them?

    TFAW: Were you inspired by other Noir comics or films?
    Pepose: For sure–Memento is one of my favorite movies, and I see plenty of that in Spencer & Locke’s DNA. Chinatown is another favorite, as are L.A. Confidential and Brick. In terms of noir comics, as you can probably tell, I love Frank Miller’s work on Sin City, Daredevil and Batman. I’m also a tremendous fan of Ed Brubaker’s work on Criminal, which really helped inspire our book just as much as Watterson and Miller. Books like Southern Bastards, Blacksad, and Darwyn Cooke’s Parker books all served as this kind of creative compass to help us find our way.

    Pushing the Envelope

    Spencer & Locke #1 (Variant Cover)
    Spencer & Locke #1 (Variant Cover)

    TFAW: Was there ever a part of you that, while writing, said to yourself, I must be crazy?
    Pepose: Ha, definitely! There’s an elasticity to the concept of Spencer & Locke that lets us really go wild with this book. Yes, we have the kind of awesome action tropes like fistfights and shootouts and car chases. But we also push the envelope even further later on, as we delve deeper into our heroes’ inner lives and psychology.

    The thing is, the original Calvin & Hobbes has such a robust iconography that’s recognizable by even the most casual of comics readers. And the sorts of twists and turns we put on them can sometimes be surprising or even horrifying. There are a few moments writing this book where I definitely said to myself, “wow, that is pretty messed up.” But the important thing to note about Spencer & Locke is that while we do get pretty dark as we examine the traumas of Locke’s past, it’s all in the service of a greater story.

    TFAW: Have you ever met Bill Watterson or Frank Miller?
    Pepose: No, and after this book comes out, I’ll probably be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life. Bill, Frank– before you call the hitmen on us, just remember, we did this out of love!

    “My most inspirational artist is the one I’m working with.”

    TFAW: What writers and artists have inspired you?
    Pepose: Having been on the other side of the interviewing table, I’ve learned a ton from writers like Dan Slott, Nick Spencer, Greg Pak, Rick Remender. And following writers like Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Devin Grayson. As far as artists, in no particular order, I love Jason Latour, Tradd Moore, David Lafuente, Roger Robinson, Scott McDaniel, Aco, Jerome Opeña. But honestly, my most inspirational artist is the one I’m working with. Watching Jorge tackle seedy back alleys, adorable flashbacks, harrowing action sequences, and homicidal psycho jungle cats got me fired up about this project from the beginning, and really pushed me to pull out all the stops.

    TFAW: How did you and Jorge come to team up on this project?
    Pepose: So much of Spencer & Locke’s development came incrementally. I wrote a script to see if I could do it, and when I liked that, I wrote the rest of the treatment, also to see if I could do it. When I liked that, I decided to try to find an artist to work with, just to see if I could do it.

    Of course, everybody has their own story of how to find a collaborator in comics, but the one that stood out to me was Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore for The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. Learning that Tradd was a graduate from the Savannah College of Art and Design, I wound up looking through several portfolios from SCAD alums.

    But when I found Jorge, I saw his website said he made comics with “stupid amounts of passion.” And I knew it was that passion that made him the perfect partner to work with for this project. Jorge brings such an energy and excitement to his pages, and such a great versatility. Every issue of Spencer & Locke has something awesome and cool that Jorge just knocks out of the park. Honestly, this book is so varied it could really be a portfolio piece for the both of us!

    TFAW: Do you think you’ll be teaming up together again soon?
    Pepose: There is nothing I want more than to do more projects with Jorge–particularly more Spencer & Locke! If readers pre-order our book and tell us they want more, I’ve got plenty more ideas of where these characters could go, and I’d love to see Jorge’s take on them!

    Spencer & Locke #1 (Variant Cover)
    Spencer & Locke #1 (Variant Cover)

    “This is also about the story of how a boy and his imaginary panther became a pair of tough-as-nails hard-boiled cops.”

    TFAW: Do you have anything down the pipeline we should be on the lookout for?
    Pepose: I’ve got a few projects in the pipeline at the moment. I’ve got a really fun crime/hostage story I’m developing, and I’ve got a sci-fi comic and a spy pitch that I’m also really excited about. I can’t talk too much detail at the moment, but readers and publishers alike, stay tuned!

    TFAW: The first issue presents a lot of questions. How quickly do you feel to need to have them answered? Or are you okay with leaving some questions unanswered altogether?
    Pepose: The thing that I like most about Spencer & Locke is that it’s not just about the detective story in the present. This is also about the story of how a boy and his imaginary panther became a pair of tough-as-nails hard-boiled cops. So for every step forward in the main plot, we’ll peel back another layer of Locke’s past, and really get into this guy’s head.

    But while we wanted to make sure readers feel satisfied with our plotting, we also tried to leave plenty of room for readers to have their own interpretation on things. After all, Spencer & Locke is a story about imagination, perspective, and the mind. I think its very easy to be a passive participant when reading a comic, but I feel like by trusting the reader and giving them the opportunity fill in the blanks, it lets fans feel even more invested in these characters.

    TFAW: Who’s on your bucket list to work with?
    Pepose: You know, I’ve never really thought about that before! I don’t know if I necessarily have a “bucket list” of artists to work with, per se, because I really just the idea of teaming up with talent that is as young and hungry as I am. But I do admire plenty of talented artists around the industry–Chris Samnee, Declan Shalvey, David Lafuente, Doc Shaner, Becky Cloonan, Tradd Moore. Honestly, if Spencer & Locke has taught me anything, it’s the importance of finding the right people to work on the right project. For me, once you have the idea, the team will follow.

    TFAW: What comics are you reading now?
    Pepose: I’m reading more books than I know what to do with! Mark Waid’s Champions, Dennis Hopeless on All-New X-Men and Spider-Woman, All-Star Batman, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank over at Black Mask, Detective Comics, Southern Bastards and Animosity, just for starters. And then there are a handful of older trades I’m digging through again for old times’ sake, like Transmetropolitan, Hawkeye, and Judd Winick’s Exiles.

    READ THE REVIEW OF SPENCER & LOCKE #1

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    Power Couples

    Power Couples

    It’s Valentine’s Day and love in the air. So, it makes sense to look at some of comics most beloved and enduring couples. These pairs have had their share of ups and downs. In fact, many of the couples have survived and stayed together despite insurmountable odds. As a result, these relationships have provided us with decades of compelling (albeit, sometimes non-traditional) love stories.

    5 Comic Couples That Have Managed to Make it Work (Mostly)

    Kitty Pryde and Colossus

    Kitty Pryde & Colossus – The X-Men have never had great luck with romantic relationships. However, the romance between the iron-skinned Colossus and the phasing Kitty Pryde has often been one of the sweeter, more affectionate stories in the occasionally dark and bleak X-Universe.

    Aquaman and Mera

    Aquaman & Mera – Talk about opposites attracting. Mera comes from a culture of Atlanteans who seek Aquaman’s destruction. In fact, they initially met when she was sent to kill him. Instead, she ended up falling in love with him. If a relationship can weather a few assassination attempts, you can bet they’re in it for the long haul.

    Green Arrow and Black Canary

    Green Arrow & Black Canary – Ask any comics fan and they’ll tell you these two belong together. One of the biggest complaints of the DC New 52 relaunch was the elimination of this relationship. Fan demand lead to the two being reunited in the recent DC Rebirth event. The relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary is one of the most romantic stories in the modern DC universe.

    Batman and Catwoman

    Batman & Catwoman – This is one of the more on again/off again couples in comics. Catwoman is the one person who can make a loner vigilante like Batman think about actually letting love in his life. Their separate paths in life mean that hopes for anything long term are probably impossible. But there is a beauty in their tragic love affair.

    Superman and Lois Lane

    Superman & Lois Lane – They are comics most enduring couple. It takes a spectacular woman to get Superman to settle down and start a family. And the feisty and intelligent Lois Lane is just that woman. These two are basically an institution at DC and have consistently found their way back to each other for almost 80 years.

    Leave us a comment and let us know which comics couple is your favorite paring.

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    Crowning The Best Of 2016

    Best comics of 2016

    Over the month of January, we ask you to help us decide what the best comic was of 2016, voting from a list highlighting some of the best selling, most talked about series of the year.

    Rough Riders Wins Best Comic of 2016 ROUGH RIDER comics at TFAW.com

    Congratulations to Adam Glass, Pat Oliffe, Gabe Eltaeb, Sal Cipriano and the rest of the Aftershock team who put in long hours to bring us this intriguing, entertaing series.

    Thank you to everyone who voted. We couldn’t have crowned the winner without you!

    With over 100 votes (30 votes over second place) Rough Riders vol 1 published by Aftershock Comics, Adam Glass (executive producer of Supernatural and writer of New 52 Suicide Squad) writes this contemporary story about a tortured Teddy Roosevelt recruiting a group of unlikely heroes including Annie Oakley, Jack Johnson, Harry Houdini and even Thomas Edison. This group is poised to stop a terrible power before it destroys the world.

    ORDER YOUR COPY OF ROUGH RIDERS TODAY
    SEE OTHER BOOKS THAT MADE IT TO OUR BEST COMICS OF 2016 LIST

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    March On!

    On November 16, 2016 March: Book 3 won a National Book Award. It’s the first graphic novel ever to receive this prestigious honor. And it doesn’t take long to see why it was worthy of such accolades.

    marchbook3
    March Book 3

    For those unfamiliar, the March trilogy is Congressman John Lewis’ first hand account of his experiences on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. But it’s far from a dry history lesson. Rather, March is a powerful and stirring boots-on-the-ground look at the heroic figures and hard fought battles of the movement.

    Civil Rights in an Unconventional Medium

    The choice to tell this story in a comic book format is an unconventional one. However, almost from page one it becomes clear it was the right one. The stunning black and white art from Nate Powell conveys the intensity and passion of the scenes. You can feel each sequence viscerally from the terror and the violence of mob attacks to the passion of the speeches during the March on Washington.

    Powell’s command over the sequential art form makes the book compulsively readable. You’re swept up in this turbulent time in American history–even if you know the facts. Seeing history played out like this creates a breathless reading experience that pulses with emotion. It brings out a life and a beating heart that would be sorely missed in a history textbook.

    A First-Person Look at the Movement

    Another big impact is that the story is told from the perspective of John Lewis, a sitting member of the US Congress. He’s been a champion for equal rights since he was a teenager. This personal perspective creates great empathy with the reader. Often the importance of such historic events can be lost when they are shown in an objective and broad scope. But this is John Lewis’ story and through him it becomes the story of an entire movement.

    marchbook1
    March Book 1

    The storytelling in March is another brilliant stroke by Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin. The three books are framed around Lewis preparing for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. While getting ready to leave his office, Lewis encounters a woman with her two sons. She is star struck by Lewis. He then recounts to them his days in the Civil Rights Movement. This creates the first person narration that will carry throughout all three books. Lewis’ warm and candid voice is a key to the success of this book. You feel his presence. It’s like you’re one of those children in that room being told this story.

    With Lewis as our protagonist in this sweeping story, March becomes as much memoir as it is history. We start with Lewis as a child. We follow the experiences and events he witnessed from a young age that created his passion and drive for equal rights. Through this focus we get another of the book’s great achievements–a rich humanity.

    A Human Portrayal of Historical Figures

    It’s often easy to cast historical figures as two dimensional characters. Their achievements and failures come to represent them more than their individual personalities or beliefs. In March, luminaries of the time are painted as very human figures. Martin Luther King was a resolute leader in the movement, but he also had fears and doubts about what was being done. Robert F. Kennedy sympathized with the movement, but felt his hands were tied by the rigidness of the political system.

    It’s in the moments of confusion or doubt that these real life characters come alive in this book. Although we know the outcome of the events, you can feel the fragile nature of what’s being built. There was no real roadmap for what these activists were doing. And while morally justified and committed to their cause, there’s no denying what they were doing was scary. And they could face terrible consequences.

    marchbook2
    March Book 2

    One of the most powerful sequences occurs near the beginning of March Book 2. Following the violent outbursts during stand-ins at Tennessee movie theaters, the movement’s leadership comes together to discuss ending the protest. Lewis simply states, “We’re gonna march.” He repeats it again and again–despite the outcry from fellow organizers. This is the type of heroism portrayed throughout March. There were people fighting for what’s right despite the potential danger. This is really the type of heroics that comic books are built on. And it’s much more impactful to read a story of real people overcoming the societal pressures and their own fears to stand up for truth, justice, and the American way.

    The Movement’s Lasting Impact

    One of the most beautiful and moving parts of this story is the movement’s commitment to nonviolence. Such racially charged events like the ones recalled by Lewis obviously created an emotional boiling point.

    It would be understandable to see people lose control in these situations. Leaders such as Lewis and Dr. King knew change would only happen if the protests were peaceful. Understanding this from an academic standpoint is one thing, but it’s another to see the horrific and hateful acts of violence perpetrated against the members of the movement. It further demonstrates the strength, conviction and beliefs of people like John Lewis. And it clearly emphasizes why this movement was so special and impactful on history.

    March belongs among the ranks of Maus and Watchmen as one of the most important works in the comics medium. Beyond being a great piece of comic art, March has so much value as a history text. And it provides a relevant message about tolerance and peaceful protest.

    marchboxset
    March Box Set

    It’s a book that reminds us how bad things once were and how far we still have to come. It doesn’t shy away from the horrors that occurred. But it also shines a bright light on the hard won victories of a passionate group of people who struggled to create a better world. It’s a work with limitless impact that will continue to educate and inspire generations to come.

    ORDER THE THREE-BOOK MARCH BOX SET

     

    March, Published by IDW Publishing and Top Shelf Productions, Written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, Art by Nate Powell

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    You Choose The Best Comic Book of 2016

    Best comics of 2016

    A lot of amazing books have come out in 2016. With Marvel revitalizing their line, DC’s Rebirth, to so many independent and creator-owned books dominating the stands, 2016 has certainly been a comic book year to remember.

    With that in mind, the staff at TFAW took a look at sales numbers, fan buzz, and our personal favorites of the year to create a list of the 25 best comics of the year. Now we want you, our awesome customers, to vote on this list to decide definitively what the best books of 2016 are.

    Voting will take place from Jan 1st through Jan 31st, so head on over to our  Facebook page  and cast your vote. Let your voices be heard and recognize all these amazing creators and publishers for all their hard work.

    Superman Vol. 01 Son of Superman
    By: Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Patrick Gleason
    The New 52 Superman is dead, but hiding among us for years was the original Big Blue. Now, a world without a Superman is in desperate need for Clark to leave the good life on the farm with Lois raising their son. This story simultaneously brings Superman back to formula, but also takes him in a direction he’s never really been before.

    Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch
    By: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma
    Powerful and gut-wrenching, Bitch Planet continues to explore themes of patriarchy and non-compliance. A must read for SJWs, feminists, and people who truly appreciate comics as an artistic medium.

    Wonder Woman TPB Vol. 01 The Lies
    By: Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, Matthew Clark
    Wonder Woman has been interpreted in many ways over her 75 year existence. Instead of trying to hide this, Greg Rucka’s approach is to embrace this to try and get to the real heart of who Wonder Woman is. Not just a great jumping on point for new readers, but a definitive take on the character that will hold true for years to come.

    Black Hammer Vol 1: Secret Origins
    By: Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart
    Black Hammer is another in a long line of grand ideas by one of comics brightest stars, Jeff Lemire. This book has a unique take on superheroes and the art by Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart instantly ensnares the reader.

    Rough Riders Vol. 1
    By: Adam Glass, Pat Oliffe
    History in the making! Teddy Roosevelt, Jack Johnson, Annie Oakley, Harry Houdini and Thomas Edison make up an American dream team engaged in an epic shadowy war! Monsters and Mayhem folks!

    The Mighty Thor Vol 1: Thunder in Her Veins
    By: Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman
    Marvel is changing things up by casting Dr. Jane Foster as the new Thor. The goddess of thunder shines in this series as she comes to grips with heroism and her own mortality. Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman are the perfect pairing. Also: Loki.

    Divinity II
    By: Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic
    After Abram came crashing home in Divinity vol 1. Spending his entire life in the depths of space, Divinity II tells the tale of Myshka. Still beliving in the Communist ideal. She intends to play a very real role in the return of Soviet glory

    Old Man Logan Vol 1: Berserker
    By: Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino
    What happens when an older, more gruff version of Wolverine comes to the main Marvel Universe? A whole lot of fighting. He’s on a mission to to prevent a terrible future from happening. Andrea Sorrentino’s art is breathtaking.

    Detective Comics Vol. 01 Rise of the Batmen
    By: James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Al Barrionuevo
    Batman is notorious for being a lone wolf (bat?), but he’s always had his family behind him. Now it’s time to take the Bat-Family to the next level. Lead by Batwoman, Batman puts together a team of Red Robin, Orphan (Cassandra Cain), Spoiler, and Clayface to be ready for whatever threat comes Gotham’s way.

    Vision Vol 1: Little Worse Than Man
    By: Tom King, Kevin Walsh, Mike Del Mundo
    Vision has the perfect family: a wife, two kids, and a dog. Look elsewhere for over-the-top nonstop heroics; this book proves it’s the little moments that matter. Truly impeccable dialogue and top-notch art await!

    March Book 3
    By: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
    The third and final installment in civil rights activist John Lewis’ story in the battle for civil rights in the United States. 1963 was an incredibly turbulent time in America’s history, and John Lewis was not only in the middle of it, but a leader in getting us out of it, long before becoming a congressman. March will remind you there are real heroes in this world.

    Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol 1: Black Squadron
    By: Charles Soule, Phil Noto
    With crisp and clean art by Phil Noto, Poe Dameron is one of the most beautiful of Marvel’s new Star Wars comics. Charle Soule explores Dameron’s uncanny skills and matching bravado.

    Paper Girls Vol. 2
    By: Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang
    Continuing where Vol. 1 left off, the misfit group of paper girls from 1988 find themselves transported to present day. Our main characters are forced to look at who they are, and who they may…or may not become. This superstar team continues to tell one of the craziest sci-fi stories currently on the shelves, while staying focused on the heart of any good story, the characters.

    All New Wolverine Vol. 01 Four Sisters
    By: Tom Taylor, David Lopez, Bengal
    With the death of Logan, clone daughter Laura Kinney (X-23) steps up to be Wolverine and the best she is at what she does. This book is bloody, emotional, hilarious, and beautiful. This is one of those unique books that can present adult subjects in a way that people of all ages can understand. Clone or not, All-New Wolverine definitely has soul.

    Dept. H Vol. 1: Pressure
    By: Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
    Not your average murder mystery! An in depth(see what I did there) story taking place on a deep sea research station. Family, lies, secrets and creatures make for a spectacular, well-paced adventure.

    Steven Universe & Crystal Gems Vol. 01
    By: Josceline Fenton, Chrystin Garland, Kat Leyh
    They are the Crystal Gems. They always save the day! If you think they can’t. Here is proof that they always find a way!

    Monstress Vol. 1
    By: Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
    A fascinating look at an alternate 1900’s Asia where monsters of god-like power are normal. Witness the journey of one teenage girl struggling to survive while trying to tame her own MONSTER.

    Black Panther Vol. 01 Nation Under Our Feet
    By: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze
    Wakanda under the microscope. On the brink of civil war, treason and terrorist attacks ensue in T’Challa’s homeland. Witness Black Panther fight to save his country from all fronts.

    Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Vol. 01
    By: Kyle Higgins, Jorge Corona, Goni Montes
    “It’s Morphin Time!” This fantastic new series starts after the Green with Evil Saga. Takes us through a different path from the show, one that keeps it at the top of my reading every month. Perfect for fans new and old.

    Saga Vol. 6
    By: Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
    Set three years after the end of Vol. 5, our story opens with Hazel in kindergarten. For a story that’s followed a family on the run through space since issue 1, Vol 6 shows them living a domestic and stationary life for the first time…and it doesn’t go too well for them. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to be a dominating power tag team.

    Sheriff Of Babylon Vol. 01 Bang Bang Bang
    By: Tom King, Mitch Gerads, John Paul Leon
    Currently known for his fantastic work on Batman, Tom King and Mitch Gerad’s The Sherriff of Babylon, is a suspenseful crime noir tale set in Bagdad circa 2003. King’s CIA experience in addition to Gerad’s life-like art style gives this series the accolades it deserves.

    Beauty Vol. 01
    By: Jason Hurley, Jeremy Haun
    The first STD that people actually WANT! In this world, The “Beauty”, transforms your body into its most beautiful version. People are literally dying to get it but the public is unaware of the side effects. Detectives Vaughn and Foster are on the case.

    Faith Vol. 01 Hollywood & Vine
    By: Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Jele Kevic-Djurdjevic
    Starting off as a side character in Harbinger back in 2014, we were given a full ongoing series of Faith Herbert this year. Written by the wonderful Jody Houser. This is a series meant for Fan-boys/girls, as Faith herself is as much of a geek as we are.

    Gotham Academy Vol. 03 Yearbook
    By: Brenden Fletcher, Moritat, Mingjue Helen Chen
    Our favorite students go back after their adventures last year, telling tales before everything went to chaos. Gotham Academy is an all-ages series perfectly suited for those wanting to move to Gotham, but are not old enough to drive there.

    Legend of Zelda Legendary Ed GN Vol. 01 Ocarina Time
    By: Akira Himekawa
    Viz does it again. While this is a reprint, if you’ve never read the Manga adaptation of the celebrated N64 game Ocarina of Time, this is a perfect time. Collecting vol 1 and 2, You get the complete tale.

    DON’T FORGET TO VOTE BY THE 31ST

    Honorable Mentions

    2016 had so many amazing titles that it was nearly impossible for us to narrow it down to 25. With that in mind, here are some honorable mentions of books that you should definitely check out. Odds are they made your own personal top 25.

    Batman Vol. 1 I Am Gotham
    By: Tom King, David Finch
    Gotham City has two new heroes, Gotham and Gotham Girl. With these super powered saviors doing what Batman can’t, is he really what Gotham City needs anymore?

    The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 04 Kissed Squirrel Liked It
    By: Ryan North, Erica Henderson
    I an age of dark and gritty superheroes, The Unbeatable Squirrel decides to have fun with the universe it lives in instead. Be prepared to smile.

    Dark Knight: A True Batman Story
    By: Paul Dini, Eduardo Risso
    Legendary Batman writer, Paul Dini, was beaten within an inch of his life. This autobiographical tale shows just how these iconic characters like Batman can get us through the darkest of times.

    Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse
    By: Chris Roberson, Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, Wes Dzioba, Dan Dos Santos
    Set after the events of the previous series, Leaves on the Wind, No Power in the ‘Verse continues the tale of our favorite Browncoats

    I Am a Hero Omnibus Volume 1
    By: Kengo Hazawa
    A slightly crazy artist, and one of the few people in Japan that actually owns a gun, is neck deep in the zombie apocalypse.

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    The Few But Proud

    Tales of humanity clinging to life and hope while the world as we know it is in absolute ruin will always be part of our popular culture. These stories speak to an optimism that readers can take solace in regardless of how bleak things may seem.

    The Few, a new series from Image Comics, is looking to become a quintessential entry in this post-apocalyptic sub genre. It follows the journey of Edan Hale, a young woman from a totalitarian portion of North America called The Republic. She’s on a secret mission to infiltrate The Remainder States of America.

    Mad Max Meets Station Eleven Sensibility

    It’s immediately clear how dangerous the world has become. Edan is assaulted by Mad-Maxian marauders taking orders from a would-be warlord named Herrod. Barely escaping the slaughter of a small town, Edan finds herself on the run from Herrod’s minions. She manages to save one of the townsfolk babies in the process and is forced to bring the infant along for the ride.

    After being left unconscious in the woods after fighting off her first wave of attackers, Edan wakes up to find herself in the care of a pair of survivalist brothers. These two marvel at both her escape as well as  the infant she has in tow. With their help she and the baby make their escape from Herrod’s forward troops, fleeing.

    She heads towards The Remainder States. We’re not told much about The States, only that it stands against the dictatorial ways of The Republic. Edan herself is unsure of just how much of a threat they pose.

    A Post-Apocalyptic World

    Sean Lewis’ writing is crisp and to the point, allowing much of the story to be told by Hayden Sherman’s superb art. There are bleak and barren landscapes of what was once Montana counterpointed by detailed character art. Sherman captures a broken future reminiscent of Steve Lieber’s work on Whiteout or Christopher Mitten’s Wasteland. Sherman’s scarce use of color, mostly red, highlights action and violence.

    One of the best aspects about The Few is that it’s creators do not feel hold the readers hand when it comes to world building. Often these types of stories get too wrapped up in the foundations of why these newly-created world’s are so messed up. The Few parses out bits of information, but does so in sync with main character’s discovery. We learn more about the world and Edan’s place in it while frantically following her quest to survive.

    PRE-ORDER THE FEW #1 AND THE FEW #2

    Like many of her best post-apocalyptic contemporaries Edan is competent without being an over-the-top badass. She is vulnerable without being a weak-kneed maiden in need of a rescue. She is driven, with enough humanity in her to question what she has set out to do.

    There is a great character emerging in Edan Hale that will leave readers wanting to see more of The Few.

    The Few #1, Image Comics, Release Due January 18, 2017, Written by Sean Lewis, Art by Hayden Sherman, $3.99.

    The Few #2, Image Comics, Release Due February 22, 2017, Written by Sean Lewis, Art by Hayden Sherman, #3.99.

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    Life After Death

    Two of the top names in comics today are Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire, so a collaboration between these much-acclaimed creators is one of the year’s most anticipated comics. And it does not disappoint.

    AD: After Death pushes the comics medium in a new direction. This is a wholly original work and is not to be missed.

    Planned as a three-book (as opposed to issue) story, AD uses a mixture of prose and comics writing/art to tell the story of a future where death has been cured. Like a lot of great works in science fiction though, this concept serves a backdrop for a very human story.

    A Totally Unique Work

    The story plays around with some subtle world building, but is primarily interested in placing us in the head of its central character Jonah Cooke. Jonah is the narrator and recounts the vital role he played in the elimination of death. But that’s all the information we’re given about that in this first book.

    There is a pervasive sense of loss and regret throughout the story. Yet the languid pace of Snyder’s story washes over you and pulls you into this very somber, but engaging story.

    Image Comics is a publisher that has encouraged creators to experiment and push forward creative and original projects. I’ve never read anything like AD. Discussing plot details is almost impossible as so much of the book’s strength comes from its tone and style.

    Lemire, who many may know as a writer, brings to the book the same stunningly unique art that made Sweet Tooth and The Underwater Welder such incredible works of art.

    CATCH UP ON SCOTT SNYDER’S AMERICAN VAMPIRE SERIES.

    This book demands your attention. It’s rooted in such deep emotion and clearly has a lot of ambition moving forward. It’s tough to determine whether something will be a classic or not upon its initial release, but I’d be surprised if people aren’t talking about this as an important work for years to come.

    AD After Death, Image Comics, Released November 23, 2016, Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Jeff Lemire, $5.99.

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    Remember, Remember

    Few names are more recognizable in comic books than Alan Moore. He has created some of the most iconic and inspiring works in the entire industry. His memorable works include The Killing Joke, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But unlike most other comic writers, Moore has used his comics as a means to criticize injustices.

    alan-mooreThe man behind the comics was often maligned and criticized for alternative worldviews in the early days of his work, Much of his career has been spent fighting against inequality. An anarchist and outspoken supporter of minority sexualities and religion, Moore explored these themes in his decades-long career.

     

    JUMP INTO ALAN MOORE’S NEWEST PROJECTPROVIDENCE

    Many other writers of his time were afraid to include such themes. Moore was not. He included LGBT characters regularly in his writing. He often focused on grappling with social inequality, distributions of power and even touching on the ephemera of consciousness. Even when challenged by the mainstream, Moore held steadfast to his convictions. The result–some of the most powerful comic series ever created.

    The Struggle Against Tyranny

    Perhaps best known for his work in the Image comics title V for Vendetta, Alan Moore used this work as a vehicle for his political views. When he was writing it, an extremely right of center government was in power in his English homeland. Moore used the party as creative fodder, exaggerating their policies to extreme proportions. He took it further by installing the resulting tyrannical government as the leaders of a near future London.

    vendettaV for Vendetta chronicles the struggle against this tyranny. It follows the enigmatic title character V as he drives to inspire a resistance in a country exhausted by their leaders’ brutality. V’s efforts have were inspired by true events and V, has, in turn, inspired others to action.

    V was modeled (highlighted by the mask that he wears) after the infamous rebel Guy Fawkes. He played a key role in the Gunpowder Plot that took place on November 5, 1605, where he was arrested for guarding explosives intended for blowing up the British parliament. Dressed in black and donning a Guy Fawkes mask, V represents the fight for British freedom from a government oppresser.

    V Adopted by Other Groups Fighting Oppression

    Even after the initial fame of the series, V took on an entirely new kind of notoriety. It became something of a totem for activists on several different platforms. Probably most notable, the Guy Fawkes mask made famous by the character has been used by the hacker group Anonymous to conceal its identity as they work to right cyber wrongs. The mask has also become a mantle of sorts for Occupy Wall Street, the Bahraini protesters during Arab Spring, and many others.

    In response to the use of his characters real life manifestation in the political discourse, Moore said in a 2008 Entertainment Weekly interview:

    “I was also quite heartened the other day when watching the news to see that there were demonstrations outside the Scientology headquarters over here, and that they suddenly flashed to a clip showing all these demonstrators wearing V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks. That pleased me. That gave me a warm little glow.” – Alan Moore

    That same year, he defended his belief in anarchy in a short video, dispelling any doubt that he was in line with the movement that was taking up his imagery.

    Swamp Thing: Saga Of The Swamp Thing Book 02 HC
    Order Alan Moore’s Epic Swamp Thing Run

    But V does not stand alone in Alan Moore’s arsenal of activist comic book characters. During his run with The Saga of the Swamp Thing, Moore transforms the character into what we know him as now–an eco hero. Swamp Thing went from a has-been monster man to a deeply internalized comic hero. He could critically examine the relationship between man and nature in the way only a sentient plant could. Through him, Moore found a way to challenge such topics as pollution, climate change and the usurpation of natural resources. His position has been so notable that several serious literary critics have discussed Swamp Thing and his role as an insurgent ecological force for change.

    Moore’s Watchmen Takes on Power Imbalance

    And of course, no conversation about Alan Moore would be complete without discussing Watchmen. Considered by some to be the greatest comic book of all time, Watchmen is Moore’s masterwork. Much like he did with V for Vendetta, Moore built a new history for the world of Watchmen that shares deep roots with our own world, but varies in some key ways.

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    Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe where superheroes were introduced much earlier than most modern comics (with a few notable exceptions like Captain America and the X-Men), with the “golden age” of heroes taking place between the 1940s and 60s. The plot takes place in a mirror world that echoes the Reagan administration’s run in the US. This is intended to illustrate the catastrophic power imbalances that have lead the United States to the brink of a third World War.

    Watchmen Noir Hardcover
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    Moore admitted that much of his motivation for Watchmen was to be a criticism for the Reagan administration’s. In a 1987 conversation with Neil Gaiman and Dave Gibbons for The Comics Journal, Moore said, “This is not anti-Americanism, it’s anti-Reaganism…”and “…at the moment a certain part of Reagan’s America isn’t scared. They think they’re invulnerable…”

    The series brings humanity terrifyingly close to complete destruction. This echoes Swamp Thing’s continual assertions of the fragility of human life. it also places the power to end everything into a disturbingly small number of hands, striking harshly against this feeling of invulnerability.

    FIND OUT WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN

    Although other comics writers have used their art to further conversations about political and social issues, few have done so as prolifically and expertly as Moore. In so doing, he has also helped to build a comic book legacy that includes political criticism and social change. So, this November, remember, remember that comic books can have much deeper meaning than what meets the eye. Brilliant creators like Alan Moore prove it.

    WANT MORE FROM MOORE? PRE-ORDER A COLLECTION OF 10 SHORT STORIES: BRIGHTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE

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    Heroes From Another World

    In the canon of comic book characters there are classic heroes like Superman and Batman, but there are also some off-center heroes that are not exactly the typical tights-wearing dogooders.

    These characters not of this world and ones who have more in common with classic monsters than masked vigilantes. However, their outsider status frequently grants them the ability to comment on humanity differently than their more conventionally human counterparts.

    Let’s start with the tragedy of Dr. Alec Holland, or as he’s better known to readers–Swamp Thing. Holland is a brilliant biologist working on a top-secret bio-restorative formula in the swamps of Louisiana. When a bomb planted in his lab goes off, Holland is splashed with burning chemicals and he runs into the swamp. The muck of the swamp merges with the chemicals and turns Holland into the moss-covered hero he has been ever since.

    Man or Monster?

    swamp-thingOriginally created by comic book legends Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, the original Swamp Thing stories deal in traditional monster tropes. We see Swamp Thing do battle with the mad scientist Arcane and his mutated UnMen, there are angry villagers, giant robots, and even a werewolf. Wein does manage to weave in a story about Holland trying to reclaim his humanity as an undercurrent in the fairly pulpy horror stories.

    Writer Alan Moore brought this undercurrent of humanity to the surface when he took over the book in 1984. Moore reconceived the character as a part monster that had been imbued with memories of Dr. Alec Holland. By inverting the story of a man made into a monster to monster made into a man, Moore created a metaphysical tale of character dichotomy. This change in creative direction brought a whole new audience to DC’s horror tale.

    Swamp Thing has changed creative hands a number of times in his four decades of history. The likes of Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughn, Grant Morrison, and Scott Snyder have all added to his character development. With the ongoing struggle between man and monster and the trippy mythology gifted to him by Moore, Swamp Thing presents different creators with the chance to tell deeply human and emotional stories in the world of the macabre and the supernatural.

    Defining Deadman and Redemption

    deadmanSwamp Thing is not DC’s only undead superhero. Five years before Alec Holland fell into that swamp, readers were introduced to the aptly named Deadman. Created by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino, Deadman is the ghost of acrobat Boston Brand who was murdered during one of his acts. The Hindu god Rama Kushna gives Brand’s spirit the power to possess any living being. With this power and his new superhero identity as Deadman, he sets out to track down the man who killed him, a mysterious figure known only as “The Hook.”

    Much like Swamp Thing, it would be another comic book luminary not involved with the initial creation of the character who would come to define Deadman. Writer/Artist Neal Adams took over creative duties in the second issue and not only brought his legendary high detail art, but a new depth to Boston Brand’s story. In Swamp Thing, Alec Holland is an altruistic scientist trying to better humanity with his experiment. For all intents and purposes, Holland is a straight ahead good guy. Boston Brand on the other hand is not exactly a bad guy but he has cold streak of selfishness. He’s ruthlessly focused on keeping the circus business alive often at the expense of the feelings of his fellow performers.

    By creating a character that in life was not the greatest person, Deadman became a story of redemption. Brand was always seeking revenge on his killer, but he couldn’t resist using his newfound abilities to help people as well. This aspect of the character was made explicitly clear when he was rebooted for DC’s New 52. The creative team of Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang added a new wrinkle to Deadman’s mythology. He must use his powers to help people in order to atone for his selfish life or be forced to spend eternity forever in limbo between life and death. The core of Deadman’s character becomes clear, this is a guy who has been given a second chance. The human urge to rectify one’s past behavior is a palpable and very emotional undercurrent to a story about a superhero who can possess people’s bodies.

    Hellboy Seeks Humanity

    Another otherworldly hero with a slightly different streak of humanity thahellboyn those mentioned before is Dark Horse’s Hellboy. The brainchild of writer/artist Mike Mignola, Hellboy is a half demon, half human who was born in hell. Unlike Swamp Thing or Deadman, Hellboy comes from another world and is brought into ours. As opposed to Alec Holland or Boston Brand trying to reclaim their humanity, Hellboy seeks a humanity that he was not born with. Hellboy though monstrous in appearance combats monsters and other supernatural evil for an organization called the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (or BPRD).

    Hellboy presents a character that rebels against his supposed destiny. He was created by evil to enact evil. His right hand is meant to bring about the end of the world. Hellboy chooses to ignore his destiny and instead lives a blue-collar lifestyle of a cop or a plumber, albeit one who combats demons and monsters for a living.

    Almost everyone has at one point or another in their life wondered about their place in the world or grappled with other people’s intentions for them. Most people probably don’t have apocalyptic prophecies connected to them, but Hellboy is a comic book after all.

    Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in varying degrees of being alive. However, humanity is at the core of all these stories. Whether it’s the struggle to regain humanity or a quest to understand humanity, it becomes clear that being human is not related to physical features. In fact, the most physically monstrous can often have the most emotionally complex and human of stories.

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    Show Your Skills in TFAW’s BAIT Contest

    Chuck Palahniuk's BAIT Coloring Contest

    BAIT Contest at TFAW.comNew York Times bestselling novelist Chuck Palahniuk collaborated with incredible comic book artists to create BAIT: Off-Color Stories for You to Color, a coloring book unlike any that you’ve ever seen.

    Palahniuk invites readers to collaborate on this unprecedented hardcover edition: “Maybe between your colors, the artists’ designs, and my stories we can create something that endures. Something worth keeping. Let’s create a well-bound book that can sit on any shelf and be available for a new generation to discover and enjoy.”

    To celebrate the release of this ambitious book, we’ve partnered with Palahniuk for a special BAIT Coloring Contest that runs through December 12, 2016.

    We want you to take some time to unplug, express your creativity, and share your talents with the world. Visit our contest page to view contest details and learn how to enter.

    Extraordinary Prizes Await BAIT Contest Winners

    • Third Place Prize (Six Winners): Fight Club 2 Poster signed by Chuck Palahniuk.
    • Second Place (Ten Winners): Severed arm collectible signed by Chuck Palahniuk.
    • First Place (Three Winners): One of the following (to be determined at random)
      • Fight Club Signed Collector’s Edition HC
      • Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread Signed Collector’s Edition HC
      • Survivor Signed Collector’s Edition HC
    Severed Arm Collectible
    Fight Club 2 Poster
    Signed Collector’s Edition Hardcovers

    These are some amazing prizes, and the folks at TFAW are really jealous of the folks who will end up winning the contest. You all rock, and we can’t wait to see your art!

    Bonus for People Who Purchase BAIT at TFAW.com

    Hand-signed BAIT Bookplates will be included with copies of BAIT for a limited timeYou don’t need to win the contest to get something signed by Chuck Palahniuk! For a limited time while supplies last, we will be including special gilded bookplates that are handsigned by Palahniuk! Order your copy of BAIT as soon as possible to increase the chances that you’ll get one of these special copies.

    TAKE A PEEK INSIDE BAIT: OFF-COLOR STORIES FOR YOU TO COLOR
    ORDER YOUR COPY OF CHUCK PALAHNIUK’S BAIT
    SEE BAIT CONTEST RULES AND DETAILS

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    Between the Occult and the Detective

    Between the Occult and the Detective

    There are two comic themes that when combined can make for enthralling reading — detectives/private eyes and magic. This coupling of sleuthing and the supernatural (including religion, the occult, sorcery and more) is pervasive in comics and the noir characteristics just heighten the thrills.

    hellblazerAnd no one fits that bill better than the Hellblazer himself, John Constantine. Created originally in Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing in 1985, it wasn’t until 1988 when Hellblazer #1 hit the stands. Ever since, John has been working his magic in comics, on film in the Constantine movie, and in the short-lived and underrated Constantine television show. He’s  also part of pop culture in general (the Supernatural TV series borrows heavily from John Constantine for Castiel’s character).

    With 30-plus years of this character’s history, it can be daunting to know where to start. A good entry point is a graphic novel. Surprisingly, it’s not the  first volume — John Constantine, Hellblazer: Original Sins, but the fifth volume: Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits. Written by longtime Hellblazer writer Garth Ennis, this volume actually inspired parts of the 2005 Constantine movie.

    The story is pretty simple — John’s dying. All those cigarettes have caused an advanced terminal lung cancer. Knowing that his soul is damned and Hell is ready for him, John moves to cure his disease and save himself. What happens after he sets down this course is truly amazing.

    Another must read Hellblazer arc was created by celebrated crime novelist, Ian Rankin, for Vertigo’s crime imprint called Dark Entries in 2009. This was the first Original Graphic Novel (also called an OGN), meaning it was never released as single issues. The plot involves John trying to figure out why a house on a reality TV program is haunted. Of course, he can’t stop production, so he joins the series and starts to unravel the mystery.

    One of the big draws is the inclusion of religion within the series. It’s not just focused on Christianity. Voodoo magic is used regularly not only by Constantine, but his frenemy Papa Midnight. Although Catholicism is most prominent, the series never ignores the idea of other religions in the world.

    Look Overseas for Great Horror Comics

    Hellblazer isn’t the only series to blend magic and religion. Around the same time, Italian writer Tiziano Sclavi was introducing the world to Dylan Dog. A self-proclaimed Nightmare Investigator, Dylan, unlike John Constantine, was likeable. By 2011, Dylan Dog reached 300 issues, but only a handful made it to the United States.

    Dylan’s occult interactions mainly revolve around the classic monsters like vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Although, demons have crossed paths with him a few times.

    Many were first introduced to this character in the Dylan Dog Case Files from Dark Horse Comics. This graphic novel featured selected stories that were translated and released just prior to the Dylan Dog: Dead of Night film that starred Brandon Routh. The Dylan Dog Case Files is a great compilation of stories from the Italian series, but up until September 2016 it was the only source of Dylan Dog stories available in the U.S. Now, new stories are starting to come out from Epicenter Comics. Reportedly, there will also be reprints of past stories.

    How to Steal a Ghost

    ghostedAnother series that blends crime and the occult is Joshua Williamson’s Ghosted. Williamson is currently heading up The Flash series in DC’s Rebirth, and it’s been great.

    Ghosted, published by Image Comics, is further evidence that Williamson is the real deal. The series follows one of the world’s greatest thieves as he’s pulled into the world of the occult. He’s broken out of prison and offered the chance to steal something no one else has — a ghost.

    Think equal parts Ocean’s 11 and The Shining. Things are never as they seem, and our hero has to rely on more than his wits to get out of this situation. Pulling together a team of experts to help him steal this ghost, he assembles a psychic, an occult historian, a tech guy to record the ghost, and a skeptic. Overall, if you want to add a little heist into your horror, Ghosted is for you.

    Don’t Fear, The Slayer is Here

    buffyWho could really forget about the hit television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Buffy hunts vampires, but her adventures go WAY further than that including her best friend going into full-witch mode on her!

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Buffy Summers, the chosen one in a long line of young women destined to battle evil forces. She becomes “The Slayer” giving her increased physical strength, endurance, agility, accelerated healing, intuition, and a limited degree of clairvoyance. Buffy receives guidance from her Watcher, Giles, whose job is to train and assist the Slayers. Then it gets more complicated.

    But when the TV show ended, the fun didn’t. After the official comic book continuation of the series in Buffy Season 8, 9, and 10, we’re poised to jump into Buffy Season 11 in November 2016. Unencumbered by network television show budgets, this comic has gone to some great heights in recent years.

    The World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator

    hellboyHellboy is one of the longest running, most widely celebrated horror series. With hundreds of issues and dozens of spinoffs, Mike Mignola has done something really amazing with this series by creating a new universe.

    Aside from DC and Marvel, there really aren’t a lot of big universes in comics, especially ones that walk that horror/mystery line so well. Hellboy or the “Mignola-verse” is a rich tapestry that features a variety of complex characters set a world that draws on centuries of folk-tales, yarns, and fables.

    Hellboy remains one of the few series that begs you to re-read the stories regularly. It’s great for curling up with during inclement weather or when you find yourself with an extended weekend.

    There are plenty of other occult and horror comics that split their genre with detective and noir storytelling. What are some of your favorites? Let us know below.

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    Things That Go Bump in the Night

    Let’s face it, people love to be scared. There is a catharsis in scary stories — they allow us to face our fears but in a safe setting. It’s one of the reasons horror movies are popular and profitable.

    So, it’s no surprise that comics have a long tradition of horror stories. Going back to classic anthology series like Creepy or Eerie, comics readers have always had a fascination with macabre and the terrifying.

    Every medium has its own strengths and weaknesses in regards to telling stories in specific genres. Films tell horror stories use the unique combination of picture and sound to create atmosphere and build scares. Comics obviously lack the ability to create terror aurally or with rapid editing. This in no way makes horror comics less terrifying, it simply means they must rely on a different bag of tools to scare the pants off of readers.

    Comics are a medium built on turning two-dimensional drawings on a page into fully realized characters and worlds. In reading comics we as readers are asked to bring a lot to a story. We dictate the pace of the panels, the speed of the dialogue, and how long we linger on certain images. Our emotional investment must be extremely high to create a willingness to engage with the comic. To be scared we have to give ourselves over to the horror crafted by the creative team of book.

    Horror as the Backdrop for Morality

    walking-dead There’s no way to talk about modern horror comics without bringing up The Walking Dead, written by Robert Kirkman and drawn in its first six issues by Tony Moore and subsequently by Charlie Adlard. The Walking Dead is unquestionably one of the most popular and successful comics of the modern era. While being a horror story, this is a book with mass appeal. Just look at the monster success of the television adaptation. One of the big keys to the book’s success is that the zombie apocalypse is a backdrop for a moving and deeply tragic morality tale. The Walking Dead is about struggling to survive through hopelessness.

    In issue 24 of the comic, our protagonist Rick Grimes ends an epic speech with the line: “We are the Walking Dead.” It’s true, the characters of this book are doomed their only fate appears to be death or becoming part of the mass of flesh eating zombies. While this may seem incredibly grim, it actually allows Kirkman the opportunity to write a book examining the qualities of humanity that individuals and society hold most dear. While there is certainly dread in the frequent death or zombification of beloved characters, the book’s main focus is on the cost of survival. The moral debate at the center of the story is about what’s the point of surviving if we lose our humanity in the process.

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    Real Villains and the Potential for a Happy Ending

    The Strain Comics at TFAW.comThe struggle for humanity takes on a much more literal meaning in The Strain. Based on the series of popular novels, writer David Lapham and artist Mike Huddleston bring the story to comics. The Strain is about the apocalyptic spread of a virus that turns people into vampires.

    Unlike the faceless cause of zombies in The Walking Dead, The Strain has a tangible villain at the core of its story. The Master is a centuries-old creature of evil with a plot to take over the world. Our heroes are not doomed. The Strain instead takes on more of a war story vibe. This is about humanity’s struggle against an oppressor and conceivably this battle can be won. There is a potential happy ending possible in this world.

    It’s that hope that can actually be terrifying in The Strain. Instead of a world that’s already ended for all intents and purposes we see our world slipping into darkness and desperately root for our heroes to return things to normal.

    DISCOVER A NEW KIND OF VAMPIRE IN THE STRAIN COMICS

    The Setting Amps up the Fear

    harrowWhile The Walking Dead and The Strain are urban nightmares about the dissolution of society, there is also room for more gothic horror in comics. Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook is a creepy and wonderfully unsettling piece of Southern Gothic storytelling. Focusing on a small town’s fears of a young girl becoming a witch, there is a streak of paranoia that runs throughout the book. Of course, there’s the classic (and historical) image of a mob of frightened townsfolk trying to burn a witch. But there’s also the paranoia of one’s own destiny. If you’re told you’re going to be evil and do wicked things, does that mean your fate is sealed?

    Playing on the classic horror trope of the fear of the matured woman and the power she can wield, Bunn and Crook also bring in plenty of eerie imagery. Images of a skinless boy and of course, his now sentient skin crossed with fiery ghosts and mulit-eyed monsters will stick with readers long after they put the book down. Especially, when they are presented in Crook’s dreamy hauntingly beautiful watercolor panels.

    PLAN YOUR TRIP TO HARROW COUNTY

    Delving into Madness

    Pixu graphic novel at TFAW.comPlaying into it’s own disturbing imagery though in a much more stark manner is Pixu from the Eisner winning team of Gabriel Bá, Becky Cloonan, Fábio Moon, and Vasilis Lolos. Pixu delves deep into a Lovecraftian tale of madness and ever-encroaching darkness. The book bounces around a collection of tenants in an apartment complex. The disparate stories start to intertwine as the madness of the characters grows. This book plays on one’s fear of losing one’s sanity, a potent and always horrific concept especially in the hands of such masters of the medium.

    TAKE A PEEK INSIDE PIXU

    Humans Aren’t the Only Heroes

    Beasts of Burden at TFAW.comFor those looking for something a little more off the beaten path, there is Beasts of Burden from Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. It’s your classic paranormal investigation team story, except all the investigators are dogs and cats. While this may sound like a cute and cuddly kids book, it’s straight up horror (with a bit of a wink). These household pets battle with a cannibalistic frog, cat witches, and even team up with Hellboy in one story. For those looking to balance their monsters and supernatural entities with adorable animals here is a book for you.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT BEASTS OF BURDEN

    So, it’s clear horror is alive and well in the comics world. There are plenty of stories out there to give you creeps, but hopefully now you might have a greater understanding of why they scare you. Monsters and creepy imagery are a hugely necessary part of a horror story, but the sign of a great one is an emotional resonance that sticks with you long after the story is finished.

    VISIT OUR HORROR SECTION

    What’s your favorite horror comic? Join the conversation by posting your comments below!

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