The last few years has seen somewhat of a renaissance for horror stories, both on film, in video games, and, especially, in comic books. Image Comics has particularly spearheaded this resurgence, with incredible horror series like Infidel, Gideon Falls, Wytches, and Ice Cream Man leading the charge.
This isn’t a random coincidence- Image is fiercely committed to expanding the horror genre within the comic book medium, a commitment they showcased at NYCC with their “We Believe in Horror Panel” featuring insight from all star creators Pornsak Pichetshote (Infidel), Matthew Rosenberg (New Mutants: Dead Souls, What’s the Furthest Place From Here?), William Maxwell Prince (Ice Cream Man), Dennis Culver (Burnouts), David F. Walker (Bitter Roots) and editor Will Dennis (Gideon Falls, Wytches: Bad Egg).
For the most part, Image’s panel focused on the future of horror infused comics coming from the Portland-based publisher, showcasing interior-panels and allowing creator insight on new titles like Bitter Roots, What’s the Furthest Place From Here?, and Wytches: Bad Egg in addition to showing off ongoing series like Gideon Falls and Ice Cream Man.
Image strives to create truly memorable horror stories that will leave a lasting impression in readers’ brain-space more than traditional monster battles and ghost tales do. Will Dennis captured this spirit perfectly, saying “Horror now is just how scary the real world is. If you just take the real world and move it five minutes to the left, that’s true horror.”
These titles from Image don’t rely on twisted creatures and devilish ghouls (although there will be plenty) to scare readers. Instead, these books will keep readers on the edge of their seats by emphasizing the very real horror that exists within these manufactured terrifying situations.
Take Matthew Rosenberg’s upcoming series with frequent collaborator Tyler Boss What’s the Furthest Place from Here? for example. Rosenberg described it as a spiritual successor to he and Boss’s smash hit 4 kids Walk Into a Bank, one that centers around two friends at the end of the world living out their days in a record shop before being forced to explore the horrific world outside.
Rosenberg promised their sudden eviction will be scary all on it’s own, however went on to say “They have to leave the record store, and the horror for them is having to leave their safe space, their home, and that’s where the horror lies.”
Breaching out from a space of comfort is a familiar concept that everyone can relate to, but can be made all the more uncomfortable when applied to a completely abnormal situation. Wytches: Bad Egg, the upcoming Halloween special from Scott Snyder and Jock, is in a similar vein, taking a recognizable conflict of everyday life and compounding it with frightening, super-natural elements.
Will Dennis, editor of the 80-page one-shot, describes it as a sort of prequel to the forthcoming second volume of the critically acclaimed series. When it comes down to it, however, this issue is “about this boy and the friendships he has. Being apart of this witch hunting society doesn’t lead to the best friendships, so it’s a little ‘Stand By Me’ with horror in it.”
Seeking new friends and realizing those you have aren’t best for you? That’s a tough passage of life everyone goes through at one point or another, but, once again, adding supernatural elements to such a passage will make it all the more unsettling.
That’s exactly what Bitter Root writer David F. Walker wants to make his readers feel- unsettled. Bitter Root follows a monster-fighting family throughout the Harlem Renaissance in 1920s Harlem. The real monsters? The tragedy and family dysfunction that plagues the Sangerye family on top of the horrifying secrets they uncover about American history.
“It’s a pretty epic scope,” Walker said. “We are going to explore the family’s past, which is tied directly to slavery both in the United States and Haiti, andalso tied into the Underground Rail Road. They discover a supernatural disease that has infected America that causes the genocide and problems within the country. So we’re looking forward to making people uncomfortable with that. Because that’s true horror, right? Making people uncomfortable.”
It’s not just the new series that are going to keep the horror genre at the forefront of the comic industry in the coming months. Image’s current slate of fear-inducing titles will continue to leave readers squirming.
Dennis talked about the upcoming lunacy of Gideon Falls, which he described as “a straight-up acid trip.” The series, which has already been optioned for live action TV series, just concluded it’s first arc and will continue getting more and more insane.
“It’s definitely expanding in ways I didn’t expect it,” Dennis said in the air-conditioned Javits Center conference room to a crowd of 60 or so comic fans. “It’s going all kinds of weird places, it’s not traditional horror. It feels a little like horror, but really it’s just a straight up acid trip.”
Meanwhile, William Maxwell Prince’s surprise hit Ice Cream Man, which Prince announced had just been picked up as a TV series written by the team behind Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete,” will continue to leverage the nostalgic emotion of the neighborhood ice cream man for more horrific purposes.
“That’s just how adulthood goes. Everything you love as a kid takes on a different light when you’re older,” said Prince. “Like ice cream used to be a treat. Now it’s just this caloric danger that might derail your diet plan. Ice cream men, as kids, are nice and sweet but when you’re older you realize they’re just creepy.” It’s that exact idea that Ice Cream Man utilizes to creep out it’s readers.
It’s clear that Image has no plans of stepping back from horror comics any time soon. With the killer slate of new series and ongoing titles in their pocket, why would they? What Image horror series is your favorite? Sound off in the comments below and be sure to stick with AiPT! for all NYCC news.