Horror and comics have had a longstanding relationship for many, many years. Some of the very first comics were horror stories, which make sense as the modern comic book spun out of traditional pulp novels. In the 1950’s, horror comics like Tales from the Crypt dominated the marketplace. They were so influential and were such an outrage for adults that they led to the book, Seduction of the Innocent which suggested that comic books were the one and only direct link to juvenile delinquency. The book even suggested that comics gave kids asthma because they chose to stay in and read instead of going outside. The cancellation of these comics led to the creation of the “Comics Code” which was a muzzle placed around the entire industry. Nobody could die in a comic book, nobody could even be noticeably injured. The word vampire was never to be used under any circumstances. These were just a couple of things that the code put in place.
When the code was lifted in the 1970’s, things took a drastic change for the better. Even in flagship titles like Batman the difference was noticeable. The campy Adam West age had ended and the Dark Knight was back and darker than he had ever been. And there was so much more. Major titles like Swamp Thing and Vampirella made their debut. That surge of horror may have lessened, but it’s never really died down. Horror has always been a staple of the comics industry. Some things are constant, they will always exist in some form, and other things fell by the wayside. But many of these titles definitely deserve a resurrection.
Curse of the Spawn
Spawn was the dominant comic book of the 1990’s. It was everywhere and people couldn’t get enough of it. Unlike most titles, which become iconic after the release of a major motion picture, it was actually the Spawn movie that killed interest. It was so bad the series never recovered. Believe it or not, Spawn is still going despite virtual lack of readership. It lost its edge. But during its prime there were spinoffs aplenty. Curse of the Spawn was an anthology rooted in horror, telling stories of various Hellspawns through various ages, as well as one-off stories about some of the main series’ supporting characters. Reviving this book with the right creative team could be the way to making Spawn something worth reading again.
Marvel took a big interest in horror in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. The most famous of these was undoubtedly Ghost Rider, but many other great stories were spawned out of this era as well. Dracula and other classic monsters were introduced into the already vast Marvel Universe. Maybe the most forgotten of these was The Frankenstein Monster. The creature has vague intonations of the Universal films but the backstory sticks close to the novel, with the character having been frozen ever since the novel’s arctic ending and waking up in the twentieth century. While he makes the occasional appearance in the Marvel Universe, it would be great to see this series get revived.
Marvel’s answer to Swamp Thing, Man-Thing was about a swamp-dwelling creature who’s touch burns those who know fear. While he’s never been great at holding down a solo series, he’s made multiple appearances in other titles. It would be great to see this weird monster’s solo series get revived once Marvel goes through whatever it is they’re doing right now and relaunches everything. As long as it’s willing to go dark, a new comic would do the character good, presuming his image wasn’t tarnished by the movie adaptation that nobody saw.
Even though it is one of the most successful of the Marvel horror comics, Werewolf by Night has been out of print for years. He hasn’t even seemed to be popping up in many other series, save for a brief appearance in Moon Knight a few years back. It would be great to see the series and character revived. It would be even better if it could finally be used to explore the extent of lycanthropy in the Marvel Universe.
Producers Kevin Feige and Steven DeKnight among others have expressed their desire to see the horror side of Marvel explored on film. Fiege has said that the Doctor Strange movie will be used to introduce the supernatural aspects of that universe. With that in mind, Midnight Sons would be a great comic to resurrect as a template for either a film or a television event. This is the darkest possible version of their now-famous Avengers model. Midnight Sons was an event across multiple titles that brought together many of the heavy hitters of Marvel Horror. Blade, Morbius, Ghost Rider, Doctor Strange, and others. It would be fun to see this roster expanded to include the likes of Werewolf by Night, The Frankenstein Monster or even Moon Knight.
While Tales from the Crypt has seen a revival in recent years, people tend to forget that there were other EC comics horror titles as well. In fact, the Tales from the Crypt TV series adapted stories from all of them, not just the flagship title. Some of the best episodes of Tales, like the classic “And All Through the House” were originally published in The Vault of Horror. It’s probably the second most famous of the EC titles, although it’s certainly a distant second, and would be an interesting fit for a harder-edged, slightly less overtly campy revival.
Of Marvel’s many horror titles, Tomb of Dracula will always rank among the best. It brought a rich vampire mythology to an already incredibly diverse universe, and nothing suffered for it. This series took great care with the Count and also adhered to an atmosphere akin to the Dracula films of the Hammer era. But it infused this atmosphere with a 1970’s sense of style. The comic also introduced Marvel’s most famous horror-themed character, Blade. A revival of this comic would absolutely be the right move to bring the biggest name in comics back to its horrific roots.