‘Tis the season for all things pumpkin spice and spoopy, which is fantastic news for those of us who love horror. My favorite thing about the genre is its expansiveness. A horror story can be a traditional ghost or haunted house story, or a tale of body and psychological horror that reminds us of our worst moments. I picked up some great horror zines at festivals this year, and the following four show the range of ability that makes horror dig its claws into your psyche and make you rethink everything.
Chupacabra’s unfortunate protagonist—a kid known only as “Florida”—is clearly running away. Their mother is blowing up their phone with worried texts, and they seem to be hitchhiking in a car with a sketchy older driver, willing to send them out to investigate the creature he almost ran over. The story doesn’t get happier or safer from there. Andi Santagata captures an intense amount of negative emotion in just a few pages; the black and grey watercolors shroud the characters in a frightening darkness, Florida’s face is constantly contorted with fear or anxiety, and goodness, when you finally see the creature—well, I won’t spoil the surprise. Snag a copy from Santagata’s Gumroad.
Haunted takes place over the course of a single night; its protagonist goes to sleep while the narration describes how the moon isn’t visible from their window. The horror in this story becomes clear as soon as we dive into the protagonist’s mind. There are no monsters under the bed or at the door trying to get in. Instead, they face the worst demons—heavy, mournful, and shameful thought that refuse to leave. Jen Epervary creates a dreamy—or rather, nightmarish—landscape by changing text colors from black to grey to white and on, as if the narration is fading in and out. Surreal dream imagery loses cohesion and creates the sense that the protagonist is losing control. This is a tightly written and, yes, haunting comic that you can buy on Epervary’s Gumroad.
Faceless ghouls and nightmare creatures drift across the pages of Odd Noises in Empty Rooms, a zine that catalogs brief vignettes about encounters with monsters. Occasionally they are harmless, or even beneficial. One woman seems to grow used to being haunted and feels grateful for the company, but usually it’s clear that they’re going to end badly. Trevor Henderson’s ghouls are delightfully spooky; the entire zine is black, white, and gray, and the creatures seem to be drawn with charcoal or a similar medium. They draw themselves up out of the pages as if from nowhere, ready to attack tourists in the Florida Everglades or rise from the shadows in an alley behind a pizza place. The zine is currently out of stock, but more copies will be available soon on Henderson’s website, so keep an eye out. It’s also available on Gumroad.
Don’t Worry I Promise You
A wolfish child has been running from two wolfish creatures for days. When they finally encounter each other in a cave, all learn a horrible lesson about what the child is willing to do. While short and seemingly in medias res, this comic captures a crucial and horrifying moment that will likely change the lives of all three characters. It’s a compelling amuse-bouche that tempts readers to seek out more of Amber Huff’s work. I purchased the comic in zine form at a festival, but it’s available for free on Huff’s website.