A Brief History Of Horror Comics, Part 2

By: Henry Hanks, Contributor     @hankstv / tvshenry@gmail.com

For many years after the implementation of the Comics Code Authority (as a result of congressional hearings on violence in comic books), horror comics were few and far between, as publishers played it safe. At the same time came a resurgence of interest in superheroes, thanks to Marvel Comics in the 1960s.

It wasn’t until the Comics Code relaxed some of its restrictions in 1971 – allowing literary horror characters such as Dracula and the like - that we saw the return of horror comics.

Marvel responded by launching “Tomb of Dracula” the following year, which spawned other titles like “Werewolf by Night.” Marvel also introduced a line of black and white horror comics like “Monsters Unleashed” and “Tales of the Zombie,” and the characters Man-Thing, Blade and Morbius were added to the Marvel universe.

Meanwhile, DC had already been slowly moving back into horror for a few years, as “House of Mystery” returned to being a horror title in 1968. The company also launched “The Unexpected” and “The Witching Hour” in the late 1960s.

The Comics Code’s decision in 1971 brought an explosion of DC horror titles like “Ghosts,” and the company’s most famous horror character, Swamp Thing, was introduced in “House of Secrets” that year. Of course, it wasn’t long before the brooding green creature got his own title.

However, many of these horror anthologies didn’t last too far into the 1980s. Swamp Thing got a brand new title "Saga Of The Swamp Thing" in 1982, however, which introduced a character named John Constantine, who specialized in investigating the occult.... those of you that read last weeks' "Part 1", sound familiar? This series also brought us one of Alan Moore's most acclaimed runs of his career, as he wrote "Swamp Thing" for several years.

John Constantine, the trenchcoat-wearing detective was so popular that he got his own series, “Hellblazer” in 1988.

Neil Gaiman launched one of the most acclaimed horror comic book titles of all time in 1989 with his take on the classic character “Sandman.”

Several other TV & film horror franchises have their roots in comics. In 1993 we were introduced to “Hellboy” via Dark Horse Comics, Preacher came on the scene courtesy of DC in 1995,  and 2003’s “The Walking Dead” from Image Comics has to be the most famous of them all. Thanks to “The Walking Dead” in particular, horror has been one of the most popular genres in television this decade.

If you add film adaptations of "From Hell" & "30 Days of Night" to the list of horror comics turned media, as well as the forthcoming "Justice League Dark", it's clear to see that Hollywood is no stranger to pulling from the scarier side of comics. 

So if you only think “super-heroes” when you think about comic books, as you can see, there’s a whole world of horror comics to explore as well. 

Happy Halloween!