Come closer, guys. Get comfy. I brought enough marshmallows for all of us, and everyone who was sent to get more firewood came back safe and sound. Well, nearly everyone. Anyway, with the moon high in the sky and the smoke drifting lazily up into the dark, it’s the perfect time to shuffle in close to the fire. Don’t be afraid to snuggle closer to each other, and I understand if you look nervously around, watching for movement outside our little cheery dancing circle of light, because I have some wonderful spooky stories for you. Everybody knows spirits and the unnatural don’t really stalk the night at this time of year, and I’m sure that crunching noise in the shadows was just someone bringing more firewood, really. Ignore the noises, and let me tell you about some awesome anthologies for Halloween.
BOO! Halloween Stories 2017
‘BOO! is back! Fifteen new tales of horror and humor from the regular ol’ stack’a stiffs, plus a passel of exciting newcomers! Start your Halloween right with Mister Puzzles’ latest collection of tales both mirthful and macabre.’
Publisher: BOO! Halloween Stories
Released: 18 October 2017
BOO! Halloween Stories
This anthology has been an annual offering for a few years now, originally released in four issues for the year but collected here in one volume, and is an eclectic group of stories. The great thing about a scary story anthology is the wide range of what falls under that purview – shocking, horrifying, funny, creepy, anything. For short story form, the most effective way to communicate a scare (or a punchline) is with the twist ending, and this one delivers. The creators here have provided a good range of funniness, weirdness, and more, all with a spooky or creepy theme; twists on classic ghost stories, a fighting sewer clown (a story funnier that it sounds), plus taking on closet monsters, to name just a few.
The full colour allows for a much brighter feeling to the whole, though obviously many of the stories favour a limited or subdued palette, that being often a staple of scary stories to create a more focused tension and usually dramatically increase the shadowed scenes. But it also shows how suitable colour can be – for example, one tale that would make Toy Story proud is well suited to the bright colours contrasting the dark dialogue. It makes scary tales fun. And I love that cover.
BOO! Halloween Stories
Something Wicked 2017
‘Can you feel it? The season has changed, the nights are drawing closer and there is a chill in the air. Time to hunker down and read the latest collection of tales from Something Wicked. In the latest issue among the strips we visit with demons, take a leisurely stroll in the woods, and then, following a major morning after the night before we discover that some things shouldn’t be on social media. And we even have a cover by rising Star Dan Cornwell to top it all off.’
Publisher: FutureQuake Press
Released: 18 October 2017
You may remember my reviewing an issue of FutureQuake before; it’s from the same company that does a lot of Judge Dredd stuff, and that anthology issue I reviewed was basically summed up as ‘good, but not better than the sum of its parts’. Something Wicked is from the same publishing house, but does feel a lot more individual than FutureQuake did. The stories take themselves more seriously than with BOO!; aiming for serious horror and conceptual scares alongside some dark humour, which for the most part hitting the mark. Capturing the supernatural alongside the darkness in the heart of humans, there’s less reliance on twist endings for some of these stories. This makes it difficult to communicate the emotion of the subject matter well in a short time, on subjects that often need a slow tension build-up, but it’s all done solidly and well. These are professionals after all, and it shows.
While still in just black and white, the individual art styles are noticeably varied, which is great to see. A collection of black and white scenes can blur into each other quite easily, and it takes distinctiveness to make sure the stories stand out from each other well. It’s a good showcase of the diversity of black and white styles, though considering how I mentioned the colour informed the fun mood of Boo!, it would have been interesting to see how it would have been applied to more serious stories like these; the colour work of horror can be quite the spectacle. This is a good collection of shorts for your brain to wear, especially if you enjoy horror stories that don’t rely on gore.
Behind You: One-Shot Horror Stories
‘A twisted figure crawling out of a tunnel. A giggling crowd of masked watchers. A reassembling corpse. What could be behind you, just waiting for you to turn around?’
Written/Art by: Brian Coldrick
Released: 18 October 2017
Now, this one isn’t an anthology by different creators; it’s a collection by a single writer/artist, but a very interesting one. It’s all single panel comics; distinguished from just being horror pictures by the single sentence caption creating an entire story for each one. The Behind You series is actually known for often incorporating movement into the picture – excellent use of the internet for multimedia creations, turning a simple illustration into couple-of-seconds animations, each with their simple but deep caption. Obviously the book is plain illustrations, but they’re still chilling and beautiful – the sample page is just an opener, and doesn’t do justice to the whole stories presented in a single picture and line that the book is made up of.
Coldrick’s drawing work is lovely, textured with full backgrounds, and I like the antique vignette feeling of the oval shape of each illustration and old-fashioned border presentation of the text. The creepy crawly designs are interesting and cool, though for some I wished it was a little more obviously related to the situation presented; for most, the spook was related to the particular horror context; mirrors, shadows, etc. However, for some it just seems like an almost generic monster or spectre was put in without designing it specifically for the context, which felt noticeable compared to the imagination and quality of the overall work. You may notice that the operative phrase here is ‘the imagination and quality of the overall work’, because that standard of work is high. It’s a lovely book, and you should absolutely grab it if you like extrapolating whole horror stories and scenes out of gently proffered ideas of the darkness hiding just out of your vision. Many of these ghouls are hiding out of the subjects line of view and behind their back, perhaps just waiting to pounce.
One minor quibble – while the original web version of the comic presented the caption under the picture, the digital version I read put the caption on the page facing the picture instead. Not a problem generally, but in Comixology’s app the only reading option is one page at a time, meaning you can’t see the caption page and image it’s associated with at the same time. On a PC the two-pages view is available, which suits the flow of the book much better – if you go digital, make sure you read this in a way that you can see two pages at a time because it makes a big difference to the contemplation of each offering. Of course, the bigger screen is also better for spotting those little details you might not notice otherwise, as well.
And a little extra just for you; not an anthology, but very Halloween trick-or-treat sweet:
Halloween Girl issue 1 (of 2)
‘It’s Halloween, but not everyone’s in the spooky spirit! When a teacher at Saints City High School suddenly loses his love of the holiday, it’s up to Holly – AKA Halloween Girl – and her best friend Naomi to figure out why! Can the Girl of a Thousand Monsters get to the bottom of this plot – or is Halloween ruined?’
Written by: Charlotte Finn
Art by: Philip Rice
Publisher: Urchin Press
Released: 11 October 2017
I’m not going to give you a whole history lesson on Halloween – you better believe it’s tempting, but I love you guys too much to bore you to tears like that, no matter how interesting I think it is. I’ll leave it to you to educate yourself if you’re interested, because actual historical context (however fascinating) is not what this comic is based on. What it is based on is the totally adorable power of transforming into different classic movie monsters, or technically a version thereof based on the titular main character Halloween Girl and with associated powers. Black Lagoon Girl is HG as the Creature From the Black Lagoon for example, with the ability to breathe water and commune with merpeople, while Frankenstein Girl can do lightening punches, etc. It is absolutely not what I would have thought of if you’d asked me what I thought powers of a superhero that was the embodiment of Halloween would be, but it works, and creates a range of interesting powers with their own pros and cons. I know there’s an unrelated Halloween Man comic out there too, but it doesn’t appear to match this in adorableness.
I was surprised to look back after reading it and discover that it was only about 20 pages, because the storytelling keeps the pace moving and the set up eased into the adventure well. The plot of this first issue is pretty lightweight but introduced the characters and world better than I would have expected for a relatively short comic issue (including some light teen drama, but not to an overpowering degree at least, however since the available sample pages are early in the story they all included the relationship drama bit I’m afraid). Rice’s artwork is distinctive and detailed despite the characters appearing a bit stiffly posed on occasion, and I’m looking forward to seeing the character designs of the villains and monster personas introduced in issue #2 of this two parter (currently available, although I didn’t get to read it in time for this review. The main villain may or may not be the Easter Bunny). The whole thing is a big slice of adorable; classic movie monsters have nothing to do with Halloween, except for being common things for people to dress up as for their costume. The whole theme has nothing to do with what Halloween technically means, but is a fun window to how people celebrate it, which is a pretty cool take on it I think. Definitely not for everyone, but grab it if you like everything Halloween and/or lighthearted monster fun.
Thanks to Comixology.com for providing ‘Boo! Halloween Stories 2017’, ‘Something Wicked 2017’, and ‘Halloween Girl issue #1’ for review. ‘Behind You: One-Shot Horror Stories’ is from my personal collection.