Graphic Novel Horror

What is the Graphic Novel Horror Subgenre?

As its suggests, graphic novel horror is a subgenre of horror fiction that starts off life as a comic book, or a webcomic. However, there is very little comical about the books in this subgenre. This is a subgenre that is more about form rather than function. A key component to graphic novel horror is the artwork which plays a large part in the story. The illustrations in a work can often heighten the sense of creepiness or showcase a work's violence and gore.

Graphic novels, which have been historically frowned upon for their connection to comic books, have more recently become an increasingly popular blend of art and literature. In 2011, the Horror Writers Association welcomed the subgenre into its ranks with the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel.

Many popular horror subgenres have had the graphic novel treatment, and as such, the subgenre is widely varied with little consistency with regards to plot, setting, and scares. This means that nearly any subgenre can be related to graphic novel horror. A highly visual and cinematic medium, graphic novel horror lends itself very well to film, television and video game. In fact, many popular media properties originate in graphic novel horror.


Graphic Novel Horror Characteristics

Level of Plot: Plot levels in this subgenre are moderate to high as this subgenre has a cinematic quality. Additionally, graphic novel horror is often serialized, and therefore, contains many and varied story arcs.


Level of Characterization: Because of their long story arcs, characterization in graphic novel horror is moderate to high as this form offers many opportunities for character development.


Level of Supernatural: The level of supernatural in this subgenre varies as the term graphic novel horror is more descriptive of the form of the work as opposed to its contents.


Level of Scary: Due to the addition of illustrations, scares in the graphic novel subgenre will be moderate to high, ranging from graphically violent scares to more atmospheric creepiness.


Level of Violence: The level of violence in graphic novel horror is another element that varies because this subgenre is more about form. However, violence content will be more graphic due to the addition of illustrations.


Typical Setting: Settings will be richly detailed, like plots and characters, because of the graphic novel medium, though there is no standard setting for this subgenre.

Related Horror Subgenres

Nearly every subgenre in horror fiction has had the graphic novel treatment, but some of the more popular subgenres to be featured as a graphic novel are zombies, vampires, supernatural, creature, Lovecraftian, serial killer, crime, and extreme horror. Because of the cinematic properties and the frequency with which this subgenre is adapted to movies, television shows, or video games, media tie-in horror is another subgenre that can be easily related to graphic novel horror.

Don't Read Graphic Novel Horror If You Dislike…

Comic books. Graphic novel horror has a very similar format to that of the comic book. If this type of illustrated story is not for you, this is not the subgenre for you.

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore- Rick Grimes awakens from a coma in the midst  of the zombie apocalypse. The comic series, which inspired the popular television show, chronicles Rick's journey to find his family and other survivors.


Wytches by Scott Snyder- When a bully mysteriously disappears after attacking young Sailor, rumors swirl that she killed the bully. Desperate for a fresh start, Sailor's family relocates to a nearby town, but their new home is plagued with supernatural secrets that may be linked to Sailor.


Locke and Key by Joe Hill- It's probably a bad idea to move to a place called Lovecraft, Maine, but that is exactly what the Locke family does. When its patriarch is murdered by a deranged teen, each family member deals with the death in their own way, but sinister forces lurk in the family homestead.


Rachel Rising by Terry Moore- When Rachel wakes up in a shallow grave, she has now idea how she got there or why. As she investigates, the body count begins to rise.


Anya's Ghost by Vera Brogsol- Russian immigrant, Anya Borzakovskaya, falls down a large hole in the forest while walking home from school and meets the ghost of a girl who was killed during World War I. In exchange for Anya helping her to find her killer, the ghost agrees to help Anya fit in at school.


Through the Woods by Emily Carroll- A breath-taking collection of spooky stories that uses every aspect of its comic book form, from illustrations to lettering, to add chilling details and depth.


The Witcher: House of Glass by Paul Tobin- Based on the popular video game series that follows the exploits of a monster hunter named Geralt, the first volume of this graphic novel series chronicles Geralt's dealings with a fisherman and his ghostly wife in a horrifying mansion of glass.


30 Days of Night by Steve Niles- Vampires swarm Barrow, Alaska for a feeding frenzy when the sun sets on the town for thirty days in this comic book series that inspired the popular movie.


Bad Blood by Jonathan Maberry- Trick Croft is a college student doing battle with terminal cancer. He's almost given up the fight when he is attacked by a vampire and discovers that his blood is actually poisonous to the creatures.


Neonomicon by Alan Moore- The first graphic novel to win a Stoker award follows two FBI agents as their investigation of a series of bizarre murders leads them straight into the clutches of a Lovecraftian cult.

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