Captain Nihilist, where can I find real horror/experimental webcomics?
Reader Bey Lee sent me an e-mail with regard to the “Incoherent Ramblings” article I linked to from Savage Critics. He challenged one of the revered tenets of webcomics, as query where he could webcomics of a certain specific style.
That one article you linked to suggested that you could find webcomics of near every premise if you just looked. But finding stuff in the vein I want is hard now that I no longer play videogames.
Where’s the horror comics? I looked around and besides Split Lip it’s pretty much bog standard stuff with stuff from horror thrown in as a way to say “hey this is different” which would be fine if I wanted a Questionable Content imitation where all the chicks hanging around Marten are sexy zombies or cthulhiod superheroes, but none of it’s really spine tingling stuff.
Are there any webcomic artists who draw more inspiration from Ralph Steadman than from manga and Moebius?
Does anything do the odd outsider art shtick like Monster Killers without devolving into lolrandom?
I’ve gotta say that I don’t necessarily disagree with you, Bey. Back during the 2009 Comixtalk roundtable, we were asked if webcomics had reached the diversity of the literary world. My response was more cynical than most: “It’s getting there, but I think there are just some styles people prefer. Webcomics in particular revolve around what’s popular with, say, nerds at the time. Which is why you see the popular ones catering to gamers…. [A]sk yourself this: how many webcomics are about nerdy shut-ins who play video games all day? And how many webcomics are about, say, people who like sports? It’s skewed toward the first. I’m sure you can argue that there are webcomics that deal with different subjects — and THERE ARE! — but they aren’t as popular as your nerdy shut-in webcomics. Look, Love & Rockets were around during the 80’s, and Pete Bagge’s Hate was kicking in the 90’s, but that doesn’t mean that superheroes weren’t the big game in town in those days.”
Being a crotchety, stubborn webcomic reviewer, I can’t say my opinion has changed much since then. That doesn’t mean that these experimental and horror comics don’t exist, though. It just means they’re harder to look for.
The dearth of comics that resemble Ralph Steadman, I can understand. I hadn’t heard about him before I was sent the e-mail. Apparently he’s worked many times with Hunter S. Thompson, and his work is best described as neo-surrealism (an area I have zero expertise in).
Horror, on the other hand, shouldn’t be hard to find since there are plenty of horror fans in other media. Movies, music, literature, you name it. But, for some reason, not so much in comics — webcomics or print. Webcomic lists have been put together by Lauren Davis at io9 and Apex Book Company. This site has covered a few as well. But, to be honest with you, the only one to ever give me the chills was Split Lip. Like Bey says, most fall into that “bog standard stuff with stuff from horror thrown in” category.
Why is that? I think for horror to truly work, you have to make people very uncomfortable. I think that, unconsciously or not, webcomics generally engender either a positive atmosphere or a happy ending. Maybe it’s the limitations of the medium. Maybe it’s the target audience of cultural outcasts who don’t want to feel crappier than they already do. Who knows? I’m just theorizing here. Whatever it is, I think creators have a hard time cultivating a genuine atmosphere of dread or fear.
Here’s a partial list of experimental/horror webcomics I’ve encountered. Fair warning: I haven’t read most of them, so I have no idea if they’re any good or not:
- The Process – This comic, which was nominated for an Eisner Award, plays with surreal, dreamlike imagery. The comic remains unfinished, though.
- Eric Monster Milikin is sometimes considered the very first digital comic creator. Unfortunately, the samples on his site are more of an online gallery than a webcomic. Still, they combine experimental techniques with horror.
- Webcomics Nation caters to more adult sensibilities, so it’s always worth out to check out both their Alternative/Experimental selections and horror selections. Of those, All Miracles Have A Price looks fairly promising.
- And, finally, it’s always worthwhile browsing through the offerings at Act-I-Vate, which rarely pander to the “lolrandom” crowd. I haven’t read it, but Drockleberry looks pretty freaky at first glance, while Fut Miso can get artistically experimental.
So hopefully that’s enough for a start. I encourage the readers of the Webcomic Overlook to pipe in their own experimental and horror recommendations in the comments section!