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Captain Nihilist, where can I find real horror/experimental webcomics?

Art by Ralph Steadman

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).

The Process

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:

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!

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on January 26, 2011, in The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I’m doing my ongoing tropical-horror series RED LIGHT PROPERTIES for over a year now, you should totally check it out. It’s about a Miami real estate office run by a hallcinogen-boosted shaman and his broker ex-wife; they specialize in exorcising and flipping “previously-haunted” homes in South Florida.

    The series launched last year and I think I’m hitting 250pgs next week. Love to hear what you think.

    –cheers–> d!

  2. let’s not forget Sin Titulo, very much in the Lynchian horror vein.

  3. Define horror. When was the last good horror movie that came out that wasn’t just some Saw or or Eli Roth torture pornfest. And if anyone says Human Centipede, hit yourself now. Anyone can make a gorefest, but is that really horror? I guess in the broad definition it is. But I like my horror to be suspenseful and make me think a bit. Old Hitchcock and Twilight Zone episodes are scarier than some of the junk we call horror that’s being made today.

    You don’t have to show me everything. Anyhow, maybe the reason its hard to find good horror, is because a lot of the younger writers of Webcomics don’t remember what good horror is like.

    • Well, since Bey cited Split Lip specifically, I think he’s looking “horror” as defined by Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside, old Stephen King novels, and perhaps recent atmospheric movies like The Sixth Sense and The Descent. I think that’s no excuse for webcomic creators, by the way. I mean, everyone knows what it feels like to be afraid.

    • I Love Dries, by the same director as Human Centipede, induced plenty of horror in its audience. Though for very different reasons.

    • For horror, i want something that aims to be genuinely disquieting and hits the right notes more often then not. I know the whole nature of the reader having a degree of control over the pace makes comics not really suitable to jump scares the way films are, but I can appreciate shock and gore as much as I get into the psychological stuff. The short comic Tar Frogs (a print comic appearing in issue 0 of Biologic Show) may be really base body horror on a level similar to Human Centipede but it was damn effective.

      It’s just hard to find because of so much chaff. I found this blog searching for horror webcomics. do you know what the top search result was? Jack. List sites like Belfry and tvtropes encourage shoving anything like the aforementioned harem style romantic comedy with zombies into the horror category. It makes finding scary or creepy stuff hard. It’s like putting anything where people live together in the comedy section.

  4. Personally, I’m into psychological/ghost horror, where a story can scare your tits off without a drop of blood.

    Maybe my favorite horror film (for scare factor) is Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s PULSE (or KAIRO, in Japan). If you haven’t seen it, you should.

  5. I insist, someone give Stephen Gammel more scary stories to illustrate, He is THE master of horror..

  6. A couple of notes: I got a response back from Eric Millikin thanking me for linking to his site. He also notes that he knows his material is intentionally unconventional: he feels webcomics should continue to push boundaries of traditional form and convention. Fair enough!

    Also, Robot 6 just announced that ACT-I-VATE has just released a new online horror anthology, which might be worth checking out.

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