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Archive Binge: Halloween Special

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on October 3, 2016

It is October. Which means it is time to talk about Halloween and Horror. I am sorry that you thought Halloween was only one day rather than an entire month, you were misinformed.

The webcomic format lends itself to experimental layouts and art. It is not restricted by printing budgets or book shapes. This usually translates itself into a webcomic artist producing the same sized page, limited by the speed at which they draw, every single week until they eventually lose interest in the project or realise that it isn’t going to become profitable. Webcomics tend to run long, even compared to their print cousins, some of which have had continuous runs of decades. So when you encounter a short webcomic, it is something of an oddity.

Pacing is vital to a horror story so that long running time can often sap all the tension away, if a story is never going to end, it is difficult to worry about what the ending will be. This isn’t unique to webcomics, I feel the same way about most horror novels, many of them would be better served as novellas or short stories. My favourite format for horror has always been the anthology. Both the old anthology films like Creepshow or Dr Terror’s House of Horrors and now the horror anthology webcomics. Short, sharp shocks.

The first one that I will discuss today is The Midnight Tea Party, a manga styled comic which uses a variety of artists and frames its short horror stories within the context of tales being told at a tea party, the tea party also offers brief interludes that provide comic relief and a moment to recover. Not every story is equally creepy but some of them certainly do a good job of sending a shiver up your spine. My particular favourites being “The Witches’ Scissors” and “Pretty” which both hit completely different tones while still fulfilling the comic’s promise.

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When I speak about the unique ways that webcomics as a medium can work, my first thought is always of Emily Caroll and her work. A small scattering of unlinked horror shorts with a historical bent that push the limits of the format, switching page lengths of for optimal tensions, forcing the reader to search through the still image of a scene to find the next clue. In essence, using the design of her webcomics to force the reader to interact with them. They would not work in any other format and I would not want them to. Her best known story is “His Face All Red” which weaves a fairytale sensibility into an unfamiliar shape but my personal favourite is “Margot’s Room” a comic hidden within a single image, that forces you to click on specific elements and follow the flow of the story wherever it takes you.

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No discussion of horror shorts would be complete without mentioning Split Lip. This site collects horror comics written by Sam Costello and illustrated by a variety of artists, all of whom bring a unique style that perfectly suits the subject matter. Each story is different from the next, running the gamut of horror genres, but the one consistent detail is that they are creepy as hell. The format even makes it easy to drop in for a quick scare and then hide from your computer for the rest of the evening.

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G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More