This is a GUEST POST by Grimlock, a Shelfie user and blogger of All Hail Grimlock. Need a recommendation for a comic series? You’ll find a great pick on this blog!
When trying to come up with a theme for the list of books, I wondered what I should focus on: self-published authors like Edward Lorn and Gregor Xane, two of my favorite self-published authors bar none? (They write some spectacular horror, although I know Lorn is trying to branch out this year and explore some other genres.) Should I focus on classics or more recent books? I definitely wanted a theme, but when I thought about all my choices, it was the visual aspect of horror that hit me. Most horror authors I know are also fans of horror films, and maybe why that’s so much of their work has such a strong visual component.
Horror movies have a long history of adapting works of fiction, and comics also have a long history with the horror genre. More recently, I’ve noticed that visual aspect seeping into the novels themselves, as they explore the layout of the page, or insert graphics and photographs as they use art to work in combination with their words. I have also included a couple graphic novels that are also more contemporary; as much history as there is, I wanted to share some of my favorite, more recent examples of visual-based horror.
This list will go over the gamut of visual-based horror fiction, including graphic novels, in no particular order.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – Buy the book
This is Danieleski’s debut novel, and it is an astounding 700+ page novel. Although there are some photographs at the end, and some pages have only one sentence at angles also near the end, this is a heavy read. I’ve been known to call this book a monster when recommending it: it does demand time, but it’s a worthwhile read. Not only is it spooky, and brilliant, it’s a piece of artwork, gleefully playing with the layout and skewing ones conception of what a book should look like. I’ve been on the prowl for someone as playful with the layout of a book and have yet to find anyone else who challenges how books are presented.
Also, I suggest listening to Poe’s CD Haunted while your reading this, or at least during that time period. Poe is the stage name of Danielewski’s sister and is a loose companion piece to this. Some of the connections are a bit obscure, but the song that reminds me most of this book is in fact titled “House of Leaves” as it gave me the same chills that the book did. I could hear the book within that background sounds, which also felt to me as if a house was shifting, and tied into the haunted house themes within House Of Leaves.
Be prepared to use a mirror and pen and paper to read absolutely everything in this novel. (I did, but I’m a completist.) Well worth the time if you do chose to pick this up. I suggest all of Danielewski’s books be purchased in a paperback format, even if you choose to get it as an e- book as well, because the layout cannot be replicated in e-book format
The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski – Buy the book
I picked up a signed edition of this, knowing that I hadn’t been able to finish Danielewski’s second offering, titled Only Revolutions. While Only Revolutions was less of a horror story, and not quite as inventive with it’s layout; The Fifty Year Sword was as deliciously eerie and as gleefully mischievous with layout as House of Leaves was. A fable, a fairy tale, a ghost story, Danielewski also has performed this at Halloween in the past. It’s a quick read, especially when compared to House of Leaves, and also uses embroidery as illustrations.
It’s whimsical, and the creepiness builds up as the story goes on, building the tension right up until the ending. House of Leaves. the longer story. autographed edition I stumbled upon, but that would have been a mistake as this has turned out to be one of my favorite books and a fantastic way to spend an hour or so.
It’s also a nice introduction to Danielewski if you find yourself daunted by Both books have their charms, although I personally love being immersed in
I probably would have overlooked this due to Only Revolutions if not for the
Spawn by Todd McFarlane – Buy the book
I’m going to suggest the earliest runs of Spawn. (Either that or the somewhat alternate universe Hellspawn, with different writers and artists.)
Spawn is a graphic novel about a dead man who has sold his soul to see his wife again. He comes back to the world as an amnesiac who is horribly disfigured, forced to keep the alleys where the homeless live. Toyed with by the agents of Hell, hunted by the agents of Heaven, Spawn is set adrift in a violent world where he’s forced to piece together information about his past, present, and what’s expected of him in the future.
Of course, there are more Earthly horrors that confront him as well, including Overt-Kill, a cyborg assassin, or Cy-Gor, a cyborg gorilla. I’ve always found the mind games Al Simmons/ Spawn had to contend with to be the most horrific aspect of this series, to be honest, although those play into a lot of the other horror elements in this series. Also, I love graphic novels because of how much of the world there is to explore, especially with a series as long-running as Spawn.
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix – Buy the book
A sendup of IKEA, this poses the question of what would happen if a ghost story were placed in Orsk, a very familiar type of store. The cover, and the illustrations inside, mimic IKEA to perfection.
It’s a slower story, focusing a lot on the characters, but it’s the characters that make the story. I cared about them, and the fear I felt was because I did find myself emotionally invested in them. There Orsk employees work a night shift to discover why their store is in disarray before the store even opens. The manager suspects vandalism, but doesn’t realize quite what or how it’s happening.
The classic haunted house story gets a twist because of it’s corporate setting. Although the illustrations are only at the beginning of the chapters – with a couple more thrown in periodically, although not of Orsk furniture – they bolster the narrative in a way that makes it feel all that much more real.
This was a quick read – mostly because this is a captivating, easy read that made me resentful of anything that interrupted my reading time. In addition, I just learned that FOX has optioned this, and that it should be a television series soon. (They have yet to release casting information, or a trailer, however.)
Hellraiser: The Dark Watch Volume 1 by Clive Barker and Brandon Seifert – Buy the book
For fans of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser franchise, this graphic novel series not only continues the story of the Cenobits and Kristy Cotton, but ups the ante. Power plays, head games, and enough gore to satisfy any horror enthusiast, this is a graphic novel based on the movies based on Barker’s novella The Hellhound Heart. It definitely plays with the original, which was a darker, blood-encrusted retelling of the Faustian tale.
Lushly illustrated, this is a must read for any fan of Barker’s work, as he returns to the world that he created. He shares writing duties with Brandon Seifert, but this still provides all the thrill, chills and gore I’d expect from Barker.
As well as writing The Hellhound Heart and directing the first Hellraiser, Barker has a collection called Visions of Heaven and Hell, which is a collection of his paintings. It’s worth a peek because a lot of the themes and sense of horror and wonder that are Barker’s staples are present in his paintings. While it doesn’t have a direct correlation to works such as The Dark Watch, I enjoy pulling out this graphic novel and comparing that art to Barker’s own work. (He does not provide the artwork for The Dark Watch.)
In addition to these five novels, more and more books are playing with art, or turning the layouts of their books into part of the artistic endeavor. Even books for teens are doing so, and horror seems to be an especially fertile ground for this type of experimentation, perhaps because of its close ties to other visual mediums.
~Grimlock, Guest Blogger