Welcome to Read This Next, an ongoing feature designed to help you find more comics to love. We take a comic that's a big hit with readers, a comic that's been in the news lately, or both, talk a bit about why it's great and why it's noteworthy, and then steer you toward other comics connected to it in some way. Whether you're a new reader looking for a guide to more than just that one series your friend recommended, an old reader hoping to find new stuff, or just someone looking for something to read, we're here to help.
This time, we're talking about comics that are perfect for a little Halloween reading.
IF YOU'VE READ: Hellboy by Mike Mignola and Many Others
If you like your comics spooky, Hellboy has been a reliable source of fantasy-driven, black-magic-laden fun for more than 20 years now. What started as the story of an occult hero destined to be bad but trying to be good has since grown into a constantly expanding universe thanks to creator Mike Mignola and a host of other writers and artists. Hellboy the character is beloved by many comics fans, and Hellboy the ongoing comic-book saga just keeps getting richer.
I came to Hellboy the comic relatively late, well after both Hellboy films (which I adore to this day) were released, and what I found when I finally got into reading these stories (through the exceptional Library Editions) was a remarkable story diversity that I saw reflected in Guillermo del Toro's movies. I came in expecting horror-tinged fantasy adventures, and that's what I got, but I also got very intimate ghost stories, folklore from around the world warped through the always-entertaining perspective of this easygoing demon-turned-hero, and exotic conspiracies housed in the team-up dynamic of the BPRD.
The beauty of Hellboy is that something about the stories, and the character, is always spooky, but you can constantly adapt him and his world into very different kinds of spooky, something reflected in everything from Seed of Destruction to Hellboy In Hell and beyond. Hellboy is in many ways a perfect Halloween comic, and his enduring popularity proves that, but what if you want to skew closer to traditional superheroes? What if you want a spooky story tied to an even bigger comic-book personality? Well, you don't have to look far, because when it comes to spooky superheroes, Batman is always pretty high on the list.
READ THIS NEXT: Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City by Peter Milligan and Kieron Dwyer
As I've said before on this site, Batman is my favorite superhero, and one of the reasons is that he always seems to have at least one foot in the realm of the spooky. I mean, the guy built his personal mythos on a bat, that thing Dracula turns into when he needs to make a quick escape. Batman stories range from crime drama to sci-fi world-saving to all-out superhuman brawling, but his inherent spookiness is never far behind any of that. This is a superhero who deliberately modeled his persona after a bat so he could scare criminals into submission, and that means he's perfectly formulated to fit any number of horror story scenarios. Dark Knight, Dark City isn't the only one of these, but it's definitely one of the most potent.
On the surface, it begins as a basic Batman vs. Riddler story, in which the Riddler has set up a series of puzzles for Batman to solve. That's nothing we haven't seen before, but as the story unfolds, we get a backstory and a series of terrifying revelations, and it turns out Riddler's plan is about much more than outwitting Batman. This time, it's about an ancient black magic ritual designed to raise a demon, reveal the true origins of Gotham City and defeat Batman through sheer witchcrafty determination.
Now, I'm not about to give away all of the crazy things that lurk within this story, but I will say that it features Thomas Jefferson worshipping demons, Batman battling zombie robots, and the Riddler shoving a Ping Pong ball into an eight-day-old baby's throat just to make sure his plan works. It's an absolutely crazy story, full of darkness and magic and the kind of fantasy that Batman doesn't often stray into, but it's also an example of how adaptable the Batman character is. Like Hellboy, Batman feels right at home in a spooky landscape, and Milligan and Dwyer reinforce that right up to the final panel of this story, which features Batman walking up to Wayne Manor in the moonlight. If you love Batman, and you love spooky stuff, it's a must-read.
HONORABLE MENTION: Want more spooky fun? Check out these books:
Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo - More Batman conspiracy stories that did into the heart of Gotham.
Strange: The Doctor Is Out by Mark Waid and Emma Rios: It's Mark Waid writing Stephen Strange. What more could you want?
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez: If you still haven't gotten around to Locke & Key, and you love spooky stuff, what are you waiting for?