One of my favorite things about the holidays is digging through my comics, finding the PERFECT stories to match the merriment. While St. Patrick’s and Arbor Day provide little-to-no comic books with which to celebrate, Halloween and Christmas come through in spades. Listed below are my Top 5 comics that take place on Halloween. If you have any others that you’d like to recommend, feel free to share ‘em in the comments section. I’m always looking for more!
5. Spider-Man: The Short Halloween by Bill Hader, Seth Meyers & Kevin Maguire
Written by SNL alumn Bill Hader and Seth Meyers, this fun-sized one-shot is a satisfyingly silly little gem. The plot is simple. Spider-man is knocked unconscious during the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, and a drunk dude in a Spidey costume unwittingly takes his place. It’s a plot that’s familiar to most superhero comics fans, but what really makes it work here is this: Spider-Man is barely in the comic. The book is REALLY about the drunk, pseudo-Spidey and his two wise-ass, 20-something friends (think: Hader and Meyers). This means that you, as the reader, get to act as a sort of unseen third friend, laughing as your two SNL buddies crack jokes and cringing as your costumed pal cracks ribs.
You can purchase Spider-Man: The Short Halloween here.
4. Immortal, Invisible by Dan Clowes
What took J.D. Salinger and A Catcher in the Rye 224 pages, Dan Clowes accomplishes in ten.
David Carmichael is a quiet fourteen year old embarking on what he predicts will be his last night of trick-or-treating. He’s not dying, mind you. Just entering adolescence. As such, he hopes to find some sort of spiritual epiphany in the seasonal proceedings. Carmichael admits that the plan has its holes, acknowledging the “exhilarating adolescent instinct that allows a teenager to fool himself into thinking that his random thoughts and acts have exalted meanings.” Still, you can’t help but root for the boy as he engages in a series of cryptic conversations, unsettling interactions and the slow realization that no, this night will not bring any revelations.
The black and white art in this story is trademark Clowes: Slightly surreal, yet oddly humane. The caricatured hairstyles, the pathetic postures, the grotesque facial features — it’s all so achingly familiar and disturbingly real. Halloween is supposed to be haunting, but it rarely ever is. This story, though…
You can purchase Immortal, Invisible here.
3. The Tomb of Dracula #41 by Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan
Billed on the cover as ‘A Halloween Holocaust,’ it’s really just a Dracula story that happens to take place on Halloween. But oh, what a Dracula story it is! The bloodsucker reaches new heights of evil dickishness in this one, and that’s no small feat considering his defining characteristics are (1.) bloodsucker, (2.) evil and (3.) dick.
Anyway, here’s the basics: Dracula is dead. For real this time — dead-dead AND undead-dead. But now that he’s finally out of the way, an EVEN WORSE villain appears: The nefarious Dr. Sun. What’s more, Sun is the guy who killed Dracula! (Get it? “Sun”? As in, Dracula’s weakness? Well, back in the 70s, that sort of wordplay was all-caps CLEVER.) So now the large cast of characters that has been chasing Dracula for the past 43 issues — TRYING TO KILL HIM — decide to take on Dr. Sun. How do they plan to do this? By resurrecing the Lord of the Vampires and having him do it for them! Iffy logic? Indeed! But once Dracula is brought back to not-quite-life, shit gets GREAT. The first thing Dracula does is fly out a nearby window to kill a young blonde girl, laughing in the faces of his longtime enemies/new found allies as he explains that this is simply the way Dracula does dinner. Then Blade randomly appears — always a good thing — and there’s a lot of awkward, 70s psuedo-soul speak and a bunch of exhilarating Gene Colan fight scenes, all leading up to Blade joining Dracula and the rest of the vampire hunters on their mission to snuff out Dr. Sun. And all of this is in ONE ISSUE. Kinda makes you hate the current comics companies for their new, “decompressed” brand of storytelling, don’t it?
You can purchase The Tomb of Dracula #41 here.
2. Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
A surprisingly smart whodunit with wonderful art and page-turner plotting, The Long Halloween is one of those rare books you can return to annually, and it NEVER disappoints. Originally published as a 13 issue miniseries, the book covers the 13 months between Halloweens as Batman, Police Captain Gordon, District Attorney Harvey Dent, multiple mob families and a who’s who of villains try to track down the mysterious Holiday Killer. While only two chapters actually take place on Halloween, All Hallows’ eerie paranoia permeates the entire proceedings.
You can purchase Batman: The Long Halloween here.
1. Peanuts: The Great Pumpkin strips by Charles Schulz
It seems almost cliche to put these here, but honestly, THEY’RE JUST THAT GOOD. Read a bunch of strips or just one or two, and you’re instantly transported into the head of young Linus van Pelt: Prophet, dreamer, acolyte, fan. I’m not a particularly spiritual person by nature (you can blame my martyr and my Father for this), but even I get a little choked up watching that blanket-toting boy’s refusal to have his faith shaken. And this is after YEARS of missing The Great Pumpkin’s annual arrival! I only WISH I had the capability for such unwavering devotion.
The concept of The Great Pumpkin first appeared in Peanuts on October 26, 1959. In that strip, Linus is seen writing a letter to The Great Pumpkin, whom he describes as a sort-of Halloween Santa, “rising up out of the pumpkin patch with his big bag of toys.” From then on, Schultz referred back to The Great Pumpkin regularly, until it finally became the basis for 1966′s animated television special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and a kind of cultural shorthand for one’s own personal form of faith.
Here’s the rub: No matter how beautiful I tell you Charles Schulz’ shaky lines are, no matter how poetic I tell you his deceptively simple, perfectly crafted dialogue is, I will NEVER be able to get across how artistically impressive and emotionally honest these comics are. They’re like vivid sunsets and ultra-specific fetish porn — unless you experience them for yourself, there’s simply no way to comprehend their power and beauty.