If you're looking to add a little horror to your free comics reading, look no further. We profile eight webcomics featuring Lovecraftian terrors, pulp zombie action, adorable monsters, and the werewolves of the Old West.
Lovecraft is Missing by Larry Latham: Latham takes the trope that HP Lovecraft was actually writing true accounts of vile cults and ancient gods and turns out a rousing mystery. Orwin Battler, factory worker and mildly successful writer of weird stories, has struck up a penpal friendship with the famed Howard Lovecraft, and has traveled to Providence to meet his idol in person. The trouble is, Lovecraft vanished just before Orwin arrived.
But Orwin isn't the only person desperately seeking Lovecraft; after Howard stole the plates out of a rare book in the John Hay Library, Nan Mercy, Brown University librarian and hater of all things occult, is hot to track him down. But as they team up with demon-fighting priest Father Jackey and delve more deeply into the mystery of Lovecraft's disappearance, they begin to realize that all of Lovecraft's strange tales contain a grain of truth. In addition to referencing Lovecraft's work (we see statutes of Cthulhu, of course, but we also see Richard Pickman's paintings and meet Thomas Malone from "The Horror at Red Hook"), Lovecraft is Missing contains the occasional Easter egg for eagle-eyed fans of non-Lovecraftian horror.
Raising Hell by Andy Belanger: Another talented member from the Transmission X collective, Andy Belanger plays the zombie apocalypse as pure pulp, backed by a love story that's a volatile as as zombies on fire. Kitty and Aries are that couple that's always fighting. They're pretty much either clawing each other's eyes out, or doing it in the coat room upstairs. But one Halloween night, when they're on the verge of breaking up, the dead begin to walk and attack the living. It's the end of the world — and it may just save their relationship.
Belanger has a wicked sense of visual humor. Setting the zombie uprising on Halloween makes for some images that are at once horrifying and hilarious (look out for the dismembered kid dressed like Robin, not to mention what the survivors are wearing). And he knows how to have fun with his human-on-zombie violence; the razor-edged hockey stick might just be the greatest zombie-killing weapon to date. Plus, he has an intriguing color cue throughout the entire comic: tempermental Kitty is always rendered in red, while preternaturally strong Aries is always in blue, just like the zombies he fights.
The Zombie Hunters by Jenny Romanchuk: Romanchuk takes a very different tack on zombies, with a comic that focuses less on the undead than on post-apocalyptic life. Years after the zombie plague began, the last of humanity has settled on an island, where they live in some semblance of their former society. Meanwhile, so-called zombie hunters venture into infected territory to find supplies to bring back to the island.
Romanchuk originally wrote the comic as a goof for some of her friends, so the first few chapters are a bit of light-hearted author (and author's friends) insertion. But once the zombie hunters return to the island, it becomes a more complex apocalyptic tale. People infect with a dormant form of the zombie virus are segregated from the uninfected population, and live under intense restrictions, largely at the mercy of unscrupulous military personnel. At the same time, scientists at the island's research lab are performing strange experiments on the dead. And there's the mystery of how such an advanced facility ended up being the last safe place on Earth.
High Moon by Matthew Macgregor and Steve Ellis: If you can get past Zuda's slow-loading interface, High Moon offers a blend of Western gunslinging, steampunk technology, and supernatural horror. Matthew Macgregor is a former bounty hunter with a dark past who's come to rid a depressed Texas town of its more violent troubles. While the town contends with drought and famine, its nights are plagued by werewolves and other supernatural beings.
Zuda comics are selected by a monthly contest, with creators submitting eight pages each and readers voting for their favorite. Thus, comics like High Moon get rolling right off the bat, with fangs bared and guns blazing.
Family Man by Dylan Meconis: Dylan Meconis brought vampires into the French Revolution with Bite Me, and with Family Man, she introduces werewolves to post-Reformation Europe. Luther Levy is a talented young theologian of Jewish descent whose recent questioning of his Christian faith got him expelled from his theological program. Just as he's considering a life as a tutor, he receives an opportunity to lecture at a small college, where he finds a modicum of acceptance for his unorthodox background and manner of thinking. He's also struck by Ariana, the school's librarian and the chancellor's daughter. But Ariana holds a strange secret, one that forces her to disappear for a few days each month.
Certainly Family Man has thus far had more emphasis on history than horror, but then again, it's just getting around to the werewolves.
Eerie Cuties by Gisele Lagace: Eerie Cuties is not a comic for those who lament the defanging of vampires. Instead, it's a light-heated look at monster mythologies, set at a prep school for things that go bump in the night. Nina is a young vampire just starting her first day of school, but she feasts only on chocolate, not on blood (much to her sister Layla's dismay). But she's at home with the misfit monsters of Charybdis Heights. Her friend Chloe is a succubus who's more adorable than seductive, and werewolf Ace retains his furry hands and feet even in his human form. Add in a teacher with a possessed arm and a groundskeeper who looks like Jason, and you've got an interesting school day.
Scary Go Round by John Allison: Following on the heels of John Allison's Bobbins, Scary Go Round is an ensemble sitcom framed by B-movie sendups. The protagonist is zombified in the first arc (she gets better), and everyone takes the run of nefarious cults, mad scientists, parallel dimensions, and mad scientists in stride.
Scary Go Round just ended its seven-year run last month, though Allison has followed up with a new comic, Bad Machinery.
Split Lip by Sam Costello: The webcomics answer to anthology series like The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, Split Lip is a series of self-contained horror stories, each written by Costello and illustrated by a different artist. The stories are sometimes supernatural, sometimes not, but, like its inspirations, out to create a sense of unease.
Costello has just collected eleven of his stories in print as Split Lip Vol. 1.