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Great Halloween Comics for Kids

Katherine Dacey

dear dracula 300x300 Great Halloween Comics for KidsWhat better way to get into the Halloween spirit than with a spooky story about vampires, witches, or ghosts? We assembled a team of librarians and parents to compile a list of the best seasonal comics. Our suggestions are divided into three broad categories — young readers (roughly ages four to eight), tweens (ages nine to twelve), and teens (ages thirteen to eighteen) — that are based both on publishers’ age guidelines and our own experiences with young readers. Recognizing that not all kids like scary stories, we aimed for a mix of horror, comedy, and holiday-focused comics, from Babymouse: Monster Mash to a graphic novel adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Did we overlook a great title? Please share your recommendations with us in the comments!

YOUNG READERS

babymouse 235x300 Great Halloween Comics for KidsBABYMOUSE: MONSTER MASH
Story by Jennifer L. Holm, Art by Matthew Holm • Random House • 1 volume (of an ongoing series)

The star of this adorable and popular series is having a serious dilemma: Babymouse must have the best Halloween costume and the best Halloween party ever! But Felicia Furrypaws has other plans to ruin the fun. Another great read in this charming series, full of wit and humor and colored in orange and black instead of pink for the spooky occasion. –Scott Robins

DEAR DRACULA
Story by Joshua Williamson, Art by Vincente Navarrete • Silverline • 1 volume

Instead of writing to Santa Claus for Christmas, Sam–who is a huge fan of scary movies–decides to write to Dracula for Halloween… and the famous bloodsucker decides to write back! Williamson and Navarrete play off of an old idea, but give it their own twist which cleverly acknowledges that some kids can’t get enough of scary movies. The humor is light and the book offers great opportunities for parent-child read-togethers. –Snow Wildsmith

DRACULA MADNESS: A SAM AND FRIENDS MYSTERY
Story by Mary Labatt, Art by Jo Rioux • Kids Can Press • 1 volume (of an ongoing series)

Sam, a sheepdog-cum-detective, teams up with two neighborhood kids to discover the true identity of their neighbor Mr. McIver, whom they suspect of being a vampire. (An odd, coffin-shaped delivery sets the girls’ imaginations afire.) The black-and-white artwork is serviceable but gets the job done, creating a pleasantly spooky atmosphere that’s just right for girls who like ghost stories. Readers who enjoy Dracula Madness will be happy to learn that the other volumes in the Sam and Friends series — The Lake Monster Mix-Up and Mummy Mayhem — also feature things that go bump in the night. –Katherine Dacey

johnny boo 4 cover lg 199x300 Great Halloween Comics for KidsJOHNNY BOO
By James Kochalka • Top Shelf • 4 volumes

As heir to Casper the Friendly Ghost, Johnny Boo is certainly friendly but with a Cartoon Network wackiness, as opposed to Casper’s wholesome humor. Not very spooky or scary but full of innocence and off-the-wall fun, Johnny Boo meets up with friends like the Ice Cream Monster, Rocky the Rock, and his pet ghost Squiggle for goofy adventures. Kochalka taps a vein of surreal, delightful humor that young readers will both get and love. –Scott Robins

PTA NIGHT
By Jeremy Scott • Silverline • 1 volume

Anyone who’s ever seen a horror movies knows that you don’t build anything on top of an old graveyard. But someone forgot, and when the dead show up for a PTA meeting at a middle school, the parents and teachers are in trouble. Scott’s wordless graphic novel is a visual treat. His bold artwork substitutes classrooms for traditional comic panels, encouraging readers to flip back and forth as they follow the hilarious action. From zombies to ghosts to alien invasions, this school is in for a rough night! –Snow Wildsmith

SCARY GODMOTHER
Jill Thompson • Dark Horse • 1 volume

This beautiful, oversize book collects four of Thompson’s previously published stories. The first story is about six-year-old Hannah Marie going trick-or-treating with the big kids for the first time. The big kids decide to bring her to a deserted house and give her a good scare so she will go home and leave them alone, but instead, Hannah Marie meets the Scary Godmother and a whole posse of friendly monsters and turns the tables on the mean kids. There may be a few scary moments for little kids, but Scary Godmother and her friends are cheerful and reassuring, and their message is that monsters are really very nice, once you get to know them. –Brigid Alverson

TRICK OR TREAT: A PEANUTS HALLOWEEN
Charles M. Schulz • Ballatine Books • 1 volume

This anthology collects one hundred Peanuts strips depicting Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and friends engaged in Halloween activities: trick-or-treating, assembling costumes, bobbing for apples, and comparing their candy haul. Interspersed with the strips are activities and recipes to help young readers get into the holiday spirit. While some adults have groused that the collection isn’t as meticulously edited as The Complete Peanuts, the strips and the presentation — all of the artwork is printed in a seasonally appropriate color scheme of black, white, and orange — are well-suited to kids. –Katherine Dacey

TWEENS

ARCHIE & FRIENDS ALL-STARS: ARCHIE’S HAUNTED HOUSE
Various contributors • Archie Comics • 1 volume

In this tween-friendly assortment of stories, Archie and his buddies try to save a haunted house from being torn down; buy costumes from a mysterious shop, only to experience some spooky side effects from wearing them; and play pranks on one another. The stories are more jokey than scary — think Scooby Doo, not Friday the 13th — and are executed with a nice, light touch, giving every character a turn in the spotlight. The collection’s highpoint, “House of Riverdale,” originally appeared in the Archie: Freshman Year series from 2009. –Katherine Dacey

onibk 47 200x300 Great Halloween Comics for KidsCOURTNEY CRUMRIN
By Ted Naifeh • Oni Press • 4 volumes

Courtney is almost your average tween: appalled by her parents, grumbly about school, and a bit of an outcast. But then, she also keeps company with all manner of creepy creatures, from beautiful, amoral fairies to endearing goblins to her otherworldly best friend Skarrow. With her guide to the world of Night Things, her cool but increasingly affectionate Uncle Aloysius, Courtney can’t help but get tangled up in the magical world’s politics and schemes. With a good heart but a devious mind, Courtney makes her share of mistakes (which I love her for) and has to deal with the consequences of her actions, but her strong loyalty to her friends and Uncle keep her learning right from easy. Naifeh’s black and white artwork has never suited a work more where you feel like the inky shadows are just barely containing monsters both charming and deadly. –Robin Brenner

COWA!!
By Akira Toriyama • VIZ Media • 1 volume

Meet Paifu: he’s half-vampire, half-werekoala, and lives in a small hamlet with his mom and his best friend Jose, a ghost. When an outbreak of monster flu puts the grown-ups out of commission, the boys venture into the human world in search of the cure. This fun, fast-paced adventure is more of a comedy than a ghost story, using Paifu’s unique heritage as a source of jokes, rather than scares. (He turns into a werekoala when provoked.) The good-natured slapstick, cool monster caricatures, and occasional nods to established vampire and werewolf lore make COWA!! a great choice for tweens who aren’t particularly interested in horror, but are feeling the Halloween spirit. –Katherine Dacey

THE DREAMING
By Queenie Chan • Tokyopop • 3 volumes (also available as a single omnibus)

When twin sisters Amber and Jeanie go to an Australian boarding school, they find a lot of weirdness–not the least of which are disappearing students! Set in the Australian bushland, the location and artwork lend an eerie feeling to these books and will have tweens and teens begging for more like this. –Esther Keller

littlevampire 225x300 Great Halloween Comics for Kidsdreamingcollection 201x300 Great Halloween Comics for Kids

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: EDGAR ALLEN POE
HORROR CLASSICS, VOL. 10
Edited by Tom Pomplun • Graphic Classics

Graphic Classics has adapted a great collection of horror stories for younger readers, using the original text whenever possible. The black-and-white drawings add to the fright level of the artwork. The Edgar Allen Poe volumes includes many of the author’s best-known works, including “The Tell-Tale Heart,” while the Horror Classics volume includes such favorites as “The Monkey’s Paw” and “The Open Window.” Both anthologies will delight readers looking for a good fright. –Esther Keller

LITTLE VAMPIRE
By Joann Sfar • First Second • 1 volume
From the mind of Joann Sfar comes a cast of ghostly and monstrous characters that would make Tim Burton jealous. Little Vampire is tired of being cooped up in his haunted mansion with all his supernatural housemates and decides to go to school. He soon discovers that children attend school during the day, and decides to do the homework for a young boy named Michael. This begins a delightful, adventure-filled friendship in which the boys learn kung-fu to fend off a bully and save the lives of three dogs when an evil scientist goes after them. Packed full of humor, wit, and just the right amount of spookiness.  –Scott Robins

TEENS

dracula action 204x300 Great Halloween Comics for KidsALL-ACTION CLASSICS, NO. 1: DRACULA
Adaptation by Michael Mucci, Art by Ben Caldwell • Sterling • 1 volume

Dracula has been the subject of countless movies, novels, TV shows, and — yes — comics, but this faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s original story is one of the most teen-friendly on the market. Michael Mucci sticks close to the spirit and the events of the 1897 book, while Ben Caldwell brings its most harrowing passages to vivid life with bold, highly stylized character designs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Cartoon Network show. Caldwell doesn’t skimp on the costumes or settings either, recreating the late Victorian period in painstaking detail. Blasphemous as it may be to say, I’ll take Mucci and Caldwell’s version over the turgid original any day. –Katherine Dacey

BEASTS OF BURDEN: ANIMAL RITES
Story by Evan Dorkin, Art by Jill Thompson • Dark Horse • 1 volume

Don’t be fooled by the talking cats and dogs: Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s Beasts of Burden is the real deal, horror-wise. The stories revolve around a group of ordinary house pets who have a gift for sensing the supernatural, whether it be a ghostly pooch haunting his old dog house or a carnivorous, VW-sized frog. Part of the series’ appeal lies with the animals themselves, as they have great camaraderie in the face of danger, trading one-liners with gusto. The rest can be attributed to Jill Thompson’s gorgeous artwork; her superb command of color and light adds extra layer of nuance — and fear! — to every story in this collection. –Katherine Dacey

FOUR-COLOR FEAR: FORGOTTEN HORROR COMICS OF THE 1950s
Edited by Greg Sadowski and John Benson • Fantagraphics • 1 volume

Horror comics flourished in the years just prior to the creation of the Comics Code Authority in 1954, constituting nearly one-third of all comics sold in the early 1950s. With titles such as Dark Mysteries, Tomb of Terror, and Weird Tales, the stories ran the gamut from alien invasion fantasies to macabre murder mysteries, with frequent appearances by vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, and witch doctors. Greg Sadowski and John Benson have separated the wheat from the chaff, assembling nearly 300 pages of the period’s best short stories. Though the imagery can be gruesome, the prevailing sensibility is considerably tamer than modern horror comics or movies. The stories are short, punchy, and somewhat hokey, but offer surprising twists and visceral thrills nonetheless. –Katherine Dacey

GUNNERKRIGG COURT
By Thomas Siddell • Archaia Studios Press • 2 volumes (ongoing)

Antimony’s adventures at a mysterious new boarding school may lean more towards fantasy, but there’s a scary element to them which will appeal to readers who want to be spooked, but still be able to sleep at night. As Antimony adjusts to boarding school life, she also begins to learn the truth behind both the school itself and the death of her parents years before. Demons, ghosts, gods, monsters–Siddell’s print releases of his popular webcomic series has it all. –Snow Wildsmith

hellboy 194x300 Great Halloween Comics for KidsHELLBOY
By Mike Mignola, et al • Dark Horse Comics • 10 volumes + extras (ongoing)

Readers who like their horror tinged with folklore shouldn’t miss Mignola’s demonic superhero. More than it might seem by the title, Mignola’s story uses historical figures, folk tales, myths, religious folklore, and more to tell the compelling story of a man who was called to Earth to destroy life, but who instead dedicates himself to helping protect it. Anchored by appropriately moody art, this series will grab older readers who like their horror shot through with tradition, sacrifice, violence, humor, and just a touch of hopeless romance. –Snow Wildsmith

MERMAID SAGA
By Rumiko Takahashi • VIZ Media • 4 volumes

Manga readers may know Rumiko Takahashi as the creator of such action-comedies as Ranma 1/2 and Rin-ne, but Takahashi also tells a mean ghost story, as this four-volume series attests. Mermaid Saga focuses on Yuta, a fisherman who accidentally gains immortality by consuming mermaid’s flesh. After watching his wife die, Yuta wanders Japan in search of a remedy for his condition, crossing paths with an assortment of scam artists, criminals, and demons who seek mermaid flesh for their own, often misguided, reasons. Takahashi’s stories run the gamut from gruesome to tragic, drawing heavily on Japanese folklore for their inspiration. The briskly-paced script, surprise endings, and atmospheric visuals make Mermaid Saga a fun Halloween read, and a fine introduction to this perennially popular artist’s work. –Katherine Dacey

XXXHOLIC
By CLAMP • Del Rey/Kodansha USA • 16 volumes (ongoing)
Watanuki is cursed: he can see every imaginable magical spirit all day, every day, and none of them will leave him alone. That is, until he steps into the world of the witch Yuuko, a clever expert on all thing supernatural who grants wishes for a price. Watanuki, desperate to escape his overwhelming second sight, strikes a bargain to work in her store in return for her removing his gift. He soon witnesses, however, just how Yuuko makes sure her clients get what they deserve, not necessarily what they ask for. With the fluid, gorgeous style that marks all of CLAMP’s current work, XXXHolic lets these master creators indulge in Twilight-Zone-esque stories of suspense and deserved comeuppance all the while spinning out the true nature of Watanuki’s visions. Humor and affection lighten the spookiest moments, but the series retains just enough edge to unnerve as much as it enchants. –Robin Brenner

YOKAIDEN
By Nina Matsumoto • Del Rey • 2 volumes (ongoing)

Hamachi loves yokai, Japanese monsters from folklore. He wants to be friends with them despite the villagers and his grandmother, who see them as fearsome and something to be destroyed. One day, Hamachi saves a kappa (water spirit) from a trap, then finds his grandmother dead, with her soul stolen. He thinks the kappa whom he saved may be responsible, so he goes to the land of the yokai to find and talk to it. Along the way, Hamachi meets and even befriends several different yokai. Hamachi is a very optimistic but determined boy, and the yokai he meets are different than any of the monsters seen in western horror. It’s a good adventure title. –Lori Henderson

Special thanks to Brigid Alverson, Robin Brenner, Lori Henderson, Esther Keller, Scott Robins, and Snow Wildsmith for their excellent suggestions!

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Katherine Dacey About Katherine Dacey

Katherine Dacey has been reviewing comics since 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was the Senior Manga Editor at PopCultureShock, a site covering all aspects of the entertainment industry from comics to video games. In 2009, she launched The Manga Critic, where she focuses primarily on Japanese comics and novels in translation. Katherine lives and works in the Greater Boston area, and is a musicologist by training.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Help a young reader get into the Halloween spirit: buy her a scary comic! Brigid Alverson, Robin Brenner, Lori Henderson, Esther Keller, Scott Robins, Snow Wildsmith, and I compile a list of our favorite seasonal comics for the under-16 set. [Good Comics for Kids] [...]

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