Remember when you were a kid, and you wanted to read Spawn, but your mom was a total square and said no? After reading some of the more adult-skewing comic books out there, you might begin to think that she was more concerned about your sleeping patterns than the book's material...
Examples in this section are in alphabetical order by series.
ThisArchie cover from the 1940's. Archie does not look good with the body of a large fish and a hook caught in his mouth.
The last page of Beasts Of Burden #2. The entire story is nightmare-inducing, but that last page, in which you see the drowned Hazel, her dead puppies, and all the other dogs killed by being thrown into the well will not let you sleep.
#4 isn't too shabby either. Specifically the part where the gravekeeper is torn to shreds by something that rose up out of a grave, and the only reason his dog doesn't get killed as well is because the man's arm rips loose at the elbow. And for further shudders, the dog is still dragging the ripped off arm behind him on the leash when he meets up with the Burden Hill pets.
And #1 is more Squick than anything, but between that Eye Scream part and when one of the characters dies, with their bloody collar sitting there...
French comic Beautiful Darkness is cover-to-cover Nightmare Fuel. It starts as a story about tiny, fairy-like people who suddenly have to leave their home...because their home is the body of a dead girl abandoned in a forest, and she has started to decompose! What follows is endless cruelty and death as the tiny people try to survive in the forest. Their number dwindles as individuals are dispatched by the inclement surroundings, the wildlife and, worse still, one another. Some deaths and injuries are implied or occur off-panel, but some are very graphic. The worst thing is how nonplussed the tiny people seem to be about the death of their friends and allies, and about the wanton cruelty they commit towards each other. Oh, and it's all rendered in a cutesy, watercolour, child-friendly style reminiscent of The Moomins or Calvin and Hobbes.
Both the face and the body of the Hooded One (plus identity, death and any scene with that character) from Bone definitely qualify. As does the crossing of the dream land... and what happens to those who step into the Ghost Circles.
Garth Ennis's Crossed. All the horror of the zombie/infected apocalypse, turned Up to Eleven. The first issue ends with a pointed lesson for anyone looking for a "magic bullet" solution to being chased by evil zombies: just keep running. They're capable of using weapons and reasoning out how they get "made". Speaking of magic bullets, at one point they actually lace bullets with their own semen in order to turn more folks.
Darklighter, a comic about the exploits of Luke Skywalker's friend, managed to shock when Hobbie Klivian was said to be infected with something, and there is a sudden reveal◊ of him, arguably the most sympathetic character, covered in ropey reddish growths under his skin, his medals pinned to his pillow. And he gets visibly worse◊. He gets better, as detailed in the X-Wing Series but if you hate images of anything bulging under the skin...
Death: At Death's Door: The demons bursting into Death's home with full intent of torture.
One side-issue of ElfQuest starts with a Muggle couple fleeing into a forest of cute six-inch-tall butterfly-like critters who like to cocoon up sleeping animals, "preserving" them exactly as they are. The Preservers have forgotten why they do it, and so never get around to undoing it. They're adorable. They're friendly. They have cutesy names for everything. The couple meets them instead of the 'evil spirits' they were expecting, chats with them for a while, and eventually the Preservers chase off the couple's pursuers. The grateful duo can't wait to go set the record straight about the "evil spirits," who were definitely not to be feared. They fall asleep, watched over by their new friends. Morning comes, and we find that the two have been cocooned, and will sleep for, as the narration puts it, "a very, very long time." The end!
A lot of Halloween Nightdance, but one part in particular, where Lisa, after an encounter with Michael in her house, runs to her room and finds the walls covered with blood and disturbing, child-like drawings.
Halloween: 30 Years Of Terror had a story in which Michael kills a schoolteacher, strings her body up on the playground and mutilates her face with razor wire, giving her a horrific Glasgow smile-esque grin. She had earlier told her students to try and face their fears with a smile.
Several of the stories in the Hellraiser comic series crossed into this, prime examples being "Like Flies to Wanton Boys" and Neil Gaiman's "Wordsworth".
DC Vertigo's House of Mystery reboot contained a story called "The Hollows" wherein this girl, doped up it seemed, fell in love with a giant fly. She ... copulates with him, and she turns pregnant. Except towards the end where she's gotten bloated and feels sick all the time until she explodes in a fleshy bag of maggots. Ew.
The worst part of this story? She's telling it to us in the House of Mystery, where she keeps ordering huge meals but can never feel full. Once the story's over, we flip around to see her back and find out why.
This is the first story in the series. You pick up this book you've heard is quite good and this is the first thing that hits you (well, besides the house parts). It's hard to believe stuff like Jordan's story comes after this.
There's an old story from Marvel comics, from House of Mystery or some such, where a guy was sent to prison. Now, this prison was rather unique, as it was rather a Nightmare Fuel version of Valhalla. The prisoners' psyches are transferred into robots and divided into 2 teams: Clickers and Grippys, and ordered into eternal combat with everything from clubs and swords to giant tanks and beam weapons. The protagonist quickly (time is perhaps non-determinate in that environment) began feeling the weight of non-stop combat stress, eventually determining that the only way out was suicide. Last page showed the guy alive, and human, and back in The Real World. Two officials comment that he is the only one to come back from that environment, but one admits "Not... Entirely" ... Last panel close-ups on protagonist; half his face is missing, and sad, soul-less eyes impassively, blankly, stare out at the world.
This◊ House of Secrets cover; holy crap, what is that? Is it Baskin or Robbins. It's hard to tell from that angle, but either way, you can call it ice scream!
Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, featuring possibly the creepiest antagonist ever◊ whose distinctive mask, in a scene meant to foreshadow his apparent control over Ragged Robin, can be seen in every background pattern. Said villain is also strongly implied to be what was left of John-A-Dreams after his encounter with a tear in the fabric of reality manifested as giant half-insect half-human monstrosities mating in the catacombs of a desecrated church. Other minor highlights include a correctional facility turning young criminals into embryos in a jar, people being tortured with a drug that makes written words appear as the objects they represent (if you're wondering what's so bad about this, imagine someone waving a piece of paper with "Your Mutated Face" on it after talking about all the things they can do with flesh-eating bacteria...), and a Lovecraftian abomination impregnating Princess Diana. And don't even ask about what happened to Jolly Roger's cell.
Anything and everything by Jim Woodring, including his Frank series.
The Polish comic book Kajtek i Koko w Kosmosie ("Kajtek and Koko in Space") had a couple of creepy moments, but the one that takes the cake is when one of the astronauts heads into a derelict alien ship they found in deep space. Once inside, he finds it completely lifeless, and coated with some formless biological mass. When he comes back to his starship, he accidentally brings back a tiny little bit of that mass. Which then proceeds to grow. Exponentially, and hungrily. Very quickly it overtakes over half of the ship, and the ship's robots are desperately trying to at least slow it down (and failing), while the two astronauts are forced to temporarily evacuate in an escape capsule. For added fun, all communications with the starship soon cease, and the astronauts conclude that the biomass has completely overrun the ship, the ship's computer is toast, and they are doomed to die a slow death inside a tiny capsule in the middle of empty universe. Everything ends well, but it's still creepy.
A short comic called Killing Time. Only the two main characters survive and then only just. One character has gone completely insane, and is also trapped in time because the time machine that the story focused around was destroyed while they were still between times, the two main characters are also left behind, except one of them is blind and the other has his arms chopped off. And that's the ending. The rest is much worse.
One character gets a gooey gunky stuff from the time stream time on her, which causes her to de-age until she no longer exists. One character is possessed by a demon thing into becoming Jack the Freaking Ripper and is killed by the main characters, one is eaten by a mass of chattering teeth, one is eaten by a huge swarm of homicidal rabbits, and the villain is killed by essentially creating a time paradox out of a single bird, so that an unlimited amount of the birds eat it alive. The villain being a formless unstoppable beast from the future that is trapped between time in order to stop it from eating all of existence. And trapping it between time didn't work. Probably the most terrifying scene is a single panel. Max Winwood, being the mainest of the two main characters, spends most of the story smiling or thinking to himself while casually shrugging off insane killers and magic as if it were an every day occurrence. One panel, where he sees the villain for the first time Winwood doesn't say anything, and the panel has nothing in it apart from him and a speech bubble from off-screen.
Lucifer. Elaine Belloc getting made into a lantern tops the list. But we also have such gems as an innocent couple trapped in an infinitely large mansion without any food, water or means of escape. And the Jin En Mok.
"The Unkindness of One". Only one character ever directly compares himself to Matthew, and the parallel's so obvious, that it's probably good Matthew didn't notice: The restored and improved Corinthian mentions in passing that he, like Matthew, also has a thing for eyes.
Maus. A comic about mice and cats, but the animals are used as an analogy for the Jewish people and the Nazis, set during the Holocaust, and based on true experiences from Art Spiegelman's parents during World War II.
The infamous Issue 15 of Alan Moore's Miracleman, where Johnny Bates, aka Kid Miracleman, goes on a rampage and destroys London, ripping people apart and leaving disemboweled corpses and body parts across the entire city. That issue may be the epitome of this trope.
"Burn in hell... and I did."
A particular story from Monica's Gang, a Brazilian comic book, also doesn't escape from this Trope. The story is called "Coelhinho Perigoso!"(Translates as "Dangerous Bunny!"), where Franklin recreates Monica's stuffed bunny, only Up to Eleven. When Franklin was away from his awesome invention, he stole the bunny in hopes of teaching Monica the lesson of her life, then in Jimmy's thoughts he throws the bunny at Monica, blowing her up and making she lose her head. And Monica gets into utter despair saying that she'll never be a normal child again. And the panel where this happens shows Monica's severed arm and leg, then Jimmy regretting what he has just done to his own friend. It's true that Jimmy was just thinking all this stuff, but that kind of thing is too much for a child.
Paperinik New Adventures: in one of the episodes of the summer special issue Zero Slash One, a knocked-out PK has a brief nightmare about some of his closest relatives (his nephews, Daisy, and Fethry) being turned into Coolflames. While the nephes and Daisy are drawn with just a blue flame on their head, Fethry's transformation is more detailed and, therefore, creepier.◊
A particular moment from issue 40, "Agdy Days". We learn this comic version of The Tunguska Event (a meteor made up of a special kind of metal who stores energy from the impact and is able to use it to "grow" when under pression). However,we also learn that the Evronians went after the MacGuffin and had a run in with the Russian Army.Aliens invaders versus 1908 army:try to think of what happened to the humans...
Garth Ennis' Preacher has a Corrupt Hick with a Squicky sexual fetish. Also, the humiliating injuries of Big Bad Herr Starr become disturbing after he gets emasculated by dog-bite and his penis is replaced with a rubber tube.
Jody, T.C. and Grandma.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Sabrina was telling a bedtime story about a kid who was teased. The teacher wasn't too pleased about this, so she gives him a book to translate, which turns out to be a spell. The bully's skin melts off his body while he crawls helplessly along the floor. And then he is never seen again. It was one of the most beautifully drawn (and therefore, horribly detailed) Sabrina comics ever made.
The ending to "The Boy Who Cried Vampire", is also terrifying. Cassandra Truth Stanley was right all along, except he finds this out when he's by himself WITH HIS UNCLE. The last actual story panel shows the poor kid about to have his blood sucked offscreen, but what seals the terror is the really-well drawn look of fear on his face. Not to mention the Does This Remind You of Anything?? going around. To quote this reviewer (who also reviewed the above story):
"And here we have it, probably the creepiest thing ever published in an Archie comic, and that includes the time Archie's dad wrote love letters to Betty and Veronica. Holy jeez, this is creepy."
Near the end of volume 5 of "Scott Pilgrim'', the main character's love interest Ramona vanishes right in front of him, with no explanation other vaguely claiming she's a "bad person" who did "bad things".
The very idea that some random creep can enter your mind and alter your memories to the point where your screw-ups can end up being altered to make you look like a hero in spite of your dickery is sure to keep you up at night.
The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" #15, particularly the one-page bits. While there's obvious homages to EC Horror comics of the 1950's, just...eeeeeeeeyugh. For example, the Simpson family sitting at the couch as decaying corpses.
Kevin from Sin City. He's scary enough just being a cannibal serial killer but his silent, cold expression combined with the fact that you hardly learn anything about him, much like the Joker in The Dark Knight. He just... exists.
The Yellow Bastard is also frightening. Especially if you happen to be one of his victims after he turns into a freak.
The Swedish comic book artist and writer Åke Forsmark did a short story in the 70's (maybe 80's) called "Självstymparen" (the self-mutilator) that is downright terrifying. It revolves around a German performance artist who travels to Sweden to perform his craft in front of a live audience. Initially the audience is very enthusiastic and excited about it. Then the artist starts doing precisely what the title said he was going to do. The crowd starts screaming, vomiting and begging the artist to stop as he castrates himself with a knife, saws of his own legs and arms and pokes out his own eyes until there is nothing left but a torso, gushing with blood. What really makes this disturbing is that the performer is visibly nervous about it, sweating profusely and also the fact that there is really no dialogue or plot to speak of, save for the audiences cries and the extreme detailed gore. Forsmark intended this to be a critique against the fanzines and underground publications that he worked in during those days since he felt that they focused to much on offensive material simply for the sake of being offensive. Ironically it was a big hit in more "cultural" publications.
The Archie Comics version of Dr. Eggman was done up quite handily as a source of Nightmare Fuel when he first got started; in his debut, his Robotic Reveal was done by having acid melt off his artificial skin, showing the horrific metallized being underneath the bubbling flesh. Then, once his satellite explodes with him on it, we see him alive and well in his current body, having downloaded his consciousness into it, a trait that allowed for a lot of Family-Unfriendly Violence against him. Before his Flanderization, he gained the ability to roboticize people by touch. An unkillable, inexhaustible robotic Mad Scientist with the power to turn you into one of his mindless robotic slaves with a mere pat on the back. Before he replaced Prime!Robotnik, he had successfully crushed the Freedom Fighters on his own planet and was ruling it, unopposed, and merely came to Prime!Mobius as a Self-Imposed Challenge.
Issue 50/Super Special 6, where Robotnik tested the Ultimate Annihilator, a weapon that erased something from existence. And his test subject? A human.
And now, in Issue 247, we get this.◊ This is Archie's version of the infamous Tails Doll, as you can see he is definitely not the cute doll that Cream thought he was.
Sonic the Comic is good at this too, especially when SuperSonic came into the mix. He's unstoppable, full of rage, has a lust for blood, and could have easily killed Sonic's friends.
Issue 60 had a black cover, with Sonic in the foreground and in the back was the silhouette of the villain, towering over our heroes.
Stone Island, in which a prison becomes the launching ground for an invasion of Earth by nightmarish creatures from another dimension. Arguably the most horrific part was when the apparently innocent David Sorrel is unveiled as The Light and The Way, a bioengineered gate for the creatures to enter Earth: as well as being strapped to a circular frame, his skin has been removed, the top of his head has been opened to reveal his brain, and numerous tubes and wires have been inserted into his body at various points- one's even been threaded into his penis. Meanwhile, Sorrel is still talking, still smiling, as if nothing could possibly be wrong with him.
In the same scene, Harry Rivers is being transformed into one of the creatures- which begins with him vomiting out his intestines. Particularly frightening is when his skull begins expanding and the skin of his face tightens into a grinning rictus that will remain with him for the rest of his life.
All of the transformations in the comic count as purest nightmare fuel- especially their aftereffects.
Strikeforce: Morituri had a lot of these, many of which involved the deaths of the main characters; normal people who are granted a random superpower by introducing a symbiotic organism into their body. However, this process is inherently incompatible with the human body, and it gets fatally rejected less than a year later after the process. Near the top of the list are:
Issue 13, page 28; Crenella (Wildcard) copies Aline's power to melt molecular bonds... and he himself melts from the inside out, all his soft tissues and then his bones dissolving away into a pool of yellow, while Aline (paralyzed at the moment) watches in horror as he dies her death. This is a major factor to her defection from the Strikeforce soon after.
Warren Ellis's "Superidol". A narrator that's a dead ringer for Richard T. Jones talks into a confessional camera about an artificial Korean pop-star, Rei-Rei. His narration is cut with images about the effects the idol has on the world, including people, men and women, getting surgically altered to look like her. The comic closes with the narrator saying the economy is going into buying Rei-Rei products, and that money is being used to make more Rei-Rei products, and the whole world is becoming Rei-Rei. "And I'm trying very hard to care."
The story "Collection Completed" from the original Tales From The Crypt. The husband, bored by his retirement and his annoyance at his wife's habit of caring for every stray in the neighborhood takes up a new hobby: taxidermy. When he kills and mounts his wife's pet kitten and seems to take enjoyment in hurting his wife, she kills and stuffs him.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles anthology Turtle Soup begins with the turtles returning home from a rough battle, with Michelangelo badly injured. They sleep, and the reader gets treated to their nightmares. Mike's is the worse, as he dreams that he's been split in half◊ and a creepy zombie-looking woman grabs his exposed heart and eats it in front of him. Yikes.
"13 Short Stories About War". While all the stories were more or less gruesome, the third story was especially disturbing. It was rather short but decided that it was appropriate for a target readership of children from 8-12 to explain, after a short indirect mention of the explosion of an atom bomb, the consequences in disgusting detail. Do not read if you just ate or are sensitive: For example, a man stands in a phone cell when the bomb hits. He gets hot, his skin grows grey, his eyeballs POP, skin melts, wholes open to the bones... . And now remember that this is in a book for 8-12 year olds.
Emily Carroll's Through the Woods is a great little collection of Nightmare Fuel. You have A family of 3 girls who are individually abducted by something who looks like their neighbour; a girl who discovers the dismembered corpse of her fiance's previous lover in the walls of his mansion; a man who kills his brother, and then the brother comes back, two girls who fake seances until one of them becomes possessed by something, and a girl who discovers her brother's fiance has actually been body-snatched by a creature seemingly made up of thousands of red worms. Carroll's stories make great use of Nothing Is Scarier, and she has some very creepy webcomics on her website, including one about a prince and a mermaid who fall in love at a forest pool, but must remain seperated...until the prince's jealous uncle drowns him, and the mermaids pulls his corpse under the water, utterly enchanted by the fact he has 'given up air for the love of her'. Creepy...
The first two issues of one of the new ongoing series More Than Meets The Eye have a few good ones. The first comes at the end of the first issue when Prowl receives a message from the future to warn Rodimus and his crew not to leave Cybertron Except they've already left.
Mystery Future Sender: Don't open the coffin. Don't let them take Skids. Don't go to Delphi. And do not-I repeat, do not-look in the basement. And for the sake of the Cybertronian race itself, please don't-KZZZZZZZZZK
The second issue has an amnesiac Skids waking up onboard a shuttle with hazy recollections of maybe having just escaped something...completely missing the message painted on the ceiling of said shuttle; YOU HAVEN'T ESCAPED. THEY'RE ALL AROUND YOU. Turns out his "shuttle" is in fact a set of three transforming robots wielding massive swords who pursue Skids while only repeating "Nineteen-eighty-four" over and over again.
In Transformers Armada comics Optimus Prime has been replaced by G1 Optimus Prime, having been sent to his dimension. G1!Prime's only words? "Walls crumbling... Chaos is coming." Before dying. Then Armada!Prime finds himself on Cybertron, the whole planet is covered in rubble and rust, right until he looks over a hill and finds a chunk of the planet is missing. He meets the only survivor, Spinister who says "It's not safe here, nowhere is safe, it promised it would come back... and eat our world". Unicron's arrival had been foretold.
Dr. Terminal's capture of The Rumor from The Umbrella Academy. The creepy pedophilic overtones and the casual mention of mass murder are bad enough, but then there's the revealing of her missing arm and the pool of blood on the floor.
V for Vendetta: Valerie, especially the horrific things that were done because of who she was.
When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs, scanned for your viewing pleasure here. There's a comic which followed the lives of an indefatiguably jolly elderly couple in the days immediately after a nuclear war. At the start of the comic, they appear entirely unscathed, but as they prepare to go to bed on the final day, their skins are grey, the wife's hair has fallen out, and husband had blood leaking from the corner of his mouth. It's fairly obvious that they never wake up. What's truly horrible about it is their complete Genre Blindness, which somehow makes it far worse for the reader than it would if the characters actually understood what was going on. Oh, and by the way, it is "The Snowman" Raymond Briggs.
A horror comic that was a fairly standard story about a high school boy being picked on and being willing to do anything to get revenge on the bullies who kept hurting him. "Anything" included reading a book of black magic and using it to summon a soulless demon. There was the image of the boy turning into a skeletal demon with flesh like blue-white wax dripping from the body and exposing muscles and bones. And the body was stretched in a way that showed that the transformation was blindingly painful. The truly horrific part was the boy's face, which not only went from normal to "screaming skull covered with dripping wax" in two panels, but managed to express a ghastly understanding of what he had just become.
From a advertisement comic called Captain Electron, which was for a defunct college, we have Mr. Computer, a 1980s box computer with arms, legs, a cane, ears sticking out of the monitor, and a horrifying human face for a monitor screen. To paraphrase Linkara from that review, "There's a word to describe Mr. Computer, now what was it? Oh yes.. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
Also, this strip from an arc where Opus got nose liposuction.
Garfield. Specifically, Garfield, Halloween, 1989. What was Davis thinking? "Oh, I've had enough of doing jokes about a fat cat eating lasagna... how about a week of existential terror where we imply that not only is his life not the perfect idyll we thought it was, but he's actually slowly starving to death in an empty house and every other strip is a hallucination born out of loneliness and denial! Yeah, that'll do nicely." Thanks, Jim. Thanks a lot. Only Garfield Minus Garfield and its Jon apparently driven insane by loneliness even comes close.
There was a Sunday strip wherein Garfield started eating massive amounts of food, and gained a great deal of weight, eventually ending up big enough to grab Jon and flip him into the air, and then swallow him whole on the way down. It goes From Bad to Worse from there. Garfield becomes so humongous that he can eat whole cattle and freight trains full of food in one gulp. (He even commands the hapless humans and cattle like a dictator: "Hurry! I'm hungry!") The very last panel is a now Jupiter-sized Garfield floating through the vastness of the universe and thinking, "Dessert!" The kicker, though, is when Garfield wakes up and tells us that he actually enjoyed his fetishistic food dream! Read it here.
There's a Peanuts cartoon that's pretty freaky, despite it being All Just a Dream. Charlie Brown decides to fly Snoopy like a kite. It all starts funnily enough, as the wind under Snoopy's flapping ears lifts him higher and higher. To Charlie's initial delight, until he suddenly reacts with a horrified "NO! Oh, NO!!!!" And Snoopy plummets from the sky, impacts with the ground, and smashes (albeit bloodlessly) into fragments like a dropped vase. Cue a terrified Snoopy waking up in a cold sweat: "Man! I've GOT to stop eating those 30-inch pizzas before bedtime!"
The Accounting Department in Dilbert seems to be populated by nothing but trolls and monsters. At one point, Dilbert has to go there, where he is transformed into a troll and forced to work there. He escapes by erasing their budget, which melts their leader (who looks like a witch, but admits to not knowing whether or not it's a man or a woman). It is later revealed that you get to Accounting by crawling through a hole in the wall, and that it appears to be a pretty bad version of Hell. Nice.