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...
Grant Morrison lampshades the horrific implications of the first DC reboot in his run on Animal Man. How? By having the post-Crisis version of Buddy Baker meet the old, Silver Age Buddy Baker, who says that thanks to the reboot he and billions of other beings no longer exist. What's even worse? The older version of Buddy is aware that he's a comic book character, so he knows that his death and the deaths of billions of others were done for our entertainment.
Crisis on Infinite Earths: Nearly every single Universe out there simply ceases to be. Untold billions, dead and gone in about the time it takes to tell, over and over again. More chilling when you realize that suddenly they never were. Take a moment to examine the implications of that.
Detective Comics #881 does a great job reminding us that Nightmare Fuel in the DC verse doesn't necessarily come from galactic horrors or super powered zombies, but from ordinary humans who don't have powers but are downright psychopaths and James Gordon Junior was terrifying.
The scene from the excellent 52 miniseries from The DCU in which "Sobek" revealshis truecolors and eats Osiris alive. Osiris desperately tries to summon Black Adam's power again, but Sobek bites down even harder. Sobek's last line at the end of the issue is particularly creepy.
Sobek: I'm not so hungry anymore.
52 also featured a scene where Ralph Dibny wanted to disprove that a cult could resurrect his wife, only to see a straw version of her call out to him. The last page of that issue was particularly haunting as it seemed as if he lost his mind. He was faking it.
The second panel of #2 where the Elongated Man recalls the memory of cradling his dead wife with an agonized stretched scream on his face made me jump. Edvard Munch has nothing on that panel.
Jean Loring, as Eclipso, pleaded with Ralph after he'd acquired the Spectre's powers, he'd made her sane and had taken her to the moment when she'd killed Sue Dibny, to make her relive that moment for eternity. It was both frightening and heart-rending at the same time.
It's a testament to how awesome the series is that Mr. Mind is absolutely terrifying in it, before and after he stops wearing adorable little Skeets like a cheap suit.
Mr. Mind/Skeets killing Waverider by skinning him alive and then wearing it over his plating.
Final Crisis: The entire planet becoming slaves to the evilest being in the DCU, all in a plot by a cosmic vampire to eat reality.
The Flash: The Black Flash. He appears as a Bizarro version of the good guy. Creepy, but okay. He's fast, just like him. Tough, but expected. Unfortunately this doesn't get that far when you know that he's out for your soul, and you're destined to go. Meet him◊, and goodbye. It's even worse when you realize that the Ame-Comi version (a universe where all DC characters are adorable anime girls) is actually very pretty, but still a zombie.
Murmur, another rogue of The Flash, has a healthy bit of Nightmare Fuel behind him. A serial killer, his modus operandi revolves around his hatred of the sound of speech - he cuts out peoples' tongues, created a quick acting virus that essentially turns your lungs and throat into jelly, and cut out his own tongue and stitched his mouth shut to stop himself from talking.
The Reverse-Flash. Generally, you get what you'd expect from an Evil Counterpart. Until he decides he wants the real Flash's life, and tries to replace the Flash in his marriage. Which includes living with his wife. When he finds out she doesn't love him (and in fact is repulsed by him) he deals with rejection by liquidating her brain with his finger.
If he can't have that, then ruining Barry's childhood will suffice. It's an in-story retcon, which, in a way, makes it all the more worse.
Or how about the fact that he already has a family of his own anyway?◊ One can only be grateful that his last remaining heirnote and yes, it is in the sense of blood descendant, ie. great-great-great-grandson, or however many generations 500 years covers - the superhero Impulse - is about as purehearted as a teenager can be. And for that, poor Bart is targeted for death by virtually the entire Thawne bloodline.
Green Lantern: The whole concept of the Sinestro Corpsman Kryb, especially for parents: A Parent-Murdering, infant-stealing alien with a hollow back with dozens of possibly screaming little babies and toddlers inside? Yeah, that sounds like something straight outta the original Grimm stories. And there's more. Her hollow, cage-like back has nipples in it, with which she feeds the kidnapped babies. And it is implied that the babies are somehow brainwashed into thinking her as their real mother. And that they will eventually become child-terrorists Children of the White Lobe, prophesied to bring down the Green Lantern Corps.
The idea of sentient virus as a member of the Sinestro Corps can give one the chills. It's bad enough a virus is wiping people out, but knowing it is not only alive but armed with an energy ring is just messed up. Triply so since the only reason for that particular Sinestro to exist is in direct response to the existence of Green Lantern Leezle Pon, a superintelligent smallpox virus, first mentioned off-handedly by Tomar Re way back when.
The Sinestro Corps. They get their power from instilling fear.
From Green Lantern #43: Black Hand. An insane, nihilistic necrophiliac who's been given control of an army of undead. Superpowered undead. Listen to his introduction in the issue: "My name is William Hand. Although I live, my heart is filled with death. And I am happy."
Black Hand is made even creepier as you consider why he's such a nutjob. In Green Lantern Secret Origins, Atrocitus hunts down the then-teenaged William Hand because he's destined to be the instrument of the Blackest Night. And in the aforementioned Green Lantern #43, Hand admits that he's been "different" for as long as he can remember. The implication is that Hand was cursed from birth to be Nekron's tether into the universe, and never really had a chance to be anything more than what he is.
Larfleeze aka Agent Orange, the only member of the Orange Lantern Corps. The reason for that is because he kills and eats anyone drawn to the orange light (or something new) turning them into mindless avatars for him to control, which in turn help him to find and eat more people. Since they're not real, they can't be hurt in any way and feeding on other lantern powers makes them (and Larfleeze) stronger. Oh, and he's also an insane immortal who just chopped off Hal Jordan's arm because he had a blue ring. Thankfully, the next issue revealed that Larfleeze only hallucinated chopping Hal's arm off. The blue ring did that to him to buy Hal time. The fact he's hilarious in how greedy he is arguably makes him even more disturbing
Every single aspect of the Cyborg Superman is Nightmare Fuel, save perhaps his slightly silly name. He's immortal. He destroyed a metropolis which subsequently opened Hal Jordan to Parallax's influence. He bears the twisted visage of one of Earth's greatest heroes, cowed a monster like Mongul, and proved to be a challenge to Darkseid. When Geoff Johns got a hold of him, he took over the Manhunters, developed mind-altering nanobots, used Green Lanterns as living power sources for his machines, and was given multiple power rings by Sinestro. Oh, and he wants to annihilate all life. The only thing more terrifying than facing the Cyborg Superman is actually being the Cyborg Superman.
Some always found the Indigo Lantern Tribe creepy. Green Lantern #59 makes that interpretation canon. The Indigo power rings seek out people with no compassion in their hearts and forces them to feel it by flushing out all of their "bad" feelings. The Indigo Tribe is a cult of former villains that have gone through emotional lobotomies. And they eventually want to spread their "compassion" to everyone. It's since implied that this isn't necessarily the case, just that most of the members need to atone. Ray Palmer was recruited without being a monster, though he and the current host of the Compassion Proselyte are the only exceptions to this rule seen so far. Indigo-1 doesn't deny that she and the rest of the Corps were just like Black Hand in their former lives.
This cover◊. Hal Jordan, the Greatest Green Lantern, has gone insane. His home is destroyed, along with almost everyone he ever knew in his civilian life. He has now turned this grief against the Guardians of the G.L. Corps and wants to kill them. Along the way, he fights and kills other Green Lanterns. Ones he knew and fought with. By the time he reaches Oa, his slaughter of his comrades is an afterthought, he just want "more power to fix things". Though it wasn't executed well, Hal's plan to do so is even more terrifying than you could think.
The Third Army. Starting with one monstrous abomination created from the Guardian's own flesh after they absorbed the power of The First Lantern, they are designed to withstand anything a Green Lantern ring can throw at them. With simple physical contact, they infect you and turn you into one of them, with the only unaltered part of your body being your eyes, all linked to the minds of the Guardians and each other. Essentially a biological variant of the Anti-Life.
Identity Crisis: After stripping away his Robin costume and desperately attempting to pull the boomerang from his father's chest, Batman comes in and holds him. In that last page, all you can see is Tim, mostly in shadows, with the main focus being his eye and the tears streaming from it. Eerie, depressing, haunting, and a true Tear Jerker.
Batman and Robin. Orphans.
Tim Drake had, almost from the start of his career as Robin, a terrible dread that being orphaned was part of the role inherently. It had been over ten years since that storyline, and it finally happened.
Infinite Crisis: Your reality and universe are under attack by three men that think "You're not good enough. You don't deserve to exist." And two of them have set events into motion that make an already unstable situation, even worse. And now they're starting to attempt to wipe out everything you have known, and replace it with a so-called 'perfect' reality. It's an astounding miracle that we didn't see more heroes and civilians desperately seeking out the red couch after each of these events, that's for certain.
Starro, the Justice League of America villain. An alien starfish that latches onto someone to steal their free will and can replicate an army of itself. Its brief appearance on Batman Beyond was quite scary. If Superman could be overpowered and controlled by it, what hope would anyone else have against it? It's the Anti-life Equation incarnate, and Darkseid proved how scary that was in Final Crisis. Real starfish are already disturbing enough.
Then you don't wanna watch the recent episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The teasers, instead of being a short Batman adventure, are heroes from around The DCU, from prominent to obscure, brand new to not-seen-since-the-forties, being taken over one by one by Starro, leading up to the season's Grand Finale. Seeing it in action, and seeing everybody who handles this sort of thing for a living being easily overrun in a way that doesn't stink of jobbing, is definitely going to stay with you.
Citizen Steel's whole family getting massacred by Vandal Savage's superpowered Neo-Nazis at a reunion in Justice Society of America.
Chalk one more up for DC with Gail Simone's Secret Six. The jokes and the freaky stuff are so tightly entwined sometimes (* cough* Ragdoll) that you'll get Mood Whiplash.
Junior is a woman who's the younger sister of the second Ragdoll. Their father, the original Ragdoll - who was a mass murderer, rapist and cult leader, among other things - was also a pedophile and he molested Junior for much of her life. Grown up Junior has become so psychotic and feels so "Ugly" inside that she had surgery to make herself as hideous as possible. She now gets her jollies by torturing, raping and murdering (not necessarily in that order) men and women. The three most horribly memorable moments are her ordering a priest to absolve her of her sins, only to murder him brutally when he refuses, torturing Bane by throwing bricks against his body with such force that they shatter on impact (counting down how many bricks are left to assault him with as she does) and calmly slicing her brother's fingers off with a pair of scissors. Yes, she is Nightmare Fuel Incarnate, thank you for asking.
Superboy Prime. At first he comes off as a teenager with entitlement issues, and then you slowly begin to realize that he's a teenager with entitlement issues and enough power to destroy a planet. The world cannot possibly come up with anything scarier than that.
In Infinite Crisis, Superboy Prime has more than one moment that would qualify as Nightmare Fuel. But perhaps his defining moment is in Infinite Crisis #4, when Superboy-Prime has a complete psychotic breakdown, and starts brutally murdering Teen Titans left and right, with tears running down his face, moaning about how the heroes were corrupting him into a homicidal maniac. "You're RUINING ME!!!!"
Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane has a story in which Lois loses her eyesight after her eyes get grazed by a mugger's bullet. Her doctor helps her see again by having her undergo cataract surgery. Unfortunately, the new corneas came from a convicted murderer from Gotham City. This causes Lois to have visions of random Gotham residents silently screaming in horror before getting shot. Lois eventually figures out that the visions are actually illusions created by Mooks trying to keep her from speaking against their crime boss in court, but right before she reveals this to Superman and a judge, she sees herself in the position of one of the murder victims.
Two Swamp Thing stories stand out: The Anatomy Lesson and My Blue Heaven. Slasher films don't bother me, but those two single issue comics get inside my head.
Arcane: "How... how many years have I been here?" Swamp Thing: "Since yesterday." Arcane: "...yesterday?" That exchange, in context, remains completely horrifying.
What Arcane did just before finding himself in Hell. Short version: He arranged for his niece Abby's husband Matthew to be in a car accident, and offered him a Deal with the Devil: Arcane would save Matthew's life in exchange for Matthew becoming his new vessel. At first, Abby is impressed by her husband's newfound confidence and passion, until she realizes just what happened and just who she had been sleeping with. Arcane tells her every detail about what he has done and what he will do, then tears her soul out and forces it into Hell. Arcane's punishment was too good for him.
She ripped all of her clothes off, tearing them up. They were dirty. They'd touched her skin. She tried to burn them, but her hands were shaking and the matches kept going out. In truth, she was a little crazy by this time. It was the smell. She couldn't get rid of the smell. In the shower she used up all of the soap, the shampoo, the bubblebath, the perfume... the smell was still there. Have you ever burned an insect with a magnifying glass? Just once, long ago, when you were a kid and didn't know any better? There. You know it. You know the smell. When the soap wouldn't get rid of it, she went to the kitchen and fetched the wire brush that she used for scraping the potatoes... twenty minutes later she passed out. Twenty whole minutes. Even then she could still smell it. She could smell it in her dreams.
Mommie needunt no....
"The Nukeface Papers." All right, the Green Aesop anvils are flying thick and fast, but mother of god, that guy's face... What makes it worse is that Nukeface is portrayed as a nice, friendly guy who's completely oblivious to the damage he causes.
Scott Snyder has introduced all sorts of lovely things in his run on the title. Let's start with the Rot, the embodiment of all dead matter. It comes in various forms: a swarm of mosquitos that get into people's ears, force the victim's body to break its own neck, and then animate the corpse; a giant creature made from flies, dead shrubbery, rotten meat and a mammoth skeleton; or, probably its most terrifying form - William Arcane, Abby's sickly little brother who can manipulate any and all dead matter. He is, to all intents and purposes, the Rot's equivalent of Swamp Thing. Consider for a moment how many dead cells are in your body, how many skin cells you shed...and imagine what he can do with that. Nice, isn't it?
Zero Hour: The universes are destroyed, similar to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Only one major universe and a pocket universe are left by this point, and that is being slowly wiped out from both ends of time, heading slowly towards the Present. And Heaven help you if you get caught in a time rift as it's opening. You see, you are alive as the rift scatters your atoms across what is left of time. The scream Batman gave out as it happened to him in this event points towards this very thing.
Ant-Man: Spousal abuse is a pretty heavy topic to cover in comic books, and the subject has unfortunately become something of a hallmark with regards to the Marvel character of Hank Pym. After suffering a mental breakdown, Hank once struck his wife, fellow super-hero / Avenger The Wasp, in a fit of anger, and for decades writers have been getting mileage out of that single incident. Perhaps the most visceral representation of Hank's anger management issues, however, came from the Marvel Universe's Ultimate line, where the Ultimates version of Pym was very much not a loving, devoted husband. Pym didn't just strike his wife, he used his ant-controlling helmet to sic thousands of ants upon her (an attack which caused her to go into anaphylactic shock). As if seeing an army of insects trying to devour her wasn't bad enough, Hank's calm, cold reaction as it was happening upped the creepy factor by a thousand-fold. "You shouldn't have made me feel small." He also used Bug Spray on her while she was small, naked, and helpless.
For those who haven't seen that version, Ultimate Galactus has, shall we say, a different method of operation from the mainstream version. Instead of a giant humanoid in shiny purple and a big-ass hat showing up and declaring with much Purple Prose that his eating your planet will ultimately serve some higher cosmic purpose, the Ultimate version is truly scary, so much so that the mere warning about its approach inspired world-wide nightmares affecting the entire human race, and millions of mass suicides. The truly nasty stuff comes in the third volume, when Galactus actually starts doing things to the world it intends to eat. Like sending "silver angel" heralds to inspire suicide/murder cults, broadcasting irresistible psychic waves that drive you insane with fear, and spreading an Ebola-like virus, all so that the task of stripping the Earth bare of life is made easier. Then finally, when everything else is dead, Galactus itself arrives: a hundred-thousand-mile-wide swarm of skyscraper-sized mechanical eating machines, each one dropping from orbit like a bomb, and implacably boring into the lifeless ground and grinding the entire planet apart from the crust inward. It's not for nothing that the final volume is called Ultimate Extinction.
The true nightmare fuel from that story was Silver Surfer's teeth. *shudder*
And as for the cosmic purpose Galactus normally has? Why does Ultimate Big-G need to eat planets? Simple it needs fuel to get to the next planet. Even worse, Ultimate Galactus despises all organic life and wants every living thing to die as painfully as possible.
The Marvel crossover event Inferno was filled with minor moments of mass murder/maimings as the city warps into living objects of death, gouging out peoples' eyes and trapping them for eternity in postage stamps. But worse is the murderous elevators: one elevator murders a tourist family, complete with the son screaming for his daddy to save the family as they are killed behind the doors of the elevator. Even worse, was a page cut from all printings of the Inferno in collected format from New Mutants #71: right after a scene where the villainous Hellfire Club members are forced to go out to save people from the attack of the demomic objects, we see people banging on an elevator door trying to flee the building. In the page that is cut, a still at this time completely 100% evil Emma Frost is in telepathic linkage with the people as they flood into the now opening elevator, as she screams at them to not go into the elevator. Cut to the screaming sounds of the dying and the elevator reaching the first floor as Emma, in telepathic contact with the civilians as they are being murdered, screams in utter and complete horror as the elevator opens up and a tidal wave of blood pours out of it, with the skulls and corpses of the dead piled up inside the elevator.
Also, the key plot point is that thirteen infants were supposed to be sacrificed. Thankfully this was averted; then, the US government raised those infants as child soldiers.
Charlie Huston's run on Moon Knight. It explained that the reason Moon Knight hadn't been seen for years was that he'd gotten into a fight with Raoul Bushman, his nemesis. He'd had his knees broken during the fight, so in revenge, Moon Knight cut off Bushman's face. And why did Bushman and Moon Knight get into the fight in the first place? Bushman had been sicced onto Moon Knight by a group of suits who wanted to fuck up Moon Knight's life as best they could.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Marc Spector (Moon Knight's real identity) started having visions of an Egyptian God (Khonshu) telling him to kill everyone in his name. Was it the real Khonshu? Who knows, but it's not exactly like he's gone away.
After getting the cape back on, Moon Knight takes this brutal murder to most of the criminal scum he continued to fight. Some of the stuff he did was real heroic quality. Except for all of the parts where it wasn't.
His former sidekick Midnight returns, half-cyborg. Since he wants to be killed, and Marc refuses, Midnight gets into a violent fight with Moon Knight, climaxing when he tied Moon Knight to a giant clock and slicing open his back.
He also mind fucked a psychiatrist into saying that he was sane so that he could work for the government. Brilliant.
Warren Ellis' Ruins, a version of the Marvel Universe where everything went horribly wrong. Everything. Powers go out of control, mutilating and killing their owners. All the "Happy Accidents" ending in death or worse. Cannibalism, child prostitution, Body Horror and MORE mutilation; the Hulk as a rampaging mass of tumors or a de-limbed Quicksilver lying in an asylum. Or maybe it's the Silver Surfer ripping open his own chest in an effort to breathe again. Nightcrawler chewing on his own tail. Johnny Blaze pouring petrol over his own head and setting himself on fire. The army of cancer-ridden Kree. Thor as a pathetic, insane, cult leader. Emma Frost's flock of lobotomized children. Wolverine rotting from the inside out.
The Ultimate Skrulls. You know that office building around the corner? It could be full of Skrulls. Your boss? Skrull. The general at that army base down the way? Skrull. And they've been here for years. And they want to make the world better. By putting drugs in the water that will lobotomize everyone. And if they run out of time for that, they're perfectly willing to destroy Earth. While the drones are vulnerable to standard guns, the officers aren't. At least, they have a Healing Factor. And how do they take on peoples' appearances and powers? By eating them. We even get to see what happens during aGlamour Failure. The only way to take out their leader is for Hulk to tear him apart and eat him. Bruce Banner's still pooping Skrull bits later, and SHIELD takes no chances with them.
The Marvel Comics "What If??" story when they went super dark and bleak, and Jubilee is being chased by a crazed Sabretooth. He kills Beast and Bishop, and is only stopped when Jubilee turns on the Danger Room after trapping him inside. That last page where she is sitting in the control room and listens to him scream for hours as the lazers fry his flesh and he keeps healing until he can't anymore still makes me see my breath.
What if the Fantastic Four's second child had lived. The story where the girl is evil. The daughter is revealed to be a succubus like creature, drains Sue's life, and causes Ben and Johnny to die as well. Add to everything the fact Reed goes crazy, and Franklin has to team up with Doom to banish his sister to the Negative Zone and you get a "whoa... that is messed up" moment. Plus in the end Franklin is left alone in the Baxter Building with no one.
Irony of Ironies: In this story, the girl is named "Sue" after her mother. In the next "What If?" the daughter turns out to be the savior of mankind and is given the name "Mary". Is her middle name "Sue" by any chance?
Wolverine's Healing Factor allows him to survive anything — and the writers and artists seem to love reminding the readers of this at every opportunity. So nine times out of ten when he appears he is put through some of the most horrific injuries and torture that one can imagine. Eye Scream, castration, being burned alive, being shot hundreds of times in a matter of seconds, and so on. It's all in a day's work for Wolvie. Even knowing he'll come out okay because of his healing powers doesn't dilute the visceral horror that the more graphic representations of his powers evokes. Especially the incident with Ultimate Wolverine when the Hulk tore him in half and the guy had to crawl up a freaking mountain to reattach himself.
The gruesomely hilarious The Punisher storyline where a bunch of midget and mutilated gangsters chainsaw off people's legs. Frank Castle gets so fed up with a moronic Wolverine that he blows Wolvie's face off with a shotgun, castrates him with another blast, and winds up running Logan over with a steamroller. Which he then parks on top of Wolverine's body. All of that, Castle, knows, will only slow Wolverine down, not stop him. Wolverine later claims a blood-grudge against Castle for that. Can't imagine why.
For the absolute worse, Barry Windsor Smith's Weapon X is arguably it. From the very beginning, where it's revealed just how Logan got caught up in Weapon X (he was ambushed outside of a bar and kidnapped), to the end where Wolverine wanders nude into the harsh Canadian Winter covered in blood and with no memories of what happened and everything in between it's 120 pages of horror. More examples? Okay, how about the Adamantium being injected into his body? How about Logan being wired up and remotely controlled? How about Logan being made a chewtoy for starved wolves? How about Logan screaming in agony (which is initially thought to be a cry of bloodlust by one of the scientists) when he pops his claws? How about Logan being forced to sleep in the blood of the slaughtered wolves (in sub-zero conditions nontheless)? How about Logan having his body cut open to install mind control devices? How about those mind control devices being demonstrated by a scientist popping each one of his claws to the tune of "This Little Piggy"? At this point in the experiment they had yet to install the little metal tunnels that allow the claws to come out without piercing his skin. That's still not enough? How about what's seen when the scientists get visuals from Logan's mind? It really has to be seen to be believed.◊ And a subtler example: The professor in charge pours his hot coffee on an unconscious Logan's face and watches as it pours into his eyes with no physical reaction. Wolverine's mind is conscious the entire time, hes just unable to move.Oh, and the staff's belief that Wolverine isn't a human worthy of simple rights... At least, until the end where the two underlings admit that they're sickened by what they have done. All this presented with a very surreal, stream of consciousness-like style that uses garish colours and unconventional word-balloon placement to enhance the unsettling nature of the book. It's no wonder Wolverine is so messed up.
Mr. Sinister from the X-Men comics. Yeah, whatever about the name, he is a scary son of a bitch. It has a lot to do with various fears (Unmarked dangers, manipulators, telepaths... something that can fuck you up real bad but you have no idea that they could). And that use of psychology that is on on par with Hannibal Lecter's. Shapeshifting, the fact that someone could be effectively controlling you or your life without you knowing. He can just seem like a different person thanks to mind tricks and perfect shapeshifting. Hello, Paranoia Fuel
One particular backup story from an issue of the reprint series Classic X-Men was particularly chilling. The young Scott Summers (Cyclops) grows up alone and bullied by a boy named Nathan in an orphanage. A kindhearted young teacher starts to protect him and finds a nice couple willing to adopt him. Then she wakes up to find herself in her nightgown where Mr. Sinister says she's been meddling in his affairs. The next day she suddenly acts completely different and cold towards Scott. The couple who wanted to adopt him are killed when their small plane crashes into a mountain.
Sinister was originally a different type of character, considered too horrific to go to press as proposed. Ever wonder why such an example of Nightmare Fuel went by such a silly name? The original Sinister was the psychic projection of the bully in the above example. It was, essentially, a sentient mass of childhood fears, that itself matured and learned and grew older: your childhood bogeyman who had Adult Fears in his arsenal.
The Young Avengers/Runaways Civil War crossover. The fact that Teddy—sweet, Gentle Giant, loving boyfriend Teddy—was cut up and torn apart on some psycho's operating table was unsettling.
Made even worse when you consider the fact that Billy had to watch it happen, completely helpless thanks to the horrifying implants that have been shoved into his ears to prevent him from casting any spells. And the implants only prevent him from hearing his own voice; he can still hear Teddy being tortured, and Warden is taunting him the entire time. And then having to watch him breakdown and begin actively wishing for the Warden to die? It was not only terrifying, it was heart breaking.
And while we're on the subject, consider Noh-Varr, a Kree supersoldier stranded on Earth who the Warden has stripped of independent thought and free will through repeated and constant Mind Rape and treated like a dog at best, a broken plaything at worst. He gets his revenge in the end, but it's still terrifying to think about.
The Bad Future that Iron Lad comes across in Childrens Crusade shows The Young Avengers as the new Avengers team, fighting the foes that Earth couldn't. On top of that, most of them had been paired off, so they were all either married or married with children. This sounds like an ideal scenario...but the nightmare fuel comes in when you realise that they've become extremists who are perfectly willing to commit genocide if it's for the greater good. Seeing them cheerfully introduce the new members and explain how happy they are in their personal lives whilst surrounded by the dead bodies of the aliens race they'd just wiped out is incredibly creepy.
TheVoid just generally seems tailored to Paranoia Fuel and outright Nightmare Fuel. Whenever the mostly insane Sentry saves someone, The Void kills someone. Then there's the fact that should Sentry have a breakdown, there's a high chance that The Void will emerge from him in nightmarish fashion, which is, world wide, considered the worst possible outcome. Then there's the onslaught of nightmarish forms it uses in outright battle, culminating in a horrific hybrid of a scorpion, a storm and hell itself in Siege. And worse, nobody really knows who or what this thing truly is.
Stand-Alones, Indies, and Others
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...
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!
From Hell delves into the Jack the Ripper murders in graphic detail, and you'll be glad it's in black and white. (Then you read the appendix, which contains actual crime scene photos, obviously also in black-and-white. There, the lack of color is no help.) The violence eventually takes a back seat as the story delves into the mind of a misogynist madman, which is no less unsettling.
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.
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.
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.