Chaos! Comics was a comic book publisher that operated from 1994 until 2002. Founded by Brian Pulido, it originally began as a vehicle for Evil Ernie, his idea for a movie turned comic book about an undead teenage serial killer who spearheads a Zombie Apocalypse while goaded on by a supernatural being called Lady Death, but it expanded into its own shared universe with multiple characters and titles. A company that specialized in ultraviolent horror, gorn, and dark fantasy with mostly Villain Protagonist and Anti-Hero characters, Chaos! is still generally remembered as kicking off the "Bad Girls" fad of '90s comics and being a prime example of the excesses of The Dark Age of Comic Books - not that these are necessarily bad things.
Chaos had licensing deals to handle WWF characters and the Halloween franchise and a pretty sizable fan community - affectionately called Chaos Fiends - that were arguably one of the earliest comics fan communities to really make use of the Internet. Sadly, they were a casualty of the crash of the industry in the late '90s/early '00s.
One or two of its franchises do occasionally still see print after being auctioned off to other companies. Lady Death, who quickly eclipsed Evil Ernie in popularity, is currently in series published by Boundless Comics. There have been various attempts to revive the company's other flagship characters, the most successful of these so far being the use of Evil Ernie as an Anti-Villain in Hack/Slash.
In 2014, Chaos! was revived and rebooted by Dynamite Comics through a titular miniseries starring Evil Ernie and another miniseries, simply titled Chaos!, by Tim Seeley, which serves to reintroduce the core Chaos! characters - except Lady Death, who is replaced by Lady Hel.
- Main titles:
- Other titles:
This comic book publisher provides examples of:
- An Arm and a Leg: What Evil Ernie does to Dr. Price at the end of Revenge, although of course this only made Price more pissed off.
- The Atoner: Mary Young, who works to make up for how her self-serving experiment caused Evil Ernie's creation by looking for ways to stop him and helping refugees from the Zombie Apocalypse as a doctor. Dr. Leonard Pierce tries to be this, but because he's obsessed with killing Ernie no matter what and even at the cost of the people around him he usually just makes things much, much worse.
- The Bad Guy Wins: A very common theme. In fact, Word of God states that Evil Ernie conception started with the premise of "Why does the bad guy have to lose?"
- Berserk Button: Don't say anything bad about Lady Death's mama...in fact, it's better not to mention her at all.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: Black and a dark shade of gray, even, although even Lady Death became less black and more gray over the years.
- Break the Cutie: Lady Death started out as a compassionate, naive, and religiously devout young woman in the Middle Ages whose only ambition in life was to get married to her one true love...but then in quick succession she was accused of witchcraft by villagers just for using effective treatments on them against the symptoms of the Black Death, her beloved nanny was brutally murdered just for recovering from the Black Death because of said "witchcraft', she discovered her father was a Satan-worshiping warlock who killed her aforementioned one true love and corrupted his soul as part of a deal with Lucifer, was burned alive for her father's crimes, and in spite of her past piety was condemned to eternal torture in Hell because she reluctantly accepted Lucifer's offer of help while facing death by immolation. You kind of can't blame her for turning evil.
- The Chosen One: The Latina vampire Oblivia, who defeats Armageddon in the one and only Crisis Crossover.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: Aside from their original works, they also ventured into comics based on musicians such as the Insane Clown Posse, the Halloween franchise, and even comics based on the wrestlers of the World Wrestling Federation.
- Crapsack World: The eastern United States is overrun with zombies controlled by a sadistic mass murderer, with the survivors barely scraping together a society as cities and towns are picked off one by one; said sadistic mass murderer has managed to hijack nuclear bombs and nuke a few world cities (including Detroit, which just can't catch a break in any universe); vampires, werewolves, and sorcerers are real and are mostly unchecked; Hell is also real and apparently most people go there; and Heaven is run by angels who are indifferent to humanity and aren't even powerful enough to stop Lucifer from messing with their plans including the Rapture. Oh, and God is real, but has abandoned the universe. Things actually more or less improve after the Apocalypse.
- Creepy Child: After he turned against Evil Ernie, Homicide was often accompanied by a group of not just creepy children, but creepy zombie children with teleportation powers.
- Crisis Crossover: Even Chaos! had one, Armageddon. It was about the eponymous God of Evil embodying the principle of entropy and the attempts of Chaos! characters, especially Omen, to stop it from destroying the universe. In a weird reversal of the trope-namer, this actually established a multiverse. Besides changing the status quo of the franchises, it gave rise to an attempt to bring in more diverse genres to Chaos!, including a sci-fi title. It didn't work, or rather it didn't have a chance to work; Chaos! Comics went under even before some of the new titles saw print.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: And how. But it's especially the point behind Evil Ernie vs. the Movie Monsters and Evil Ernie vs. the Superheroes, which even got a sequel.
- Cyborg: Dr. Price not only comes up with cyborgs to fight Evil Ernie, but zombie cyborgs.
- Determinator: In her origin story, Lady Death takes over Hell practically through her own strength of will, since in Hell desire fuels one's power. Later stories do make it a little unclear how much of this was true and how much was just part of an elaborate ruse by Lucifer to turn Lady Death into a monster just to make a point to God, however.
- Disproportionate Retribution:
- Evil Ernie wants to kill everyone in order to bring Lady Death to Earth, but he also wants to make everyone pay for his abusive childhood and the fact that as a telepath he knew his neighbors refused to help him.
- Lady Death wants to wipe out humanity for her freedom to return to Earth, but the fact that she's still mad that she was burned at the stake as a witch in the Middle Ages for healing plague victims and because her father happened to be a Satanist is an added bonus.
- The Dragon: Homicide was this to Evil Ernie...until he became the first zombie to break free from his control and decided that Evil Ernie's quest to bring Lady Death to Earth endangered even the "life" of the undead.
- Enfante Terrible: Evil Ernie, but Chastity and the members of the Omen also qualify.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- Lady Death tended to have a pretty strict code of honor, which often was the only thing making her more moral than her nemesis Purgatori. She also, despite being behind an attempt to carry out the mass murder of the entire human race, genuinely cared about the souls of the dead and was outraged when she learned that Heaven and Hell have been harvesting the dead for millennia for their own purposes.
- Even Evil Ernie was disgusted by a few sociopathic teens who tracked him down because they admired his mass murdering ways and wanted to be turned into his undead lieutenants. Naturally he killed them all, but punished their leader by killing him while letting him know he was not going to be turned into a zombie.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Lady Death generally pulls three reactions from women: seething jealousy, attempts to destroy her, or... (And they're not mutually exclusive!) In Purgatori's case, she wanted to seduce and destroy her.
- Evil vs. Evil: Pretty much every Chaos! Comics battle for most of the company's history until the final years when most of their protagonists softened up. Even the zombie serial killer Evil Ernie's archenemy, Dr. Price, tended to be a bit of a sociopath who had outbursts that resulted in things like the assassination of the President.
- Expy: Purgatori once fought a thinly disguised stand-in for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This being Chaos! Comics, however, Purgatori managed to kill her rather brutally.
- Evil Ernie's undead network, Torture TV, also had a program titled Snuffy the Living Slayer.
- Freudian Excuse: Lady Death and Chastity both had abusive fathers, while both of Evil Ernie's parents were abusive (although it seems like Ernie telepathically seeing that his neighbors were so afraid his wealthy, influential parents would retaliate that they never called the police was what really set him over the edge.)
- Gambit Roulette: It does turn out that almost all of Lady Death's career, and thus Evil Ernie's as well, was part of a plan by Death itself to ultimately destroy Heaven and Hell and return the souls they had been collecting to the cosmic cycle of reincarnation. Needless to say, Lady Death is not happy about this.
- Harmful to Minors: It's worth pointing out that Chaos! even at its height didn't inspire as much controversy as you might expect and was still usually sold alongside more typical comics fare. This was more than likely because American culture was (and is) fairly tolerant of violence, and Chaos Comics' T&A content honestly wasn't that much more blatant than what you'd get from Marvel and DC.
- An exception happened in the wake of the Columbine school shootings. An issue of the Evil Ernie ongoing series was supposed to have a story about a student who goes on a shooting rampage at this high school, but it was dropped at the last minute.
- HeelFace Turn: While not really done in-story, Lady Death and Chastity gradually went through this, when in the company's latter years they stopped being murderous Villain Protagonists and more like traditional heroic protagonists.
- This was especially pronounced in Chastity's case. While she remained a vampire assassin, in her first appearances she enjoyed killing innocents for fun. Later on, in her origin story, we find that she didn't even kill her abusive father; she only humiliated him to end his abuse of her and her mother, something uncharacteristic of the Chastity we see in her earliest appearances. In the first issue of the Evil Ernie ongoing series, she even says she won't kill innocents, making all this something more of a Retcon.
- In-universe there's Homicide, who goes from fanatically wanting to share Evil Ernie's "gift" of being undead with all of humanity to wanting to create a world where both the living and the undead can coexist by destroying Evil Ernie. After Evil Ernie is killed for good, in The Undead Homicide has even become a Reluctant Warrior helping protect a community comprised of the living and the undead.
- Heroic BSoD: Dr. Price had more than his fair share of these, particularly since he was responsible for Evil Ernie's one-man genocide in more ways than one.
- Ironic Name: Oh boy, Brian Pulido liked these. Lady Death's human name is Hope (and, yes, she starts out trapped in Hell), while Evil Ernie's real name is Ernest Fairchild.
- Kill All Humans: Lady Death wants to do this to leave Hell and return to Earth. Evil Ernie wants to do this to have Lady Death (and for fun, of course).
- Light Is Not Good: If you are lucky enough to go to Heaven after you die in the Chaos! universe, then you'll just end up being used as a power source. Lady Death puts a stop to this in her crusade to overthrow Heaven and Hell and set the spirits of the dead free.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Probably the most extreme example(s) in the history of comics, if not the history of fiction. First the psychiatrist Dr. Price misdiagnoses a young patient, Ernest Fairchild, as simply severely withdrawn when in reality he's being physically and emotionally abused by his parents. Then he decides to treat Ernest with a mind mapping machine that awakens Ernest's latent telepathic powers and introduces him to the supernatural being Lady Death, who wants to wipe out humanity. Finding out through his telepathic abilities that his neighbors knew about his abuse but never did anything to help, Ernest decides Lady Death is his only source of true love and guidance and begins to fulfill her desires by killing his parents and neighbors. After Ernest is caught and institutionalized for years, a young psychologist Mary Young finds out about Ernest and makes him the guinea pig of another experimental device, this one enabling Lady Death to turn Ernest undead and fill him with arcane energy allowing him to create zombies out of his victims. And then, months after the undead killer Evil Ernie is destroyed by the combined efforts of Mary Young and Dr. Price, the latter kills a man who exhibits signs of being possessed by Evil Ernie. Which allows Evil Ernie, who can only control the dead, to resurrect himself in the man's body. Right in the middle of Washington DC. With a huge parade with hundreds of people taking place just down the block...
- Rogues Gallery: Toyed with. Most (but not all) of Evil Ernie's rogues gallery were people who'd be heroes in any traditional zombie apocalypse setting, like Mary, Billy, and Judy Young, Sam Gunhill, and General Ramsey. An exception of sorts was Dr. Price, who was just a tad too unhinged, and had a nasty case of Ahab disorder.
- Slasher Smile: 90% of the time that Ernie has a smile on his face, it's one of these. And he smiles a lot.
- Villain Protagonist: One of the things that made Chaos! stand out was that they were completely and unabashedly all about this trope in their heyday. For examples, Purgatori: The Vampire Myth told Purgatori's origin story with a framing narrative about her in the modern day seeking to kill two ancient vampires she accidentally created to replenish her power, and Evil Ernie: Destroyer had an entire storyline about him wiping out the population of Atlanta with his zombie army and trying to initiate a nuclear holocaust. But in the company's latter years their protagonists, especially Chastity and Lady Death, became more traditional heroic protagonists, although Purgatori and Evil Ernie stuck pretty close to their original characterizations. In a letter to fans in the last issue of War of the Dead which was (originally) meant to be the end of Evil Ernie, Brian Pulido does claim he always thought of Evil Ernie as "the bad guy" and planned from the start that he would be killed by the "heroine" Mary Young.
- Whole Plot Reference: The Lady Death/Bad Kitty crossover is an entire reference to Romeo and Juliet with the Capulets and the Monatgues replaced with cops and a Mafia family.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Kind of an aversion, since the zombie plague is actually pretty well contained to the eastern United States until the War of the Dead mini-series that preceded the rebooting of the Chaos! universe, and by that point the people outside the US are much more worried about a nuclear holocaust or the malevolent Old One that's just wiped out Los Angeles...