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Nightmare Fuel / Comic Books

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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...


Comic Books

    Stand-Alones, Indies, and Others 

Examples in this section are in alphabetical order by series.

  • This Archie cover from the 1940's. Archie does not look good with the body of a large fish and a hook caught in his mouth.
  • 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.
  • Cerebus the Aardvark: The entire sequence of Cerebus having an eye injury from a syringe towards the end of Minds is lampshaded Eye Scream.
  • 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!
  • The ghost children in Wildstorm's Friday the 13th comics.
  • The pseudo-Fetus Terrible story from Hack/Slash: Comic Book Carnage.
  • Halloween comics:
    • 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.
  • Similarly, anything and everything by Surreal Horror artist Josh Simmons.
    • "Mark of the Bat" might be the darkest take on Batman in all of comics. The Bat has come up with a solution to deal with the criminals in "G——- City" without having to kill them... a device that rips their lips off. Which he tests on an innocent homeless man. And then picks up the man's severed lips, holds them up to his mouth, and mocks his screams of agony through them. The ending scene, where The Bat picks at a hole in a wall until his fingernail breaks, smiling as he imagines lipless criminals being sprayed by firemen and groveling on all fours with leashes around their necks, will haunt your dreams.
      • And the best part? This comic was originally released in a limited run, called "Batman". Imagine picking up something you think is a regular Batman comic, only to get... that.
    • "Cockbone" was literally inspired by a nightmare Simmons had where he was peeing in a disgusting, run-down public bathroom, only to look down and see that his penis had split open, revealing a fishbone-like spine, and it shows. There's a gory killing of a dog on the first page, the aforementioned injury from the nightmare depicted in graphic detail, a city being bombed ("You can see the people poppin' like little ants!"), Bonecock's family beating each other to death, his mother getting torn apart by wild dogs... but the ending is the most terrifying part of all. After finally making it to his "rather deeply sick" aunt's house, Bonecock walks in... only to find it empty. He explores the place, looking for his aunt, when he hears her in the basement, screaming gibberish. Terrified, he tries to leave, only to find the door locked. So he hides, hoping she doesn't find him... and then she does. The comic ends there.
    Her face

  • 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."
  • 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.
  • This melty example of Body Horror from Shade, the Changing Man #28.
  • 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.
  • Sonic the Comic is good at this too, especially when Super Sonic 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.
  • 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 off 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 audience's 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 too much on offensive material simply for the sake of being offensive. Ironically it was a big hit in more "cultural" publications.
  • 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.
    • Then the gate actually opens, ripping Sorrel in two. And he's still talking.
    • 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 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... but worst of all is probably the final few pages of the last story: the Red Riding Hood-esque protagonist settles down into bed with the moon watching over her, and muses that she knew the wolves wouldn't find her... only for the moon outside to reveal itself as a wolf's eye, which transitions into a Nightmare Face as the wolf reminds her that she has to be lucky to avoid him every time, but to find her he only has to be lucky once.
    • 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 separated...until the prince's jealous uncle drowns him, and the mermaid pulls his corpse under the water, utterly enchanted by the fact he has 'given up air for the love of her'. Creepy...
  • Banjo Lessons from Twisted Tales, along with Me and Ol' Rex.
  • V for Vendetta: Valerie, especially the horrific things that were done because of who she was.
  • 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!"
  • The opening of Y: The Last Man's first issue, Unmanned, is both very much Nightmare Fuel for anyone be they man or woman, and also a huge Tear Jerker. It starts "NOW" and shows two women standing in the street, as all the men lie dead around them. Then it jumps back 29 minutes, and slowly counts you in, showing you people everywhere in the build up to, and then reeling in the aftermath of, the Gendercide. One of these scenes includes an EMT watching in horror as her lover haemmorrhages to death in front of her, asking frantically "WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?". . Another shows a girl's football match in Brazil. Another a young woman on a farm in Idaho. Another a street in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. Another a nuclear power reactor going into meltdown. No matter who you were, the Gendercide was utterly terrifying.
  • Haunted Horror had one shot horror comic, Pound of Flesh. A mechanic is disgusted with his fat wife, who used to be thin and beautiful. He gets the idea to make a thin robot version of her from a sci-fi magazine, but can't get the skin for it quite right. Eventually, he tells his wife in hopes that she'll go on a diet. She calls him silly and says he'll just have to accept her as she is. In a fit of rage, he stabs her to death and uses her skin for his perfect looking robot wife. The worse part? Unlike most 'husband kills wife' stories, the wife here isn't some ball-busting shrew. She doted on him, made him big dinners, and even tries to be romantic with him. The only reason he hates her because she is fat and a bit of a slob. And he gets away with killing and replacing her.
  • The Unfunnies is widely considered a Black Comedy that by going too much into the first word, just doesn't work as the second, and thus any value readers attributed is mostly for being horrifying. The story is about a world of Funny Animals that starts going awry, full of child molestation, infanticide, rape, torture, murder, and just plain unpleasant things such as a single mother being forced into prostitution. And then there's the explanation that it's a corruption that just cannot be stopped: the creator, a Satanist child molester and murderer, traded his soul with that of a character to escape the death row (thus a child-like being was in the body being abused by the guards and eventually sent to the electric chair), and then started to warp the place with his Author Powers, which also helped him evade or diffuse any and all efforts the characters make to stop the writer.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The entire "Mary Kay Commandos" storyline from Bloom County. Especially the bit where Opus meets rabbits with their eyelids stapled open! And it was all Truth in Television.
    • Also, this strip from an arc where Opus got nose liposuction.
  • 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.