I’ve figured it out. I can tolerate horror in comics because I can’t be scared by the thing that jumps out of the dark. In movies and TV shows and even books to some degree, there is always that scene that is created just so a terrifying something can come out from behind the corner and make you leap out of your skin and seat in fear. I hate that. The waiting, the bracing, and the eventual feeling of being scared – it all sucks. It’s even worse when they fake you out. But in comics, you can always glance ahead.
I know that much thought is given to where creators should place a surprise or twist so that readers are less likely to see it coming. For example, don’t put reveals on the right page because we always see those panels from the corner of our eye when we turn the page. It’s probably best to put them on the top left because in most cases, that’s where the eye goes first. Even with that, it’s impossible to not catch pieces of everything else because it’s all in your range.
And if you’re me and feeling spooked, you look ahead anyways. Sometimes all the way to the end of the book.
I can still be scared or even disturbed, but with comics, I feel safe in a way that I don’t with slasher films or ghost hunter TV shows. With those, I’m too worried about the moment when I’ll be uncomfortable – I can’t relax and enjoy the other parts. But I can see what’s coming on the page ahead and even if I’m ruining the story a little – well, it means I’m able to read it whereas I won’t bother to ever put the latest incarnation of Saw into my DVD player.
Horror in comics is also a year-round thing. I know people watch scary movies all the time, but I hear so much more about them around Halloween. I mean, that’s obviously the case with the Halloween movies and friends have zombie movie marathons or Freddy Krueger extravaganzas – I don’t think people save horror comics for the one month a year like they might with movies. No one I know only reads Hellboy or Swamp Thing or Animal Man in the weeks preceding Halloween.
And though I have figured out why I can read and even like horror comics, I’ve also realized that they aren’t my go-to stories. It’s not that I will never read them again; I’m more open-minded than that. They entertain me, they make me have emotional responses, but when I’m browsing the shelves at my comic book shop I’m probably not going to pick them up first. I’ll buy Hellboy or various B.P.R.D books once in a while, but I don’t consider those to be horror in the same way. They’re moody and spooky, but they’re not going to give me nightmares. It’s like how I can’t deal with the gory killer movies, but I’m completely okay with stuff like Silence of the Lambs.
So while it’s cool that I’ve finally found a medium I’m comfortable being scared by and I can sort of get why people enjoy that feeling, I’d rather read a comic that makes me laugh or cry or have any other reaction first. I’m still a wimp who has bad dreams all too easily, and I’m okay with admitting it and mostly sticking to stories in my comfort zone.