Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #101: Winter’s Ghouls

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #101 by Drew Barth

Winter’s Ghouls

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is spooks. We’re only a month and a half removed from Halloween and hauntings come back, hoisted by seasonal depression. But then that’s where the good comics come in. In the past couple weeks, we’ve had two new series premiere that deal with monsters and ghosts in two distinct ways that I haven’t seen yet: I Walk with Monsters by Paul Cornell, Sally Cantirino, Dearbhla Kelly, and Andworld Design and Home Sick Pilots by Dan Watters, Caspar Wijngaard, and Aditya Bidikar. Both are steeped in mood and mystery, but handle their supernatural elements in ways that are wholly original.

As these are both the first issues of their respective series, I Walk with Monsters and Home Sick Pilots do a laundry list of things well: create an instant mood and atmosphere; set a mystery within the first couple pages; solidly establish their main character with a couple strong lines; and create distinct visual motifs throughout (Cantirino and Kelly’s fingerprints and Wijngaard’s pops of neon pink). But what are these stories? I Walk with Monsters deals with two people, Jacey and David, as they kill serial killers and Jacey looks for her disappeared brother. Home Sick Pilotsis about Ami and her titular band as they contemplate playing a punk show in a haunted house. The former deals with monsters and the latter brings in actual ghosts that trap people for weeks in the house. So, you know, all the good and spooky fun we expect at the end of the year.

From an aesthetic standpoint, these series are quite different. I Walk with Monsters is contemporary and autumnal in its colors.Home Sick Pilots is nineties and neon all the way through. But what brings these series together is how both deal with the idea of a haunting. Home Sick Pilots deals a little more literally with the haunted house and the haunted objects that have been pilfered from it. I Walk with Monsters deals in a different way. Jacey and David are both haunted—one by the memory of The Important Man that took her brother and the other by a beast that lives within him. But what both of these stories do so well is how they treat the haunting. A haunted house is a haunted house, but a haunted house that traps people within it to bring back all of its lost objects? A missing brother is one thing, but the memories of your father gladly giving your brother away to a faceless man at a carnival? It’s what I mean by establishing mysteries early—Watters and Cornell plot comics like no other.

There’s an Ebenezer Instinct within me that craves ghoulish stories at the end of the year. Maybe it’s the seasonal depression. Maybe it’s revenge for Christmas decorations going up in mid-September. Either way, having comics like I Walk with Monsters and Home Sick Pilots to curl up with just makes the holidays all the more enjoyable.

Get excited. Get spooky around the Christmas tree.

Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

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