The 31 Best Scary Comics For Kids (Updated)

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The 31 Best Scary Comics For Kids (Updated)

Though the comic stands overflow with all kinds of treats for adult readers looking for some horror reading, kids have historically been more likely to walk home with a pair of wax lips or raisins after searching for any all-ages scary books. The last few years have thankfully changed that trend, with gorgeous reprints and new cartoonists stepping up to brew sequential art that won’t leave younger readers fearfully tugging on their parents bedsheets at 3 a.m. So if you know any little ones looking for an alternative to king-size bars this Halloween, may we humbly suggest these comics and graphic novels as a spooky (but not too spooky) delight.

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adventure-time-spoooktakular.jpg.png Adventure Time 2017 SPOook- TACULAR
Writers: Adam Cesare, Grady Hendrix, Chris Lackey, Alyssa Wong
Artists: Heather Danforth, Slimm Fabert, Christine Larsen, Kate Sherron
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Since 2013, BOOM! Studios has invited a mathematical team of cartoonists to celebrate Halloween with Finn, Jake and the Adventure Time ensemble. Creators ranging from Ming Doyle and Frazer Irving to Hanna K. have revealed the macabre underbelly of the Land of Ooo, veering from the quirky D&D, cosmic opera elements of the show to spoopier extremes. This year’s holiday special starts on a macabre note with a Peppermint Butler cover from Ian Culbard, the man responsible for 2011’s comic translation of At The Mountains of Madness, which netted a British Fantasy Award. The formal candy occultist doesn’t just grace the cover, though; he stars in three separate tales courtesy Adam Cesare, Grady Hendrix, Heather Danforth and Slimm Fabert, among others. This narrative witches brew retains AT’s mix of daring questing and disarming whimsy, with Pep Buts using the arcane to clean his bowtie and trading spells with adversarial magicians. One of the entries even takes place in the gender-swapped reality of the Ice King’s fan fiction, as Butterscotch Butler squares off against Marshall Lee. Comics like this are one of the rare instances of work-appropriate for kids but still wildly entertaining to adults—and an even more uncommon treat in the horror arena. Sean Edgar

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STL078726.jpeg Animus
Writer/Artist: Antoine Revoy
Publisher: First Second
Children might not have a hardened tolerance for horror—little Susie doesn’t need to see Texas Chain Saw Massacre before her eighth birthday—but the average youngin’ often finds themselves drawn to the spooky, creepy or even downright terrifying, and publishers know it, whether that means keeping Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in print until the sun burns out or discovering projects like Animus, cartoonist Antoine Revoy’s graphic novel from First Second. Set around a haunted Japanese playground, Animus is Revoy’s attempt to blend the influences of horror manga and the French bandes dessinées, or graphic novels, of his childhood. Good scary comics for young readers are rare, which makes Animus and its seemingly Junji Ito-inspired art a must-read for anyone invested in the next generation of horror hounds. Steve Foxe

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anyasghost.png Anya’s Ghost
Writer/Artist: Vera Brosgol
Publisher: Square Fish
Self-conscious about her body, her accent and her immigrant roots, teenager Anya could use a friend—which is exactly what she thinks she finds when she falls into a forgotten well and discovers the ghost of a long-dead young woman named Emily. By wearing Emily’s finger bone around her neck, Anya can carry her spectral BFF with her at all times. This seems at first to be the perfect arrangement: Anya is never alone, and Emily can use her ghostly abilities to help Anya cheat on tests, spy on classmates and generally get the upper hand in her beleaguered life. Writer/artist Vera Brosgol draws on her own childhood experiences to portray Anya at uncomfortable odds with her history and place in the ever-shifting social hierarchy of young adulthood. Anya’s Ghost takes a surprising and thought-provoking turn in its final act, serving up a perfect conclusion to this YA spook-fest. Steve Foxe

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babayaga.png Baba Yaga’s Assistant
Writer: Marika McCoola
Artist: Emily Carroll
Publisher: Candlewick
Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll’s YA graphic novel Baba Yaga’s Assistant isn’t nearly as eerie as Carroll’s typical work—but it’s not trying to be. Like a modern-day Grimms’ fairy tale, the book’s Russian witch teaches as much as she terrorizes. In Masha, McCoola and Carroll have constructed a believably complex young woman to match wits with Baba Yaga astride her chicken-legged house. The scary bits hover just on the acceptable side for younger audiences, with key moments tailor-made for Carroll’s spooky style. Steve Foxe

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STL096228.jpeg The Backstagers Halloween Intermission #1
Writers: James Tynion IV & Sam Johns
Artists: Rian Sygh, Savanna Ganucheau, Shan Murphy, Abby Howard
Publisher: BOOM! Box/ BOOM! Studios
The Backstagers has a background of haunted menace that makes the whole series an easy recommendation, but this brand-new Halloween anthology issue is filled with even more spookiness to surprise and delight fans. Series creators James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh return to the world they created behind the stage of the theater department at an all-boys school, and they’re joined by Shan Murpy, Abby Howard, Savanna Ganucheau and Sam Johns. Seasonal, themed anthology comics are a great way to introduce new readers to an established universe like The Backstagers, with a low barrier of entry for new fans and ample rewards for existing readers. Slightly older readers may also want to look into Tynion IV’s more horrific series, including Memetic and The Woods. Caitlin Rosberg

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STL047090.jpeg Calla Cthulhu
Writers: Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer
Artist: Erin Humiston
Publisher: Dark Horse
When Paste first chatted with authors Sarah Dyer and Evan Dorkin about Calla Cthulhu, we called it “the first Lovecraftian coming-of-age tale”; a description accurate enough for Dark Horse to emblazon it across the print edition’s front cover. Melding aspects of H.P. Lovecraft’s vaunted, sprawling Mythos with chosen-one tropes à la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Calla Cthulhu introduces Calla, a green-haired teen girl with a cosmically creepy uncle and a doomed destiny in which she wants no part. The story first took full advantage of the Stela app’s unique vertical format, unleashing artist Erin Humiston to splay tentacled horror across panels optimized for an iPhone screen. Now, with reworking from Humiston and the Dark Horse editorial team, Calla exists in a standard trade format to begin an eldritch second life in print. Steve Foxe

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campmidnight-gn-1.png Camp Midnight
Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Artist: Jason Adam Katzenstein
Publisher: Image Comics 
Preteen Skye hates spending the summer with her “stepmonster,” the woman who married her divorced father. So it’s both a blessing and a curse when her parents collectively decide to send her to camp for the warmer months of the year. Not that Skye is going to enjoy the shining rays of the sun—Camp Midnight kicks into gear when night falls, and its residents can reveal their true selves: eight-legged mean girls, surprisingly kind witches and a hunky, skinny-dipping werewolf. Skye is coy about her “true form,” but so is her new best friend, a girl the rest of the camp seems keen on ignoring. Ben 10 co-creator and comics veteran Steven T. Seagle and New Yorker cartoonist Jason Adam Katzenstein craft a spookily fun twist on summer-camp coming-of-age tales, aided by Katzenstein’s expressive cartooning and inspired color choices. Steve Foxe

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castnoshadow.jpg.png Cast No Shadow
Writer: Nick Tapalansky
Artist: Anissa Espinosa
Publisher: First Second
Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa join the legacy of the spooky bildungsroman with Cast No Shadow, a graphic novel about a teen who falls in love with a young girl in a dilapidated mansion. The new pair’s troubles run deeper than awkward parental meetings, though, as new GF Eleanor lacks a pulse and non-ectoplasmic body. (At least they’ll never receive the dreaded “talk.”) This is the first major work for the creative duo, marked by an endearing, bubbly descent into afterlife puppy love, with stylized, soft coloring from Espinosa. Sean Edgar

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costumequest.png Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers
Writer/Artist: Zac Gorman
Publisher: Oni Press
One the best Halloween specials of the past decade didn’t pop up on primetime television, but invited gamers to grab a controller and collect digital candy in the charming RPG Costume Quest. Its creators—adventure gaming icon Tim Shafer, former Pixar animator Tasha Harris and Double Fine Studios—married clever programming with hilarious, spooktacular writing. When Oni announced a comic continuation, expectations ran high for a voice to rival the chops of Schafer and co-writer Elliott Roberts. Zac Gorman, creator of Magical Game Time, more than lives up to the legacy. Invasion of the Candy Snatchers’ former game monsters are affable and quirky, embarking on an ‘80s teen romp fantasy with an endearing message to love your friends, no matter their dorky wrappers. Sean Edgar

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thecreeps.jpg The Creeps
Writer/Artist: Chris Schweizer
Publisher: Abrams
Like some gleeful hybrid of The Breakfast Club, Scooby Doo and the work of alt-animation icon Craig McCracken, The Creeps series snares readers into its panels with swift storytelling and loving eccentricity. Now in its third volume (The Attack of the Jack-O-Lanters), the comics star misfits Carol, Mitchell, Jarvis and Rosario as they combat Frankenfrogs, trolls and other baddies from infringing on their home of Pumpkins County. Schweizer injects the same breathless tempo found in his Crogan historical adventures, while also reinforcing themes of identity and acceptance for young folks at their most vulnerable. Sean Edgar

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bookcover500wide.jpg The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo
Writer/Artist: Drew Weing
Publisher: First Second
Drew Weing’s Creepy Casefiles, with its quirky kids, sympathetic beasties and hand-rendered coloring, reads like a classic children’s title from decades past…if not for the astute, subtle observations on cultural dynamics within cities and the ripple effects of gentrification. Charles has just moved to Echo City (an original locale that blends details of major cities into a brochure-ready whole) and soon discovers that the apartment building his father is renovating contains residents of the non-human variety (specifically a troll who pilfers Charles’ stuffed collectibles). On the recommendation of his record-setting-obsessed neighbor, Charles seeks out the services of “monster mediator” Margo Maloo, a young girl with a knack for navigating the cultural middle ground between the human and inhuman worlds. Weing never forgets: monsters are people, too. Steve Foxe

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STL087647.jpeg DeadEndia
Writer/Artist: Hamish Steele
Publisher: NoBrow Press
Haunted houses, time travel, wizard pugs—what else could you want for a Halloween read? DeadEndia is a fun supernatural dramedy featuring a diverse cast of characters, including a trans masc lead in sweet, well-intentioned Barney, trying to survive the daily grind of customer service work at a theme park with some very spooky secrets. Written and illustrated by Hamish Steele, DeadEndia is free-to-read on Tapas and available in print from NoBrow Press. Steele’s playful, cartoonish style and beautiful colors create a vivid, engrossing world that will get you instantly hooked. The character designs are particularly refreshing; Steele delivers a cast with a wide variety of identities and experiences, all thoughtfully explored in ways that feel authentic and accessible. DeadEndia is fun, well-written and it’s free to sample online. If you’re looking for a fun, spooky tale a little more in the Adventure Time or Steven Universe (“Cat Fingers!”) mold than a full-blown fright-fest, DeadEndia is the way to go. C.K. Stewart

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donaldduck.png Walt Disney’s Donald Duck “Trick or Treat”
Writer/Artist: Carl Barks
Publisher: Fantagraphics 
Fantagraphics’ Carl Barks hardcover should delight aficionados devoted to Donald’s sequential art legacy: “Trick or Treat” presents Barks’ original 32-page vision of the titular story, restoring nine pages originally cut from Donald Duck #26 in 1952. But if you simply like Barks, comics or happiness in general, this attractive tome overflows with classic all-ages fun. Books like these further cement Barks’ imagination as near fathomless, and prove that the auteur could spin sheer kooky fun with only 10 pages and a gaggle of waterfowl. Sean Edgar

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ghosts-front-cover.jpg.png Ghosts
Writer/Artist: Raina Telgemier
Publisher: Scholastic Graphix
Raina Telgemeier is our generation’s comics ambassador, producing touching, funny graphic novels that not only reach a ton of readers, but engage folks who lie outside the male adult demo associated with the medium. Ghosts adds an intoxicating dose of magic to the cartoonist’s masterful grip on character and relationship. Catarina’s family forces her to move to a shady NorCal town to facilitate her sister, who’s diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. Not only does Catarina accept the presence of the playful undead, she also faces her sibling’s mortality. Big issues for a kids comic, right? Leave it to Telgemeier to articulate daunting concepts with kindness and clarity, while packing her panels with a dizzying array of dancing skeletons and smiling ghouls. Sean Edgar

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gothamacademy.png Gotham Academy
Writers: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher
Artists: Karl Kerschel and others
Publisher: DC Comics 
Even without the surprisingly scary ghost-story anthology issue, DC’s Gotham Academy maintains a season-appropriate level of spookiness. Olive Silverlock is a student at the prestigious—and totally creepy—Gotham Academy, and she harbors a dark secret that pushes her into a world of ghostly haunts, secret passageways, scaly monsters in abandoned churches, and the next best thing to a swoon-worthy vampire: a swoon-worthy teen Man-Bat. Co-writers Cloonan and Fletcher deftly interweave Gotham lore into this wholly original tale, and primary artist Karl Kerschel lends the book an animated look perfect for readers who’ve exhausted classic Scooby Doo episodes this Halloween. Steve Foxe

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goosebumps.png Goosebumps
Writer: R. L. Stine
Artists: Various
Publisher: Scholastic Graphix
Goosebumps nostalgia is a powerful force, one capable of pushing a Jack Black-led film to the top of the box office in 2015. The original books, however…don’t always hold up. Bless Scholastic Graphix for assembling talented cartoonists including Scott Morse, Dave Roman, Jill Thompson, Ted Naifah, Greg Ruth, Kyle Baker, Dean Haspiel and more to breathe new life into R. L. Stine’s iconic middle-grade chillers. The same dummy-and-lawn-gnome stories that terrified ‘90s babies can live on to haunt a new generation, while simultaneously introducing young readers to some of the best cartoonists in the biz. It’s a regular Halloween miracle. Steve Foxe

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