10 Great Scary Comics That Won't Traumatize Your Kids

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Introducing younger comic readers to the horror medium can be a difficult process. You don’t want to traumatize them, on one hand, by reading aloud from the latest issue of Nailbiter. But still, it’s hard to resist the urge to bring younger readers into the spooky fold once autumn comes around. Whether you’re looking for fairy tale-inspired yarns, classic Halloween specials or intro-level monster tales, we think we’ve got you (and your younger friends) covered in the list below.

Check them out in the gallery above, and leave your own suggestions in the comments section.

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

Baba Yaga's Assistant

Writer: Marika McCoola
Artist: Emily Carroll
Publisher: Candlewick

Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll's recent 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, Baba Yaga's Assistant'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

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. So 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

Walt Disney's Donald Duck "Trick or Treat"

Writer/Artist: Carl Barks
Publisher: Fantagraphics

Fantagraphics' latest 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 just 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 proves that the auteur could spin sheer kooky fun with only 10 pages and a gaggle of waterfowl. Sean Edgar

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel Vol. 1 & 2 and Coraline: The Graphic Novel

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Adapted by: P. Craig Russell
Publisher: HarperCollins

Over decades of collaboration, artist P. Craig Russell has proven that he "gets" Gaiman. The original novels of Coraline and The Graveyard Book already have solid visual identities thanks to Dave McKean's off-kilter ink illustrations, so it's to Russell's credit that he manages to craft adaptations capable of standing on their own. Russell brings his accomplished realism to the pages, expanding scenes with grand visual potential and maintaining chunks of prose when appropriate. While Coraline is a solo endeavor and an excellent showcase of masterful art, The Graveyard Book sees Russell guiding a cadre of killer collaborators including Kevin Nowlan, Jill Thompson, and Tony Harris to bring the Newbery Medal winner to funereal life. Steve Foxe


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, then, 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 nineties 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

Gotham Academy

Writers: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher
Artist: 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's harboring 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

Itty Bitty

Writers: Art Baltazar/Franco Aureliani
Artist: Art Baltazar
Publisher: Dark Horse

The Itty Bitty series does to horror comics what the POP! figurine series did to mainstream slashers like Michael Myers and Leatherface: they cute-ify the otherwise terrifying. Whether that's in the form of witches, cauldrons, skeletons or Hellboy himself, the team has crafted not only an adorable aesthetic, but a meaningful introduction to all things spooky, crafting completely enjoyable tales to share with your kids in the process. Tyler R. Kane

Over the Garden Wall

Writer: Patrick McHale
Artist: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Former Adventure Time creative director and writer Patrick McHale is probably, most definitely a Halloween fan. Look no further than Over the Garden Wall, McHale's Cartoon Network miniseries about two step-brothers traveling through a colorful, macabre countryside rooted in folklore and fairytales. McHale and show storyboard artist Jim Campbell have continued that intoxicating journey with BOOM! in a comic special and four-issue miniseries. The books have veered more comical than creepy—bumbling land pirates, FTW—but McHale has promised that upcoming issues will veer into spookier territory. We'd love a return to Pottsville to check in on the massive pumpkin maypole Enoch, originally voiced by Chris Isaak. Sean Edgar

Scary Godmother

Writer/Artist: Jill Thompson
Publisher: Dark Horse

So…Scary Godmother is just Jill Thompson spreading joyous havoc in her own comics, right? Compare Thompson's wide smile and ginger sausage curls to the titular witchy sprite, and there's few (if any) differences. Created for Thompson's niece, Hannah—also a character in the book—Scary Godmother ultimately feels like a personal invitation into a raucous sleepover that never sees the sun rise. The hyper-detailed art remains awe-inspiring for any age, filled with gloriously skewed angles and rampant energy. Bonus points: a protagonist who successfully rocks a frayed ballerina skirt. Sean Edgar