From the paneled pictures of your darkest dreams, this is Graphic. Every month, I’ll be telling you about the best horror in comic books, from the early days of EC Comics to the resurgence of the genre in today’s mainstream and indie publishers. So pull up your blanket, dear reader, switch on your flashlight, and turn the page…
Hello creeps! Welcome to the first installation of Graphic, Nightmare on Film Street’s monthly horror comic column. As you know by now, the theme for NOFS editorials this month is Cold-Blooded Killers. With that in mind, I tracked down the iciest tale of terror I could to inaugurate this column, and the story I found was as chilly as it was chilling. It’s all about madness, about worlds beyond our perception and the terrifying things that live there. Best turn on your space heaters, because it’s about to get Colder.
“Colder features some of the most grotesque depictions of guts and gore I’ve seen on a comic book page”
Colder is the story of Declan Thomas, ex-inmate of a burned-down asylum in the 1940s. Declan has the uncanny ability to cure madness, a trait that might’ve be a good thing if it wasn’t for the terrible catch. Every time Declan uses his power, his body temperature drops. Due to his condition, Declan has survived decades without aging and kept mostly hidden away from the world. Now, however, Declan has been spotted by the source of his powers, an insanity-eating extradimensional demon calling itself Nimble Jack. Jack is hungry for the madness Declan cures, and unless Declan can keep his sanity and body temperature up, Jack may be dining on frozen dinner.
Take a look at the cover to issue one and you’ll realize why horror comics fans glommed on to this book. However, it wasn’t just the fans that were sold on this book by No. 1, it was the creative team themselves. According to some behind-the-scenes info in the comic’s collected edition, this cover frightened their loved ones so badly they were asked not to keep it on their computers. So, the team decided they had a winner of a horror book on their hands, deciding to put the first cover in a safer place: on comic bookshelves across the world.
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As you can imagine, I went into this book expecting some pretty revolting body horror and, let me promise you, I was not disappointed. Colder features some of the most grotesque depictions of guts and gore I’ve seen on a comic book page, and honestly, the cover to issue #1 isn’t the half of it. In the second arc of the series, we meet a character called Swivel, a sinister “farmer of madness” who, I shit you not, is made of fingers.
Not only is Swivel made of fingers himself, he has the tendency to make other things into fingery monstrosities, including pigeons, dogs, and, because sometimes you can be too excited about your art, other people’s hands. All of that pales, though, in comparison to seeing Swivel in his truest form, made entirely out of what I’ve now decided is the worst part of the human body. If you think a mullet is most awful thing that can be on top of a head, well, you’re correct but Swivel’s hairstyle is a close second.
“H.P. Lovecraft by way of M. C. Escher, a nightmare landscape populated by even worse inhabitants.”
But just because artist Juan Ferreyra has dedicated himself to erasing anatomy as a serious scientific study, don’t think there isn’t some exquisite non-body horror here too. Much of that horror comes from the parallel universe at the center of Colder, referred to by Declan as The Hungry World. The Hungry World is H.P. Lovecraft by way of M. C. Escher, a nightmare landscape populated by even worse inhabitants. The creatures of Hungry World range from humanoid to formally incomprehensible, with eyes on tongues, talons on tentacles, and just a bunch of teeth where they don’t belong. I can’t imagine when dentistry looks like here, it’s got to be grotesque, cruel, painful.
Still, the most horrifying denizen of the Hungry World, and my personal favorite part of this comic, was the aforementioned Nimble Jack. Jack is a horror villain that delights in being what he is; vile, mad, and occasionally funny. Constantly in contortionist positions and dressed in an outfit as sharp as his wit, Jack is Freddy Krueger but jazzier, Beetlejuice but eviler, Pennywise but…hot?
Look, I love the strong but silent type. Michael Myers is a gem, so’s the Headless Horseman, but it’s great to see a supernatural killer who’s just having fun. Colder has the potential to be a very grim, dour comic, so having a wisecracking goofball as a villain provides some flavor. It makes the menacing scenes more menacing, the funny scenes funnier. Plus, Nimble Jack is partially inspired by Joel Grey’s role in Cabaret. What’s not to love?
“[…] Freddy Krueger but jazzier, Beetlejuice but eviler, Pennywise but…hot?”
Colder is drawn by Juan Ferreyra, written by Paul Tobin, and lettered by Nate Piekos. Head to your local comic book shop now and ask for the book’s omnibus edition, which collects the story’s three arcs into one book. You can also grab a copy on ComiXology where, if you’re a ComiXology Unlimited subscriber, you can read the story’s second arc for free. That’s the one with Swivel, so get ready to radically change your comfort level of having human hands.
Thanks so much for checking out the first installation of GRAPHIC! Spooky comics are some of my favorite things in the world, and I really appreciate you checking them out with me. I’ll be posting one every month starting now, so make sure you’re following us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for updates. In the meantime, let me know what you think of Colder, or tell me which horror comics you’d like to see in for future installations of GRAPHIC. And for more Cold-Blooded Killers, plus the best horror content on the Internet, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.