It’s Halloween today, when we laugh at death and taunt ghosts, witches and demons. Traditionally, we dress up in costume as something that scares us, exorcising our fears through make-up and disguise. If this was still a barometer of what we are afraid of, most women (and girls) are terrified of sex. And of nurses, police officers. And of sexy nurses and sexy police officers.
Which brings us to comics. Of course.
There have been a lot of scary comic books over the decades. Some were so scary that Congress felt the need to step in. Some scared me and didn’t scare you, and some scared you and didn’t scare me. That’s why there is room in the comments.
Alan Moore has written the most comics that scared me the most. From all the bugs to vampires that figure out how to be out in the daytime (stay underwater where the sun can’t reach you) to menopausal werewolves in his Swamp Thing, to super-powered conspiracies in Watchmen and assorted creepy Lovecraftian monsters in various one-offs, Moore’s work regularly freaks me out.
Most of us don’t believe in Lovecraftian monsters, werewolves, vampires or other tropes of the horror genre. I’m not even really afraid of bugs or conspiracies – although please keep both out of my kitchen and bathrooms and, actually, my entire apartment, thanks.
Most literary critics consider that classic monsters of horror to be metaphors for the things that are really able to hurt us. Frankenstein is about men who want to create life without a womb. Dracula is about the dangers of desire. Zombies reflect our fear of infectious diseases.
These are things that can’t be fixed with a stake through the heart or a healing crystal. These are things that can still kill you when the masks are off, and the candy is all gone.
They are also not things that will inspire a single noble hero, or a small group on a quest. Instead, to fight them we will need an educated and engaged citizenry acting together to do the right thing. It means putting down the remote. It means getting off the couch.
That’s the thought that scares me the most. Not the ghouls on the street tonight, but the ones elected next Tuesday.