13 Creepy Comics and Gruesome Graphic Novels

Skin-Crawling Tales from Japan's Spooky Storytellers

Surprised young woman.
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From the slightly spooky tales of Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation to the extremely disturbing Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show, our list of horror manga and comics offers a chilling array of paranormal delights, ghostly lore, and gruesome gore. Our list starts off with a few scary shonen and shojo stories, then delves deeper into the disturbing and twisted depths of horror as only these macabre manga masters can deliver.

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Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation

Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation Volume 1
Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation Volume 1. © Yoshiyuki Nishi / Shueisha Inc.

Author & Artist: Yoshiyuki Nishi
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media

Vengeful spirits making it difficult to relax at home? Evil toys trying to possess you while you sleep? Who you gonna call? No, not Ghostbusters. When dead are disturbing the peace of the living, only a specialist in supernatural law like Tohru Muhyo can send those evil spirits packin' to the afterlife.

With his slightly clueless sidekick Jiro Kusano, Muhyo takes on cases like a school girl haunted by a friend who committed suicide and a ghost-infested dorm and delivers tales of the supernatural that are only slightly spooky, but very entertaining.

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Nightmares For Sale

Nightmares For Sale Volume 1 by Kaoru Ohashi, published by Aurora Publishing
Nightmares for Sale Volume 1. © 2002 Kaoru Ohashi / Asahi Sonorama Co. Ltd.

Author & Artist: ​Kaoru Ohashi
Publisher: Aurora Publishing

Shadow's Pawn Shop looks ordinary enough, but the deals that Shadow and his not-as-innocent-as-she-looks assistant Maria make with customers are for higher stakes than just money or possessions. Customers make deals to fulfill their dreams or to rid themselves of their troubles, but somehow end up losing some, if not all of their souls in the bargain.

Nightmares for Sale is a series of short shojo-style horror stories, focusing on Shadow's customers and the tragic lessons they learn when they make a deal at this mysterious pawn shop.

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Presents Volume 1 by Kanako Inuki, published by CMX Manga / AKITA SHOTEN
Presents Volume 1. © 1993 Kanako Inuki / AKITA SHOTEN

Author & Artist: Kanako Inuki
Publisher: CMX Manga

Kurumi is a pretty little girl, but her jealous classmates conspire to deprive her of birthday presents on her special day. Because Kurumi never receives a present as a child, she never grows old and becomes a wandering spirit who bestows gruesome gifts upon unsuspecting people.

Much like the Twilight Zone, the short stories in Presents are cautionary tales warning readers of the perils of vanity, selfishness, and greed. The artwork is somewhat retro in feel but timeless in its creepiness.

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Parasyte Volume 1 by Hitoshi Iwaaki from Kodansha
Parasyte Volume 1. © Hitoshi Iwaaki / Kodansha

Author & Artist: Hitoshi Iwaaki
Publisher: Del Rey Manga

Aliens landed on earth and have begun possessing humans, turning them into killing machines. Shin also gets possessed by a parasite, but due to extraordinary circumstances, only his right-hand gets taken over. Thus begins a strange partnership between this high school boy and his right hand Migi, as they try to solve the mystery of this alien invasion before it's too late.

Probably more sci-fi than horror, Parasyte is an amazingly inventive story that pulls you in and won't let go. There's more than a little gore and dismembered body parts flying in this book, so it's not for the squeamish.

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Mail Volume 1 by Housui Yamazaki from Dark Horse Manga / Kadokawa Shoten
Mail Volume 1. © Housui Yamazaki / Kadokawa Shoten

Author & Artist: Housui Yamazaki
Publisher: Dark Horse Manga

Reiji Akiba is a different kind of private investigator, who gets called in to solve very special cases. Reiji is kind of a mix between a detective, a ghost hunter, and an exorcist, who solves paranormal mysteries. His signature move? He sends the evil undead to Hell with his gun, Kagutsuchi.

Each volume of Mail contains a series of short, self-contained tales, with Reiji as your Rod Sterling-like guide through a Twilight Zone of modern ghost stories. While the stories in Mail are relatively mild compared to the titles mentioned below, the horrors that Reiji uncovers can be horrific and is strictly for mature readers.

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Godchild Volume 1 by Kaori Yuki, published by Shojo Beat / VIZ Media
Godchild Volume 1. © Kaori Yuki/ Shueisha Inc.

Author & Artist: Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Shojo Beat / VIZ Media

Like Akiba in Mail, Godchild's main anti-hero is a paranormal detective. However, in every other way, these two supernatural sleuths are very, very different. Cain's world is Victorian England, and his quarry is full of serial killers and demented souls who inflict cruelty and death upon the innocent.

Where Mail is spare and modern, Godchild is filled with lush gothic details. The art is ravishing, but it doesn't candy-coat the grim stories and decadent deeds detailed in these stories.

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Doll Volume 1 by Mitsukazu Mihara, published by TokyoPop
Doll Volume 1. © Mitsukazu Mihara / Sodensha

Author & Artist: Mitsukazu Mihara
Publisher: TokyoPop

Like many of the horror manga spotlighted on this list, Doll is a series of short stories. In these themed tales, human-like androids called Dolls change their owners' lives, often in strange and unexpected ways. A woman develops an unusual closeness to doll that will affect her human family from beyond the grave. A man wants to make his doll into the perfect human lover, but discovers that humans are not perfect.

The gorgeous artwork in Doll follows the classic Gothic Lolita aesthetic of haunting delicacy with a dark, decadent core. While not your traditional blood and gore horror story, Doll will haunt your dreams long after you turn the last page.

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Portus by Jun ABE, published by VIZ Media / Shogakukan
Portus. © 2006 Jun ABE / Shogakukan Inc.

Author & Artist: Jun Abe
Publisher: VIZ Media

Asami's best friend mysteriously commits suicide and all signs point to a video game as the cause of her death. Portus is the name of a video game with an evil 'Easter egg' or hidden feature that causes the player to be haunted by a malevolent, vengeful spirit.

Portus is a single volume graphic novel that reads like a Japanese horror movie, much like The Ring or Ju-On (The Grudge). The art is crisp even as it depicts horrific, bloody events and the story unfolds like a movie, complete with those "everyone gasps and popcorn flies" type surprises like you'd see in a theatrical feature.

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Gyo Volume 1 by Junji Ito, published by VIZ Signature / Shogakukan
Gyo Volume 1. © Junji ITO / Shogakukan Inc.

Author & Artist: Junji Ito
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media

The smell of dead fish becomes an omen of terror as it is in Gyo, Junji Ito's take on the zombie movie genre. Set in a peaceful beach town in Okinawa, Gyo is an inventive, albeit incredibly creepy story about technology gone so, so wrong and what happens when the local creatures of the sea rise up and start attacking the people on shore.

To explain more about Gyo's plot would give away some of the bizarre twists and gruesome turns that this story takes. Suffice it to say that Ito's artwork is stunning. You'll admire his detailed linework even as his story sickens you to your stomach.

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The Drifting Classroom

The Drifting Classroom Volume 1 by Kazuo Umezu, published by VIZ Signature
The Drifting Classroom Volume 1. © Kazuo Umezu

Author & Artist: Kazuo Umezu
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media

Imagine that the earth swallowed up your school and all of a sudden, none of the rules of 'polite' society applies anymore. Your school building is in the middle of a barren desert. Your teachers become insane with panic and your classmates are going crazy but in their own sick way.

Welcome to Kazuo Umezu's The Drifting Classroom, a classic tale from one of the many masters of Japanese horror. Yes, the characters have big eyes, but there's very little that's cute about the graphic violence and horrific plot twists in this story. Venture inside if you dare.

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Cover artwork for Uzumaki Volume 1, horror manga by Junji Ito
Uzumaki Volume 1. © 1998 Junji ITO / Shogakukan Inc.

Author & Artist: Junji Ito
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media

What is the shape of madness? According to Junji Ito, it is the spiral, hands down. is the tale of a town's descent into insanity, one person at a time. It all starts with a man's obsession with spirals. He collects spirals in all their forms and just stares at them in rapt fascination, losing interest in anything else. Sound harmless enough? Guess again, as Ito spins a story that is so surprising at every turn, you'll almost get vertigo.

While there are some quirky episodes, Uzumaki is essentially a skin-crawling classic from one of the true masters of the horror manga genre.

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Panorama of Hell

Panorama of Hell by Hideshi Hino, published by Blast Books
Panorama of Hell. © Hideshi Hino

Author & Artist: Hideshi Hino
Publisher: Amok Press / Blast Books

Quite possibly one of the goriest and most surreal horror manga titles out there (or not out there, this book is largely out of print), Hideshi Hino's Panorama of Hell draws from Hino-sensei's experiences as a child growing up in post-war Hiroshima.

The cover pretty much explains what you'll find inside: Lots of jaw-dropping, blood and guts imagery, plus graphic depictions of unheard of violence. It's so over-the-top, it's almost absurd. Definitely not for the weak of stomach and definitely not a book to read while eating.

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Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show

Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show by Maruo Suehiro, published by Blast Books
Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show. © Maruo Suehiro

Author & Artist: Maruo Suehiro

Publisher: Blast Books

Why is Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show in the 13th place on this list? It's not his best work, but it is one of his few titles available in English. And maybe there's a good reason for this. Suehiro's artwork is drop-dead gorgeous, but at his best (or worst), his stories are extremely twisted and disturbing.

Rape, bondage, underage sex, dismemberment – nothing is taboo in Suehiro's world and he pushes the boundaries of taste as far as he possibly can. The visceral, gut-wrenching power of his visual storytelling is undeniable. I admire his artwork, but can't stomach much of it.