Gothic horror has fascinated and frightened audiences for centuries with its dark and eerie themes, supernatural elements, and terrifying imagery. This article explores the origins of gothic horror in comic books and graphic novels and its evolution and cultural significance throughout history. We will also examine the impact of gothic horror on modern culture and entertainment.
In 1974 Angela Carter declared, “we live in gothic times.” It is perhaps more apposite these days to suggest that we live in weird times. This is not to say that the Weird (as a literary mode) has superseded the Gothic; rather that it comprises a polymorphous outgrowing emanating from and intertwining with it. What does it mean to say we live in weird times? Perhaps it is a pervasive sense of unreality, or a reality that has been fractured.
There are many ways of writing ethnographies. In his book ‘Tales of the Field’ (1988), John Van Maanen depicts the most common ways that he calls tales: realist, confessional, and impressionist. The classical form of ethnographic writing takes the shape of realist tales, dispassionate third-person narratives.
Postmillennial horror authors — Michael Wehunt, Laird Barron (2014) or Brian Evenson (2016a, b) treat this concern through what I call a dissociative writing. This, I feel is again a silent homage to Lovecraft, as Graham Harman (2012), analysing the object-oriented philosophy in Lovecraft’s literature, notices the “de-literalising gesture” as his major stylistic trait.
Ellen Moers’s initial generative suggestion galvanised a whole body of criticism that explores the coded expressions in women-authored Gothic texts, such as Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s ‘Madwoman in the Attic’ (1979), a volume of essays edited by Julian Fleenor entitled ‘The Female Gothic’ (1983), Kate Ferguson Ellis’s ‘The Contested Castle’ (1989), Eugenia DeLamotte’s ‘Perils of the Night’ (1990), Diane Long Hoeveler’s ‘Gothic Feminism’ (1998), Helene Meyers’s ‘Femicidal Fears’ (2001), Donna Heiland’s ‘Gothic and Gender’ (2004), Andrew Smith’s and Diana Wallace’s collection ‘The Female Gothic: New Directions’ (2009), and Avril Horner’s and Sue Zlosnik’s recent ‘Edinburgh Companion on Women and the Gothic’ (2016) among other monographs and essays too numerous to name.
At the time the Gothic novel grew popular, it also became common practice to furnish its publications with images. Not only because of the technical developments in the field of the letterpress, but also due to an increasingly literate public and a growing competitive market that provided the audience with reading matter, frontispieces and illustrations which were now an aspect of marketing.
Perhaps the most celebrated recent intervention into the field of history, gender, and the Gothic is Joan Copjec’s ‘Read My Desire’ (2015), especially the chapter ‘Vampires, Breast-Feeding, and Anxiety’. Copjec writes this work within a Lacanian tradition enacted by, amongst others, Frederic Jameson (Jameson 1977), Miran Bozovic (Bozovic 2000), and, most famously, Slavoj Žižek (Žižek 1997).