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One day when I was a full time goth I looked around and found we were all nerds. Maybe it was when I was people looking through a Red Bull and vodka (please never drink that) haze in The Bunker at Catch One in Los Angeles. Maybe it was when I was selling at the Fun Park on Bat’s Day. Maybe it was during my millionth forced watch from The Crow or the millionth time someone referred to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. As with any other subculture, there are all kinds of individuals, but I can assure you from personal experience that many of these individuals like comics. Many of us got our aesthetic from comics like The Crow (and its adaptation) and Sandman. Many of us have drawn our jargon from comics by Jhonen Vasquez. But you know what, oldtimer? There is a whole new world of Gothic comics.
It was an interesting exercise figuring out which books should be on this list of Gothic comics. Depending on who you speak to, there is a certain mystique attributed to the Gothic subculture, and I remember well the days of twilight when part of the fans in search of that vampire life flooded the clubs and not quite found what they were looking for and trickled out, leaving a handful of converts (probably people who never felt they fit in and who weren’t particularly popular in high school). Some people will forever reconcile the subculture with the limp South Park sad children.
It’s hard to pin down what makes something or someone Goth. If you were to look at me today, you probably wouldn’t be thinking, Goth. But I still listen to music and relate to the subculture. Before the pandemic, I even managed to drag my creaky bones to clubs once in a red moon. I ended up choosing ten of the comics that spoke to the goth in me.
But first! If there’s one thing I’d like to see more of, it’s black people who are featured in Gothic comics. So much of Gothic culture is focused on the white. When I was right in the middle of the action, for example, you couldn’t escape the ideal of lily white / porcelain / (any other poetic metaphor for white) skin – an ideal that I’m sure still exists today. White supremacy is in all possible places; It certainly exists in Gothic culture and it made being a Black Goth uncomfortable and uncomfortable at times.
My first recommendation goes to Bianca Xunise’s comics, which you can find on Instagram and on the internet. Bianca is a black goth who creates comics about how to be goth, being black, living with mental illness, and more. These comics appeal to this goth on so many levels.
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Another great artist I want to call out is Jetilla Lewis. I saw Jetti at the Goth Club before we both moved from LA to our respective new homes. Jetti is an extraordinary artist and occasionally publishes comics on Instagram.
Skim over by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
I can’t with the talent of the Tamaki team. I loved This One Summer and grabbed Skim as soon as I heard about the graphic novel. Kimberly Keiko Cameron, AKA Skim, is a grown-up Wicca Goth (I was a Wicca Goth!). This comic is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. It’s a powerful part of high school life that is centered on a student’s suicide, and it covers everything from weird exploration to changing friendships. The art took me to Skim’s life and back to the 90s.
Destroyer by Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
Illuminated Goth and Gothic meet! Destroyer is a new take on the Mary Shelley classic Frankenstein and was written by none other than the master of horror Victor LaValle. The story covers some serious issues, including police violence and racial violence after a scientist lost her son to police violence and then turned to her skills to bring about justice. The story takes a close look at the struggle to be black in America and offers something that is both current and familiar.
Huge days by John Allison, Max Sarin and Lissa Treiman
I will not lie. I recorded the first volume of this comic thanks to nothing more than the cover. Esther is my favorite pastime at Giant Days, following the misfortunes of three friends entering adulthood and attending the same university. I got my money’s worth as a goth in college, but Esther is so much extra and cool when it comes to living this life. I can relive those years again (they’re a lot more fun in comics than IRL) but with an extra dose of Gothic on top of those oh-so-awkward personal explorations that are about hits and misses.
House of Whispers Vol. 1: Power Divided by Nalo Hopkinson and Neil Gaiman
Okay, Sandman was very popular when I was a goth. I imagine it’s still like that. And while I was burned out in this universe some time ago, I was newly excited about the announcement of a series that expands the universe because of the involvement of Nalo Hopkinson, one of my favorite authors (read Sister Mine)! I couldn’t be more excited. Hopkinson enters the world of Sandman with this comic in which Erzulie in the bayou learns that a group of girls could trigger an eesh, which would then set free a dangerous loa lord.
Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran and Pendleton Ward
I light up when I see Gothic characters on the screen. Triana Orpheus from The Venture Brothers, Jane Lane from Daria, Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family (I really mean the whole family) and Marceline from Adventure Time. And guess what? Marceline got her own comic that followed her, Princess Bubblegum, and her paranormal rock band on tour. I’m guilty of dreaming about being in a goth / punk band, but I think I’ll live vicariously through Marceline instead.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This brought me back to the Renaissance Faire and to my camping days with SCA. What about goths and this medieval life? I don’t know, but I do. Nimona puts the cherry on top by wanting to be a villain; We’re looking for the antiheroes. And she’s an antihero because villainy may not be what you assume in this hilarious and touching comic about a young, chaotic shapeshifter who is Lord Ballister Blackheart with it.
Zatanna: The Gem of Gravesend by Alys Arden and Jacquelin De Leon
I’m so sorry. It looks like this is out of stock at the time of writing, but I’m including it anyway because I love the aesthetics. I was definitely into the occult as a Goth (still am!) And Zatanna embodies that more modern occult sensibility. This New York-based comic follows Zatanna, who is embroiled in a magical rivalry that unearths the truth about a family heritage. The girl’s first kiss happens in a ride called the Haunted Hell Gate, and she keeps her pet rabbit on a leash. Find me where capricious, magical and gothic vibrations meet. You can check out some of the sites here.
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
Manga and Japanese culture were big on the scene, and I had a big Gothic Lolita period, so I had to include that manga with the Gothic Misa Amane. Misa is a member of a number of characters in this mysterious horror manga based on Light Yagami, a student who finds a notebook dropped by a villainous god of death. It doesn’t get much more Gothic than that.