How to Scare the Sh*t Out of People, with Comics

This video essay explains how to add horror and tension to your comic—if you dare.

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May 14 2017, 12:15pm

Panel selection from Alien: Dead #1, by James Stokoe. Screencaps via

A lone figure wanders down a cobweb-coated hall. The floorboards creak, the lights flicker, something runs past the frame... (pause to turn to page two). They reach for the door, heart pounding, and slowly pulls… (another moment to turn to page three).

Comics do right by plenty of genres, but horror may be one of the toughest to display on the page. In this week's episode of Strip Panel Naked, the mini comics masterclass dedicated to showing off all the cool stuff lurking in comics, host Hass Otsmane-Elhaou sets his sights on one comic that particularly nails tension and horror. Aliens: Dead Orbit #1, by James Stokoe, offers up all the scares of the movie franchise it is based off of, doing so with style and beautiful illustration.

Otsmane-Elhaou explains that the creator's chief concern in this horror comic is to "craft and manage that audience response. He does it in three ways: with a page turn, with [a] color shift, and a mix of vanishing points and detail in the same panel." These three techniques are used over and over again to tell a terrifying story about a derelict ship, and the people and xenomorph creatures who lurk inside it.

In focusing on one of the three mentioned methods to gauge reader response, Otsmane-Elhaou dives into the effect of the page turn. "It's about getting the visuals across to you," he says in the video, "and getting you turning that page without bogging you down with too much to read or too much to take in, because then you start getting distracted as a reader."

To hear more about page turns in a horror comic and to see how color shifts and a mix of vanishing points, watch the full video below:

To see more, visit the Strip Panel Naked YouTube page, and check out its Patreon page to support the series.

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