Horror. It’s only lately that we’re not getting a lot of horror books and movies coming out. The 80s was the heyday for movies, because it was all about excess. For comics, the 50s was the heyday for horror. Before the Comics Code Authority took most of that away.
It’s a challenge to be scary with comics. It’s an uphill battle, because you’re missing the key component that horror relies on heavily: music. Comics don’t have sound, so what you have to do is create mood through the use of pacing and visuals.
What you show and don’t show will be the most obvious things having to do with horror. It may be best to think of a horror comic in terms of a novel: keep the most horrific things off-panel, leaving it to the imagination of the reader. When it comes to horror, showing can be more destructive to your story than inferring things that are happening.
Show something scary, something about to happen, and then move the camera away. Maybe it’s a silhouette on the wall, maybe it’s a blank surface with screams or sound effects coming from off-panel. It doesn’t really matter. Moving the camera away while something bad happens to a character is a classic way to keep the reader invested in the story and leave the actual gory parts to their imagination.
Another trick has to do more with the visual. You can create a claustrophobic atmosphere by having thicker borders around the panels, and by having close-up action shots. They don’t have to be extremely close, but close enough for the reader to feel trapped, just like the character they’re reading about. This is another simple trick to help tell the story.
Then, of course, there’s the actual visuals themselves. It’s always best to talk about the things that actually scare you, and not just what you think will scare others. Tip: what scares you more than likely scares others. You just have to get that across to the readers.
And there’s your tip.