Best Underrated Horror Comic
This week for Roll the List, we’re discussing our favorite underrated horror comics. Given that I’ve been writing about horror comics this month, this was a hard choice to make. Ultimately, I had to pick The Cape. This one-shot story was based on a short story written by Joe Hill and adapted by Jason Ciaramella (writer) and Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel (illustrators). The Cape isn’t one of Joe Hill’s best known stories. Against the popularity of his full length horror novels Horns (which recently had a movie adaptation), NOS4A2 and his absolutely brilliant graphic novel series Locke and Key, The Cape tends to be forgotten. But it shouldn’t be. While the Superman-esque cover might lead you to assume this is a standard superhero story, the twisted exploration of power and consequences will leave you in doubt as to just how dark Joe Hill’s mind can be.
The Cape is the story of a simple piece of boyhood clothing that drastically changes the lives of one family. Eric and Nicky are brothers and like most boys, they loved to play superheroes when they were kids. Eric had a special cape that he believed helped him to truly fly but after a tragic accident while playing superheroes, the cape is put away and completely forgotten about. Fast-forward to the present and things really haven’t gotten better for Eric as an adult. His brother Nicky is going to medical school, has his life together and is the apple of their mother’s eye. By contrast, Eric has been plagued by severe headaches since the accident and is going nowhere fast. Add in the destruction of Eric’s relationship with his girlfriend (and his suspicions that she’s becoming involved with his more successful brother) and a mother who’s disappointed with his lack of ambition and progress in life and Eric’s situation looks worse by the minute. So when Eric finds his old cape and finally discovers that it does indeed have special powers, he has the choice to accept the consequences of his decisions and forge a new path or wreak vengeance on all those whom he thinks have abandoned him. I’ll let you guess which one he chooses.
What makes The Cape such a brilliant story is that this perfect storm of circumstances could happen to anyone. At some point, everyone has felt that they’re a failure or a disappointment to their loved ones and wished for a way to turn their lives around or possibly wanted revenge on those that have wronged them. At its heart, The Cape is a story of power and the corruption it can create. By the time Eric rediscovers The Cape, he believes that everyone in his life considers him a loser and a failure. Maybe that’s true, maybe that’s just his paranoia. Regardless, he not only believes that everyone secretly hates him but that they have all let him down instead of the other way around. So when Eric finally has a taste of real power, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he doesn’t exactly make the choice that any superhero would expect him to. Eric’s choices are extreme but given his already unstable nature, it made The Cape a perfect depiction of that old adage about absolute power.
If you ask someone to name a great Joe Hill story, it’s unlikely that The Cape would be first or even on the list at all. Joe Hill just has entirely too many wonderfully creepy and disturbing stories and The Cape tends to remain unknown. Despite that, it’s one of my favorite horror stories and one of the first graphic novels I ever read that viscerally affected me and made me worried about the motives of anyone I ever crossed. Ciaramella, Howard and Daniel have made this graphic novel adaptation unforgettable once you pick it up and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who isn’t too squeamish!
Make sure yo check out Kyle’s list for more horror in comic form!