It’s a new “5 for the Fandom!” In this weekly ComicsVerse series, we pick a fandom and find 5 comics that remind us of that fandom, whether in tone, aesthetics, or themes. This week, make sure not to follow any fair folk that dance beneath a doomed moon, because we’re looking at THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: MAJORA’S MASK! 

It’s the month of Halloween, which means it’s time for me to once again obsess over my very favorite LEGEND OF ZELDA game, MAJORA’S MASK. Most ZELDA games are known for their epic fantasy, but MAJORA’S MASK has a pretty different vibe from the rest of the games. Its fairies are creepy and mischievous. The woods are dark and foreboding rather than whimsical. During Link’s travels, he comes across a bizarre land called Termina.  Here, a demonic mask possesses a creature who then curses the moon to come crashing down on everything in three days. The entire game is timed, but Link’s trusty Ocarina of Time lets him manipulate the timeline as he seeks a way to stop the moon’s descent.

MAJORA’S MASK is a game that is near and dear to my heart. It’s the first game I ever played where I honestly felt like my actions had consequences. If I lost, I had to watch as all the characters I’d grown to care for died in a horrific, catastrophic event. Plus, the music was profoundly moving. The bold color scheme somehow added to the horror rather than diminishing it. MAJORA’S MASK just has this precise feel to it that I have searched for in other media ever since I first played. And now, finally, I can share with you a list of what I’ve found – the comics that remind me of MAJORA’S MASK.

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1. BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS by Fabian Vehlmann and Kerascoët

Majora's Mask
Image courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly.

The cover of Fabian Vehlmann and Kerascoët’s graphic novel BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS tells you everything and nothing all at once. On the front cover, there’s a tiny, wide-eyed girl in a polka-dot dress, hiding amongst the giant clovers, grass, and leaves that take up most of the image. Next to the girl but fading into the shadows, there’s a big gray hand, firm in the way its fingers curl into the palm like a statue that has fallen to the ground. One could easily take a look at this image and shrug it off as a typical children’s fairy tale. But turn to the back cover, and there’s something big and rotten, with flies swarming around it. Look at the first six pages of the book, and you’ll learn what the big rotting thing is and how that gray hand connects to it.

BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS centers around a group of sprites in the woods that make their home around something horrible and regress into mindless cruelty as they struggle to survive. Just like in MAJORA’S MASK, the juxtaposition between the fairytale and macabre, the cruel side of fae and fair folk, and the interwoven nature of time and death feature heavily in BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS. You might pick up either story expecting a lighthearted fairytale and suddenly bear witness to a tragedy unfolding in real time. If you want to be as disturbed by the fae as you were in MAJORA’S MASK, then BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS is definitely for you.

Drawn and Quarterly’s BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS was completed in 2014. You can purchase it from Amazon here or check out the first couple of pages here.

2. THROUGH THE WOODS by Emily Carroll

Majora's Mask
Image courtesy of Emily Carroll.

Emily Carroll’s short-story webcomics of horror were already pretty popular before their first print. But now you can have your very own collection of Emily Carroll comics with the published anthology THROUGH THE WOODS. This book features a variety of “fairy-tales-gone-seriously-wrong,” from retellings of Red Riding Hood to many original tales. One of my favorites is “The Nesting Place,” a story about a girl who visits her older brother and finds out there’s something not quite right about his fiancé.

What connects all the comics in THROUGH THE WOODS is the seemingly endless expanse of woods that characters either venture through or live nearby. Bad things happen there. The dead return to life. Parasites seek out new hosts. And unwelcome visitors approach the cottage. The other big connection is Emily Carroll’s gorgeous color scheme. Rather than sticking with mute colors of standard horror, Carroll has golds, reds, and blues that pop on the page. Some of the scariest pages are the most colorful, where the scarlet of meat peeking through bright white teeth and sickly yellow cloth displays the voracious animalistic nature of certain characters far better than words ever could.

Both the ominous take on the forest and the bold colors remind me greatly of MAJORA’S MASK. In either story, there are strange and terrifying beings, completely unlike the vampires and zombies of usual horror fare. And while they can be malevolent, the fear comes from lack of understanding more than anything. We never know what the Happy Mask Salesman actually wants with Majora’s Mask. Or whether the families of those souls captured in Link’s masks ever find out what has happened. Similarly, we never know what exactly happened to the narrator’s brother in the story “His Face All Red” in this THROUGH THE WOODS collection.

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Margaret K. McElderry Books published THROUGH THE WOODS in 2014, and you can purchase it here. However, Emily Carroll is still making comics. You can access her other webcomics through her site here.

3. NAMELESS by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham

Majora's Mask
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Together with Image Comics, Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham let loose one mindscrew after the next in NAMELESS. An asteroid named after the Mayan myth of Xibalba is headed straight for Earth. In response, a group of billionaires sends off a crew to stop the asteroid. However, it turns out the asteroid Xibalba is a remnant of a lost planet destroyed during a war against malevolent multidimensional cosmic gods. One of these gods was imprisoned long ago on Xibalba. When our heroes accidentally unleash it, all hell breaks loose. Now the astronauts must race to save the day while battling the constant psychological torture and psychic horror that Xibalba throws at them.

Whether it be a moon or an asteroid, something massive is falling from the sky which draws similarities between the two stories. This object has demonic forces working in its favor. Towards the end of MAJORA’S MASK, Link must enter the moon itself. But due to Majora’s magic, when Link reaches the moon, it doesn’t look anything like a moonscape. Inside the moon, masked children run around an endless field, asking ominous riddles as Link prepares for battle against the heartless deity behind everything. Similarly, the god of NAMELESS makes the exploration of the asteroid way more visually weird than you’d expect. Plus, there’s a non-linear aspect of Xibalba’s torture, just as Link’s quest takes on a non-linear, emotionally exhausting form through the constant time loops. All in all, NAMELESS is a haunting tale that makes a quick look at the night sky much more unsettling.

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All six issues of NAMELESS are already out. You can purchase them all together in trade paperback form or get the issues separately through Image’s site.

4. SECONDS by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Majora's Mask
Image courtesy of Bryan Lee O’Malley.

The Hollywood-famous SCOTT PILGRIM series brought Bryan Lee O’Malley into comic book fame. However, SECONDS is another bestselling comic that deserves plenty of praise. This full-color graphic novel, published by Ballantine Books, tells the tale of a young chef named Katie whose life is quickly falling apart. Fortunately, a strange girl appears in the middle of the night, providing Katie with a magic mushroom that will give a one-time do-over. Upon taking the magical fungus, Katie wakes up the day before and has a chance to fix everything. When she finds more mushrooms, she decides to keep going back to make things perfect. Which, of course, does not work exactly as planned. What starts as a cute and funny comic about food slowly deteriorates into cosmic horror and spooky time travel. Can Katie return everything to how it once was?

Like MAJORA’S MASK, a time loop is central to SECONDS. However, both stories have different takes on time travel. In SECONDS, going through time is a mistake rather than a necessary tool for setting things right. But the time travel in MAJORA’S MASK is unsettling and punishing for the protagonist, just as it is in SECONDS. Link may have mastery over time, but he (and the player) quickly learn that no matter what you do, you can’t save everyone in a single loop. If you wish to battle Majora, you have no time to reunite the divided lovers Kafei and Anju or spare the farmer girl Romani from abduction and memory loss. Both Link and Katie must struggle through the hopelessness that this lack of control over their situations brings.

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SECONDS is yet another standalone comic published in 2014. It was a good year, what can I say? You can get a copy of SECONDS here.

5. PAPER GIRLS by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Majora's Mask
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

While not quite as easily relatable to MAJORA’S MASK as the others, Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s PAPER GIRLS is a fantastic read. In the late 80’s, a group of newspaper delivery girls starts up their rounds before the dawn of Halloween morning. However, they have no idea that an attack of apocalyptic scale is also about to happen that day. The girls bike through anachronistic chaos, evading dinosaur-esque creatures and agents of the future, all the while trying to figure out what’s going on.

PAPER GIRLS is known for its gorgeous coloring as well as its evocation of 80’s sci-fi nostalgia. It’s something to which those nostalgic for MAJORA’S MASK’s creepy-yet-whimsical N64 graphics can relate. Both PAPER GIRLS and MAJORA’S MASK involve time travel and impending apocalypses that the characters witness in real time. Also in both, resourceful children are the ones who save the day. It might not be a perfect match, but the tone is quite similar to both stories.

With currently 16 issues out and more on the way, PAPER GIRLS by Image Comics is a long ride full of great content. At the moment, three volumes collect most of the issues. Check out the volumes or the latest issues of PAPER GIRLS on Image’s webpage.

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Honorable Mention: OVER THE GARDEN WALL: TOME OF THE UNKNOWN by Pat McHale and Jim Campbell

Legend of Zelda
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

When I chose MAJORA’S MASK for my “5 for the Fandom” article, I knew OVER THE GARDEN WALL would have to make it in here somehow. This series, originally a miniseries airing on Cartoon Network, is incredibly reminiscent of MAJORA’S MASK. Both involve children traveling through a dark fairytale forest, stopping to solve the problems of quirky old-timey characters while uncovering the damage done by a demonic tree person. They both have great soundtracks, mischievous fair folk, and a sassy flying helper who warms up to the heroes.

However, “5 for the Fandom” is about comics. Unfortunately, the OVER THE GARDEN WALL comics aren’t as close a fit as the cartoon is. Most OVER THE GARDEN WALL issues focus on the silly, episodic adventures of Greg and Wirt. The series forgets about the overarching story of the show. Still, the graphic novel OVER THE GARDEN WALL: TOME OF THE UNKNOWN is an excellent supplemental reading for the series proper. The run has a lot of that good dark fantasy we’re looking for here. Written by OVER THE GARDEN WALL creator Pat McHale and illustrated by storyboarder Jim Campbell, TOME OF THE UNKNOWN collects a few of the stories that never made it into the miniseries. For instance, what’s the deal with The Highwayman?

Most importantly, readers see what actually happens to The Beast’s daughter and how he came to be the lantern-bearer. This last story from OVER THE GARDEN WALL especially resonates with all the things that remind me of MAJORA’S MASK. If you want to know more about The Beast, this is a good comic to check out.

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OVER THE GARDEN WALL: TOME OF THE UNKNOWN was published in 2016, and you can buy it here. However, if you want even more OVER THE GARDEN WALL, BOOM! Studios have an ongoing series that has 18 issues out so far and more on the way.

You’ve been met with a terrible fate, haven’t you? How will you ever decide which of these comics to read first? Let us know in the comments below!

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