Dead children are a recurrent part of the horror genre, but the Dead Boy Detectives are putting their own sly spin on this trope. Originally created by Neil Gaiman as a part of The Sandman, the Dead Boy Detectives are two child ghosts named Edwin Paine and Charles Rowland who can only be seen by other children. As the title implies, the Dead Boy Detectives use their supernatural abilities to solve mysteries. With Dead Boy Detectives generating plenty of buzz on Netflix and with May being AAPI Heritage Month, it’s a great weekend to dive into their most recent comic for some further supernatural sleuthing and a bit of Thai culture to boot. Let’s escape into the 2022-23 six-issue limited series that was published as a part of the quickly expanding Sandman Universe.

The Premise:

In this story, Edwin and Charles investigate the disappearance of a Thai American girl named Jai in Los Angeles. The mystery deepens when they meet a group of Thai American child ghosts, including Jai, who are all a unique form of ghost from Thai culture. A little boy named Melvin, for instance, can turn into a giant snake, while Jai is known as a hollow-backed ghost. When the group discovers that a new Thai ghost is haunting Los Angeles and tearing apart children, it is up to them to stop it before it‘s too late.

Let’s Talk Talent:

The Sandman Universe: Dead Boy Detectives is written by Pornsak Pichetshote, who began his career as an editor at DC’s Vertigo imprint—where the Dead Boy Detectives originated. Pichetshote edited some of Vertigo’s strongest titles, including Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s Daytripper, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s WE3, and Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth (which inspired a Netflix series of its own). His experience working on books for mature readers makes Pichetshote a natural fit for DC’s current Black Label imprint, which this Dead Boy Detectives miniseries was published under.

The series is drawn by Jeff Stokely, who has made a name for himself on several series from BOOM! Studios, including Six-Gun Gorilla and The Spire. Stokely’s art keeps the atmosphere of Dead Boy Detectives perilous without losing the childlike sense of care that underlies our main cast’s actions. The monsters that appear in Dead Boy Detectives are absolutely horrifying under Stokely’s pen, and the book isn’t shy on gore, even if it knows when to hold back.

The creative team is rounded out by colorist Miquel Muerto, who has brought a hypnotically supernatural feel to BOOM! Studios’ Something is Killing the Children and its spinoff series, House of Slaughter. The Sandman Universe: Dead Boy Detectives is no different, and Muerto’s colors heighten the spookiness of Stokely’s artwork. Meanwhile, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou reigns supreme as one of the best letterers in the business, continuing the excellent work done on DC titles like Batman: City of Madness, The Flash and Poison Ivy.

A Few Reasons to Read:

  • This is a comic that’s friendly to folks who have never read a Dead Boy Detectives story before, nor a Sandman one!
  • As I mentioned earlier, dead kids are a recurrent part of the horror genre here in the West, but Pichetshote weaves in elements from Thai superstition and culture that lend the story a satisfying sense of specificity. Sure, we’ll always see dead kids in horror, but this trope is made afresh by Pichetshote’s cultural perspective. There’s lots to learn here.
  • Similarly, this series shows us a side of Los Angeles that you’ve likely never seen before. It isn’t interested in exploring show business or the perils of Hollywood fame, but rather the experiences of Thai American children struggling to find their place in the world. As the first issue tells us, Los Angeles is home to the largest population of Thai people outside of Thailand. And it’s about time we see their experiences reflected in media.
  • Dialogue between kids can be a difficult thing to get right, but Dead Boy Detectives captures the frenetic way that kids speak, without feeling like it’s trying too hard to replicate the current vernacular.
  • Part of why people like myself love horror so much is that it provides the chance to discuss topics or feelings that are otherwise taboo. Dead Boy Detectives is created within this vein and will appeal to both teens and adults alike for that reason.
  • There are tiny, rotting baby monsters that attack in a swarm. If that doesn’t pique your interest, I don’t know what to tell you.

Why It’s Worth Your Time:

A successful horror story must find a way to push the boundaries of the genre, and The Sandman Universe: Dead Boy Detectives answers this call. Whether you spend your time roaming the Earth in search of terrifying new stories or are taking your first tentative steps into the genre, Dead Boy Detectives is a memorable and thought-provoking reading experience.

The Sandman Universe: Dead Boy Detectives proves how empathy is the engine of horror. The very premise of the story, with its child ghost protagonists, is evidence of this. Childhood is an experience everyone can relate to because it’s something we all go through. However, not all of us get to make it to adulthood, and Dead Boy Detectives is a powerful reminder of this.

The Sandman Universe: Dead Boy Detectives by Pornsak Pichetshote, Jeff Stokely, Craig Taillefer, Javier Rodriguez and Miquel Muerto is available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and digital retailers as a softcover graphic novel. It’s also available to read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Jules Chin Greene writes about comics for, and his work can also be found at Nerdist, Popverse and Multiverse of Color. You can follow him on Twitter and Bluesky at @JulesChinGreene.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Jules Chin Greene and do not necessarily reflect those of DC or Warner Bros. Discovery, nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.