We’re officially in October and that means two things are on everyone’s mind: New York Comic Con and horror. DC Comics is no exception and at their House of Horrors panel at the convention on Saturday, they showed off the latest books coming down the pipeline in their new horror pop-up imprint, Hill House Comics.
Those in attendance at the panel included DC Executive Editor Mark Doyle — panel MC — Joe Hill, Dani, Laura Marks, Si Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, and Phillip Kennedy Johnson. Two surprise guests also may have made an appearance.
Joe Hill, curator of Hill House Comics, kicked off the panel by digging into Basketful of Heads — written by Hill and drawn by Leomacs. The story follows a young woman who faces off against four mysterious home invaders, using a Viking axe to defend herself. Once she starts wielding it, she realizes that it can pass through a man’s neck in a single swipe. Once the head is severed, it’s still alive, and still talking to her. Hill describes the book as “Gonzo horror, in your face, unapologetic.”
“We wanted the vibe of early Sami Rami and Evil Dead 2,” said Hill. “I think that we got that, Leomacs is a big part of the reason why.” The first issue hits stands October 30.
Next up, Daphne Byrne, written by Laura Marks and drawn by Kelley Jones. This is the third book in the Hill House line with easily the most striking and terrifying cover art. The story follows a young girl in the 19th century beset by tragedy that allows a demon to prey on her. We’ll see the demon and girl’s unique relationship explored as they each try to manipulate one another for their own sinister purposes.
“I met Joe working on a mini-room for Locke & Key, it’s going to be a great freaking series when it comes out,” said Marks. “Joe emails me out of the blue months later asking if I’d ever thought of writing a comic. Who else is ever going to ask me to write a horror comic? I can’t say no to this.”
“It’s amazing that there ins’t more TV writers working on comics,” added Hill. “Daphne Byrne is a totally unique character that I don’t think we’ve ever seen in comics before.”
Some of you may be familiar with the artist known as simply, Dani, from her incredible work on Image’s Coffin Bound. Well, she’s also the artist for the next book Doyle showed off — The Low, Low Woods — written by Carmen Maria Machado, a writer relatively new to comics and a National Book Award nominee.
The story takes place in a small rural town in Pennsylvania suffering from an outbreak of amnesia and gangs on monsters roaming its woods.
Those in attendance were lucky enough to get a look at some of Dani’s incredible design sketches for the book.
“You guys don’t know this yet, but Dani is your new favorite artist,” said Doyle. He went on to explain that the book had originally been pitched independently of the entire line.
“It’s kind of like a candy covered tarantula,” said Hill. “The misperception is that horror is about sadism, but that’s actually the definition of bad horror. Good horror is when you have characters that you find really intriguing and unique and fun and going through their worst and really trying to fight their way out of the corner.”
The third book in the Hill House line — The Dollhouse Family — written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross. “The elevator pitch is it’s basically like Indian in the Cupboard if the cupboard was actually a gateway to hell,” said Hill.
Do the covers strike you as eerie and terrifying? Well, they should. Especially when you consider that the artist, Jessica Dalva, actually built the dollhouse you’re seeing. That’s right, she did one for each cover. Talk about dedication.
“The scope of the story is huge,” said Doyle.
“It covers like a million years, which is something you don’t see in every comic,” said Hill. “It does have this interesting layered family story, jumping between 19th century and modern day. Two storylines converge in an eruption of revelations. Reminds me of smart, ice in your veins horror, like Changeling. that kind of really smart horror from the ’70s. I found it very gripping from the first page.”
Attention turned to the last comic in the Hill House line, Plunge. Written by Hill and drawn by…? Oh, wait I have it in my notes here — STUART IMMONEN! We broke the news on this exciting story last night as it happened.
The story surrounds an advanced oil tanker that goes down in the Arctic Ocean in ’80s due to a huge tsunami caused by an ocean tremor. It was never recovered or heard from again. 40 years later the distress beacon starts signaling and a group of salvage operators discover the wreck under the ice near some under discovered islands.
“It’s one of the scariest scripts I’ve ever read,” said Doyle.
While discussing Plunge Hill revealed that every issue of Hill House Comics will have two pages of a back up feature from a strip called Sea Dogs. “It’s how we won the revolutionary war using werewolves,” said Hill.
From here the focus of the discussion moved away from Hill House and over to one of the most exciting projects on the horizon for DC Black Label — The Last God — written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and illustrated by Riccardo Federici.
“The Last God takes place in a harsh hostile high fantasy world, where civilization is still very young,” explained Johnson. “In that world, a generation ago, an entity called The God of the Void or The Last God, spread a supernatural plague that almost ended all that is.”
Johnson went on to explain that a group of heroes killed The Last God and saved the world, but this turns out to be a lie, so a new cast of characters has to set out to right the crimes of the first group fellowship and kill The Last God before the world is destroyed.
“Every time I see a page I just giggle because I can’t believe how good it is,” said Johnson on Federici’s artwork. “This is peak world building. This is what I wanted. Collaborating with Riccardo is a dream come true.”
Doyle explained that the book will feature “tons of bonus material” and is a massive world building effort. So much so that the normal 22 page format was upped to 28 pages to allow for extras in the back, including journal entries, sacred texts, and real music that Johnson wrote.
The Last God will be a twelve issue run that starts October 1.
Doyle made another shift, this time away from Black Label and over to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Universe. “We are very, very happy that John Constantine is coming into the Sandman Universe,” Doyle said.
“How you bring back a character whose continuity is f*cked? As in many things Neil Gaiman has the answer,” Spurrier said, continuing with a story about Tim Hunter going into the future to find an “older, sadder wearier John Constantine,” at the last great magical war.
“Neil’s idea was that this particular John actually solves a lot of our problems,” explained Spurrier. “He proposed picking him up at the moment of his death and dropping him into this dumpster fire cluster fIck of a world we’re living in now. Heroes can’t save us, but maybe a bastard can.”
Aaron Campbell, the artist for Hellblazer, was also in attendance and has been wanting to draw Constantine again for a long time. “I did a brief thing with this character years ago and in the back of my head I said someday I’m going to come back and draw this character,” explained Campbell. “He kind of represents my own existensial dread. Constantine does what he does not because he wants to, but because something edeep inside compels him to. I’ve always felt this way about comics. It’s not like I want to be a comic book artist, it’s that I need to be a comic book artist. I couldn’t exist without it.”
“One of the great things you get to see as an editor is seeing a talent that’s made to work on a character, that’s one of these,” said Doyle. “It feels so fresh. Si is the person we need on this book right now.”
After eighteen issues, Spurrier will be leaving The Dreaming. “I’m so proud and blown away by everyones reactions to it,” shared Spurrier. “I’d be hearth broken if I wasn’t handing it off to someone who’s more than capable of enhancing and enriching this book that I love.”
Doyle then invited writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Nick Robles to the stage to share the surprise announcement that the pair will be the new creative team for The Dreaming starting with issue #19. Exclusive artwork from the pair’s upcoming run was the last image Doyle shared with the crowd.