Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
The universe of Something is Killing the Children is expanding this week with a brand-new spinoff series, House of Slaughter. (That’s on top of a forthcoming TV adaptation from Netflix). Writer Tate Brombal (Barbalien: Red Planet) and artist Chris Shehan (The Autumnal) are exploring the world of the white scarves through Aaron Slaughter. It’s not only an exciting lens to utilize, but a way to show the struggles Aaron goes through as a teenage monster hunter.
In case you need a refresher: Aaron is the rival to main series’ badass protagonist, Erica Slaughter. In this new series, Brombal and Shehan explore the house that he came from 15 years prior to the start of the main story. As readers learn more about this larger world, we also learn more about Aaron and a love interest named Jace.
I recently got the chance to speak to Brombal and Shehan about their approach to Aaron as well as digging further into their creative process. We discuss their take on horror, character writing/development, and the very real possibility of these creations being represented in live-action.
AIPT: How did House of Slaughter get started?
Tate Brombal: Well, I had been talking to Eric [Harburn] and James [Tynion IV] separately. James really loved Barbalien and we were just chatting about that. And then Eric also loves Barbalien: Red Planet and he was wanting to find work for me at BOOM! and we were just having conversations. And I don’t know if they were kicking around names for this spinoff series that they wanted to do, but they both, I guess came up with my name and that was like a happy coincidence that they were both talking to me.
And then that’s kind of how it worked, I think because Barbalien was also the spinoff of Black Hammer, they kind of figured that I had some experience with that, and could maybe do something interesting.
AIPT: Chris, how did you get involved with the project?
Chris Shehan: Eric reached out to me, and I’m not sure how they got my name. They reached out to me right as I was finishing my last project, The Autumnal. So I suppose it was because of that, and James was a big help in promoting the Autumnal when the first issue was coming out. So I know he was a supporter. I’ve also been a fan of Something Is Killing the Children since the beginning. And I had done some fan art. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but Eric reached out to me. And I was like, “Oh, heck, yeah, I want to do that.”
AIPT: So I know, Tate you share “story by” with James on House of Slaughter, how involved has James been with this project?
TB: When they brought me on board, we had a nice zoom call and brainstorm some ideas. He had originally pitched me that he wanted to do a romance kind of arc with Aaron. And he wanted it to include the white masks to kind of build up the black and white mask rivalry. That was just kind of like a prompt of a story idea. And then I took some time and came back with like, a pretty big, impactful story hopefully. Building on top of all that, which really jived with James and Eric. And then from there, I kind of roughly told them what the first issue would look like. And they kind of were just like, “Hey, go, we trust you.” And then I just started writing it all up, which was really fun. And I’m so surprised they let me get away with so much. But I had a lot of fun.
AIPT: Did you discover anything about the characters as you were writing?
TB: Yes, especially Cecilia. I think she’s a surprising character just because she is terrible. But you can kind of start to wonder why she’s terrible, or why she acts this way, and why she herself is a product of this house and organization, which is super interesting. I did really enjoy delving into her a bit.
AIPT: Something cool in the first issue is you get to see the different rooms and scope out the location of a place. Was that fun to do?
TB: Yeah, it was very fun. Especially the world-building of all of this has been so fun and how much they allowed me to add to it was really cool. And I was kind of surprised by that. I would throw out ideas and they immediately would be like, “Yeah, let’s do that.” So that was really fun.
Kind of doing that tour through the house was cool. I loved showing all that stuff off. And Chris really nailed all of that. I love that for the reader as well. Like you can see that there are all these other rooms, all these other areas of this world and then they’re like you kind of bring your own imagination to it, which is exciting.
AIPT: Knowing that Something is Killing the Children is in production for television, does that make it even more exciting to write something that could be part of something even bigger in a different media?
CS: I think it’s fun. If anything that I do or anything that I even get to touch that shows up in any sort of live-action. That would be exciting for me.
TB: When I first started developing this, I don’t think I even knew and I don’t know if it was announced. So I wasn’t aware. Especially some of the new characters we bring in, in particular, Jace. I’m very excited about Jace because he’s a big and important character who, I would probably just weep for days if he ever showed up on a TV screen.
AIPT: Something I really loved in House of Slaughter was the layouts you did Chris, where there are double-page spreads of the panels sort of going across. Was that in the script?
CS: The script would tell me when there is a double-page spread and all the panels, but I actually got that from Werther’s [Dell’Edera] art in Something Is Killing the Children. He does that a few times a lot of horizontal panels, cutting across the double-page spread. And I really liked that. So I wanted to kind of emulate that. I thought it was a cool idea. Plus, it would make it feel like Something Is Killing the Children. It would make it feel like it exists in that world, but it’s me doing it. That’s something I definitely took from his work and something I really like.
AIPT: Do you find yourself having to try to get into a horror mood when you’re approaching this work?
TB: Personally, maybe a little bit. I don’t put on horror soundtracks or anything or turn off the lights and write it by candlelight. [laughs] But I do get into a headspace or like I try my hardest to think what I can put on the page that would translate into horror and kind of make me feel that horror. So I do draw on a lot of emotions for that.
In Something Is Killing the Children a lot of the time it creeps up on you and then it’s like, so in your face immediately, like super gruesome or gory. But it really does do the build-up really well which I tried to emulate. So like this first issue you don’t even see a monster. Hopefully when one does make an entrance that kind of makes that big scary moment worth it. There are some monsters that come in, in surprising ways.
AIPT: There’s a great scene where our main character is walking up to a building and there’s a broken doorframe with blood and Chris does such a great job creating this gory mess on the step. But it’s subtle enough that it takes a moment for your brain to register it. Was that on purpose?
CS: I like subtlety and I like having layers of things moving into the darkness because I like the idea of, maybe the monsters are still in there. Something that will kind of lead your eye into the darkness. So I didn’t want it to just be blatant, obvious gore. I mean the colors definitely make it clear that it is but all the little parts and stuff are just nonsense shapes. The idea is to just kind of creep you out and lead the eye right into the dark house and not knowing what’s in there.
AIPT: Is this the first time you’ve worked with Miquel Muerto?
CS: Yes. Yeah, he’s great.
AIPT: When you’re building a new relationship between Aaron and Jace, how do you approach it so that it feels genuine and real?
TB: Yeah, that’s the whole thing. I do my best to make it feel authentic and natural. And kind of make sure I’m setting up what it is they’re connecting, on, and through. Cuz these are two characters that are quite different, we will get to know. They also have a lot of similarities, like they’re both forced into this world, essentially, and raised by these houses, to kill monsters and do terrible things. So it’s kind of just basing their connection in that. More so the real emotions of being like a teenager being through this, because, and even though it’s like unreal scenarios, just really finding the humanity in it. And making that connection feel as authentic as possible.
It always helps when you’re kind of surviving these terrifying or just horrific circumstances with someone you’re going to have that kind of connection. So they hopefully find some, like security in each other, which is very nice and emotional to write and of build-up.
AIPT: Chris, Tate, are you guys into Halloween, horror movies, and whatnot?
TB: I am. I should be more into it. But a lot of classic horror films. I love horror.
AIPT: Do you have any favorites that you’re catching up on? Or rewatching or anything like that right now?
TB: I’ve been meaning for a rewatch of the Babadook.
CS: We’ve been marathoning the Halloween movies here.
Readers can purchase House of Slaughter #1 today at your LCS or Amazon.
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