In November, P.C. and Kristin Cast’s mega-popular series of vampyre novels comes to comics, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics. The five-issue miniseries “House of Night,” set during “Betrayed,” the second novel, is written by the mother-and-daughter team along with screenwriter Kent Dalian and features artwork by JoÃ«lle Jones for the main narrative and Karl Kerschl, Josh Covey and others for scenes taking place in historical and mythological settings.
“House of Night” revolves around a school for newly-Marked vampyres, where students must study to control the effects of the Change, a process that can prove fatal if not properly harnessed. Zoey Redbird has the added pressure of being gifted special powers by a goddess, and throughout the series of novels is called upon more than once to save the world. As P.C. Cast told Comic Book Resources when the comic was announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the miniseries “drops Zoey smack into a whole bunch of crazy that she and her friends have to figure out how to fix/overcome/deal with.”
CBR News spoke with JoÃ«lle Jones, whose previous work includes Janet Evanovich’s “Troublemaker,” “Dr. Horrible” and “Spellcheckers,” about developing a look for the “House of Night” cast, laying out pages and an artist’s happy accidents born of necessity.
Jones said she worked mostly from P.C. and Kristin Cast’s series of novels while developing characters, rather than from a comic script. The artist told CBR that P.C. Cast “was very helpful in giving me such great descriptions in the book that I was able to get pretty close with my first impression drawings of the characters. As the pages came in it only really took a few little changes here and there to make it fit to the world she created.”
Looking at Jones’ thumbnails, CBR News asked the artist for insight on her thought behind how you lay out a page, taking, for example, page one, in which there are four panels — the top establishing shot much larger than the others, then a wide panel and two side by side. “I have always liked a larger establishing shot in the very beginning to warm the toes of the reader and give them a chance to look around and get a sense of the environment the story will take place in,” Jones said. “Working down the page the panels become simplified with less environmental images and pare down the information to the characters and give the reader a good chance to look at who they will be interacting with.”
As to what editorial notes she might receive at this point, Jones told CBR, “Most of the time it has to do with word balloons, the speaking order and of course making sure that there is plenty of room.”
Looking at changes between the thumbnails and finished art, one might notice that the second panel on page one is now somewhat inset at the bottom of panel 1, giving the feeling of a snapshot within a larger scene. “When I got started drawing it I just liked the looks of it better,” Jones explained.
This sense of playing with what looks best is also at work on page 2 — but of course there are other factors. While the thumbnail suggests quite a bit of background activity in each panel, the finished art makes use of white space to emphasize the distance between characters, especially in the final two scenes. While the effect is quite striking, it may not have been fully planned. “I would like to say yes and that the awkwardness was intentional but sometimes it just ends up that way,” Jones said. “I originally wanted to add much more detail in the background but I ran out of time. Times like that you just hope it works out.”
Page 3 — once again using the white space trick, once again to strong effect — finds a few notable changes in perspective from what is scene in the thumbnails. Panel 2 rotates the perspective from panel 1, shifting Aphrodite from middle-right to the left side and adding a nice bit of action to the sequence. “That was a case where my editor kindly reminded me that the speaking order was off so I had to rotate them,” Jones said.
The next page, in contrast to the previous two, has quite a lot of background setting, and moves the action to another part of the school. “The scene changes, and I just wanted to move the story to the next location in panel one. In the second one it is a flashback to this amazing moment and I wanted to give it the time it deserved and set the mood correctly,” Jones said.
Jones is sharing art duties on “House of Night” #1 with comics veteran Karl Kerschl, one of the artists featured in DC Comics’ “Wednesday Comics” and the creator of “The Abominable Charles Christopher,” which has twice been nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic. Jones will illustrate the present-day scenes, while Kerschl and other artists in the remaining issues will tackle the historical and mythological thread. Jones said that she and Kerschl are working “totally parallel” rather than a straight collaboration, but this “makes it all the more exciting for me to see the finished product!”
“I am a big admirer of his work and I was very excited that we would be in the same book; I am hoping that our styles can work together,” Jones said of Kerschl. “The sequences that he is drawing are so awesome — I really can’t wait to see them.”