CCI: Dark Horse Horror Comics

Even the phosphorescent lights of room 9 couldn't keep out the creeping terror of Dark Horse's horror titles on Thursday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego.  Dark Horse's scary titles were well-represented by a range of very popular creators, filling the room with fans eager to hear about new titles on the way as well as the secrets behind their favorite, terror-inducing comics.

The panel consisted of Shawna Gore, editor of the new "Creepy" and "Eerie" titles, who also acted as a moderator for the panel; Steve Niles, writer of "Criminal Macabre," among many other titles; Eric Powell, creator/writer/artist of "The Goon"; Mike Mignola, creator of "Hellboy" and the range of "BPRD" titles; Scott Allie, editor and writer of "Solomon Kane"; and Marc Andreyko, writer of the upcoming "Let Me In" movie tie-in.

Gore introduced each creator and the audience greeted them with enthusiastic applause, saving exceptionally thunderous receptions for Powell and Mignola.  These two gentlemen clearly had the most fans in the crowd, but there was no lack of love for any creator seated at the panel.  Gore noted that in 2011 Dark Horse is celebrating their 25th anniversary and there will be a push to reinvigorate their line of horror titles, spearheaded by the guys assembled at the table.

Mignola, arguably the most popular and well-known creator on the panel, especially to the non-comics world, described his slate of upcoming titles.  "Hellboy" will continue with artist Duncan Fergredo and Mignola will again collaborate with Richard Corbin on "Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil."  "BPRD: Hell on Earth" will show the consequences of the previous series leading up to it and it will be, indeed, Hell on Earth.

As far as projects not concerning Hellboy, Mignola plans to continue the "Baltimore" story he began in novel form with co-creator Christopher Golden with their 5-issue comics story that will be all-original, not an adaptation of the novel, filling in the gaps from the novel. In that story, the main character spends 10 years chasing the vampire that ruined his life. It will also recap the novel so that new readers will have no problem enjoying it if they have not read what has come before.  They hope to produce one new miniseries a year in this world.  Mignola is also teaming with writer John Arcudi for another "Witchfinder" miniseries, this time drawn by comics legend John Severin.  It is a story set in the Old West and Mignola said that it is the best art that he has seen Severin produce.  He was visibly excited about the project, but noted that it will probably be the last "Witchfinder" story as he devotes his energies elsewhere.

Next was Niles' turn, and his focus was on "Criminal Macabre." The plan is to relaunch the title with a one-shot and miniseries then a new ongoing series. The first book to come out will be a crossover with "The Goon." Since both characters are so different, they'll just fight, joked Niles. More seriously he said that both characters also have similar sensibilities so it should be an interesting conflict. This miniseries should start in March with the one-shot to follow in May. The ongoing series will begin after that, and they hope to make it more regular than what has come before. It will feature an all-out war between monsters, a prospect that Niles was clearly excited about. The ongoing series will be drawn by Chris Mitten, artist of "Wasteland." Also, the "Criminal Macabre" movie is currently placed at Universal.

Powell talked about his current "Billy the Kid" miniseries which is a follow up to his 2005 series. The new "Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London" features the story of Billy facing off with Jack the Ripper with art by original series artist Kyle Hotz. Billy currently appears in back-ups in Powell's "Buzzard" and in the character's new series, the Goon takes over the the back-up slot. Powell also mentioned "The Goon" movie, giving no news about it, but the fact that it is still a project moving toward fruition had the crowd elated.

Also mentioned at the panel was "The Strange Case of Hyde," an adaptation of the upcoming movie, written by the movie's screenwriter Cole Haddon, as well as Joss Whedon's "Cabin in the Woods," which may be a 3D comic like the movie. "Cabin" is currently slated to be published next year, though it may be delayed to coincide with the eventual release of the movie.

Marc Andreyko took control to the panel to discuss "Let Me In," the comic prequel to the movie of the same name. The movie is a remake of the modern vampire classic "Let The Right One In," but the comic will not be an adaptation. Instead, it will present a story of events happening before the movie. At the risk of overselling the movie, Andreyko said he saw a rough cut and it far exceeded his expectations, even being a fan of the original.

The Eisner-winning "Creepy" archives will continue to be published, as well as the "Eerie" archives, with a new, quarterly "Creepy" series launching next year, hopefully in June. This will follow the anthology format of Dark Horse's updated version of the comic and they have many creators lined up to work on it. There is a possibility that it may even be bi-monthly. The relaunch of the series was successful so they plan to continue issues in that vein, as well as a new "Eerie" series as well. The most recent "Creepy" series will be issued as a "fat" trade paperback and will feature the first four issues of the new series as well as the two stories that appeared on MySpace Dark Horse Presents.

The panel then opened up for questions from the audience. The first came from a fan asking how long Mignola has been into Lovecraft and folklore. The creator stated that he has been interested in dark fantasy material since he was 15, including reading "Dracula" at that age. In the time since, he has pursued research into it, much of it coming from a place as mundane and mainstream as Barnes & Noble as well as used bookstores.

The next questioner asked Niles about the future of his own prose work, with Niles responding that he has a novel due for Simon & Shuster in six months. The next question also asked about prose, specifically if there will be more Hellboy novels. Mignola said that there are no plans right now. When asked about more "Hellboy: Weird Tales." Mignola said that that series, which featured Hellboy stories by other creators, took the character too much out of continuity and he has no further plans for it.

Perhaps the best question from an audience member came next, asking the creators their favorite creator of horror comics. Niles was the first to answer, noting Bernie Wrightson, and every member on the panel agreed immediately, quietly nodding their heads with the conviction that there could be no argument to the contrary of the statement. Andreyko said that Alan Moore's "Saga of the Swamp Thing" legitimately and seriously scared him years ago, enough that it is still an influence on him and his work. Richard Corben and Gene Colan were mentioned, as well Greg Irons, who did mostly indie comix. Gore said that Al Williamson was a favorite, and while he was not known as an artist for horror stories, the ones he did worked better because it was such a surprise that he was a master of that form. The entire panel also agreed that "Tomb of Dracula," the Marvel series from the 1970s, may be the best horror series in comics ever, and if it was not for its influence, DC's entire Veritgo line may not have ever come to exist.

A fan asked where the characters in the creators' stories come from, if the world is created with the character placed into it or if it were some other process. Powell said that he has always drawn his main character first and the world around them evolves from that point, and that an environment will come from an interesting character. Mignola agreed, saying that Hellboy came from a place of not taking it seriously, that a character called "Hellboy" was so ridiculous that it would have no choice but be fun to work on.

Mignola answered a fan's question about trying to reinvent a sense of horror by saying that Hellboy has never been a concept designed to scare anyone but more something from fantasy. Gore followed this by relating something that Joss Whedon had told her, that the best horror is when characters that a reader can relate to are put through horrible situations.

And with that the panel drew to a sinister close, leaving the audience feeling a hint of the cold chill of terror that Dark Horse Comics has planned.

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