DC has had a long history of horror-themed comic books. Friday, at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the minds behind the next generation of DC horror gathered to discuss how they plan to build on this legacy.
First to the stage was Mark Doyle and he was joined by Joe Hill, Laura Marks and Kelley Jones.
"I think my pitch was, can we do Blumhouse for comics?" Hill said about his upcoming Hill House pop-up imprint. "It feels like all this stuff is raising the bar."
Doyle then explained how the Hill House concept came to fruition, beginning with Basket Full of Heads.
"The pitch was, it's about a young woman named June Branch," Hill said. "She comes into possession of a Viking ax that can take a man's head off with a single swipe. But after that, the head goes on talking. Various heads come off and each one has a different story to tell. Which allows us to play on how everyone crafts their own story about the world."
Doyle then shared some character designs by series artist Leomacs.
"The idea with Hill House was always to do a line of comics," Doyle said, noting that it was Hill who suggested they bring in Marks.
"I met Laura as one of the writers of the Hulu incarnation of Locke & Key," Hill said. "I filed away what I knew about Laura and then I had an opportunity to read a play she wrote called Mine, and it's scary as hell. But it's also really funny, and I think good horror and good humor are two sides of the same coin. So I asked Laura if she wanted to make a lot less money working on comics."
Marks then went on to discuss Daphne Byrne.
"I was very inspired by Locke & Key," she said. "Those books were the perfect example of character-driven horror. I knew I wanted to do something like that and something with a period setting. I thought, this is my chance. I wanted to do a mother-daughter story, also."
"The heroine, Daphne, is a 14-year-old girl whose father died," Marks continued. "Her mother is a little bit infantilized without her husband and Daphne encounters what could be a spirit, or could be something in her mind."
"I had been saying I wanted to do more horror stuff at DC," said Jones, who's the interior artist on Daphne Byrne. "After I'd done a fill-in of Lucifer, they said they'd send me this paragraph and by the end of it, I was lke, there's a lot you can do with this. Horror has different tropes than superhero. With horror, there's a lot of build-ups and when I read this, there's a lot of that."
Doyle then shared some of Jones' designs for the series.
"When I read that [treatment], these images come to my mind," Jones said. "I do my best work when I'm actually drawing the books. Something else comes over you and it happens."
Doyle then brought up another Hill House book, The Low, Low Woods, by Carmen Maria Machado and Dani.
"[Carmen] had this pitch and it all sort of worked," Doyle said.
"It's about two girls investigating an epidemic of forgetfulness," Hill said. "But it's so much weirder and more wonderful than that description. It's like David Lynch by way or David Cronenberg. There's these hordes of skinless men walking around in the woods and there's a lot of weird imagery in it."
"Dani, we found on Instagram," Doyle said about the series artist as he showed off some of her designs. "What I love is at the heart of it is this great story about these two characters who are thrown into this insane situation."
The discussion then switched over to The Dollhouse Family, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross.
"It's very rare for me to get unsettled, but I actually had bad dreams after I saw this cover," Hill said as the cover art for Issue #1 was displayed. "It's like the Indian in the Cupboard done horribly wrong. I read the first two scripts and it makes me feel the way those original Neil Gaiman Sandman stories made me feel. It's a great story."
Next up, Hill brought up Plunge, which he's writing (no artist announced yet).
"It's a little bit of a John Carpenter The Thing rift," he said.
"We talked about stuff to unify these titles," he continued. "There are some underlying threads, but there's also a backup feature in every issue called Sea Dogs. For years, I've wondered about the American Revolution because when we fought the British, the Royal Navy wiped out the entire American Navy. And then two years later, we won. How'd that happen? The only explanation I can come up with is werewolves. So I had this idea that we couldn't fight their navy head-to-head but what if the Americans snuck three werewolves aboard one of their ships to eat them from the inside out?"
"Our hope is to really creep you out," said Doyle.