SDCC: Four Colors of Fear - Dark Horse Horror

Fall 2013 is going to be absolutely terrifying, if Dark Horse's horror contingent has their way. Editor-in-Chief, Scott Allie, joined by creators Eric Powell ("The Goon"), Paul Tobin ("Colder"), Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko ("Station to Station") and Tim Seeley ("Ex Sangine") announced several new releases, along with twists and turns in existing titles, during the "Four Colors of Fear" panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Eisner nominee Alex de Campi ("Smoke") brings the gory, B-movie inspired miniseries "Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight #1" to Dark Horse in October. "Bee Vixens From Mars" features art by Chris Peterson ("FUBAR," "Grim Leaper") with covers by renowned artists Francesco Francavilla, Dan Panosian, and Coop. "[The story] is basically every bit of the kind of flagrant sexuality that you'd expect from a lot of those old 70s films," Allie said. "It's gonna be a lot of fun." Allie also announced that Dark Horse will be compiling de Campi's "Smoke," and its sequel, "Ashes" in a hardbound volume.

Horror/Sci-Fi one-shot, "Station to Station" by the husband and wife team of Hardman and Bechko is slated for release on August 28. Inspired by the stories featured in the first season of the '60s television series, "The Outer Limits," Hardman described the book as "[B]ig, inter-dimensional monsters destroying Treasure Island in San Francisco."

"What if there was a huge, tentacled creature hanging over San Francisco that no one could see?" Bechko said, with Hardman adding "Sort of a god ... a huge invisible Chthulu-like squid thing." The creators mentioned that the one-shot "is a lead-in to a bigger story that we want to tell, and hope to tell, in the near future."

Witches, and werewolves, and demons. Oh, my! "Kiss Me, Satan!" a five issue miniseries by Victor Gischler ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike - A Dark Place") and artist Juan Ferreyra ("Colder"), premieres on September 18. Gischler brings his experience as a crime novelist into the supernatural world in a book that Allie describes as "tribal, gangster type warfare between vampires, werewolves and witches in New Orleans."

In October, Tim Seeley ("Hack/Slash," "Revival") returns with a sequel to his 2011 miniseries, "The Occultist" in collaboration with artist Mike Norton ("Revival"). Seeley said "The pitch I gave Scott [Allie] was 'It's like "Doctor Strange" meets "Requiem for a Dream."'" Dark Horse's promos analogizes the new series to "Harry Potter meets Trainspotting"

On the heels of the miniseries "Criminal Macabre: Final Night - The 30 Days of Night Crossover," which will be released as a trade paperback, collecting all four issues on September 25, Dark Horse is launching a new "Criminal Macabre" miniseries, "Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein" written by Steve Niles, with art by Christopher Mittens. In the new story arc, "Criminal Macabre" anti-hero Cal McDonald must help Frankenstein's monster regain his sight as the creature's body begins deteriorating over time.

Niles other series, with co-writer Matt Santoro and artist Dave Wachter, "Breath of Bones: Tales of the Golem" continues, with Issue #3 hitting stores on August 14. Seeley said "It's a very thoughtful, introspective look at the Jewish legend of golems, set in World War II."

Writers Mike Mignola and Scott Allie spun popular "B.P.R.D." character Abe Sapien off to his own series back in April. "In the 'B.P.R.D.' and 'Hellboy' books, the world is really coming to an end," Allie said. "We wanted to show this end-of-the-world scenario from some different points of view ... Abe has left the B.P.R.D. and is traveling across the country to try to figure out his role in this, because some people are saying that he's the reason that the world is coming to an end." The first trade paperback for the series, "Abe Sapien, Volume 3: Dark and Terrible and The New Race of Man" is set for release on December 11.

Mignola steps away from the world of "B.P.R.D." and its spinoff "Abe Sapien" to present a new addition to the tales of Lord Baltimore, vampire hunter. "Baltimore: The Infernal Train," a three issue miniseries co-written by Christopher Golden, with art by Ben Stenbeck, debuts on September 4. According to Allie, "We're going to see the final showdown between the hero, Baltimore, and the villain [a] vampire that's responsible for a vampire plague that spread across Europe."

Eisner Hall of Famer Richard Corben returns to his old stomping grounds with "Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven and The Red Death." "[Corben is] doing these very faithful adaptations of Poe but really bringing his bizarre qualities to it ... For some of them, he's sort of mashing up a couple of different stories" Allie said. The new book blends Poe's story "The Fall of the House of Usher" with his poem "The Raven," resulting in "a really original thing, but totally gothic, totally classic; just gorgeous stuff." The 22-page one-shot is set for release just in time for Halloween, on October 30.

Allie announced that Tim Tobin's "Colder" trade (compiling Issues #1-#5) will be released in November. Tobin described "Colder" as "a story about insanity wrapped up in the [government's] early LSD experiments."

Tobin also announced that Dark Horse will be publishing a print compilation of his digital comic, "Bandette." The e-comic, with art by Colleen Coover, was nominated for four Eisner Awards, and went on, later that night, to win the award for Best Digital Comic. "Bandette Volume 1: Presto" will be released on November 6.

Allie announced that Dark Horse will be issuing full-color archival collections of EC comics, including "Tales from the Crypt" and Vault of Horror," rolling out from October through the beginning of the new year.

Eric Powell's long-running, Eisner Award-winning series "The Goon" will end its run as an ongoing title with the release of Issue #44 (slated for release sometime in late fall), and will return in a miniseries format. "I love the idea of an ongoing series," Powell said. "But, because I'm one guy doing the comic, it wasn't always feasible to maintain the bi-monthly schedule on a regular basis, and it seemed to be confusing fans."

The first issue in the new miniseries is titled "Occasion of Revenge." "It's a pretty big turning point in 'The Goon' storyline," Powell said. "I introduce a whole lot of new villains and stuff gets really violent from there." On his blog, Powell said the two issue story "will focus on a gang war between the Goon and the new invading clan of witches composed of what is left of the Zombie Priest's race. If you've liked the more gritty and noirish episodes of the Goon, like 'Chinatown' & 'The Mystery of Mr. Wicker,' this will be right up your alley."

Returning to Issue #44, Powell said, "This issue is all about Lagarto Hombre, people seem to like him." Most of the issue is in Spanish, "so if you don't speak Spanish, I hope you know a friend who speaks Spanish so they can read it to you. The cover of Issue #44 is completely in Spanish, except for the words "The Goon."

Powell also mentioned the status of the proposed movie for "The Goon." At an earlier panel, Powell and his production partners said that plans are under way to "get the ball rolling with studios" after successfully funding a Kickstarter campaign.

In closing the discussion of "The Goon," Allie said "We just wanted to pull this one page from..." Laughter from the audience drowned out the rest of the sentence as the slide changed from the Issue #44 cover to the cover of "Richard Nixon: Frankenstein Fucker."

"I'm going to choose this image to leave up there as I ask questions," Allie said. "People still tend to immediately jump to movies when thinking about horror. Were you bigger fans of horror films or horror comics?" he asked the panelists. "What inspired you to actually want to do stories in the genre?"

Seeley said his early influencers were novels like "Dracula" and movies. "Most of us, now, are in our thirties and forties. We didn't really have good horror comics." He explained that while horror comics were popular in the '50s and '60s, but the late '70s brought the rise of the superhero genre. "It was like a big deal when 'Swamp Thing' came around [in the '80s]. That was a good, sophisticated horror comic and there hadn't been one in a long time."

Bechko was also inspired by novels. "I was very happy when I discovered there was a rich vein of horror comics, eventually," she said. And while movies were Hardman's horror inspiration, he did "go out of my way to track down ... the 'Creepy' and 'Eerie' stuff; track down the EC stuff, and also 'Tomb of Dracula.'" What he loved about these books was the art. "I can't think of a greater looking thing than the Gene Colan 'Creepy' stories ... That amazing atmosphere."

"I actually grew up reading the 'Creepy' and 'Eerie' magazines, so those were really important for me," Tobin said. "Both Marvel and DC had late '60s, early '70s had horror magazines. Most of my friends were reading superhero comics, but it seemed like those 'House of Mysteries' ... 'Tomb of Dracula,' stuff like that. I was drawn to the art ... and the atmosphere ... That's kind of what's drawn me to horror all my life."

"There were no comic shops where I grew up, so it was definitely movies," Powell said "I was constantly watching horror movies."

"I could find 'Creepy' and 'Eerie' on the shelves of the shelves of the magazine stand in our town." Allie said, agreeing that the art in horror comics was exceptional. "But it was the prose ... Growing up reading all the Stephen King books in the '70s and '80s."

Allie asked "What do you guys mindful of that you think you need to do to make this work?" Seeley responded, "I write a little horror story to the artist. Yeah, that's kind of a creepy thing to do -- write a horror story to one person. You have to be a lot more descriptive when you write horror comics than you do with action stuff ... There's a lot of atmosphere that you have to consider."

Bechke compared writing horror comics to writing novels, saying that in comics, you don't have the devices you have in prose "Unreliable narrators, first-person [narration], somebody describing what they're thinking ... You can't really do that in comics. You have to go about it a different way, giving away scares with page turns ... and also getting people invested in your characters, right up front."

Hardman contrasted comics with horror films. "A lot of that relies on false scares and red herrings, music cues and those things," that can't be used in comics. "What the medium [comics] does do well is atmosphere, and reveals, and tension, mimicking movies."

Tobin agreed. "Suspense is huge for me in horror. I don't like jump out things." He said his desire to do horror comes partly from his love of Japanese and Korean films in which "there can be huge periods where nothing much happens. I think that's really effective." Tobin likened it to "The Last of Us," a video game he's playing (and which Dark Horse has recently published a 4-issue miniseries which focuses on one character's back-story). "I've investigated ten, fifteen buildings, and there's been no zombies, and it's driving me nuts because every door I open, it gets worse. It's like 'here it comes!' But, nope." That kind of device is effective in building tension, he explained. "In a horror story you can only have so many scares, and if you get too many, they don't matter anymore -- you don't care." Tobin also said that having characters that the reader really cares about is important because "you get very scared for them. You don't want bad things to happen to them."

"I work almost completely off of instinct," Powell said "I try not to think that anyone else is going to read it except for me, so I try to make myself entertained by it ... Hopefully, if I'm doing that, it translates to the reader."

Allie then opened the floor to questions. A member of the audience asked whether there would be any follow-up to Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Alabaster: Wolves," the five-issue miniseries illustrated by Steve Lieber. Allie replied that while "Alabaster: Boxcar Tales" is currently running as part of the "Dark Horse Presents" monthly anthology (a 13-part story that began its run in "Dark Horse Presents" Issue #13), which will eventually be collected in a stand-alone edition, there were no plans for any other "Alabaster" stories at this time.

Responding to the question of whether any of the panelists worked through their own personal issues in their stories, Seeley said, "I think that's all horror comics ... I think that it's the author working through and controlling things they're afraid of ... I grew up in the country, and there were sounds of dogs barking in the woods, wolves and coyotes. I was afraid of them all the time, constantly." As a means of coping, he started writing monster comics when he was around 6 or 7, "Somehow, in my kid head I was like, 'If I can control it, there must not be anything there, and if there is, it's not that scary.' ou tell stories based on your own genuine human stuff that everyone gets, because we all think the same.

"I think that's the first of a horror comic for a writer," Allie said. "What scares me?"

"The genre you gravitate to ... has a little bit to do with personal issues," Tobin said. "Why does one guy do sci fi and another guy does horror? It's partly just the way you see the world, and the way you see the world is reflected by the turmoil that you suffer."

Following up on the previous question, someone asked if the creators were still scared. "I think the best you get is that you get a little perspective," Allie answered. "But it's not just going to go away. If you're haunted by something..." Seeley jumped in "That would be awesome if you could just make comics and say, 'Hey! I'm done with that!'"

Moving on, Powell addressed a question about "The Goon" character, Buzzard. "That was actually a character I created to be its own series." Inspired by the film "The Sentinel," Powell said, "The Buzzard was this cannibal thing -- he didn't really know what he was -- but he was guarding this cemetery that was a gateway to Hell, and the dead were rising and stuff." Though he realized that the story didn't have enough to carry its own series, "I liked the design of the character, and I liked the concept of it." Powell said he had "an epiphany where something just locks into place and it was, 'Oh! He's hunting the zombie priests; the zombie priests did that to him,'" and the character became part of "The Goon" story.

The panel was asked whether they ever found themselves pulling any punches in their writing, because of commercial or personal taboos. Powell responded, "I did Satan-zombie-babies, so I can't say I have." Allie added, "There's a certain amount of self-censorship when you think about your audience."

Powell mentioned that "The Goon" doesn't use explicitly written out profanity, but employs a kind of partial censorship (as seen in the "Richard Nixon: Frankenstein F***er" cover). "In a weird way, it's almost me trying to be polite to the readers and the shop owners ... If it says 'MotherBLEEP,' you know what it means anyway."

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