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NYCC 2019: DC - House of Horrors Panel Recap

Mark Doyle, Executive Editor at DC Black Label, introduced the DC: House of Horrors panel with Joe Hill, Si Spurrier, Dani, Laura Marks, Aaron Campbell, and Philip Kennedy Johnson. This is not to be confused with the My Pretty Pony panel, as Hill pointed out. There's a good amount of horror coming from DC, including Hill House Comics, a pop-up imprint helmed by Hill. There are five in all. Each is a stand-alone limited series and eagle-eyed readers will notice connections between them.

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The first title, Basketful of Heads, kicks off on October 30th. It's written by Hill and illustrated by Leomacs. It follows a young woman who finds a supernatural ax that can sever a man's head in a single swipe, but leaves the head alive and speaking. After killing a few attackers, she uses their heads to get information, although they're not always truthful in their answers.

Hill describes it as “gonzo horror” and unapologetic. He wanted to do something like early Sam Raimi circa Evil Dead II. Hill praised artist Leomacs' work, saying he draws great feet. There's a conspiracy at work in Basketful of Heads. Hill calls it a “Grindhouse Rashomon”, with each head having a different perspective as to what happened on this fateful night.

One of the problems of horror is how to isolate the main character. Basketful of Heads is set on a small fictional island in Maine. A large storm cuts them off from the world.

Hill said this is a great time for horror. When he was a kid, there would be a huge horror film every five years or so. Now there's one every five months. He wants comics to have a piece of that. The intention for Hill House is to make a Blumhouse for comics.

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One of the next books in the Hill House line is Daphne Byrne from writer Laura Marks and artist Kelley Jones. Marks described it as “The Exorcist meets Henry James.” She was interested in the relationship between the girl and the demon and didn't want to have her just lay there like the child in The Exorcist. Marks has worked on The Exorcist TV show and Brain Dead. Hill asked her to write a horror comic in the line after working with her on one of the TV versions of Locke & Key.

Doyle asked Marks what she draws from when she's working on a book like Daphne Byrne. Her experience has a lot of collaboration and now she is just doing that with one person. Jones is effectively “acting” out all of the parts of the comic and doing it extremely well.

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The Low, Low Woods from writer Carmen Maria Machado and artist Dani is another title coming under the Hill House Comics imprint. Machado is new to comics but definitely not to the genre. Doyle describes her work as “vibrant body horror” and now I desperately need to find it. DC had reached out and she had pitched The Low, Low Woods and then Hill House came together, so it was a nice fit. The series is set in a small town in Pennsylvania that's hit with a massive bout of amnesia. Also, there's a bunch of skinless men walking around. Hill describes it as a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of horror, with David Lynch on the outside and David Cronenberg on the inside. Oh, there's also deer women. Hill forgot to mention those for a moment.

When asked about how she bounces from some of the emotional points to the more terrifying elements, like the aforementioned deer women, Dani said she goes through the story as it’s written. The images come together in her head and then she puts them on the page.

Hill added that there's often a misconception about horror that it's about sadism. That's what bad horror is about. Good horror builds on strong relationships with the characters. If you're into that, you'll love The Low, Low Woods. When Dani threw out the term “sweet horror,” Hill called it “a candy coated tarantula.”

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While there are some folks that are new to comics, there are some ringers in the mix for Hill House Comics. One such ringer is Mike Carey, who's writing The Dollhouse Family with art by Peter Gross. Hill describes it as “Indian in the Cupboard if the cupboard was actually a gateway to Hell.” This series begins in November. Jessica Dalva is handling the covers for the series, photographing super creepy models. Hill claims he wet his pants when the images came in. He compares The Dollhouse Family to horror movies like The Changeling and The Exorcist.

DC was originally only going to do four books in Hill House to start with, then Hill came up with another idea and Plunge was born. It's his version of John Carpenter's The Thing. The artist was not announced. Hill wanted someone like Stuart Immonen...so they got Stuart Immonen. Plunge debuts in February 2020. Doyle describes Plunge as one of the scariest first issues he's ever read.

Every Hill House comic includes two pages of a backup story called Sea Dogs, which is about how we won the Revolutionary War using werewolves. You'll have to buy every Hill House comic in order to get the full story. There's a strong tie between Basketful of Heads and Sea Dogs.

After going through all of the Hill House titles, the subject turned to The Last God from writer Philip Kennedy Johnson and artist Riccardo Federici. It's described as a horror/fantasy mashup. The covers from Kai Carpenter give it a very epic and terrifying feel. The first issue is out on October 30th. There's a balance between high fantasy and gory horror. Johnson pitched the series as “Dark Souls and Last of Us meets True Detective.”

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DC is continuing the Sandman Universe in this area as well. We've seen this for about a year now and this month we've got the return of John Constantine to this space. Writer Si Spurrier and artist Bilquis Evely kick things off with a The Sandman Presents: John Constantine: Hellblazer #1 on October 30th. Spurrier asked, “How do you bring back a character when your continuity is fucked?” Neil Gaiman figured it out. The answer comes from the old Books of Magic series, plucking a version of John Constantine from that world and dropping him into this messed up one. “Heroes can't save us, but maybe a bastard can.”

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The one-shot leads to an ongoing series, written by Spurrier and illustrated by Aaron Campbell. I loved Campbell's work on Infidel, so this is great news. He has an affinity for the character and all the existential dread he carries with him. Hill asked if Campbell will be drawing Constantine to look like Keanu Reeves moving forward. Spurrier said there's a small cameo somewhere in there.

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With Spurrier handling Hellblazer, he'll be finishing the story he set out to tell in The Dreaming. All the dominoes he's set up over the course of the past year will start to get knocked down. He'll be handing it over to writer G. Willow Wilson and Nick Robles. There was an audible gasp in the crowd when this was announced and the team took to the stage.

Wilson got the call about the project out in Colorado. Coincidentally, that's where she first read Sandman years earlier. Wilson teased her story as “Shakespeare Multiverse.” There's a lot for new and old Sandman fans alike. You don't have to have read previous Sandman stories to dig into this.

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About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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