[Exclusive] An In-Depth Look At Dark Horse’s 2013 Horror Lineup With Scott Allie

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Dark Horse has a fresh lineup of horror titles heading your way for Fall of 2013. Alongside their mainstays titles such as “Hellboy” and “Criminal Macabre”, Dark Horse is coming out with a wide array of new mini-series to fuel all your horror needs. These new titles that will be haunting your local shop include “Grindhouse: Doors at Midnight”, “Witch Hunt”, “The Fall”, Richard Corben’s adaptation of “The Raven”, and more.

I had the chance to chat with Editor In Chief of Dark Horse Comics, Scott Allie, about what 2013 holds in store for horror comic fanatics. All of the books discussed below are being announced at C2E2 over the weekend, and we’ve got an exclusive first look at the books and the cover art to go with them.

BD: Once again, Dark Horse is launching an insane lineup of horror comics for the fall of 2013. This includes several brand new mini-series. What can we expect from this batch?

Scott Allie: Well, the Mignola stuff is going strong, as always, and Buffy Season 9 is headed for the conclusion, so we wanted to add to all that with some cool new stuff. Victor Gischler wrote a Spike series for us last year, and it knocked all our socks off, so we wanted to get some other stuff going. First up is Witch Hunt with Juan Ferreyra, the artist of last year’s Colder, which was one of the breakout hits for the horror line. The collection of that comes out a part of this horror promo, and it has all the bells and whistles, as you’d imagine. Witch Hunt is sexy New Orleans voodoo, so it’s a nice dose of smart supernatural fun, which is sort of the crux of the line. We like smart stuff, we like suspense. We do some gorey stuff, but we’re more into story than shock. Our adaptation of Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain gets pretty visceral, but it’s also just a very smartly written, brutal vampire story. Alex de Campi’s Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight and Steve Niles’s Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein are two more debuts at the end of this summer, which round out the line, and there’s more coming down the pike …

BD: Dark Horse is putting out way more horror comics than any other publisher right now. Why the focus on horror?

Allie: Just because we love it. Just because it’s fun to do this kind of comic. Horror works well in comics—what I like about comics storytelling is what I like about horror as a genre. There’s a hungry audience out there for this sort of book, and we think we do it better than anyone. The Hellboy books are a great foundation for a particular kind of horror story that is real fun in comics.

BD: Everything is continuing strong with Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and B.P.R.D. With the universe constantly growing, is it getting any tougher to manage?

Allie: Yeah, but it’s so much fun I can’t complain. The momentum with which things are moving in this world makes it exciting to work on—there are things for me to be excited about, genuinely excited, every week, just working on it. Mike often says, We’re breaking things that can’t be fixed, and one fun way we’re keeping track of that, managing that, is that my assistant, Daniel Chabon, is maintaining a map of cities and even countries we’ve destroyed. So yeah, managing it is a lot of work, but that map sort of makes it fun …

BD: Fans are super stoked that Abe Sapien is back in his own series, but so far we haven’t seen much of him. What can we expect from Abe down the road?

Allie: Abe very quickly gets into one supernatural scrap after another—we kick off in a big Lovecraftian way in the second and third issues. Some of what you’ll see in the book says a lot about the mythology of the Hellboy world—in #6 & 7 we learn some significant info about that—and in other issues it’s more about just how terrible things could get if the world was gradually coming to an end. Abe is trying to figure out his place in all of it, while some people think his place is at the center of it, making it all happen. Abe doesn’t think that, but he has some hard truths to face.

BD: Grindhouse: Doors at Midnight is a rockin’ concept. We’ve seen the resurgence of grindhouse cinema over the past few years, but we’re yet to see the exploitation genre make a comeback in comics. What can you tell us about the series?

Allie: It’s sort of an anthology series, with each two issues telling a complete story, and Alex teaming with a different artist for each. Alex is pretty intense, and her work is pretty dark. The first two-issue story really goes for the sex and violence mix of grindhouse cinema—there’s a great Coop variant cover on the first issue—but other stories get into other parts of the genre. I think it’s the second story—maybe the third—that feels more like an old Hammer film. Alex has a well-rounded love of the horror genre, and a format like this allows her to dig deeply into all the best parts.

BD: You’ve got the second part of Lapham’s del Toro adaptation of The Strain kicking off with The Fall in Dark Horse Presents #28. These are some real fucked up vampires. Is The Fall continuing into a new series?

Allie: Oh yeah, The Fall is the next major arc of the long-running Strain comics series. But The Fall in DHP is just a short stint, where Guillermo asked Lapham to expand on a character just lightly touched on in the novels. A luchador vampire hunter. From the mind of del Toro. What could be better? Generally speaking, these comics adapt the novels, but in some cases Guillermo and Lapham have worked out new material, either totally original to Lapham, or with guidance from Guillermo. Usually when you adapt prose to comics you can’t fit it all in, you chuck some of it out. In this case, Guillermo wanted us to have the room not just to include almost all of it, but to do new things to make the adaptation really special. So the DHP thing is entirely that, something Guillermo wanted to do that wasn’t in the novels.

BD: I just read the first issue of Witch Hunt from Victor Gischler and Juan Ferreyra, both of whom were part of the horror lineup last year. Tell us about this big action horror story.

Allie: Like I said, I loved Victor’s work on Spike, and I just wanted him to do more stuff with us. Victor is a crime writer, and he’s bringing a little organization to his horror comics, if you know what I mean … Witch Hunt is a crime novel with monsters. Lots of monsters. But there’s a southern gothic thing to it too, with very richly weird characters. It’s a werewolf comic, but there’s so much other strange stuff going on that that’s not even the first thing to spring to mind, frankly. Organized family werewolves, witches, and a hit man caught in the middle of it all. Juan’s art is great in Witch Hunt—he’s got so many styles, and he pulled out something new for this one—still fully painted, like Colder, but more graphic, with stark, sharp lines. The highlight of the first issue is the werewolf vs. witch car chase, with Juan draws with total dedication. In fact, one of the nice things about Juan on Colder was he was always adding pages, to pace out the story and open up the imagery. He’s done that on at least the first issue of Witch Hunt.

BD: In the wake of the 30 Days of Night crossover, Steve Niles is back with Criminal Macabre: The Eyes of Frankenstein #1. What direction is Steve going with the series?

Allie: Back in Free Comic Book Day a couple years ago, Steve introduced the Criminal Macabre version of Frankenstein’s monster. You know, Dark Horse’s horror line has a particularly classic vibe to it, I think. Not retro, I hope, but we dwell on a lot of traditional tropes of horror comics, and in Criminal Macabre, Steve has a lot of fun with monsters. The Frankenstein’s monster, the way Chris Mitten designed him, is pretty unusual—he’s big as a house, and so really convincing when throwing cops out windows, as he does this series. But Steve writes him fairly traditional, and we’ve got some other new characters coming into play this time that play on some traditional tropes, like a stage magician who plays a big role. I think one of the interesting things about what Steve has done in the last few years with Criminal Macabre, since hooking up with Mitten, is that he’s willing to change the character. He’s really pushing that in this series.

BD: Richard Corben is back with some more Edgar Allan Poe with adaptations of The Raven and The Red Death. He has such a deep love for these Poe stories and he’s got such a unique take on them.

Allie: Yeah, speaking of traditional … Corben does his own thing with these stories—sometimes he mashes a couple Poe tales together in order to get a fresh adaptation. We keep offering him Hellboy jobs, but he just wants to stay focused on Edgar Allan Poe for now. I gotta admit he hasn’t turned in any of The Raven and the Red Death yet—Corb just drops the whole thing on us, complete, and I immediately email it out to Mignola and Arcudi and we just bask in the glow …

Hey, while we’re on the topic of Poe … in a couple weeks there’s a big HP Lovecraft Film Fest in Portland, and part of the program will be a series of Lovecraft-inspired comics strips I put together with a bunch of friends—John Arcudi, James Harren, Tyler Crook, Nate Piekos, etc. The program for the show is a fake newspaper, the Daily Lurker, and I had the idea a couple years ago to do a comics section. It’s been pretty fun. The Fest is the weekend of May 3 in Portland. The program is free with admission …

BD: Horror, more so than any other genre, depends on innovation and fresh ideas. What do you look for in creator pitches?

Allie: You know, for me, it’s more important that I’m a fan of your work to start with. Innovation and fresh ideas are important—I’ve had to turn down some pitches from guys I really like, but the ideas weren’t fresh enough, distinct enough. But what’s more important to me is that I know the writer can pull it off. I don’t like to read a pitch unless I know for sure the writer is gonna be able to pull it off. So I look for a writer who’s blown me away with one thing—like when I read this Punisher graphic novel from Victor Gischler a year or so ago, and that gave me faith in his ability to do the Spike series. And he kicked ass on the Spike series such that I wanted to get some pitches from him. In terms of cold pitches, I ask to see writing samples first.

BD: In comics, you can’t rely on the soundtrack or jump cuts to create horror, so how does Dark Horse approach the genre?

Allie: Comics are great for horror because they create a unique kind of irreality, if I may. Film creates a complete reality, with sound and motion and photo graphic imagery that relies on how closely and thoroughly it duplicates the world for you. In prose, every thing is suggested, and the reader creates their own reality. In comics, we indicate… We give you some pictures, but you need to fill in the blanks. With stylized artists like Mignola, Mitten, Corben, Max Fiumara, etc., etc., you’re looking at a distorted world, filtered through the mind of the artist, and it’s up to you how much you submerge yourself into that vision and mind. There are all sorts of storytelling devices you can employ to deliver good horror storytelling, but the main thing is good writing, solid characterization, a real plot, and then you get good horror—you get good anything.

BD: Anything else you want to get out to Bloody-disgusting readers about horror at Dark Horse?

Allie: There’s always more stuff coming.