Bookmakers: Joe Hill’s Hill House Comics

Last year, DC launched Hill House Comics, a curated lineup of five limited horror series (and a bonus background comic) that will wrap up this fall. We caught up with imprint creator Joe Hill, who also writes three of the comics—Basketful of Heads, Plunge, and Sea Dogs—to discuss the inspiration and alchemy behind Hill House. 

BKL: How did Hill House come together? 

Hill: I started talking to Mark Doyle, who was the executive editor at DC, in 2017 or 2016. We had an ongoing conversation about whether there was some space for me in DC’s horror / dark fantasy bucket, and Mark floated the idea of me doing my own pop-up imprint. There’s a joke that the best show on Netflix is spending 45 minutes going through all the options. I feel that. When I was a kid, growing up in the eighties, I loved going to a mom-and-pop video store and hitting the horror section. It was a glorious time for incredibly cheap, schlocky, gross-out horror that went straight to video. A lot of times the story you were imagining was so much better than what you got, but every once in a while you’d find something that exceeded what you hoped for. So I’ve looked at Hill House as a trip to the mom-and-pop video store in the eighties, and the hope is we’re that straight-to-video horror movie that actually turned out to be great.

BKL: How did you go about filling out Hill House Comics with stories, artists, and fellow authors?


Hill: I had been sitting on the idea for Basketful of Heads since 2007, and when we started talking about Hill House, I thought maybe I was ready to write it. I think sometimes stories do develop in your subconscious. With Plunge, I wanted to do Arctic horror. I always hoped that it would call back to John Carpenter’s The Thing and James Cameron’s Aliens, and still have its own spirit and ideas. I’m proud that I think it does. I have to say it’s wildly elevated by Stuart Immonen’s art, which is just so stunning. Every panel just absolutely explodes.

Then I thought, let’s pull in a ringer. My first big introduction to Mike Carey was his novel The Girl with All the Gifts. Mike specializes in a certain kind of cerebral, chilly horror, and his comics really feel like vintage Vertigo. My elevator pitch on The Dollhouse Family is that it’s The Indian in the Cupboard gone horribly fucking wrong.

I loved Carmen Maria Machado’s book of stories, Her Body and Other Parties. Her pitch for The Low, Low Woods felt so fresh, with a kind of David Lynchian sense of the eccentric right down to the name of the town: Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania. It had great lead characters that you could really feel for, and it played with body horror in a really interesting way.

Daphne Byrne is a feminist The Omen by gaslight, from Laura Marks, a playwright who’s also worked in TV. Laura had worked on the Hulu edition of Locke & Key, a black comedy about zombies called BrainDead, and The Exorcist TV show. She pitched us on Daphne Byrne, and I really liked it and I liked that it was period, set in the nineteenth century.

BKL: How has working on Hill House been different from your other projects?

Hill: I love comics, and I think I do comics better than anything else. It’s also the closest I’ll ever come to feeling what it must be like to be in a band, because there is this intense, supportive, collaborative side to it. Every time Stuart sends me a page, I get pumped up. It makes me want to write something else that will be awesome for him to draw. Then David Stewart comes in with his colors and he’s creating a palette of feeling on the page. I find that tremendously exciting.

When the alchemy works, you get this virtual feedback loop where everyone is performing a little bit above what you could have possibly hoped for. Whatever I imagined Leomacs or Stuart Immonen drawing, they’ll come up with something even more vivid, even more electrifying, more artfully composed on the page. The process is repeated through the colors and the letters, and then it starts all over again, only everyone has already taken a step up.

About the Author:

Annie Bostrom is Associate Editor, Adult Books, at Booklist. She is a cat person, but also really likes dogs. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Annie.

1 Comment on "Bookmakers: Joe Hill’s Hill House Comics"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1.' Paul Chapinal says:

    Are there plans for another series of books?

Post a Comment