Author - James Powell

First Look: Attack of the Ice Giants

Jethro Morales is hard at work penciling pages for the third issue of House of Fear. The working title for this issue is: Attack of the Ice Giants. We’re also considering Attack of the Killer Snowmen. Only time will tell.

While I’m debating the merits of my titles, feast your eyes on these pencils.

Preview – House of Fear: The Grumpledowns Gang and the Case of the Mail-Order Shoggoths

Matt Krotzer is finishing the letters on the next issue of House of Fear, which means production is just about finished. That means the Kickstarter campaign is just around the corner, making now a perfect time to present a preview of House of Fear: The Grumpledowns Gang and the Case of the Mail-Order Shoggoths.

This complete, stand-alone story is written by Brandon Barrows, with art by Rafael Loureiro. Josh Jensen once again provides colors, and Krotzer handles the design and letters.

Calling All Teachers and Librarians

I love to write comic books, but sharing my love of storytelling and helping young people find their voice is even more important to me. The biggest thrill for me as an editor is helping a writer find his or her story. Sometimes that’s done with simple suggestions to action or pacing, but other times, it’s more about discussing the heart of the story and uncovering why the writer wants to tell this particular story at this particular time.

While guiding a writer is rewarding, talking about the creative process with younger kids is, in a way, even more exciting. I recently spent 30 minutes with my son’s first grade class, talking about the process behind making comic books, and I’ve got to tell you, I have never felt more alive or at home. Seeing those boys and girls wide-eyed with excitement, eager to learn about creating, absolutely energized me. Some were interested in the cool art, while others were captivated by the scary ghost story, but all of them were taken by the idea that anyone can create a comic book. All you have to do is try.

Anything that gets a child reading is a good thing. And if it’s something that also helps them find their creative, artistic side, then that’s even better. Which is why I want to give away copies of House of Fear: The Curse of Cottonwood Ct.

I’m happy to say that our first Kickstarter campaign has reached its funding goal. I had originally planned to provide a few simple stretch goals for backers: adding a PDF of the script to the Deluxe Digital tier, improving the paper quality of the printed comic, and providing a preview PDF of House of Fear issue 2. Instead of making those stretch goals, I’ve gone ahead and added all of that to the campaign. Those will be included regardless of the final funding number.

So now I want do something a little more fun with those stretch goals. For every $400 over the funding goal, I will send 15-30 copies of House of Fear (enough for the entire class) to a teacher or librarian who has backed the campaign. I’ll also work with that individual to see if I can participate in the class in some way, either in person or via Skype or a pre-recorded video. Depending on the age group and class topic, we can talk about the art, the storytelling, or the collaboration process. We can discuss how to read comics, how to make them, or, since we’ve got a scary comic here, we can even talk about fears and how to overcome them. I want to help bring comics into the classroom, and I’m willing to provide any help that I can.

So if you’re a teacher or librarian who thinks comics can be a benefit to your classroom, please let me know. Or if you know of a teacher who might be interested in bringing comics to his or her classroom or library, send them to the Kickstarter campaign or have them drop me an email. And please share the Kickstarter link with friends and family, too. The more support the project gets, the more comics I can send to classrooms.

DIY Halloween: Making a Plastic Skull More Realistic

Here’s a simple process for making those cheap plastic skulls from Dollar Tree look more realistic and scary. It’s something you can do in a few hours, and most of that is drying time. And if you already have the skulls, the entire process won’t cost you more than $10.

DIY Realistic Plastic Skulls

Here's a simple process to make cheap plastic skulls look more realistic and scary.

Posted by TEN31 Publishing on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

DIY Halloween: Hanging Ghost Prop

Here’s our first do-it-yourself Halloween prop video. For our first tutorial, we’ll show you how to create creepy ghosts that hang from the ceiling. It’s easy, doesn’t cost too much to put together, and in the end, can provide a pretty scary effect for your Halloween haunt.

DIY Hanging Ghost Prop

Our first DIY Halloween prop video: Ghosts made easy.

Posted by TEN31 Publishing on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Scary Movies for Kids 4 to 10 Years Old

If you’re a fan of horror movies, you probably want your sons and daughters to be interested in the genre, too. But it’s not always easy to determine what’s appropriate these days. Especially when, out of nowhere, a seemingly innocuous movie blindsides you with a surprisingly dark and intense scene.

I’ve been watching age-appropriate scary movies with Daxton, my 7-year-old son, for awhile now, testing the waters to see what he’s up for. My goal is to slowly feed him more mature frights as he gets older, but without ever going overboard and giving him nightmares. My hope is that he learns to enjoy horror movies as much as I do, and that, eventually, we can head to the theater and watch them together.

Based on the questions I get, I’m not the only one with that goal. And it’s clear that not everyone knows where to start. That’s why I’ve put together a short list of introductory “horror” films for kids of different ages. This list doesn’t include all of the family-friendly scary movies out there, they’re just some of my favorites.

It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (4+)

pumpkinThis one’s a classic that turns 50 this year. Some might call it old fashioned, but maybe that’s what makes it so wonderful for the family to watch together. When I was a kid, watching this was an annual tradition in our house, and I’m sure that tradition continues in many houses each October. In the show, Linus sits in a pumpkin patch on Halloween night, waiting for the Great Pumpkin, hoping he’ll bring toys like Santa Claus does. Consider watching it after you visit the pumpkin patch each year.

Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (5+)

ichabodposterOkay, I’ll admit, this one might be difficult to sit through for some parents. If you decide to watch this, and it’s definitely worth watching, consider skipping over the Mr. Toad section entirely. It’s a bore. As for the Ichabod segment, it’s an old Disney movie with themes and jokes that are out-dated and corny. Some might even call them semi-offensive. But it’s all worth it for that ending. The moment in which the Headless Horseman chases down Ichabod is pure, classic horror. The chase is filled with spooky sounds and visuals that will have a lasting impression on young minds. It’s a short sequence, too, so it’s a great introduction to the elements of a good scary movie.

Monsters, Inc. (5+)

monsters_incC’mon, Monsters, Inc. isn’t scary, right? But it fits nicely on this list for a couple of reasons. First, it features all sorts of monsters. Sure, they’re cute and cuddly most of the time, but in some scenes, they’re rather sinister. Which leads us to the second reason it’s on the list: the scenes in which the monsters scare unsuspecting kids can be rather frightening. But what makes this so wonderful for younger kids is that those moments are followed by humor and even love. The movie has just enough frights to be a good warm-up for scary movies to come, and Randall (Steve Buscemi) provides a great introduction to the whole monster sub-genre.

Labyrinth (6+)

labyrinthSure, to you and me, this movie looks a little dated, but it’s still loads of fun for the kids (and honestly, for me, too). Jim Henson’s monsters are a real treat, even by today’s standards. And believe me, there are plenty of monsters to enjoy…they’re around every corner. But instead of frightening, most are soft and silly instead of spooky and intense. Be warned, though, there are some darker themes that you might want to be aware of. For example, the Goblin King (David Bowie) abducts a baby and plans to turn him into a goblin. That might be traumatic for sensitive kids. Luckily, it’s all done with a relatively light touch. I’m not sure my son even noticed any of the darker themes…not when there were so many cool creatures and spectacles to marvel at.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (7+)

etposterE.T. The Extra Terrestial is an absolute classic in my book. And based on my son’s reaction, it is for him, too. He absolutely loved it. It’s a great family monster movie, even if you don’t really consider it a monster movie. There are some darker moments toward the end, what with E.T. dying and all. Not to mention the authorities invading their home in hazmat suits. But the action, the fun, and the heart-warming nature of the film overcome anything that’s too heavy. While not exactly a scary movie, Halloween plays a crucial role in the film, which should be enough to give it a spot on your annual October movie list.

Monster House (8+)

monsterhouseThis movie is fantastic! I loved it. But, to be honest, I let Daxton watch it a year too early. The opening scene really spooked him. We watched it not long before his 7th birthday, and he wasn’t ready for the loud, fast-paced, and surprisingly scary opening scene. Luckily some humor starts to pop up in the film after the opening and things even out some. I should note, however, that Old Man Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi again) is nasty. I wouldn’t be surprised if most kids found him to be the scariest part of the movie. The ending does get pretty dark, too, and it touches on themes that will turn off some parents.

Coraline (9+)

coralineposterLike many modern movies that try to walk a balance between scary and family-friendly, it’s tough to pin down an appropriate age for Coraline. For the most part, 7-year-olds won’t be too scared by the story, the animation, or any of the earlier scenes. There are moments that build up suspense and include some surprises and jump scares, sure, but for the most part, it’s not a cover-your-eyes-and-hide-under-the-blanket sort of movie. However, the themes are a bit more mature than I anticipated. Especially the central themes of being disappointed by your parents or wanting a better life, which leads to Coraline’s parents being captured by the evil other mother. That’s something not all young kids will want to see.

ParaNorman (10+)

paranormanHere’s another movie that, for the most part, is fine for kids 7 and older. Norman sees dead people, which might not be appropriate for all kids, but it’s still a well-told, fun little movie. The action scenes are more exciting then they are scary. But then the ending come along, and boy is it intense. In the climax of the film (spoilers ahead), we learn that little girl was killed by a court of elders who thought she was a witch. That’s when the movie turns darker than anticipated, both thematically and visually. There are 10 minutes or so of some pretty heavy stuff. Sure, everything ends well, but a few scenes are traumatic enough that you should consider holding off on sharing ParaNorman with your kids until they’re a little older.

Summary

Okay, that’s it. My favorite scary movies for kids ages 4 to 10. There are plenty of other great movies to consider, such as Frankenweenie, or maybe even Gremlins. Perhaps I’ll write up a longer, more comprehensive list someday. For now, the list you see above are my favorites that I recommend for you and your kids. I’m sure you’ll find something here to share with your family this October.

Wait. What The About Nightmare Before Christmas?

the_nightmare_before_christmasAlmost every list of family-friendly scary movies is going to include The Nightmare Before Christmas. But for me, it just doesn’t fit. Not for kids anyway. Sure, the movie’s tone is fine for a 6 or 7 year old. There’s nothing all that scary until the end, and there are much darker, scarier scenes in other movies on my list. But honestly, I’m betting that most kids have checked out long before those scenes show up because of the plodding pace and overwhelming amount of dialog. Sure, the design is spectacular, which makes this one fun to look out, but if your kids aren’t engaged, there’s not much for them to enjoy here. My son certainly grew bored with it quickly, and by the end, all he had to say was, “It looked cool, but it was boring.”

Name the Host for the House of Fear

When I chose House of Fear as the name for my series of scary comics for kids, I knew I wanted a host to introduce each story. Using a host reminds me of my favorite horror comics from the 50s, which had memorable hosts like the Crypt Keeper and the Old Witch.

I decided the character should be a butler who takes care of the House of Fear. In each issue, he’ll invite young readers to sit back and enjoy another spooky tale. Of course, he can’t be any ol’ butler. He needs to be creepy. Ugly even. So when I asked James Hislope to present designs, I suggested he make the butler “nasty looking….balding, but with some wispy hair flopping around for effect…probably a nasty wart/mole of some sort.”

As you’ll see, James designed one heck of a creepy dude.

Our host has a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing going on. For our introduction pages, he’ll present his “warmer” side. As you can see in the first image below, which will become the introduction page to The Curse of Cottonwood Ct., he’s just an old butler welcoming kids to listen to a scary story.

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But after the story is complete, he shows his nasty side. In the image below, which appears immediately after the comic pages, he’s telling kids to scram. He’s got to chop down the trees surrounding the House of Fear before they overpower the demons in the haunted house. (His actions tie directly to the comic book, so if you haven’t read it yet, download it here.)

curse_interior_bc_lowres

We know what the host looks like. And we know he’s got a nasty split personality problem. Now we just need a name.

I’ve narrowed it down to two names: Boyle and Graves.

Both Boyle and Graves are great names for a butler. They work well for someone who sneaks around cemeteries at night, too. Plus, they both provide subtle references to something creepy and scary, which kids will get a kick out of.

So which do you like? What do your kids think? Boyle or Graves? In the end, there can only be one host for the House of Fear, so let me know what you think.

Head over to our Facebook page and make your voice heard.

Editing, Kids Comics, and Lovecraft

I love to write stories. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, doing my best to mimic Edgar Rice Burroughs with some outlandish rip-offs. What many don’t know about me, however, is that my first love is editing.

When I was younger, it was all about making a writer’s sentences grammatically correct. English grammar was my thing. I understood it and had a knack for helping others get over their grammar hurdles. As I developed as an editor, it was more about helping the writer get sentences to flow and work with each other in a way that made for smooth, easy reading.

As time went on, I gravitated back to focusing on the story. I can’t tell you how rewarding and fun it is for me to help a writer make his story truly sing.

shoggoth_panel_1

So when I began developing the ideas behind TEN31 Publishing, I knew I wanted to invite other writers to create comics with me. To tell stories that I would edit and publish, but stories that were 100% the writer’s own. That way I can balance both loves, writing and editing, and do so by collaborating with others to make exciting comics.

One of the writers I talk with frequently is Brandon Barrows, a comic and prose writer from Vermont. Our conversations were helpful during the early days of TEN31 planning, and I knew I’d want him to write a script for me. Unfortunately, he wasn’t terribly keen on the idea of writing for kids, an audience he never really considered for his work. But that wasn’t going to stop me from asking him to do it anyway.

shoggoth_panel_2

Brandon digs H.P. Lovecraft. A lot. I know this because he’s written a collection of comic stories and prose stories filled with weird Lovecraftian horror. So I figured maybe I could entice him to write a Lovecraft tale for kids. I pitched the idea and he was like, “No way” and “How would that even work?” His response made sense because, let’s face it, Lovecraft isn’t for kids. I pressed harder, though, coming up with random (and bad) ideas about a cute, almost cuddly Cthulhu overtaking a small town.

Luckily, he didn’t take me up on any of those ideas. But Brandon is a creative writer through and through, which means he came up with something much, much better called THE GRUMPLEDOWNS GANG AND THE CASE OF THE MAIL-ORDER SHOGGOTHS. He sent me a script and I loved it. It was exciting and fun. It had thrills. It had monsters. It was scary. And yep, it had a hint of Lovecraft. All perfectly situated for the 7+ age group.

shoggoth_panel_3

His script was probably the easiest I’ve ever edited. Sure, I pushed him to make it better. That’s what editors do. But Brandon took my suggestions and not only ran with them, but improved upon them, too. Within a week, he had locked down on one hell of a comic story. One that, when published, will make kids second guess going to their school’s Halloween party.

The panels you see in this post are from Brandon’s upcoming TEN31 comic, with amazing art by Rafael Loureiro. Below are the full page images.

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