Tag - kids comics

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.

curse_interior_fc_lowres

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.

pg5
pg6
pg8
pg12

Why Scary Comics for Kids?

I’ve been asked several times lately why I decided to create a line of scary comics for kids. The story is pretty simple, but there’s more to it than simply liking to make comics and also liking kids.

I’ve been writing and editing comics for about ten years now. It’s been more a hobby than a full-blown passion, something I did from time to time when the urge struck. A few years back, however, I decided I wanted to be a little more serious about it. I promised myself I’d write and produce at least one new comic every year. That’s certainly not a lofty aspiration, but with a young son and a full-time job, the goal fit into my time and money constraints.

curse_panel_1b

About this time last year, I had written the first draft of a 150-page graphic novel. One that I absolutely couldn’t stop thinking about. A story that had me excited to take my writing to the next level. One night, after tweaking my script in a way that had me more enthusiastic than ever, I went upstairs to get my son ready for bed.

At the time, Daxton hadn’t yet turned six. I found him in his room, flipping through my earlier comics, THE BOY WHO WANTED WAR and WATCH YOUR STEP. I don’t consider either of them adult comics, but they both have themes and key scenes that aren’t meant for kids. So despite letting him look through them many times, I had never read them to him.

curse_panel_2b

“Dad, will you read me one of your comics?” Daxton said, as I was getting him into his pajamas.

“Sorry, kiddo. I still don’t think you’re old enough for those. Want to read Spider-Man? Or Scooby-Doo?” His disappointment was immediately apparent. That was something I wasn’t ready for. My son, my biggest fan, was devastated as only a 5-year-old can be, because he couldn’t read something his dad wrote.

“No,” he said, putting all the sadness he could muster into that one little word. He was quiet as he hopped onto the bed. He normally gets very talkative and energetic at bedtime, so his calm was rather unusual.

We had discussed why I wouldn’t read him the comics before, and I didn’t want to rehash the conversation just before bed. So I tucked him in, letting him ponder his little boy thoughts as I turned out the light. I leaned in and kissed him on the forehead, telling him to sleep well. As I turned to leave the room, he said, “Dad?”

I could tell he was struggling with something big, and that he was summoning all of his courage to ask me about it. “What’s up?” I asked.

“How come you never make comics I can read?”

His words hit me like a physical blow. Here he was, the love of my life, practically crying because his dad wouldn’t make a comic that he could read. Several responses rushed through my mind, but nothing felt right. So I said, “Sorry, Daxton. Maybe someday.”

curse_panel_3b

I didn’t write again for two months. My graphic novel script, while still alive in my head, just didn’t instill that passion in me anymore. How could I write yet another comic that my son couldn’t enjoy? How could I be proud of something that my own son couldn’t be proud of, too?

Not long after, inspiration struck. See, my son was born on Halloween, and we had begun to watch kid-friendly scary movies and before bed, I’d read him some not-so-scary ghost stories before bed. So I decided that I would write a scary comic for my son. Something age-appropriate, but just spooky and fun enough to get him excited about reading. Maybe so much so that he’d want to share the comic with his friends.

And that’s how THE CURSE OF COTTONWOOD CT. was born. I even had Daxton help write the story. He came up with the ghost story theme, some character names, and the ending was all him. I have to tell you, working on a comic with my son, and later reading the printed copy with him on the floor, was one of the best experiences of my life. Seeing the hint of fear in his eyes, and the thrill of reading a spooky story with his dad, is a memory I’ll cherish forever.

small_curse_01