BareBones Ent sat down for a very special Halloween interview with the House of Fear comic book creator, James Powell. House of Fear is an all-ages horror comic put out by James and his publishing company, Ten31 Publishing. We chat with James about the inspiration behind this series, what is coming up, and all things Halloween! Take a peak and see what all he had to say when he sat down with BareBones Ent!
BS: How did you come up with the House of Fear series?
JP: A couple of years ago, I had just finished the first draft of a script for a 150-page graphic novel. I was crazy excited to have completed the draft, so of course I told my wife and son about my accomplishment. At that point, I had done a handful of short comics, but never a full graphic novel.
None of the comics I had done were intended for kids at that point, so my son was disappointed to hear that he wouldn’t be able to read this one, either. He was only 6 years old at the time, and I felt the themes and overall story in the new script weren’t suitable for kids.
That night, when I was tucking him into bed, I could tell he had something on his mind. When I turned out the lights, he asked, “Dad, when are you going to write a comic I can read?”
That really hit me hard. Why wasn’t I writing anything my son could read? Feeling sort of numb by the revelation, I didn’t write for two weeks. I couldn’t get motivated to rewrite that script. Eventually, I decided that it was time to write something for my son. And since he was born on Halloween, I figured something scary was in order.
We discussed ideas for scary stories I could tell, and the next thing I know, we’re writing a story together. He came up with the general idea, and I’d ask him what should happen next. It was a fun for both of us. He got to see the comic-making process, and I got insights into my target audience.
Not long after, I was printing copies of House of Fear: The Curse of Cottonwood Ct.
BS: How have people responded to the series?
JP: Readers have loved the series so far. Local kids keep asking me when I’m going to release the next issue, and I can see in their eyes that they’re excited for more. Parents have told stories of their kids have reading each issue several times and then sharing them with their friends.
Because my son has given me his input along the way, I expected that kids would enjoy the comics, but I was never sure about the parents. Turns out, I have just as many adults reading the series as kids. I’ve talked to several people who have backed the Kickstarter campaigns, and I’ve been overwhelmed with how adults, those with kids and those without, have responded. I’ve had enough positive feedback that I know I’m on the right track with these family-friendly scary stories.
BS: What is your favorite part about creating this comic book?
JP: Definitely the kids. Knowing that I’m creating stories that help get kids excited about reading is a big thrill for me. A mom in Canada recently told me that her daughter has not only read the comics several times, but now makes up her own stories featuring Boyle, the House of Fear caretaker and host. So not only are some kids reading the stories, my creations are sparking their creativity, too.
When I wrote the first issue, I told myself that if I could get one child more interested in reading, then it would all be worth it. To hear that they’re reading and it’s inciting more creativity, too? That’s immensely rewarding.
BS: What is next in the series?
JP: I’ve currently got three stories in the works. Jethro Morales is drawing DEAD LAKE, a story about a group of boys on their first camping trip without their parents. Let’s just say that things don’t go well. Meanwhile, I’m in the middle of two other scripts. The first is called TEETH, and features an evil Tooth Fairy. The second involves spiders,,.lots and lots of spiders. There’s a moment in each of those stories that I’m so excited to have drawn. I just hope they aren’t so scary that kids start to fear losing teeth or encountering spiders. Then again, that’s exactly what I’m hoping for.
BS: I saw that for Halloween that you give out copies of your comics to trick or treaters. How did you come up with this?
JP: I’ve been giving out comics to trick or treaters for years. First by using old super hero comics, then with some mini comic bundles I found at local comic shops. The thing I didn’t like about those mini comics is that most of the comics end on a cliffhanger, forcing kids to seek out more comics to get the rest of the story.
Kids don’t want to read half of a comic on Halloween! So when I was developing plans for House of Fear, right there at the top of the list was making sure they’re all complete, stand-alone stories. Also right there at the top of the list was finding a way to make them inexpensive enough for fans to hand them out on Halloween instead of candy.
Heck, the name of the publisher I created is TEN31 Publishing, so it’s clear I’ve had Halloween in my sights from the beginning.
To test out how people might react to the idea, I made a special offer to readers on my mailing list: get sets of 10 or more House of Fear issues for 50 cents apiece.
The response was overwhelming. I sold 550 copies in two weeks. I think I only have 200 copies of each issue left, actually, and I plan to see how it goes at the local comic shop this Saturday at Halloween Fest, too. If all goes well, there will be some 700 kids out there reading copies of House of Fear this Halloween.
So far, the people who ordered the bundles are as excited as I am, too. I can’t wait to hear how it goes.
Based on my experience so far, you can bet I have a plan for a Kickstarter campaign next year. One devoted to bundles of mini House of Fear comics. I just need to work with my printer to find how many I need to print to make the costs low enough for more readers to jump on board.
BS: How do kids typically respond to this?
JP: Our house is now known as the Halloween House. Granted, that’s not all just because of the comics. I like to put up mini haunts on my porch. Actually, we’ve moved it into the garage because it kept getting bigger and bigger. But I’ve been told by several local kids that they like getting comics even more than they like the candy. Which, let’s be honest, is easy to say when you already have 5-pounds of candy in your bag.
BS: What is your favorite Halloween costume you’ve had?
JP: Honestly, I like simplicity. When I was younger, I tended toward having more fun with more complex costumes, but anymore, I just want to give a trick or treater a little scare. I’ve found that my steampunk gas mask is all I need, as long as I’m hovering around in the shadows.
BS: Are you dressing up this year? As what?
JP: I’ll be hidden in my garage haunt this year dressed as a scarecrow. But it won’t be crows I’m scaring, believe me.
BS: Have you seen anyone dress up as one of your characters?
JP: Not yet, but I have a feeling that sometime in the next couple of years, someone will stop by dressed as Boyle.
BS: Do you lean more trick or treat?
JP: Always treat. I’ve got a sweet tooth like nobody’s business. I’d do anything for chocolate. And because of that, I assume that everyone else wants the same thing, so even with the comics, I tend to hand out plenty of chocolate, too. If I didn’t, I’d have no excuse to have bags of candy stashed in the kitchen.
BS: What’s your favorite treat?
JP: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. No, no. Snickers. Actually, no. Probably Twix. No, I was right. It’s Reese’s. Mmmm, you know, maybe I need to go out and get a few bags of various candy and do a taste test to figure out the real answer.
BS: What is your favorite Halloween movie? Character?
JP: I grew up on the Friday the 13th series. Most of them are terrible, but Jason Vorhees will always be my favorite horror movie villain. And even though it’s a bit dated now, the first in the Friday the 13th series is always playing in our house at some point each October.
With that said, I have to admit I love Monster House. I watched that with my wife and son, and we all loved it. My son turns 8 on Halloween, and my goal is to slowly get him interested in scarier and scarier movies, so that when he’s old enough, he’ll be heading to the theater with me to watch the newest horror movies.
BS: Anything else you would like to add?
JP: If anyone wants to sample the House of Fear series, they can join my mailing list by clicking here: http://ten31publishing.com/free/.
When you sign up, I’ll send out a digital copy of the first issue of House of Fear, and previews of the other two.
And check out our review of the latest House of Fear book below and our Comics page here!