By: Nicole D’Andria
The seventh issue of House of Fear is on Kickstarter with even more standalone scary stories for young readers. This series is a mish-mash of classic horror properties like Goosebumps, Scooby-Doo, and Tales from the Crypt. Prepare for a scare in this uncharacteristically welcoming collection!
At 33-pages long, this issue of House of Fear features two stories. The main story in this issue of House of Fear is “Rubber & Glue,” Caden and Isaac are middle schoolers who don’t get along. But when Caden goes too far one day, Isaac places a curse on him that he’ll never forget. Creator/writer James Powell describes it “as if Stephen King wrote an after-school special.” The backup story, “The Trees Have Eyes,” features Tosh and his dad out for a hike in the woods, which may end poorly for them when they veer off-trail. Powell promises that “you’ll never look at Aspen trees the same again.”
Creator/writer James Powell’s House of Fear was previously selected in 2019 to be Dark Horse’s Halloween Fest Free Comic Book Day. He’s worked on a variety of other shorts including one featured in The Family Curse (Unfashioned Creatures). The artists of the book include Jethro Morales (Vampire, Dejah Thorns, Green Hornet) and James Hislope (Out of the Blue). The rest of the creative team features colorist Joshua Jensen (Lab Raider, Out of the Blue), designer/letter Matt Krotzer (The Jungle Book), and myself as the editor for the “Rubber & Glue” story.
The goal of the Kickstarter is to raise $4,500 by March 25, 2021, at 6:31 PM EDT. Rewards for House of Fear include multiple versions of the seventh issue, including a digital version ($5), a digital deluxe version with bonus art and scripts ($8), a print copy with the standard cover ($13), a Kickstarter exclusive variant that pays homage to 50s horror comics ($20), and a rare serialized variant included in the collector’s edition tier ($80) along with a bunch of other goodies. Check out the rest of the rewards and add-ons on the official Kickstarter page.
For a deeper peek behind the curtain, enjoy my conversation with creator/writer James Powell below!
Me: If you had to pick one episode each from Goosebumps and Tales from the Crypt that best represents this issue of House of Fear, which episodes would you pick and why?
James Powell: I haven’t seen or read all of either series, and certainly not recently enough to put my memory to the test. But I do remember a Goosebumps episode about a boy using worms to torment his sister. The prank elements and the revenge factor in that one remind me a little of the boys in “Rubber & Glue.” There’s another episode featuring bullies and pranks that I remember has some similarities, too (after a quick Google search, the episodes are “Go Eat Worms” and “Calling All Creeps”).
For Tales from the Crypt, I hesitate to make any comparisons since the show is intended for an older audience. But I do remember “Creep Course” (yes, I had to research the name of that one, too), which included an Egyptian curse. We downplay the Egyptian elements in “Rubber & Glue,” but there’s a certain tone in that episode that feels similar, even if it’s just the fact that they both take place in classrooms.
I have to say, just answering this question and quickly looking for episode names has me jonesing to sit down and rewatch these.
Me: They’re certainly worthy of a rewatch! You mention hesitating to compare your series to Tales from the Crypt because that’s intended for an older audience. Since you designed House of Fear for younger readers, how do you go about crafting horror that is an acceptable level of scary for your chosen demographic?
Powell: This is the most challenging and most rewarding part of writing House of Fear. It’s a constant balancing act for me. When I’m writing, I’m always walking that line, wondering how far I can push a certain scene. Is it too scary? Not scary enough? I want kids to feel that tension you get when you’re scared, but not so much that it’s no longer fun. The whole point is to enjoy being scared. But if I tone it down too much, then what’s the point?
I’m lucky to be working in comics, actually. Some of our stories might be too scary if you added motion, creepy sounds, and sinister music. As it is, I can ask Jethro to make a scene look more frightening, or to use a less dynamic point of view to tone it down some. Or I can ask Josh to enhance the shadows to make everything feel darker, more sinister. Comics are visual, certainly, but much of it is still in the readers’ minds, so we can get away with a little more than you might expect.
With all that said, however, I’ve found that kids can handle much more than adults give them credit for. And honestly, it’s the parents that are the hard sell. The name of the comic is enough to turn off some parents, while the kids just eat it up and want more. I do push the envelope some, as you might see in “The Trees Have Eyes.” But like I said, when I do push things a little, that’s when the kids enjoy the series most.
Me: As this is the seventh issue of House of Fear, how has your writing process for the series changed over time?
Powell: I’m slowly starting to add more depth and subtlety to the stories. Now that I’ve found the right tone and level of thrills we want for the series, I’m giving the characters more subtle, real-world fears. “Rubber & Glue” isn’t about a scary monster under the bed. Instead, it’s the fear of failing at school and being laughed at by friends.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want a moral to be the focal point in these stories. They’re meant to be thrilling. But in this issue and the ones we’re developing for later this year, the characters have a little more depth. And I’m finding new ways to let them grow within the confines of a short story.
Me: This is also your fifth Kickstarter for the series. What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned after running four previous campaigns?
Powell: I’m learning to put energy into my efforts prior to launch so that during the campaign itself, I can have a little fun. A campaign can be a stressful couple of weeks (or more). I found I don’t do well when I’m constantly working or if I’m incessantly worried about any one aspect of the campaign. Not only that, but I do much, much better in all areas when I’m having fun and focusing on the things I enjoy. Backers can sense my excitement, too, which helps them enjoy the campaign more.
Me: Can you tell us a bit about the characters featured in “Rubber & Glue” as well as “The Trees Have Eyes” and how readers can relate to them?
Powell: To some degree, we’ve all been bullied at some point in our life, right? Whether it’s overt or more subtle, it’s something we’ve all dealt with. And we can relate to someone wanting to get paybacks for injuries received. In “Rubber & Glue,” we see what it’s like to get that revenge, but we also see how horrible it can be to be on the giving end. It can be a pretty terrifying thing for both parties, and I hope I’ve captured that here.
“The Trees Have Eyes” is a completely different story in every way. I love being outside, hiking, enjoying fresh air and nature. One thing I can’t stand is littering or seeing names carved into trees. I know I’m not alone there, and I think we’ve come up with a fun way to show how Mother Nature gets her revenge on those who disrespect her.
Me: What is the number one reason why people should pledge money to your project?
Powell: We’ve put together another fantastic issue, and it’s intended for kids. There aren’t a lot of independent comics out there suitable for kids, but we’ve discovered what kids want to read. And we give them exactly that with every issue.
I know it’s hard for parents to monitor what their kids consume, and it’s scary to invite an unknown into your home. Books from Scholastic or First Second are vetted, proven winners, but they’re not the only ones making good comics for kids.
I stand by each and every issue of House of Fear. I know it can be scary to try something unproven, but parents can take a chance on us. I’ve had more than a few parents tell me this series got their kids interested in comics, and through comics, interested in reading other types of books, too.
Me: If you had to pick, which House of Fear story is your favorite and why?
Powell: Oh, wow, that’s a tough one. I enjoy them all for different reasons. I wrote “The Curse of Cottonwood Ct.” with my son, which ensures it’ll always have a special place in my heart. And I think “Teeth” is likely the creepiest issue.
But if I had to pick just one, I’d say “Attack of the Killer Snowmen.” There’s something fun, exciting, and fast-paced about the issue, and the art came together well enough that you actually feel cold from the winter scenes. And it’s the one issue in which the creative team found our voice and figured out exactly what types of stories are right for House of Fear.
Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
Powell: Perseverance is one of the most important aspects of writing. So keep writing. And just as important, keep sharing your stories. And by your stories, I mean the ones only you can tell. Tell the stories you want to tell, not the ones your friends or some publishing insider wants to see. The more authentic you are to your true self, the more energized you’ll be to create. And that energy will translate into better and better stories.
Me: Promote yourself! Let us know what else you’re working on and how fans can support you.
Powell: We’ve got over 150 pages of House of Fear in various stages. So be on the lookout for more issues coming soon, including a big surprise for Halloween that will give readers a chance to share the series with trick ‘r treaters. It’s why I created the series in the first place, and we’re finally making it happen.
I’m also taking on more and more editing. I love working with writers to tell their stories. I enjoy not only helping make a specific story as good as it can be, but I like to coach writers so they can constantly push themselves to be better and better. I’m available for all levels of edit and consultations on any type of project. So if you’re working on a story, you can find me at https://jameswpowell.com/.
Me: Thanks for exploring the horrors of the world through the eyes of younger readers! Readers can check out the House of Fear “Rubber & Glue” Kickstarter here.
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