Dark Horse Comics is celebrating the work of cartoonist Evan Dorkin this year, a six-time Eisner Award winner who is as skilled at creating humor comics as he is at writing heartbreaking tragedies. Dark Horse is publishing collections of Dorkin’s Milk And Cheese and Dork comics in May and July, respectively, but Dorkin is also creating something new with Blackwood, a four-issue miniseries teaming him with artists Veronica and Andy Fish for a college horror-comedy. The story follows four haunted young adults who attend Blackwood College to explore and improve their supernatural powers, but as is usually the case with these situations, there’s something ancient and sinister that interrupts their education.
“The initial inspiration was ’70s/’80s horror-comedies from back when I was a teenager,” says Evan Dorkin. “Movies like Fright Night, Re-Animator, Night of the Creeps and Return Of The Living Dead. Also some straight comedies like Animal House, Better Off Dead, and Real Genius. I wanted to write some horror stuff that wasn’t about animals. I love working on Beasts Of Burden, but the concept can be really restrictive—the animals don’t have hands, so just opening doors can become a plot problem. I get stumped a lot writing those stories, I can’t have them use computers, tools, or weapons. Blackwood unofficially takes place in the Beasts Of Burden world. It’s using that same set of RPG rules to set up a new game, if you get me.”
Evan and his wife/occasional co-writer Sarah Dyer met fellow husband-and-wife creators Andy and Veronica Fish at Heroes Con a few years ago while looking for artists for their digital comic Calla Cthulhu, which Dark Horse published in print last year. “I was also developing Blackwood, and when I saw Veronica’s work at her table it just clicked for me,” says Dorkin. “She had these really lovely and moody black and white pages from her creator-owned work, and a bunch of creepy Frankenstein images. Her pages showed some action, her art was strong on character and acting, and she didn’t skimp on backgrounds or storytelling. Seemed perfect for what I hoped for on Blackwood. I think what Veronica and Andy are doing on the book looks terrific, I’m excited to see it finally all come together.
Dorkin’s Beasts Of Burden with artist Jill Thompson is a gold standard for emotionally engaging horror, and Dorkin’s attention to character caters to Veronica Fish’s greatest strength: drawing soulful characters whose feelings leap off the page and into the reader’s heart. “I’ve wanted to do something like this for years, so it’s very exciting,” says Veronica Fish. “The Blackwood world is so deep and complex, there is just ton of potential material. Evan writes these incredibly comprehensive descriptions of character and atmosphere, and each script is so rich and well defined I can’t wait to read what happens next. Being able to explore this dark territory is super compelling.”
Veronica is coloring the series while working with her Andy on the layouts and linework, and the three have quickly developed a strong creative bond. “Because [Evan] is a writer and artist, he gets both sides of the process and his feedback pushes me to get better,” says Veronica Fish. “Evan is an all-around amazing creator and I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time; it’s very cool to have this opportunity. Andy is a big Universal horror guy as well as an amazing artist, so it was a perfect fit for him to come on board with me on the art side of things. He’ll suggest a great layout or tackle a complex perspective shot, and we’ll bounce ideas for visuals off each other. Andy will know exactly what reference Evan makes in a script and I think Evan and I share similar storytelling instincts. The 3 of us really click on the spooky imagery and just comics in general, so we’ve got a great team together.”
The A.V. Club has an exclusive first look at the unfinished covers for the first three issues of Blackwood, which debuts on May 30. The main covers by Veronica Fish blend ornate design with vibrant colors and spooky imagery, and the variants feature some of the best horror artists in the game: Becky Cloonan, Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire, and Tyler Crook. Fish’s past work promises that the interiors will look as good as the covers, and the pairing of her skills with Dorkin’s deep storytelling makes Blackwood a can’t-miss new series.