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Hill House Comics, Joe Hill's inventive pop-up imprint for DC Black Label's new horror line, got off to a fine "head" start last month with the debut of Basketful of Heads #1, deftly written by Hill himself and charged with unsettling artwork from Leomacs.
Now The Dollhouse Family, the second series emanating from this curated line, is about to launch, with its latent fears of toy dolls coming alive within a seemingly harmless suburban setting — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive peek through its frightening doors and windows.
Written by Mike Carey and injected with atmospheric art by Peter Gross and Vince Locke, colors by Cris Peter, and variant cover via Jay Anacleto, The Dollhouse Family #1 finds a home in comic shops starting Nov. 13. Carey and Gross are longtime collaborators on DC/Vertigo's Lucifer series, and here they don't miss a heartbeat in immediately setting a Twilight Zone-like tone of terror.
The plot finds young Alice on her sixth birthday receiving a special gift from her dying great-aunt that Alice never realized she always wanted: a huge, ornate 19th-century dollhouse, complete with a strange family of antique dolls. Before long, the dollhouse isn't simply Alice's favorite toy, it's her entire world. Soon little Alice learns she can enter the bewitched miniature house to visit a new circle of friends, one straight out of a heartwarming classic children's novel: the Dollhouse family.
But while the imaginary Dollhouse family welcomes Alice with open arms, in the real world her actual family life is becoming much more disturbing as domestic violence strikes. Deep within the Dollhouse's labyrinth of hallways, the Black Room waits with a diabolical offer. The house can fix all this turmoil. All she needs to do is say the magic words!
The Dollhouse Family #1 also comes fortified with the second chapter of the "Sea Dogs" backup story written by Joe Hill, as spymaster Benjamin Tallmadge's monstrous scheme is underway as his coerced crew of blood-crazed colonial werewolves prepares to slash the Royal Navy from within!
Carey recalls all the creative ingredients that led to his sinister supernatural story, whose pedigree hearkens back to the old horror anthology tales in DC's House of Mystery and House of Secrets.
"It’s really hard to pin down, after you’ve come up with a story, what its origins were," Carey tells SYFY WIRE. "There are so many things that come into your thought processes and leave an imprint there. I think a lot of things were swirling around in my mind. The Haunting of Hill House – both the original and the Mike Flanagan reworking – as well as The Shining, Locke & Key, Enid Blyton’s Tales From Toyland. There’s a great tradition in horror of scary architecture. And there’s a great tradition of scary dolls, statues, dummies, and models. I just slammed the two together and got the dollhouse."
For the specific tone and colors of The Dollhouse Family, Carey was looking for two things -- a mood of foreboding and a strong sense of place.
"That means the coloring has to change quite radically as we move from one time frame to another, but there still has to be an underlying unity," Carey says. "I think Cris [Peter] has done an amazing job on that.
"Peter Gross and I have worked together since forever, and we worked with Vince Locke a lot on The Unwritten – with some great results," he adds. "Peter was meticulous in figuring out what the dollhouse should look like, inside and out. Obviously we were going to pay homage to the American Gothic tradition, but we had a lot of leeway in terms of the size, shape, and structure. Peter rolled his sleeves up, and I think we got a dollhouse that’s very much a presence and a character."
Now walk on up to the porch and come inside our exclusive look at DC Black Label and Hill House Comics' The Dollhouse #1, then let us know if its old-fashioned frights will keep you awake tonight.