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Exclusive: DC's 'The Conjuring' comic writers on what it takes to bring the horror world from screen to page
Next month, horror fans everywhere will finally get to see the much-anticipated third installment in The Conjuring film series. Since the first film in the series debuted in 2013, the Conjuring franchise has expanded out from the main story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to include spinoffs like Annabelle, The Nun, and The Curse of La Llorona.
But now, in conjunction with the release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the horror universe is moving into a new frontier: Comics.
Announced by DC Comics last month as the flagship title in a new DC Horror imprint, The Conjuring: The Lover will give longtime fans and newcomers alike a new story that leads into the events of The Devil Made Me Do It, adding depth and context to the film while pushing The Conjuring universe into comics for the first time. Today, DC Comics released a creepy first look at this all-new story, and SYFY WIRE sat down with writers David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Rex Ogle to talk about how it all came together.
For Johnson-McGoldrick, who's scripted the last two Conjuring films, a project like The Lover presented an intriguing opportunity to flesh out The Devil Made Me Do It's main story, in which the Warrens encounter the real-life case of Arne Johnson, who was tried for murder in 1981 and claimed he was not guilty due to demonic possession. In The Lover, readers won't follow the Warrens, but they'll be introduced to a college student named Jessica who comes to realize, amid all the other stresses of school and life, that something dark is hunting her. So, what does Jessica have to do with the Arne Johnson case?
"In the context of the film, Jessica's story is a precursor to what's happening to the main character, the cursed person in the film, Arne Johnson. All the things that are happening to Arne Johnson, they all happened in the past," Johnson-McGoldrick said, calling The Devil Made Me Do It a sort of "last chapter" to a bigger story. "They happened to this Jessica girl first, and so it really sets the table for what the stakes are for the film. If you were to go out to and read this comic book before you ever saw the movie, it would establish stakes. It would establish what's going to go wrong, if our heroes don't prevent this from happening to Arne."
While Johnson-McGoldrick emphasized that fans won't have to read the comic to understand the events of the film, he noted The Lover does create "another piece" of the overall mythology tied into The Devil Made Me Do It, and attentive viewers will even be able to spot connections to Jessica in the film itself. Beyond that connective tissue in the plot, Johnson-McGoldrick and Ogle also faced the challenge of telling a Conjuring story — which viewers have become so enamored with on the big screen — in a new format for the first time. With that in mind, they had to boil down The Conjuring as a franchise to its essential elements, and translate them to the comics page alongside artist Garry Brown, whose creepy pencils you can check out in the gallery above.
"It's something that is scary, something that is good fun and something that kind of leaves you really kind of crawling underneath your skin," Ogle, whose past comics work includes Teen Titans and Death of Wolverine: Life After Logan, said. "I've seen the Conjuring movies so many times. My niece and nephew actually introduced them to me because they were such big fans. They saw them in the movie theater and they're like 'You have to watch them.' So of course I watched it with them and I was like 'Oh, this is so much fun.' This is something that's one of those things where you want to watch it in the dark and you want to be spooked by it, and it's even better because it's based on a true story."
Johnson-McGoldrick added, "I think the other piece of that, and I think Rex did a really good job of capturing it as well, is I feel like the Conjuring universe films tend to be also very character-driven, like right from the very first movie. I didn't have anything to do with that one, but I mean Ed and Lorraine, their characters, their marriage, their love is really front and center. Sometimes it feels to me like Conjuring movies are sort of like the supernatural almost becomes a manifestation of the strife that the characters are experiencing in real life. So [in The Lover] you introduce this character of Jessica who's having all these problems, cause she doesn't want to be away at school, and she has these secrets that she's keeping, and it's manifesting in our story as the supernatural element."
Though no other comics specific to The Conjuring universe have yet been announced, Johnson-McGoldrick and Ogle are very aware that The Lover is helping to launch a whole new wave of horror comics at DC that will continue with more still-unannounced DC Horror titles later this year. It all feels like a larger part of an overall boom in horror comics, and genre comics outside of superheroes in general, that they're pleased to be part of as both creators and readers.
"There's so many good comics out there right now. I just finished reading Gideon Falls over at Image, and it's just such a beautiful, well done horror comic," Ogle said. "For the last few decades, superheroes have been very prevalent, but now comics and graphic novels are opening up and people are realizing, 'Wow, we can tell all kinds of different stories again.' So we're having kind of a Renaissance, and it's just a really good time to tell new fun, original stories, and it's even better for me that they're going to be spooky."
The Conjuring: The Lover debuts June 1, just days before The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It hits theaters, and will run for five issues. Each issue will also feature a backup story that sheds light on an object from the Warrens' famous supernatural artifact room, beginning in issue #1 with a story from writer Scott Snyder and artist Denys Cowan.