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Since its debut three years ago, Stranger Things has become a worldwide phenomenon, with three seasons of the TV series (with a rumored fourth on the way) and several spinoff books and comics. Last year, Netflix and Dark Horse announced that they would team up for "a multi-year publishing line" that would "explore the mysterious world of Hawkins, Indiana," and since then the small Midwest town's backstory has been growing at a rapid clip.
As the writer for all of Dark Horse's Stranger Things comics thus far, Jody Houser has been responsible for expanding on the mysteries of Hawkins. Last year, she told the story of Will's survival in the Upside Down in Stranger Things: The Other Side and followed it up this year with a one-shot for Free Comic Book Day. More recently, Houser took a closer look at the history of Dr. Brenner and his lab through the eyes of the troubled "Francine" in Stranger Things: Six.
Houser, whose credits include Valiant Comics' Faith, Marvel's Agent May, and IDW's Orphan Black, was the author on the critically acclaimed Star Wars: Thrawn and has contributed to Big-Two books like Spider-Man and Avengers. Her previous two Stranger Things comics dove deeper into the Upside Down, but her work on Six has been the most revealing in terms of the history of Hawkins.
With the release of the final issue of Six two weeks ago, Houser spoke with SYFY WIRE about teaming up with artist Stefano Martino to explore the darker side of Hawkins.
In Six, Houser has cracked the doors to Dr. Brenner's Lab in Hawkins a little more. With the discovery that she has the "gift" of precognition, Houser's main character, Francine, is exploited by her parents. Eventually, Francine, aka Six, looks for respite in a love interest and neighbor, Ricky, eventually leading to Dr. Brenner's entrance to the story. Houser says providing a deeper look into Dr. Brenner's program and its subjects was a story she really wanted to explore.
"I was hoping to add one new character (Six) to the world, but the fact we got to introduce multiple kids from the program was really wonderful, and beyond what I thought we'd be able to do," she says.
Through its four issues, Houser introduced to several more inhabitants of Dr. Brenner's lab. Unlike Eight and Eleven, who were brought to the program at a very young age, people like Six were manipulated into joining the program when they were a little older. Additionally, with the information that there are at least 95 subjects at Hawkins Lab, the question to what happened to them prior to Season 1 of Stranger Things could be explored.
"Netflix has given us a lot of space to build something new in the universe that expands elements that we only saw briefly on the show," Houser says.
As for now, Dark Horse has not announced any future Stranger Things series, but with the multi-year deal in place with Netflix, more are sure to arrive soon.
"I would love to write more about [the kids]," Houser says. Especially Ricky, she adds. "I really like Ricky/Three from Six, and I think there's more to him than we've gotten to see."
Weaving in things from the show, like the sensory deprivation tank and the scene where Six gets to sit in on one of Eleven's early experiments, Houser was able to expand what we know about the Hawkins lab but also provide insightful moments of foreshadowing in Six. It was also fun to see Houser tie in the moment in which Eleven's mom stormed the Hawkins Lab in Season 2 of the show, as Six and another patient use the moment to escape.
Three, aka Ricky, though, could be the lead in future series, if the powers that be decide to go down that path. It's hinted that Dr. Brenner and Three could be related, opening up questions about Dr. Brenner's early years and how the Hawkins Lab experiments started.
As for how she sees the Stranger Things comic books rolling out moving forward, Houser remains tight-lipped.
"I'll just say that I'm really excited by the possibilities," she says.
The trade paperback of the Stranger Things comic hits stores on November 6. You can catch Houser's work in the upcoming Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins II, Doctor Who, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, Web of Black Widow, and Star Trek: Year Five.