BATMAN Writer Makes Nightmares Real in Thrillbent's HOUSE IN THE WALL
James Tynion IV is really beefing up his indie comics resumé with another horror title at Thrillbent — this time with House in the Wall, a ghost tale that puts a new twist on haunted house stories.
The story launches today on Thrillbent, the digital comics site founded by comic book legend Mark Waid and TV luminary John Rogers. Comics on the site, including the recently added two volumes of Waid's Empire series with Barry Kitson, are available with a $3.99 per month subscription.
Tynion, who often collaborates with Scott Snyder — including co-plotting DC's current weekly series, Batman Eternal — got his start writing back-up stories for the best-selling Batman series. He's since written Talon and Red Hood and the Outlaws for DC as well, but branched out into smaller publishing companies with stories like The Woods at BOOM! Studios and his creator-owned digital series The Eighth Seal at Thrillbent.
With House in the Wall, Tynion is co-writing with friend Noah J. Yuenkel, working with artist Eryk Donovan and colorist Fred C. Stressing. The limited series tells the story of Ariel Carpenter, whose boyfriend, job and existence in Brooklyn seems very mundane. The only thing that seems real is a spectral house she visits every night in her dreams.
The excitement starts when Ariel discovers a door in her Brooklyn apartment that leads to her impossible dream house, but visiting it ends up unlocking an ancient horror that could destroy her life.
Newsarama talked to Tynion to find out more about his further foray into indie comics, and what readers can expect from The House in the Wall.
Newsarama: James, you're well known for your work in the Batman universe at DC, but it looks like you're really branching out into creating your own universes and stories.
James Tynion IV: Yeah, now with The Woods out, and I've been doing The Eighth Seal online for a little over a year, I feel like — one of my big worries was when I started with a superhero book, was that I wasn't really showing people the full breadth of the kind of stories I like to tell, and really give people a sense of my voice.
Now, I have a bunch of stuff out there that shows the kind of stories I like to tell. So that's been great.
And the fact that I'm working with Noah. He's my co-writer on this series, and he's been my best friend for years. And the fact that we've been able to bring this story to life… I'm extraordinarily happy and excited.
Nrama: Should we know Noah's name?
Tynion: He's self-published a few comics, but this is his first time being published in bigger way. He's my best friend, and he's also a writing major. He and I collaborated on a bunch of projects in high school and in college. But this is our first attempt at it since I've come onto the comics scene. And it's something we've been wanting to do for years.
Obviously, based on my career with Scott [Snyder], I love collaborate writing. It's a process I really enjoy being a part of, and I think it really draws out a lot of incredible things about the story.
I think people are really going to enjoy what Noah brings to the table, and I think everyone will be seeing a lot more of him in the years to come.
Nrama: How did you end up bringing this series to Thrillbent?
Tynion: I've been doing The Eighth Seal on Thrillbent for a little over a year. And that story is Rosemary's Baby meets The West Wing. It's very dark. It's very grounded in reality, but when it breaks from reality, it goes into a Lovecraftian horror kind of place.
But I kept having these ideas that didn't quite fit that story of ways to use the Thrillbent format to create different kinds of scares. I couldn't fit those into the story. So I thought, OK, I think I want to tell another horror story in this digital format that will be different and new.
That's when I started talking to Noah and saying, maybe we should do a ghost story.
There have been a lot of ghost stories out there lately — not necessarily just in comics, but also in the mass market and media. The Conjuring is a recent movie that comes to mind. It goes back to the trope of the haunted house. I wanted to do a story that touches on the haunted house but approaches it in a completely different way.
So that's where it came from.
Nrama: The main character is Ariel Carpenter — does that name pay homage to anyone?
Tynion: Yeah, it's definitely an homage to John Carpenter, which isn't to say this is a very John Carpenter-y story, although there are always pieces. The Thing is my favorite movie of all time, so that definitely has influences on everything I do.
Nrama: What's Ariel like in the story?
Tynion: With Ariel, I wanted to write a character that felt very familiar to me, who was my age, in her mid-20s. With a lot of people in their mid-20s, they're in a place where, you know, they went to college, they got their degree, but now they have no idea what to do with their lives. And there are no clear answers and no clear direction. There aren't jobs waiting for them. Most of them have degrees that don't really fit what jobs are available.
So she's in a place of wondering what her life's going to be, and the kind of slow disconnect that happens from the real world when you start feeling that aimless. Nothing around you seems to really matter or feel real, so when you encounter something that feels real, you latch onto it. And that can be incredibly destructive. And that's the core theme we're playing with here.
Nrama: What's the inciting incident for Ariel that kicks off this story?
Tynion: The inciting moment of the series, that happens over the first two chapters, is Ariel discovering that the door to a house that she keeps discovering in her dreams, she finds it in her wall in her actual, awake life.
She rips the wall open, when she sees a corner of it, and it's just like, this is impossible. That place is so relegated to my dream space that it cannot possible be real. And she's trying to show to the people around her that it's real, and it's going to be very difficult for her to convince anyone, especially before very bad things start to happen.
Nrama: It's interesting that this place she dreams about feels real, because I've had that happen to me. There's a recurring place that shows up in my dreams, and I've never been there, and I don't even think it's real. Have you had that phenomenon? Is that where this comes from?
Tynion: Oh absolutely. One thing that does recur in my dreams a lot are impossible structures. I have this one dream that my friends make fun of me for, because I was at, like, Jimmy Fallon's New Year's party — I've never met Jimmy Fallon in my life. It took place in an infinitely tall skyscraper. So for awhile my wi-fi network in my apartment was Jimmy Fallon's Infinite Skyscraper.
I have dreams where I'm in those types of places a lot, like hotels and cruise ships and malls. And this is sort of an extension of that — the impossible house.
Nrama: Now that you've done two horror series at Thrillbent, what are you discovering that work well in this digital format that works really well that way, that maybe wouldn't work as well on paper?
Tynion: One of the biggest reasons I've been doing horror stories in this format is that, in print comics, there's only one opportunity every two pages for a scare, and that's very limiting. In horror movies, anything can jump out at you at any moment, but in comics, they can't. You have to turn the page.
But in this digital form, any swipe forward through the story could bring something horrifying, so it creates a whole different edge of tension, and creates a whole different language of reveals and transition that I absolutely love playing with. And it works really well with this story.