Dark Horse has published comic books with Cthulhu before, but never have they done one with the teenage offspring of one of H.P. Lovecraft's most famous creations.
Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Erin Humiston are bringing their digital-first Calla Cthulhu title to Dark Horse, serialized on the digital comics platform Stela. Due in print August 2017, Calla Cthulhu follows a 'young one' from the Great Old Ones' bloodline, battling supernatural monsters and even some of her family members.
Along with Calla Cthulhu, Dorkin is himself partnering with Dark Horse for the first-ever complete collection of his creator-owned anthology Dork! in hardcover. Originally launched at SLG Publishing, the series has spun off such popular concepts as Milk & Cheese and The Eltingville Club.
Both Dorkin and Dyer spoke with Newsarama about this partnership with Dark Horse, as well as exploring what Calla Cthulhu and this new Dork! hardcover contains. Included with this is panels from Calla Cthulhu has released digitally on Stela.
Newsarama: Evan, Sarah, who is Calla Tafali?
Sarah Dyer: Calla is a teenage girl who was sheltered from her heritage by her parents her entire life – so when events pass that not only introduce her to the supernatural world around her, but cause her own supernatural powers to manifest, she's understandably a bit more confused and angst-ridden than your usual teenager.
Nrama: And her uncle, the King in Yellow. Who's he in her life, and what does he need her for?
Dyer: Calla has only recently met her Uncle Hastur when he offered to take her under his wing and guide her through learning about the “family business.” Their relationship is a very wary one, and hasn't so far been the friendliest.
Evan Dorkin: Hastur's motivation is a plot point we're not revealing for a while. The Mythos entities tend not to interact with one another the way Marvel or DC super-villains do, or have much direct interest in human affairs. In our universe there are definite reasons for these characters to have started taking a more active role in things. That being said, they won't be popping up with the regularity of a Dr. Doom or having regular kaiju fights or anything like that. They're out there, and they show up when necessary, but they tend to make their presences known through their followers and cults.
Nrama: A teenage Cthulhu - how'd that idea come about?
Dyer: Well I should clarify that Calla is not Cthulhu himself, but an important descendant. The original idea of her came from a conversation I had with our tween daughter about YA horror books and how few heroines she was finding that she liked; she'd recently been looking at some of Evan's books on Lovecraft and thought his Mythos family tree was hilarious, and I asked “what if Cthulhu had a descendant who was a girl? But she was the one fighting the other monsters?” We both thought this was a book we would like to see!
Dorkin: The next day, Sarah pitched me the premise and she and I fleshed it out and pitched it to Stela, who we were developing something else for. We liked this idea better, and they did, too.
Nrama: Outside of Lovecraft of course, what inspired you in creating Calla Cthulhu?
Dorkin: Besides Lovecraft we've taken elements from other old weird fiction writers working the Mythos, or whose work influenced the Mythos, like Robert Chambers, Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson, Frank Belknap Long and folks like that. We've adopted parts of August Derleth's stories for a general spine, losing the awkward elemental and Judeo-Christian alignments. That's where the Cthulhu/Hastur connection comes from. We're also throwing in some other things we like and that worked in our story, Hong Kong martial arts movies, fantasy fiction and RPGs, adventure pulps, serials and comics. Lots of folks have mined this material, it's nothing new in that regard. But we're doing a more pulpy, adventure-based take on the Mythos, with more female characters and humor than you tend to see.
Nrama: You two have worked together numerous times before professionally, but for this one how did you find yourself divvying up the work?
Dyer: In a lot of ways I've done the heavy lifting on Calla, we write together but at the same time I'm acting as showrunner, working with the rest of the team and trying to keep the overall direction consistent. When it comes to the scripts themselves I think I've been slightly more focused on Calla's journey, while Evan's been responsible for the bulk of the Mythos elements. But really we will pretty much take turns drafting and revising equally.
Dorkin: I'm basically the Mythos and monster fanboy. I also spend a lot of time worrying too much about things like sound effects and fight choreography.
Nrama: And working with you on this is co-creator/artist Erin Humiston. How did you connect with Erin, and what made him the right artist for the book?
Dyer: We've been friendly with Erin for some time – he and his wife have an ongoing comic called Band that’s really great. We saw them at HeroesCon last year while we were looking for an artist, and when we got home and looked through the volume of Band we'd gotten we realized he would be a perfect fit. He's got a clean, expressive style that works well both with our format and characters, and he's got an amazing design sense – his takes on the Mythos have been really fun to see! I especially love his Hastur.
Dorkin: As an animator, Erin approaches the work as a storyteller, character designer, and problem solver, things we really appreciate as readers and writers. His clean, solid style gives Calla Cthulhu a different feel than the typical Mythos project. I love the shadowy, apocalyptic look you normally associate with Lovecraft art, but it tends to blend together. We're emphasizing different things with the series, and Erin's art embodies that really well. I also wanted to add that while Erin did all his own designs and inked the first chapter, he suggested bringing in Mario Gonzalez to ink the rest of the series. The rest of Team Calla is colorist Bill Mudron and Nate Piekos providing the lettering.
Nrama: Will this continue to be published and be available on Stela, or are you moving this exclusively to Dark Horse? And will it be available on DH's digital platforms?
Dyer: Part two of Calla's adventures will be published on Stela in the next month or two, I believe - and the entire first series will remain digitally exclusive to Stela for the foreseeable future. Dark Horse will be handling the print version only.
Nrama: This print edition of Calla Cthulhu is being announced at the same time a new printing of Dork! has been announced. Forgive me if I've missed something, but these latter issues hadn't been collected before, right?
Dorkin: Right, Dork! #11 was published after the two original trade paperbacks came out. The new book will basically collect all the non-Eltingville Club and Milk & Cheese material from Dork #1-11, the House of Fun Color Special from 2012, eight pages of Fun Strips from Dark Horse Presents #4 from 2014, and a page done for the 2015 Liberty Comics Annual.
Nrama: In revisiting this work, I'm told you're adding some "odds, ends, and extras." What are those, exactly?
Dorkin: The odds and ends are mostly the standard thing, covers, back covers, pin-ups and the like. We're also including pages that were done for the two SLG collections. The extras will include a few new pages, at least one page of Fun Strips, a two-page introduction, a full-page “obligatory playlist” based on the panels I used to run on the inside front covers of the comic, and whatever else I can cobble together last minute.
Nrama: This is all presumably work done or almost done - what are you two working on next?
Dyer: We are actually working on writing Calla's next adventure! But other than that, I am pretty busy in my job as Art Director at Pinup Girl Clothing, working with artists like Stephanie Buscema, Lady Weird, and Evan (as well as a few others I can't talk about yet!) – most exciting right now is a new monster print I created with Evan's artwork that will be coming out soon to go along with the previous Cthulhu print we did.
Dorkin: Sarah and I will have five pages of gag strips in Kodansha USA's Attack on Titan Anthology, which is out in a few weeks. I'm working on a series pitch with artist Veronica Fish that we're really hoping will land with a publisher, and it looks like Jill Thompson and I will have a Beasts of Burden two-parter out next year, rounding off the second collection.