BOOM! Studios delves back into horror with a frequent face at the publisher, writer James Tynion IV, on the upcoming Something is Killing the Children.
Drawn by Werther Dell'Edera, the series focuses on the mysterious monsters that are killing the children of a town called Archer's Peak - with a young woman named Erica Slaughter coming forward the only person who has any clue at stopping this monstrosity.
With this ongoing debuting this Wednesday, Tynion and series editor Eric Harburn spoke with Newsarama about the series, Tynion's return to creator-owned comic books, and BOOM!'s continued exploration of the horror genre.
Newsarama: James, how did the idea for Something is Killing the Children come about? How did the idea for the series form?
James Tynion IV: Honestly, the first thing I had with Something is Killing the Children is the title. It’s something that has been floating at the back of mind for years now. It was originally a title I used for a short story I wrote in college that has nothing to do with the comic book that everybody is about to read, but it’s a title that really stuck with me. Over the years, I would pitch different concepts under the same title to pretty much every company that I was working with. It was about five years ago now that I first pitched BOOM! a version that is radically different from the current versions.
The current version really took shape towards the end of last year when all of these different elements that have been cooking at the back of mind came together, and the character of Erica Slaughter, this monster hunter, really took hold in my mind. This strange blonde woman arriving in this small town across the upper mid-west on a bus. Entering this town where children have gone missing and she knows what killed them and she knows how to stop them, but the town don’t understand her. They don’t understand what her motives are because they can’t see the monsters that she can. That really started to take shape, the story of Something is Killing the Children, to what it is today.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about the main characters of the story.
Tynion IV: This is a fairly grounded world. The main character, besides from Erica, is really the town of Archer’s Peak, which is a small town in Wisconsin that has been experiencing these deaths. Children are going missing, bodies have been found, and there is nothing that can explain the level of death and destruction that this town has seen and the trauma of that. The horror of not being able to do anything in the face of something this horrendous.
We start by meeting a young boy named James, who watched his friends get killed by this thing and no one will believe what he saw kill his friend until Erica comes to town and that’s where it really begins. From there we meet all the other characters from Archer’s peak who all faced off with these monsters, whether they know it or not – that’s really going to be the driving narrative.
Nrama: Eric, there are so many different genres being explored at BOOM! right now. Why do you think a horror book like this works well with the brand?
Eric Harburn: That’s a great question. I think horror in particular, especially in comics and the Direct <arket is very resilient and is deeper than you think of at first glance. Something is Killing the Children in particular is very mature horror not in the sense of lots of blood and guts and what not, but in the fact that the creative team takes approach that lets you seep into the world.
It lets the dread take over. There are certain sequences that are silent or minimalist in dialogue, and really lets the world and the creeping fear of the characters see this as a reader. I would say it’s different from most other books you see on the stands right now. There are certainly moments of intense horror, monsters, and what not throughout the series and even in issue 1. But the scenes and moments that will resonate most with readers are when we are sitting with characters and feeling their trauma and pain, seeing them reconcile what is happening with their lives. I think that’s what makes horror, right now in particular, such a potent genre.
Nrama: Why do you think BOOM! was the perfect place for this story?
Tynion IV: I’ve been working with Boom! now for pretty much my entire career. They were the first company, when I started writing back up stories for DC Comics, to reach out to me and said they were interested in hearing a pitch for a long-form – well not even a long-form story at that point, they were actually just looking for a pitch for a 4-issue mini-series. But instead I pitched them a long-form concept that became The Woods, which launched in 2014. It was really my first big creator-owned title.
I’ve been working with them for pretty much as long as I’ve been in comics. Eric has been my editor there from the beginning. Two years ago, I did a series with BOOM! called Eugenic and that was my last creator-owned launch at all. The last few years I’ve just been working in superhero comics. I’ve been having a lot of fun over there working on the Justice League comics and the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossovers.
There was an itch growing inside of me that I needed to get back to the creator-owned stage, and I had some ideas for it. The first people I wanted to talk to were Eric and everyone at BOOM! because they have been such a great home for me in the past. They’ve grown a lot as a company, and I hope I’ve grown a lot as a writer. It’s exciting to enter a new phase of my career with them.
Nrama: Eric, you both worked on The Woods and many other titles together. How was your editor/writer dynamic coming into this project?
Harburn: We’ve worked on a lot of books together, and James is a writer I’ve edited the most issues period. We’ve worked together on, I don’t know, 50-60 + issues over the last five or six years. So, I think a lot of it is that I trust James creatively. I trust where his head space is. As an editor it’s fun to work with collaborators you believe in, that you love working with, and that you know they appreciate a second pair of eyes but is honest where their head is at. Where it’s not.
I love working with James. I think this book, as a first part of a second phase we are working together. I’m excited at how James has grown as a writer. He said hopefully I’ve grown, he definitely has. I think this book is going to shock even people who have read all of his work. I think it’s an entirely new level. You’ll see that in issue 1, but as you see the rest of the issues of the series it even goes further than that. I’m excited with the team we’ve been able to put together. We are always trying to build a better mouse trap as we work together. Something is Killing the Children is just that next big leap hopefully.
Nrama: How many issues do you want the series to go for now that it’s been announced as an ongoing?
Tynion IV: In terms of a specific number, I’ll let everyone see that as the story unfolds. As I was building this comic, I started realizing it was a larger story when it was in its first iteration - I saw it as a series of one-shots. Writing the first issue I realized no I needed more time with Archer’s Peak. It became something this first story would encompass the whole five issues arc, but then even writing issues 2 and 3 I saw it was bigger than that. Now the way I’m looking at Something is Killing the Children is as a long-form horror novel told through comic book issues. I’m really excited to dig in and explore this town, the horror in this town, and all of the characters in it. It’s going to allow us to really open up the story, to really live in the darker emotions, which is where I really think horror lives.
Nrama: Many of your horror stories focus on kids. Why do you think they fit well for the genre?
Tynion IV: I think there is something just very visceral for the children and the adults reading about the children. There are such heightened emotions when you are looking at that age, and everything feels very life or death balancing with the day to day drama with your friends. When you dial that all up and you actually introduce life or death stakes, there’s a lot of power there and a lot of horror.
In fiction there’s a sense, especially with a certain type of story, where you know the story isn’t going to do something too terrible to these young characters, but some of my favorite horror stories were It or Pet Sematary where it goes to the dark places and those stories are incredibly powerful for that. There’s something we are trying to say here, and I think as people read this comic they’ll see that. I’m very excited for this book to come out.