‘Dwellings’ Creator Jay Stephens: The Conskipper Interview

Jay Stephens brings his fan-favorite cartoon horror series Dwellings to Oni Press on August 9 for the first issue in a set of brand versions of his successfully crowd funded comics. The re-formatted, oversized, prestige format issues will contain 72 shocking pages, all done in a classic Harvey Comics style with Stephens inclusion of murder, mayhem, and the paranormal to spice things up.

We get Stephens’ answers to our most burning questions about Dwellings in this exclusive interview.

How did you develop the idea for Dwellings and how did your memories of old Harvey comics fuel this process?

Dwellings is a strange, weird, and fun as Hell exploration of two separate passions of mine, horror films and vintage kids comics. I can still remember reading Hot Stuff, the Little Devil while the adults watched The Exorcist on TV in the background, leading my young brain to conclude there were terrible secrets to be revealed some day. I guess I’m finally trying to work that out on paper. Below the surface, Dwellings is also an attempt at processing the modern horrors surrounding us at every turn these days. The incessant ‘caws’ of the murder of crows telling someone to kill as a metaphor for ‘tweets’, for example. 

Dwellings will be able to reach a whole new audience with these new editions.  How important were the initial crowdfunding campaigns in sustaining your interest and passion for the comic?

Dwellings never would have happened without the reunion with my dear friend Michel Vrana at Black Eye Books, who I started out with in the alternative comics scene way back in 1990! Crowdfunding gave me the opportunity to experiment with Dwellings as single issue stories, slowly experimenting with the core concepts to create something I’m super proud of. I got to take my time and really, well, dwell on the stories.

 While your style is certainly reminiscent of the Harvey comics, it is also very adult in nature. How do you blend your style with the tone?

It’s mostly an act of circumstance, really. I watch and read an abnormal amount of horror, and the genre has just become a permanent aspect of who I am. And my love of the artistry of Warren Kremer, Howie Post, Otto Mesmer, John Stanley, and the Hanna-Barbera house style is well documented. Not sure why it never occurred to me to blend real horror content with my old-school drawing style until my ‘Little Horror Flicks’ postcard series, but once the screeching cat was out of the bag, I couldn’t believe how freeing it felt.

How does the new format enhance Dwellings?

I was thrilled Oni Press saw the potential of bringing these to a much larger audience, and we had fun brainstorming the best way to reintroduce the Saturday Morning meets Stroke of Midnight tales. The Oni versions stay quite true to the uncanny symbiosis of Dwellings, invoking both the mid-century ‘Giant-Size’ Harvey comics, and Grindhouse or late night Drive-In double-feature horror picture shows. Feels right.

You have stated in the past that you initially fueled your comic habit by tracking comics down at garage sales and flea markets. What was your most memorable find?

I had a coverless copy of Doom Patrol #88 that I loved, and it took me years to figure out who the hell these (at the time) long forgotten ‘heroes’ were. Still a favorite of mine. And I’d come across the occasional UK reprint of mis-colored Marvel comics… those off-model things always felt like they were from an alternate dimension. Found the ‘Mad Monster Party’ comic many years before I had seen, or even knew about, the film… lots of treasures.

Any plans for future Dwellings stories after the first three volumes? 

There are, indeed, more tales from Elwich to be told at some later date. Stay tuned, Dwellers…

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