Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for the creator-owned comic book series, This Old House. For those who may be unfamiliar with the project, what can you share with us about its premise?
Dani Colman: This Old House is a supernatural horror-comedy about a pair of paranormal investigators who decide to take on one last case before they retire. Unbeknownst to them, however, the haunted house they’ve been hired to exorcise is home to the only real ghosts they’ve ever encountered.
BD: What inspired you to initiate this project, and who (or what) have been some of your creative influences for its story and tone?
DC: I’ve always loved haunted house stories, but within the genre there’s a lot of reliance on convenience and tropes to move the narrative. The perfectly-preserved Sumerian book in the basement conveniently translates to perfectly-rhyming, ominous English poetry? Come on! This Old House really started from a place of wanting to take those tropes and turn them on their heads: How many of the relied-upon building blocks of haunted house stories can I knock down without losing the readers? How can I use the reader's own expectations to create tension and scares?
I think there’s a pretty wide spread of influences on this story, and I keep adding to the list. I love Guillermo Del Toro’s ghost stories, where the spirits aren’t necessarily evil but they have things that they clearly want and need, and getting in their way is a bad idea. Ari Aster’s Hereditary had a wonderful, creeping sense of dread that I’ve tried to infuse into parts of the book. Suicide Forest, the graphic novel by Nicole Goux and Dave Baker, does incredibly creative things with tension and jump scares that definitely inspired me to think outside the box for this. I’ve also been very inspired by comics that make their location a character in the story, like Locke & Key, House of Secrets, and even some of the Batman books that focus on Wayne Manor or Arkham Asylum.
BD: What can you share with us regarding your creative process in working with fellow creators Davide Tinto, Francesca Carotenuto, and Justin Birch, and how did the team come about?
DC: I’d never met Davide, Francesca, or Justin before beginning this book; the creative team is entirely thanks to Marcel Dupree, the publisher at Evoluzione. I had no idea what to expect going in, but I knew from the friend who introduced us that Marcel puts together really strong teams for his books, so I trusted that it would look great. My job at that point was to write a script that clearly conveyed the story, but that hopefully left enough room for an artist to add their own style and personality to it.
The result has honestly been beyond anything I expected. Davide nailed the characters from the first set of sketches, and in the places where I’ve worried something I’ve written wouldn’t translate, he’s rendered something even better than what I was envisioning. I don’t typically write “easy” scripts; I like to push the medium and take advantage of the unique ways in which comics can tell a story. Davide has more than risen to that challenge, and Francesca’s gorgeous colours and Justin’s letters have elevated his already-fantastic work.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from This Old House, and how many issues do you have planned for the series?
DC: First and foremost, I want readers to have fun! It’s fun to be scared, it’s fun to explore a spooky old place, and it’s fun to watch unlikeable characters get their just desserts. It’s going to be five issues of escalating spookiness, and I plan to finish issue #5 with a real bang!
If there’s any deeper thought that I want to inspire, it’s about respecting a place’s history. Living in San Francisco for the last several years, I’ve seen a lot of gentrification in action, and it’s genuinely sad to see places with history and character priced out in favour of yet another tastefully-minimalist juice bar or fusion restaurant. A place doesn’t become haunted because it’s been preserved in amber; the ghosts are the people who have lived and died there, who have loved and lost there. The characters in the book who recognize that have a level of protection against the angry spirits that everyone else does not.
BD: As a creator, what are your thoughts as to why Kickstarter provides such a valuable tool for bringing projects to fruition and reaching new audiences?
DC: Kickstarter has been an incredible boon to the comics industry, because it’s made the barrier to entry so much lower. For individual creators, it has drastically reduced the risk inherent to self-publishing by letting readers contribute to the cost of printing and distribution. For small publishers like Evoluzione, it quite simply allows them to survive! Publishing is a tough business with razor-thin margins, and, before the advent of crowdfunding, keeping enough capital in the bank to fund printing could be near-impossible for small, new, or boutique publishers. But now that publishers can appeal directly to readers to fund the books that they want to read, it becomes much easier not just to get books into print, but to cultivate an audience and engage a readership. A lot of the smaller comic publishers probably couldn’t survive without that direct line to readers, and without them we wouldn’t have some of the most daring, vibrant, and even important work of the last decade.
BD: Are there any specific backer rewards in the campaign that you would like to highlight for readers?
DC: My favourite tier is the “Winchester” tier at $25, which gets you a deluxe edition of the digital book, a physical copy of the first issue, and a limited-edition print of the variant cover by Joaquin Gonzalez, which is so beautiful that I’ve actually changed the script for a future issue to include some of the imagery! If you’re just looking for the book, then the $10 “House” tier gets you a digital and physical copy of the issue; or, if you really want to be involved in the process, “The Uninvited” at $100 gets you a cameo in a future issue as one of the resident ghosts!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about This Old House and to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign?
DC: The easiest way is to visit the campaign itself. If you want to keep up with the campaign on social media, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @DaniWritesStuff. And, if you sign up for my newsletter here, you’ll get special exclusive preview pages a couple of times during the campaign.