Resize text+=

Fanbase Press Interviews Tina Horn and Lisa Sterle on the Upcoming Release of the Comic Book Series, ‘Deprog,’ Through Dead Sky Publishing

The following is an interview with writer Tina Horn (SfSx) and artist Lisa Sterle (Witchblood) regarding the upcoming release of their comic book series, Degrog, through Dead Sky Publishing. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Horn and Sterle about their shared creative experience in crafting the detective story, what they hope that readers may take away from the series, and more!

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming launch of Deprog!  For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the series’ premise?

Tina Horn: Thank you! I’m so excited to be chatting with Fanbase Press again after meeting at San Diego Comic-Con a few years ago when Deprog was still brewin’…

Deprog is a hardboiled detective thriller about cults: why people join them, the deeply weird rituals they invent, what it’s like to love someone who is devoted to extreme beliefs. I have some personal history with members of my family joining a cult, so I’ve always been obsessed with the psychology of con artists and scammers. It seemed like the perfect subject for my first foray into writing crime fiction. 

These first few issues are packed with everything I love as a noir fan: a femme fatale, loads of double entendre banter, strange underworlds. There’s an ongoing satire of California hippie wellness culture, which I am both constantly tempted by (healing hot springs! mushroom elixirs!) and disgusted with ($20 adaptogen smoothies! $2000 breathwork soundbath energy retreats!). And of course, if you know my other work, you won’t be surprised to hear there’s a ton of explicit queer sex, which our fabulous art team was more than game to bring to sweaty life! 

Lisa Sterle was my first choice to be co-creator and artist: fans of erotic thrillers and esoteric mysteries are gonna be drooling!

BD: Tina, how would you describe your process in crafting this detective story?  It’s always thrilling to follow mystery stories as the reader, but I would imagine that crafting the narrative and staying 3 steps ahead of your reader is quite the challenge!

TH: Cults kinda have their own narrative arc, don’t they? Because cults suck you in deeper and deeper with this powerful force that always turns out to be the human need to belong and find meaning. So, it’s fun to contrast that with our hero Tate, who by virtue of having been raised in and escaped a cult has an almost mutant immunity (or does she?!) which has made her both a wise-cracking cynic and heavy-drinking existentialist. 

Suspense and tension and dramatic irony are everything in a mystery! As a writer I have to sorta trick myself into forgetting what I know while always keeping control of what the reader knows and what each character does and doesn’t know. What I love about writing genre comics is that powerful imagery and the characters’ emotional experiences are more important than being clever. 

My inspiration comes from being a fan: When I read a comic or watch a film, I can fully enjoy it while a little perverse part of my brain is also taking notes on my own reactions: What do I find delightfully disgusting, what disturbs me in a way that reverberates long after a film or book is done? I also find pop culture podcasts really soothing, and I’m always taking mental notes of what other people find memorable in movies, books, tv, even music; My trick is to reverse engineer an image or reveal or setting or beat from the emotional reaction of the fan. 
For example, just to tease Deprog Issue 2, there’s a chase scene that we built off of how scary it is when a mysterious figure (like the Shape in Halloween or the curse in It Follows or the T-1000 in T2) is calmly, relentlessly pursuing you, and you might not even know why. We want to elicit that feeling in the reader rather than focus on mechanics of the plot.

BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums.  Tina and Lisa, how do you each feel that Tate’s story may connect with and impact readers?

TH: I’ve spent my life projecting myself onto tough guys, from John Constantine to Philip Marlowe, so I hope other queer people like me will find Tate Debs a refreshing, butch, leather dyke antihero to relate to and/or crush on. I hope everyone regardless of identity enjoys reading about queer people who are messy and make big mistakes, because no one should have to be purely virtuous to be worthy of love and dignity, not to mention entertaining!

Lisa Sterle: Tate’s story is one of trauma, of processing that trauma and attempting to gain control over her own narrative through her deprogramming work. The fact that this trauma stems in part from a personal history with cults is a story I think readers will find surprisingly relatable and familiar. Cults come in so many forms, and I think it’s not a coincidence that cult horror has been having a moment in pop culture lately. Whether it’s the cult of organized religion, the nuclear family, a political group with a charismatic leader, none of us are truly immune to programming. Cults thrive on the incredibly human desire to belong, to find meaning and fulfillment and to make sense out of the chaos of life. 

BD: What makes Dead Sky Publishing the best home for this story?

TH: Steve Wands has been the letterer of my other series, SfSx, since 2018, and his innovative design skills are matched only by his excellent communication and professionalism. The story of a dyke detective investigating cults was rattling around in my head for ages before Steve asked me to pitch him for his imprint. It was a perfect match! I’m still relatively new to the comics industry, coming from journalism and nonfiction and sex work; building community so we can make opportunities for each other is incredibly important to me. I’m also so used to DIY indie projects that I feel frankly pampered by the Dead Sky team coordinating with artists, publicists, and retailers. 

As a long time gore whore, I love that Dead Sky focuses on inherently dark genre fiction, where I feel encouraged to be twisted and gross and weird as hell!I couldn’t be happier with the experience and hope readers check out all of their titles, from splatter westerns to zombie horror!

LS: I’d never worked with Steve Wands or Dead Sky before this, and now I can fully say I can’t quite imagine being able to make this story the way we did anywhere else. They truly gave us the space to do whatever we wanted, with the guidance and care to craft this story in the best form it could take. It was an absolute pleasure.

BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are each working that you are able to share with our readers?

TH: I have a literary nonfiction book based on my podcast, Why Are People Into That?, out in June, 2024 from Hachette press. If you like the themes of Deprog and want to learn more about the darker sides of human sexuality like cannibalism fantasies and genderbending and fetish parties and sadomasochism, you can pre-order that now wherever books are sold! And for SfSx fans, I am hoping to put together the time and funding this year to make a Volume 3 and really lean into the weird sci-fi…

LS: I have a graphic novel coming out this fall from Vault Comics, Dying Inside, written by Pete Wentz and Hannah Klein. It’s a bit of a black humor story about suicidal teen Ash, who is cursed with invulnerability/immortality. Also, if you’ve read my and Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s Squad, you’ll be happy to hear that the ravenous werewolf girls are going to be back in Squad 2

BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Deprog and your other work?

TH: Obviously, support your local comic book store, and indie publishers, and queer comics creators in general by letting them know you’re interested in Deprog! Word of mouth, in person and on socials, really makes a difference, so tell your weirdo friends who like weirdo stuff! Let Dead Sky know you want to see further adventures of Tate Debs and the world of Deprog and the Horn-Sterle team! You can keep track of everything I’m up to by subscribing to my newsletter at and following me on X and IG at @tinahornsass. 

This book had so many influences, but I want to shout out one in particular: American Cult, published by Silver Sprocket and edited by Robyn Chapman, is a fantastic nonfiction anthology for comics fans who want to learn more about the real wild and upsetting shit you just can’t make up. 

LS: Echoing what Tina has said, preorder the series from your local comic book store! You can find me on IG (@lisasterle), and all my comic book news and recent artwork there. 

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top