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DF Interview: Phillip Sevy talks his haunting digital series ‘The House’, now coming to stores as a trade paperback
By Byron Brewer
During the Battle of the Bulge, a squadron of U.S. soldiers is caught in a blizzard while patrolling through the woods. Seeking refuge from the impending white-out, they stumble across an abandoned manor, seeking shelter and safety. Once inside, however, the doors disappear, rooms begin to morph, exits become entrances, and they quickly realize there is no safety to be found! As their eyes deceive them, their minds descend into madness, panic, and paranoia. Is this real? Or is there more to this labyrinth than what resides within the walls? Secrets are revealed, history is retold, and death is the only mercy.
This fall, writer Phillip Sevy (Triage, Tomb Raider) and artist Drew Zucker (Canto) dare you to enter The House! Originally released as a digital series, Dark Horse Comics has collected the critically-acclaimed passion project into 184 pages of pure trade paperback terror that will surely lure and delight horror fans to Halloween and beyond. I spoke with scribe Phillip Sevy about this haunting TPB.
Byron Brewer: Phillip, wow, getting The House to proper print through the coming Dark Horse trade has been a very long and winding road, but also an honored one for the book. If you would, give readers a summary of some of the things the property has gone through – and some if its/your and artist Drew Zucker’s honors – in getting from digital to print.
Phillip Sevy: So, we started working on the book in late 2010. I had the first completed script done in 2011/2012. We first pitched it around in 2012. Got some interest, but it didn’t go anywhere. I rewrote the script to basically what we have now in 2014. We pitched it again and nearly got picked up by a different company. But when that didn’t go through, Drew and I decided we were done waiting for permission to make our book – so we just made it. Drew spent about three years drawing it, and we funded production (colors and letters) ourselves. We began releasing it through Comixology in 2017 and kickstarted the physical trade late in that year. We got the trades in 2018 and began hand-selling it to stores and people. By late 2020, we had nearly sold every copy, so I reached out to Dark Horse (whom I’ve done a lot of work for, at this point) to see if they’d be interested in printing a new edition. To our surprise and honor, they enthusiastically said yes! Dark Horse was a company we originally pitched the book to and a place we felt it would fit perfectly. So now, over 10 years later, we’re beyond honored to have Dark Horse printing it for wide distribution.
Byron: What has kept Drew and you both loyal and passionate about this story through all its years toward print?
Phillip Sevy: Stubbornness? We both LOVE horror and the challenge of making horror comics. It was one of the first big projects we both worked on in our careers. And it has a lot of personal connection for both of us. We willed it into existence through blood, sweat, and tears. We love this project so much.
Byron: Treating this TPB like a first-see comic book (which, in most ways, it really is), what is the main storyline?
Phillip Sevy: The House follows a squad of U.S. soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge (in World War II) as they get lost in the woods. When a white-out blizzard rolls in, they stumble across an abandoned Manor House. They take shelter in the house but once inside, the doors disappear. And all hell breaks loose. And they have to figure out how to get out.
Byron: Can you spotlight some of the key protagonists?
Phillip Sevy: We start with a lot of soldier archetypes and, as horror stories do, we whittle them down, we get to focus on a core group of soldiers and really what has brought them to this point. The House isn’t an entity with its own entire agenda. It’s connected to who enters its doors.
Byron: So, without spoilers or a dismissal of “read the book”, can you offer any hints behind the “condition” of the titular seemingly haunted abode? Resident demons? Guest ghosts? Old ghoul friend?
Phillip Sevy: Now, where would the fun be in spoiling that? Ha! There’s lots of hints about what The House is and what it does, but I’ll let people read it to find out. There’s also a lot of ambiguity in it because my favorite horror leaves a lot to the imagination.
Byron: This is a horror story, to be sure, but it is also a period story, even though we probably see little of that. But just in case we do, can you raise the curtain a little and reveal if any 1940s/Battle of the Bulge research was done by Drew or you? Even for refs the cast might make.
Phillip Sevy: The story was a perfect balance of a single-room story and a period piece. I read a lot of Stephen Ambrose’s WWII books years back, so that gave me a solid understanding of the period and conflicts. I watched through the Band of Brothers episodes that took place during the Battle of the Bulge, but from there, I just got to make a scary haunted house. It was perfect for me! Drew had the lion’s share of the research to do with outfits and costuming – and the challenge of dressing seven characters in the same uniforms but making them distinct and unique-looking. As I was writing the book, I drew character designs for each character and gave them to Drew – not as a guide, but as something to anchor the names to as he read. Those designs are in the new edition, I believe, and it’s really the only art I have done for this book.
Byron: Talk about the art of my buddy, Drew Zucker, and also tell the story of how you guys met. Love it!
Phillip Sevy: Drew and I met at NYCC in 2010. I had just started my MFA in Sequential Art at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and Drew had just graduated with his BFA from the same program a month or two early. Alum/students would hang out at the SCAD booth on the showroom floor and our good friend and mentor Tom Lyle (of Spider-Man and Robin fame) introduced us. We chatted off and on at the show and that conversation carried over into Facebook once we went home. After a few weeks, Drew reached out to see if I knew how to write – he had an idea for a WWII haunted house story but needed a writer. I did (and do) write, and I loved the idea. So I sat with it for a few weeks and then sent him back a 6-page, single-spaced outline for a 120 page graphic novel. And we were off to the races!
One of the things I love the most about working with Drew is his ability to tell a story. Since we weren’t bound down by page counts when we initially created the book, he would take sequences that were 2 pages and make them 12 pages – take 3 panel pages and make them 7 – and so on and so forth. I would give him the direction in the script and then he would run with it. It was always a surprise to get pages back and see how they grew with his art. And then I would get excited and rework/rewrite the script. We had some really cool moments of synergy in this book. Case in point: the opening was 2 pages originally, but he felt it needed more space. So he went off and drew an expanded sequence that was fantastic and 12 pages long. Inspired by it, I sat down and wrote a completely new narration, taken from a discovered journal of a character we’d never meet. When I sent it over to Drew, he honestly thought I had gotten it from a real journal because it was so creepy. That sequence ended up being one of our favorites and it inspired us to create the epilogue that is at the end of the book!
Byron: Phillip, what other projects, inside or outside comics, do you have coming out soon?
Phillip Sevy: Unfortunately, everything big I’m working on hasn’t been announced yet, so I can’t quite say. I’ll let mention that I’m working on a very cool graphic novel from Dark Horse that should hopefully be out next year. There are also a handful of projects across a few mediums that should hit next year as well, but I’ll be able to say more on those as they get closer!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Phillip Sevy for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The House TPB from Dark Horse Comics is slated to be on sale October 13th!
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