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Hidden in the Cellar

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Earlier this Spring, IDW Publishing announced the July release of the House of Horrors anthology. The debut title for the company’s new Simmons Comics Group imprint packs five stories and is filled to the brim with gruesome horror (duh!), sci-fi and fantasy.

One of these stories is The Basement, written by BF columnist-on-hiatus Dwight L. MacPherson. BF got inside MacPherson’s head to uncover what’s hidden in the cellar and got away with an update on some of his other projects to boot—Edgar Allan Poo and Hope: New Orleans.

Who said a trip down to the basement never spells good things?

BROKEN FRONTIER: How did you end up contributing a story to the Gene Simmons House of Horrors anthology?

DWIGHT L. MACPHERSON: I was approached by my buddy Tom Waltz about participating in the book. According to Leah Moore and John Reppion, they had mentioned my name to Tom, but he responded with "He's already on my list."

So, Tom asked me and I squealed, collected myself and said yes.

BF: What were the guidelines for submitting a story?

DLM: Well, first I had to submit a pitch.  The pitch had to be approved by Tom, sent to Chris (Ryall, IDW publisher – ed.) for his approval and then Gene ultimately signed off on it. As far as guidelines, it was pretty wide open.

It had to be horror—more in the Twilight Zone vein, which was fine with me. I'm a huge Twilight Zone geek, so there was no problem achieving something that I could imagine the amazing Rod Serling narrating.

BF: Your story is called "The Basement"—what's hidden in there that's better left alone?

DLM:  It's funny you should ask that, because it shows that I've achieved my goal with the title. Everyone has a "basement story," so I wanted to draw on people's past spooky experiences. The title alone has prompted fans to ask me that very question.

BF: And what's the answer?

DLM: Let's just say that it is not of this world. How's that? Okay... I'll add that Aleister Crowley and H.P. Lovecraft would be very happy with my "basement-dweller."

BF: And who are the people that get in touch with the creature? Just your average American family?

DLM:  Actually, it's a little girl. From a spiritual standpoint, children are more susceptible to these types of things. But yes, she belongs to an average American family.

BF: Did you get any input from Gene Simmons directly on the story? Or did he just give the green light via Tom & Chris?

DLM: Chris sent approved proposals to Gene for him to sign off on. I received a forwarded e-mail from Gene complimenting my story. As far as direct input, Gene didn't have any. But he DID enjoy it—so that's cool.

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BF: Indeed. Have you read any of the other stories in the anthology?

DLM:  Actually, I have. I've read Leah and John's story and also Tom's. What impresses me is the diversity of this book. All three stories are separate and unique—and yet all are unmistakably horror executed masterfully.

I've been trying to sucker Chris into letting me read his story, but we'll see how that turns out. HA! By the way, here's the official story synopsis with credits:

"The Basement"

by Dwight L. MacPherson (Dead Men Tell No Tales) and illustrated by Grant Bond (Revere)

When Agnes Beecham's 9-year-old daughter Rosa began telling fantastic stories about a visitor from another planet living in the basement, she dismissed them as childhood oneirism. One day, however, Rosa's father Michael decided to step into the basement to investigate and returned a vegetable. The doctors told Agnes her husband had suffered a stroke, but Rosa knew it was the man in the basement who made her father a helpless invalid. In the days that followed the incident, Rosa began drawing pictures of strange flying objects and telling her mother the man in the basement wished to take her to his home—and then she mentioned the name Aleister Crowley.

If I could elaborate, I wanted to play on the theme of imaginary friends and cautionary tales like "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." In the Brothers Grimm version, the boy was ignored and subsequently gobbled up by the wolf. In this instance, Rosa's father went into the basement to investigate, but his mind couldn't handle what he saw.

BF: From the description you posted, it was in fact little Rosa who's responsible for putting the danger in the basement?

DLM: I wouldn't exactly say that. I mean—who is responsible for dimensional rifts or poltergeists? Do they simply happen, or do humans somehow put out a beacon for that kind of activity?

BF: But she is special, because Crowley has definite interest in her...

DLM:  Relatively speaking, every child is special. They are the future—and they can also see things that we adults cannot. Perfect example: my niece. She had an imaginary friend that she played with from an early age. It makes one wonder what they see in their mind's eye—and why we as adults cannot picture imaginary friends.

Of course, I can see them because I've never grown up. HA! Not in a Michael Jackson Wonderland Ranch way—but more in a goofy "I'm never getting old" sense.

BF: After reading the story synopsis, readers know that "The Basement" is illustrated by Grant Bond…

DLM: Yeah. Fans who have seen his work in Alias' Revere will agree when I say that Grant's an amazing artist. I can't say enough good things about him!

BF: Did you seek him out for the story? Or was he also someone Tom had that famous list of his?

DLM: I've been friends with Grant for about a year. I contacted him at the beginning about doing a cover for my upcoming Dead Men: Decimation book from Arcana Studio. Anyway, we stayed in touch since he shot me down like the Red Baron. So basically, we remain friends because of his deep-seeded guilt for turning me down. [Laughs] Tom asked if I had an artist in mind and I showed him Grant's work. Tom showed Chris and Chris basically said "Hell yes!" That's a paraphrase, of course. [Laughs]

BF: Now, apart from Gene Simmons House of Horrors, you're also doing Edgar Allan Poo and Hope: New Orleans. What's there to report on those fronts?

DLM: Well, the official announcement has not been made yet, but The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo Book One will be released from Shadowline/Image this August! The feedback and traffic to the webcomic site have been overwhelming. People love Poo. It's undeniable now.

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As far as Hope: New Orleans, it's actually in Previews now (Diamond Order Code: MAY07 3690 – ed.) It’s a big, fat 224-paged jam book, basically. My particular story, "T.C.B.", happens to be comedic, but there are stories representing every genre in this book. There is also a poem I penned entitled "Atlantean Sanguine" which features a fantastic illustration by Nat Jones of Image’s Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer fame.

If you are a fan of diversity, this is the book for you. It's a great sampler of the talent at Ronin Studios and includes big names like David Mack, Michael Lark and Chris Yost. And, a percentage of the profits go to the Louisiana chapter of the Red Cross, so that's a bonus.

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BF: That's true! Like Gene Simmons House of Horrors, were you invited to participate as well?

DLM: Actually, I was a member of the Ronin Studios forum and good friends with [editor] Thomas Mauer. I told them Tom I'd like to write a story and he was elated. I think it's the funniest story I've ever written. Funny—and yet it has a poignant message.

It's actually posted on my ComicSpace page  if anyone simply can't wait to read it.

BF: I'm sure more people will check it out now. So, about Poo—at what point did Image express specific interest in the project?

DLM:  Actually, I sent a pitch to Shadowline editor Kris Simon, she dug it, passed it on to Jim—and the rest is history. This bid-ness is all about the pitch. I'm working on a slider at the moment, actually.

BF: So, then, do you have a few tips handy for aspiring writers how they should play the pitching game?

DLM: Absolutely! Keep it succinct. You want to tell your story in two sentences max. It takes some practice, but a comic pitch is much easier to write than—say—a logline. You get one sentence to tell your story in a logline.

As a writer, I know that we tend to go on and on and on about our work. So reining yourself in and actually telling a story in two sentences is not something that comes naturally. Practice makes perfect.

BF: Since we'll be seeing Poo in print... where does that leave the webcomic?

DLM: The webcomic will continue on indefinitely. The printing of the graphic novel will not affect the webcomic's release and vice versa. I WILL say that fans will receive an added bonus if they pick up the graphic novel—but that's all I can say at this time.

BF: How many pages will the graphic novel be?

DLM: The graphic novel will be 96 pages of story—no filler! 96 glorious oversized pages of Thomas Boatwright artistic goodness!

BF: The first Poo chapter is titled ‘Passage Through Raven Forest’, and Poo currently finds himself facing a horrible creature called Jörmungandr... where does the story go from here?

DLM: Well, Poo and Irving will be forced to continue through Terra Somnium to reach the Temple of the Maghi. Irving's mission is to deliver him to the temple in the hopes of returning the little fellow "home."

Fans of Poe's works and various world mythologies will see many exciting characters, creatures and THINGS from Poe's wonderful stories come to life visually. And, as I said, since Poe loved mythology, you'll see many other creatures from myth popping up.

Trust me… you never know what will happen next!

Gene Simmons’ House of Horrors goes on sale this July from IDW. Next to "The Basement", the four other stories included are "Nymph" (by Sean Taylor and Jon Alderink), "Crude" (by Tom Waltz and Esteve Polls), "Circle Seven" (by Chris Ryall and Steph Stamb), and Into the Woods (by Leah Moore & John Reppion and Jeff Zornow).

Edgar Allan Poo is updated every Sunday on Drunk Duck  and will be collected by Image Comics/Shadowline in August.

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