It was November 2019, when I wrote the phrase “The House of Slaughter” for the first time in the script for SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #5. The first issue that I had written after the impressive launch of the first issue. Here’s what I wrote…
CLOSE ON TOMMY’S EYES, as they turn a more vibrant pale blue (Like a cousin to ERICA’S Green Eyes). There’s almost a glow to them…
And then we see a series of FIGURES sitting around a table… Monster hunters like ERICA… They are all wearing their own version of the MONSTER neckerchiefs, in different colors (and maybe different teeth patterns. They all have the vibrant, colorful eyes… They are all dressed in more sophisticated, upper class clothing than Erica… These are the hunters of the House of Slaughter, and we’re going to learn more about them as the series develops… There is another man at the table who is the south Asian “Handler” of Erica (the man on the other end of the phone), who we will meet in more detail next issue. They are looking up as if they can SENSE Tommy turning. In front of each of them is an old, raggedy stuffed animal. Each of their “Familiars” – The room they are in is ornate, with dark mahogany
At the head of the table is an impossibly, impossibly old man… with withered hands and long nails… his neckerchief can barely hide his long scraggly beard… His eyes are ancient and purplish, and his bald head is covered in liver spots… In front of him is an ancient teddy bear with button eyes…
TIGHT ON THE OLD MAN’S EYES…
AND THEN WE SEE THE SYMBOL OF THE ORDER OF ST. GEORGE IN THE OLD MAN’S EYES… The same symbol of ERICA’s TATTOO
And here’s what we saw…
At this point, I didn’t know Aaron Slaughter’s name. I didn’t know that the woman in the White Mask to the left would become one of the biggest antagonists of the entire series. I didn’t know what all the masks meant, or that the man at the end of the table called himself The Old Dragon. I had only just found out for certain that SIKTC was going to definitely get 15 issues (which, at the time, I thought would be the ending of Erica’s story). But it was enough. When the above page came in from Werther and Miquel I was electrified, I remember texting Eric something very close to…
“If all of this works, we’ll do a HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER spin-off to tell some of these characters’ stories.”
That was just under two years ago. And what a wild fucking ride it has been.
SO, WHAT IS THE HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER?
This is a spin-off of SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN, starring the character Aaron Slaughter. It plays out over two timelines. The “Present Day” timeline takes place immediately before the events in SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #1, and the “Past” storyline takes place a few years after SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #20.
The core premise of our universe is that Monsters are real. They are manifestations of fear, and only Children can see them. The Order of St. George is a highly secretive organization of Monster Hunters, who keep the existence of monsters secret, and try to eliminate any monsters that pop up around the world. Despite being tasked with protecting children, the Order of St. George is filled with very dangerous people who often care more about keeping the existence of monsters secret rather than saving children’s lives. The Order of St. George consists of many houses all around the world, each run by a Gold Masked figure referred to as The Dragon (The old man with the Green Eyes in the page above). One of these houses is in a wealthy neighborhood of Chicago, IL. THE HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER.
This comic tells the story of how Aaron Slaughter earned the teeth on his mask and became a Black Mask hunter. It’s also the story of a mysterious transfer to the House of Slaughter, from another one of the houses in the Order of St. George (the first outside member of the Order to appear in the pages of any Slaughterverse comic).
SO, WHO’S WRITING AND DRAWING THIS BOOK?
I chose the amazing Tate Brombal to join me in writing the first arc of HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER, and he immediately started pitching me an incredible storyline that made the most of the world around us. I asked for Tate to write something up for this blog post and he didn’t let me down…
When I was a kid, there were two things I was most afraid of: Earwigs and the monster in my basement.
The former’s fear grew from wise tales and cautionary rumours among friends. Earwigs were monstrous, little bugs that had only one desire in life — to find their way into your ears as you slept, so they could burrow deep through the canals towards your brain where they would lay their eggs and hatch. They’d feed then emerge back out into the light with their brood in tow, satiated. A friend of mine said it happened to his cousin. My imagination did the rest. I could feel their skittering legs tickle inside my ears at night, and I would scream.
But the monster in my basement, I don’t know where he came from. My family was the first to live in that house — a new development over former marshlands. Perhaps he slipped in after the foundations were laid, then stayed quiet while the walls went up, nesting warm by the bubbling water heater. I never saw this monster, no, but I felt him. Our basement only had one light switch at the bottom of its stairs, and, when I flicked it off to run sprinting up through the dark, I felt him at my heels just out of reach, in the goosebumps across my skin and up my neck through my hair. He wanted me. He wanted out. And I didn’t know why. I’d slam the door and catch my breath, praying he didn’t escape.
The strangest thing was that nobody in my family ever discussed this monster — not even to this day — despite his residence in the dark shadows of our home. But there was something in my family’s eyes, some hidden awareness, some acknowledgement that he was real. He was something that we all felt and understood and survived. I’d actually forgotten all about him in that basement, until just now. Earwigs, I’ve always remembered. That fear lives with me to this day, visceral, irrational as it may be. Wise tales and rumours leave their claw marks on our hearts, and we’ll have them until we die. But my monster, the one that stayed warm by the water heater where none of us could see and only wanted out, I don’t know what happened to him. Did he die in that silence? Unfed?
My family moved, then I moved cities. I haven’t been in that basement in nearly a decade. I wonder now if he’s still down there, keeping warm and searching for another child to chase out into the light…or if he’s somewhere else, moved on.
I don’t know. I only know that the look in my family’s eyes — that silent fear of understanding — returns each time they visit me in my new home, caught in trepidation like the moment before the lightswitch goes out. Is there something in the shadows? Perhaps my monster is their earwig. Perhaps he does live on, claw marks and all, with his brood in tow.
It’s strange to be writing this all up now, as I’m meant to be promoting a book. But that’s what Something is Killing the Children and this universe does so well. It digs up past monsters, the traumas and horrors of our childhoods, and suddenly they are real, and suddenly they can be killed… If they ever truly die is another question, however. So, when James asked me to join the Slaughterverse (Is that what we’re calling it?) and pitched me on a story idea for his beloved character, Aaron, I leapt at the opportunity. I won’t tell a story unless I have something to say, and, suddenly, I was in a story where I couldn’t shut up.
HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER is about monster hunters. It pokes and prods the very concept and questions what it takes (and what’s given up) to become one. It’s about survival, against all odds. And, believe me, there will be a lot of monsters. But, more than anything, this comic is still about scared kids surrounded by monsters who just need a helping hand and, probably, a hug.
I’m so excited and privileged to be contributing to this world, and I hope you all get as much from our story as I have.
Tate is also the co-writer of the incredible miniseries, BARBALIEN: RED PLANET, which was nominated for an Eisner this past summer. You should absolutely pick that up if you haven’t because it really is incredible. I’ve been so impressed with Tate in this whole process that I might have a whole other project that I’m developing with him. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
We are joined by the incredible Chris Shehan on art. I know I’ve banged the drum on this before, but if you haven’t gotten your hands on THE AUTUMNAL from Vault, you owe it to yourself to give yourself the perfect Halloween present. Between Chris’ interiors and his covers, he was the top name on my last when we started talking about who would be perfect to pick up the reins of the House of Slaughter.
We are also joined by the stalwart colorist of all things Slaughterverse, Miquel Muerto, who blessed all of us by posting this amazing original piece of art on social media this week. Miquel is magic, on both SIKTC and HOS, and every other damn book he does.
The series is being lettered by Deron Bennet’s Andworld Design, just like SIKTC, Wynd, and NHOTL! They’ve been doing a brilliant job bringing voice to these incredible series, and I can’t wait for you to see what they’re up to here at the House of Slaughter.
OKAY, LET’S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS
In honor of the release of HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #1, I am releasing a Tiny Onion exclusive variant cover. Only 300 of these are being made available on my webstore today, and this may be your only chance to snag a copy online.
The cover features art by RICARDO LOPEZ ORTIZ, the guy who’s been rocking out on the GHOST-MAKER back-ups in Batman (soon to be concluded in Batman Annual 2021), and who co-created the character KILLBOY with me in Razorblades: The Horror Magazine.
I’m selling these bad-boys for $25 a pop on my Webstore.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ONION CLUB!
There is a special color variant of the above cover available only to the premium annual subscribers to this newsletter… THE ONION CLUB. Subscribers to The Onion Club will receive six variant covers available ONLY to club members over the course of the next year, limited to one copy per member. You can see the cover below…
This offer is still on the table. If you sign up for THE ONION CLUB today for $250/yr, we have copies of this cover available while they last, and it’s the best way to ensure you get the next five exclusive Variant Covers! I’m going to be making a big push for THE ONION CLUB after the holidays, but if I can give you a hint right now… Might be a good idea to get grandfathered into the current set-up.
I had a conversation today about next steps developing THE ONION CLUB membership card. We’re going to have a lot of fun next year. I am going all out, and I want you to go all out with me!
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ERICA SLAUGHTER?
I’m sitting in front of a script for SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #21. Werther and I have been going over new character designs for the last few weeks. Issue #21 is going to be the start of a whole new era for Erica. We’re returning to the present day, picking up from where we left her at the end of SIKTC #15. She’s ruffled some feathers in the larger Order of St. George… And now she’s going to have to pay a deadly price for it. If you thought the Archer’s Peak storyline was brutal… Just wait until we take you to the American Southwest.
Meanwhile, the SIKTC Deluxe Hardcover is out in the wild! This is the best way to catch up on everything we’ve been up to in the series so far. And to all of our die-hard fans… Thank you. SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN changed my life, and it’s incredible to think that we’re really only getting started. We haven’t even gotten CLOSE to the half-way point of the series. So if you love this world and these characters. Get ready. Because we’ve got some cool shit up our sleeves.
Retailers, I’ve set aside a limited quantity of the Tiny Onion Club variant (The standard, not the Onion Club version) to sell directly to retailers. If you’re interested in putting in an order, hit up TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com. It’s going to be a few days before I get back to you so please be patient with me as a juggle a whole bunch of stuff.
We’ve got less than 25 copies of RAZORBLADES: THE HORROR MAGAZINE #5 left in stock on the web store! You should snag it while it’s still available!
Also: I’m signing at Midtown Comics this afternoon! Hope to see you there!
James Tynion IV