The Dollhouse Family starts simply, with main character Alice receiving an antique dollhouse for her sixth birthday. What follows is an unexpected descent into terror and trauma that transcends time and space, punctuated by monthly jaw-dropping cliffhangers.
Artists Peter Gross and Vince Locke talked with DC Nation about their experience illustrating this thoroughly unique six-part Hill House Comics series, which hits its penultimate issue this week.
Right from the first issue, there’s incredibly striking imagery in this series (literally and figuratively). What have been some of your favorite moments to illustrate?
Peter Gross: This series has had some great splash pages and large key panels and they’ve all worked really well so far. The hardest one for me—and maybe one of the best—is the big two-page spread of the Dollhouse with the walls cut away to show some of the rooms. But Jenny has become the runaway favorite character for all of us working on the book!
Vince Locke: One of my favorite pages is when the Dollhouse swallows up Jenny, leaving nothing but a shoe behind. And dead Jenny has been surprisingly fun—she's the villain you love to hate.
The scope of this series just gets bigger and bigger as it unfolds. What was that like to take on as illustrators—the varying time periods, tones and settings?
Locke: I'm thankful for the internet, it makes the research much easier!
Gross: I’m pretty used to this from (Dollhouse Family writer) Mike (Carey) and wouldn’t expect anything less. And like Vince says, the internet is our friend when it comes to finding obscure historical reference. You wouldn’t believe how much time I spent trying to figure out if an 1820’s Irish manor house would have a furnace in the cellar! I’m taking the answer to the grave with me.
What type of horror—in whatever medium—inspired you for this series?
Gross: I don’t actually read or watch much horror, and I’m certainly not well versed in the area. As a result, I wasn’t sure I should even be attempting it! But when I read the script, I really liked it, and I totally saw it in Vince’s ink style. Wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to get him or not but it’s turned out as good as I could hope.
Locke: I'm just following the lead of Mike and Peter. They're setting the tone. I've always loved the old Universal monster movies. They looked beautiful and had a wonderful eerie quality.
You’ve both teamed with Mike Carey before, for The Unwritten. What’s different this time around?
Locke: Doing finishes on The Unwritten, I was always afraid to overpower Peter’s roughs. On The Dollhouse Family, I think I've found a balance that comes naturally.
Gross: Vince and I have actually worked together much farther back than that on some issues of Books of Magic and a Books of Faerie miniseries. I’ve loved Vince’s inks since Sandman Mystery Theater, and I love working with him because he gives such a different look to my art. When I do layouts for other people, I love when I can see my storytelling presented in a completely different style.
Just want to add that all the great reviews and response to The Dollhouse Family have been really gratifying so far. Maybe I’ll get to do more horror!