Kelley Jones has had a storied career in comics, known for his immediately recognizable take on Batman—those long ears!—and for his penchant for horror. He combined both in the famed “vampire Batman” trilogy that started with Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, and illustrated several horror classics for DC including Deadman and key chapters of The Sandman.
In the Hill House Comics series Daphne Byrne, he’s brought his unmistakable sensibility to team with writer Laura Marks for a distinctly modern possession tale set in late 19th Century New York. With Daphne Byrne #4 in comic book stores now—and among the first new DC releases after a four-week hiatus—DC Nation talked to the artist about capturing the period piece details and his favorite moments so far.
Let’s start with the title character: How did Daphne Byrne come to life for you?
When I drew a piece simply to try and capture the mood of the character I read in the outline, I thought that the piece came out so well I sent it in to DC to see if I was on the right track. I’m happy to say it will be a cover to #6!
Right from the first page, this series is chockful of unsettling imagery (last page of issue #2, I’m looking at you). What have been some of your favorite sequences to illustrate?
A couple come to mind: Daphne in the cemetery where her father’s buried, whether awake or in a hallucination; also, where Brother speaks to Daphne in a library. And the scene when Daphne awakes in a coffin and is taken to the realms underneath to the dead.
I really enjoy all the little moments, the baby birds, the shadows that belong to nobody, the things that only Daphne sees…all good stuff to draw.
What’s your process in nailing those late 19th Century details?
The first thing is that the light was different then—it wasn’t as bright, and the natural light of night and day still held sway. Homes were more furnished, and design was everything, beyond need or function. People held themselves differently and were more reserved for the most part.
How does the setting influence your take on the supernatural elements of the story?
There are more shadows for things to hide within—so of course take advantage of that!
You’ve illustrated some of DC’s most iconic horror stories. What has made Daphne Byrne special?
She’s not sure who, or what, she is. And she likes that. She’s going to be something new. I just don’t know what that means for those that cross her!
What type of horror inspires you?
Old horror comics (yes, House of Mystery and House of Secrets are big among those!). Classic Hammer films and Serling’s Night Gallery. The great stories like those of M. R. James and Manly Wade Wellman—really all those pulp horror writers seem to still work beautifully! Holst’s Saturn movement in his symphony The Planets has always put me in that mood of horror.