‘A Horror That You Cannot Escape’ – Warwick Johnson-Cadwell On Mr. Higgins Comes Home

by Hannah Means Shannon

Mike Mignola and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell have created a remarkable book in Mr. Higgins Comes Homes. Published by Dark Horse and arriving in bookstores today, on Halloween, the new volume is a self-contained story written by the creator of Hellboy and illustrated by an artist whose idiosyncratic and winning style has been charming readers in series like Helena Crash and Samurai Jack at IDW.

And as you might suppose coming from Mignola, this is a horror story, but it’s unlike many of the films or comics traditionally classified as horror, playing with folk tradition as well as other elements of storytelling. This infuses the book with an interesting warmth, and also a poignant sense of melancholy, through exploring the situation of a werewolf, vampires, and humans who live in a world so inextricably blended with the supernatural.

Artist Warwick Johnson-Cadwell joins us here today on Comicon.com to talk about Mr. Higgins Comes Home and the traditions we find at work in this new story.

Hannah Means-Shannon: Do you see a relationship between humor and horror? How do the two work together for you as a viewer/reader/creator?

Warwick Johnson-Cadwell: Yes, I think it’s an important relationship. I think that in a story where a creator is trying to get an emotional response from a reader it helps to keep the mood and the pace fluid. If you can raise some points of light, happiness, or humour, then the dark horrors can feel much meaner.

HMS: Mr. Higgins Comes Home seems to exist in a kind of loose dialog with a lot of traditions that exist and that the reader might be aware of (as lots of Mike Mignola’s stories do). What major traditions do you see at play in the story, and what major or minor ones do you think have influenced your art on the graphic novel?

WJC: This story carries some of the strong traditions of “Classic Horror”. Dracula and Frankenstein novels and Werewolf legends that have been moulded together over time to form a genre. Mr. Higgins is an original graphic novel with all new characters, but it embraces the rules and customs of the horror genre, and gives us the opportunity to bring something fresh to it I hope. That and the vampires, Hammer Horror blood, and one very sad Werewolf.

HMS: What sort of being, in your mind, is Mr. Higgins, and what makes him work as the focus of a story?

WJC: He is an innocent man. Terrible things have been done to him and his wife, and his life is cursed forever. He is a tragic character who has to live with his sadness eternally, while also live in fear of the monster inside him. But for the reader (and the creators) we *know* that eventually he will get a chance to exorcise his anger and frustrations in a terrible, violent and cathartic form.

HMS: Can you tell us a little about developing the feel of the world of the book? What kind of goals did you have in mind, and what did you hope to convey?

WJC: My main concern was to bring Mike Mignola’s wonderful story to life as truly as I could without mangling it. After that my goal was to tell a story set firmly in the visual tradition of Horror cinema, particularly Universal Monsters and Hammer Horror films which I love. And also to try and have the settings and surrounds as much a character in the story as the protagonists themselves.

HMS: There are so many strange interiors, items, and costumes in this single story. Was your whole life preparation for coming up with this stuff, or was there plenty of re-watching of old films going on to get ideas for these kinds of details?

WJC: In the comic form, we can make every panel a new set or stage. Every different point of view can show a whole world of activity. Talking heads in a sequence of panels, for example, can be framed by surroundings to compliment whatever events are unfolding. I loved diving into the movies for inspiration, but a lot of the interiors grew out of the script, characters, and events. There are real objects in there, and some real people, but a lot of decoration inspired by the story and twisted to fit in.

Fortunately, being set in a Traditional Horror Castle, I got to get really stuck into surroundings.

HMS: Do you think there are any genuinely frightening ideas in this book? If so, what do you think they are?

WJC: I think there are ideas in the story that are frightening if you consider them seriously enough. That there is a society intent on your harm or destruction is pretty scary. Or the idea that you may be perpetually suffering without the opportunity to be saved or cured.

HMS: The idea of “home” is in the title and seems to play a role in the book, too. Do you find that idea inherent in any horror traditions, or just in this new one that you and Mignola and Stewart have created?

WJC: “Home” does seem to have a place in horror traditions. Most simply, home is where you would return to for safety or rescue, escaping some awful situation that you may have wandered into. Though there is also the reverse in the horror genre, where the discovery of your true home/ origins can reveal a horror that you cannot escape from.

Find Mr. Higgins Comes Home available as a harback graphic novel in comic shops and bookstores today from Dark Horse!

Thanks to Warwick Johnson-Cadwell for taking the time to answer our questions here at Comicon.com!

If you’d like to see an earlier rave review of this book on our site, find that here.