I recently had an opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Rich Douek and Joe Mulvey to talk about their new series Happy Hill, currently available from ComixTribe.
Brendan Allen: Thank you so much for taking the time with us today. Tell us a little about Happy Hill.
Rich Douek: Happy Hill is an over the top horror comedy set at Happy Hill, a catskills resort that promises every guest will leave knowing the secret to true happiness. Of course, all is not as it seems, and there are sinister forces working behind the scenes to keep what exactly goes on there a secret. Wyatt Willows, our main character, is obsessed with proving the resort has a connection to the mysterious Wudsman, a local urban legend that he believes is real – and when six year old Mackenzie McIntyre goes missing on the grounds of the resort, with the only evidence being a discarded Wudsman mask, he just might get his chance.
Brendan: Rich, I absolutely loved Sea of Sorrows. Happy Hill is just about as different from SoS as it possibly could be. I think it’s important to show that range, that you can write different horror subgenres, and write them well. Was that a conscious process, separating this work from the last?
Rich: Thanks so much! I try to approach every new project with a fresh perspective, which can be challenging sometimes when you’re working within the same genre, like horror. When I was talking to Joe about the vibe he wanted to achieve with Happy Hill, I knew that I’d have to do some things differently than I did with Sea of Sorrows and Road of Bones. I really enjoy switching things up, though, using different narrative tools, and techniques, I think it makes me a better writer overall.
Brendan: The woods are a perfect setting for horror, offering a special brand of helplessness and implied danger. There are the environmental hazards themselves, but also dangerous wildlife, and, apparently, madmen with horns in gas masks. Why did you choose this setting?
Rich: I know that for me, I have a lot of fond memories of sitting around a campfire in the middle of the woods, telling and listening to scary stories. There’s so much about the environment that just lends itself to creepy horror – I mean, something as simple as the wind blowing through some branches can seem sinister and foreboding. In a lot of ways, the woods are where civilization ends – anything can happen out there beyond the safe borders of our towns and cities. That was something we definitely wanted to capture!
Brendan: One of the other things that tightens the screws on the tension is the hotel and the staff themselves. There’s this very creepy sort of timeshare/cult vibe, where you absolutely KNOW the staff knows more than they’re letting on, but they aren’t saying, and you aren’t really sure if that comes from a place of fear, or if they’re in on the whole murdery conspiracy. I feel like that’s going to be a big part of whatever comes around the corner.
Rich: The truth about what the staff knows/doesn’t know plays a huge part of the story going forward. The resort itself has a long history, that only a few people know the absolute truth of – and maybe not even the people that you think! One thing we’re trying to do with Happy Hill is keep our readers guessing as to who knows exactly what, and how deep into the mystery everyone is.
Brendan: The caricatured, sort of cartoony art style on display here is coming around more and more in horror comics. It’s not something I would have really associated with the genre until I recently saw Shane Connery Volk’s work in Nottingham. It’s very expressive, and almost lulls you into a false sense of security before dropping the hammer. How did you land on the aesthetic for Happy Hill?
Joe Mulvey: Well, the bottom line is, that’s just my style. I wear my artistic influences on my sleeve. Todd McFarlane, Art Adams, Frank Quietly, Humberto Ramos, Greg Capullo, (and more) had a big effect on me. Exaggerations of figure and expression that lets the reader know exactly what the character’s thinking and doing at any given second, is what I really wanted for this book. ESPECIALLY while contrasting the wonderful world of the Happy Hill resort versus the horrors going on behind the scenes. It had to be terrifying but also fun at the same time. I’m hoping that’s a combination we’ve achieved.
Brendan: Speaking of the art, when I saw the first cover, I immediately thought of Terry Bradshaw’s appearance on The Masked Singer, which, admittedly, was freaking terrifying. Is Bradshaw’s ‘The Deer’ an intentional influence, or is that a happy coincidence? On a related note, if Happy Hill gets made into a TV show or movie, you should call that Bradshaw fellow up. He’d make a fantastic Wudsman.
Joe: I’ve never seen that show or episode you mentioned, so I’m gonna go with coincidence. But if we move forward with a Happy Hill TV show or movie, I’ll see what I can do to get you to help out on casting.
Brendan: Without getting into spoiler territory, what are some of the things we can expect going forward with Happy Hill?
Rich: Well for one thing, you can expect all hell to break loose! In Happy Hill, you have a mystery that goes back for decades – and as Wyatt and Thea dig deeper into the resort, following the threads of Mackenzie’s disappearance, everything starts to unravel… and when a system like that comes apart, everyone involved is going to feel the consequences!
Joe: Twists, turns, laughs, screams and insanity! If we do our jobs right, Happy Hill will be a place you’re both equally eager and yet terrified to go to.
Brendan: Awesome. Looking forward to it. Thanks again for your time.
Happy Hill #1 is currently available at your local shop, and Happy Hill #2 is scheduled to hit the spinner racks on February 23, 2022.