Jay Stephens has an impressive resume when it comes to cartoons, having worked on a variety of delightful genre pastiches such as The Secret Saturdays, Tutenstein, and the JetCat segments from the Nickelodeon classic KaBlam!, as well as the comic book series Welcome to Oddville!
But his newest work, DWELLINGS — just announced from Oni Press, with the first issue due in August — takes this aesthetic in a new direction, combining Saturday Morning Cartoon-esque art and vibes with the gruesome atmosphere of Lynchian horror. It's an unsettling genre mashup, but having read the first two issues, I can tell you: it's an absolute delight. Probably the most fun I've had while flinching squeamishly on the edge of my seat in quite some time (yes really).
Here's the official blurb for DWELLINGS:
Combining small-town horror vibes that recall David Lynch with a cartooning style that recalls Harvey Comics and Saturday morning cartoons, DWELLINGS offers a reading experience like nothing else on the stands today. Each of the series' three oversized, prestige format issues will be 72 blood curdling pages long and will include two complete tales.
The series welcomes readers to Elwich, an oasis of American perfection, where the schools overflow with cheery-eyed children, lovingly adorned homes line the historic boulevards… and only the crows can see the deep, festering rot that lurks beneath the pristine surface. Murder. Demonology. Possession. Obsession. Elwich has them all on offer—and behind every dwelling awaits a horrifying new story to be told.
And Stephens' own backstory on how this weird world came about:
As a young collector in the days before the internet, before our town even dreamt of a comic shop, I remember walking the train tracks on weekends, hunting back issues at garage sales and flea markets, picking up whatever I could find Though considered uncool, I was magnetically attracted to the irresistibly adorable Harvey comics… Casper, Spooky, Wendy and Hot Stuff in particular… and always kept an eye out for that one issue where they finally revealed who murdered Casper the friendly Ghost. If the definition of nostalgia is to 'return home in pain,' DWELLINGS is the most nostalgic work I've ever produced. And my re-imagining of that darker Harvey Comics backstory has festered and intertwined with my personal fears into something truly frightening.
Casper the Friendly Ghost with more gruesome murder is honestly a pretty good description of the atmosphere here. Take a look for yourself:
Over email, Oni Press President and Publisher Hunter Gorinson described the book as "a nightmarish combination of pathological violence, nerve-fraying intensity, and day-glo suburban charm." He continued:
It's a sincere pleasure to welcome Jay Stephens back to Oni with one of the scariest, funniest, most twisted comics series of the decade. Like SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN force fed through a woodchipper with a stack of old Harvey Comics and a half-empty bottle of absinthe, DWELLINGS is a nightmarish combination of pathological violence, nerve-fraying intensity, and day-glo suburban charm – all from the pen of a master cartoonist who has been building toward this series for the better part of two decades. Even if you've read tens of thousands of comics, I can guarantee this: You have never seen anything like DWELLINGS before..and aren't like to again anytime soon.
Dwellings launches in August, with the first oversized, 72-page anthology issues out on August 9, and three other oversized issues to follow bimonthly. Oni will be releasing a few different exclusive variant covers by artists including Joe Palmer, Brian Level, and Jenna Cha, as well as this one by Jay Stephens himself:
…which will also be available as an awesomely bloody variant:
You can get your Saturday Morning Horror on starting in August.