Four celebrated comics creators gather for a haunting Christmas Eve anthology

On December 19, Dark Horse Comics will add a little extra chill to your holiday air with Four Gathered on Christmas Eve, a hardcover anthology of Victorian-inspired ghost stories. In this handsome collection, four highly-regarded comics creators—Eric Powell, Mike Mignola, Becky Cloonan, and James Harren—revive the Victorian tradition of telling fireside ghost stories on Christmas Eve.

Each creator brings their unique vision to these fireside tales. Mike Mignola, known for his iconic Hellboy, presents a haunting 12-page story entitled "Night of the Jaberwok." This piece alone is worth the price of admission, steeped in Mignola's signature blend of folklore, shadowy gothic, and dark fantasy. Fans of Mignola's Hellboy will also be excited to know that this year marks the release of the Hellboy Winter Special: The Yule Cat, a one-shot inspired by the Yule Cat of Iceland legends, written and drawn by fan-favorite Matt Smith.

Eric Powell, the twisted genius behind The Goon and Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?, lends his impressive talents to this anthology as both its editor and a contributor. Known for his ability to blend horror and humor, Powell's contributions include art and story for "The Gift of Major Courtenay," the story credits on a piece illustrated by James Harren, and an interstitial comic of the fireside chat between the four's imagined Victorian counterparts. It's one of the funniest (and most brutal) parts of the entire book.

Becky Cloonan (Batgirls, Wonder Woman: Afterworlds, Trial of the Amazons) and James Harren (Ultramega, Rumble), powerhouse talents in their own right, complete the quartet. Cloonan's storytelling powers and bold, expressive, high-contract art, and Harren's dynamic, meticulous drawing, expressive characters, and rich, atmospheric colors are a perfect compliment to Mignola and Powell.

Four Gathered on Christmas Eve is more than just a story collection; it's a homage to the rich tradition of ghostly tales that once filled the Christmas night air.

Dark Horse shared with Boing Boing an excerpt of Eric Powell's contribution, "The Gift of Major Courtenay." And Eric Powell was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the making of the anthology and his work on it.

Boing Boing: Ghost stories have such a storied tradition, especially in Victorian literature. How did you approach a modern collection in this classic genre while maintaining its core elements?

Eric Powell: I can't speak for Mike and Becky, but for myself, I never really think about "modernizing" anything or trying to present it to a specific audience. I feel like you can only do what feels right to you, if your work is going to be any good. And I wanted to write and draw a very traditional ghost story. Mike and Becky did their own very unique takes on the genre, and the story I wrote for James to illustrate was my version of what I thought a cool James Harren take on a Victorian ghost story might be.

BB: Did you think of your art or writing style in a different way given the theme of this anthology? Were there any specific artistic influences you drew upon?

EP: Yeah, I took a much more formal approach to the language, of course. I was trying very much to do an M.R. James type story. Ghost stories rely on psychological horror. It's about what you don't know and can't see. So I tried to be atmospheric and creepy rather than in-your-face horror.

BB: Ghost stories and horror have various sub-genres and styles. How do you see your work fitting within the broader landscape of horror and supernatural storytelling?

EP: I'm not sure, I guest it depends on the project. You can't really compare things like The Goon, my kid's horror anthology Spook House, and my graphic novel, Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? They're all very different but definitely horror based.

BB: In working on an anthology like this, was their communication about the stories between the contributors? Was there any idea exchange?

EP: I really only gave one instruction to everyone: Do a Victorian ghost story. And with this group, I really needed no more instruction than that. They knew exactly what I meant. And each put their own unique spin on it. I had total trust in what they would bring to the book. They didn't disappoint.

For the book, you did Victorian-styled caricatures of you and the three other contributors. How much fun was that?

EP: It was a lot of fun to picture how we might look as Victorians… disreputable Victorians. I tried to make myself the most disgusting of the bunch so no one would be offended by my interpretation of them. Becky refers to them as our D&D characters. I think it adds an extra layer to the book in a fun way.