Devil Within is a new horror comic from Black Mask Studios that uses demons and possession to explore the scary side of relationships.
The series is written by Stephanie Phillips, drawn by Maan House, colored by Dee Cunniffe, and lettered by Troy Peteri. Phillips recently spoke with us about the series, her inspirations, what she hopes readers take away from the story, and more.
About the comic:
Paranormal entities. Demonic possessions. Or is it madness? When newly engaged Michelle and Samantha move into an old house, Michelle starts experiencing disturbing events… rogue reflections in mirrors, strange apparitions, and an eerie voice only she can hear. Samantha doesn’t believe in ghosts, but the alternative might be even more terrifying in this hauntingly paranoid thriller from new writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Mann House (Witchblade).
Devil Within is the best kind of horror story – the kind that scares you while still telling an interesting story with compelling characters. Michelle and Sam feel like real people; they’re relatable. This creates an instant sympathy in the reader when shit starts to go down for the couple. The fact that this story is based on a true story from one of Phillips’ best friends doubles down on the authenticity.
What sets Devil Within apart from other horror stories is that it’s actually about something. It’s not just scary for the sake of being scary. It’s about relationships, and the fears and insecurities that go along with them. Instead of just trying to scary you, Phillips is looking to explore “the concept of living in fear of the person sleeping next to you.” It’s based on a true story, but it’s largely metaphorical in the way that some of the best horror stories are. Plus, there are actual demons too, so it’s like the best of both worlds.
While Phillips’ script ratchets up the tension, Maan House executes it to perfection, especially with his use of shadows. As Phillips said in our interview, “Sometimes the scariest thing is the thing you can’t see, or can’t see clearly. We wanted to leave some things to the reader’s imagination, so the book has an overall dark, shadowy tone to it.” House’s work is grim and edgy. Just one look and you know what kind of story you’re in for; it unnerves you without you having to read a word.
But again – and contrary to everything just said – he draws the couple in a softer, more innocent way that draws the reader to them and makes the scares that come later even scarier.
Horror – in any medium – relies heavily on tone and pacing, and in comics that’s where coloring and lettering come in. Cunniffe’s muted color palette plays well with House’s shadows, creating a creepy atmosphere without going full on dark. He also jumps from page to page from purples to blues to pinks to yellows, and each choice works for its respective scene and helps differentiate time and place, but more importantly the constant changing prevents the reader from settling in and getting comfortable. It’s just another way to keep you on edge while reading.
Lettering, on the other hand, is more subtle, quietly managing the pace at which you read. In horror, that means speeding things up or slowing them down in order to build and release tension, and Peteri excels at this. He’s proving how integral good lettering is to generate scares in a medium that can’t rely on the same tactics as film or TV.
Devil Within is a must-read for horror fans. If you’re in a relationship, if you’ve ever been in a relationship, or if you just like scary shit, pick it up when it hits shelves next Wednesday, October 10th.
Check out our interview with Stephanie Phillips for more on Devil Within.