Demons and Dirty Diapers: Conquering the Fears of “Scarenthood”

By | October 21st, 2020
Posted in Interviews | % Comments

Facing down the supernatural should be nothing once you’ve dealt with the monster of a picky eater.  At least that’s what the families in IDW Publishing’s new title”Scarenthood” think.  While the kids are away on a field trip to the zoo, their parents uncover something not of this world in their pursuit of a local cold case.  Suddenly, wrangling naptimes, babysitting schedules, and making sure homework gets done is (pardon the pun) child’s play.

I spoke with writer/artist Nick Roche and colorist Chris O’Halloran about the influences that went into the series, from classic 80s films to their own parenthood experiences.  And at the end, we have a preview of the first five pages of issue #1.

Our thanks to both of them, and IDW, for their time, and you can pick up the debut issue of “Scarenthood” at your comic shop (be sure wear a mask, and not one from an old Halloween costume) or digitally on November 4th. And stay out of church basements.  Trust all of us on this one.

Cover by Nick Roche
Written and Illustrated by Nick Roche
Colored by Chris O’Halloran
Lettered by Shawn Lee

TO-DO LIST: Drop kids at preschool/ Grab coffee with other parents/ Go ghost-hunting in woods/ Fight demonic entity/ Collect kids/ Naptime. With their kids away on a field trip, a group of parents disturbs an ancient evil buried beneath the old Church Hall, unearthing a decades-old mystery about a missing child, and inviting something… hungry into their lives. Suddenly, their mornings go from playdates and peanut allergies, to a battle for the souls of one broken family⁠—and one child in particular. What scares you the most: fighting demons, or letting your kids down? Nick Roche (Transformers: The Wreckers Saga, Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows) and Chris O’Halloran (Immortal Hulk, Ice Cream Man) have the answers.

Give us the elevator pitch for “Scarenthood.” It’s a horror story but where the parents take center stage. What can fans expect?

Nick Roche: A group of parents go ghost-hunting in the mornings while their kids are in preschool – but have to be back by lunchtime to collect them. A malevolent entity that slept beneath the old village hall that the school operates from, and a group of adults who never grew up properly are left to deal with it. It’s The Goonies, but grown-up, with mortgages and panic attacks, or Stranger Things meets Catastrophe.

Nick, if I am correct, this is your first creator-owned title, with most of your work on licensed properties like “Transformers” and “Doctor Who.” Which was easier to write and draw, and which one was more enjoyable? 

NR: Actually, I worked on a creator-owned book with Brian Lynch (“Secret Life Of Pets,” “Minions”) called “Monster Motors.” That was an all-ages horror comedy that reimagined the classic monsters as vehicles, leading to names such as ‘Cadillacula’ and ‘Minivan Helsing’. I still think that may be the most enjoyable, because even though I was in charge with how it all looked, it was basically Brian’s book. I just had a blast inventing vehicles and outlandish settings.

“Scarenthood” is set in a more real-world location, so relies on a lot more reference and getting details just right. Plus, being that it’s my book, it sometimes meant I’d spin out by having TOO much freedom; on “Transformers” and “Spider-Man,” even when you bring your own style to them, they still have to look a certain way. With a creator-owned book, there’s no wrong way to do it, but there’s no easy-to-lean-on right ways either. But when I’m on a licensed book, I want to be working on my own thing, and when I’m doing my own thing, I get the itch to draw other people’s characters, so I’m destined to remain dissatisfied, and a constant irritant to my wife.

“Scarenthood” is a story of parenthood, and while there is a supernatural twist, you do touch on some themes and feelings of modern parenting, like loneliness and single parenting. Are either or both of you parents yourselves, and if so, how much of your own experiences went into crafting this story?

NR: I’m the co-owner/operator of two kids, along with my wife, so we split the blame. The more time I spend with “Scarenthood” though, the more I realise a lot of it is about my fear of having to do it alone, and not just about fretting over my kids’ wellbeing. All the single parents I know seem way more on top of their business than me, and I have a tag team partner to share it all with. Cormac’s attempts to cope in the book would be similar to mine, I think.

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I do think one can be lonely as a parent though, especially when older social connections get lost as more time is devoted to the family unit. You do yearn for adult company with people who don’t share your surname, and instead of actually spending time with old friends, you find yourself trying to reinvent yourself and appear interesting amongst the other parents at the school gates. So that fish-out-of-water feeling only adds to the isolation. And all that stuff is definitely fuel for “Scarenthood.”

Chris O’Halloran: I’m not a parent but my girlfriend and I have a pet rabbit if that counts? However, I do steal all my coloring ideas from children’s crayon drawings and hand paintings.

Is there a sense that these adults are looking to recapture lost youth? As I look at the team of parents together making plans to find Flynno’s brother, I was seeing the kids of Stranger Things all grown up and parents of their own, but still craving one last adventure in the Upside Down.

NR: It’s very much that – – a group of people who never felt they became proper grown-ups in the first place looking for something to invest in that isn’t their young children. All the adults in the story absolutely love their kids and work hard for them (I needed to establish that, so that when situations . . . change later on, the contrast is noticeable), but they’ve lost a sense of their own selves. And so, for different reasons, they’re all attracted to this mystery, and that’s what gathers them together.

What did you look to for inspiration for “Scarenthood?” As I hinted in the last question, there’s a definite GenX/80s adventure film tone throughout the series, like The Goonies or Stand By Me.

NR: Yeah, I’ve never been a horror guy, which is good and bad. The good side means I’m coming to a lot of the ideas fresh and assuming I’m the first person to have them. But the bad side means I dont realise what’s been done to death already. I’m not sure if it’s obvious on the page, but a lot of 1970s UK and Ireland public safety films had a real hauntological vibe about them, and being that the characters in “Scarenthood” would have grown up watching them, I wanted it to feel like that’s the world these things are happening in. There’s also a bit of the classic BBC hoax documentary “Ghostwatch” in there, as well as a nod to the unseen horrors of M.R. James.

Nick, you’ve promoted “Scarenthood” on social media as an “Irish horror/comedy” series. How did your Irish culture and heritage for each of you factor into developing this world? 

NR: It’s really odd; my whole life I’ve never really found much connection to an Irish identity. It’s a lovely place to live and better than a lot of other option . . . but its heritage and culture meant nothing to me. Its traditional music and homegrown sports held ZERO interest to me. Not only that, I always felt that if I ever got a shot at a creator-owned book, I’d veer towards superheroes, robots and spaceships. But once I had my first kid, and started imagining going ghost-hunting in the mornings she was at pre-school instead of enduring coffee and property price chat with the other parents, I realised just what an inspirational place supernatural Ireland is.

And once I started building the mystery around “Scarenthood,” and figuring out who or what is behind it, I realised that this country is renowned for conspiracies of silences around terrible secrets, and it became clear that – – for good or for ill – -Ireland was the only place this story could happen.

COH: Most of my work has me coming up with superhero, horror, sci-fi worlds or something similarly alien, like America. So this was a chance to actually put on the page what’s in my local vicinity and country to an extent. Skies and buildings and settings I personally hadn’t read comics with, which was nice.It’s part of what makes this such a fun series to work on.

Were you both comics fans growing up? What stories and characters did you relate to most, and which do you look to for inspiration in creating this story? The panel composition and layouts, while modern, reminded me of some of those classic EC horror stories, where every element of a page has use and no space is wasted space.

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NR: Ah, those are nice words, thanks so much for saying that! Yeah, comics have been my life ever since I started reading the Marvel UK Transformers comics in the mid-80s, and I’ve wanted to work in them ever since. All those 80s tie-in books really nabbed me, partially because they were all I could get my hands on, but also because Simon Furman, Grant Morrison and Dan Abnett weren’t talking down to the readers of “Transformers,” “Zoids,” and “Real Ghostbusters.” But just as I never really stepped towards horror in my TV tastes, I never really read much in comic form either. “Sandman” counts, obviously, and there’s some masterful storytelling going on throughout that, with more than a little EC in evidence. So I possibly picked up tricks from that.

I think horror and comedy are all about timing, and both rely heavily on audience manipulation. So playing with page layouts and controlling the pace of the visual information your feeding to the reader results in some cool compositions in order to have maximum effect. And that intensifies throughout the series – – [issue] #2 goes heavy with stacking tension via panel structure.

COH: Comics were kind of hard to get until my late teens and early twenties when most American stuff became as available as it was there, I guess. Prior to that it was mostly those evergreen Bat books and Alan Moore co-created stuff. As a child I was consumed by the Batman, Turtles, X-Men, Spider-Man and basically any comic book cartoons that were on TV. I was able to collect a lot of the Marvel UK reprints they did here which were great, and still going I think..

Chris, this series is a different sort of coloring style than what we saw from you in “Ice Cream Man.” That series was horror dipped in sweet sugar, with plenty of bold, bright colors. “Scarenthood” leans into more realistic and earthy tones. Which did you feel was the more effective vehicle for bringing horror to life, and why?

COH: Well there’s advantages to both a somewhat realistic look and more cartoony, out there one. You can apply both for different effects or reactions you want out of the panel/page/series, etc. I’m not sure I’d say the two books look very different to me other than I’ve obviously applied this very Irish look as best I can to this very Irish setting. With “Ice Cream Man” the situation changes issue to issue as they are stand alone stories each month and I always try to come up with something new for them. With “Scarenthood” it’s been nice to develop the look and expand on it each issue. For both, my favorite part is getting that shocking/horrifying moment to land and really pop.

Is there one character in comics that either of you haven’t had the chance to work with yet that you would love to take on? Who’s that one character that you look at and you’re like “damn, I so want to craft a story around them?” And what angle would you put on it that hasn’t been done before?

NR: Maybe I need to set my sights higher, but I’ve kinda hit my dream gigs between working on “Transformers,” “Spider-Man,” and (my favourite Marvel character) Death’s Head. I think if anything, I’d like to do more Spider and Death’s Head.  I’d love to be let loose writing Death’s Head as well, I’ve got a strong idea of how I’d manage it, but I’m not prepared to share it here!

I think my teen self would love a crack at The Mask, and I’d obviously like to tick some DC off my list. But I’m also getting to the stage where I realise that working on your own ideas is the biggest reward, so hopefully I’ll get to do more “Scarenthood,” and some new ideas.

COH: I really just want to give Glob Herman the Year One/Hawkeye/Vision treatment. That’s my new goal as of this question.

After this series, are there any new or upcoming projects that either of you can share with us at the moment?

NR: None I can explicitly share right now.  I’ve got a short story I’ve written and drawn for Stephen Mooney’s ‘Half Past Danger’ Christmas Special, and am currently doing some character design for an unannounced animation project. But as soon as I can, I aim to be back in comics, and specifically underneath a haunted old village hall…

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COH: “Ice Cream Man” is back to regular release after the delays. I’m working on an issue of “Immortal Hulk” as I write this. I’ve also been working on a bunch of stuff I don’t think is announced yet.

While you wait for “Scarenthood” to arrive on November 4th, enjoy this preview of the first five pages of the issue.

Kate Kosturski

Kate Kosturski is your Multiversity social media manager, a librarian by day and a comics geek...well, by day too (and by night). Kate's writing has also been featured at PanelxPanel, Women Write About Comics, and Geeks OUT. She spends her free time spending too much money on Funko POP figures and LEGO, playing with yarn, and rooting for the hapless New York Mets. Follow her on Twitter at @librarian_kate.