Blending a charming vintage art style with shockingly gory horror, Jay Stephens' Dwellings takes readers into Elwich, a seemingly idyllic small town with a sinister side where blood-splattered secrets are lurking around every well-manicured corner. With the first 72-page issue of the limited comic book series now available from Oni Press, we caught up with Stephens in a new Q&A feature to discuss combining a nostalgically cozy art style with intense scares, creating faux retro comic book advertisements that tie into his hair-raising tales, and reteaming with Oni Press to release Dwellings into the world!

Below, you can read our full Q&A with Jay Stephens, and we also have a look at the cover art, preview pages, and trailer for the first issue of Dwellings! To learn more about Dwellings, keep an eye on Oni Press' official website!

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions for us, Jay, and congratulations on Dwellings, a new limited series that reformats your previous self-published series and takes readers into Elwich, a seemingly idyllic small town with a sinister side. Looking back, how did you initially come up with the idea for the town of Elwich and its eerie residents featured in Dwellings?

Jay Stephens: Elwich is like my personal Twin Peaks or Castle Rock, a feverish nightmare patchwork of where I grew up and continue to dwell. As I look back on my life in Southern Ontario, I can see similarities throughout the region. Old stone industrial settlements built on rivers and rail lines, long before the advent of the automobile. Every one of them with ghost stories and gruesome tales of murder that folks would rather stayed buried. But it doesn't take much digging to uncover them. Those graves are shallow.

I absolutely love the vintage art style of Dwellings, and I understand that you took inspiration from the classic Harvey Comics that featured characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Wendy. What do you enjoy the most about Harvey Comics that made you want to pay homage to that style of storytelling while giving it your own macabre spin?

Jay Stephens: I found the design of Casper the Friendly Ghost uncannily irresistible when I was a kid, so cute it was like a sugar high. I've always strived to master that magic in my own drawing. And there was always something lurking within those comics... something more sinister. My whole life I've tried to reconcile the conflicting messages of Hot Stuff the Little Devil and The Exorcist, Count Chocula and Dracula: Prince Of Darkness, or the residences in The Addams Family and Psycho. Dwellings is partly a nostalgic gaze backwards into those conflicting narratives.

The first issue of Dwellings includes “They Know” and “Second Tongue”—two tales that are brimming with no-holds-barred horror, gore-filled frights, and terrifying twists. What are you the most excited for first-time visitors to Elwich to experience in this bold first issue?

Jay Stephens: Though each of the horror stories in Dwellings take place in Elwich, they are all self-contained and complete, and only loosely connected by this terrible town. I hope readers get a thrill out of how each one is a totally different experiment in horror... “They Know,” a Poe-meets-Hitchcock psycho-thriller with a murder of bloodthirsty crows, “Second Tongue,” a Satanic Panic tribute about Foreign Accent Syndrome... where you never know for sure where the shocks will be coming from next. I'm a huge fan of the genre, and am having a blast pushing the limits of the expected with this series.

I really enjoy the contrast of carnage that bursts off the page when you combine a seemingly innocent Americana art style with really bold and dark storytelling in Dwellings. How important was it for you to combine those two elements in fun, frightening, and blood-soaked ways in this series?

Jay Stephens: I had hoped the cute facade would intensify the bloody jump scares, and I'm glad to know it's working! There's something giddily transgressive about it. I'm a fan of mid-century manga by the likes of Shigeru Mizuki, Hideshi Hino, and Kazuo Umezu, and was inspired to make some cute-gore stories of my own that more directly reflect my own strange experiences and the vintage comic books I first absorbed. Saturday Morning Cartoons meets Stroke of Midnight.

I grew up reading a lot of Bronze Age comics, and I always enjoyed poring over the advertisements in those issues from the ’70s and ’80s, so I had a lot of fun with the retro-style ads that you sprinkled throughout Dwellings. How much fun did you have coming up with those nostalgic advertisements?

Jay Stephens: Oh, me too! I still think of them as an inseparable part of the comic book reading experience. I have fond memories of pointing out to my brother all the cool things I wanted to order. So, yeah, I wanted to make sure those ads were built into the nostalgic time machine of Dwellings, and they are one of my favourite things to create. Of course, in my version, all the ads become part of the horror stories...

The first issue of Dwellings features covers by yourself and variant covers by Joe Palmer, Jenna Cha, and Brian Level. What has it been like to team up with Joe, Jenna, and Brian to get their own artistic takes on Dwellings?

Jay Stephens: What if you got to make a wish list with Oni and get this lucky? The variants are hauntingly gorgeous, and seeing my world reinterpreted by other artists is such a blast! Also delightful to come up with new cover designs of my own and get another chance to hook some unsuspecting eyeballs.

Dwellings will be released in three 72-page issues, with each issue featuring two unsettling tales set in Elwich. Do you have plans for future issues of Dwellings beyond these first three issues?

Jay Stephens: The reaction to the series has been phenomenal so far, and I get asked that a lot. The truth is, I do have more Dwellings stories under construction, but these things take time to get right. One day, when you least expect it...

Dwellings marks your return to Oni Press, a publisher where you’ve had previous success on series such as Jetcat Clubhouse and Atomic City Tales. What has it been like to reunite with Oni Press for Dwellings?

Jay Stephens: Seeing as Dwellings is a blood-stained gaze backwards at my two passions for horror cinema and vintage kids comics, it seems like a perfectly nostalgic move to reunite with my old publisher.  Nostalgia is a melancholy craving for some long-ago joy... a literal "return home in pain," which makes coming back to Oni where I left off  20 years ago eerily perfect, no? We've both changed a lot over the years, though, so it also feels like a brand-new adventure.

Ultimately, what do you hope readers take away from Dwellings?

Jay Stephens: I want you to be surprised. With so much sameness in comics... sameness in the horror genre... I hope Dwellings is at least unlike anything else you've read. Horror is toothless without the power to shock.

What advice would you give to aspiring comic book writers or artists who are just getting started?

Jay Stephens: Get. Started. It takes years to build up skills, but you can only do that through the act of making comics. Get busy! Perfection is impossible, so go and get your hands dirty... we all want to see what you've got to say.

With the first issue of Dwellings now available from Oni Press, do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tease? Also, where can our readers go online to keep up to date on your work?

Jay Stephens: There should be an announcement pretty soon about a crazy script I wrote for Dynamite, and Black Eye Books and I will continue to put out the complete collections of my past work that we began with Dejects and Jetcat & Friends. There are other secret projects that will need to remain in the vault for now, but you can be sure I'll post about them on my Instagram @jstephenscomics as soon as possible, so follow me there!

Thank you for your time, Jay!

Jay Stephens: Thanks for such great questions!


Press Release: Beginning this summer, the multiple Eisner and Harvey Award-winning publisher Oni Press will publish DWELLINGS, a bi-monthly limited series from the pop-addled brain of Emmy Award-winning animator and Eisner Award-nominated cartoonist Jay Stephens (TUTENSTEIN, JETCAT CLUBHOUSE). Re-formatting Stephens' acclaimed self-published series – which has drawn praise from a litany of high-profile talents, like Jeff Lemire, Stephen R. Bissette, Phil Hester, and more – into three prestige-format chapters, Oni's new release of DWELLINGS marks the award-winning Canadian cartoonist's return to the publisher that played an early, pivotal role in shaping his career with series like JETCAT CLUBHOUSE, LAND OF NOD, ODDVILLE, and ATOMIC CITY TALES – all of which numbered among some of Oni's earliest and most acclaimed breakout hits alongside series like CLERKS and ONI DOUBLE FEATURE.

Each of DWELLINGS’ three oversized, prestige format issues will be 72 blood curdling pages long and will include two complete tales. Welcome to Elwich – an oasis of small town 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.

“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,” said cartoonist Jay Stephens. “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.”

DWELLINGS debuts on August 9th with a 72-page, first issue with all-new, never-before-seen standard and "bloody" edition covers by Jay Stephens himself, alongside brand-new variant covers by Joe Palmer (TIME BEFORE TIME), Jenna Cha (BLACK STARS ABOVE), and Brian Level (BATMAN VS. BIGBY! A WOLF IN GOTHAM).

"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," said Oni Press President & Publisher, Hunter Gorinson. "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 #1 will feature two creepy stories – "They Know" and"Second Tongue." One Press will unleash DWELLINGS diabolical debut issue on unsuspecting comic shops everywhere on August 9, 2023.

For more updates on Oni Press, visit them on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

DWELLINGS #1 (of 3) 





Cover C by JENNA CHA


Bloody Variant (1:10) by JAY STEPHENS




About Jay Stephens

Jay Stephens is a Canadian cartoonist and illustrator currently living in Guelph, Ontario. He is best known as the creator of Discovery Kids’s animated television series Tutenstein, Cartoon Network’s The Secret Saturdays, and the Jetcat animated shorts for Nickelodeon's anthology series, KaBlam!. Aside from his work in animation, Jay is recognized for several comic book projects, including SIN, The Land of Nod, Atomic City Tales, and Jetcat Clubhouse, and has written and drawn for licensed properties such as Alien, Star Wars, Felix the Cat, and Teen Titans. Jay is the creator of the comic strips, Oddville!, Chick & Dee (in Chickadee magazine), Xtra-curricular and Arrowhead (in OWL magazine), and (with writer Bob Weber Jr.) the daily newspaper strip Oh, Brother!.

About Oni Press

The Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group is a premier comic book and graphic novel publisher located in Portland, Oregon. Merged with Lion Forge Comics in 2019 but established in 1997, Oni Press publishes a thoughtfully curated line of award-winning original and licensed graphic novels and comic books for readers of all ages. Notable titles from the Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group include: The Tea Dragon Society, Sheets, Gender Queer, A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, Scott Pilgrim, and Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty™.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.