Out this month is the first of a five-part locked-room mystery that sees paranormal detective Sarah Jewell and her associate Marie Therése’s weekend getaway become something far more ominous than they had planned. Surrounded by a storm, murder, and occult items, the duo must play a game of whodunit before they become one of the victims. Calling on his love of Agatha Christie Novels, writer Chris Roberson weaves an exciting new mystery in The House of Lost Horizons alongside illustrator Leila del Duca, who took a few moments to answer some questions from WWAC.
Leila, how does it feel to be stepping into the Hellboy universe? Chris, how does it feel to be coming back to this universe after being away from it for a while?
Leila: It feels great! Hellboy is one of my favorite series, and Mike one of my favorite artists. I loved Mike and Chris’s work on Rise of the Black Flame, so I was excited to help continue these ladies’ adventures.
Chris: I haven’t really been away, actually! We work so far in advance on these books that The House of Lost Horizons has been in the works for several years now. It was a delay that was extended a bit when 2020 threw a spanner in the works, so I’m glad that we’re finally able to share it with readers!
Chris, you’ve cited Agatha Christie as an inspiration for Sarah Jewell. Which of her works has stood out for you the most?
Chris: Oh, the Miss Marple stories, most definitely. I’m a big fan of amateur sleuths, and Miss Marple is my absolute favorite of them.
We don’t often get to see older female protagonists getting to enjoy adventures in comics. What was the thought process that allowed Sarah to evolve from a younger companion character to an older woman?
Chris: In the original conversation that Mike Mignola and I had about the character of Sarah Jewell, we were initially thinking about introducing a young American woman who would solve mysteries in the Victorian era alongside Sir Edward Grey in Witchfinder. But almost immediately we hit on the idea of introducing her as an older woman in a mystery set in the 1920s in the story that ultimately became Rise of the Black Flame. And while we were later able to bring her onstage in the pages of Witchfinder, I find that I really prefer her as the mature sleuth.
Leila, did the age of the character affect your artistic approach?
Leila: Not really. I’m used to drawing characters of varying race and age, so drawing Sarah with her body type, hair, and wrinkle lines was stuff that already felt second-nature to me.
Tell us about Marie-Thérèse. What was the inspiration for her character and her design and how did you develop the relationship between the two?
Leila: It was a fun challenge to translate Marie-Thérèse and Sarah into my own style. Christopher Mitten has a distinct style that illustrates them so wonderfully in Rise of the Black Flame, so I was nervous to do them justice! I made sure to keep their silhouettes, then added my own flair on their faces, hair, and clothing that I might have done had I originally designed the characters.
Chris: My original inspiration for the character was a young Josephine Baker, and it’s been interesting seeing her look evolve over time with the help of Chris and Leila. She’s one of my favorite characters to write.
How well would either of you do in a locked-room mystery? Would you be able to piece together the clues or would you end up a hapless victim?
Leila: I’d like to think I’d do a pretty good job of watching my back, keeping my cool, and being clever, but if I was having nightmares every night and suffering from sleep deprivation I bet I’d unravel and freak out real quick!
Chris: In a story like this, I would probably be too distracted checking out all of the books on the library shelves. There are always these incredibly well-stocked private libraries in locked-room mysteries, but none of the characters ever seem to notice!
The House of Lost Horizons #1 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.