‘Coffin Hill’ 2: Caitlin Kittredge takes Eve back to her bloody roots

Nov. 08, 2013 | 4:35 p.m.

There’s something haunting about the woods of “Coffin Hill,” a feeling writer and co-creator Caitlin Kittredge knows all too well from her past.

The novelist behind the “Nocturne City,” “Black London” and “Iron Codex” series made an impressive comics debut last month with artist Inaki Miranda (“Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom”), as the launch of their Vertigo horror title made Hero Complex’s Halloween comics picks.

In the first issue, readers saw Eve Coffin, the daughter of a prominent but cursed Massachusetts family, both as a wild teen in her hometown of Coffin Hill – someone who makes a scene at her parents’ party and hides booze and pills in a mausoleum – and also years later as a mature twentysomething cop in Boston. Eve left home years ago to escape what happened in a horrific incident in the woods one night. And now, following a hospital stay after arresting a serial killer and being shot in the head in quick succession,  she’s left Boston and returned to Coffin Hill.

But as some teens have gone missing in those same woods – possibly tied to what a ritual she led may have unleashed all those years ago – Eve’s troubles are far from over. The story continues in No. 2, out Wednesday. Hero Complex readers can take a look at the issue’s first five pages in the gallery above or in larger versions via the links below.

“Coffin Hill” No. 2: Cover | Page 1 | Pages 2-3 | Page 4 | Page 5

Kittredge discussed Ms. Coffin’s mind-set, Miranda’s art, spooky woods and more with Hero Complex in a phone interview.

Hero Complex: What is Eve facing as she returns to Coffin Hill?

Caitlin Kittredge: What she’s facing is all the mistakes she’s made and the stuff that drove her away. She’s tried for 10 years to run away from the night in the woods that we saw in the first issue, but she’s about to find out you can never really escape something of that magnitude, that you’ll eventually have to face it. So in Issue 2 the realization is building that she has to put right what she did rather than just try to keep running and hiding from it.

"Coffin HIll" No. 1 variant cover by Gene Ha.  The series follows cop Eve Coffin as she is forced to move back to the home she left after a horrific teenage incident. (Vertigo)

“Coffin Hill” No. 1 variant cover by Gene Ha. (Vertigo)

HC: She can’t seem to escape notoriety, first for what happened 10 years ago and being part of a prominent family, and now for her hand in arresting the Ice Fisher serial killer. How do you see her relationship with renown?

CK: Eve would like nothing better than to be anonymous. She would like to just stand on her own without her family name dragging her down or the mistakes she’s made dragging her down or even the good, heroic acts she’s done as a police officer. She’s pretty over being infamous and the center of everybody’s attention, positive or negative. I think in that way coming back to Coffin Hill might be a little bit of a respite from all the stuff in Boston. But on the other hand, now she’s being confronted with people who knew her 10 years ago and even before that who know her family and know the stigma that comes with being a Coffin, so she really is kind of between a rock and a hard place and wishes that everyone would just leave her alone. But that’s never going to happen.

HC: Eve, who went through with that ritual in the woods that night, and Nate, who left before it started, were shown in the first issue to have both become cops. What can you say about their lives diverging and now converging again?

CK: Nate, as it stands in Issue 2, would have been happy to never lay eyes on Eve again. He holds a lot of negative feelings about what happened between them – not just the night in the woods, but everything that happened between them before she ran off to Boston and tried to leave  Coffin Hill behind her. I think in a strange way they became cops for the same reason. They both had traumatic childhoods and witnessed something horrific and tried to sort of bring order to the chaos by reaching out and helping people. They took very different paths. I think, for Nate’s part, he’s going to have to realize that he also can’t run away from this entanglement with Eve, and much as he might try to ignore it, they still have a lot of complicated emotions surrounding their relationship. If he ever wants real peace about what happened, he’s going to have to confront her and work through them and let her back into his life even though he’s convinced that would be a disaster…. And Eve just feels so terribly guilty when Issue 2 starts about what happened between her and Nate when they were teenagers. So she also has a little bit of work to do on their relationship.

HC: You have Eve’s past horror taking place in evil woods, and now some teens that have gone missing in those same woods. Any spooky woods in your past?

CK: Yes, absolutely. My parents managed a summer camp, and it was vacant for about seven or eight months out of the year. It was in the middle of nowhere in the woods. We backed up to a state forest. So absolutely, there were creepy woods all around the house. It was easy to get lost. It was really spooky. You really had a sense that they were inhabited by some sort of presence, at least to me as a little kid. I never wandered too far because of that…. There were definitely trails that I didn’t walk down by myself and places that creeped me out more than others. I love being outside, and I love exploring and running around out there, but also I would be sure to be home before it got dark for the same reason, because it was so rural and so depopulated and just kind of so spooky when you’re so small and you know this vast forest is so big. That’s definitely one of the inspirations for “Coffin Hill” – just trying to call on that same sense of unease that I experienced.

HC: Eve’s family history, which we’re told includes at least one ancestor being hanged for being a witch, goes back to Salem. Since you grew up in the area, I’m wondering if the Salem witch trials have long been a fascination for you.

CK: I’ve actually always been really fascinated by it and it really strikes me as one of the great tragedies of the area that I grew up in because what actually happened is so bad and so tragic and so pointless. I got the idea that if there was actually one real witch in Salem, and instead of [her] being hanged it would be 19 different people who were hanged for witchcraft, that she escaped and let them take the fall for her and ran off and founded Coffin Hill. So that was kind of the seed that grew the whole story.

HC: What was your collaboration like with Inaki Miranda in developing the look of the book?

CK: It was great. I’d never worked with an artist before. This is my first comics project so I was a little bit nervous – I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work, like if he was going to think I was being really bossy, or if our visions just wouldn’t match. But I got very lucky because our visions meshed very closely. I sent him a bunch of photos of the area where I’m from and the area where I live now, just basically some stuff to get a reference for the general feel. And then I said, “I just want there to be an absence of light in this story. I want there to be a lot of fog, a lot of cloud, a lot of shadows. I just kind of want the feeling that everything’s decaying a little bit.” And really from those three sentences, he just ran with it and created the whole look that you see in the comic…. I really feel like I couldn’t have done any better getting someone who understands the sensibility that I was going for.

Art for "Coffin Hill" No. 1, Page 18. (Inaki Miranda / Vertigo)

Art for “Coffin Hill” No. 1, Page 18, finds Eve (masked) and Melanie waking up after a ritual in the woods. (Inaki Miranda / Vertigo)

HC: Was there any page in that first issue that when it came back especially surprised you?

CK: The scene in Issue 1 toward the end when Eve and her friend Melanie wake up in the woods covered in blood – that just blew me away. I had imagined it, and it was pretty awesome – and the page came back and it was 10 times as amazing as I’d imagined it. I couldn’t be happier. I show that page to everybody and say, “Hey, look at all this blood!” [laughs]

HC: Speaking of all that blood, what do you have to say about Eve de la Cruz’s color work?

CK: That’s really the icing on the cake. Everybody who works on the comic – I got so phenomenally lucky. Inaki, Eve’s colors, the lettering. Dave Johnson’s incredible covers. I felt so fortunate that he wanted to work on the covers. And we had the great alternate cover [by Gene Ha] for the first issue. I feel like everything meshed together perfectly. Eve’s colors really do justice to everything in the art…. They’re really, really great.

HC: “Coffin Hill” has elements of both horror and detective fiction. Could you talk about a favorite story or two from each of those genres?

CK: You’ve asked me a hard question because I have so many favorites, that’s basically all I read – horror and darker mystery novels. I’ve been a big fan of Joe Hill ever since his first novel, “Heart-Shaped Box.” And I actually found his novel before I realized he had a comic series [“Locke and Key”], which I’m also a huge fan of. His novels really, I don’t know, they’re so messed up and twisted and at the same time they manage to have such great relationships between the characters and such great little character moments. They’re just really great. I’m a big fan of all of his novels. I read a lot of detective novels. I don’t even know if I could pick one out for you. That’s an impossible question because I have a million favorites. I would just go on for hours…. I grew up reading Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft. I read “The Scarlet Letter” in middle school, and somebody else mentioned that the plot of “Coffin Hill” has a kind of Hawthornesque feel to it, and I said, “Wow, you’re the only person who’s picked up on that, but yes actually it does, kind of on purpose.” [laughs] That’s one of my favorite stories.

HC: Is there any last thing you’d like to say about Issue 2?

CK: Somebody recently mentioned that Issue 1 ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I said, “Well, if you thought Issue 1 ended on a cliffhanger, you ain’t seen nothing yet because the cliffhanger in Issue 2 is going to blow your mind.” You get a lot more background on what is going on in Coffin Hill, and at the end there’s a giant cliffhanger. I apologize in advance if that leaves anyone with their mouth hanging open when they read it. Read Issue 3, if that’s the case.

– Blake Hennon | @BlakeHennon | @LATHeroComplex

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