Way back when, before he had written dozens of Goosebumps books and appeared in Goosebumps movies, R.L. Stine was a comic book creator. But after a few attempts at making his own comics about Super Stooge, “the world’s dumbest superhero,” the young Stine realized he couldn’t actually draw that well and embarked on his career as a writer. But now, all these years later, Stine is finally returning to comics. Following his 2017 Man-Thing comic for Marvel, EW can exclusively announce that Stine is now debuting an original graphic novel series, titled Just Beyond, for Boom! Studios.
“That’s how I started out, doing comic books,” Stine tells EW. “When I was a kid I was a comic book freak, me and all my friends used to carry around big stacks of comics and read them and compare them. Plus, when I was a kid, there were those great EC horror comics, Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, which were major influences on me I think. They were horrifying and scary and funny at the same time. I had so much fun doing the Marvel stuff, I couldn’t really believe i had spent so long not doing comics.”
In the wake of Man-Thing, Stine connected with Boom! Studios, and worked together to launch this new Just Beyond imprint. Though it’s a different format than Stine’s long-running Goosebumps series, Just Beyond takes aim at the same audience demographic: Middle-grade readers. Stine says he’s comfortable writing for those readers now; more to the point, he knows what scares them. This is why the first installment in the Just Beyond series, The Scare School, takes place at a middle school. As Stine knows by now, it’s much easier to scare kids if you start with what they know…before moving “just beyond” that frame of reference.
“None of the Goosebumps books take place in a castle in middle Europe. They always start out In someone’s basement or right in the kitchen or somewhere on the playground,” Stine explains. “You want the kids to be able to identify with the characters, so they have to be familiar. Then, when you have these familiar characters and suddenly horrible things are happening, it makes it that much more frightening.”
In The Scare School, the titular education establishment is actually a nexus between two realities. Like a middle-school version of China Mieville’s The City & the City, there are two different schools existing in the same place at the same time. The story begins with three 12-year olds in strangely old-fashioned clothing traveling from one version of the school to the other. They bring old-fashioned clothing with them, as well as the knowledge that the world is not as it seems. Also, they’re trying to escape a cyborg creature called a Drogg before it can drag them back from whence they came.
Stine will appear at New York Comic Con later this week to preview and promote Just Beyond. He’ll appear at the Boom! Studios: Discover Yours panel at 1:30 p.m. ET on Friday, after which he’ll be signing at the Boom! Studios booth starting at 3 p.m.
Just Beyond: The Scare School is written by Stine and illustrated by the sibling team of Kelly and Nichole Matthews, with a cover by Julian Totino Tedesco. It’s set to hit stores in September 2019. For now, check out an exclusive early preview of Just Beyond: The Scare School below.