Clear the air lanes DC Comics fans, because this year's Halloween is going to be unlike any before. Villains? Monsters? Aliens from outer space? The Justice League has seen it all... but even they aren't prepared for what happens when SVENGOOLIE MEETS THE DC UNIVERSE this October.
The partnership between DC and MeTV is set to deliver one of the quirkiest pop-culture mashups of all time, inviting the network's iconic horror movie host into the comics. Just another way to help Svengoolie celebrate 40 years entertaining legions of sci-fi and horror fans with comedy sketches, jokes and song parodies. This one of a kind adventure will be told through a series of custom inserts featured in DC comic books on sale throughout October, with each two-page "chapter" written by DC Publisher (and Svengoolie super fan) Dan DiDio, with an assist from Rich Koz (Svengoolie himself) and artist Chris Jones. Screen Rant got the chance to talk to both DiDio and Koz about the Halloween team-up, and why it's taken so long for Svengoolie's Justice League credentials to be approved.
First I have to offer my congratulations to Svengoolie himself on forty years of horror movie hosting. Not everyone can make Dan DiDio seem like 'a fresh face in the industry' but Svengoolie has done it.
Dan DiDio: Okay, now I know what type of interview this is! [Laughs]
Rich Koz: I like this guy, Dan!
So this October, DC and MeTV are bringing Svengoolie to DC Comics in a special 8-page adventure. This seems like such a fun idea, and for late night horror movie fans it will seem obvious, but I have to know how in the world this partnership was thought up in the first place?
DD: I do have a really odd love of the Svengoolie TV show, but everybody who seems to know is inside this building. One of our representatives on the marketing department reached out to MeTV just to do a media swap. The logic is that we're going to be doing some things with MeTV, but in reciprocation we wanted to do something with Svengoolie's 40th anniversary. We had actually covered Sven on MAD Magazine, which is also under our purview. But we wanted to do something with Sven and the DC superheroes. I know of his interest in comics just from the times that we've met and talked. So it seemed like an oddly natural fit, and it came together rather quickly.
And would you agree with that Mr. Koz? That it was something like kismet?
RK: Definitely so. I was telling somebody earlier, I just happened to be doing a convention, and waiting in line to meet me was Dan! First of all I thought it was a huge compliment. And he came up and we started talking and I let him know about how much I enjoy the comics, as well. Having been a fan of the DC characters from when I was a kid, and continuing to read the books when I can, and of course all the other media. Movies, TV, and everything. Just the fact that I get to play with these characters was overwhelming to me.
The timing of this is also interesting, coming off of a San Diego Comic-Con that felt almost like the message was, "Yes superhero stories are great, we love them, but horror stories are what people are hungry for." Probably over a dozen new, high profile horror comics coming from DC, and a new horror imprint. You both have a unique perspective on it, so I'll ask you: why now?
RK: I think part of it is--everything works in cycles. And that includes horror hosting. There will be a bunch of hosts for a while and then they'll go away. Then they'll come back and then they'll go away. Amazingly to me, after forty years I'm still here. So I think I've outlived a few cycles as it went. But I always liken it to riding a roller coaster. People enjoy being scared. Because they know they're going to see horrible things, and it's going to be so scary and everything. But when it's done they're fine. They know they aren't hurt, they know they aren't injured. They just had an exhilarating time being scared. Especially today... [Laughs] I'm not going to get into any specifics on this with the real world. But I think something like that--where it's scary stuff, and it's horror, but at the end all you've had is the excitement and adrenaline of it--when it's done, you're still okay!
DD: Yeah. And from our standpoint we're always looking to see what's trending in the zeitgeist. The thing we see the most is this real push to nostalgia, which plays into a lot of our superhero storytelling. Superheroes are big in the industry, so that's interesting too. When you look at things like The Conjuring movies, or IT, or the stuff coming out of Warner Bros. New Line here, you see there's a real excitement and interest in horror that we haven't seen in a while. Quite honestly, if you want to track it back in the comics the success of Walking Dead really helped drive a lot of attention back to our business, between the TV show and the books. We decided that we wanted to catch onto that wave as well.
This year alone our biggest series success was a book called DCeased, which was a merging of DC characters and zombie characters. It was our best-selling book of the year so far. And again, we are announcing a line of books from Joe Hill called Hill House Comics, which is basically a horror line of comics for us too. We see that's a wave at the moment and we're all trying to catch it as much as we can.
There is that extra layer to it too, right? I imagine if somebody pitches a horror book that sounds like the scariest story in the world, that won't sell it on its own. In the same way that picking a horror movie to fall in love with, it's not necessarily the scariest one. Is there something specific you look for, or is it something subjective that resonates?
RK: Well you've got to have characters that people are going to get into and enjoy and identify with, definitely. And the biggest thing is the storytelling itself. Because you can see some movies today that are all special effects and gore, but if the story isn't good it's not going to please people. If you go back to a lot of the early Universal stuff that we show, there's no gore whatsoever. But the way the story is presented will really draw people in, and that's where the interest comes from.
DD: Some of the stuff I see too, what we're trying to do is bring the horror into the home, so to speak. Make the place where you feel most safe where you're least safe. I think that's where you get a good sense of story too, safety locations, and how they're able to manage things. Ultimately, if we can set them at unease wherever they are or what they might be doing to relax, I think you get a better sense of horror in that. Then you feel the sense of urgency, like 'there's no place you can hide.'
RK: That makes a lot of sense.
There is a real sense of sophistication to that level of storytelling. From two people who are both serving the audience of horror, is the idea of horror as a guilty pleasure basically done?
DD: [Laughs] I think the fact that we're celebrating Svengoolie's 40th anniversary--I mean, I go to comic conventions but there are horror conventions around--I think this is a badge of honor now. I think there's a level of awareness, of sophistication, and appreciation for things that used to be frowned upon. Either as shlock films or just cheap entertainment. I think they've realized there is a craft there, and definitely stories to tell. There are also things that are relatable to people and society that can be drawn from this that makes them resonate a lot better than they ever have before.
RK: Yeah and I have to say, you know our show is on every Saturday night on MeTV at... [Laughs] 8 o'clock Eastern and Pacific, 7 Central, consult your local listings... But I remember there were times when people would say, 'Oh yeah I'm so embarrassed, my wife makes fun of me because I watch Svengoolie,' or something like that. Even when I was working at a different station, they had some big press promotion thing for one of the other shows. One of the TV critics said to the promotion guy, 'You know I really like the Svengoolie show.' And he said, 'Oh it's such an embarrassment.' Like gee thanks, you're a real pal.
But today people aren't hiding the fact that they're watching the show. The fact that they're willing to go out in public wearing the t-shirts, and telling people how much they like it. And on Twitter every Saturday night during the show, we're trending nationally! Which just blows me away. There's an awful lot of people, and celebrities who are not afraid to say they enjoy the show. Mark Hamill, Gilbert Gottfried--these guys are into the show and will tell anybody who will listen how much they enjoy it. We've had anniversary things and action figures, and they sell out so quickly! There's a big demand for them. And I don't think people are stealing their mother's milk money to buy the things and not telling her. It's just amazing to me, and very flattering. It's almost become a mainstream thing now. People always say it's a cult thing, but I think it's gone beyond that.
I've seen enough of Svengoolie to know that anything is possible in even eight pages, so what should readers prepare themselves for as they're reading their pre-Halloween DC Comics?
DD: I think what they should prepare themselves for is the revenge of the rubber chicken! That's the way we're describing it. I watch the show and I feel that the rubber chicken is much maligned in the series, and I feel this is a great way for us to identify what could be Svengoolie's greatest nemesis.
RK: Another thing is--of course it's a thrill for me to be interacting in this with the top DC characters--but the fact that it still has the same flavor as my show. I think that's worked out real well.
DD: When he says 'flavor' he means it's full of bad puns, in case you were wondering.
RK: Yeah, I mean it tastes like rubber chicken.
If somebody told you that one day Svengoolie would be almost literally rubbing shoulders with Superman and Batman, would you have believed them? Can you even believe it now?
RK: No! It's still just amazing to me, it's mind-boggling. I've told the story that I wish I could go back in time and talk to my ten-year-old self, picking up his copies of World's Finest and Batman and say, 'Hey someday you're going to be in there with these guys.' You know it sounds corny, but it's a dream come true for me. As a comics fan and a fan of the characters, no I never would have expected this to happen. Maybe I would've been with, you know like... Sugar and Spike, or something like that. And that's pretty arcane I know.
Since this Svengoolie story will be told in inserts through all of the comics line, how will fans want to go about reading this entire adventure come October?
DD: The way this works is the entire month is with Svengoolie. What we've done is it's an eight-page story, which is being done as a special custom comic handed out by the MeTV folks. But in our comics it's done in two-page increments, serialized over the four weeks. It's a story that builds with a level of excitement, and a level of threat and mystery, naturally. Basically you have to read every week to get a new installment of Svengoolie Meets The DC Universe.
Oh, so Svengoolie is like the new Doomsday.
DD: Something like that. [Laughs]
RK: I've been saying that for years!
DD: It might be a different definition of Doomsday. But yeah! Sure!
Fans of Svengoolie can follow his adventures through the DC Universe beginning in October, with a two-page insert weekly all the way up to Halloween on October 31st, 2019. And catch Svengoolie airing Saturday nights at 8PM/7C on MeTV.