Exclusive process pages from Dark Horse's 'Bedtime Games'
Cover to ‘Bedtime Games’ TPB. Art: Conor Nolan and Kelly Fitzpatrick/Dark Horse Comics

by Jarrod Jones. Bad-mouthed teens looking for a good bad time and finding it, soon after regretting it. Without giving too much away that’s essentially the central premise behind Bedtime Games, a sinfully good summertime spook show that pays homage to horror deity Stephen King and is the purloined cigarette answer to Stranger Things‘ pop bubblegum frights. Did you read it? You should have. And if you didn’t, well guess what. Good news ahead.

Realized by Death Head writer Nick Keller and a murderer’s row of scary-good artists—Conor Nolan, Kelly Fitzpatrick and John J. Hill— Bedtime Games reads like a classic horror anthology in the making. With this first arc we follow three friends, Owen, Jamie, and Avery, as they flout dire warnings surrounding a forbidden door and dive deep into the best-forgotten corners of their quiet hamlet. Family tragedy, recalcitrant youth, and unfathomable evil, that’s what colors this Dark Horse series. And now it’s fit to shelve next to your other classic horror tomes.

The Bedtime Games TPB hits bookstores on March 5. In the meantime, let’s break down one page from the series’ first issue in this exclusive process gallery courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

We begin with Conor Nolan’s breakdowns of the page, which follows a spoken pact between Avery and her two boneheaded buddies: Tonight, they’ll infiltrate the ornate door that connects the town’s river to their school. With a splash, Jamie’s sinking bottle of booze seems to seal their fates. It’s a whole damn mood underscored by Nolan’s jet-black sketches.

EXCLUSIVE: We break down the process that gives 'Bedtime Games' its sinister veneer

Next, pencils. Nolan refines his breakdowns with glorious detail. Air and the few remaining dregs from the bottle froth outwards from the bottle as it lowers to the riverbed, its falling trajectory revealing a more ghastly rendering of the corpse that lies among the swaying underwater foliage. A camera takes shape—a vital character detail, perhaps?—as well as a waterlogged tome. Nolan places the skeletal bones of the woman’s hand over the book, as though she had been protecting it (concealing it?) until her last breath.

EXCLUSIVE: We break down the process that gives 'Bedtime Games' its sinister veneer

Then come the inks. Nolan uses black to underscore the grimness of the piece, uniting the mood established in his breakdowns with the precise details of his pencils. And with the inks comes another, crucial, detail: A title for this opus, “Bedtime Games”. Yes, it’s the title of our series, but it’s also another clue that raises disturbing questions about our story. What’s to come for our motley crew? What evils await in the pages to follow? A bigger picture is beginning to come into focus.

EXCLUSIVE: We break down the process that gives 'Bedtime Games' its sinister veneer

Finally, Kelly Fitzpatrick and John J. Hill enter the fray. Nolan’s blacks remain, and where he left negative space Fitzpatrick adds aquatic hues spliced with sunlight from above. The lives of these characters blends with forgotten, monstrous, secrets in an underwater gallery of horror. Hill executes the page’s sole caption to the top right of the second panel, which draws our eyes across Keller’s jet-black irony and down towards the bleak display underneath. It’s here where Fitzpatrick includes yet another piece to the puzzle: A sinister glow emanates from the forbidding tome, as though something has stirred in this town’s deep, forgotten places.

EXCLUSIVE: We break down the process that gives 'Bedtime Games' its sinister veneer

It’s in this final part of the process that the story’s atmosphere is ultimately, expertly, established.

With all this craft and care on display, you’d be well advised to keep an eye out for Bedtime Games‘ trade paperback, hitting all good bookstores March 5.

Written by Nick Keller.
Art by Conor Nolan.
Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick.
Letters by John J. Hill.

$17.99 | M | MARCH 5

From Dark Horse Comics: As summer comes to an end, three friends start senior year with a bang by exploring the mysterious past of their school. But before the night is over, their adventure turns into trouble when the kids set loose an evil that seeks to prey on their worst nightmares.

Brand-new horror from Nick Keller (Death Head), Conor Nolan (Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Giants), and Kelly Fitzpatrick (Shade the Changing Girl). Collects issues #1-#4 of the series.