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Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees creator and editor on the series' surprise success and whether fans can expect to see more

Popverse got to chat with Patrick Horvath and Maggie Howell about all things Beneath the Trees

Cropped panes from Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees
Image credit: Patrick Horvath/IDW Publishing

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Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees is one of the hottest comics of the year, with the first issue going back to press for three reprints to date. Though the series' success still surprises series writer and artist Patrick Hovarth, it may not surprise the comic's fans, who have gone all in on the spooky serial killer story set in a small idyllic town inhabited by cuddly-looking animals.

As we near the publication of the sixth and final issue of the horror series, Popverse had a chance to chat with Horvath as well as series editor (and group editor of IDW Originals) Maggie Howell about where the series came from, and what fans might be able to expect after the series concludes.

Popverse: Where did Beneath the Trees Where No One Sees come from, as a concept and story? Patrick, from a creative point of view, and Maggie, from a publisher/editorial point of view?

Cover for Beneath the Tress Where Nobody Sees
Image credit: Patrick Horvath/IDW Publishing

Patrick Horvath: I had the initial idea for the story about 7-ish years ago. I was just making a random drawing that ended up being this anthropomorphic bear walking along in a pair of overalls and carrying a bloody axe. The broad strokes of the story sort of popped into my mind then. I thought it would be fun if there was a serial killer hiding in plain sight within a cute town of animal folks like something out of a Richard Scarry book. After I gave it a bit more thought, the angle of having an additional reckless killer came to mind, and I loved the idea of having one psychopath trying to discover who the other psychopath in this adorable little town might be. That sat with me for a while as a general pitch until IDW showed interest in it.

Maggie Howell: Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees was the first pitch I chased after now-co-publisher Mark Doyle invited me to IDW to help build the originals line. I suddenly had more editorial freedom than ever before and I was on myself to make the most of it. Collaborating with new talent had always been (and still is) a personal goal and a priority of the originals program, plus I was looking for projects that benefitted IDW’s publishing strategy but also spoke to my own sensibilities. Threading these needles is a standard part of the job but it was especially inspiring to me and associate editor Jake Williams to have a pitch as strong as Patrick’s hit all those marks in those very early days.

Patrick, you’re writing and painting the comic, which makes you a fairly rare sight in the realm of monthly comics. How did you manage that task load?

Related: Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees is building to a quiet, devastating end (and we have the pages to prove it)

Horvath: Generally, it’s how I prefer to make comics, but it can be a lot if you’re juggling other things like a day job and the general curveballs that life throws at you. It took a bit for me to get my sea legs, so to speak, but I definitely got better at figuring out ways to make it more efficient whenever possible. Writing comes a little easier to me, but the art is always going to take longer, regardless of how you approach it. Even though I do the pages in ink and gouache, I still do layouts digitally on iPad and then use an app that basically makes it into a light table that I can use for my pencils on the actual paper. I also realized that I needed to just keep moving ahead if I made any mistakes on the page. Whatever I couldn’t fix with gouache I would just touch-up in Photoshop.

Creatively, Patrick, and editorially, Maggie, what are you most proud of with Beneath the Trees?

Horvath: I mean, just getting to tell the whole strange story of Samantha and to have it be as close to fully realized as possible makes me immensely proud. I’m so grateful that IDW gave me the opportunity to run with this idea, and the fact that it’s exactly what I hoped it would be still blows my mind.

Howell: I’m proud of Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees as an example of our industry rewarding creative excellence. It’s an organic word-of-mouth hit that’s generated increased demand for each successive issue. All credit goes to Patrick, who delivered a final product that was remarkably true to his original vision. For an editor there’s nothing better than watching one of your comics make a splash and it’s a downright dream when it happens for an original that’s taken exactly the shape its creator imagined.

What has surprised you the most about Beneath the Trees becoming such a hit?

Variant cover for Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees
Image credit: Riley Rossmo/IDW Publishing

Horvath: I’m most surprised by how much it has resonated with everyone. With each issue, I was honestly thinking, “Well, I know folks like the last one, but I have no idea if they’re going to be on board with how weird this next issue gets.” I honestly never expected people to consistently be into it throughout all of the different turns that it takes, and the fact that they have been is so wild to me. I made a lot of the choices based on what I wanted to see in a comic regardless of how strange it got, and the best part of all of it is that A LOT of folks are into it as well.

Howell: I’ll steer us away from Patrick’s humility! I’m not at all surprised Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees has resonated so strongly with readers. Patrick’s storytelling is so confident, it’s magnetic. In fact, I don’t think he’ll mind if I say that his unwavering execution of such a disturbing story has enhanced its horror. It’s a deeply conflicting presentation but you don’t dare argue with it—that’s powerful stuff that keeps you coming back for more.

What I didn’t know was how pronounced its success would be. I don’t want to call it a surprise because we’ve had the support of a very talented sales, marketing, and publicity team and the book itself had endless potential to be a hit, but any editor can tell you that some of their most promising comics never get the traction they deserve. The sheer volume of creative work that’s out in the world looking for an audience makes that degree of success unpredictable. We’re honored to have found it.

Will we see more in this universe?

Horvath: I’ve definitely had a wonderful time putting this together, and working with IDW has been incredible. If I get the chance to do more, the town of Woodbrook has been growing in my mind since working on issue 1, and I have a lot more that I’d love to dive into.

Howell: Let’s just say that working with Patrick has been a career highlight for me and continuing to do so is on my list of short- and long-term goals.

What’s next?

Horvath: We have the conclusion coming up soon with issue 6, and I’m excited for the collected edition to be out and in people’s hands in September. I can’t wait for the whole story to finally be available, and to have all the conversations with readers once it’s all laid out there.

Howell: We have exciting plans for originals at IDW. For now, I’d love to draw attention to the next chapter of The Hunger and the Dusk, G. Willow Wilson and Chris Wildgoose’s jaw-dropping high fantasy romance. We’re approaching the end of intermission for our existing fans and giving new readers an easy on-ramp to the action. The collected first arc goes on sale in June and will be immediately followed by The Hunger and the Dusk: Book Two #1 in July.

The final issue of Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees hits shelves on May 08, 2024.

Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees is building to a quiet, devastating end (and we have the pages to prove it)

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