In the realm of horror aimed at young audiences, there’s arguably no name bigger than R.L. Stine, as he’s been delivering family-friendly tales of terror for years across a variety of different titles. Whether it’s his Goosebumps series and their neon-soaked book covers or his slightly more mature Fear Street string of titles, nearly any horror fan who grew up in the ’90s knows the author’s work. One of his newer creations, the comic series Just Beyond, has been brought to life for Disney+, thanks to some help from executive producer Seth Grahame-Smith. Just Beyond premieres on Disney+ on October 13th.
Inspired by the writings of R.L. Stine, Just Beyond is an eight-episode anthology series that tells astonishing and thought-provoking stories of a reality just beyond the one we know. Each episode introduces viewers to a new cast of characters who must go on a surprising journey of self-discovery in a supernatural world of witches, aliens, ghosts, and parallel universes.
ComicBook.com caught up with Stine and Smith to talk about the new series, the excitement of these stories, and what the future could hold for the concept.
ComicBook.com: You have Goosebumps and you have Fear Street and now Just Beyond, what makes telling stories in the world of Just Beyond, both in the comics and for the TV show, what makes this world so different and so unique and so exciting?
R.L. Stine: I think it fits in with a lot of horror tropes and horror stories, I don’t know how unique it is. What we tried to do with the show is have that blend that you mention of scaring us, but with heart, and to do these safe scares but have them still give you some shudders, some chills. I think that’s what we tried to do. I don’t know as far as uniqueness goes. For me, at this point, writing so much, the challenge is, of course, coming up with unique things, coming up with new scares and new ways of doing it, and I think we found quite a few of those in this series.
To continue off of that, Seth, how did you navigate balancing the horror with the heartfelt stuff but also, given your horrifying filmography and more R-rated stuff, how did you also find that balance of giving the scares but not scarring children?
Seth Grahame-Smith: That was one of the fun challenges of it for me. The biggest appeal was getting to work with [Stine] on something and getting to work on a true anthology show like the shows that I grew up loving, like I’m sure you did; The Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories and things. But, like you said, you have to honor the fact that you’re in the R.L. Stine universe and you’re in the Disney universe so you’re not going to … When you’re me, you don’t get to lean on some of the genre conventions and horror conventions that you’re used to, so that was fun, with our great writers coming up with these stories together and figuring out, how do we scare people? How do we do genre? And how do we get an emotional component to it but without necessarily it being bloody or gory or traumatizing for people?
Seth, I feel like asking you this would be a little bit more like asking you your favorite child because of how hands-on you were with the series, but R.L., since you weren’t necessarily there day-to-day, what episode of this season do you think you were most delighted by the see brought to life in the way that Seth envisioned?
Stine: I have a couple of favorite episodes. One of them is called “Which Witch?” in which witches actually exist and this girl is the only witch at a high school. She’s on her own and then her cousin shows up who’s even more of a witch, and it’s totally embarrassing for her. I just think it’s a very witty script and wonderfully performed, and it made me laugh a lot, so that’s one of my favorites.
My other is one with the town bully. You see, everyone has a town bully, every show, every series, but this bully is a bully in spades. This bully, he’s incredible, and just a great, original character, I think.
Did you approach this series as the beginning of the Just Beyond franchise or did you approach it as a limited event series and left it at that?
Grahame-Smith: Well, the trick is, of course, you always want to do more, but the trick is when you’re doing something, the first season of something, if you start getting ahead of yourself and don’t focus enough on the first season, you’ll never get a second. So I tried very hard to go, “All right, we’re just doing these eight, these are everything.” And then once that was done, of course you start daydreaming about, “Yeah, but there were all these other great ideas that could’ve been this and that.” We’ll see. Hopefully people like it.
People are wondering about Goosebumps and how there’s a new series for that on the way. You’ve been great about teasing fans that it is still in the works. Are there any updates on when that project might be moving forward?
Stine: I have no updates on that. I have none.
There’s some other projects in the works, one based on the teen novels that I did called “The Babysitter.” There were four books and I think those are in production for television. We keep moving, we just keep going and see what happens. But no, I’m sorry, I don’t have any more updates on the other show.
Seth, looking to the future, I love the episode that you had that focused on the comic books and the comic book mythology. Is there anything you can tease for fans about what to expect with your Green Lantern series for HBO Max?
Grahame-Smith: Well, what can I tease? It’ll have Green Lanterns in it and it’ll be on HBO Max. Other than that, I don’t know that I can really say all that much yet, but I’m excited about that. Right now I’m in the immediate future, I’m excited that people are going to get to see these in October.
Just Beyond premieres on Disney+ on October 13th.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.