Each aspect of the horror genre has their own masters of the craft. Stephen King dominates the world of horror novels, John Carpenter reigns over horror film, and Cullen Bunn is the king in the realm of the horror comics. His breakout series, The Sixth Gun, has been a dominating title with Oni Press and is still running. He has also made waves with the major publishers by being a part of Marvel’s Fear Itself event, as well as DC’s New 52 run of Sinestro. No matter what major projects he gets involved with, though, the horror genre keeps pulling him back in. Bunn’s newest project is Harrow County, a project with Dark Horse Comics that he describes as a backwoods horror story. Bunn spoke with us about the project, as well other plans, and his influences in horror. But first, here is an exclusive time-lapse process video of artist Tyler Crook working on the book:
Nerdist: You have done mystical westerns and supernatural noir stories, so what made you want to do a “backwoods horror” tale such as Harrow County?
Cullen Bunn: “Backwoods horror” is a sub-genre that is near and dear to me. Growing up in rural areas, I know how dark the woods can get in the dead of night, and I’ve heard more than my fair share of chilling stories about witches and ghosts and goblins haunting secluded places. I spent a lot of time exploring the woods when I was a kid, and my friends and I made up plenty of encounters with ghostly forest denizens. At least… I think we were all making up those stories. Maybe some of my friends really did encounter a spectral green light or a headless Civil War soldier or a withered, grey creature curled up in a rotting hole in the trunk of a tree. Those were the types of stories we told each other in an effort to make the area in which we lived a little more magical, I suppose, and those yarns have stuck with me for years and years.
Nerdist: Was the book always intended to be done in a watercolor art style or was the a decision that came later in the drafting process?
Bunn: I’m pretty sure Tyler Crook always had a specific “look” in mind for Harrow County. His earliest concept drawings for the book included these fully rendered drawings with a note that said, “I want it to look like this!” And who am I to argue? Tyler is one of the best in the business, and I think what he is doing with Harrow County is just gorgeous.
Nerdist: Is Harrow County planned as a limited series or ongoing?
Bunn: I try to approach every series, especially in the early stages, in easily digestible chunks. I’ve burned myself before my thinking too long-term. So, Harrow County has the potential to go on for a long while to come, but I’m writing the first two arcs in such a way that they draw to a satisfactory close but leave lingering questions, mysteries, and stories to tell.
Nerdist: What is it about the coming-of-age concept that lends so well to the horror story you want to tell?
Bunn: I think reaching adulthood can be a pretty scary time. You’re seeing a side of the world you are unfamiliar with, or maybe you had expectations in your mind that are getting dashed by the truth. Maybe you’re seeing your parents in a different light, too. Maybe they aren’t so “superhuman” as they once were. They have faults and failings. You’re being cast out into the world and you have to figure out how to make it on your own. It can be very unsettling. Even though Emmy’s story in Harrow County deals with ghosts and things that go bump in the night, I think it relates pretty directly to those types of fears and anxieties.
Nerdist: You are quite obviously a big fan of the horror genre so I offer a two-part question on those grounds. What horror film most influenced you as a writer, and what “terrible” horror film would you consider to be your guilty pleasure?
Bunn: These are some tricky questions for me.
I have so many horror movie favorites. The Phantasm movies, Pumpkinhead, An American Werewolf in London, Session 9, The Conjuring, Halloween, Jaws, Prince of Darkness, Dawn of the Dead, In the Mouth of Madness, Hellraiser, Nightbreed, The Blair Witch Project, Cabin in the Woods… but if I was going to name a hands-down favorite, it would be a bloody grudge match between Alien and The Thing.
As for “terrible” movies, I don’t know. I’ve seen lists of “bad” horror movies that just make me laugh. Often, they list classics of the genre and it seems like maybe the person making the list really doesn’t understand or like horror and just assumes all horror movies are bad. I’ve also seen lists of “bad” flicks that include movies that might not be classics, but are just fine in my book. Halloween 3, for example, is a fine movie. So is The Fog. But they get labeled as crappy movies by those who don’t know any better.
Hmmm. Maybe some of the Halloween and Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street sequels are pretty bad, but I can still enjoy them.
Nerdist: Will you be taking a break from superhero fiction then?
Bunn: Oh, I’m still writing several superhero books right now. Magneto, Moon Knight, Sinestro, Lobo, some Deadpool minis, and I’ll soon be taking over Aquaman. I like working in a wide range of genres, and I enjoy those types of stories, although I try to bring a little of that darkness I like so much into each of them
Nerdist: Finally, do you have any other projects other than Harrow County in the works or are you more intent on focusing on one at a time?
Bunn: I wouldn’t be happy working on just one book. In addition to Harrow County, I’m still writing The Sixth Gun, my supernatural western which is heading toward its final issue later in the year. I’m also launching a series called Hellbreak soon. It’s the story of a team of highly trained mercenaries who are sent on the strangest of rescue missions; they are tasked with retrieving lost souls from the depths of Hell. As you see, I stick pretty close to my horror and dark fantasy roots, but I try to make sure each of these books has its own voice and direction.
Harrow County #1 goes on sale May 13th and is published by Dark Horse Comics. Are you looking forward to more horror from Cullen Bunn? Let us know down in the comments section, and take a look at a gallery of Harrow County covers, including an exclusive sneak peek at a pin-up by artist Joëlle Jones.