Set for release this week, CANNIBAL is a brand new “anti-apocalypse” series from New York Times bestselling writer Brian Buccellato, Jennifer Young and artist Matias Bergara.
Promising to deliver an interesting new slant on the tried-and-tested cannibal pandemic genre, as soon as we heard about it we were desperate to find out more about this latest Image Comics series.
Thankfully, we were able to sit down and have a chat with Brian, Jennifer and Matias about what readers should expect from the series, as well as what sets it apart from some of the other horror books on the shelves today.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Firstly, for readers who may not be familiar, could you give us a quick breakdown of what CANNIBAL is all about?
BRIAN: It’s Southern Gothic Horror about a small town that is confronted with a terrible new cannibal virus that threatens to become a pandemic. Told through the eyes of the Hansen family, it’s a story about family and community that explores how people respond to the spread of deadly diseases.
BCP: How did the three of you end up collaborating together on this project?
BRIAN: This was a story that Jennifer created years ago. She’s my editor on SONS OF THE DEVIL, and when I was looking for a new creator-owned series to do, she pitched me the idea. Immediately I saw the appeal in a cannibal horror in a small town setting.
JENNIFER: Then we found Matias! His work on Sons of Anarchy was so great – he was our first choice. He was nice enough to work with us on some sample pages for the Image pitch. And here we are.
MATIAS: Brian approached me directly with the idea last year and I started working on it almost right away after reading the first script and getting to know the main characters.
BCP: Tell us little bit about the “cannibals” themselves. How does this virus manifest itself?
JENNIFER: First and foremost, they are NOT zombies. Like many diseases, the cannibal virus is transferred through the blood stream. Its chief side-effect is an overwhelming, painful lust for the consumption of human flesh. The feeling mounts and the pain increases until the infected can no longer control their actions. That’s when they attack! But immediately after satiating themselves, the lust subsides and most victims are hit with awful guilt for what they have done.
BRIAN: Exactly. It’s a horrible situation to be in. Especially with no cure in sight.
BCP: From what I’ve read about the series, it sounds like it’s going to be a lot more about personal relationships and tough moral choices than all-out “Cannibal Armageddon”. Would that be a fair assessment, and if so, what prompted you to adopt this more grounded approach?
MATIAS: It is indeed, about the human aspect of this mysterious crisis. Lots of very dark things happen inside these people living around the cannibals disease.
BRIAN: Absolutely. There’s already a REALLY good graphic zombie comic out there with a ton of kills (you might have heard of it). That’s not what we are going for. Our story is really about a family and small community that must deal with the onset of a horrifying disease. It’s about how they tackle a world where your neighbor, your friend, your barber could suddenly try to eat you! We wanted to stay grounded and tell a compelling story that just happens to have this fantastical genre twist.
JENNIFER: We also wanted to tell a story that touches upon some larger ideas. For example, what I like to call, the over medicalization of society as well as the stigma that is inevitably associated with disease and illness. I wanted to tell a story about people and how their entire world does a complete 180. And then yes, as Brian said, with a fantastical genre twist.
BCP: What was it about small-town Florida in particular that made you want to base the events of CANNIBAL there?
BRIAN: Small town life in Florida is an interesting setting for a story. Especially given that it’s an open-carry state with a thriving gun and hunting culture.
JENNIFER: I am from a small town in Florida and contrary to what others may think, I wouldn’t change that for the world! Growing up with the outdoors in Florida made for a magical childhood. The people I knew, the places I went and the things I’ve seen are all laid out somewhere in Cannibal. I hope folks from my hometown enjoy it. Bradenton & Palmetto, FL!
MATIAS: From an art-oriented point of view, it provides countless opportunities to depict an intense natural/cosmic backdrop for all the emotions and situations given through the story. There’s plenty of natural forces roaming around this little towns among swamps and rivers and it’s great for setting up unsettling stories!
BCP: Tell us a little bit about the inhabitants of the town. Is there anyone in particular that readers should be looking out for?
BRIAN: Everyone. While the story focusing primarily on the HANSEN family, we hope to make the entire town a character in the book. You may not know all of their names, but the choices the townsfolk make will give context to the horror’s affecting the Hansens.
JENNIFER: In volume 1 I really like Sheriff Mays. He is an interesting fellow. We are currently working on volume 2 and there is a character we didn’t get to see a lot of in volume 1, who is killing it… Literally!
BCP: I’ve heard this series being described by yourselves as an “anti-apocalypse” story. Could you elaborate a little on what you mean by that?
BRIAN: This cannibal virus COULD cause an apocalypse if no cure is found. But our story takes place at the BEGINNING of this virus outbreak, in a world that has barely heard of it – let alone seen actual cases of the cannibal virus. It’s also anti-apocalyptic because the folks of Willow are NOT going to let the virus disrupt their lives. They walk around with their guns out and loaded before changing up their normal routines.
JENNIFER: we will also be viewing this epidemic from a very small scope. We won’t often leave the town of Willow or its people.
BCP: Matías, tell us a little bit about how you went about creating visual style of the book?
MATIAS: My biggest goal was to find a grungy, expressive style that would serve well the needs of a horror story filled with very visceral and strong emotions and moments. I think it has to be complex and dark, as the story is in itself.
BCP: Have you made any conscious changes to the style you previously used on titles like Sons of Anarchy to help better fit the tone of this story?
MATIAS: Yes, I do so constantly when starting a new project. I try not to miss opportunities to use new tricks I had stored in waiting for a good chance when the story allows me to.
BCP: How would you describe the collaborative process between the three of you? Is it like an assembly line or more of a round-table approach to the ideas, layouts and aesthetic of the series?
BRIAN: Jenn has lived with this story for at least five years, so she is the launching pad for the book. We had a LOT of conversation developing the idea before we ever put pen to paper… but once we had the story down, it’s really just about the final product. We pass the pages back and forth until it’s where we want it to be. And once we have a full script, we pass it along to Matias, who is free to interpret how he likes. The art brings the story to life, so our jobs are really to shepherd Matias’ creativity to make sure it’s consistent with the spirit of that original idea that Jenn came up with years ago.
JENNIFER: That sounds accurate.
MATIAS: I think we have a great working communication, very straightforward! Pages usually go through a very quick process of seeing and approving or fine tuning small details.
BCP: And finally… real talk time: how do you guys think you would handle living in a small town alongside cannibals? Would you stick it out or head for the hills?
MATIAS: I’d run with the intention of never coming back after seeing the first eaten up corpse.
BRIAN: I’m a city kid who grew up in New York. I don’t know a damned thing about guns. I think I would probably take my family and go into hiding somewhere… and try like hell to get up to speed on my survivalist skills.
JENNIFER: The hills have eyes!
CANNIBAL #1 goes on sale Wednesday 5th October from Image Comics, and we’ll have a review of the first issue up on the site in the very near future.