This May, prolific writer Cullen Bunn (HARROW COUNTY, THE SIXTH GUN) is bringing his own unique style of horror to Image Comics with REGRESSION, a brand new series featuring artwork from Danny Luckert (HAUNTED) and colors and letters from Marie Enger (PISTOLWHIP, 2 SISTERS).
The chilling new series sees Adrian, a man haunted by horrific waking nightmares, reluctantly turning to past life regression hypnotherapy to both understand and treat his affliction. Unfortunately, the terrifying experience sees something deeply unnatural following him back, leading him into a world of occult conspiracy, mystery, reincarnation, and insanity.
We were fortunate enough to be able to sit down and have a chat with Cullen about this exciting new series, how it came about, and what readers should expect when it goes on sale in May.
BIG COMIC PAGE: What was it about the world of hypnotism and past-life regression that you felt was ripe for a horror twist?
CULLEN BUNN: My father was a professional hypnotist who dabbled in past-life regression. Having watched many of these regressions, I became very interested in the concept. Something about it, though, always struck me as a little creepy. I’ve often wondered what would happen if the past life that was being visited somehow sensed that it was being spied upon. And what would happen if that past life was consumed by evil? And what if that past life somehow used the regression as a doorway into our time? This story has been brewing for some time for me, just waiting for the right moment to unleash it among the unsuspecting comic fan populace!
BCP: Tell us a little bit about Adrian, our leading man. When we meet him in the first issue, it’s safe to say that he isn’t exactly having the best time of it.
CULLEN: Adrian is an ordinary kind of guy. There’s nothing really special about him. Except that he is plagued by horrific visions. These visions make him question his hold on reality. In a desperate attempt to get some relief, he allows a friend to convince him to try past life regression. But this only makes matters much, much worse. Adrian discovers that he is connected to a man named Gregory Sutter, a mysterious figure who lived hundreds of years ago. Sutter, it would seem, was a fiendish man, capable of terrible acts of debauchery and violence. And he follows Adrian back from the past life regression.
Suddenly, Adrian finds himself missing time, and the dead bodies are starting to pile up. He can;t be sure, but he’s starting to worry that he has blood on his hands.
Of course, there’s a little more to Sutter than I’m letting on right now. Suffice it to say, he’s a very tragic figure and he’s at the center of an occult conspiracy that will be explored in later issues of the book.
BCP: What kind of tone should readers be expecting from this series? Is it going to be in-your-face shocks and scares, a more gradual, psychological horror, or something in-between?
CULLEN: I’d say we’re looking at something in-between. There are several moments of intense (sometimes grotesque, visceral) horror. But we’re also exploring one man’s descent into madness as he tries to escape a seemingly hopeless situation, and that’s where a great deal of the horror comes from. As the series progresses, we’ll also be seeing a lot of intrigue and occult conspiracy being threaded into the story.
BCP: It’s safe to say that you’ve become incredibly well respected for your horror work over the years. It’s perhaps a bit of a broad question, but what do you think the most important aspect of comic book horror is?
CULLEN: In comics, horror can be tough. I think a lot of creators go for the “jump scare” that you can get from TV or movies. But that doesn’t work on a panel-by-panel basis. Instead, you have to rely on many of the same techniques a horror novelist would use. You have to build a mood and a sense of building dread. And to really build fear, you need readers to relate to the characters and worry about them. Those elements are essential to creating a terrifying comic book.
BCP: Now, you’ve worked for pretty much every major publisher going, but if I’m not mistaken, this is your first release with Image Comics. How has it been working with them on REGRESSION, and what took the pair of ya so damn long to come together?
CULLEN: This is my first Image book and–yes!–it has been a long time coming. I’ve been talking to Image for years about doing a book, but the timing has always been off. But I’ve always had my sights set on working on an Image comic. The experience has been an absolute delight! They have been so supportive every step of the way. This will not be my last Image book. In fact, I’m already working on my next one!
BCP: What do the art team of Danny Luckert and colourist Marie Enger bring to the table?
CULLEN: Danny and Marie have given REGRESSION a look unlike any other horror comic. So often, horror books look way too murky and even abstract. Danny and Marie don’t shy away from the horror. The story is shockingly bright and the characters are absolutely real and likable. I believe this helps to connect the reader to the story, make them feel for the characters, and make the world in which this story takes place feel more like the real world.
BCP: There’s some genuinely disturbing visual moments in the first issue. Like, GENUINELY disturbing. How hands-on are you in bringing these to life? Do you have a very specific vision in mind when you’re writing, or are you happy to sit back and let Danny and Marie do their thing?
CULLEN: In my scripts, I typically describe these disgusting visual moments in a fair amount of detail. At least, I provide enough detail to get across the idea of the feeling or mood I hope to convey. That said, a great collaborator will take the ideas presented in the script and elevate them. Danny and Marie absolutely breathe new, exciting life into the descriptions you’ll find in my scripts. There’s a moment in the first issue, possibly the most horrifying image in the book, that I described in quite a bit of detail. When I saw the art for it, I was blown away. Danny and Marie sold the idea perfectly, but it was still something slightly different than what I originally envisioned. I guess it is a perfect fusion of my vision, Danny’s vision, and Marie’s vision.
BCP: And finally, what would you say to someone who was perhaps on the fence about REGRESSION to help convince them to give it a look in May?
CULLEN: REGRESSION is a book that will surprise you. When the story starts, it is seemingly a pretty straightforward horror story, but with every issue, we’re going to be expanding the world, developing (and making you fall in love with) the characters, and presenting a dark fantasy world unlike any other you’ve seen.
Perfect for fans of Bunn’s critically acclaimed HARROW COUNTY and OUTCAST BY KIRKMAN & AZACETA, REGRESSION is a frightening exploration of the wickedest corners of the untapped psyche. REGRESSION #1 hits stores on Wednesday, May 10th.