Image Comics is not new to the horror scene, with the excellent Outcast being one of many in the genre. And with the new addition of Cullen Bunn’s Regression, that lineup is only going to get richer. Having proven himself on countless books, including the excellent horror series Harrow County, we can’t wait for this new series.
Regression is a horror story like you’ve never seen before, about a man named Adrian who reluctantly turns to past life regression hypnotherapy as a means of understanding and treating unwanted visions. Bunn knows a lot about hypnotherapy, recently detailing, “What many people don’t know is that my father was a professional hypnotist for many years. While it wasn’t part of his on-stage act, he often conducted past life regressions.” That makes Regression not only an intriguing new premise for a series but also a deeply personal one. We sat down with Bunn to discuss this series, as well as his time writing comics and horror, and much more!
AiPT!: Hi Cullen, thanks for taking the time. Since your father was a hypnotist and you saw first-hand folks bring up past lives, do you believe in past lives?
Cullen Bunn: Hey there! Thanks for talking with me!
And let’s start this interview with an easy pseudo-theological-psychological question, huh?
I guess I do believe in past lives, at least to some extent. I can tell you that I’ve seen some very, very convincing things when it comes to the idea of reincarnation. I’ve thought about past lives … and about the notion that time is an illusion and we’re all living many lives at once … since I was very young. It’s sort of stuck with me all these years, and I’ve managed to make it mesh with all my other beliefs.
More things in Heaven and Earth…
AiPT!: Having a chance to read an early copy, I have to say this is one of the scariest comics I’ve read in some time, which is in part due to some great use of gore. When scripting a horror comic, can you use too much gore and how do you decide when to use it?
Bunn: You absolutely can overuse gore and turn your story into a bloodbath if you’re not careful. Comics are a visual medium, obviously, and when you’re dealing with a comic about demonic bug critters and murderers from the past, there will definitely be some visceral images. But–from my point of view–those need to be shocking “punctuation marks” here and there throughout the story. I want the gore to come out of nowhere to give the reader a sense of unease throughout.
AiPT!: You’re in an elevator with the director who will be shooting the TV (or movie) version of Regression. What’s your pitch and who are they?
Bunn: Oooooh! Great question! For Regression, a dream director would be David Cronenberg. He just has the right weird, mind-melting body horror sensibility that’s right for the project. As for my pitch, I’d tell him the book is a twisted, surreal supernatural conspiracy with hypnosis, past lives, godawful squirmy things and a little Jekyll and Hyde thrown in for good measure.
AiPT!: When was the first moment you fell in love with comics?
Bunn: I’ve read comics for as long as I can remember, but the comic that made me love comics was Micronauts #7. I bought it at the corner grocery near my dad’s office. I read that book a dozen or more times that day. Even as a kid, I could see the world-building that was going on in those pages, and I was mesmerized.
AiPT!: The main character in Regression, Adrian, is instantly relatable and complex right out of the gate (I also loved the characterization in Trinity #7). How do you approach characters so that feel/act/seem real?
Bunn: I think it’s important that readers see something in each character they can relate to. It doesn’t have to be a character trait that they have themselves. It might be something they’ve seen in a friend or someone they work with. It might even be something they’ve seen in someone they loathe. Usually, if I can find even one emotional hook early on, that’s enough to get me going with a character. Other traits will weave themselves in as I write the story.
AiPT!: You’re wrapping up Monsters Unleashed, which in some respect has a horror angle (monsters duh). Do you prefer writing horror comics over, say, conventional superhero or fantasy comics?
Bunn: I like writing all kinds of stories, superhero books were a huge part of my formative years–and I still love them today. I think I naturally lean toward dark fantasy and horror, though. Almost all of my books have at least some horror elements in them, even if they are carefully masked.
AiPT!: Is there a part of the comic-creating process you love the best? And a part you don’t like?
Bunn: For me, nothing beats seeing pages from the artist I’m working with. When I see an art file in my e-mail, it’s like Christmas! I also love interacting with readers at signings and conventions.
On the other hand, proofing lettered comics stresses me out. I feel like I’m going to miss something important.
AiPT!: Are you familiar with Charles Dickens’ obsession with hypnotism? There’s also a fantastic book that uses him as a character who hypnotizes called Drood, maybe you’ve read it. As a writer, I wonder if you can relate to his interest in it and if you could comment on either?
Bunn: I was familiar with Dickens’ interest in hypnosis. Many people of his day and age were fascinated by the mysteries of the mind, nature and supernature. Their approach to these matters is something that has always fascinated me about that era.
And–yes–I read Drood some time ago. I think it was the first book I bought when my lovely wife gave me a Kindle for Christmas! Dan Simmons is a favorite writer of mine. That book, for me, was all about mood and mystery. I liked that we could never really be sure what was going on or if what the narrator (who, as I recall, was an addict) was seeing what he thought he saw.
That sense of nothing be as it seems is something you’ll experience in Regression.
AiPT!: How did you meet up with Danny Luckert for this title? His art is quite nice, with a thin detailed line that makes the horrific imagery really come through.
Bunn: What I love about Danny’s art is that he draws such beautiful, realistic characters. It makes it all the more shocking when nastiness emerges and we do horrible things to them!
I met Danny when I was doing an artist search years ago. Writer David Faroz Precht (who worked with Danny on a book titled Tethered) introduced us. We threw a number of ideas for projects back and forth, but the moment I saw his character designs for Regression, I was convinced this was the book for us!
AiPT!: What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Bunn: Reading comics, short stories and novels. Watching TV and movies. I can often tell myself that I’m doing research or seeking inspiration while doing those things.
Twitter is fun for me, too, and I can always tell myself I’m marketing my work.
Napping, too, but I’m not sure how I can claim that’s part of work.
AiPT!: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Cullen!
Regression #1 from Image Comics will go on sale May 10.