Interview with the Creative Team: COLD SPOTS
Rogues Portal had the opportunity to chat with writer Cullen Bunn and artist Mark Torres about their upcoming horror series from Image Comics.
Cold Spots tells the story of Dan Kerr, a man who abandoned his pregnant wife 10 years ago. Now they are missing, and he is going to have to confront both literal and metaphorical ghosts to find them again.
Check out the Q&A below!
- Where did the idea for COLD SPOTS originate?
CB (Cullen Bunn): I’ve been asked that question a lot, and I think my answer changes a little every time I answer it. I’ve always loved ghost stories and tales of paranormal encounters. I was reading up on the cold spot phenomenon, wherein the temperature drops in the presence of ghosts. I want to say it was winter when I was reading this, but I can’t be sure. But I thought that it might be interesting if the cold intensified along with increasing ghostly manifestations. What if that temperature drop became dangerous itself? That was the original idea, but layering in the story of an estranged father and a daughter who is sensitive to the presence of ghosts gave it the edge I wanted in order to make it something special.
- The art works so well with the writing here to communicate the mood. Did you have a vision for what the story’s art would look like from the outset?
MT (Mark Torres): Thanks for the kind words. There wasn’t any selection process; the visuals developed organically as we were discussing the project. Most of it is an accumulation of the stuff that fascinated me not only about horror, but the unexplained in general. Gratitude to Cullen for completely trusting me, and rolling with all the craziness I keep throwing at him.
CB: Yeah, I think trust is a key part of a collaborative project like this. I let Mark know what I thought in terms of the mood, and I always try to convey a sense of tone and mood and atmosphere in my scripts. If you look at most of my scripts, I tend to add a bit of prose into the mix. The artist is my first reader, really, and I want them to be thrown into the story themselves. Mark took those little hints and just ran with it in the very best of ways.
- By the second page, I was thoroughly spooked (in the best way possible!). Does creating a horror comic (as opposed to a film, novel, etc.) present any unique challenges?
MT: Quite a number of challenges. On the onset, we don’t have the advantages of sound and motion…both critical in conveying conducive atmosphere and guidance of the readers’ (or viewers’) expectations. What we do have is unlimited budget. Since we’re doing this in print form, we can go all out on the special effects. Also, character building and pacing…very essential in books. And Cullen’s a master of those.
CB: You’re too kind, Mark. Thank you. Though a comic is a visual medium, you can’t get jump scares like you can in a TV show or movie. But you can build tension. You can make readers afraid for the characters. You can get scared by the ideas presented in the book. The challenge, I think, is taking your time in building to those weird, surreal, and terrifying moments.
- What are some of your favorite works of horror (any medium)?
CB: In books, I’m a huge fan of H. P. Lovecraft’s work, Robert E. Howard’s horror stories, Robert R. McCammon, Bently Little, Thomas Ligotti, Shirley Jackson, Brian Keene, Joe Lansdale, Stephen King, Clive Barker (especially his short fiction). I could probably go on and on with this list.
In movies, The Thing and Alien tie for my favorite horror flicks.
In comics, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, early Hellblazer, Junji Ito, all of the DC and Charlton horror anthologies from the 60s and 70s, Vertigo’s Flinch anthology from the 90s. Again, I could go on quite a bit here.
MT: There’s so much great horror out there, especially from the earlier decades. And even more being created…the well’s so deep (and dark!). Some defaults are Lovecraft, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, (the first) Alien, Junji Ito, Hideo Nakata. In comics, Vertigo-era John Constantine, the DC Ghosts and House of (Suspense, Mystery) classics.
- I’m definitely going to be thinking about the cold spots in my house differently. Do you ever get creeped out by work you create?
CB: Sometimes. I often work late at night, when the house is dark and quiet. Sometimes, when I’m really immersed in a story, I find myself on edge when I walk back through the darkened halls. I have this portrait of a vampire by Tony DiTerlizzi hanging in the hall. There was this one time, when I had just finished writing and I was very, very tired. I stumbled into the hall and could have sworn it was a real, ghostly face staring at me. I jumped a foot in the air.
MT: Yeah, I think for me that’s essential. I have an idea of what I’m in every time I get Cullen’s scripts, but he always finds ways to surprise me. I make mental notes of those instances and make sure to translate them onto the readers via the visuals. Also, I’m pretty sure by now Google is suspicious with all the “references” I continuously search and collect.
- Do you have any firsthand experience with the paranormal?
CB: Yeah. A few. I’ve told other stories in other interviews, so here I’ll tell you about this time I was napping on the couch in this big, quiet house deep in the woods of Thayer, Missouri. There was no one else at home. I woke up from a deep sleep with this terrible feeling that someone was sitting on my chest. It felt very much like a pair of feet were planted right on my chest. I gasped for breath, but I couldn’t scream and I couldn’t get up. Then, suddenly, the pressure vanishes and I was able to sit right up. I could have sworn I heard someone running down the steps of the house. But, like I said, I was alone.
MT: Yup, lots of ‘em. From dwarves being involved, to smelling flowers and candles (out of nowhere), to being present at a funeral and being reminded of the person that passed distinctly…even if it’s been years. The Philippines is quite abundant of the supernatural throughout its history, culture, and traditions. Those very early experiences sparked my fascination into the realm of the unexplained.
- Why do you think stories about dead loved ones both frighten and entice us?
MT: Because they’re very relatable. Life, love, and loss are universal and inevitable. Our existence is anchored by people, pets, and even material possessions. We learn to accept these as part of us, sometimes even defining our beings…but ultimately, everything will go away. The stories we read or watch may influence how we would cope with that reality.
CB: Mark hits the nail on the head, I think. The people we surround ourselves with help define us. When we lose them, we lose a bit of ourselves, I think. I WANT so terribly to believe that there is something beyond death, because I can’t really imagine someone just ceasing to exist.
- What is your preferred environment for creating?
MT: Night time is the right time, with some musical accompaniment from the likes of A Perfect Circle, Tool, Deftones, various Ambient-Shoegaze-PostRock…and a glass of bourbon.
CB: My office, right at my desk which faces an interior wall, surrounded by all the geeky horror toys and books and statues that I love. I sometimes write to music, but often I just like it to be as quiet as possible.
- What can we expect to see in future issues?
CB: These first five issues will delve into a kind of gothic horror tale with undertones of cosmic horror. Cold Spots is envisioned as a 5-issue mini-series, but that is not the end. As long as readers are digging the story, Mark and I will return to tell more tales. This initial story leads to something much, much bigger and more terrifying.
MT: Expect chilling horror as it builds to a crescendo, making you realize there’s so much to fear not only out there in the great unknown, but more in the hearts of men. Cold Spots is just the proverbial tip of the supernatural, cosmic iceberg.
- Are there any other projects you are working on right now that you can tell us about?
CB: I’m always working on a bunch of stuff at once. For Image, I also write a horror book titled REGRESSION about a past life regression gone very, very wrong. It’s a trippy, surreal, icky horror story I’m pretty proud of. I’m also writing BONE PARISH for Boom. That book is the story of a drug-dealing family in New Orleans, but the drug they are peddling is made from the remains of the dead. And on the non-horror front, I’m writing ASGARDIANS OF THE GALAXY for Marvel. Like I said, though, that’s just scratching the surface of my myriad projects. If you are into Twitter, you can follow me at @cullenbunn for regular updates.
MT: Cold Spots has my full commitment right now. Outside of comics, I mess ‘round with designer toys, and a solo EP of noises, erm, I mean songs. Folks can check out my Instagram (@towersmarked) for previews and updates on those, as well as various doodlings.
We hope you enjoyed this chat with Cullen Bunn and Mark Torres as much as we did. Want more? Read our advance review of the issue here.
Cold Spots #1 will be in stores August 22, 2018.