Rogues Portal had the opportunity to speak with the creative team behind Image Comic’s Regression: writer Cullen Bunn, artist Danny Luckert, and colorist Marie Enger. Issue #5 came out earlier this month, and Regression Volume 1: Way Down Deep will be in your local comic shops November 15.
Check out the Q&A below!
- ROGUES PORTAL (RP): Where did the idea for Regression first originate?
CULLEN BUNN (CB): My father was a professional stage hypnotist for a while. He never (that I know of) performed past life regressions as part of his on-stage act, but he would often hold these semi-private group sessions where he would regress some of his subjects. I watched these regressions on several occasions, and they were fascinating and sometimes a little creepy. I’ve always thought about those sessions, and a long while ago I started to consider the possibility of someone or something following a hypnotized subject back into their modern life. I think the questions “What if someone went through a regression to discover that their previous life was possessed by a demon? What if the regression allowed the demon to possess the person in the modern era?” were the first notes I wrote about the story. It’s grown way past that initial idea, but that’s where it all started.
- RP: Adrian has some very interesting experiences with therapists (to say the least!). Did this require any research into hypnotism and “new agey” methods of healing?
CB: I did some reading on past life regression before I started the comic, but mostly I relied on the experiences from my youth. Once, while I was in college, I attended a past life regression session at a local new age bookstore. I remember being very disappointed because it was absolutely nothing like the hypnosis sessions my dad conducted. It was just a bunch of folks sitting in a room going through some sort of guided daydreaming.
- RP: Right away Regression makes it clear that it is a horror comic, but it does this in a way that is totally unexpected. Instead of dripping in dark blood and intense shadowing, this comic is bright—yet it still manages to be totally grotesque. Was this style difficult to achieve?
Danny Luckert (DL): The style kind of came naturally to me, especially since my work doesn’t usually use a lot of deep shadows. Also, when you don’t use a lot of dark moody inks, you can almost lull the reader into a false sense of security, which I think Regression does. It’s also good for telling the reader that these characters are never safe, be it in some dark alley or at a bbq with the sun shining.
CB: The visual tone of the series is all Marie and Danny. They came up with this bright, real-world look, and I’ve just been trying to play to that (and purposefully against it) with every script.
Marie Enger (ME): Danny created some really intense linework without…being dark. It felt wrong to apply a really red and bloody color palette to it, so I went light. The very natural colors kinda lull you into this sense of peace? But then everything goes puke-green and hyper saturated, rippin’ you out of that fake sense of safety. I didn’t expect people to be so shocked by the light colors, but I’m so glad everyone is. It’s an unnerving world Danny and Cullen created; the colors had to match!
- RP: Whose idea was all the bugs? In my opinion, there are not enough bugs in contemporary horror! Regression reminded my just how creepy something so simple and everyday can be.
DL: That’s ALL Cullen.
CB: I’m not sure where this affinity for insects comes from. I’ve always associated demons and insects, and the two have been connected in many of my stories. With this book, I like how the bugs play to this idea of a singular, drone-like purpose in the confines of a hive mind.
ME: I also don’t know where Cullen’s bug-love came from, but it freaks me out. I hate worm-ish bugs and they’re…god they’re everywhere.
- RP: The writing and the art come together so well in Regression. What is it like working together as a creative team?
DL: Cullen is the best collaborator an illustrator could ask for. I’m really just a fan of his in general and being able to work with him has been a blast. He sends me the scripts and then just lets me do my thing. His scripts are super tight and clear, and I’ve never had to ask him to explain anything really. Cullen gives us all the information you could need to create the disgusting and disturbing world of Regression. As for Marie, she’s simply amazing! She adds so much to my lines, especially since my inks don’t use an awful lot of heavy shadows. Since I work digitally, I’ll send her the pages with some notes regarding effects (fog, light, etc.), and then I step away and let her work her magic. I think we’ve all gotten into a pretty good rhythm.
CB: The beauty of comics is that each member of a great creative team helps to elevate the property. Marie and Danny do so much to bring this story to life, and I couldn’t imagine doing it without them. As soon as I saw Danny’s initial character designs, I was in love with these characters. As soon as Marie started turning in the colors, the mood and tone of the series started changing in ways I didn’t necessarily expect, but I was so excited for.
ME: This is one of my favorite teams to be a part of! Not just because I love horror books…and love working on them…but because there is so much freedom! Danny and Cullen hammer most of the script stuff out, so by the time it gets to me everything is clear, and I’m ready to color. It’s a super easy team—and I agree with Danny, our rhythm is great!
- RP: I love unique panel layouts, and Regression has a lot of layering and unique panel shapes. What was the arrangement process like?
DL: Thank you and that’s a great question. Regression gave me the perfect opportunity to play around with layouts, since it takes place over two very different time periods. For the Elizabethan era, I looked mostly to architecture for inspiration: from the classic gothic to the Ennis house that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I really wanted something that looks and feels old and scary. Now for the modern era, I used more traditional comic grids and patterns since these scenes are meant to depict the “normal” world. Now the third style you’ll notice is when the Old world and the New collide. These are found when Adrian is in the grip of Sutter. When you see the crazy designs with the white gutters, you can bet something pretty bad is about to happen. As for the designs themselves, I relied a lot on symbology and sigil making.
ME: It’s super fun finding all the sigils Danny is hiding. The layering…is just like two pastel brushes and some textures I’ve taken. It was something I expected to be asked to pull back on? But when no one stopped me, I just went nuts.
- RP: Regression is a very visually-driven comic. Was it inspired by any motifs or moments from classic horror films?
DL: When it comes to the way Regression looks, I tried to stay away from the more classic horror motifs, but, that said, I’m sure some found their way in. One example would be David Cronenberg and the whole body-horror genre.
CB: I love that Danny mentions Cronenberg, because his work has always been a huge influence for me.
ME: I gotta jump on the Cronenberg hype—even though it wasn’t what I took inspiration from when I did this color palette. He’s just cool. I think…I was probably inspired to go green-heavy from Green Room? But in all honesty it’s probably just an amalgamation of every scary-daytime-scene I’ve ever seen.
- RP: And, since it is October and all, do you have any big plans for Halloween, the one night of the year deemed socially acceptable to be a fan of horror?
DL: Confession time, I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween. Blasphemy, I know haha. As plans go, I usually go trick or treating with my little nephew and niece. Where I live there’s this one long block, and the town closes it off and it turns into a sort of Halloween-themed block party. That’s always fun, and I get a kick out of seeing all those little kids running around dressed up like their favorite superheroes.
CB: I love Halloween and celebrate it all month long, watching scary movies, going to haunted houses like a big kid, decorating the house… This year, I’m spending Halloween in New Orleans, which seems like a pretty great place to celebrate when the veil between worlds is weak. Ghost tours, cemeteries, swamp tours—it’ll be great.
ME: I watch horror movies when I work, but my partner isn’t a big fan so I don’t get to watch a lot of scary movies at night. And as for Halloween? I don’t usually do anything scary. If I can make it up to Hallowmas (a huge punk show on the east coast), I do. If I can’t? I stay home, get drunk, and break stuff while listening to punk music. And go to the odd party or four.
- RP: Who are some of your favorite writers and artists (comic-book or otherwise)?
DL: This changes pretty often but the main stays have to be the great Moebius, Frank Quitely, J.H. Williams III and this surrealist painter Daniel Merriam. Honestly though, that list could go on and on. As for writers, I’m really into the classics so I read and re-read Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Dostoyevsky, and Steinbeck. I also just picked up The Exegesis of Philip K Dick, so I’m looking forward into falling down that rabbit hole. As for comics, anything and everything Grant Morrison writes. Also that guy Cullen Bunn is not too bad, haha.
CB: I’ll let my horror roots show and name folks like H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert McCammon, Bentley Little, Joe Lansdale, Thomas Ligotti as my favorite prose writers. As for comics writers, I’m a fan of Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Dennis Hopeless, and Jason Aaron. Artist wise, there are so many artists I admire, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with many of them. Brian Hurtt, for example; Tyler Crook; Matt Kindt; R.B. Silva; and—of course—Marie Enger and Danny Luckert, just to name a few.
ME: I LOVE weird fiction, but I’m not a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan. I’ve been really into Paul Tremblay, Brian Evenson and Laird Barron lately. I’m a huge Abe Sapien and Rumble fan, and I wish I could draw more like James Harren. I uh…also was a huge fan of The Damned when I was coming up (my original copy lives in a ziploc bag because all the pages are loose now).
- RP: For readers like myself, eager to see more of your work, can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
DL: I contributed a story for this anthology book that Comicmix put together called MINE! which was made to raise money for Planned Parenthood. Other then that, it’s just Regression for me. There’s a few more project in various stages of completion but no real release dates planned as of yet.
CB: I have a number of creator-owned comics coming out right now. Unholy Grail and Dark Ark from AfterShock, Harrow County from Dark Horse, and The Damned from Oni Press. I’m also working on X-Men Blue for Marvel right now. In addition, I just released a collection of prose horror short stories. The book is titled A Passage in Black, and it can be ordered from Amazon right now.
ME: I’m lettering some stuff, coloring some stuff, did some Adventure Time stuff for Boom!, do some comic adaptations for some punk bands that should be out soon, am about to release a comic that’s like if Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas drank too much with Dude, Where’s My Car? and woke up hungover in an eldritch landscape called Fhtagn and Loathing with my HEK studio mates, Brian Hurtt and Matt Kindt.
As you can tell from this interview, Regression should definitely be on your pull list. We will have an advanced review of Regression Volume 1: Way Down Deep out later this month, but for now you can check out our review of Regression #1.