Writer Cullen Bunn and artist Mark Torres joined forces for a chilling new horror series Cold Spots, published by Image Comics.
About the series – Psychological terror, the undead, and a supernaturally bitter cold come together in this spine-tingling new series. Ten years ago, Dan Kerr turned his back on his wife and unborn daughter. Now, both mother and child have gone missing, and Dan must face cosmic terrors to find them again. He soon finds that ghosts stir when his estranged daughter is near. And as the dead grow restless, the cold deepens…
Cold Spots #1 hits your local comic book store on August 22. Bunn and Torres spoke with Monkeys Fighting Robots for a behind-the-scenes look at what makes up a horror comic book.
MFR: With a book like Cold Spots, how much world-building is involved?
CULLEN: Initially, not a lot. This is a story that is set in “the real world” for the most part. I wanted it to feel real for the readers. The locale of the story required a little “small town building” I suppose. I wanted readers to get the impression that this town has a history of which we’re only scratching the surface. Now, the world of Cold Spots eventually goes through some drastic changes, and that requires a little more planning.
MFR: Mark, on the second page you introduce your version of ghosts. Did you go through multiple versions and what emotions are you trying to evoke with your design?
MARK: Not really. Even at the earliest, we were discussing the project; I already had an idea how to possibly depict the ghosts, and make ‘em hopefully unique to what’s come before. Cullen suggested they be hazy apparitions, shadowy faced, with pinpoint eyes of ghastly light…then I added in the vibe of these entities almost existing inbetween frames of an old Viewmaster. Afterimages.
MFR: One of the elements of a horror film that gives me chills is the musical score. Who would you have produce score for Cold Spots and why?
CULLEN: Well, Mark scored a soundtrack to the comic, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Of course, I listened to that while writing the book!
MARK: Music is (probably) the only external influence I deliberately partake while creating. Hans Zimmer, Trent Reznor+Atticus Rose, James Maynard Keenan & Chino Moreno would be awesome to have for a Cold Spots OST. For now, you guys would just have to tolerate my noises.
MFR: Cullen, with the lack of music, how do you build tension in a comic book?
CULLEN: It’s all about pacing. A slow, steady build-up. I am very methodical and deliberate with the revelations of supernatural and horror. I want to build the sense of dread. And then–when the horror strikes–the pace shifts into high gear. Then, it slows again, but the reader is (hopefully) ill at ease, realizing the peace is temporary at best.
MFR: Mark, how do you build tension with your art?
MARK: When I read scripts, particularly for Cold Spots, I take note of the instances that elicit various emotional synapses in me. Those guide me in orchestrating the art breakdown…same with composing music…Where to go slow/fast, soft/hard, light/heavy, up/down, left/right. I avoid over-analyzing cause I think it loses the raw impact, especially for a genre like horror.
MFR: Cullen, social commentary is a big part of the horror genre. Over your career, how has the good and the bad of the current state of the world influenced your writing?
CULLEN: I don’t often sit down to write a story like this with the intent of bringing social commentary into the tale. Now, there have been plenty of readers who have said I am trying to hit them over the head with my beliefs or with my politics. To that, I say that every writer brings something to the story. What’s going on in the world around you will almost certainly be an influence. But every reader brings something to the story, too, and their own perceptions of the tale will be influenced by the world around them. Sometimes, it paints the story in a way that is completely different than I had in mind. That’s the beauty of a book like this. You’re collaborating with your fellow creators, but you’re collaborating with the reader, too.
MFR: Cullen, with independent comics, the first issue is so important to hook a reader. Have you developed a formula of what needs to be in a first issue? Follow up, has the trade paperback changed how you write story arcs?
CULLEN: There’s no set formula for me with the first issue, other than trying to write the best issue I can. The trade paperback changes things to some degree. I tend to plan very long stories. I don’t approach any book with the short game in mind. Sometimes that gets me into trouble. With Cold Spots, though, I designed the tale to be told in short, easily digestible bites.
MFR: Mark, can you talk about the color palette you use for Cold Spots, especially the cover? Is there any hidden meaning?
MARK: My brain has a tendency to swerve by default. I felt going with a very unconventional palette would be key in creating the correct atmosphere for Cold Spots. There’ll be parts that seem standard…and others that are (hopefully) unexpected. Again, letting the emotions drive the work, versus the analytical. Not only with the 1st, but my approach here is akin to album covers & paperback novels. More symbolic than bombastic, hinting what’s beneath. Can’t really explain further as I’d want folks to enjoy the mystery, and come back to the cover after reading the very last page thinking….”Oh, so that’s why!”
MFR: How hard is it to create a main character that readers can connect with, and is Dan Kerr on a “hero’s journey?”
CULLEN: Dan is a character who might be tough for readers to connect with at first. He’s not a nice guy at all. I think if the readers are going to relate to him, they’ll relate through his faults and flaws. He’s absolutely on a “hero’s journey” though… maybe even better classified as a father’s journey.
MFR: Closing out the questions. What’s the horror film that scared you as a kid and why?
MARK: This is a trick question…right? I was fed horror films (in Betamax format!) as a child. My parents could’ve named me Damien. This’ll be like choosing between The Grady Twins (from The Shining).
CULLEN: Really, really scared me? Well, I can tell you that the television spots for Kubrick’s THE SHINING were unwatchable for me. Something about the scene of Danny running through the frozen maze absolutely terrified me. Hmm. The frozen element was right there all along.
MFR: Thank you for your time gentlemen.
MARK: Gratitude as well for having us and Cold Spots. We hope everyone enjoys the book as much as we do creating it. Cheers!
CULLEN: Yeah! What Mark said! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
What did you think of the interview, are you going to add Cold Spots to your pull list? Comment below, and thank you for reading.