Earlier this month, the extremely prolific Cullen Bunn released his latest horror comic, and it’s a corker. Published by Dark Horse and featuring art by Danny Luckert and Laila Leiz, Shock Shop is an anthology book set in a haunted comic shop (we’re there already!).
Here’s the logline:
Cullen Bunn (Harrow County), Danny Luckert (Regression), and Leila Leiz (The Last Book Youll Ever Read) present a brand-new horror anthology flip comic taking place in a haunted comic book shop with a twisted retailer filled with tales of terror sure to leave you with the lights on.
In Familiars: After a painful divorce, Trevor rents a house and tries to rebuild his life. Soon, he discovers that his house appears to be “haunted” by more than one spirit and the creatures begin feeding on Trevor’s feelings of anger and guilt.
In Something in the Woods, In the Dark: A husband and wife going through a tough time go on a camping trip with a few friends. As they trek further into the forest, they realize that they are being stalked. Something in the woods starts killing the camper and it may have ties to the campers more than any of them realize.
Uncle Highlander was able to ask Cullen Bunn via email questions about Shock Shop, writing horror, and much more.
Uncle Highlander: You’ve been working in comics for quite a while now and have worked for so many publishers – from Dark Horse and Valiant to Marvel and DC, along with others. How would you characterize the difference between working for a publisher like Marvel vs working for publishers like Dark Horse or Valiant?
Cullen Bunn: Well, every publisher is different, and there’s a list of pros and cons for working with each of them. The biggest, most easily recognized difference is between books that are licensed (and I’m throwing Marvel and DC characters in that mix) and books that are creator-owned. With a licensed book, there are many, many more hurdles to jump. There are more voices. There are more rules to address. With a creator-owned book, I’m a lot more free to tell my own story and do my own thing. There’s a lot more creativity to be cultivated with creator-owned titles.
Uncle Highlander: At one time, horror comics were not only the norm but dominated the market. Post comics code, most of those titles disappeared, but now horror comics have come roaring back. What is it about the comic medium that you think works so well with the horror genre? What do you personally find so appealing about this kind of comic book?
Cullen Bunn: Horror comics occupy an interesting spot, somewhere between horror prose and horror movies. Both of those mediums have very specific approaches to terror. With comics, you’ve got a foot in both camps, really. And it creates its own playing field of visual horror and mood. It becomes something completely new, and it is a form of horror you can’t get elsewhere. For me, horror is very versatile, and I can tell so many different stories in the genre. I dance on the fringes of the genre, even when I’m writing, say, a superhero book. And it’s not lost on me that with horror I can achieve an emotional resonance with readers a little more easily than I can with other genres.
Uncle Highlander: What films/comics/novels would you point to as your personal horror icons? Are there any works you would consider formative when it came to developing your predilections and sensibilities?
Cullen Bunn: I have so many favourites and big influences in the genre. The works of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Robert McCammon, Richard Layman, Thomas Liggoti, and Bentley Little all spring to mind. I’m especially a big fan of short stories from those authors. Movie-wise, I’m a fan of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg, among others. Alien, The Thing, Jaws, Phantasm, Evil Dead, Scanners—all of those films rank pretty high in my book. And I was a subscriber to Fangoria in the ’80s. If there was a movie covered in that magazine, I probably watched it.
Uncle Highlander: What was the inspiration behind Shock Shop? I definitely got some old-school EC horror anthology vibes off of it.
Cullen Bunn: For sure those old EC comics! Anthology comics in general! Another big influence in terms of the framing device was DC’s House of Mystery, which often had these great splash pages that told strange stories all on their own.
Uncle Highlander: What can you tell us about Desdaemona, the narrator of this series? She seems to harken back to characters like Vampirella, Elvira, and the Crypt Keeper. Is her role in the series going forward to stay confined to just telling the tales, or will we learn more about her as a character as the series progresses?
Cullen Bunn: I’ve been asked this more than any other question! Will we learn more about Desdaemona and the Shock Shop? The answer is a resounding… maybe. For now, we’re keeping Desdaemona as our host, but I could see a future where we tell a story to reveal her history or follow her on a macabre adventure.
Uncle Highlander: How would you compare this series to your work on series’ like Harrow County or Shadowman?
Cullen Bunn: The first two stories we’re telling in Shock Shop—“Something in the Woods, in the Dark” and “Familiars”—explore different styles of horror while skirting around similar themes and ideas. They’re very different from one another. They’re different from Harrow County, too. Harrow is this epic dark fantasy, but these two stories are 100% horror yarns. Every time I tell a new story in the horror genre (or horror-adjacent genre), I try to offer a very different take.
Uncle Highlander: What can you tell us about the team you have on this book, Danny Luckert, Leila Leiz, Bill Crabtree and Nate Piekos? What’s it been like working with them and the people at Dark Horse?
Cullen Bunn: I consider myself extremely lucky to work with this team! I’ve worked with everyone before, and I hope that I’ll be able to work with them all for years and years to come. Danny and Leila were the first two artists I thought of for Shock Shop. I knew they would offer very different—and equally amazing—artistic takes on the two stories.
Uncle Highlander: Finally, any hints about the future of the series? What can readers expect moving forward?
Cullen Bunn: This first series will be four issues, and it we’ll be following these two stories to their conclusion. Beyond that? I have many more stories to tell. The plan has always been to rotate new serialized horror stories into the mix. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that sales and fan response gets us to the next two tales of terror!