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Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, & Tyler Crook Chat Manor Black

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

This July sees the release of one of my most anticipated comics of the year, Manor Black from Dark Horse Comics. From the creative team of Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Tyler Crook, comes a new terrifying gothic horror fantasy series. Those names alone should be enough to pique your interest, as they've turned in some incredible horror work. I caught up with the creators to talk about the book, its influences, and what we can expect from it.

From the creators of Harrow County and The Sixth Gun, comes a gothic horror fantasy about a family of sorcerers in crisis. Roman Black is the moribund patriarch of a family of powerful sorcerers. As his wicked and corrupt children fight over who will take the reins of Manor Black and represent the black arts, Roman adopts Ari, a young mage, who he gifts his powers to with the hope that someone good will take his place against the evil forces out to bring down his family and legacy.

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James Ferguson: I'm sensing a few different horror genres at work in Manor Black.  Can you share the influences for this story?

Cullen Bunn: For me, it’s tough to pinpoint any one major influence for Manor Black. There are bits and pieces from numerous stories of warlocks and witches, diablery and black magic. A bit of Lovecraft. Gothic suspense novels. I think the influence of the classic Hammer horror movies should be seen in the book. The ‘90s TV show American Gothic.  Maybe the most pronounced influence (for me--Hurtt and Tyler might disagree completely) is the old Dark Shadows soap opera. As a younger man, I watched episode after episode in rerun on (then) Sci-Fi Channel. That show covers a ton of interesting horror territory--vampires, magic, werewolves, cosmic horror, and so much more. But it is a soap opera first and foremost, and I wanted this series to have that feel. We’re going to be dealing with a family here--a family dealing with all sorts of problems… before sorcery ever enters the equation.  

Brian Hurtt: It really is a dark stew of influences.  It’s every gothic horror story that has seeped into our bones over the years, but it’s also influenced by soap operas, Merchant/Ivory films, Marvel ‘70’s horror comics, Game of Thrones, To Kill a Mockingbird, Doctor Strange… and the list goes on and on.

JF: Cullen, you have some experience working with Brian and Tyler separately.  How did this horror comics dream team come together for Manor Black?

CB: Brian and I are both huge fans of Tyler. Tyler worked with us from time to time on our series The Sixth Gun and, of course, Tyler and I brought Harrow County to life together. So, we’ve all been talking about doing something new together for a while. Brian and I have been kicking the idea for Manor Black around for years. It’s been something of a dream comic for us. When we started talking to Tyler about what we might work on, we pitched this idea to him, and he jumped on board!  

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JF: Tyler, how do you go about designing some of the more monstrous elements in a book like this?

Tyler Crook: Ha ha. You would think that I would have a well-developed design philosophy by now. But I don’t know that I really do. I guess I try to defy expectations and usually I’ll try to take a design a few steps further than my initial idea. For example, in the story Roman and his family command blood magic. The script called for his palms to bleed when he uses his magic. Initially I did some sketches of how their palms might bleed, but it didn’t feel particularly magical. So, I figured that the blood should do something unnatural as it comes out and that’s why the blood sort of floats up in little streams like it does.

Another side of designing horror stuff is making sure that there is a contrast between the mundane and the monstrous stuff. You have to make the world feel very specific and real. It has to be grounded in a way that when something weird happens, the reader feels the weirdness of it. That means I spend a lot of time thinking about the kinds of pictures that get hung up on the diner walls or the kind of computer that sit on the sheriff’s desk. That stuff needs to be designed appropriately too or the monstrous designs won’t have any real impact.

JF: Aside from a few nightmares, what can fans expect from Manor Black?

BH:  The world is changing under the feet of all our characters and you’re going to see them struggling to adapt to the new landscape.  That’s going to lead to a lot of drama and a lot of conflict. There’ll be blood, and fire, and tears.  Maybe some laughs. Then back to the blood and stuff.

CB: Lots of family drama, some really cool characters you’re going to love, and a lot of world-building. Just as Brian and I did with The Sixth Gun and Tyler and I did with Harrow County, we’re creating a new world here. The setting will only continue to grow and expand and become more complicated and intriguing and exciting. And I think we have some characters that readers will connect to. They’ll love some. They’ll hate others. And they’ll be terrified of others still! We have some very cool plans for this world going forward, and I hope readers come along for the ride.

Horror DNA would like to thank Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Tyler Crook for speaking with us. Manor Black #1 is set for release on July 31st, 2019.

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About The Author
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Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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