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Scares, Dread & Gore - Rich Douek Talks Sea of Sorrows

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

Writer Rich Douek and artist Alex Cormack have proved they're an incredible team after Road of Bones, a horrifying mini-series that made it on my top 10 list of horror comics for 2019. The duo is set to do it again with Sea of Sorrows from IDW Publishing. I had a chance to speak with Douek about the book and what he has in store with this new series.

In the aftermath of the Great War, the North Atlantic is ripe for plunder by independent salvage crews. When a former naval officer hires the SS Vagabond, he leads the ship to a sunken U-boat, and a fortune in gold. Tensions mount as the crew prepares to double cross each other, but the darkness of the ocean floor holds deeper terrors than any of them have bargained for!

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James Ferguson: So, you scared the crap out of me in the mountains of Russia and now you want to do the same in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Why the new locale? Is this part of a world-spanning trilogy of terror? Is the next book set on a tropical island?

Rich Douek: Good question! Overall, I think we were really happy with where Road of Bones ended and we didn’t want to over-explain everything with a direct sequel. For the new locale, time period, and stuff like that, we also didn’t want to lock ourselves into doing the same story over and over again - in Road, one of the things with the Domovik was we were never quite sure if it was all in Roman’s head. In Sea of Sorrows, the threat is much more real, there’s no question. As for the future, we do have plans to keep going with these kinds of stories - we’re still working it out on our end and with IDW as far as what form it will take, but we’re definitely thinking ahead!

JF: Because I believe everything I read in comics, I have to wonder if the premise behind Sea of Sorrows is based in reality. Is there truth in this story?

RD: I think the easiest way to put it is that there is a kernel of truth to it, that we used to springboard into the story we wanted to tell. In reality, as far as we know, there was no SS Vagabond on a salvage mission in the North Atlantic - but there was a real German submarine called the Bremen, and it was trying to run the British blockade and reach America to purchase war materiel (this was before America got involved in WWI). The Bremen was lost at sea - no ship recorded destroying it, it just never made it across. So that was the real-world mystery we used to inspire the plot.

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JF: Will Alex be using more or less red for all the blood in Sea of Sorrows as compared to Road of Bones?

RD: I think as much, or more – only now, he’ll have even more beautiful ways for him to render it, as it swirls around underwater. But there will be plenty on the boat as well, sad to say.

JF: While there are real monsters lurking in the depths in Sea of Sorrows, the characters are also dealing with emotional trauma from the war. What was it about this time period and those parameters that drew you to them?

RD: The thing that drew me to WWI is that it was unprecedented in the death and destruction it unleashed upon the world. All wars are horrible, but WWI, to my thinking, was the first war where a lot of what we’ve come to know as modern technology was applied. Things like tanks, airplanes, submarines, but also poison gas, bombs, machine guns... all that technology and all of it put towards making killing as efficient as possible. Faced with the sheer amount of carnage, I don’t think you could have lived through that time period without being affected by it - even if you escaped being directly involved. And rather than set this directly during the war, I wanted to explore that aftermath - that mark that it left on everyone who survived it.

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JF: Anything else you'd like to tease about Sea of Sorrows before we wrap up?

RD: I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that this is a tough period in time for the comics world. Retailers that rely on foot traffic are having to deal with enforced shutdowns and quarantines, making it harder for them to stay in business. And that will affect publishing comics as well, and people like me who create them.

I know Horror DNA has a lot of readers who are fans of horror TV shows, movies, and novels, but might not have checked out comics in a while. So I’d like to take this space to ask them to have a look, not just at Sea of Sorrows, but at horror comics in general. There’s a lot of great stuff out there, and I would encourage them to order from stores that do mail order, and check some stuff out. I can assure you that with Sea of Sorrows, and many other horror comics on the stands, we can give you all the scares, dread, and gore you find in the media you already love!

Horror DNA would like to thank Rich Douek for taking the time to speak with us. Sea of Sorrows #1 is set for release on November 18th, 2020.

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About The Author
James Ferguson
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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