Cannibal: Interview with Brian Buccellato, Jennifer Young and Matias Bergara

This October, Image Comics unleashes the new series, Cannibal! Acclaimed writer Brian Buccellato teams-up with co-writer Jennifer Young to craft what is sure to be a solid entry into the Southern-Gothic horror genre. It is not your everyday horror story and there is more than meets the eye behind this book’s title. ALL-COMIC.COM got the chance to chat with both of the writers and artist extraordinaire, Matias Bergara, to talk about their new series. We already love this one and can’t wait to learn more so let’s jump right in to the interview!

ALL-COMIC.COM: Whose idea was Cannibal and which came first, the desire to work in the “Southern-Gothic” genre, or the premise for a story about cannibalism?

BRIAN BUCCELLATO (BRIAN): Cannibal is a story that Jenn has been developing for a number of years. She can speak to it in more specific terms, but as far as I know, from its inception it was a Southern-Gothic story told in her favorite genre — horror.

JENNIFER YOUNG (JENN): I came up with the idea a while ago…2010-ish. I just wasn’t sure what medium I wanted to tell it in. While in undergrad, it took on various versions of prose, short story and screenplay format. Finally when I pitched the idea to Brian, we decided it would look great as a comic. And Matias’s art made it all well worth it!

ALL-COMIC.COM:  Before co-writing Cannibal, you both worked on another Image book, Sons of the Devil, but that was as writer and editor, right? How did you guys come to co-author Cannibal and what can you tell us about your partnership? How do you share responsibilities?

BRIAN: Jenn pitched me the idea when I was looking to launch a second creator-owned book. I loved the concept and all of the places the story could go, so I was hooked from the very beginning. I also felt it would be a great compliment to Sons of the Devil, which is a psychological horror with a supernatural twist.

JENN: Brian is far more experienced as a writer than I am. Often times when I see a scene in my head I tell him exactly what it looks like or from what angle or what the colors are. He takes that and finds a way to communicate to Matias so that we get exactly what we want to see. Other times I might write pages and he cleans it up or he writes them and passes them back to me.

ALL-COMIC.COM: Were there any any self-imposed boundaries in dealing with a topic like cannibalism specifically for a comic book, or did you just go for it, so to speak?

BRIAN: The only self-imposed boundaries we imposed were in how we treat the acts of cannibalism. The first instance of cannibalism in issue #1 is probably the most graphic we are ever going to be. In fact, we made the conscious effort to show less in subsequent issues because we aren’t telling a gory splatter-fest story. Cannibal is a story about family and community that has this horrific genre twist — but the violence isn’t meant to define our story.

JENN: It was really important for me that we take the cannibal virus seriously. The bigger picture of the story we are trying to tell is a commentary on disease, illness, the over-medicalization of society, and the stigma that is attached to these things. For that to work, we had to balance things and often choose grounded over campy portrayals of the cannibalism.

ALL-COMIC.COM: Was there ever a moment while creating Cannibal where you made yourself wince while writing or upon receiving pages from the artists? Ever get unnerved by your own material fully rendered?

BRIAN: Not really. LOL! But I have a pretty high tolerance for that sort of stuff. That said, I am constantly amazed when Matias turns in pages — there is nothing like seeing a great artist bring your words to life with their work. It’s a thrill that NEVER gets old no matter how many pages I’ve written across my career. Matias’ ability to bring the horror AND emotion in every scene is a real pleasure to see manifest.

JENN: I actually have a hard time when characters make big (or bad) decisions. Be it accidental or conscious, it is always hard watching someone you love and are invested in take a turn down a dark road. SPOILER ALERT: (I am talking about Daniel).

ALL-COMIC.COM: Speaking of the art, Mr. Bergara, you’re from Uruguay, but you’re no stranger to American comics. Even still, were there any challenges working on a story that takes place in the remote Southern United States, particularly areas a lot of Americans aren’t even familiar with?

MATIAS BERGARA (MATIAS): Well, I’m a stranger to most of the American land (I’ve been only touring in New York City) and the Southern Everglades and swamps are no exception to this; to better familiarize to it I did a lot of visual research, photos, zoology and fauna, culture and music and towns. Uruguayan wilderness and river-delta landscapes, are not really very different to Florida ones, the climate is very similar. In that sense I used my own experiences on field trips to better portray the setting (I love nature). Anyway, I really feel like I should go visit Florida for some weeks to truly capture the real people living there, you know – the way they move and talk, small nuances that no picture can show you.

ALL-COMIC.COM: The artwork in this book is as gorgeous as it is professional. You seem to be having a great time, but was there any impact good or bad on your creative process working with more than one writer? What was that experience like?

MATIAS: Thank you for the kind words!  Working with Brian and Jennifer is fantastic and no different to me than working with a single writer, which speaks of a great creative partnership! I usually do a layouts-first planning of the pages and once they’re okay to go forward in everyone’s opinion, I go directly to inking work. In this stage I try to give the pages as much expression and honesty as I can towards the story we’re telling.

ALL-COMIC.COM: As the artist on a horror book like this, are you ever tempted to go over the top, or is there a line you won’t cross in terms of violence and gore?

MATIAS: In fact I would do extremely graphic and crazy scenes normally, I love to find different ways of portraying violence and horror — it’s like a challenge to me. But this is not that kind of story and my main goal as a comic book artist is to function 100% in favor of the particular needs of the narrative I’m working on and not just do the first thing that comes to my mind. In fact I change my overall style when I start working on a new project to make sure it works fine!

ALL-COMIC.COM: The tone and mood in Cannibal is pitch perfect with a premise as clever as it is taboo. Were any of you inspired by work already out there in the same category whether in comics, TV or movies?

BRIAN: You can’t help but be inspired by the things you love. Whether it’s a great book, movie, comic, or TV show…it’s ALL inspiration. I tend to read and watch a lot of similar genre stuff while I’m working on a story. It helps set the tone for me when I sit down to write. Anything from movies like Silence of the Lambs to TV shows like Bloodline and True Detective inspire me.

JENN: I would say that tonally I was inspired by Hannibal (TV), the French TV series, Les Revenants, Bloodline and True Detective. Southern Bastards is an inspiration as well as some country music. Effective music gives me a feeling in my heart that is very inspirational. Revisiting my hometown and old country music is very important during the writing process.

MATIAS: To me, weird fiction like, Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, Deliverance and True Detective (the first season) were direct influences when trying to create an oppressive and ominous southern atmosphere.

ALL-COMIC.COM: This book is different from all of the proper zombie books already out there, which should be a refreshing change of pace for avid comics readers. That said did you make efforts to avoid it feeling like a zombie book just in case folks made a comparison for whatever reason?

BRIAN: It’s really NOT trying to be a zombie book. Our cannibals aren’t mindless undead creatures — they’re living people, like you and me, who have contracted a horrible virus that make them crave human flesh. And after they give in to the virus and consume flesh, most of them feel REALLY awful about it.  That’s the biggest thing that differentiates them from zombies. They can try to fight the urge to eat flesh…and they feel pain, disgust and regret for their actions.

JENN: No. I just tried to stay true to what the story and the concept are. Since it isn’t a Zombie story, hopefully the efforts are already in place. But Zombies are cool too.

ALL-COMIC.COM: Lastly, what would you say to anyone out there potentially weary of this subject matter that may convince them to give the book a try?

BRIAN: Cannibal is a Southern-Gothic horror about people. It’s about love and community and fear. The genre horror twist is a story catalyst, but the flesh eating doesn’t define this book. This story explores the tough questions that face the townsfolk. Who gets to decide who lives and dies? How far will we go to save our loved ones from monsters? How far will we go to protect them when those loved ones ARE the monsters?

ALL-COMIC.COM: Great answers! Thanks, everyone, for talking with us and thanks for creating such a sensational comic book! We’re definitely encouraging readers to get out to local comic shops, order this book and go pick it up when it hits stands October 5th. Meanwhile, check out the preview below!

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