A Legacy of Violence: A Discussion of Trauma Horror

Our past always finds us.

GateCrashers’ writer Nachiket Naik sits down with writer Cullen Bunn and artist Andrea Mutti to discuss their upcoming 12-issue horror comic, A Legacy of Violence, the story of a man attempting to escape his past trauma by joining a humanitarian organization in Honduras, only to realize the past has followed him.

It’s a pleasure to get to interview you. To maintain the highest interviewing standards, I must ask: what is your favorite sandwich?

Andrea Mutti: Pastrami sandwich Katz’ Deli in NYC! Amazing!

Cullen Bunn: Finally! Someone asks the hard-hitting questions I really care about! All sandwiches are pretty great, but a toasted Italian sub with a little (just a little!) spicy mustard is pretty hard to beat. 

A legacy of violence is a terrific title. Focusing on the legacy aspect, a lot of stories in the horror genre focus on family legacies, inheritance and unresolved matters therein. What about legacies makes it so attractive in the horror genre?

Cullen Bunn: For me, it’s interesting because a legacy is something we don’t get to choose. We can forge our own, yes, but what has come before is most likely beyond our control Such is the case for our protagonist in this story. He has no control over what his grandfather has done, but he’s answering for that past right now. On the other hand, the villain of the piece has no legacy of his own to inherit, but he desperately wants one. There’s a nice dichotomy there that puts the hero and the villain at deadly odds. 

A Legacy of Violence by Cullen Bunn, Andrea Mutti, and Rus Wooton | Mad Cave Studios

Medical horror doesn’t get enough attention in my opinion, especially since a visit to the doctor is one of the most unsettling experiences one can have. What prompted you to write a horror story with doctors and hospital settings?

Cullen Bunn: Well, there is definitely that undercurrent of mistrust of those in the medical profession. It’s a paranoid fear that many have, for sure. Hell, I have waves of that paranoia just about any time I go in for an appointment. But, more importantly, I wanted to show a group of doctors who were dedicating their lives to actually helping people. I felt like it was a nice contrast to the goals of our killer. 

What are some of the inspirations for this story?

Cullen Bunn: Real-world horrors? The sins of the past? The awfulness we can perpetrate upon those less fortunate than us? Those elements are all there, but there’s also inspiration drawn from the slasher genre in general, even though I strived to set it apart to some degree. 

You are one of the most prolific horror writers working now. What do you think this story adds to your legacy/body of work?

Cullen Bunn: It’s a very different kind of story for me. I don’t want to dig into why it is so different just yet, because that way lies spoiler-country. But it will hold a unique position among a lot of my other stories. I tried to do some new things here. I tried to tread some new territory. There are some risks involved, and I hope readers will think they paid off. 

A Legacy of Violence by Cullen Bunn, Andrea Mutti, and Rus Wooton | Mad Cave Studios

I’m sure you have a lot of ideas for stories that strike you all the time. How do you pick which ones to pursue?

Cullen Bunn: There are so, so many ideas coming in at a fast and furious pace. I try to keep track of them all, even if I just jot down quick notes. I also challenge myself to come up with one new one-paragraph story idea every day. Most of the time, those story ideas are bad, but the act of developing them is helpful. The ideas that stand out, that I can’t stop thinking about are the ones that I will most often pursue first. Sometimes, digging into one story will fire up my imagination for whatever’s next. 

My favorite parts of the book were the scenes set in the past. The shift in color tones made it so apparent that I didn’t have to look at the date to learn that it was in the past. What is your thought process when you make use of color to guide the setting of the scenes?

Andrea Mutti: My goal is to drag the reader into the narrative without having to do anything, like a wonderful and sweet, surprising trap. You shouldn’t leave the latter the slightest doubt. It’s like an essayer at their service, stoma telling stories for the audience, and the public must be involved immediately!

A Legacy of Violence by Cullen Bunn, Andrea Mutti, and Rus Wooton | Mad Cave Studios

In a lot of scenes, you masterfully pull back from the action and focus on the reaction to what happened. How do you decide what to show and at what depth?

Andrea Mutti: Once again, I don’t want to be too predictable. I would like the reader to finish the page with a question mark and the next with an exclamation point, a unique surprise, a constant tension; something that touches you in the heart and in the soul!

In some panels, the view is slightly tilted, especially around faces which adds to the unsettling feeling. What do you do to balance keeping the perspectives interesting panel to panel while keeping the scene coherent?

Andrea Mutti: The story is disturbing, so I often like angles, try to be communicative and deep. I try to convey the same fear of the characters but always remain clear in the storytelling; fundamental for me.

A Legacy of Violence by Cullen Bunn, Andrea Mutti, and Rus Wooton | Mad Cave Studios

There are some wordless pages in this issue. Is there added pressure to make those pages more gripping?

Andrea Mutti: I work a lot on lights and expressions. I often use photography, using models (me, my wife, and my children). I try to find the real light; I don’t invent strange things on faces or in environments that make them appear fake on the page, I would like to seem as natural as possible. as for body language, I am careful to be faithful to the reality that surrounds us.

What is a dream project/genre you would love to tackle next?

I must say that Cullen is giving me extraordinary emotions. His stories are exactly what I like, both visually and narratively. We are like two bodies and one head, we are there right away, and it is extraordinary to work with him; it is always a surprise! And I must say that the other writers I collaborate with are really fabulous too (Elliot, Paul, Anthony, Chris, Ryan), we are all committed to telling crazy stories. We remain the first readers, enthusiastic and honest. Our only goal is to amuse, entertain, scare, and make you smile: a real journey! And all with great humility of those who share the same passion. In the stories, the vibrant atmosphere, the mystery, the darkness, and the night are darker as dawn approaches. We are there waiting.

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