Brian Buccellato & Jennifer Young Sink Their Teeth Into Cannibal

Comics Features Brian Buccellato
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Brian Buccellato & Jennifer Young Sink Their Teeth Into <i>Cannibal</i>

CANNIBALcover.jpg From the ‘80s Satanic-panic cult of Sons of the Devil to the fevered man-eating of Cannibal, writer Brian Buccellato has a knack for pushing our nastiest headlines into the realm of compelling genre comics. The latter series, co-written by Jennifer Young and illustrated by Matias Bergara, offers backwoods terror more in line with the gritty depravity of Deliverance than the B-movie schlock of The Hills Have Eyes. Set in an isolated Florida bayou community amidst a spreading epidemic of compulsive, murderous cannibalism, the Image book introduces readers to a host of characters dealing with their own interpersonal problems, while hoping their neighbor doesn’t suddenly chomp into their flesh. In advance of the first issue’s debut on October 5th, Paste corresponded with Buccellato and Young over e-mail to talk flesh, Florida and grain alcohol.

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Paste: Brian, you actually teased Cannibal way back when we chatted about Sons of the Devil. Can you talk a little about how this book came together and how long the story has been gestating?

Brian Buccellato: We’ve been working on the book since last summer and have four issues finished, but the original idea has been gestating with Jennifer for much longer than that. She is my editor and we are collaborating on several projects. She pitched the idea to me over a year ago when we were discussing what creator-owned series I should follow Sons of the Devil up with. I wanted it to be something with a similar tone, and her awesome, grounded take on a cannibal virus fit the bill.

Paste: Jennifer, you’re a new name for most readers. How’d you get started in the medium and what else are you working on? How are you and Brian collaborating on Cannibal?

Jennifer Young: Well, the concept for Cannibal is one I had a few years back. It has taken various forms since then—scripted, prose, short story, etc. When Brian was looking for more content, I pitched it to him. He has the experience with comics and the reputation to get some eyes and ears on the Cannibal pitch. As a comic book writer, your communication with the artist is vital. Our relationship with Matias [Bergara] is so important and valuable, and Brian taught me how to foster that relationship between writer and artist. Our writing together also takes on various forms. At times I explain something as I see it and he finds a way to say that to Matias, and other times we pass the same script back and forth until we both love it.

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Cannibal #1 Interior Art by Matias Bergara

Paste: How’d Matias get looped into the Cannibal clan and what made him a good fit for the book’s backwater atmosphere?

Buccellato: Actually, a friend of mine recommended him as a potential fill-in artist for one of my other projects, but when I saw his work I KNEW that I wanted to work with him. So when Jenn and I were putting Cannibal together, he was the first name on our list…and luckily he jumped on board, because he is super talented. His ability to “move the camera around” and spot blacks create a mood that is a perfect match for the book. I also love his ability to create atmosphere and take reference and make it his own, while still keeping it in the spirit we intended.

Paste: You gave us an early peek at the first three issues, and while you get bloody pretty quickly, you’re taking your time revealing what’s behind the rash of people-eating people. Is the source of the cannibalism a key long-term mystery of the series, or is the cause less important than the effect?

Buccellato: It’s not really a key long-term mystery. This book focuses on the townsfolk of Willow, Florida, and how they are forced to deal with this horrific virus. In fact, we have a little blurb on the credits page that offers a quick primer about HOW the virus came to be. Its origin is not as important as how it affects family and community.

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Cannibal #1 Interior Art by Matias Bergara

Paste: Without getting into massive spoiler territory, how much control do the cannibals have over their actions? The first cannibal we meet is overwhelmed with hunger, but a later attack seems more calculated.

Buccellato: This virus acts like the worst addiction ever. Cannibals can control their hunger for periods of time, but the withdrawals become so painful that there is ultimately a breaking point. Then, there is a loss of self-control that makes them attack and feed. The only way to really keep the craving at bay is to eat.

Young: Also (this may be a spoiler), the calculated cannibal you mentioned appears to have been living with the virus for a while. Therefore he has gotten control, moral or not, regarding how he wants to proceed in fulfilling his needs.

Paste: Maybe it’s part of living out in the country, but the residents of Hog River seem to be taking the man-eating thing in stride. How long has this plague been going on in the world of Cannibal? Are the residents of Hog River just now experiencing it in their own backyard?

Buccellato: When the story opens, the cannibal virus is just something that folks have heard about on TV or in the news. It’s like the stories you hear about Zika, SARS or those crazy bath salts incidents a couple years ago. You know that sort of horrible stuff is happening out there SOMEWHERE…but it’s not happening anywhere near you. These residents are just starting to see the effects of the epidemic hitting their hometown.

Young: You’ve also pointed out a major theme in the story, and that is mankind’s resolve. They are too stubborn to give in and a huge part of them is in denial. When the virus hits their town, the immediate response is to eliminate the problem. It all seems pretty cut and dry until the virus starts affecting more and more people.

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Cannibal #1 Interior Art by Matias Bergara

Paste: The book is set in a backwoods Florida community. Given the trope of the “Florida Man” and stereotypes about rural communities, how do you balance showing the grimmer side of this more isolated Everglades lifestyle without crossing over into parody or mockery? What kind of research or inspiration went into realizing the setting?

Buccellato: We just try to keep it as grounded as we can, and treat the townsfolk like real people.

Young: I think for me it was really about tapping into the type of people I’ve known my whole life. Growing up in a small town in Florida myself really gave me the inspiration, if not ability, to write about the setting and the small-town life. And I am by no means pointing fingers or mocking, here… I AM one of them.

Paste: The cover design for the book is a fun nod to southern beverages. What’s the ideal drink pairing for anyone looking to kick back with a copy of Cannibal?

Buccellato: I’d say Southern Comfort or Jack Daniels. But it gets hot in the Everglades, so I’d definitely have it over ice.

Young: Jim Beam. Quality stuff right there!

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Cannibal #1 Interior Art by Matias Bergara

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Cannibal #1 Interior Art by Matias Bergara

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