Gideon Falls is one of 2018’s most frightening delights: a dual narrative set between the city and the countryside that explores the urban legend of the Black Barn, a structure that appears throughout history to foretell death and madness. Co-creators Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino tap into the mounting dread and heard-it-from-a-friend-of-a-friend compulsion of creepypasta stories, with the much more careful hand of experienced storytellers bringing it all to shadow-drenched life. Gideon Falls #6 wrapped up the first arc by actually inviting readers into the Black Barn—a discomforting experience that has to be read to be believed. This week, the series returns with the first part of “Original Sins,” a new story arc that delves deeper into the mysteries of the ominous structure and the protagonists drawn to it. Also available this week, in plenty of time for Halloween reading, is the first trade paperback, collecting issues #1 through #6. With so much Gideon Falls goodness hitting shelves this Wednesday, we invited Lemire to break down a few of the main references and inspirations behind the series.
The great Tom Waits’ album, Mule Variations, came in 1999. I was just on the verge of turning my full attention to comics then, and this album was always playing. One song in particular—the spoken word piece “What’s He Building In There?”—really got my imagination firing. With lyrics like these…
Now what’s that sound from underneath the door?
He’s pounding nails into a hardwood floor
And I swear to God I heard someone moaning low
And I keep seeing the blue light of a TV show
He has a router and a table saw
And you won’t believe what Mr. Sticha saw
There’s poison underneath the sink, of course
There’s also enough formaldehyde to choke a horse
What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
…this song really struck a chord. The idea of the outsider hiding behind closed doors and working away on some secret, possibly nefarious project had to have been an influence on the creation of Norton and his world.
As I have said in the past, the character of Norton was first conceived for a short film I made back in film school. I was walking around the city and something about seeing all the piles of trash in alleys, etc. triggered this idea of a guy obsessed with hunting for secrets and conspiracies in the city’s trash, thus I wrote and shot a short film with the prototype for Norton.
Around this same time, Darren Aronofsky’s first film, Pi, came out and made a huge impact on me. Stylistically, it really got me excited and you can’t help but see some of its influence on that original, black-and-white short film I made. Norton and his world evolved dramatically since then, but Pi was a big inspiration on his initial conception.
Batman: Gothic Cover Art by Klaus Janson
Not a lot of comics ever really scared me. I am not a huge horror fan to begin with, and, while I loved horror comics like Hellblazer and Swamp Thing growing up, these never truly frightened me. There is only one comic that still holds that honor and it is Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson’s Batman story from the late 80’s, Gothic. The character of Mr. Whisper freaked the hell out of me when I read it late at night and the Burning Nun was a pure nightmare. I still love this book and re-read every so often. Mr. Whisper…that is a creepy name and this is a creepy comic book.
The Bishop’s Man Cover Art via Penguin Random House Canada
I read this novel by Canadian author Linden Macintyre about five or six years ago. It portrays a Catholic Priest named Duncan MacAskill, who is adept at resolving potential scandals for the church and is sent to a remote town in eastern Canada to look into alleged sexual abuse claims.
The book is incredibly powerful and, while it has no supernatural elements like Gideon Falls does, it’s not hard to see the influence on Father Fred and The Bishop.
Twin Peaks Screenshot via Lynch/Frost Productions
You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? Well, if you follow me on social media, my love for Peaks is no surprise. But I don’t think I can overstate how influential this television show was, and is, on everything I do and have ever done. I can honestly say that no other piece of storytelling, film, TV or comic book, has marked me as much as Twin Peaks.
Gideon Falls is my love letter to Peaks, but the best way to pay respect to something is not to copy it, but rather be inspired by it to create something all your own. So, while Twin Peaks’ DNA is clearly in Gideon Falls (“small town murder mystery with supernatural elements”), I worked hard with Andrea to create a unique mythology that was all ours. But I learned a lot about building a serialized narrative around a central mystery from Peaks, both what to and what not to do. Twin Peaks: The Return, which came out as I was working on Gideon Falls, provided a whole new wave of inspiration that has pushed me even more to eschew normal narrative devices and expectations. I think readers will see this in arcs three and beyond of Gideon, which will get more and more experimental.