Getting INVASIVE with Cullen Bunn

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cover of Invasive #1 Eisner Award-nominated writer Cullen Bunn is no stranger to horror, but he says his new comic, Invasive, haunts him and signals a signpost on the road to his approach to the genre. Invasive, which is published by Oni Press and illustrated by Jesús Hervás, has a debut date of December 13. Bunn spoke to Cemetery Dance about how a nightmare influenced this work, why Invasive is different from previous projects, and what else he has going on.

(Interview conducted by Danica Davidson)

CEMETERY DANCE: You said the inspiration for this comic was a nightmare you had. Can you share anything about that nightmare without giving away too much of the story? Have nightmares influenced your work before?

CULLEN BUNN: I dream a lot about medical procedures gone terribly wrong. It stems, I suppose, from a general unease and mistrust of medicine in general. Look, I know we need it. I’m thankful it’s available to me. But that doesn’t mean I always feel warm and snuggly whenever I go in for a blood draw.

Years ago, when I was a small child, I went to the dentist. He made the guy from Little Shop of Horrors look like an angel. He kept jabbing inside my gums with his needle, never injecting anything, and he was grinding the needle around. I could hear it scraping around in my mouth. “Oh,” he said. “You moved! Gotta try that again!” Thirty times. I counted. I was screaming so loudly my mom heard me in the waiting room. She barged down the hall like a damn action hero and grabbed me from his office. I was maybe five years old, but the memory of that day has stayed with me forever. I was deathly afraid of needles for 20 years after that! Here’s this guy who just wanted to hurt someone… but his job is one where he’s supposed to help.

My nightmares, though, are rarely coherent. I should probably be thankful for that. Instead, they are like flashes of nastiness that just surface and then fade, surface and fade.

And, yes, nightmares have influenced my work time and again.

You said you think Invasive “represents a bit of a signpost on the road” to your approach of horror in general. What do you mean by this?

A lot of my work has been horror-adjacent or dark fantasy. I loved those books, of course, but Invasive is a big, flashing sign that reads THIS GUY WANTS TO UNSETTLE AND SCARE YOU. That’s where I’m going. That’s what I want to do, at least for the next few years. While I’ll be doing a few non-horror books, the lion’s share of my output will be designed to chill.

Why do you think this comic will be more disturbing than your other horror works?

In a lot of my work, we’ve seen heroes with magic weapons or magical powers facing the forces of darkness. This time around, our heroes are just ordinary people facing a threat that is far from ordinary. They are in way over their heads, and there is a sense of dread and doom hanging over them. There’s the trick, I guess. Invasive takes place in our world, but there’s something weird unfolding under the surface, something that could happen to us if we turn the wrong corner. Could happen. Until it couldn’t.

And, then… well, for God’s sake, let’s hope the events depicted in the book couldn’t happen for real.

Are there any comics you’ve read that you’ve found the most disturbing?

There have been plenty over the years. I have to credit Alan Moore and Stephen Bissette’s Swamp Thing stories for having some really haunting, disturbing scenes. Those were the issues of comics that really showed me, as a younger reader, that comics could be something very different than what I expected.

This isn’t the only thing you have going on! Can you tell us about your other projects?

cover of Invasive #2I have several creator-owned books in the works, almost all of them in the horror arena, but most of them haven’t been announced just yet. I’m also working on a couple of licensed horror books… which haven’t been announced either! Beyond that, I’m writing the main Gatchaman book for Mad Cave, which is a nice non-horror break between scares. And I have about a half-dozen books that I’m actively pitching right now. I’ve got a couple of other big announcements coming soon.

The best place to keep up with everything I’m working on is my free e-newsletter, which comes out weekly. You can subscribe to it at .

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