Fava Beans & Chianti: The Cannibal Interview

This coming October, Image Comics is serving up a delectable new series from writer Brian Buccellato (Injustice), Jennifer Young, and artist Matias Bergara (Sons of Anarchy); one you can really sink your teeth into. Cannibal is the story of a small Florida town, nestled in the heart of the Everglades, on the brink of a cannibalistic pandemic. The townspeople have been infected with a deadly disease that makes them crave human flesh and the story’s main protagonists, the Hansen family, have only one solution: kill 'em all. However, their black and white approach to the problem quickly turns to grey when the virus begins infecting those they love and care about most. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with the entire creative team about the upcoming release. The answers were honest, candid and at times quite funny; it was an introspective experience with just the right amount of insight. So, without further ado here is the Cannibal interview; bon appetit.

Of the three of you, who would be the quickest to 'turn' in a cannibalistic pandemic? Who would you take a bite out of first?

Matias: I live in a pretty carnivore country and culture, so I guess I would turn cannibalistic right away without putting much resistance against it. I often joke that human flesh is one of the few I still haven't tasted. I would probably devour my girlfriend first, being the closest possible victim!

Brian: If all three of us got the virus at the same time, I’d probably be the first to take a bite out of someone. Probably because I’d just embrace my fate and be all about the eating

Jenn:  I would probably bite Ethan Hawke…or The Rock.

CannibalWhat is it about the Everglades that make it a particularly good place for the setting of a Cannibalistic outbreak?

Matias: The way nature and primitive forces take over in places where plant and animal life are blooming densely, gives a marvelous backdrop for the kind of unsettling and somber aspect of mankind we're putting in the center of the story.

Brian: The broad concept of Cannibal could be told in a number of different settings. For me, there is something interesting about exploring this story in a small town where everyone knows everyone… especially in an open carry state like Florida where guns are a part of the everyday culture.

Jenn: Adding to that, having grown up in Florida, the outdoor lifestyle of my childhood was just so lush and intoxicating. Every day was an adventure. For me, this is a fun way to pay homage or revisit my childhood (minus the cannibals).

Do you feel that the element of morality persisting in those infected is what helps separate Cannibal from the chaff of other zombie tales?

Brian: Absolutely. That’s the defining characteristic that makes this story different. This isn’t a zombie story… it’s kind of the opposite because the perpetrators of cannibalism are not mindless creatures.

Jenn: Yes! They are victims in their own right, who think and feel and show remorse after succumbing to the primal desire to eat human flesh.

I read that Cannibal is an allegory for drug addiction: is this a wider commentary on society or are you drawing from personal experiences?

Brian: It’s a wider commentary. Thankfully, I’m not someone what has ever had to deal with addiction. But I’ve seen how alcoholism and hard core drugs can destroy people’s lives, so there are natural parallels that can be drawn. That said, this isn’t a story that is built around the concept of addiction. Jenn’s original concept actually came from another place.

Jenn: Thematically, it came from the over-medicalization of society. Really, how dependent we’ve become on substances of all kinds. Stigma. The stigma that is associated with disease and illness that no one can truly understand unless they are dealing with it.

Jennifer, I know this has been a passion project of yours for some time. How does it feel to finally have it all come to fruition? How have Brian and Matias heightened the world you've envisioned for so long?

Jenn: I still have the piece of paper I wrote my New Year’s Resolutions on going into 2013. Write a comic book! So it feels very special. Brian, being a seasoned comic book writer, help paved the way to Image and to Matias. Learning how to communicate with an artist as a comic book writer is very important -- more important than I ever imagined. Working with Brian helped teach me that. Now Matias… the love in my heart for his work is overwhelming (tearing up). Seeing my characters come to life for the first time was amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect representation of them than what Matias has given.

I love how the cover for issue #1 is in the guise of a liquor bottle: are there underlying satiric elements throughout the series or is the series a purely serious undertaking?

Brian: Satire? I’m not that clever. Lol. For me, the liquor bottle speaks to the culture around the small town bar that is the hub of the story.  It’s a serious story about community and family and this invasive virus that threatens to destroy the town of Willow from within.

Matias: It is very serious indeed!

Jenn: Hog’s River Bar and Grill is a place breeds togetherness and tradition. When the cannibal virus comes to Willow, all of that turns into mob mentality and fear. The bar is a familiar place for the characters and the audience to rely on. Having that the bar at the heart of the story inspired what we will be doing for the covers.

 If Cannibal were a feature film, what song would play at the opening/end credits?

Matias: I would play a very lo-fi version of "On the road again" by Canned Heat to open the film. The ending I still haven't seen it, so it's still a mystery to me!

Brian: Jenn is DEFINITELY more qualified to answer this question. She could probably give you an entire soundtrack for the movie version.

Jenn: Hank Williams Jr. Dinosaur, Family Tradition or O.D.’D In Denver. Also, there is also something to be said for something from The Band or Fleetwood Mac.