Very few things in the world are as scary as the world of sales. So a could a horror comic about a door to door sales team might be one of the scariest comics of all time? “Door to Door, Night by Night” a new series from Cullen Bunn and Sally Cantirino may just answer that question.
The comic will follow the “Heritage Mills sales team travels from town to town, knocking on doors. They’re the best at what they do… which also means they’re the worst. They’re broken, each and every one of them, haunted by closets so full of skeletons, they’re bursting. When they discover a terrible secret behind one fateful door, it opens their eyes to a world full of real monsters hidden in every small town.”
We knocked on the doors of creators Cullen Bunn and Sally Cantirino to find out more about their new series. The duo discuss balancing horror and comedy, sales ability and plans for the series. You can find their answers below and “Door to Door, Night by Night” in stores and online right now!
“Door to Door, Night by Night” is a heck for a comic. What is this series and what does the title tell us going in?
Cullen Bunn: The title really says it all! This book follows the exploits of a misfit group of door to door salespeople who travel the country to make a living. That’s how they spend their days. In every town they visit, though, they encounter some sort of supernatural horror, and it falls to them to lay these terrors to rest, night after night.
You both have worked in the horror comic genre before, Cullen I think you have done one or two horror books right? For both of you as creators what have you found works best for the medium when it comes to horror and how have you brought that to this series?
Sally Cantirino: In horror movies or TV shows, you have music and sound effects to build mood. In comics, color plays a huge role in determining mood, emotion, time, memory, space– Dee does a fantastic job of that in “Door to Door.” The director controls the pace at which viewers absorb the story. With comics, you have to figure out how to build in that pacing, how to balance clear storytelling with suspense, and how to pull off a jumpscare or big reveal when readers can see a whole page or two page spread at once– every page turn matters!
CB: I couldn’t agree more! Sally hits the nail on the head. The art, the pacing, the general tone and mood—they all play a vital role. In addition, it’s important that the characters come across as living, breathing people who—whether or not you agree with the things they do and say—you care what happens to them. That’s a huge part of making a book scary. The reader must be afraid of what will happen to the cast. And, believe me, no one is safe in this book.
To follow up on that, the series seems to weave in quite a bit of humor as well which I think can be just as hard to pull off as horror in comics. How much humor is involved in this story and how do you find that appropriate balance?
CB: The important thing with this series is that the horror elements—the monsters—are never played for jokes. They’re weirdly unsettling at best, terrifying and inhuman at worst. Any humor comes from the reaction of our human characters to the awfulness they’re encountering. The balance is important, because it helps to keep readers on their toes. Just when something charming or funny happens—wham!—that’s when the nightmares become real.
SC: I think that nervous laughter and finding something funny in the midst of a stressful or scary situation is an extremely normal human thing, I think horror can be over the top and silly and self-aware sometimes, and sometimes that’s when it’s at its best. Landing a punchline or joke is the opposite side of the same coin as landing a jumpscare or reveal.
There is a great cast of characters that make up this book. How did you approach bringing to life this group of individuals and do you have a favorite to write/draw?Continued below
SC: Cullen gave me some excellent notes to start from when it came to character design. I knew pretty quickly what I wanted Cal, Alex, and Laney to look like. Cal’s sort of a frazzled Burgess Meredith in The Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough At Last”, Cal’s based on a mix of a middle school science teacher I remember who had a giant beard and Cameron Britton in Mindhunter, Lacey’s got big asymmetrical 80s hair and energy that’s fun to draw. When I designed Will, I was aiming for like, “softer, casual Don Draper”– after I turned in my first sketches, Cullen shared a picture of his dad with us, and the resemblance was uncanny, all I had to do was add sideburns. Fred was the hardest to design— I had a file going where I was sketching, and putting in reference pictures for ideas, and some of those pictures were of my dad in his polo shirt and big mustache in the 80s. At some point I shared the file and Cullen was like, “that guy!” so, sorry Dad, you ended up in a comic book.
I think Cal is my favorite to draw, because he’s such a weird, angular little guy, every expression I draw on him is great (and he makes some great faces in issue 4). Laney is also fun to draw just because I get to plan a new outfit for her every issue. I get to imagine like, okay, what has she thrifted in this new town.
CB: What’s shocking is that these characters are based on people I knew when I was growing up. Sally somehow reached into the ether and created a cast that really, really looked like the people I remember! I mean, they don’t look like those people exactly, but in spirit, they are dead-on.
I don’t want to make people feel jealous but I got to read a preview of the first 3 issues and there are quite a few surprises for issue to issue. What can you tease when it comes to what readers may see in the series?
CB: We’re got a strange cast of monsters and horrors we’ll be visiting. I don’t think there are any “standard” horror critters in the mis. The second and third issues are strange, the fourth goes into some dark places, and the fifth is just a delightful creature feature! And that’s just the beginning! As we’re going along with the monsters, we’ll be digging into the characters in some big, sometimes tragic ways.
SC: Mycelium. Hyphae. Gills. Spores. Those weird dried lotus pods that showed up in so many dried bouquets and floral arrangements in the 90s. Our first peeks into the crew’s pasts.
A lot of independent titles of late have seemed to go the mini series-limited series run model. Again you both are familiar with this but also Cullen having done longer runs on books like Sixth Gun. Why do you think this is something that is becoming more common and what are your plans for Door to Door.
CB: I have big plans for “Door to Door.” There’s a big, changing world to explore. The longer series is important for really exploring our characters, their past, their attitudes, their own personal monsters, and I want the opportunity to really bring all these wild, sometimes disparate ideas together in some awesome, scary ways.
Making comics requires a bit of the door to door style salesman energy to pitch and promote books. You have to do podcasts and interviews with goobers like myself. How do you feel about your door to door ability? Have you ever knocked on any doors you wish you didn’t?
SC: My door to door ability is questionable at best, hopefully I’m getting better at it by now. It’s funny, I started getting heavily into comics and art and drawing as a teenager because my social anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t do theater or choir anymore as extracurriculars. I was like, “I’ll do art, then I don’t have to talk to anyone, I just put my work out there and that’s it!” 20 years later, I have to do podcasts and livestreams and think about stuff like “engagement” and “being relatable” on social media– if I had stuck with choir and theater I’d probably have a normal office job now instead.
CB: I was pretty good at door to door sales back in the day. I’d go out on sales trips, make a ton of money, then spend it all at comic book stores we’d pass on the way back home! Those skills faded over the years, of course, but they’re definitely needed now. I feel like I put them to use most during live pitch sessions for new comic book series… or at conventions when I’m hand-selling books.
Sally is an artist who came out the gate swinging and has continued to get even better each series. Sally, for this new series what do you feel you are bringing to the table this time?
SC: Each comic that I work on requires me to find or bring out a different element in my style. I Walk With Monsters was a serious horror story, and it’s beautiful, and I’m very proud of it. Human Remains had a lot of observations on humanity, and had some humor to it, but its focus was on emotions and relationships. It’s been a fun challenge to bring out more cartooning and exaggeration and physical humor in my style in “Door to Door.”
When readers turn that final page on issue one, what do you hope they take away from their time with it?
SC: I hope you are intrigued by these characters and want to know more about them and you stay along for the ride. Or, you’re sufficiently impressed with the first big monster and want to see some more monsters, goblins, cryptids, spectres, etc and stay long for the ride.
CB: I want readers to be intrigued enough by this oddball group of heroes that they stick with us. If they stick with us, I think, they’ll end up falling in love with these ne’er-do-wells, warts and all!