Image: Image Comics

The best horror stories make it impossible to turn away, even after your fear takes over. They transfix you and keep you turning the page (or watching the movie), casting a spell that makes the misery of others irresistible. Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Gideon Falls is one of those stories, a comic that turns trauma and terror into visually stunning sequences that are constantly exploring new ways to make readers afraid.

Cover by Andrea Sorrentino
Image: Image Comics

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“By my nature, I’m mostly a horror artist,” says Sorrentino. “I’ve always liked to blend figures with shadows or to work with black backgrounds or silhouettes, and series like Gideon Falls offer me a lot of chance with play with these kind of things. Horror is also a very specific genre where the mood, the pacing, and the ability to build toward a climax is of absolute importance. This is, in some ways, challenging, and [it] took me to some territory where I’ve never been before. It’s very stimulating, and it’s teaching me things I’m sure I’ll use when I’m working in another genre.”

In Gideon Falls, mysterious Black Barn connects a cast of characters dealing with their own personal tragedies. After setting the stage with the first arc, the creative team is looking backward and exploring where these characters come from. “We make some pretty big leaps in arc two,” says Lemire. “The pasts of Norton and Fred are both explored in greater depth, and so is the past of the town of Gideon Falls itself. We learn more about the town’s history, and the Black Barn’s place in it. There are some huge twists as well, that will send the series in some very unexpected directions.”

Gideon Falls is currently in development for TV by the production company Hivemind, which has a first look deal with Amazon Studios, but while the compelling ensemble and central mystery make it a strong fit for TV, the most exciting thing about the series is the ambitious, experimental visual storytelling. The first arc ended with a wild trip into the Black Barn that shattered time and space with imagery that could never be replicated on a screen, and Sorrentino, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Steve Wands take full advantage of the comic-book form to explore unpredictable storytelling avenues that set the book apart from other horror titles.

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Variant by Tula Lotay
Image: Image Comics

“Andrea and I have developed a really great chemistry over the last six or seven years of working together on such books as Green Arrow at DC and Old Man Logan at Marvel,” says Lemire. “But I think Gideon Falls is the most pure example of our collaboration. He is constantly taking my scripts and ideas as springboards to go in very bold directions, and that in turn forces me to adjust and adapt and brand new ideas come from this. It’s very creatively stimulating and very fun.”

This exclusive preview of Gideon Falls #7, on sale next Wednesday (the same day as the collection of the first six issues), reveals more about Clara, who recalls an incident from the past as she looks for her missing brother. These pages spotlight how Sorrentino and Stewart change the texture of the visuals to reinforce tonal shifts, with simplified linework and coloring for the flashback that accentuates how memory softens the edges of past events.

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“Generally, I go though the script once and I start to focus on the sequences that hit me the most in the issue,” says Sorrentino. “Most of the work happens when I’m far from the table, and I start thinking about the best—and maybe most emotional or explosive or creative way—to depict it. Some other times, I’m just a bit bored of drawing several pages with classical storytelling, and I throw in a different approach or layout to shake things up a bit. This helps keep my mind always fresh and avoids turning my work into a daily routine. I think you get an added value when the artist doesn’t limit themself to always reporting the things on the page exactly as they were in the script. It creates something completely new, and it’s that mix of two visions that you wouldn’t have ever had if you were working alone.”