TFQ: Hellbreak has been described as one part Aliens, one part Dante's Inferno and one part Inception. How did you come up with this story!?
Cullen: That’s not a bad description of the story. I think it might skew a little more Dante’s Inferno and the Dirty Dozen, but I could see a bit of Inception (and a lot of Aliens) in there. I came up with this story a while ago, actually. I guess it grew from my desire to tell a rip-roaring action story with heavy supernatural overtones. I didn’t want the lead characters to be magical or superhuman in nature. Quite the opposite. I wanted them to be regular people (or at least regular hard cases) who were facing lethal supernatural threats. The idea changed a little bit over time, but the core element has remained the same—a crack team of soldiers venture into Hell to rescue lost souls.
TFQ: What brought you together with Brian Churilla on this release?
Cullen: I’ve been in contact with Brian for a long while, and I’ve always wanted to work with him. He did the 5-issue series THE SIXTH GUN: SOINS OF THE GUN a little while back. Oni suggested him for this title, and I was thrilled to be working with him.
TFQ: Your recent series The Empty Man has just ended. A lot of the stories you write are very dark and hint at a world behind our own. Can you tell us a little bit about why you gravitate to the darker tones?
Cullen: I’m not sure why I tend to stray into dark territory. I guess I’m just messed up somehow. I’ve been drawn to horror and dark fantasy since I was a kid. I think the darker, meaner, more twisted stories have a better chance of taking the reader off guard and surprising them. I also think fear and horror is a great background before which to play with the entire emotional spectrum.
TFQ: What inspires your stories? Do you find inspiration in other comics?
Cullen: I definitely read a lot of comics, but I find inspiration in novels, short stories, and movies. I pull a lot of ideas from old folktales and stories my dad used to tell me. Historical events are inspiring as are current events. I grew up in the country, and I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from the deep woods, crumbling tobacco barns, and hollows I used to explore as a kid. If you look to a book like Harrow County, which I have coming up from Dark Horse, you’ll see those elements right there on the page.
TFQ: Are there any artists you are just dying to work with the future?
Cullen: There are many artists I’d love to work with. Chris Samnee, Jason Latour, Chris Mitten, Alan Davis—the list goes on and one.