Guignol Creator On Raising Fresh Horror IP from Dust

GUIGNOLcoverGuignol – A Tale of Escalating Horror. Brett Schwaner (words) and Keith Hogan (illustrations).


Brett Schwaner writes,

It was just over a year ago when I returned home to New Orleans from a mildly disastrous stay-over in Portland. It was a record cold winter in the Rose City. That December, I climbed to the top of a frozen waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge, and almost died a hundred slippery, icy deaths on the treacherous hike to the top. Recovering from the relative brazen stupidity of my sub-Arctic expedition, I spent most of the remainder of the winter locked up in my basement reading old Walking Dead issues and Becky Cloonan horror comics. On most days, I resembled Jack Torrance at the end of The Shining.


In The Walking Dead, the best parts are the shocking character deaths and the bits that focus on the children, who always seem too young to be experiencing the horrific paces that Robert Kirkman's tale puts them through. It's that kick to the gut, like the first time you saw Battle Royale, or read Lord of the Flies, or wondered what it would be like if Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang turned to cannibalism during their Christmas production.

After all, what's more horrifying than children eating other children?

In French theater, a "guignol" is a play in which everyone dies.


GUIGNOL – A Tale of Escalating Horror is the story of an ordinary children's Halloween play gone horribly wrong, but with an unexpected twist ending that qualifies the story as an on-going horror/ adventure series.

Guignol is a homegrown horror franchise in the making – likely the freshest IP you're bound to come across, as not even my literary agent has seen the finished work yet. This is an exclusive Bleeding Cool first-first-look.

Horror comics have always been a steady part of my pop culture diet, starting with issues of Ghost Rider and Spirits of Vengeance that I discovered at the grocery store when I was 11, on through years of Vertigo and Dark Horse books, The Sixth Gun, and classics from Bernie Wrightson, Mike Ploog, Richard Corben, Alan Moore, and innumerable others. And Becky Cloonan, of course.


One year ago, I sat down with Guignol's artist, longtime friend Keith Hogan, and we decided that Becky Cloonan's illustrated edition of Bram Stoker's horror classic Dracula was the most beautiful and horrifying volume that we could find on our shelves. It wasn't quite a "comic book" – rather, an illustrated novel in which the artwork complimented and enhanced the narrative. And we thought: why aren't there more editions out there like it?

Halloween in New Orleans is a bit like mini-Mardi Gras, as the streets are typically overtaken with carnival-like gatherings of masked revelers. That's all fine and well, but I have my own Halloween tradition – one that involves staying in and reading scary stories, reliably, year after year. In drafting Guignol, one of our goals was to craft a story that would hold up to repeat readings, year after year – the kind of story that you would want to pull off the shelf and re-read every Halloween.


I will say that finally seeing Guignol through is like glimpsing the light at the end of a long tunnel. Although it's the kind of thing that I'd dreamed of doing since I was a kid, following a string of projects that just never seemed to find any traction in my early 20s, I went back to college and refocused my professional efforts on journalism. It wasn't until I emerged from grad school years later (and still recovering from the blow of having lost a lifetime's worth of work to Hurricane Katrina) that the urgency to publish an original work of horror reasserted itself. Seeing the completed artwork roll in over the last few months has been surreal.

We are not mounting a Kickstarter campaign for Guignol, but if you pre-order before July 31, there are still some goodies to be had for U.S. readers, like signed first printing editions, bonus bookmarks, posters, and original artist sketch editions. Standard first printing editions are available for UK/ EU/ CAN/ AUS readers.

Pre-order now through July 31 and enter the promo code BLEEDING at checkout to receive an additional 20 percent off.

GUIGNOL – A Tale of Escalating Horror, Book One arrives the week of September 9th, just in time for Halloween season.


About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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