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Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino unveil 'The Passageway' to 'The Bone Orchard Mythos'

Comic Books

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino unveil ‘The Passageway’ to ‘The Bone Orchard Mythos’

The first salvo in a years-long campaign of horror comics begins this summer.

(Editor’s Note – 4/15/22 – The article has been amended to note the pair worked on Green Arrow together, not Green Lantern)

Over the years, Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino have built an award-winning catalog together as collaborators. Be it the retro-esque sci-fi of Primordial, the superheroics of Green Arrow, or the supernatural mysteries in Gideon Falls, the duo’s work has always results in some deeply compelling stories.

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Now, though, the pair are tackling perhaps their most auspicious project to date: a shared universe called The Bone Orchard Mythos. Their horror-centric creation will feature “interconnected stories taking place across multiple books and in different format.” The project, which spans several years, will involve both graphic novels, miniseries, and “longer format comic series.” The pair stress that while all the stories share a larger universe, every title is entirely self-contained.

We caught up with the pair recently via email to talk about the first book, a graphic novel titled The Passageway (out June 15 via Image Comics). It’s described as being about a geologist who “finds a seemingly endless pit” and the endless horrors it contains. Lemire-Sorrentino also talked about the other titles in the universe, their collaborative process, the appeal of horror storytelling, and much more.

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino unveil 'The Passageway' to 'The Bone Orchard Mythos'

AIPT: You’ve worked together plenty in the past (and with great success). How does that partnership continue to evolve now?

Jeff Lemire: I would say that the more we get to know each other, both creatively and personally, the more we trust each other. And the biggest change with The Bone Orchard Mythos is that with previous projects I came to Andrea with a relatively fully-formed idea. This time we started from scratch together. The initial ideas for the new shared horror universe, and the overall tone of the books started with Andrea. And then we started to build on those ideas together. So, this was much more of a full collaboration from the ground up.

Andrea Sorrentino: Yeah, it’s exciting, honestly. We’ve had a lot of back and forth on the project. Its aesthetics, the lore behind the mythos and the way we want this project to be developed.

AIPT: What was the genesis of this particular project/endeavor? Why did you want to make a whole universe together?

JL: Andrea proposed the idea of this shared universe. I think it was appealing to both of us for a few key reasons, first of all it allows us to tell different kinds of stories rather than committing to just a single story or a single series for a few years. But the shared universe still allows us to build something bigger and more ambitious than just doing one-off books.

AS: Yes, I think after the end of Gideon Falls, we had this chat about the idea of focusing on short stories for a while, as they would give us the chance to have fun with different characters and settings each time and keep our creativity always stimulated with new ideas.

At the same time, as the first book ideas come about (for The Passageway, Tenement, and Ten Thousand Black Feathers) I got the feeling that it’d be great if they could all belong in the same universe, and the pantheon (for a lack of a better word) of horrors behind them would have been common through all the books in the line. I talked about it with Jeff, and it totally opened a new world of possibilities for us. We’ve since had a lot of chats about the origins of the mythos, the timeline on whom each book is collocated and what each new book means for the general story of the mythos that links them all.

I think we also eventually decided to switch the release of Tenement with The Passageway, as the latter definitely works better as both a single story and also a first look of the big mythology behind all the stories.

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino unveil 'The Passageway' to 'The Bone Orchard Mythos'

AIPT: I understand all of these stories will be standalone, but how do they connect specifically beyond being in the same universe? Are there returning characters, a particular threat/monster, shared visuals/aesthetics, etc.?

JL: Well, we don’t necessarily want to reveal that beforehand. Part of the fun of doing this is allowing the reader to discover the connections naturally as they read the books. Some of the connections will be obvious, but others will require some detective work by the readers.

Having said that, there will definitely be a shared aesthetic and tone to the books and a big underlying mythology that we are building that runs beneath it all. Beyond that, readers will have to wait and see!

AS: I think something interesting that connects the way every one of these stories is laid out is that the readers will, each time, discover new angles of this dark universe from the eyes of the characters in the story. You’ll be there with them and you’ll be put in contact with these new horror ‘entities’ for the first time with them.

The only big difference is that if you’re then reading more books, you’ll be able to connect the dots and have a more comprehensive visual of what’s behind all this.
So maybe sometimes you’ll only see what seems to be an unimportant detail in one book, but then you’ll realize its significance in another book and why it was there.

There’s also a timeline of events we’ve laid out in our ‘bible’ (a living document where we’ve written all the lore) that will give us the chance to set some books in different moment of history before or after some specific events of this universe.

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino unveil 'The Passageway' to 'The Bone Orchard Mythos'

Courtesy of Image Comics.

AIPT: What role does The Passageway play in “introducing” the The Bone Orchard Mythos?

JL: It’s a stand-alone horror story all its own, which was important to us: to give readers a complete story, but, as the title suggests, it is also a gateway into a much deeper mythology. So, certain building blocks and big pieces of the bigger mythology will also be revealed and also play into this story.

AS: As I often say, The Passageway is a story on its own (about an unfortunate geologist having to deal with a strange phenomena of a seemingly-endless pit, and also a first look of what awaits in the dark). And, while you’ll be able to approach The Bone Orchard Mythos by picking up either the Ten Thousand Black Feathers or Tenement, we think The Passageway is the perfect start.

AIPT: What can you tell us already about some other projects involved, like Ten Thousand Black Feathers and Tenement?

JL: Ten Thousand Black Feathers is all written and Andrea is drawing it now. It will be a five-issue comic series about the friendship of two women growing up in a small industrial town and the dark fantasy world they create to escape the emptiness of their everyday lives.

Tenement will be another graphic novel, but a bit longer than The Passageway. This one is about the residents of an old apartment building that may or may not intersect with another realm.

AIPT: What about horror is so appealing to you either individually or as a (dynamic) duo?

JL: It certainly suits Andrea’s style and his aesthetic. And for me, I love playing around with what “horror” can mean and stretching that a bit. I have never been a big fan of gore. That has little interest to me. I’m much more interested in telling stories with a darker edge that play with the emotional extremes of the characters. Building dread and playing with psychological horror is way more interesting and effective to me than “gross out” horror.

So, these may not all look like traditional horror stories on the surface, often the darkness creeps in and surprises. And these are not all just straight horror stories, I want to mix horror with other genres and also have these be really emotional, character driven book as well.

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino unveil 'The Passageway' to 'The Bone Orchard Mythos'

Courtesy of Image Comics.

AS: Yep, I’d say I’m definitely very into horror, and my style and the way I tend to build scenes definitely fits horror probably better than any other genre.

But I agree with Jeff that this is going to be more about the exploration of what horror can be for us. My passion for horror comes primarily from classic books like Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe and Lovecraft novellas and books, and movies like Alien, The Witch, or Midsommar, so I’m definitely far from the classic splatter/gore themes of some recent horrors and I tend to delve more into atmosphere and feelings.

So I think what readers will find in The Bone Orchard Mythos books could definitely be described as existential horror that, quoting, ‘can therefore be defined as the dread and terror experienced by the individual upon realizing the circumstances of their existence. In horror movies this translates to fears of isolation, uncertainty, meaninglessness, insignificance, oblivion, responsibility and inevitability.’

In short: we hope this is a kind of horror that will suck you in and then stay with you for a bit longer, even after you put the book back on the shelf.

AIPT: What sort of influences helped shape the larger universe? How much will this universe feel like other projects you’ve done as a team?

JL: I think we have a pretty strong “voice” as a creative team at this point and that style and point of view we have brought to Gideon Falls and Primordial will definitely carry over to The Bone Orchard Mythos. So, this won’t feel like a continuation of Gideon Falls, but there are certainly enough stylistic and tonal similarities that fans of Gideon Falls should really enjoy Bone Orchard stories as well.

It’s funny, I think Andrea and I have totally different influences on this, and we are each bringing those in. And we don’t necessarily enjoy the other person’s influences to the same degree. For example, anyone who follows my work knows I love David Lynch. I love how elements of horror and fear work their way into his films, but none of his films are necessarily horror films. They are more layered, diverse. So, I am bringing that approach. But, Andrea isn’t a big Lynch fan at all.

And he is bringing a lot of Lovecraft and while I am certainly aware of Lovecraftian mythologies I haven’t actually read any Lovecraft. So, it’s interesting to see how these influences work their way in.

The Passageway

Courtesy of Image Comics.

AS: I hate Lynch! lol.

Well, not that strong, but I’m not a Twin Peaks fan, and this has become a means of mocking each other. And yes, I think the fun comes from both of us putting what we love into this (and, as Jeff pointed out, we’ve got different influences) and the result is of something completely new and maybe less derivative of what it would be if we wouldn’t eventually influence each other.

AIPT How “deep” does this universe go in terms of your world-building efforts? Do you have a kind of “bible” you’ve built?

JL: It is getting pretty “deep”. We keep building and adding ideas and layers to it all the time, and then find new ways of working these into the various stories and rolling it out. We do have a “bible” that we pass back and forth and discuss. Some of this bible is split into the underlying mythology, stuff that may not necessarily ever be put into the books themselves, but crucial elements we have worked out and need to know. And then there are other parts of the bible where we figure out what will be revealed in each new book and how.

As I said before, the actual world-building and mythology building is a very collaborative effort.

AIPT: Will other creators get to join in on the fun and tackle some things? Or is it important that this is just between Lemire-Sorrentino?

JL: 100% Lemire and Sorrentino only. This one is just us all the way. A singular vision.

AIPT: Similarly, is there a hope or any effort to see this spin into TV/movies/etc.?

JL: We never really talk about that stuff. Who knows? If things happen, that’s great, but our priority and focus is making great comics. If we do that and other opportunities arise afterward as a result, that’s great, but the possibility of film/TV stuff in no way influences us creatively.

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino unveil 'The Passageway' to 'The Bone Orchard Mythos'

Courtesy of Image Comics.

AS: Yes, I feel there’s the tendency from readers to believe that every creator now works with the goal of putting out a TV series, but the truth is that if you let this idea eat you, you may lose forever the genuineness and the honestly of your work. And I think both Jeff and I really like to give the deepest part of our souls to the readers with our works, so I can confirm we’re building the Bone Orchard Mythos with the focus of doing great comic books and to give readers the best (and most dreaded) reading experience possible.

AIPT: Why should anyone pick up The Passageway?

JL: First off, it’s gorgeous. Andrea and Dave Stewart have created a beautiful looking story. And it’s not often you can get a complete story in hardcover like this. And, of course, if you like it, this is the ground floor of a much bigger world we are very excited about.

AS: I think it’s a book that can hit you on an emotional level, differently from the way other horror comics do and, as Jeff said, it will be your first step in a much bigger (and scary) world!

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