Hair-Raising Horror in "Road of Bones"

In 1953, the Siberian Gulag of Kolyma is hell on Earth-which is why Roman Morozov leaps at the chance to escape it. But even if they make it out, Roman and his fellow escapees still have hundreds of miles of frozen tundra between them and freedom. 

Writer Rich Douek and artist Alex Cormack tell a tale that weaves together Russian folklore and bone-chilling horror in this new series from IDW Publishing,

Below, Douek talks about Road of Bones #1 (MAR190729) with PREVIEWSworld. Check out the preview pages below the interview!

PREVIEWSworld: ROAD OF BONES mixes the hell of life in the Siberian Gulag with Russian folklore. Where did that come from? What inspired you to tell this story? 

Rich Douek: It’s funny, because I was doing research on prison breaks for a completely unrelated story, and I came across these stories about the Gulag, and found them fascinating. The deeper I dug into the material, the more I felt like there was a story there that I had to tell.

PREVIEWSworld: The backdrop to this series is Eastern Russia in 1953. How much historical research went into your writing? Did you have any prior knowledge?

Rich Douek: I did a lot of research into the camps once I got going. I read historical accounts, and fictionalized ones. It’s one of those subjects where you almost can’t believe what you’re reading, because life there was so brutal, so deadly, you can’t imagine people living like that. And yet they did. I have family that came from Russia, but they emigrated to the U.S. long before Stalin came to power. So I did get some of the folklore from stories my grandparents told me, that their grandparents told them – but I still did research on that aspect too, to make sure I had a good handle on it and wasn’t misremembering things.

PREVIEWSworld:  Obviously, Russian folklore plays a vital role to ROAD OF BONES. Did you know about the lore of a “Domovik” before writing this story?

Rich Douek: I did know a bit – not as a serious thing we believed as a family, but more like little superstitions that get passed down in cultural stories that were told to me when I was young sometimes. And later on, in my research I learned a lot more. The concept of a Domovik is actually common to several mythologies. In Celtic lore they’re called Brownies, and the idea of a “house spirit” goes all the way back to the ancient world.

PREVIEWSworld:  One of the themes of the story seems to be “hope”. Hope that Roman can escape the Gulag. Hope that he’ll survive. How does “hope” play a role in the series? What other themes are woven in ROAD OF BONES?

Rich Douek:The Gulag was truly one of the most hopeless places on Earth. Your sentence might have a number on it, like 20 years, but that didn’t mean much with so many prisoners dying after a few months or years. Everything about the system seems designed to sap any kind of hope from the prisoners’ minds. So when a hope for escape presents itself, of course Roman is going to grab it. And yet, he finds that in its own way, the wilderness is just as brutal and unforgiving as the camps were – he’s going to have to decide just how far he’s willing to go to make it.

PREVIEWSworld: The imagery in this book is horrific with tons of blood and gore. How important is that artwork to creating a great horror comic?

Rich Douek: I’ve been reading a lot of horror comics for research building up to writing this, books like Wytches, Harrow County, and Gideon Falls. One thing I’ve learned is that the artwork is essential for creating that sense of terror and dread that’s essential to a great horror comic. You can’t really do a jump scare, like you can in a movie, so I rely on Alex Cormack to really create an atmosphere that gets the horrific aspects of the story across – whether it’s a question of gore, darkness, or extreme situations, he’s been amazing at rendering all of it.

PREVIEWSworld:  ROAD OF BONES #1 ends with Roman meeting with a truly horrific being. What can readers expect from the rest of the series?

Rich Douek: By the end of the story, the three escapees are headed into the forbidding wilderness, with little food, and nobody to help them – the harder they fight to survive the terrain, the more things are going to fray between them. We’ll learn just what each of them will do to survive – and we’ll see how the Domovik influences Roman along the way – whether it’s a real being, or a manifestation of Roman going mad due to the extreme effort of survival is something readers will just have to wait and see!

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