The Cull is a creator-owned title coming from Image comics with the first issue releasing on August 16th digitally, in comic shops and via writer Kelly Thompson’s Substack all simultaneously. Thompson is teaming up with artist Mattia De Iulis to bring this story to life. The two have previously collaborated on two Jessica Jones series for Marvel and based on the quality of those series, are a dynamic creative pairing. Veteran letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou rounds out the creative team on the title. In a press release from Image in May 2023, the series is described as “A horror/coming of age story” and “Something is Killing the Children Meets The Goonies”. In that release Thompson also had this to say regarding working with Mattia again, “When Mattia reached out to partner on something creator-owned together, I was over the moon,” said Thompson. “What we came up with for The Cull is both horrifying and delightful, and of course stunningly gorgeous thanks to Mattia’s mind-blowing visuals.” Iulis added, “I made my debut as a comic book artist with Kelly (on Jessica Jones), and I can’t believe I’m here now after five years working on the most beautiful project I could ever imagine! The Cull grabbed me inside from the first pages, horror and mystery come together to create a fantastic adventure!”
It’s been nearly two years since Thompson herself first mentioned the series and posted some art from Iulis on one of her earliest Substack posts. That post on September 28, 2021 described The Cull as follows;
A sci-fi fantasy adventure following a group of high school friends who venture to a forbidden local rock to make a short film, only to find themselves in another world…and when they return home, everything has changed and it’s been years, not days.
My co-creator on this title is the terrific Mattia de Iulis (Jessica Jones, Immortal Hulk, Valkyries). Mattia is co-creator, artist, and colorist on this project and I am truly excited about getting to build something all-new with him after our work together on JESSICA JONES. This book will debut sometime in 2022, but here’s a tiny taste of what’s to come:
With that in mind and the series debuting in less than a month, Let’s review what we know so far and take a look at the gorgeous art that has been revealed. First we should mention that in that initial announcement post, Thompson also announced her other Substack series, which has also now been printed physically at Image, the noir-fantasy title, Black Cloak. Her creative partner on that book Meredith McClaren and Thompson have been interviewed about the title on The Comic Source Podcast and you can listen to that HERE.
As for The Cull, following the initial announcement for The Cull, subscribers to Thompson’s Substack were treated to links about once a month in her newsletters which showed short process videos of Mattia’s process of digitally painting the characters. Here is the first one,
After showing the process for painting the first four characters that we saw in the original preview image, subscribers were shown another process video for a fifth main character we had not seen before. With the five characters revealed, a few process shots of Iulis’s art were shown throughout the rest of 2022. These included a final unlettered page that provided a very creepy, late-night vibe and another quick description for the series that was slightly different than the original synopsis and provided a bit more context;
The Cull is a fiction comic book about five teens who set out in the middle of the night to shoot a short film the summer before they all go their separate ways… but nothing goes as intended. Written by Kelly Thompson. Art/colors by Mattia De Iulis. Lettering by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Edited by Charles Beacham. Cover design/logos by Rian Hughes.
Next up in June and August of 2022, respectively, subscribers got a chance to see Mattia De Iulis’s main cover for the first issue and five more more unlettered preview pages showing the main characters that not only showcased the deftness of his line and color work, but also his storytelling style and the letterbox presentation for the book. We won’t show all those pages here, but you can go subscribe to Thompson’s Substack, which we recommend, to see them.
What followed next through Substack, was a peek at a page from script to layouts to digital inks then the full-colored page and finally with dialogue. This is the first time there is a sense of the characters and their personalities. Also based on the scripting and colors that help to set the timing of the scene, the tone of the book has become more apparent. It’s a fantastic look behind the scenes at the creative process and just another reason we recommend subscribing to Thompson’s Substack. The behind the scenes posts aren’t just limited to Thompson’s thoughts either, Iulis follows up the Script to Print post from the writer with one of his own, explaining his choices and giving insight into his storytelling process. When the aforementioned Black Claok series had it’s penultimate issue of the first volume with #5 hitting comic shops on May 10th, it included a five page preview of The Cull which you can see below. These were not all the same pages that were revealed unlettered previously. A week later was the press release from Image Comics that was quoted to kick off this article where the August 16th release date was announced. That press release also previewed most of the #1 covers along with sharing the lettered 5 page preview as well.
Due to the unique nature of comic distribution previewing things 3 months before release, we’ve seen the covers for issue #2 also. Of particular note is the Tula Lotay B cover, which is a connecting variant. The first part of this multi-issue image is the #1 H-cover which is a 1:50 ratio cover, but will be the B cover for subsequent issues.
With the release date announced all the covers for Issues #1 and #2 released and FOC quickly approaching on July 24th, Image Comics released a trailer on YouTube to further boost the profile of the title. What’s great about the trailer, in addition to the creepy background tones (hard to call it music), is the cinematic feel of Iulis’s art is heightened by the zoom and pan effects in the short video. Additionally Thompson has been sharing the first issue with many of her industry colleagues and it’s always great to see other creators summing up their thoughts on the title.
Thompson also released some character bios for the five main characters on her Substack to provide context as the first issue gets closer. What is especially intriguing about the character’s details is that Thompson doesn’t flesh them out with long prose pieces but rather allows the readers to draw on their own experiences when comparing their favorite color, food and movie with the cast of The Cull.
CLEO WASHINGTON: Cleo was ambitious and charming, everyone’s favorite. And then Jake went missing and the bottom fell out of everything, including Cleo. Her relationship, one of the strongest things in her life, crumbled under the pressure and now what’s left is…unclear.
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Food: Sandwiches if it’s cold, Ramen if it’s hot.
Favorite Movie: ALIEN
Because Cleo wasn’t featured in the original promo page we showed off, Mattia also did this first color illustration for her.
And here’s an awesome process video of Mattia coloring Cleo.
KAITE CARTER: Bit of an “it” girl, Kaite excels at nearly everything and before “the incident” she and Cleo were one of Black Water High’s “it couples” — Cleo a burgeoning writer, Kaite a burgeoning director, it seemed like a match made. But as things unraveled with Cleo, Kaite’s struggled to deal with her own unraveling.
Favorite Color: Orange
Favorite Food: Milkshakes
Favorite Movie: MOONLIGHT
And here’s an awesome process video of Mattia coloring Kaite.
WADE QUAN: Wade is a jack of all trades (and has mastered a few too). Twin sister to Will (6 minutes older!) she’s incredibly bright but mostly more reserved than her friends. If she hadn’t found them, it feels like she’s the kind of person who would have been a loner… and it’s definitely something she worries about. A lot.
Favorite Color: Black
Favorite Food: Cheeseburgers
Favorite Movie: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
And here’s an awesome process video of Mattia coloring Wade.
WILL QUAN: Perhaps because he has surrounded himself with interesting clever girls in his sister and their friends, Will Quan is the most elusive eligible bachelor in town, though he’s mostly unaware of it. Grounded and kind, athletic and sharp-minded, Will is the best of them all, but he’d never agree to that (part of why he’s the best).
Favorite Color: Green
Favorite Food: Sushi
Favorite Movie: THE RAID
And here’s an awesome process video of Mattia coloring Will.
LUX BELL: As Wade says, “Never count out Lux.” Though Lux in some ways appears like the odd man out of her fairly exceptional friends, the truth is Lux can do anything she sets her mind to. Which maybe helps explain why she made friends with some of the best and brightest, knowing it would push her to be better too.
Favorite Color: Gold
Favorite Food: Tacos
Favorite Movie: LOST IN TRANSLATION is what she tells people is her favorite movie, but really it’s STEPBROTHERS.
And here’s an awesome process video of Mattia coloring Lux.
Based on the strength of both the visual and narrative storytelling, this series feels like something special that you will not want to miss. With all this hype and support from other comic creators, along with the marketing push from Image, expectations are high. If past series are any measure, Kelly Thompson and Mattia De Iulis will have no problem not only meeting those expectations, but exceeding them. We’ve had the opportunity to read the first issue already ourselves and we can vouch for the praise the series is receiving. When looking at the art, things that can easily be missed, such as a character micro-expression, are clearly intentional. The subtle details you see early in the establishing shots for each member of the cast provide insight and context that allows the storytelling to shine while Thompson shows her experience in getting out of the way with her scripting allowing the art to tell the story in the best ways. The first issue has many reveals and sets up several plot threads while showing the realistic character dynamics of teen relationships that so often can come across as cliched. That is not the case here, as in only a few short pages Thompson and Iulis are able to show the tragedy that exists in the background of this story for it’s protagonist and establish characters you feel a connection with very quickly. In turn this brings an immediacy and curiosity for the reader to discover, not only what the big issue reveal might portend, but also the events that have recently shaped each character. Events that are hinted at as each of them are first seen within the story. We’re going to leave you with one last look at the earliest preview image that was released, the one we mentioned did such a good job of setting the mysterious vibe of the book with tone and lighting. We want to call out the perspective of this page as we see one of the main characters from behind, clearly about to embark on an adventure that will have a huge impact on their life. This view from behind gives us a sense that we are about to journey along with them, into the unknown, where anything can happen.