Travis Horseman writes,
Disclosure #1: I’m a writer and comic book creator from Columbus, Ohio.
Quick: what word or words flashed in your mind the instant you read the word Ohio?
I’ll bet you serious money the first one was “corn.” Other possibilities might include “Superman” or “Bone” if you’re a comics fan, “OSU,” “Indians” or “Reds” if you’re a sports fan, or “Browns” if you’re a masochist. But most likely, they included “flat,” “boring,” “flyover” or other terms meaning something ordinary or unremarkable.
But what about “horror?”
A few years ago, my friend Will Graver and I were brainstorming ideas for a new short film project. Will presented a concept: a pair of police officers driving down a long Ohio country lane in response to a call. He didn’t know what was at the end of it, but he knew it would be something they would be completely unprepared for, maybe even fatally so. I ran with the idea, trying to graft some flesh to the bare bones. After several drafts, we came to three conclusions: that we would explore it as a comic book project, that it would be a horror story, and that the horror would derive from some element of Ohio’s history.
This isn’t without precedent: a lot of horror movies have been set in Ohio. I’ll bet you’re already thinking of the most famous one: A Nightmare on Elm Street slashed poor, unassuming (and fictional) Springwood, Ohio to pieces. Scream 2, Pulse, The Faculty and Super 8 are other notable examples. Even if Ohio was not necessarily where they were shot, it was important that Ohio be the staging area for terror.
But that’s just the exception that proves the rule, you might say. Horror movies are often set against bland middle American canvases, the better to draw contrast when they are drenched in blood. Ohio isn’t even unique in that regard. Halloween has Haddonfield, Illinois. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead used rural and suburban Pennsylvania. What, apart from this, makes Ohio so special for horror?
Disclosure #2: it so happens that Ohio has a surprisingly deep and violent history. One unique enough to inspire Sugar Creek, a horror comic where the mundanity of a fictional Ohio town actually conceals an unknown ancient evil beneath its foundations.
Ohio’s accessible history actually goes back more than three thousand years, to the mound-building natives who left the landscape dotted with earthworks. (Serpent Mound is the largest and most amazing.) Things get violent about four hundred years ago, when a major war between the Huron and
Iroquois exterminates or drives out most of this culture. Warfare continually roils the state after that, with major engagements during the French & Indian War, American Revolution and the War of 1812. Then there are the Northwest Indian Wars between the American government and native tribes, which leads to the largest defeat of an American army at the hands of a Native American Force. This was the Battle of the Wabash in western Ohio in 1791. Another name for it was “The Battle of a Thousand Slain.” It wiped out a full quarter of the standing American army at the time.
I got to thinking about this: given this depth of history and extent of bloodshed, what if a single point in the landscape is subjected to repeated acts of this sort of violence and worse, going back not years, not centuries, but millennia? It becomes a “black hole” of sorts, drawing more death and more violence to it, until it becomes so traumatized, warped, and twisted by it that it develops a consciousness that craves it, and becomes actively predatory.
And what if you build a town right on top of it that has no idea that it is there?
This is where we find Sugar Creek, Ohio, on the verge of its 200th anniversary. Its two-man police force responds to a frantic call for help, little realizing they are driving into the center of an ancient darkness, just as the barriers holding it in are on the verge of giving way completely…
The next time you hear the word Ohio this fall, I hope “horror” might rise a little bit more readily to mind. Maybe Sugar Creek will rise to mind right behind it.
Sugar Creek: A Horror Comic is a Kickstarter project running September 5 – October 14, 2018. You can check it out here.
You can also find information at http://www.amiculusrome.com/sugar-creek.html.
Bleeding Cool Goal: if we pass 20% by the end of the weekend, I will create a separate special section in the thank-you credits commemorating all backers who come to the project via Bleeding Cool!
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