Writer: Cullen Bunn
Illustrator: Cat Farris
WHAT IS IT?
Supernatural shenanigans and an unlikely friendship between a boy and a ghoul leads to mystery solving in this middle grade horror graphic novel.
The Ghoul Next Door parallels the eerie tone of Goosebumps and the haunting imagery from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After eleven-year-old Grey traipses through a graveyard and loses his school project in a dug-up grave, spookiness follows him back home. Someone starts leaving gruesome gifts from the cemetery for Grey. Intrigued yet disturbed by the bone carvings and shadows lurking outside his bedroom door, Grey asks his friend Marshall to investigate the source of the items.
Unfortunately, Marshall isn't as invested in the legends of ghouls and ghosts haunting the town of Ander's Landing. After arguing with Marshall, Grey uncovers the culprit behind the mysterious objects by himself. He makes a new friend -- the subterranean ghoul next door, Lavinia! Sadly, friendships between ghastly ghouls and human dudes are forbidden. And the rule-enforcers seek payment.
Grey and Lavinia face consequences, but they may just be able to strike a bargain with a horde of tradition-following ghouls who want to dole out punishments.
Cullen Bunn transitions seamlessly from the adult to the middle-grade horror genre. Mature horror is Bunn's obvious forte, yet The Ghoul Next Door reveals his range. Bunn's writing style here boasts mass appeal for reading audiences.
Watercolor and a bright color palette may not seem like a first choice for a horror story, but Cat Farris's illustrations denote both endearing and haunting imagery.
Farris merges themes of idyllic youth through bold solid colors during daytime with a curious sense of terror by playing with shadows and silhouettes as Grey tries to sleep in his lightless room at night.
Aditya Bidikar always demonstrates adroitness in comic lettering typography. Attention to craft is important, especially when lettering dialogue by kids in a graphic novel for kids. Thus, Bidikar implements elongated leading for speech bubbles with lengthened tails, delivering a youthful tone.
Whenever a comic has Bidikar on lettering, you know you're in for a treat vis-à-vis SFX. For example, you can hear the pinched squeaking when rats attack Grey and Marshall as Bidikar's yellow-tinged SFX with wide kerning floats across a full-page spread.
Maybe I have Cullen Bunn's Harrow County on the mind, but Bunn places his Ghoul Next Door protagonists in some truly harrowing encounters! The stakes are high and continue building as the comic progresses, effectively causing readers to experience fear for Grey and Lavinia's lives!
Morality and death, layered dimensions involved with friendship and trust are heavy topics presented here. The Ghoul Next Door employs a consummate focus on balancing horror with humanity from an adolescent perspective.
Bunn's narrative mines the fertile ground of the juvenile horror comic genre, pushing his audience to consider deeper-rooted themes about life and death beyond basic horror story cosmetics.
Tactile tension chisels a good horror story into a great one. Cat Farris's art bleeds with rickety tension as corporeal ghouls hauntingly occupy shadows and spooky scary skeletons dripping flesh will send shivers down your spine! Her imagination and creativity in creating disturbing renditions of the undead is endless and wonderous.
The Ghoul Next Door moves like a beetle skittering across the floor, rife with adventure, humor, and evocative terror compelling you to keep turning the pages.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Cat Farris excels at drawing creepy ghouls, rats with bloodlust, and shards of bone fragments gifted to Grey from the local graveyard. While appropriate to the horror genre, younger children with a weaker stomach for horror or scary imagery may be frightened.
The comic takes a while to pick up the pace and formally introduce Grey and Lavinia to one another. Once they meet though, non-stop action and quicker narrative beats keep the story moving along well.
Lavinia breaks several rules in order to befriend Grey. The story is sweet, but Lavinia's motivation to risk her life, and even potentially Grey's, remains a bit underdeveloped. However, younger readers don't require a complex explanation and will find themselves delighted by the ghoul/human friendship regardless.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
It's always spooky season in the comic world! The Ghoul Next Door is a perfect segue into the upcoming Halloween season, or a great gift for kids who can't get enough of an eerie tale year-round. Introduce children or new adult readers to Cullen Bunn, an expert adult horror writer, through this comic. Bunn proves he can tone down his graphic, terrifying scripts with The Ghoul Next Door to make the horror genre accessible to any individual.
Don't be fooled: The Ghoul Next Door still cracks open a window and lets creepy terror seep into your senses. Thanks to stirring illustrations by the talented Cat Farris and Aditya Bidikar's affinity for lettering audible SFX, this graphic novel visually reads like watching a horror film. The Ghoul Next Door is worth every penny, with 200 pages of friendship, horror, and ghouls to haunt your waking hours any time of year!
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Phantom on the Scan by Cullen Bunn & Mark Torres
Godzilla: Cataclysm by Cullen Bunn & Dave Wachter
Sheets by Brenna Thummler
If you like the art:
My Boyfriend Is a Bear by Pamela Ribon & Cat Farris
Emily and the Strangers Volume 2: Breaking the Record by Rob Reger & Cat Farris
Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky & Anissa Espinosa
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Cullen Bunn – Writer (@cullenbunn)
Name Recognition: Cullen is a comics writer, screenwriter, novelist, and short story writer, well known for his work in the horror genre. He has written for major comic publications such as Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Oni Press, and many more.
Prolific: He is the NYT bestselling writer of Dark Ark, The 6th Gun, Harrow County, and Bone Parish.
Multitalented: Cullen has had many jobs including an Alien Autopsy Specialist, Rodeo Clown, Professional Wrestler Manager, Career Consultant, Product and Project Manager, and Director of Marketing. He was also once the world's youngest hypnotist.
Cat Farris – Illustrator (@Cattifer)
Cat is an illustrator, comic artist, and cartoonist.
On the Rise: She is a member of Helioscope, and has worked with comic publishers Oni Press, Dark Horse, and IDW.
She resides in Portland, Oregon.
Aditya Bidikar – Letterer (@adityab)
Prolific: Bidikar has many credits not only as a letterer, but also as a comic writer and prose writer. All credits are available to view on Bidikar's website.
Multitalented: Bidikar co-hosts a comics podcast with fellow letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, called Letters & Lines, and also writes a wonderfully informative newsletter called "Strange Animals."
Outlander: Aditya currently lives in Pune, India.
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All The Ghoul Next Door characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Cullen Bunn and Cat Farris or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED