Interview: Frank Goes Back to the Farm Kicking and Screaming!
Apr 20, 2021
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
You can't go home again. And, in Frank's case, he might wish that he never tried...
In comic shops now from Scout Comics is Frank At Home On The Farm (SEP201414), a post-World War I psychological horror tale. At the center of it is Frank. A once simple farm boy whose war trauma is still fresh. Sadly for him, writer Jordan Thomas and artist Clark Bint are going to put Frank through a personal hell to complement Frank's PTSD. In the following interview, Jordan Thomas shines a little light on this dark tale. Just enough to get you on the edge of your seat.
What is FRANK AT HOME ON THE FARM?
Frank At Home On The Farm is a 4-issue limited series about a soldier – Frank – returning from the First World War expecting to be greeted by his overjoyed family at their farm. Instead, he finds them mysteriously missing. He investigates but uncovers more questions than answers as the people of the nearby town seem distant and suffer an odd memory loss when it comes to his farm and family. This leads him to becoming isolated on the farm as things become more odd and unsettling with only the animals for company.
Is this more horror or psychological thriller or…?
Well, not to be difficult, but I’d say it’s more psychological horror. It’s very much visually and tonally a horror, the atmosphere we aim to create is one of “I need to turn all the lights on in the house to go to the bathroom. Wait…did you hear that? I think I just heard a chicken outside the window.” But thematically we are pulling in a lot of psychological fears. Paranoia. Fear of outsiders. Fear of change. Surviving trauma. But there are definitely some thrills along the way, especially in the final issue, which is a real high-speed ride all the way to the end.
Tell us about Frank. Why do we follow him through this story, specifically?
Frank is the key to the whole thing. I don’t want to spoil anything but Frank is a broken character who’s various pieces have taken on lives on their own and now are pushing and pulling against each other. Seeing the story from anyone else’s perspective – like Harold the town’s police chief for example – wouldn’t work. We get moments from other characters’ perspectives and these just serve to highlight how unsettling what’s going on with Frank really is.
Am I imagining some Orwellian aspects of the story?
I think it’s impossible to see things like the cover to issue 3 or meet The Pig and not think of Animal Farm. However, I’d not read it until after I’d come up with the story. The full story just arrived into my tired brain late one night and I wrote it all down on two sides of A4 and that is basically the story we have with a little finessing. I did sit down in the back garden one day though not too long after this and read Animal Farm, more to make sure nothing in our story was too similar to Orwell’s farm-based tale. I guess any inspiration would come from the vague idea I had of what Orwell had written and things like the pig being the leader of the animals that just felt right when I wrote Frank, which probably come from a subconscious knowledge of Animal Farm in popular culture.
What made Clark Bint right for this project? His art gives me some Richard Corben vibes…
The reason this is the first comic I’ve released is because Clark was available. I’d written a different 5-issue series, which I was trying to find an artist for but no one I wanted was available. Not wanting to go ahead with a less than perfect artist for that one I started thinking about what other stories I had stored away that I could develop instead. As soon as I thought about doing something with Frank I thought of Clark and knew he’d be perfect. Luckily he was available and we got going straight away. His attention to detail was hugely important for the period setting and he just has a way of drawing that makes even seemingly nice moments feel a little creepy, which is really the core of the horror in our story – you never feel safe. As we went from issue to issue Clark just got better and better to the point where there’s some truly unbelievable pages in the book as the story really kicks in. He brought an atmosphere to the series that not many other artists could.
On the Corben comparisons, I also spotted that. I think I was reading some of Corben’s Hellboy stories and thought, “That face looks just like one of Frank’s expressions in such and such page”. I asked Clark if he was an influence and he actually wasn’t very familiar with Corben’s work at the time, but it must be a case of artists Corben influenced, influencing Clark as it’s hard to ignore.
What's the creative process like between you two?
Clark is great to collaborate with. I had the whole script written before Clark started on it so we were really able to discuss visual motifs and themes that could flow throughout the series and Clark knew exactly what he was building towards. So, much of the answers to the mystery are there right from the start it would have led to a less cohesive whole if Clark didn’t know what was coming down the track. We talk a lot and he is someone who thinks deeply about his art so threw in a lot of ideas himself for visuals, like the old lady in the shop blowing her nose and the handkerchief looking like a pig’s snout – that was all Clark. As a writer, having the artist really engage with the story is a great thrill and really elevates the whole thing – I wouldn’t trade Clark for any other artist to tell this story with.
Looking forward, what can readers expect from FRANK AT HOME ON THE FARM?
I’m sure everyone says this but I really believe that the final issue is the best one from both a writing and art perspective. It’s the moment when all the dominos are lined up and they start falling – fast. Whereas earlier issues were big on atmosphere and laying out clues this final issue goes at a mile a minute as we speed towards a conclusion with I think is both shocking and the only way things could ever go. As I mentioned the full script was written before Clark started so we’ve been tweaking and sharpening the story as we’ve worked to ensure it has a truly satisfying finale that all adds up and really asks to be reread to see how all the pieces were there all along if you just knew how to connect them. I’m very proud of how we close things out.
In terms of audience, who is FRANK AT HOME ON THE FARM for?
Definitely horror fans. It’s not especially gory, so if you’re not big on blood and guts don’t let the word ‘horror’ turn you off, it’s much more about atmosphere and tension – think The Shining as opposed to Saw. Comics like Wytches and The Dollhouse Family are pretty good recent comparisons. People who like a complex mystery should find the plot a lot of fun and anyone into stuff that’s a bit weird like David Lynch or David Cronenburg or the bizarre creatures in a Del Toro movie should enjoy the more out-there moments and visuals. And I guess just art fans. Clark has done exceptional work on this series, so if nothing else there are a lot of amazing comic pages to stare at.
Frank at Home on the Farm (SEP201414) is available at comic shops everywhere.
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.