Vault's CULT CLASSIC Conceives A Unique Creator-Owned Shared Universe

Cult Classic: Return to Whisper
Credit: Irene Koh (Vault Comics)

The Grave Robber’s Society getting back together – to finally cash in on the massive treasure they found as teenagers. But 15 years have changed a lot.

That’s the story of Cult Classic: Return to Whisper by Eliot Rahal and Felipe Cunha, which is scheduled to debut this February from Vault Comics. It’s Goonies meets Mystic River, as childhood friends reunite over a dark secret but find they don’t get along as much as they remember.

Newarama spoke with Rahal about the new series, an over-arching universe, and a title change between the initial announcement and the February release.

Credit: Felipe Cunha (Vault Comics)
Credit: Felipe Cunha (Vault Comics)

Newsarama: Eliot, who are the Grave Robbers Society?

Eliot Rahal: Dirty no-good trouble making teens, that's who! They are group of friends who hang out in a secret treehouse near a forgotten cemetery in the fictional town of Whisper (The most haunted hamlet in the upper-nothern Midwest!). They spend their time talking shit, eating a lot of junk food, and obsessively watching a local television show called... you guessed it – Cult Classic!

Nrama: What brought them together in the first place?

Rahal: How do any of us make our first friends? These kids grew up together. Whisper is a real place to them.

Nrama: But then this story fast-forwards 15 years to them coming back to Whisper individually. What separated them?

Credit: Felipe Cunha (Vault Comics)

Rahal: Insert Bruce Springsteen song lyrics here. Seriously though... Life. Everyone got one. Life gets in the way. A big part of the reason I wrote this book is because I've grown apart from a lot of my friends in high school. Sometimes it makes me really sad. Those first relationships that we have in life are so special. They are our first "best friends." Our first entryway into figuring out who we will become. 

Nrama: And they’re reuniting to find some kind of treasure. What is it?

Rahal: We are talking Oprah money here. 

Nrama: What's to keep them from enjoying it and this being a short-and-sweet story?

Rahal: The first experiences we have are the most important. Unfortunately, some of things we encounter as children aren't always so pleasant. Some of them are super messed up. We carry those scars into adulthood whether we like it or not. They shape us. Quite frankly... sometimes we don't grow up into to the people that we wanted to be. That's what this book is about. 

Credit: Felipe Cunha (Vault Comics)

Nrama: To nip any confusion in the bud, Cult Classic: Return to Whisper was originally announced and solicited as Cult Classic: Return of the Graveyard Gang. What was the reasoning for the change?

Rahal: Quite frankly there was a web series that we didn't know about called Graveyard Gang. As soon as we became aware, even though our title was longer, we wanted to change it out of respect. Ultimately, this really doesn't matter in regards to the storytelling in the series itself. Nothing actually changes. This book is about how a group of teenage friends return home after separating themselves emotionally and physically from one another. It's about a general ennui that I feel a lot of people my age share. How we are grown up and feel disconnected to past and as a result frustrated with our present selves. Or... at least that's what I feel, and that's what the title Cult Classic: Return to Whisper says. 

Nrama: This is billed under the banner "Cult Classic" what does that mean?

Rahal: That's just it. It's a banner! Consider Cult Classic as the all-encompassing branding for this line of shared universe stories. For instance, this miniseries is called: Cult Classic: Return to Whisper. We've had several backup stories from other creators already. They would be labeled as Cult Classic: The New Bike, or Cult Classic: Glitch. The goal is to build a creator-owned shared iniverse with stand-alone stories that all exist inside the fictional town of Whisper. Creators can use what others have made, build out the world more, or both! Anything goes!

Nrama: Like Robert Lynn Asprin’s Thieves’ World.

How'd you connect with Felipe and Vault for this project?

Rahal: I connected with Felipe over Twitter about s year and half years ago. Yes... I know... Twitter can be a thing for good after all. And Vault. Well... Tim Daniel told me to stop by their booth at Comic-Con International: San Diego when they first launched. It's weird to think I've known Adrian and Damian Wassel for that long.

Credit: Irene Koh (Vault Comics)

Nrama: What made them right for this story of yours?

Rahal: I am the first to say it... I can be a little over the top, but that's only because I'm so passionate at this book and what we are doing. I've got big ideas and a lot of energy. Maybe too much energy. I hurl myself into every book. It's a lot to handle. Adrian and Damian... They give it right back. They say, "bring it." They are ambitious, smart, and ready to do the work. Honestly there is no other place that Cult Classic could have even been a reality. Initially I had just pitched them one book. This one. Then I pitched them another... And another! They got really into the idea. The fact that Cult Classic has grown this much already is a testament to our efforts combined. They are my collaborators. 

Nrama: What are your big goals with this?

Rahal: I want to create an impact. I want it to be an open place that invites others in. I want to create a culture that generates excitement and possibility. 

Nrama: Last question - is there was a real-life Grave Robbers Society, would you be a member? And if so, what would you do?

Rahal: I would definitely have been the chubby kid who smelled bad that tried to make people laugh because he was so desperate to be loved... That's who I was growing up at least. Totally not that guy anymore.

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