Welcome to The Harrow County Observer, Multiversity Comics’ dedicated “Harrow County” column. This installment Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook discuss the plot developments in the “Family Tree” and “Abandoned” story arcs. Meanwhile, T.T. Wosker looks at a fearsome creature lurking in the woods. The full report follows the interview segment.
Cullen Bunn: Thank you! It’s a real honor to be recognized for what horrific people we are!
Tyler Crook: Thanks!
A lot has changed in “Harrow County” recently. In “Family Tree” you explored Emmy’s biological (sort of) family, and in “Abandoned” you explored the very nature of Emmy’s being. She is so much more than just a witch. This is a story about god-like beings. How did such grand ideas grow out of your original concept?
Cullen: While this wasn’t necessarily where we intended to go while we were working on the first arc, I think it is a fairly natural progression of the story we set up in those first few issues. Tyler and I hop on the phone every so often to talk about what’s happening in upcoming issues, but I’m not sure when the idea of the Family took shape. Obviously it was while we were putting the second arc together, but I don’t recall the conversation. Once that idea entered the equation, though, the rough outline that takes the series to its conclusion took shape. One of the things we want to do with “Harrow County” is keep the reader guessing. Introducing Emmy’s sister Kammi in the second arc was part of that. A family of people like Emmy was the next step.
Tyler: When Cullen pitched the idea of the family to me it instantly made sense to me. So much of “Harrow County” is about exploring the where you come from and where your family comes from and how that affects where you are going. It made a lot of sense to open that up and go back to see where even Hester Beck came from.
One of the big things to come out of the last arc is that Emmy Crawford isn’t a reincarnation of Hester Beck at all, but rather the goddess Amaryllis reborn. This is huge, and something that will no doubt have far-reaching ramifications for “Harrow County.”
Cullen: Oh yes! The revelation that Emmy is the embodiment of Amaryllis sends shockwaves through the rest of the series.
Since the first arc, Emmy’s had a history longer than her eighteen years as Emmy Crawford. Back when she believed she was a reincarnation of Hester, it was easy to distance her from that past life, to think of it as an entirely different being, because Hester and Emmy are so unalike. However, Amaryllis seems more akin to Emmy in the few short moments we’ve seen of her. Is this life as Amaryllis something Emmy would like to explore or is it something she’d keep distancing herself from emotionally so that she could continue to think of Amaryllis as someone other than herself?
Cullen: At first, Emmy is a bit relieved to think of herself as someone—anyone—other than Hester Beck. But it starts weighing on her. For a while, everyone thought of her as Hester instead of Emmy. Now, there’s this group of people who see her as Amaryllis instead of the girl she is. She’s starting to get fed up with that. She might be the reincarnation of Amaryllis, but she is her own person, too, and she wants to be recognized for who she is in this life.
Tyler: Yeah, I think everyone can relate to being exasperated by constantly being compared to someone else. Especially as a teenager.
Emmy certainly seems to have accepted Amaryllis’s abilities as a part of herself, especially when she went as far as to recreate Luke’s uncles.
Cullen: For me, that was a dark moment. Emmy took a step here she hasn’t taken before. She created human life, complete with memories and personalities. That’s something Hester would have done. She even took it a step further. She sent that life out into the world. Those actions will come back to haunt her.Continued below
Tyler: Yeah, I think that was more of a Hester move than an Amaryllis move. Throwing around that much power to avoid dealing with the larger underlying problem is never the best idea. Sometimes it works out but usually the band-aid comes off and we see the wound has gotten worse.
With the recently ended arc being titled “Abandoned,” obviously the Abandoned plays a big role in this story. And it turns out that he had another life too, as Malachi, one of the first of these god-like beings, and the one that forged their laws. He was also the creator of Hester, and her darkness echoed his own.
But ultimately he gave up that life to live as a beast in the woods of Harrow County… a place that was created by Hester Beck. And even in the first issue, you showed a relationship between the Abandoned and Hester. I wonder if there isn’t more yet to tell here.
Cullen: Of course there is! The Abandoned is a tragic figure in the mythology of “Harrow County.” In many ways, he was once the most human of the Family. It was his humanity—his feelings of grief and anger—that drove him to create Hester in the first place. And that creation backfired on him in a big way. But he definitely stood by Hester’s side. Perhaps he saw something in her that he simply turned away from.
It’s a relationship I’m certainly very curious about.
Tyler: I think it’s a pretty interesting. There’s definitely something that Malachi feels he needs from Hester but she never quite gives it to him.
You also explored Emmy’s adopted family a bit too. Obviously, we’re getting to know her father more each time he shows up, but you finally showed us her mother in one of the most chilling sequences in the series.
She was a character I’ve been wondering about for a while, and it was… well, not nice, but certainly satisfying, to finally find out what happened to her.
Cullen: I frequently say that “Harrow County” isn’t a horror story, but it is more of a fairy tale with moments of horror. This scene is one of those sharp moments of horror. For a while we talked about Emmy’s mother having a kind of recurring role in the series, but it never felt right. By contrast, this scene gives her role that only lasts a few pages, but is incredibly important. She shows a kind of desperate strength. She knows she’ll eventually give in to the dark influences around her, so she tries to flee rather than kill Emmy. She pays for that with her life, but I think she showed the Family something when it comes to the strength of the human spirit.
Tyler: I thought it was neat to see someone who’s reaction to Emmy was so powerful and so different than the reaction of the other people we had seen. There have been a few hints at how some of the townsfolk fear or resent Emmy. But when Emmy’s Mom freaks out, it opens up the idea that maybe there are other ways to think out the kind of magic that’s flying around Harrow County.
Cullen: Well, we kept readers in the dark about Emmy’s mother for so long, I knew it would “feel” like a big scene no matter what we did. We could have created some massive, flashy story arc, but I was pretty proud of the more subdued, horror-centric approach we took.
My favorite relationship in the series though has been Emmy and Bernice’s friendship, but that was getting a little rocky in “Family Tree.”
Cullen: Bernice is great. I love her so much. And her friendship with Emmy is something that I didn’t necessarily expect to be such a big part of the series, but I’m so thrilled with the way it turns out. Sometimes, you just fall in love with a character and you have to follow your gut. But—yes—every long-lasting friendship goes through rough patches. That’s especially true when people start going through major changes in their lives.Continued below
Tyler: I think it’s also great to see how Emmy and Bernice deal with the same problems so differently.
Cullen: Definitely a breaking point. The “Hedge Magic” arc will put Emmy and Bernice’s relationship to the ultimate test. If—and that’s a pretty big ‘if’—their friendship survives, it will be forever changed. Emmy is a powerful being, and we’ve given her threats that were bigger and bigger. With this arc, we wanted to turn that on its ear and show how a threat that is not nearly as powerful… but is so near and dear to Emmy… might be even more dangerous to her.
Dear readers, I write to warn you of a dark creature that prowls the woods of Harrow County. Perhaps you’ve heard tales of those that claim to have seen it—Utter nonsense! Those that behold the Black Beast don’t live to tell tales. But not all tales of the Black Beast are told by boastful men.
On one a recent expedition into the woods behind The Red Barn I found a camera. Scratched on its side were the initials “H.D.F.” —Henry David Farnham. But even without the initials I could have placed it. The youngest son of Arthur and Mary Farnham was always carrying his camera about, taking photographs of anything and everything. He went missing nearly a year ago now.
The Henry Farnham I remember certainly wouldn’t have left his beloved camera lying in the woods. Something terrible happened to the poor boy.
I had the film strip developed. And this is what came back:
Though it is a little dark and blurry, there’s clearly a creature there—the Black Beast. The authorities believe the picture to be nothing more than a particularly ugly cow, but dear readers, I ask does that look like a cow to you? No, it does not.
Last week I ventured cautiously into the woods again, and you will never guess what I found there. Bodies, dear readers! And ripped to ribbons! I contacted authorities, and again they would not believe the evidence plain before their eyes. They believe this to be the work of a disgruntled bear, but never in my life have I seen a bear inflict such horrors—and I should know, as I’ve been in more than a few scrapes with bears before.
Mark my words, readers, there will be other bodies before long. The Black Beast is restless. It will find other victims.
T.T. Wosker is an author of great renown and reputation. A life-long Harrow County resident, Wosker’s published works include “Are There Haints on the Moon?” and “When the Boy Did Not Return,” both available in paperback.