Welcome to the first installment of “The Harrow County Observer,” Multiversity Comics’ dedicated Harrow County column. We plan to run this column at the end of each arc, exploring Harrow County through interviews, art pieces, and a few other things. Each installment will also feature “The Countless Haints of Harrow County” by T. T. Wosker, a resident of Harrow County, dedicated to cataloging the various haints and informing readers of the unseen horrors that lurk in the shadows.
But first, let’s kick things off with an interview with Harrow County writer Cullen Bunn and artist Tyler Crook.
The first arc has wrapped up. There were lots of revelations throughout the story. Of course, Emmy’s link to Hester Beck was telegraphed very early on. The full nature of that link though is still open to be explored, especially now you’ve introduced Miss Kammi, Emmy’s “twin.” Though I suppose we’ve already seen a glimpse of her before through the twisted lens of Emmy’s subconscious in the second issue when she dreams about the Harrow County townsfolk finding two girls inside Hester’s tree.
Cullen: Yeah, Emmy’s dream hinted at Kammi’s existence. Now that Emmy’s “sister” is in Harrow County, though, there are more revelations ahead. I think it will be interesting to see how Emmy and Kammi view Hester Beck differently. Neither of them fully understand Hester or their connection to her, so there is still a great deal to learn.
As it was, Emmy went through quite a learning curve in this arc. In particular, the scene in the third issue when her father tried to kill her, and her best friend was so scared of her she didn’t try to help. Afterwards Emmy’s thoughts turned dark and bloody. She didn’t take revenge on her father, so she knew she wasn’t the monster he thought she was, but she also realised how easily she could become one.
Cullen: At some point, I think most people struggle with the realization that they could, under the right circumstances, be capable of terrible things. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyhow, I know that on a regular basis, I shake my head and mutter to myself “I’m an awful person” or “I’m going straight to Hell.” I guess if I didn’t feel that way, I actually would be some kind of monster. In Emmy’s case, it’s all about extremes. She is genuinely a good person… and she genuinely has a reason that she might go to the dark side. She’s not just realizing that she is capable of evil. She’s discovering that she’s destined for it. For a lot of folks, it would be a simple matter to just give in.
Tyler: That encounter in particular was a challenge. Awful things can happen between two people. And if they are family it can often tilt people’s reactions in bizarre ways. It wanted to make sure that the reader felt that this was a thing between a father and a daughter and that they could hurt each other in ways that only a father and daughter could hurt each other.
You really sold that sequence too. You didn’t make choking look pretty. The muck on the characters’ faces, and the red in Emmy’s cheeks and on her neck… It was a chilling sequence, having a father attempt to kill his daughter, and I wouldn’t blame Emmy at all for lashing out at him after that. But after the fourth issue there’s a whole other element to it. This is the creation attempting to kill its creator.
Cullen: That’s right. In the end, this is a story about dealing with accepting or denying one’s lot in life. We see that most clearly with Emmy, but the townsfolk were really just doing the same—railing against their own destiny.
Tyler: I read a review that criticized some of the facial expressions for being “off putting” and it made me laugh. Are acts of terrible family violence supposed to be attractive? It was a scary scene and I wanted to make sure that everyone in that scene was scared not only by what the other people were doing but by what they themselves were doing.Continued below
Cullen: I think that’s so important in a book like this. Ghosts and goblins and witches are spooky, sure, but the emotion of these characters is what drive it all home.
Cullen: Not to blow smoke, but let’s face it… Tyler is rocking on this book. I was excited to be working with him when we first got started, but this is next level work.
I wanted to talk about Hester a little bit actually, because we haven’t really met her properly yet, but we’d had these little glimpses that give a sense of what she might have been. In the first issue she was this witch hanged and burned by the townsfolk. It’s familiar enough that readers make assumptions about who and what she is. Then issue four comes along and we learned that she was being killed by her own creations… She’s suddenly no longer just a small town witch, she’s something more frightening. Her powers veer more towards god-like.
Cullen: Exactly. Hester is seen as a “witch” because the vastness of her power… and presumably the power Emmy possesses… is something that simply can’t be understood. Hester is obviously something much more than readers might have expected at the beginning. She could actually shape reality. I guess that’s what magic is… but Hester really takes that notion to the extreme. We’ll be seeing more of Hester in the future, of course, and I think there are some more surprises ahead.
Tyler: Yeah, I think the thing that keeps Hester scary is how she is so unknowable. It’s not clear to anyone in town what the limits of her power really are and it’s not clear if she’s someone that can really be killed. No matter how the townspeople dealt with her, there was never going to be a guarantee that it would be permanent. And it’s scary not having any guarantees.
Cullen: Maybe Miss Kammi is a sweetheart, though. Maybe she’s just as kindhearted as Emmy! I mean, it would be just downright cruel to introduce Emmy’s sister… only to have her be a force of darkness!
Tyler: I haven’t really looked into it but I’m pretty sure “Kammi” backwards spells “Emmy”. Which totally blows my mind.
Yep, it’s totally a palindrome. And an anagram. And a semordnilap. Speaking of how good Kammi is, we have an exclusive look at the cover for issue seven…
See, arms outstretched and smiling. Clearly Kammi just wants a hug.
Tyler: Haha! I’ve been calling that one “The Sound of Music cover”. I actually like that cover a lot. I feel like it kind of represents the approach I’ve taken to Harrow County. And that’s to make everything as rich and beautiful as I possibly can. That way when we cover it all in blood, it’ll be weird and scary. A lot of people approach horror with the idea that everything should be dark and brooding. And that’s a perfectly reasonable way to approach it. But I feel like if you make the world a scary place then the monsters feel like they belong there. I feel like it’s less scary when things are where they belong. It’s a lot more disturbing when things don’t fit or are incongruous with their surroundings.Continued below
Cullen: And Tyler’s approach to the book fits perfectly with the theme of duality, which is something that we’ve been playing with since the very first issue, but really start driving home with a sledgehammer as of Kammi’s introduction.
Yeah, it’s been there right from the beginning. I mean, the twin calves at the beginning can’t have been a coincidence.
Cullen: They were not a coincidence! Hopefully folks pick up on some of those subtle little notes that have been hinting at the direction of the story from the beginning. I’d love it if readers go back and look over the series from the start and see if what else they can pick out of the book that foreshadowed where we were headed!
It makes for a rewarding reread.
Finally, I have to ask about the extra material in the issues. I’ve really enjoyed the short “Tales of Harrow County,” the way they expand the world. And the essays from yourself, Cullen, and the occasional guest, have been are a great way to wrap things up. In particular, Ma’at Crook’s essay stayed on my mind long after I finished reading. It was paired with just the right issue. Is this extra material something you’re going to continue as you head into the second arc and beyond?
Tyler: Ah, man! I’m a big fan of Ma’at’s essay too. We are going to run another essay she wrote about the haunted movie theater that we used to work at together. I sure hope we get to keep doing stuff like that. I think it adds a lot to the book.
Yeah, it makes the end to each issue a bit meditative.
Cullen: I’m pretty sure the plan is to continue adding extra material to every issue. We’ve gotten a pretty strong reaction to the “Tales of Harrow County” sections and the essays. There are a few surprises, similar to Ma’at’s terrific essay, ahead. For example, Tyler has written some of the one-page Tales that will be appearing soon.
I look forward to seeing it then.
Now, I don’t need to tell you, the faithful Observer reader, that there are a great many creatures that haunt the overgrown acreage of our fair county. That is, in part, because Observer readers are a notoriously knowledgeable and learned portion of our populace, unlike those who prefer a rag like The Harrow County Morning Caller. But that’s only part of it. We all know the lesser and greater demons of our county because we have lived with them our entire lives. They exist out there, just beyond human perception, watching. Perhaps waiting.
As we do with every installment of The Observer, let us gaze into the thick and shaded brush with the hope that we may catch a glimpse of what may well be peering back towards us. So dim your lantern, but not so dim as to lose the words printed on this page, and let us begin…
It is with certainty that I say few of you will need any introduction when it comes to Hester Beck. While her days were spent among us, the good and noble, her evenings were spent with those less favorable. Deep in the woods, Beck called to those from beyond our realm and understanding, tempting them with her flesh and soul. Many among us had suspicions about her, but allowed Beck be about her own way. What folly it is to, ‘live and let live,’ is it not? By the time her dark influence spread to the young and vulnerable, it was nearly too late. One evening, Beck disappeared into the woods and was never seen again. Some say she wed to Satan himself, forfeiting her mortal vessel so as to sit at her dark lord’s left hand. Others say justice was delivered upon her that evening, and that she was burned for her inumerous sins. Whatever you believe, I know for certain that on nights with still wind and a new moon, you can still hear Hester Beck whispering, seeking a new vessel by which her blackened soul may return to the woods of Harrow County!Continued below
Dear reader, please beware The Faceless that roam our woods. Monsters of bone and flame, these Faceless wander with little intent, other than to find those whose soul has been marked by the blackness that corrupts man. Know that they will not come to you, instead their choice is to lie in wait, knowing that time and circumstance will eventually lead you to their custody. What is one to do, if one so happens to find oneself in the company of these Faceless apparitions? It pains me to say, but once you have come to know these Faceless, you are beyond the aid of any writer, even one as exceptionally talented as myself!
Amongst the legion of haints who live on the periphery of our perceptions, there is a boy. This boy appears outwardly normal in most every respect. But allow me to tell you that this boy is anything but normal. Even the term ‘boy’ is utilized solely for lack of a more proper classification. Gifted to this ‘boy’ is the ability to shed the flesh from his wretched body and exist in two places at one singular point in time. What daemon or witch granted such dark abilities is a topic of much speculations among those who ponder such things. While his origin may be unknown, markers of his existence are not. Unexplained pools of cool, uncongealed blood have been reported, as have sheets of flesh that seems to have been torn away like tissue paper by heavy brush and rugged thorn bushes. This particular haint has a reputation for keeping distance, and has yet to be associated with any abductions or foul events. So, with that considered, what is the purpose of this ‘boy,’ and whom does he serve?
I am certain that, by now, we have nearly exceeded the level of fright one good soul can stomach in one evening. While our haints are ever-present, my stomach for channeling such dark knowledge is not. Allow me a reprieve, fair reader, and know that I will return to you with the very next installment of The Harrow County Observer!
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.