Welcome to the Harrow County Observer, Multiversity Comics’ dedicated “Harrow County” column. In the latest installment we’ll be chatting about ‘Lost Ones,’ the third arc of “Tales from Harrow County,” with writer and co-creator Cullen Bunn, artist Emily Schnall, and co-creator and letterer Tyler Crook.
Cullen Bunn: I used to think about doing a story of Kammi in the big city, but there was never a right time for it. Following Emmy after she left Harrow was one of my first ideas for “Tales from Harrow County,” actually, but I thought it might be best to wait a bit and let readers wonder what she was up to. This series is about changing expectations and going against what you might expect for a “Harrow County” story, so a more urban tale just felt right.
Tyler Crook: There has always been a story waiting to be told about where Kammi came from and what she was doing in the big city. And while this story doesn’t really tackle that head on, I think it scratches an itch and hints at what Kammi’s life might have been like.
It has killed me waiting to see Emmy again, but at the same time, I’m so glad you made me wait, to establish the identity of “Tales from Harrow County” before veering into this territory. There’s certainly a melancholy to seeing Emmy again though, especially in that first issue when she sings “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” She may have left Harrow County, but her heart still lingers there.
Emily Schnall: It was equally exciting and intimidating to work with such an iconic character! There was a clear challenge of blending the new and the familiar; obviously Emmy had to be aged up a bit, she’s settled into a new life in a new place, she’s not the Emmy we know in a number of ways. But at her core she’s the same girl from Harrow County, and it had to shine through in her design and expressions. I think that felt especially tricky for me to nail when she’s all dolled up in her ‘fancy cousin’ style hair and dress, but hopefully that Emmy essence still comes through. Cullen’s writing wove in that balance of old and new so beautifully.
Tyler: Emmy is always an optimist but living in the city hasn’t been very easy for her. And capturing that dichotomy and the melancholy surrounding it is something not everyone can do very well, but I think Emily nailed it.
Cullen: The most important thing for me was establishing Emmy’s overall kindness. I wanted to show straight away that the city hadn’t changed her. She still cares about others. But I also wanted there to be a bit of sadness and loneliness for her, too. I wanted to get the idea across that she has never felt like she really fits in in the city, that she misses home.
That definitely came across. In the light of how she and Bernice were introduced way back in “Harrow County” #1, it shows the strange swap that’s occurred. Back then, Emmy was happy to stay in Harrow County and Bernice was the one that wanted to leave. Ten years later, Bernice is bound by her duty to Harrow County and Emmy is the one in New York.
I do wonder what drew her to New York though, especially since that’s where Kammi grew up. Was there some part of her, perhaps even unconsciously, looking for family after hers had been killed? And I’m curious about how the Abandoned factored into this too, since he had previously lived in secluded woods and now he’s in the streets and sewers of New York City.
Cullen: So, way back when I was writing Countless Haints as a prose novella, I included a line about Emmy considering moving to the “big city” one day. Since Ahmen’s Landing (the name of the town before “Harrow County” came into existence) was on the east coast, New York seemed right to me. So, that stuck with me. I also think Emmy wanted to get lost, to vanish, to blend in, and New York was the perfect place for her to do that.Continued below
It’s not just Emmy we’re becoming acquainted with in ‘Lost Ones.’ The Abandoned is back, and I must say it was interesting to see how he’s changed. Back in Harrow County, he hid in the woods alone and rarely became involved in the bigger conflicts, but in New York, he’s become much more active, sensing trouble and deciding on his own to seek out the source of it. I daresay he even comes off as heroic here, much like his finest moments in the original “Harrow County” run. It’s a fascinating development to see him putting so much good into the world around him.
Cullen: The Abandoned’s activities in New York City are of particular interest to me. I’d almost certainly like to do a solo Abandoned story to show off what he was up to. My thought here was that in the city, there was no real place for him to really hide. At least, that’s the excuse he would use. So… he almost has to interact with people. What I like about it is we see citizens paying homage to him, almost worshipping him, which is exactly what got Hester into so much trouble.
Yeah, you can see why I was so interested in that particular development. But ‘Lost Ones’ has so many developments. I can’t help but feel this is a game changing arc for the series. When “Tales from Harrow County” began, the scale of the series was much smaller, but now it’s huge. Like ‘Family Tree’ in the original run of “Harrow County,” ‘Lost Ones’ adds a new dimension to the magic world as you introduce the city cousins. Just that one reveal alone could evolve in a dozen different directions!
Cullen: The intent was for it to be a series of smaller stories, but my mind just started racing with the potential for these characters and where things might go. I mean, think about it. Now, we have Bernice contending with the fairy kingdom in Harrow. We have Emmy dealing with the City Cousins. And it looks (doesn’t it?) like all of those elements are about to converge in big ways! I love that it has these epic connotations, but it is very, very different from the first series.
With the next arc on a collision course with the fair folk and the city cousins, how could that not be huge? But it’s also the history that’s implied by this story. There are avenues going backwards as well as forwards. You sort of touched on that when you mentioned the possibility of an Abandoned story or a Kammi story, but the mere existence of the city cousins, where they come from, how they found each other, how they lost their powers, how they discovered they could get them back by preying on children. . . all these things suggest stories too, and they could be set anywhere and anywhen.
It’s not just that the series is bigger, but it’s more flexible. You set the first arc in Harrow County, the second primarily in the goblin’s realm, and the third in New York City. If you were to tell me the fifth arc would be set in Chicago in the 1850s, I’d be very curious where you were taking the story and how it would connect to the 1940s plotline, but I wouldn’t for a second question whether it was still “Tales from Harrow County” or not.
Cullen: It’s true! These stories could take place in so many different places, but the connection to Harrow County would still be there!
I can’t remember if we’ve talked about it or not, but one of the earlier ideas for a “Tales” story was to introduce an entirely new character, a sort of traveling supernatural troubleshooter heavily inspired by the character of Silver John created by Manly Wade Wellman. I ended up moving away from that concept. Even then, though, I think the “character” of Harrow County would have been so baked into his DNA, the feel of Harrow would have followed him anywhere he went!
You’ve definitely never mentioned that. . . He’s an excellent example of how flexible the concept is though.Continued below
OK, we really need to talk about the horror at the center of this story, that the city cousins are feeding on children and in the process, turning them into ghostlike-vermin, forced to live in sewers, forever out of the light of day. Cannibalism is a concept that’s woven into the core of the “Harrow County” mythology, but here I feel like you found a way to somehow give it a new angle, to find a new aspect of horror in it.
Cullen: Yeah, I was really trying to think of something that was just. . . awful. In a lot of ways, the city cousins are like vampires, but I thought their poor victims faced a fate much, much worse than death. There are story elements there, too, that will be surfacing in some terrible ways down the line.
Emily: Absolutely, the city cousins cannibalize their humanity and leave behind a husk. I didn’t actually know the story behind these creatures when I designed them, but I lucked out that they have a deformed-humanoid look about them. And the pale color nods to the vampiric feeding element too.
I feel like “Harrow County” has very specific rhythms in its storytelling, such as always opening with a double-page spread, but in ‘Lost Ones’ you made a specific choice to end issues #1, #2, and #3 on double-page spreads too. This is no small thing—you would’ve had to ask Dark Horse for the extra page to do this—so why were these endings so important to showcase this way?
Emily: These were such big, dramatic moments and giving them that extra space and importance really helps them land. Each of them depicts a character suddenly taking in a surprising tableau; Cullen puts the reader in the same position. Who doesn’t love a big dramatic reveal?
Cullen: I mean, Emily’s art is so amazing, it deserved the extra space, I think.
That it is. Emily, going into ‘Lost Ones’ how did you find the change of location? I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed your take on New York, so eerie with the lights out.
Emily: Thank you! Admittedly I’d take drawing forests and caves over cityscapes any day, but I’ve grown a soft spot for 1940s New York City. It took a substantial amount of research—the ’50s are so generous with their photographs and cultural artifacts, but the ’40s seemed by comparison forgotten. As an example I spent an unconscionable amount of time trying to hunt down a reference for period-appropriate diner coffee pots. This would have been right before plastics exploded into all areas of American life, so it seemed unlikely that the classic 50’s design with its plastic handle and spout would be right. Finally I found a photo of a glass pot with a little metal collar and handle; I was so happy to find that at long last I could’ve cried!
The photographs I was able to turn up of New York in the ’40s were all so atmospheric and evocative. It was the perfect mood for this arc with all of its darkness and haze.
A big part of this arc was also introducing the city cousins and the magical children they prey upon. With such a range of powers, how did you approach the design of this extended family? Did you find yourself looking to Tyler Crook’s work in “Harrow County: Family Tree” to find similarities or draw distinctions?
Emily: I decided to approach the city cousins as their own distinct family branch, so I didn’t want them to feel too similar to the cousins we’ve already met. This group needed to feel put together and a bit glamorous. I looked a lot to 1940s movie stars; Gideon got infused with that the most I think with that leading-man-esque face.
Of course, when designing any ensemble you want to do your best to give everyone their own distinct flavor and silhouette. I drew a lot of inspiration from each cousin’s power—Archibald twinning with his miniature schnauzer is definitely the design choice I am most proud of!
This is what I find interesting about characters like these, where we’re meeting them for the first time, but you’re able to find visual cues that tell us something about them, like inferring the connection between Archibald and his schnauzer with the moustache. It’s something that extends even to your location design. Like when we meet the city cousins for the first time, they sit beneath a picture of wolves preying on another animal.Continued below
Emily: The painting is my favorite detail of that spread. Thank you for noting it! The city cousins present as placid, but they’re bloodthirsty just beneath the surface. And I hoped to telegraph a bit of that with this violent image wrapped in a gilded frame. They’re cocky too; it seemed like the sort of thing they’d get a kick out of having in the open.
Cullen: I love the designs of these characters. I provide just a brief description of each one, a brief discussion of their abilities and attitudes. Emily just took those descriptions and ran!
There’s also the opening of the second issue, where the city cousins are having a party, surrounded by light, while the rest of the city hides in darkness. Visually, we normally associate light and dark as shorthand for good and evil, but here it’s used to show how the city cousins are detached from the world around them. Normal people must stay in the dark for their safety, but the city cousins have no such concerns.
Emily: To me these cousins always felt like a remnant of the gilded age. We see the abject poverty and struggle that surrounds them contrasted with their wealth and frivolity. Just like the gilded age itself, they may have a shiny exterior but at their core is merciless hunger, it’s rotten.
Cullen: The city cousins are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They’re hiding in plain sight. They’re beautiful. They’re wealthy. They’re decadent. They were meant to have the life others would want. But their lives, in the light, are cruel lies.
Emily portrayed that to fantastic effect on her “Tales from Harrow County” #3 cover. I almost feel like she and Tyler were trying to one up each other with the covers on this series—they just kept getting better and better. But I think that sort of undersells what you’re both doing, because when I look at them side by side, they’re complimentary. For the #1 cover Emily’s is focused on the Abandoned while Tyler’s is focused on Emmy. Together they say something stronger than either one could alone.
The #3 covers both have the groping hands, but on one the hands are prey on the other it is the hand of the hunter.
And the #4 covers feel like the same moment but shown from two different points of view.
Emily: Tyler’s covers for “Harrow County” have always been so strong; it certainly feels like a lot to live up to! What I like most about them is how they’re so elegant, punchy, and of course executed very beautifully. So that’s what I try to keep in mind when sketching out my own thumbnails. Any similarities between our covers are coincidental as far as I’m aware, but I think it speaks to how strong the themes and imagery are in Cullen’s writing that we converged on these complementary images. I’m completely obsessed with Tyler’s #3 cover—it’s such a good illustration of the qualities I mentioned. It’s simple, incredibly evocative, and just look at those lights and shadows!
Tyler: Emily usually got her covers turned in before I did. And definitely served as a motivator to up my game. It made it hard sometimes to come up with ideas because Emily had some humdingers! Like the hands coming out of the wolf’s mouth. There is no way I could top that idea. It’s just so perfect in concept and execution.
Agreed. It’s my favorite from ‘Lost Ones.’
I was pleasantly surprised to see the library editions of “Tales from Harrow County” are already on their way, with the first coming out next month. As you know, I love the library edition format; it’s such a special way to read these stories.
Cullen: I love the Library Editions, too. Every time I see someone picking one up for the first time, I feel thrilled for them to experience the story for the first time in that format.
And Tyler, you always make it extra special by doing new wrap-around covers just for these editions. Could you show us a bit of your process with this new one?Continued below
Tyler: I like to save the inside art as a little treat for anyone who buys the book to discover but here’s some process stuff for the outside dust jacket.
It’s a pretty straight forward concept. If I remember right, I originally didn’t have the ghosts on there, but Daniel Chabon gently reminded me that “Harrow County” books should have something spooky on the cover. Haha.
There’s a lot going on with “Harrow County” at the moment. Last month we announced the “Harrow County” audio book adaptations from GraphicAudio (the first volume of which is out today) and there’s an upcoming board game from Off the Page Games next month. (Check back in October for more on that.) And hopefully soon we’ll get an announcement for the fourth “Tales from Harrow County” miniseries. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for “Tales from Harrow County – Volume 1” library edition coming October 5, 2022, and the “Tales from Harrow County: Lost Ones” trade paperback collection coming January 4, 2023.
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Naomi Franquiz and Emily Schnall
Letters by Tyler Crook
Full color, 224 pages
Hardcover, 8″ x 12″
Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crooks Eisner Award-nominated horror fantasy is given a closer look, with two complete series illustrated by Naomi Franquiz and Emily Schnall in a deluxe, oversized hardcover format.
Collects volumes one and two of Tales from Harrow County in a deluxe, hardcover, and oversized format with a new cover by Tyler Crook, sketchbook material, and more!
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Emily Schnall
Letters by Tyler Crook
Full color, 96 pages
Trade paperback, 7″ x 10″
Ten years have passed since Emmy left Harrow County. Since then a lot has changed, but what happened to Emmy herself and what adventures did she go on since she forfeited her magical powers and left town with the Abandoned. In this epic and essential tale find out where life has taken her and what dangers lurk in the shadows waiting for her in this story taking place outside of Harrow County for the first time. Collects the four-issue miniseries.