Welcome to the Harrow County Observer, Multiversity Comics’ dedicated “Harrow County” column. Regular readers will know the latest arc, ‘Done Come Back,’ is also the final arc for the series, so we’re doing something a little different. Instead of talking about the arc after it’s finished, we’re discussing each issue as it comes out. This month both writer Cullen Bunn and artist Tyler Crook were able to join us to discuss “Harrow County” #30, and designer Keith Wood joins us for a discussion about his work on the series. Obviously, spoilers ahead if you haven’t read it yet!
Given this is the third last issue, I wasn’t expecting so much of this issue to rest on Bernice’s shoulders. You both know Bernice is my favorite character, so obviously I was pretty happy about this. After the way things were left at the end of ‘Dark Times A’Coming,’ I figured there’d be more friction ahead for the two of them, but after the initial shock of what she’s seen Emmy do, Bernice is surprisingly understanding. Even though the two characters never really share a scene together in this issue exactly, it was nice to see Bernice standing by Emmy’s side in spirit.
Tyler Crook: Even though we started out “Harrow County” with the plan of telling Emmy’s story, I think it pretty quickly evolved to become a story about two different witches who came to their power in two different ways. So it makes sense that Bernice would have stuff to do as we near the end.
I was very conscious of this issue feeling more like Bernice’s issue than Emmy’s, something I hadn’t expected, and it made the turn at the end all the more gut-wrenching.
Cullen Bunn: I wrote that beat as a “twist of the knife,” a moment of true hopelessness and horror. For Bernice to be so careful and frosty and cagey as she prepared to face Hester, then to have all her defenses stripped away, should feel like a kick to the gut.
It did! I came away from this issue thinking how fragile everyone and everything is. In the face of a force like Hester, things can be altered, corrupted, or swept away with a mere wave of a hand. And Emmy, grappling with the loss of a valued part of herself, seems at her most fragile, especially since there’s no undo button on this. Kammi is a part of her now and the Emmy she once was is something she can never return to. You’ve carefully built this universe over the last few years, and now it feels like you’ve set a bull loose in a china shop.
Cullen: It’s strange. I feel like we’ve been building everything toward this moment . . . when we burn it all down! Emmy, having taken Kammi’s power, should feel invincible, but she’s actually more vulnerable than ever before, because, as you noted, she lost the most important part of herself. It’s almost as if when Emmy devoured Kammi, Kammi devoured that source of light within Emmy. And Hester has no remorse, no moral compass. She’s more powerful than ever before, and she’s loving it.
As terrible as it must be for the residents of Harrow County, I must admit I’m loving it too. Tyler, I loved what you did with the colors in this issue. The green bonfire at the beginning is such a striking image, and then reading the rest of the book, practically every page has got sickly greens in it. It feels like the light from that bonfire, and by extension Hester, has infected everything.
Tyler: Rad, Thanks! I kind of decided that green was going to be Hester’s color while I was drawing the cover for #29 with that big eye and the creepy green skin. It made it easier to differentiate the lightning strike that released Hester from the tree. It also makes her bonfire feel fundamentally different from the flaming skeletons. I feel like ever since the Wizard of OZ movie came out green has been the color of evil witches.Continued below
Cullen: Throughout the series, Tyler made so many interesting color choices to set the look of Harrow County apart from any other horror comic out there. It goes all the way back to the first issue, so it’s very satisfying to see it continuing here at the end.
Keith, how did you join the Harrow County team?
Keith Wood: I joined the Harrow County team back in June, 2014. Wow, just saying that aloud makes me realize we’ve been doing this book four years now! I had left my Art Director position at Oni Press to pursue work at an advertising agency here in Portland, Oregon. While at Oni Press, I had the pleasure of working with both Cullen and Tyler for many years. With Cullen specifically designing “The Sixth Gun,” “Helheim,” and “The Damned” among others.
With Tyler we first worked together on designing “Petrograd” and then later with his work on some of the single issues of “The Sixth Gun.” We have a lot of history working together and I love the worlds Cullen crafts. Any chance to work with Cullen and Tyler I jump at. Tyler reminds me monthly how much I appreciate his artwork, and visual storytelling. He’s an excellent collaborator, communicator and both he and Cullen have strong dedication to their work. I don’t ever worry about the work coming in on a time or adhering to schedule. Something I am sure Daniel [Chabon] really appreciates.
To get back to your original question, I believe Tyler asked if I was interested in working on a book with Cullen and himself over at Dark Horse. Daniel Chabon and Lia Ribacchi were kind enough to bring me in and let me be part of the “Harrow County” team. Before I worked at Oni Press, I had been a designer in-house at Dark Horse Comics for many years. It was really Tyler’s request with Cullen, plus having a strong reputation with my former company that made it all happen.
I just want to publicly thank Tyler and Cullen for initially bringing me on board and to Daniel and Lia for making it happen at Dark Horse. I look at my bookshelf and smile at all those titles with their names on them that I have designed.
Tyler: We are so lucky to have you working on the book!
Could you walk us through your design process on “Harrow County”? How do you even begin?
Keith: Initially, I gather as much research as I can on a project. Finding out what makes the project special and unique is always something I look for.
I start by reading the script for the first issue, look at any concept art or sequential pages if available. If it’s an artist I have not worked with before, I look at their past work to get a sense for their style. I always try and compliment the artwork with design. I feel it’s important to marry the two together and feed off the energy of the artwork, while bringing something unique visually to tie the story together on the project. The words to me are just important as the artwork and I try and make sure the design communicates some essence of that to the reader. Either with typography, texture, color or the logo. All the basics of graphic design.
With “Harrow County” specifically, I spoke with Tyler about his thoughts on the design. I read the first issue’s script from Cullen and got a sense of the world that he was creating.
Tyler sent me some reference of old fruit packing labels and that started the discussion on the books logotype. Daniel, Tyler and I met at Darkhorse for an initial meeting which we called Cullen on the phone and ran through ideas. After our meeting it began with work on logo design and choosing typography. I started work on some of the supporting elements like textures, icons, and the overall style in the layout. Working back and forth with everyone until we landed the final design.Continued below
The logo is such a perfect fit for the series, I honestly have trouble imagining it as any else.
Keith: One thing I want to mention specifically about the design is that Tyler had this wonderful idea of opening every issue with a double page spread! He would then illustrate and incorporate the title “Harrow County” into the artwork. This is one of the the things I really love about this book in particular. Tyler’s vision for how the book is first presented to the reader in a fun and thoughtful way. You could have an entire interview just discussing his double page spreads. I’d be curious to know which issues are everyone’s favorites. Honestly for me, it’s hard to choose even a handful. I like all of them for different reasons, and each and everyone is so unique.
Starting later this year “Harrow County” is coming out in a four-volume set of library editions. This is the deluxe presentation of the story, so what do you have planned for us?
Cullen: Almost since the first arc was collected as a trade paperback, we’ve been getting questions about when it would come out in hardcover. Our answer has always been “We’re not sure.” And that wasn’t a matter of us trying to be sneaky. We really didn’t know if the series would have a hardcover release until very recently. We always thought it deserved the Library Edition treatment… and it meant a lot that so many readers felt the same… but we weren’t banking on it. Now that the hardcovers are coming, we’re going all out with them. They are going to be the ultimate “Harrow County” editions!
Keith: As Cullen said, I had imagined this series getting a deluxe version early on. I was probably one of those people asking the question. (Laughs.) We were not sure the plan moving forward in the early stages as the book was just taking off. I feel that printing Tyler’s watercolors at a larger trim size will really showcase his artwork in a new way and let readers pour over each and every detail. We had a lot of bonus content in the original trade paperbacks, so that will be showcased in these volumes as well.
Tyler: I don’t know if I have much to add. I’m super excited about putting these books together. We are trying hard to make these the definitive versions of the book.
I can’t wait to see the art in an over-size format (8 x 12.2 inches / 20 x 31 cm); it’s a presentation “Harrow County” really deserves. And from what I understand, you’re going all out with the extras too with all the material from the single issues and the trades.
Tyler: I think we are finally going to collect all the extras from the floppies and combine them with all the sketchbook stuff from the trades. There are so many amazing contributors and so many great little stories. It’s going to be a lot of stuff in there.
Keith, I love the deluxe editions for “The Sixth Gun.” When you approach these deluxe formats, what’s important to you to make the book feel special?
Keith: Thank you. “The Sixth Gun” is a labor of love for everyone involved and it’s no different with “Harrow County.” It’s a passion for creating the best book that we possibly can. Anyone that has read the series knows how much fun everyone is having. It truly shows in the work.
I approach the deluxe book with a few things in mind. First, what can I do to make the project unique and feel special? It may be in the printing techniques or in extra bonus content. I also try and look at it from a consumer and fan’s point of view. Would this be something I would purchase as a fan who may have already bought the original series? Does it also draw attention to potential new readers seeing it for the first time in a store? I geek out over all this stuff and do my best to get all the details right so that when someone picks up the book, or talks to one of the creators at a show, it’s a must have.Continued below
The content as we all know is fantastic, but what more can we do to make it something to be proud of and want to display or share with a friend? Answering that question is always on my mind.
I look forward to seeing the finished library editions.
Keith: Thank you Mark. We are all going to put in our best efforts to make them unique. I think the larger format will be really special and something fans will love.
The “Harrow County – Volume 1” library edition is coming October 24, 2018.
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Tyler Crook
The first chapter of the highly acclaimed, Eisner nominated horror fantasy tale in deluxe, oversized hardcover format.
Collects the first two volumes of Harrow County in a deluxe, hardcover, and oversized format with a new cover, sketchbook material, essays, “Tales from Harrow County” bonus stories by guest creators, and more!
Emmy always knew that the woods surrounding her home crawled with ghosts and monsters. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she learns that she is connected to these creatures—and to the land itself—in a way she never imagined.
And look for “Harrow County” #31 on May 30, 2018.
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Tyler Crook
Emmy steps out and confronts Hester once and for all for a final showdown in this penultimate issue!