Since it began in 2015, “Southern Bastards” have become one of my favorite series. The two creators, Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, are Southerners themselves, with Aaron coming from Alabama (where the comic is set) and Latour growing up in North Carolina. The comic is a love letter to the Deep South, and a critical look all at once. At C2E2, I had a chance to hear the two Jasons talk about their work.
What struck me the most was how soft spoken they both turned out to be. Jason Aaron is a big guy, with a bigger beard, and is famous for writing bombastic badasses like Wolverine and Thor. Jason Latour also strikes a pretty imposing figure, and is the co-creator of Spider-Gwen. Both of them have quiet voices, the kind that force you to lean in and really focus on what they are saying. This contrasts sharply with their work, which is full of angry, awful people, yelling and murdering each other every issue.
I was also struck at how unusual their partnership was. Comics creators, particularly on creator-owned work, often come across as big fans of each others work, and spend a lot of time humbly telling everyone how lucky they are to be working together. Not the Jasons. They bicker like brothers, and their work seems stronger for it.
Jason Aaron had created a character for his creator-owned comic “Scalped” (which Latour occasionally did art for) who never made it in the book. The character was a crime boss/football coach which readers of “Southern Bastards” will have already figured out eventually became Coach Euless Boss. When Aaron pitched the idea to Latour he was unconvinced that the idea could be translated into a comic. “Who the fuck is gonna read a football comic?” Latour remembers asking (the Jasons swear about as much as their characters do).
He said no to the book. Aaron though went back to writing, creating the cast of characters who would eventually be the residents of Craw County. He showed Latour his work; Latour said no again. “Who wants to draw forty characters?” he said, “That’s too many characters and too many pages.” Then Jason Aaron told him the story of Earl Tubb, a hard man coming back to his hometown, only to find it taken over by some punk he remembered from high school: Coach Boss. It was that prologue that really brought Latour around, and started to get his imagination firing up.
That anecdote seemed to be a microcosm of their entire working relationship. Aaron would enthusiastically pitch an idea to Latour, who would skeptically fire back, but through their back and forth, a comic would emerge. “I want to do a character who’s a redneck samurai,” Aaron would say, and Latour would shoot him down and instead come up with a Pentecostal character who handles snakes. The two ideas merged in the form of Boone, one of the most memorable (and least seen) characters in the comic so far.
There was a lot of joking as to the Southern influences of the book. The frequently seen dog is based on Jason Latour’s brother’s dog, who mauled Jason Aaron when they first met- and Aaron still has the scars to show for it! They talked about taking cues from <i>BJ and the Bear</i> and <i> Dukes of Hazard</i>, which Aaron said is in the DNA of every comic that he’s ever written. They talked delicious BBQ, and Jason Latour pitched a crossover where the Craw County Running Rebs play Archie’s Riverdale in football, which may be the greatest idea I’ve ever heard.
The comic is obviously very real to the two of them. You could see how hard Aaron was thinking as he described the fall of Coach Boss, who holds football as sacred, but is slowly seeing it tainted by his life of crime. And Jason Latour was similarly serious when he remembered being inspired by the cover of Cormac McCarthy’s <i>No Country for Old Men</i>, which is strikingly red. It evoked a feeling of Southern heat, hence the prominent red color scheme throughout the book.
Towards the end of the conversation, things took a solemn turn. Jason Latour apologized for the recent lateness of the book, and spoke a little bit about his father’s passing. He was more than a little bit choked up as he explained how hard it was to draw a book full of such bastards as he sat with his father, who was anything but. It was hard for him to get to that awful place when he wanted to be with his dad, who sounds like a wonderful guy. Latour thanked the book’s passionate fans for their understanding and support, and everyone in the room got a little bit misty eyed.Continued below
Then a fan tried to lighten the conversation by asking the Jasons what their favorite comfort food was. Jason Aaron repped his favorite Kansas City BBQ place (which I, as a damn Northerner, didn’t catch the name of, please drop Kansas City ribs recommendations in the comments!) but Jason Latour’s answer was a bit more surprising. “Fig Newtons,” he said, “I just ate an entire sleeve right now before coming up here.”
The shipping schedule for “Southern Bastards” is back on track. It’s at the top of my list for recommendations of comics for people who don’t like superheroes and fantasy. It’s clear that the two Jasons love each other a lot, so much that they aren’t afraid to argue in public, because they know it’s through their brotherly bickering that a great comic gets written.