Harrow County is the perfect comic book for this, the most spooky time of the year. In the series, a cozy Southern town sits on the edge of a forest, filled with all sorts of delightful and dark folktale creatures, with witches and magic infusing the very DNA of the land. It’s a tale as scary as it is wonderfully constructed and delivered.
Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s Southern Gothic fairy tale recently gained a talented new artist in the form of watercolor guru Naomi Franquiz. Together, the three are bringing fans back the beloved blood-drenched town in an upcoming mini-series, Tales from Harrow County: Death’s Choir #1.
We caught up with the three creators to talk not only about the book but artistic choices, building new stories, and their favorite Halloween traditions.
AIPT: Cullen and Tyler, you two have been collaborating on Harrow County for over four years now and nearly every issue had backup stories inside. Was Death’s Choir and Bernice’s upcoming adventure originally supposed to be a backup story that was too big to tell or did you come to this after you had finished Harrow County proper?
Tyler Crook: It definitely wasn’t planned as a back up story. We started talking about a doing Tales From Harrow County series almost as soon as we nailed down the ending to Harrow County. But at that point, the only thing we knew for sure was that we wanted to center these stories on Berniece.
Cullen Bunn: Yeah, this was never a planned backup story. Those stories never really featured any of the main cast from the book and were always intended as fun little asides. We kicked around a number of ideas for this book, all of them coming together after the original series ended.
AIPT: Death’s Choir follows Bernice ten years after the end of Harrow County during World War II. How did you guys land on this time period? What makes it right for the story you’re telling?
CB: There were a number of reasons for the time period, many of which are connected in a significant way to this specific story. Another reason, though, was to put some distance between the original series and this one. We wanted this to feel like its own book, to feel like something new. And we wanted Bernice to be familiar, but to have changed in the time since she and Emmy parted ways.
AIPT: Cullen and Tyler, you created a world that has witches, goblins, necromancers, psychopomps, gods, demons, and a slew of other creatures. Do you ever find yourself falling down your own lore and folk tale rabbit holes when creating new creatures for the Harrow County universe? Where, say, you simply needed a new spooky entity for a few panels and suddenly you’ve created something that’s got enough backstory to have its own stories?
CB: Oh, for sure! Doing research on folk tales is treacherous at best. I’ll lose hours with that if I’m not careful. In fact, some of the planning for this book led me into some new and interesting directions that might “haunt” Harrow County for years to come. Even more tricky for me is looking up folk magic. I am fascinated by how practitioners of magic work their rituals and incantations. I love incorporating that stuff into Harrow County stories, and I spend a good amount of time creating new bits of folk mysticism that “feels” real.
TC: There are so many different types of monsters in Harrow County that it can be really hard to come up with new, unique designs. That’s one of the advantages of bringing on an artist like Naomi Franquiz. She can bring her own design sensibilities to the book and really make these new creatures stand out.
AIPT: Naomi, I think it’s fair to say that watercolors aren’t the most traditional medium found in comic books these days, but Harrow County made it work. Not only is your artwork stunningly beautiful, but the sequential storytelling is superbly done and is definitely hitting the high bar Tyler set. How did you get involved in the project?
Naomi Franquiz: Thank you! Watercolor is my favorite traditional medium, and comics my favorite narrative medium, so finding Harrow County was a clutch find as a fan. I’ve been a fan of Tyler’s work for a while, and we’ve followed each other on Twitter for about as long haha. He approached me to see if I’d be interested in painting a miniseries for Harrow County and I absolutely was. These days I mostly work digitally in comics, so getting the chance to stretch my watercolor legs and be part of one of my favorite stories was too good to miss.
AIPT: In the past Cullen has described Harrow County as a Southern Gothic fairy tale whose main overarching theme is destiny. Does Death’s Choir hold true to that? Or is there a different core to this tale?
CB: I think that description still works. Yes, I want this to be a new story. Yes, I want new readers to pick this up without feeling lost. But I also want it to feel like Harrow County.
AIPT: Are you guys all practitioners of the annual “31 Days of Halloween” horror movie event? Or do you have different Halloween traditions you excitedly follow each year?
CB: I have a number of traditions for Halloween. I always watch a ton of horror movies, both old and new. I make chili. I write a short horror story featuring a recurring Halloween character, and I repost older stories and post the new story on my Patreon on Halloween day. I go to as many haunted houses as I can manage. This year, my son and I are putting together a yard haunt for Halloween night.
TC: It feels like we’ve been moving around a lot the last several years. And we somehow managed to have a series of leases that end at the end of Oct. So we’ve been loading a lot of moving vans on Halloween. It’s a terrible Halloween tradition and I’m never going to do it again!
NF: My October/Halloween tradition usually ends up being an annual rewatch of series and movies I love. Hocus Pocus, of course, Over the Garden Wall, and now What We Do in the Shadows (the film and TV series) is on the list. I’m a fan of Halloween Camp, you see. Definitely less work than moving every October. (Fingers crossed you’re done with that, Tyler!!)
Tales from Harrow County: Death’s Choir #1 hits shelves on December 18 via Dark Horse Comics. Check with your local comic book store to pre-order.