Welcome to another edition of Post-Game. As the title suggests, we’re aping a little NFL-inspired post-game coverage for the realm of comics, allowing a slew of creators to come in and examine their work after the fact. Through this rare instance of hindsight, we can all gain a better appreciation for our favorite stories and series and better grasp the truly nuanced creative process. And unlike with football, we promise no (excessively) wacky graphics or needlessly bulky suits.
For more from the series, check out Ben Fisher breaking down The Great Divide, Anthony Del Col covering Nancy Drew And The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, David Avallone delving into Doc Savage, Phil Hester dissecting Family Tree, Jeff Parker tackling James Bond Origin and Mark Russell discussing Lone Ranger.
Creative Team: Written by Dennis Culver and art by Justin Greenwood
Story Arc: A five-issue miniseries.
Original Release Date: November 2019 to March 2020
Synopsis: Now a recluse living on a secluded mountaintop, Crone (f/k/a Bloody Bliss) picks up her sword once when a threat from the past mysteriously reemerges..
AIPT’s Thoughts: From this writer’s review of issue #5: “Because this story felt really real to me, and I experienced every tragedy and triumph alongside this dynamic cast. It’s rare to feel so deeply connected to a story (at least for me), and it’s no small feat to make the grief and glory feel so devastatingly real for five full issues.”
All fives issues of Crone are available now.
How do you feel now that this story’s been told? Is there a sense of relief, or are there any uneasy feelings? Was its creation/development a “good” experience overall?
Justin Greenwood: It’s been long enough since I’ve drawn Bliss and crew that I miss spending so much time with them! The only relief I ever really feel is having met my deadlines but it’s hard to step away after spending so much time in a world that didn’t exist before we started.
Making comics can be such a personal experience and inevitably requires a leap of faith between your creative team to jump into an idea with both feet and build something out of nothing. Also, I’ve known Dennis for many years and hoped we eventually would get to work together on something so this whole process has been especially gratifying.
Dennis Culver: It definitely feels great to have the complete story out there. We got a lot of great feedback and I feel like we told the story we intended to tell. I’m proud of the work. A great experience. I wouldn’t change anything.
Are you the type of artist/writer to go back and think about what worked or didn’t with a story or the overall volume? Is that process helpful at all?
JG: When I’m in the heat of working on a book I spend all day/every day thinking about the material but once it’s done, I don’t spend a lot of time looking back. When every issue is complete, I always give it a thorough once over and think critically about what I did well and what I should consider for next time.
DC: I do like to review past work and see where it succeeded or failed but I think I’m too close to this one right now. Talk to me in a couple years 🙂
How do you think the overall storyline or larger aesthetic/visual identity played out now that you’re looking at it as a wholly completed project? Has that shifted at all?
JG: I thought Crone was a great idea from the start but it grew and developed into something new as we began to collaborate and build creative momentum . Looking over it all now, I’m impressed by how thematically consistent some of the elements are and it’s a tribute to Dennis’ foresight and planning more than anything else.
The book as a really unique rhythm that works really well for this story and it stands out to me as I read it over now. We introduce a lot of questions from the outset but they all pay off over the course of the story and in often unexpected ways.
DC: It’s interesting to compare where we started with the outline versus where we ended up. All the beats are there but I think we hit things on a much deeper level than anticipated. It resonates and that feels good.
What kind of feedback have you received? Has any of that helped shape some of your thoughts on the larger series/story?
JG: One thing I’ve noticed about Crone is that it consistently gets a big response when I’ve describing the concept to folks. There is a spark there that teems with potential and I love that it’s so easily and often noticed. The challenge for me was trying to visually serve that potential and make something that left the reader both satisfied and wanting more of it.
DC: Crone has a straight ahead concept that lures people into the work. Which lets us surprise readers with a few unexpected turns. Feedback never really shaped the work as we were pretty far ahead once the first issue launched. From what I saw it people the way we wanted it to hit. I think the works stands solidly on it’s own.
What, if anything, surprised you about how the story or visual narrative plays out in hindsight? Is there some reaction or emotion now associated with the series that you might not have felt during the actual creative process?
JG: Looking over the series again, I’m struck by how well the colors play a part in the narrative. Brad (Simpson) has a really strong ability to give every comic he works on it’s own unique feel. The emotional beats in this story are so much better because of the palette choices he made and there is a great clarity from a storytelling perspective that adds to the rhythm of the story.
DC: Agreed! Brad brought a mood and intensity to the story that elevated the whole damn thing. That logo by Pat Brosseau as well brought a secret sauce needed to sell the book. One look at that first cover by Justin, Brad, and Pat and you know what’s up.
I don’t have a lot of hindsight about this one because I can’t imagine this book unfolding any other way
Now that it’s finished, how would you describe the series/story to someone (what’s your best elevator pitch)? Did that change at all from before publication?
JG: I’m pretty sure Dennis described it to me the first time as “Red Sonja meets Unforgiven,” and I was sold.
DC: Yeah our concept was very straightforward. Even without the Hollywood elevator, “An old warrior picks up her sword one last time to face her greatest enemy.” does the job every time.
Did you have any goals going into the project? Did you “complete” those in some way?
JG: My goals going into a project are typically pretty selfish. I’d never drawn a fantasy-style book and wanted to give it a try but in a way that kept it feeling grounded in practical ways. Building up a fantasy world allows for a freedom and spontaneity I enjoyed a lot. We talked a lot initially about how the world should feel and designed all the major characters in advance but there is always a lot of room to improvise on the fly when they exist in a world that started as a blank slate.
DC: I think what Justin is saying is “WE NAILED IT!”
Is there anything you might do differently in writing/illustrating/coloring/etc.? Some things you wish had played out differently?
JG: NO (Joking). I don’t know, there are always nitpicky details I would change in retrospect but I’ve been pretty happy with how this book came out. The one thing that stands out to me is just how fast it all came together! Once we formally got started, we all went hard on the book and then suddenly we were finalizing the book design and realizing it was over.
DC: This book came together fast and even though we never worked together previously Justin and I had been friends for quite some time and thankfully we meshed real well creatively. Justin had worked with Brad on previous projects and preferred him on colors so that was a no-brainer. Pat is a master letterer whose worked all kinds of incredible books. Justin was coming off a project with him so it made sense to keep the band together as it were. I think we found our rhythm quickly and our editor at Dark Horse, Brett Israel, was always there at the right moment to keep us on track as well.
It’s a great team!
Inversely, what do you think are the highlights of the story? What are the points in which you excelled as you’re looking at the whole project from a distance?
JG: The final page of issue #4 still stands out to me as a highlight in terms of craft- from the story revelations leading up to the cliffhanger visual of the ending, it really shows off this team firing on all cylinders. That image of the falling Bliss is really compelling and tough in the context of the story.
That opening sequence to issue #1 remains one of my favorites too, and still encapsulates the heart of this story so well that I often visually identify the book with that first five to seven pages.
DC: Like Justin said, the opening of Issue 1 was something cooking in my head for a while. Also the opening of issue 5 was something I only had vague notions about in the outline but once I got through the first four issues of script and had seen the art for a few issues it all came together in my mind. Justin nailed it on execution. Honestly I just so proud of this whole book from the covers to the character design and the dramatic arcs of all the characters as well.
Do you have any final thoughts or observations on the story/series?
JG: I’m really proud of this book, especially in retrospect. This comic grew out of a casual conversation with a friend and took on a life of it’s own until it became something tangible and impressive. Bloody Bliss is one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever drawn and getting to tell her story was a really rewarding experience.
DC: Terrific experience and a very successful collaboration. I hope I get to work with Justin again real soon. If anyone missed it while it was coming out monthly I hope they give it chance once the collection hits later this year.