When it comes to slasher stories in comics, it’s few and far between. Luckily, Harrower aims to resolve that deficit. Crafted by writer Justin Jordan and artist Brahm Revel (and with letters by Pat Brosseau), this four-issue series explores a horrifying ancient legend that lurks within a small, forgotten town. Something we can all relate to, probably!
Set in the quaint town of Barlowe, New York, most high school kids believe that the Harrower is a made-up boogeyman. It turns out, though, it’s not an urban legend, and he’s returned. With expert-level writing of our teenage protagonists (not to mention ample gore), Jordan and Revel make us believe the boogeyman is real and out for the youngsters’ blood.
With the second issue debuting March 15, I spoke to writer Jordan to understand where this story originated. We also dug into the writing process around gore, working with Revel, and more!
AIPT: To start, Harrower feels like a story that has been brewing for some time. How long have you been sitting on this great concept?
Justin Jordan: I’d have a better answer for that if time hadn’t collapsed a couple of years ago. Heh. I think probably four or five years now. I’d tell you my bad Hollywood pitch for it, but it’d spoil the ending.
AIPT: Is Harrower an ode or celebration of New England in any way? The “monster” seems to be like a pilgrim!
JJ: Kinda! It depends on whether you consider upstate New York to be New England or not, because one of the things I was specifically drawing from was Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The Harrower look isn’t intended to specifically pilgrimy, but it IS supposed to look like it’s from that era, so…
AIPT: Were there any legends you learned about in grade school?
JJ: Oh, lots. I don’t think I learned any of them from the teachers, aside from the general kind like how Thanksgiving worked and such, but the area I come from has local legends like the Broad Top Snake, a giant, well, snake. Allegedly personally seen by my great-grandfather amongst others.
AIPT: Right out of the gate, this series feels like a world fully realized. How do you approach building characters? Do you write bios on them and backstories?
JJ: Thanks! They each get a kind of written mini sketch that lays out their background, basic personality, and in this series, the kind of archetypical slasher role they’re either fulfilling or subverting (or both). The town and the Harrower also have pretty extensive note documents, detailing a couple hundred years of history.
AIPT: Brahm Revel’s art is fantastic, too. How much goes into the color story — which is gloriously done here — as well as the costuming?
JJ: The color work, which like the rest of the art is amazing, is all Brahm, and I freaking love it. I’d have never thought of it, and it really elevates the whole thing. Likewise, his character design for the Harrower is amazing. That, I had more involvement with, and he knocked it out the park.
But even for the kids, he really makes them visually distinct through their style and fashion, which is really important for this type of story.
AIPT: When it comes to slashers, and let me know if it’s okay to call this a slasher, is there an art to figuring out new ways to chop people up?
JJ: It is 1,000% a slasher. And, yes, I do actually give the kills a lot of thought. It’s the same as fight scenes, which I also overthink — you want a sort of signature style, but you don’t want it to get repetitive.
Although sometimes I just tell Brahm to go wild, because he needs to have fun, too.
AIPT: This was our favorite comic on the AIPT Comics podcast a few weeks ago, and we adore the tension. How do you approach a story with a bit of mystery, giving just enough info to get folks turning the pages?
JJ: Carefully and with great difficulty. Hah. The trick here is we’re only working with four issues, so there’s a tension on the craft side between building character, building a mystery, and allowing the horror space to breathe. Pacing is maybe more important in horror than anything else, so juggling all those takes a lot of work.
It helps that I am (arguably) an overplanner, so I do actually know all the clues and stuff we’re spooling out. But the series moves pretty dang fast, so finding the balance is continually pretty tricky. So far, people seem to be digging it.
AIPT: What are some of your favorite horror movies or novels that may or may not have influenced this tale?
JJ: Halloween, obviously. Particularly the original, but I won’t lie, I’ve got a soft spot for some of the sequels. I’ve been rewatching the Scream series while writing this, and it’s an influence. In somewhat more obscure inspirations, the French films Martyrs and Inside (both of which have subpar American remakes, so go with the originals) are in there, which becomes much clearer as the series goes.
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