One of the coolest debuts of recent history was Harrow County #1, so it was a real pleasure to catch up with creators Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook at this year’s Emerald City Comicon.
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: So thanks to the team from Harrow County for joining me. I really enjoyed the first issue. It’s got a lot of kind of interesting, mystical, witching elements to it.
Cullen Bunn: Thank you. My favorite sorts of supernatural story element, I think, are witches. I was happy to do this book since I can put so many of the things from these supernatural stories that I grew up listening to and hearing from older relatives and other kids from school and everything. This book draws on a lot of that kind of stuff and puts it out there in comic book form.
CB: That small town farm town girl who seems to have something that’s about to happen is so eerie. This girl is about to turn eighteen. You get the sense that there’s a connection to a witch burning that happened earlier in the story. In the first issue it feels like everything is about to blow up. Did you create it specifically so it feels like a spring that’s about to pop?
Bunn: I didn’t necessarily think about this when I was writing it, but growing up is a very scary time. The moment between kid and adulthood can be a very terrifying time, always changing. This book of course takes that to a whole other level because Emi is connected to these supernatural elements in a way that she has never expected. It’s really going to change her world in major ways.
Tyler Crook: She’s discovering stuff about her parents that she didn’t know before that’s pretty freaky when that happens in real life.
CB: Does she have any idea what is happening to her? It seems like she’s very innocent?
Crook: I feel like in her heart, she has a sense of what is happening, but she doesn’t cognitively know it. So as she’s learning it, things are sort of feeling comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time for her.
Bunn: I think there’re a lot of strange things happening around her. While these are things she doesn’t expect to happen, her reactions to them are very matter of fact. There’re things going on that she’s very calm in the face of these supernatural elements.
CB: It strikes me that she has had this small world that she has lived in. It has really just been she and her dad. I get the impression that she doesn’t often go into town and doesn’t have a lot of friends outside. So all of this strangeness is just kind of part of her life just like the woods are around the house.
Bunn: Yeah, absolutely. She’s definitely lived a sequestered life. But she has always known the shadows are full of these different things. And she knows that they are out there and she just accepts them. But, just as Tyler said, she has always known her father too, and now she’s seeing a different side of her father starting to emerge. She’s seeing a different side of these elements that she has always just taken for granted.
CB: How do you approach creating a story that seems to have just a few characters at the core – almost a character study as it begins – versus something much larger like Sixth Gun?
Bunn: Well, I think there’s a bigger cast for Harrow County that we’re layering in. We’re just doing it much, much more slowly. It’s much more deliberately paced in the introduction to these characters. Tyler and I have even talked; I think there’re characters that we could be seeing stories from other characters’ point of views as this goes on.
Crook: That’s why we called it Harrow County.
CB: I was wondering about that, right. So this is going to expand out? We’re going to meet a lot more people from this world?
Crook: Yeah. There’re a lot of really interesting things. And one of the things we’re doing with the book is in the back of the first couple of issues; we have a one page back-up story that’s Tales of Harrow County. I am such an asshole; I am spacing on the artist who’s working on that. [Artist: Owen Gieni] He’s doing such a great job. And those are stories that are unrelated to the main plot and they are just stories about weird shit that happens in Harrow County.
CB: Okay. And how did you approach creating the world of Harrow County? You had certain concepts presented to you, but how closely were you tied to the creation of it and how did you develop the characters?
Crook: Well, most of it Cullen had from way back.
Bunn: From at least a few years ago.
Crook: The only thing I think I brought to it was I was like, “Let’s set it in the thirties.”
Bunn: I had written the story. It was a modern, but it was still set sort of in an area that had sort of a timeless quality. But Tyler definitely came in with the idea of setting it in the thirties.
Crook: That’s a way scarier time than today.
CB: In a lot of ways. No Internet for one thing. But it’s got a great gothic feel to it. I missed the credit. Did you color it or did someone else color it?
Crook: I am doing all of the art and I am even doing the lettering for this book.
CB: The coloring especially brings out so much mood and it just feels so much more intense with the element to it.
Crook: Well, thanks. I am going sort of traditional, where I pencil and ink. But then I am also going back with watercolor and coloring all of it with watercolor. So it’s not digitally colored at all.
CB: So you are hand doing everything?
CB: Which I guess fits the thirties time period, too.
Crook: And it allows you to get sort of a blotchy, organic, earthly feel that you couldn’t really get digitally. Or it would be difficult to get digitally.
CB: That explains why it felt so different to me.
Bunn: There’s some pretty amazing time-lapsed videos of Tyler doing the art that just shows basically him bringing these pages to life that have been posted online and stuff.
CB: Oh, good. I’ll drop them in there. I have been told I have one more question. I have to ask you how it feels to be finishing Sixth Gun after all this time.
Bunn: It’s pretty bittersweet because I love these characters. I have been working with them for so long. But I also think it’s important to have an ending to a story. It’s very satisfying to be bringing that story to its conclusion. But it’s a little sad. I will miss some of those characters quite a bit.
CB: Did you have the ending in mind all the long?
Bunn: Yes. We knew how it was going to end from very early on, like within the first three issues. We didn’t know exactly what issue, but we knew exactly how it would end.
CB: Okay. Are you one of these creators that plots everything out way ahead of time so when you are doing issue five what was going to be in issue thirty?
Bunn: I try to when I can. It’s not always that way, but that’s a nice safety net to have when I have plotted it out that way.