Clearly, Tyler Crook and Cullen Bunn were not ready to say goodbye to Harrow County and the dark and creepy goings on in the woods surrounding the home of Emmy Crawford. The southern gothic horror story, nee Countless Haints on Bunn’s personal website, has evolved since its creation, morphing from the ten-chapter serialized prose to a Dark Horse series that ran from 2015 to 2018.
“When I first started writing the prose version of Countless Haints, I never imagined where it might be heading,” Bunn told WWAC in an email interview. “I certainly didn’t expect such a gorgeous comic book to be developed. But I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished with Harrow County. Now that it has come to exist as a comic, I’m certain that this was the way it was meant to be read. And it’s still changing and evolving.”
If you haven’t read the Eisner Award-nominated, Ghastly Award-winning series, you really should, but don’t let that stop you from discovering the next step in Bunn and Crook’s adventure, Tales from Harrow County. If you’ve never read Harrow County, but you want to give this book a try—go for it,” says Bunn. “It stands pretty well on its own. It’s a new story with a (mostly) new cast. It has a different tone, while still being true to the original series. So—please—don’t deprive yourself of this story! Now, once you dive in, you’re going to WANT to find out more about Harrow, and there are some wonderful collected editions to help you do just that!”
Tales from Harrow County introduces new characters, and the first story in the new series, “Death’s Choir,” also introduces a new artist, Naomi Franquiz. Franquiz, whose previous work includes Mistfit City and Songbird for a Vulture, has big shoes to fill. Crook chose to challenge himself with the original series, illustrating and painting it all by hand instead of digitally, and even sharing his processes online. The distinctive style and gorgeous watercolour work earned Crook ample praise for good reason. With Tales, he’s stepping away from the art, but has no qualms about doing so.
“I think it’s exciting,” he said, “With the original series, we had fill-in issues by the amazing Carla Speed McNeil, Jenn Manly Lee and Hannah Lavender (known in the first printing as Hannah Christenson). In all those cases I found it really fun to see how other people interpreted the material. Their takes on the characters and world then went on to inform how I drew stuff. Seeing what Naomi is doing has been really cool. She definitely has her own approach to the world. But it’s an approach that is true to the world and especially true to the characters. Also, I love Harrow County and it’s really fun to get to read some of it without having to worry about how I’m going to get the whole thing drawn and painted in time. That’s Naomi’s problem!”
Franquiz’s work in this first issue is stellar and worthy of praise itself. Stepping in to become a part of the Harrow County legacy has proven to be “simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking (in a good way),” Franquiz explained. “I read the first arc of the story before I was approached to participate and was immediately entrenched in the art and story-telling. So, when I finally caught up and realized I’d be stepping into the world of Harrow, I thought: ‘How the hell am I going to illustrate this in a way that fits the story and meets the high bar Tyler set?’ The best part about Harrow County is that the world and its magic is so expansive and there’s plenty of room to play and experiment artistically, so it’s been fun to mess around with paint and ink.”
Ten years have gone by in Tales from Harrow County and Emmy has moved on, leaving her good friend in charge of her supernatural home. World War II is well underway and many of the young men of Harrow County have been called away. And too many of the parents of those young men are greeted at their door by the local postman baring the worst possible news. The community is already hurting, but when a ghost choir brings about the resurrection of the fallen, Bernice must fix the ghastly problem before the town is overwhelmed.
Bunn is steadily establishing himself as a master of comics horror writing and has already filled WWAC in on what the genre means to him, but Crook and Franquiz have their own perspectives to share.
“Horror—for me—really is best when it’s unknown and unseen,” offered Franquiz. ” As soon as a movie or story reveals its monster or villain in its entirety (appearance, goals, motives), it stops being scary to me. It instead becomes a puzzle with a solution that I usually end up predicting. Horror for me needs to leave me still thinking about it after I’m done with the story. It needs to linger. It needs to haunt me at 3 AM when I think I’m over it, but surprise—I’m not.”
“I don’t know if I have a solid handle on what horror is,” Crook said. “Being alive and living a human life serves up so many horrors and they all seem to be totally unique. Maybe horror is when you know there is something unknown and malignant, just beyond your vision. And you have to know what it is but the knowing of it will also release it.”
“As a husband and father, the idea of anything bad happening to my wife or son freezes my blood,” said Bunn when asked what scared him the most. And what really scares Crook and Franquiz?
“I’m not really scared of death, ya know, as a concept,” said Crook. “Like I’m not scared of being dead. But I am terrified by the idea of dying suddenly without being able to prepare for it in anyway. Also crickets. They give me the willies!”
People are mostly what scare Franquiz. “Waking up one day and suddenly realizing that a person isn’t who I thought they were. People are capable of wonderful and terrible things, and the anxiety that comes with waiting to see which they’ll show me (if any) literally keeps me up at night. And because clowns count as people, just gonna go ahead and toss them into the ‘nope’ lot. The biggest nope.”
Discover what horrors haunt the people of Harrow County on December 18th when the first issue of “Death’s Choir” will be available from Dark Horse. But this four-part miniseries is just the beginning, Bunn promises. “There are so, so many more stories to tell in this world.”