Harrow County is my favorite on-going comic series out right now and it’s always a pleasure to catch up with Cullen Bunn to chat about it. But first, know that Cullen Bunn didn’t tell us when Harrow County is going to end (not that we didn’t ask so that we could try to prepare for it). It’s only a little bittersweet that we were assured there is an ending planned and that we are quickly “rocketing” towards it.
Besides talking about that, we also spoke with Bunn about how his perception of who the main characters of the series were has changed since we last spoke to him at San Diego Comic Con in 2016, his collaboration with Harrow County artist Tyler Crook, and how we’re all champions of Bernice getting her own series. Seriously, Dark Horse, what kind of bribery will it take?
There are no spoilers for the series in our interview and if you haven’t yet had the chance to check out Harrow County, we can’t recommend it enough! Issue #25 will be released September 13, 2017 and Harrow County Vol. 6: Hedge Magic – my favorite arc to date – will be released October 11, 2017 and collects issues #21 – 24.
The last time we spoke, you said Harrow County itself was the main character of your series. It’s been a year since we talked about that and, with all of these outside influences making their way into Harrow County, do you still feel that way?
No, that’s a great question because I remember saying that. I think now, I wouldn’t say that Emmy is the main character, but she’s one of two main characters – one of two or three main characters. There’s Emmy, there’s Bernice, and there’s Kammi.
Those three characters I feel like are all the main characters – even Kammi who hasn’t been in the book very much until recently. I think they’ve taken the place of Harrow County as the main characters and they each have their own story to tell. A year ago, I would’ve said Harrow County was the main character, but my opinion on that has shifted to definitely being a story about those three.
Are you focusing on any specific main character at a time or are you trying to keep them connected in ways?
I think Emmy is always going to be sort of the forefront character. Although in the last arc, Bernice surfaced more into the forefront and in the next arc Kammi surfaces a little more to the forefront. It just depends on the story arc. In the end it’s still Emmy’s story, but those other two characters are neck and neck almost as important.
Now that it’s been over two years of this book going on, how has your collaboration with Tyler Crook evolved over time since you started?
I don’t know that it’s changed that much. It’s always been a very natural collaboration between the two of us, even from the earliest conversations when we weren’t sure what we were going to work on. We pitched a lot of things back and forth until I sent him some short story stuff I had done for Harrow County (at the time it was called Countless Haints), for the book that would become Harrow County.
It’s always been a very natural back and forth. I talk to Tyler very often, definitely every time an issue gets ready to go. We talk about what’s going to happen and what he wants to see from it, the things he’s enjoying or is worried about. So we talk about the story and direction it’s going frequently, but I don’t know that I’d say it’s changed in any way. It’s always just felt like a very natural, very easy collaboration.
It hasn’t changed how you’ve scripted or anything? You haven’t given him any different kinds of freedoms throughout?
No, Tyler knows he has as much freedom as he wants. But my scripts, honestly, I don’t script differently for anyone. I’ve worked with Tyler now for a couple years. I still don’t write shorthand, I don’t shorthand anything for him.
Same with Brian Hurtt for instance, who I did The Sixth Gun with and I’m doing The Damned with. I’ve worked with him for over ten years and he gets the same style of script as anyone else. My mind doesn’t work in a way that I can shorthand a script.
I could. I could write a very shorthand, very quick script because I know what Tyler’s going to do with it and I know he’s going to make it magic, but I also want to give him as much as he can have to work with. Yes, if he wants to change stuff, he’s going to change it. But I trust him, I’ve trusted him from the very beginning and that’s just the nature of how we work together.
Since it’s been going on for so long and there are a lot of callbacks now that you can see from earlier issues, what is your process for setting up the pay-off for longtime readers of Harrow County?
I had a vague idea of where the story was going early on, but now I have an issue by issue beat sheet of what’s going to happen in the series to the very end. There’s an ending coming and we’ve had that for a while now.
As the first couple of arcs took shape, big story points took root and then we knew where we were going. But now it’s so clear. I know every issue what’s going to happen and we can seed little things into these issues that’ll impact later on. We’ve been doing that now for a long time, since the second or third arc.
Still even now though, things pop up as I’m writing these scripts. There are little things that I’m like, “Oh, that’s exciting, maybe there’s something else I can throw in there!” But for the most part, I know where I’m going because I’ve kind of mapped it all out and Tyler’s seen the whole map.
I wanted to make sure he was good with where we’re going and so, for the most part, the major beats have all been planned out. So we can seed things in now that will pay off later.
Do you know how many more issues you’re going?
I do, but I’m not going to tell you. I can tell you that we are rocketing towards an ending at this point. I won’t tell you where it’s going to end. What issue just came out?
I think 25? (ed. note: Harrow County #24 was released June 14, 2017 and Harrow County #25 will be released September 13, 2017)
We’re rocketing towards an ending, but I’m not going to tell anyone when that is.
When the main Harrow County series ends, can we get the Bernice spin-off?
You know, it’s funny. Tyler and I have talked about a Bernice spin-off for so long. We both, we love Bernice. She’s our favorite character in the series, hands down. She wasn’t ever intended to be our favorite, she was supposed to be a supporting character, but we both love her so much. So, I don’t think that’s far-fetched at all to see a Bernice story because that’s what I would love to see come out of Harrow County. I would love to see us do a series that is just Bernice.
Bernice is great because unlike Emmy, she’s not all-powerful. She’s a person, she has some tricks, but she’s not a superhuman being for the most part and I like that about her. I think that actually gives us a lot of story potential.