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EXCLUSIVE: Carla Speed McNeil Illustrates the Horror of “Harrow County”

by  in Comic News Comment
EXCLUSIVE: Carla Speed McNeil Illustrates the Horror of “Harrow County”

Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook‘s “Harrow County” made its mark on Dark Horse Comics’ line of horror comics in 2015, garnering praise form fans and critics alike. While the series is slated to take a bit of a break once its eighth issue and first trade arrive in December, the book will make its return in February. But rather than co-creator Crook rejoining Bunn straightaway, Eisner Award winner Carla Speed McNeil is stepping in to illustrate the story for Issue #9.

In an exclusive first conversation with McNeil about the issue, we discussed how she came to arrive in “Harrow County,” and her thrill at learning she would be drawing a Skinless Boy adventure. Plus, she shared a glimpse at what the future holds for her own acclaimed creation, “Finder.”

CBR News: How did you end up stepping in for Tyler Crook and drawing an issue of “Harrow County?”

Carla Speed McNeil: It was really off the cuff — it happened fortuitously at New York Comic Con this year. I was talking about how much I enjoy working with writers, and the gig came up. The editor, Daniel Chabon, approached me.

Were you familiar with the series, or with Cullen Bunn’s writing?

I was not! It took basically no time to possess me. Cullen’s ideas in “Harrow County” are compelling, especially the generational magic and the weight of the past in his world. Tyler’s work on the book is beautifully tactile and evocative.

How do you approach a project like this? Are you spending a lot of time reviewing the earlier issues? Are you looking to Cullen and Dark Horse for reference? Did you make demands, like, “I’ll draw the book, but only if this character is in it?”

I am poring over the earlier issues. Cullen and Tyler and Daniel and I have a good round-robin going on. I’m very keen to strike the right tone. I’ve only done straight-up horror once before.

I didn’t demand any particular character, so it’s fortuitous that this issue stars a favorite of mine, that poor Lost Boy-sort of a ghost, the Skinless Boy. Beyond that, a lot of my family are pretty country, so the research is easy.

What specific details about the issue can you share?

I gave the Skinless Boy a thigh gap. So sexy.

“Harrow County” and your current “Finder” story, “Chase the Lady” are both in color. Did working with colorists Jenn Manley Lee and Bill Mudron on “Finder: Third World” change how you work at all?

It has. About a third of the way through “Third World,” I realized that the heaviness of my ink line was separating planes of color from one another and giving it, to my eye, a coloring-book kind of appearance. So I started playing with other materials for the second half of the book, and that’s where the color really started to come into its own. Jenn and Bill did beautifully well. Bill has gone on to greener pastures now, but Jenn’s coloring everything I do.

I look at your work today, and the only word I can think of to describe it is “versatile.” You’re still doing “Finder,” but you’re also drawing “Wonder Woman” and “Bad Houses,” “My Little Pony” and “No Mercy.” What is it that links all these projects, and how does “Harrow County” fit in?

When I set out to create “Finder,” I wanted to be sure I had a world big enough to tell any kind of story I wanted, whether it was a kid’s fantasy like “Talisman,” or something more horrible, like “Dream Sequence.” “Chase the Lady” is at heart a love story, considering the tribulations of Rachel’s assistant, Psykhe. I wanted there to be plenty of rooms in the house I was building, because there’s almost no genre or type of story that I don’t like or wouldn’t try.

I have to ask more about “Finder,” because the new story, “Chase the Lady,” just launched in “Dark Horse Presents.”

The story returns to the characters of my first official Dark Horse book, “Finder: Voice.” The main character of “Chase the Lady” is Rachel, who had the worst, weirdest coming-out party ever in her last book, and is now a penniless aristocrat needing to make a match with the right person — the right person being the one with all the zeroes after the one and the five in the bank account (rather than in front). Basically, “Downton Abbey,” or an Edith Wharton “buccaneer” novel, set in my funky, speculative-fiction world.

How long is the story? What do you have planned?

At the moment, I have 96 pages in the can, and there’s at least sixty more to come — at least a year-and-a-half in “Dark Horse Presents.” I’m really happy with the story; it keeps going faster and faster.

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