The fictional setting of Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s Eisner-winning “Southern Bastards,” Craw County, Alabama is a powder keg waiting to explode. The fuse was lit in 2014’s series’ opening arc when Euless Boss, the local crime lord and high school football coach, murdered a man named Earl Tubb. It’s been a slow burning fuse, especially in 2016, when the series only released three issues. But Earl Tubb’s Marine Corps member daughter Roberta has finally arrived in Craw County, and will soon enact her plans for vengeance.
2017 is sure to be a big year for the series, as Boss contends with Roberta, several new and soon to be introduced power players, and his team’s losing streak. We spoke with Latour about the plans for the book, why Roberta Tubb was given a slow burn introduction into the larger story he and Aaron are telling, and how important it is for him to have a book to draw, especially now that he’s known for his work as a writer on books like Marvel Comics’ “Spider-Gwen.”
CBR: There were only three issues of “Southern Bastards” published in 2016, and I imagine that’s partly because you and Jason Aaron are really busy guys. Was it also because you guys want to give the series the time it deserves?
Jason Latour: Yeah, we went into this never expecting anybody to really buy our football-murder comic. [Laughs] We knew we had a chance to do something interesting because we were both so invested in it, and because people who knew Jason A’s work knew that “Scalped” was really good. But the book has been about 10,000 times more successful than I ever thought it would be.
Part of staying the course, to keep it on the level of what we both expect and get out of it, is to put the comic out that we feel comfortable with. Like you said, both of us are very busy with our careers, so we’ve got a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. That hasn’t helped our schedule, no, but there was definitely an organic story-centric need for a recharge at the end of arc number three.
We’re just very committed to making sure this comic is served when the meal is ready. [Laughs] There’s a lot of comics out there that people can consume like fast food. They can get them on demand. They can get them when they’re greedy for them, but this is a comic we try to treat exactly like good barbecue. You cook the pig until it’s right; when the pig is done, it’s done. When it’s gone, it’s gone, and you close up for the day. I’m certain that frustrates some people, but I’m also confident in the product and the effort that goes into making the comic that only we make, the way only we can make it.
That said, I really thank people for being patient because the readers that have been loyal to this comic have gone above and beyond normal fandom. I can’t speak highly enough about their passion for it. It’s really endearing and gratifying and energizing.
November’s #15 focused primarily on the imploding world of Coach Boss, but we did see a little more of Roberta Tubb, who is in Craw County doing recon. What made you and Jason want to give her such a slow burn introduction? And will we finally see what Roberta is capable during the current arc?
Yes, the end of this arc is probably conceived as the most action packed thing we’ve done. It will heavily involve bringing Roberta to the forefront and her enacting the first step of her plan. Hopefully, everything draws together, and by the end this story will have one of the most explosive arcs we’ve done to date.
Easing Roberta into the story was really necessary, because this is a story where the premise has always been that the bastards have won the day. They’re in charge. Wanting to see people like Coach Boss toppled, or feeling conflicted about Coach Boss and not knowing if you want him to fail or not is all very important to the way this comic works. That needed to be set up slowly.
We sort of introduced a white hat early in Earl Tubb, but introducing the real protagonist so soon would have done the comic a disservice, especially considering that, thematically, a big part of this story revolves around setting up this a very toxic and masculine environment. You have to see the consequences of that and get to know the players and the lay of the land before you introduce the person who could potentially up end it in Roberta Tubb.
It was a big gamble on our part where we knew that our fourth issue threw people a curve ball, and then we asked them to wait a long time for any real release. But I think the small releases people have experienced do seem amplified by that.
With “Southern Bastards,” you can always expect us to be true to the story that we’re telling, whether that takes a little longer to actually make the comic, or it takes a little longer to play out some elements. Sometimes what you expect isn’t necessarily what you’re going to enjoy.
Issue #15 also introduced readers to a new power player in Craw County, the mayor’s wife, Leddy. What can you tell us about her? How big a role will she play in the series moving forward?
We’ve plotted through a lot of the next two arcs, and more and more, Leddy keeps popping up in conversations. Where she comes from and her actual hold over things are stuff that certainly needs to be explored. She’s an interesting antagonist or foil for Coach Boss. I am a little hesitant to go into how much we’ll see of her, but she’s definitely going to be a player moving forward. In many ways, she seems like a good mirror for Roberta.
I’m curious about another new character who appears on the cover of “Southern Bastards” #17. He looks a lot like an older Burt Reynolds, and appears to have a pet monkey. Who is he?
[Laughs] That’s Colonel Quick McCluskey. He is a character who we both very quickly (pun embraced) have fallen in love with. I told Jason Aaron that there will be a point in the future where people might look back on this comic and instead of saying that’s where the book jumped the shark, they’ll say that’s where they introduced the monkey. [Laughs]
He is a rival crime boss that supports a rival football team. I’ll leave it at that. He’ll definitely be a major player in this next arc, and maybe even moving forward beyond that. He’s been a lot of fun.
When things are very serious, they sort of reflect how absurd life is. So to me, McClusky fits that sort of Coen Brothers vibe we’re both big fans of. So ridiculous, he’s terrifying. We’re always trying to feed stuff like that into this comic because that’s the way I think we both feel about real life.
One of the things we’ve been reminded of throughout “Southern Bastards” is how big an impact the past has on the present. It looks like March’s issue #18 will show how the past impacts Roberta.
Yes. It was Faulkner who said, “The past is prelude.” That’s the most educated book learned thing you’re going to ever hear me say. [Laughs] I think that’s true of both “Southern Bastards” and “Loose Ends” [a series by Latour, Chris Brunner]. Both Southern fiction and Crime fiction share this obsession with how the ripples of past mistakes can become this tidal wave in the present.
Issue #18 is by me and Chris Brunner. That’s a chapter I’m writing and he’s drawing. What Roberta is going to be weighing in that issue is just how much her father, Earl Tubb, actually got what he was looking for in the end. And how much of the impact he made on her growing up has led her to Craw County — and to this seemingly inescapable momentum that’s put her on a collision course with Coach Boss.
Chris is drawing issue #18, but you’re the regular artist. How does it feel to have a book where you can go and draw when you’re doing so much writing these days?
It’s very difficult, but also invaluable. As somebody who’s drawn his whole life I need that gear shift. Writing is something that I take very seriously, and I’m very fond of . . . when it’s going well. [Laughs]
For me, there’s sort of a meditative quality to drawing. Once I’ve done a lot of thinking about the storytelling on the page I then actually have to execute it. That’s a very time intensive process where you have to sit there and basically break your back over the board for a couple hours every night. It can be almost mechanical at times— but I think it really helps me think through what I want to do creatively. So writing and drawing are two things that are very intrinsically linked for me. I may eventually scale back on drawing some (as if it’s even possible for me to do less, right?) because it’s a lot harder, but I don’t ever want to quit. It’s all storytelling, and that’s what I love.
Does being a working artist improve the collaborations on the other books you’re writing?
I definitely think it has. I’m very fortunate to say that I’ve done every single creative task when it comes to making comics, except being an editor… at least formally. I even lettered “Loose Ends” by hand. I’ve done every one of the jobs on both a creator-owned and professional basis, and I’ve done them to varying degrees of success.
It certainly helps when you’re collaborating on a comic, because on one hand, you know what you’re talking about, and on the other hand you know how it feels to sit in that chair and be that other person. I imagine there have been some times when my experiences doing those other tasks have gotten in the way, but more times than not they’ve helped with communication and the empathy you need to keep those relationships alive.
You know how they say directors should take acting classes so they know exactly what to yell at the actors? [Laughs] That’s sort of what it’s like.
What else does 2017 holds for “Southern Bastards?” The Image site suggests the next issue will hit in January and we’ll be getting one issue a month for the next several months.
That will be the attempt. We don’t want to have too many long gaps on this next arc. Issue #15 is out now. Issue #16 has gone to the printer. There’s issue #17 and then Chris Brunner is drawing #18 from a script I wrote. The last two parts make the arc an even six issues, and will put us to right around the end of Spring for the conclusion.
Then there’s talk of me potentially tackling a floating issue all by myself, on both writing and art. If that happens or not is contingent on lots of stuff, but it’s something I’m very excited about. Then we’ll probably take a break and assess when we’ll come back for Volume 5 from there.
So I can’t stress enough that we’re far from done with this comic. 2017 is hopefully going to be a more productive year. I’ve been joking that we did less issues in 2016 because we knew it was gonna be a bad year and we want people good and ready to tear shit up in 2017.
Truthfully, I’d say we’re roughly approaching the midway point to the series and I’m very hopeful and excited about what’s to come because every time Jason and I have creative jam sessions about where we’re headed, I leave feeling more and more excited about it. Which is strange for me, given that I never thought I’d draw a comic bigger than a one shot. [Laughs]
So staring down the barrel at a series that could potentially run 30-40 issues is really intimidating, but also exciting. I’m just very grateful for everybody who supported us at this point and I hope they continue to enjoy the little football murder comic that could.
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