Even great warriors grow old and frail - but some of the wars they fight never end.
In the upcoming Dark Horse limited series Crone, a great swordswoman once nicknamed Bloody Bliss has faded into legend while the woman behind it has settled into quiet retirement. But when an adversary she thought defeated rises up once more, so must she - while she's also fighting old age.
Mixing elements of Red Sonja with retired warrior fiction like the classic western Unforgiven, Crone by writer Dennis Culver and artist Justin Greenwood carves a jagged, bloody new mark into sword & sorcery shelves. Newsarama talked with the duo ahead of the five-issue series' November 6 debut.
Newsarama: Bloody Bliss is in retirement, doing her own thing - but there's always battles to be fought. She's not fighting those though - what is big enough to bring her back into action and start off this Crone limited series, Dennis?
Dennis Culver: That's the big question we start off with in our first with. Bliss is unquestionably in a bad place in her life but has made a pointed decision to be there hidden from the rest of the world in her mountain home. What gets her off the mountain is something huge. And impossible.
Nrama: So she's back, a little older, a little wiser... I assume this old enemy is also a little older, a little wiser?
Culver: Yes. In ways our Bliss couldn't possible expect. D'kayde is a force of nature.
Nrama: Justin, what can you tell us about this old enemy she's back to fight?
Justin Greenwood: D’Kayde is as bad as it gets and as the series goes on, we’ll find he’s much worse than any of them guessed. In some ways he’s Bliss’ polar opposite - massive, flashy and of a mind to dominate everything in his path. He’s like toxic masculinity incarnate, a human wrecking ball that lives by the belief that might makes right without any regard for what is left behind.
Nrama: Dennis, you've said this is about making up for mistakes when given one last chances - what kind of mistakes did the Sword Savior make? Are these really big mistakes - or do you think she might just be a little too hard on herself?
Culver: Yes and no on this one. It's a big central part of the story we're telling so you'll have to wait and see.
Nrama: So she's back in action - she has the experience, she has the mind - but how do you get your body back into form to do this kind of thing?
Culver: Bliss has been living alone for years on top of the grizzly infested Mount Brauning. There's a lot less bears up there now. Bliss might not be what she once was but she can still hold her own.
Nrama: Justin, what do you see as the visual possibilities in drawing an older person, in this case an old Crone (her words, not mine - don't get her mad at me), going back into action?
Greenwood: The juxtaposition between Young and Old Bliss is one of my favorite parts of the book. I really enjoy drawing characters who carry their personality on their face and gesture, and ol’ Bloody Bliss has that in spades. Her younger self is idealized and feels bigger than life but we pick up the story with an older Bliss who is on the edge of throwing it all away and easily misjudged at a glance. I find that way more interesting to draw and the fun is in getting to show just how much life is left in this “old Crone”.
There is so much more room to pick up expression from an older faces. I remember feeling that same way when drawing Klem from The Fuse. Age makes character and character makes interesting comics.
Nrama: So what's the overall world Crone is set in like?
Greenwood: When we first find Bliss, she lives on a mountainside as cold and lonesome as she is. It’s a world that is full of ruins and representations of time passed. But there is still some hope in them hills, despite Bliss’ blatant cynicism.
Building this world is where our colorist Brad Simpson really shines, giving the different settings and time periods very specific and surprising palettes. He’s great at taking something that could be very traditionally tied to the genre and breathing new life into it.
Nrama: I believe you two have traveled in similar circles for some time - what finally brought you together for this?
Culver: Justin and I used live one freeway exit apart from each other in Oakland and we'd often get together and talk shop. He helped me load up when I moved back to Los Angeles. We've been friends for quite some time and while we've always talked about working together it was always a distant shore. Until I told him about Crone. I was even trying to pitch him I was just excited about the idea and Justin got more and more excited about every time we spoke until finally I asked him about his schedule and we figured out a way to make it work. This book wouldn't exist without him. This is the way this story was meant to be told. I can feel it.
Greenwood: Dennis and I have indeed known each other for a long time and have talked about working together eventually. One morning he hit me with this visual of the old swordfighter standing on the edge of a snowy mountaintop, being tested to find herself again and it really resonated with me. We started to compare ideas and it just grew from there.
Nrama: Gotta say - with what you've introduced with Crone I want to see more adventures of her now - but also more of her when she was younger. Is that out of the question?
Greenwood: I definitely don’t think it’s out of the question at all! Over the course of the series we will continue to see younger Bliss and some of the adventures that led her to where she is today. Most of that is specific to the story we are telling in this volume but the world we are creating is so big and full of wild characters that returning to tell more of them would be a lot of fun.
Culver: As Justin mentioned our story bounces back and forth from past to present to contrast Bloody Bliss in her prime and as this sad old Crone. There are certainly more stories to be told in this world but first Bliss has to survive this final adventure!
Nrama: Last question - what's your goal for this?
Culver: The goal is always telling the stories I want to tell, how I want to tell them, collaborating with the people I love. Once I hit that, everything else is gravy.
Greenwood: That’s such a funny question because in a lot of way my goals for launching a new series are always the same. I want to make the kinds of comics that get me fired up and add something to an industry that I adore. Getting to tell stories is a blessing and I really only commit to the ones that I genuinely enjoy and want to share with the world. Crone is one of the best of them.