BERNICE vs. the Supernatural in HARROW COUNTY Spin-Off DEATH'S CHOIR

Tales from Harrow County: Death’s Choir
Credit: Dark Horse Comics
Credit: Dark Horse Comics

On December 18, the horrors of Harrow County are back with Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook bring on upcoming artist Naomi Franquiz for the latest addition to their world’s history with Tales from Harrow County: Death’s Choir.

10 years have passed since the events of the Harrow County title, and Emmy has left her family’s home with herchildhood friend Bernice in charge to look after the supernatural land. But with World War II taking its toll on the population, it opens itself up to a macabre and horrifying force that is bringing the dead back to life. Now, as steward, Bernice must bring balance to the land before Harrow County is overrun by the undead.

Newsarama talked to the creative team about the new Dark Horse limited series, what it was like bringing Naomi into the fold, the differences between Bernice and Emmy, and if there are plans to create more of these spin-off series down the line.

Newsarama: Cullen, Tyler, Naomi, you're putting together a spin-off series of Harrow County, simply called Tales of Harrow County: Death's Choir. We have Emmy's friend Bernice here as the main character. How would you say are the biggest differences between the two, but also, what is the biggest similarity?

Cullen Bunn: Well, one big difference is that Bernice in this story is older. In the original series, she and Emmy were little more than kids. 10 years have passed. Bernice is more sure of herself and who she is. And, while Bernice has some talents, she is not the god-like being that Emmy was. She can't snap her fingers and make evil spirits vanish. She has to work a little harder to accomplish her goal. But, like Emmy, Bernice loves Harrow and genuinely loves the people around her.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Naomi Franquiz: Bernice definitely has had a harder uphill battle, I think, and it's definitely given her a different lens or perspective on the supernatural world and Harrow as a whole. Compared to 10 years ago, she's definitely found her footing despite not having the same opportunities or privileges that Emmy had. They're both fiercely determined personalities, though.

Nrama: Tyler, you're co-writing now with Cullen as well as variant covers, with Naomi taking the reins for the interiors. Do you feel comfortable behind the writing desk?

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Tyler Crook: It's kind of a stretch to say that I'm co-writing. Cullen and I talk about what we want to do and I don't think he'd do anything with the book that I wasn't into. But he's doing the writing. I'm lettering the book, and doing some variant covers. But other than that I get to sit back and tell Naomi how much I love her work (I love it a lot).

Nrama: Cullen, Tyler, you have worked together for so long, did a shorthand in your scripts change and evolve along the way? Did you have to change them when you brought in a newcomer to the series?

Bunn: My scripts still look pretty much the same as they always have. I never really went the shortcut route with Tyler. I could have, but I like writing full scripts. So, when I started writing the new series, I didn't change much at all. Naomi gets a script that looks very close to the kind of script Tyler would have gotten.

Crook: I've always liked the way Cullen writes scripts. He's really good at giving you just enough description that you know what you need to get on the page but not enough that you feel boxed in. I always feel like he gives the artist enough room that they can really dig in and tell the story in a way that fits their art.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Nrama: Naomi, you're being brought in to the world of Harrow County, this being your first Dark Horse book too, how did you feel about jumping into this?

Franquiz: It's always exciting getting to be a part of something I was already a fan of, ya know? There's also a bit of anxiety, always thinking about keeping the characters and the world in line with the original vision while still reading fresh and new. It's a new story, a new era for an old character, and I'm enjoying getting to experiment and stretch my legs with watercolor and storytelling.

Nrama: This series is set 10 years after Harrow County's finale.What has happened in the meantime?

Bunn: Harrow County has been a bit calm in the aftermath of the original series. Time just kept on turning. There were no undead witches or god-like entities interfering with the day-to-day life of the residents. Bernice has been active, helping people here and there, but she hasn't had to face a major supernatural threat. She's always expecting one, though. On the other hand, the world outside Harrow has been experiencing a bit of upheaval.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Franquiz: Bernice has had quite a journey since Emmy's gone these past 10 years, I imagine. Learning and developing her skills to protect Harrow and bonding with Priscilla (my favorite thing to imagine, to be honest - I love Priscilla so much). I don't know if Cullen will ever touch on any of that in future minis, but in my head I'd like to think there's at least one training montage.

Bunn: Well there has to be one now!

Nrama: Was this spin-off always something in mind or something you wanted to explore later on as the main series progressed?

Bunn: The spin-off wasn't in our heads at the beginning of the original series, no, but it took shape at some point over the course of the book. Tyler and I started asking each other what a book with Bernice as the lead character might look like. Even then, that wasn't the original idea for the spin-off. Instead, we talked a lot about expanding on the idea of the short horror stories that ran in the back of every issue. Doing something more like a horror anthology. Still, we returned again and again to giving Bernice her time to shine.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Crook: I feel like the idea of a spin-off started growing as soon as we locked down the ending for Harrow County. And the idea that that world has more stories to tell was sort of built into the DNA of the original series with the back-up stories.

Nrama: Would y'all be open to an ongoing if your schedule allows, or do you feel this limited series wraps things up nice enough?

Bunn: I'd write stories about Harrow County for the rest of my life.

Crook: That's my hope too! I definitely want to draw more Harrow County but I'm also really, really excited to see how other artists can add to the world.

Nrama: How do you feel that Southern horror differs from other branches of the genre?

Franquiz: The south has a very distinctly creepy aesthetic that I love. I grew up near cypress swamps, gnarled and twisted live oak trees, and Spanish moss hanging like witch hair - the look alone lends a pretty eerie vibe to a story's setting. There's always something lurking beneath murky waters, oppressive heat and humidity, and trees old enough to play witness to some heinous deeds.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Bunn: Naomi nails it. That creepy undercurrent is real, my friends. My parents lived, almost until the day they passed, in a place that could pass for Harrow County of old.

And when I last visited that neck of the woods, I found myself tangled up with some real ne'er-do-wells who, in the dead of night, meant me real harm. I still get a little twitch when I think about it. I know people like to talk about how cities can be dangerous. And any place can be dangerous. But the things that can happen out in the most isolated part of the country can be truly blood-curdling.

Crook: I'm not from the South but my wife is and she has stories upon stories about living there. There is something there that doesn't exist in other places. Not only something that is creepy but something that naturally wants to become stories.ng to experiment and stretch my legs with watercolor and storytelling.

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