Seeds Sown Serve Up Scares In Farmhand
May 06, 2018
by Vince Brusio
Rob Guillory is no stranger to comics or scary movies, and the former Chew artist now embarks on a solo career as both writer and artist on his new book Farmhand for Image Comics. Read our PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview to see how Rob tends his field of fear, and how he hopes to grow a big crop of rabid readers who want more of the bitter fruit that he grows in his field of screams.
Vince Brusio: You worked with John Layman on Chew, so you’re no stranger to the creepy factor. The cover of this book shows you’re quite comfortable still playing in that arena—the creepshow. So let’s play art gallery. Let us walk down the long hallway of Rob Guillory’s mind and come across this cover for Farmhand #1 (MAY180011). What is this cover saying about the nature of this book in that a farmer grows plug-and-play organs? Break it down for us, and don’t worry about our clothes getting dirty. We’re on a farm. That’s how the rooster crows.
Rob Guillory: Well, with this cover, I wanted to get across the general, typical feel of life on the farm that most people are familiar with. It’s very “Old McDonald had a farm.” But then I wanted to subtly introduce the darker themes of what’s just under the surface of Farmhand. At first glance, this simple farmer’s just doing what farmers do, but then we see that his crops aren’t just collard greens; they’re hands, and they’re clawing at him. That gets across in a very simple way a lot of heavier themes, like sowing and reaping, that this book is built on. I’m happy with it.
Vince Brusio: What’s the inspiration for this tongue-in-cheek humor stew that’s cooking on the front burner? What planted the bad seed? Did you see movies like Return of the Living Dead and Evil Dead 2 and think to yourself, “Some day…some day….”. Has that day finally come with Farmhand?
Rob Guillory: I grew up with tons of horror and psychological storytelling. Psycho. Halloween. Jaws. I’ll toss Twilight Zone in there, too, because Rod Serling was incredibly influential to my storytelling aesthetic here. I just like the idea of taking seemingly outrageous ideas and using them as a metaphor for the human experience. With Farmhand, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to associate agriculture with humanity. We use phrases like “you reap what you sow” or “he’s a bad seed” all the time. It’s a part of our vernacular, so that was an easy leap to make. Once the central idea was established, it was easy to find horror there as well.
Vince Brusio: You’re on point to deliver this book as a one-man show (with an assist from color artist Taylor Wells). How is the creative process different for you on this book now that you’re both racecar driver and pit crew? Do you like this new work arrangement? Does it work better for you on this particular story, or do you see being writer/artist for a book now a more attractive option?
Rob Guillory: Yeah, it’s been a pretty major adjustment. Obviously I don’t have the luxury of having that creative partner to bounce things off of, and I do miss it occasionally. But the upside of being the final word on Farmhand is just that: I’m telling the story I want to tell. There’s no editorial oversight to appease here, so there’s incredible freedom there, though it can be daunting at times. I enjoy it, and I anticipate writing a lot of my own stuff from here on. But of course, I could see myself working with the right writer, if the right project popped up. It depends on the project.
Vince Brusio: Aside from the main character, Jedidiah Jenkins, who else is crop dusting in this story? Does Jedidiah face competition? Any slimy characters come along that we’d like to see fed to the hogs?
Rob Guillory: Well, the first arc introduces us to the central cast and the general dynamics of the Jenkins family. There’s Ezekiel, the prodigal son who’s haunted by a past trauma. There’s Andrea, Jed’s daughter who acts as his right hand running this farming empire. There’s Abby and Riley, Jed’s grandkids who get roped into Jed’s web in a dangerous way. There’s Pastor Tree Moore, a former NFL star turned pastor who thinks the Seed is a curse on humanity. There’s an assortment of rival tech firms, government agencies and bad actors who just want to get their hands on the Jedidiah Seed. And there’s the Big Bad, who I won’t spoil. It’s a very rich story with a lot of moving parts, but it never loses its grounding.
Vince Brusio: Let’s go freestyle on this last question. The premise for this book is unique. You might be itchin’ to say something outside of what we’ve been asking you. So what’s Rob Guillory got growing in the back yard that may be of interest to people? What’s the last word you’d like to say about this book before people place their pre-order?
Rob Guillory: I just encourage readers to give this a shot, because I think they’ll be very surprised at what this story really is. It’s always hard to boil down what a story is to one little PREVIEWS solicit, but I’ll say that there’s a lot more under the surface of this book than readers will expect. It’s been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever worked on, and I really think it’s a very one-of-a-kind read that readers from all stripes will enjoy. It’s weird, a little creepy, but very fun and very human at its core.