Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tara Harris & Alison Burke

Tara Harris and Alison Burke are a dynamic duo of comic creators who have been working together since 2009. Tara is an artist, illustrator, and graphic designer whose work includes everything from local roller derby posters to a national Kraft Foods campaign. She likes organizing collaborative art shows, making comics, and fantasizing about being a lone-gun truck driver. Alison is a writer, comics enthusiast, and co-founder of the art and design collective Young Monster. She likes making her own clothes, writing comics, and listening to way too many podcasts about horror movies.

A.R.R.O. is an ongoing comic series published in web-comic format at, but also available as full-color printed mini-comics both through that website and in various awesome comic and zine shops throughout the Boston, Chattanooga, and Atlanta areas.

How did the two of you meet and what prompted your creative partnership?

Tara: I was making T-shirts with Ali’s boyfriend Nick when Ali brought some beer over and we started talking about our fondness for comics. It took some time and some e-mails, but we met again and started discussing minis, but ended up always coming back to A.R.R.O., so we plunged into a full series and it has been all gravy since.

What inspired “No Moon”?

Ali: It’s a version of a story that’s been in my head for a while. I love the idea of the woods as being this place of magic, something dangerous for the uninitiated. I also really love the trope of the lonely nerd becoming enamored with the cool new girl, particularly in that transitional tween-to-teen phase where everything is volatile and strange. I think we’ve all been taken in by someone cool who turns out to b a monster, right?

I see that A.R.R.O., your ongoing comic series, is a sci-fi adventure comic. Is this your first horror story as a team?

Ali: It is! We have a series in the works called Freakly Comix that will be a little more horror-focused, but “No Moon” is our first finished horror piece. Pretty neat.

What are some of your favorite horror stories? (And they don’t have to be limited to comic books.)

Tara:  OK, I like anything post-apocalyptic or futuristic (the deadly space adventure stuff, hell yeah). With the multitude of terrible cheesy ones, there is always someone working on it that had a cool idea somewhere; even if it is just for backgrounds. I love horror movies, but, I'm not a horror fanatic like Ali, so, read on for the kind of answer you were probably hoping for (haha).

Ali: Man, this is tough. I love the classic horror comics like Eerie and Creepy and the Witching Hour...Bernie Wrightson, what a dream. At the risk of being a horrible cliche, Lovecraft and Poe are some of my favorite literary horror writers. House of Leaves is probably the scariest book I’ve ever read. Horror movies are a whole other ball of wax...I like campy slashers as much as the heavy psychological scares. Some of my faves are the original Black Christmas, Phenomena, The Strangers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original Wicker Man, and Return of the Living Dead.

Explain to Hellbound readers the creative process behind your partnership. Was the story written independently and before the art or did it begin with the story’s inception?

Ali: We’re an extremely collaborative team. Generally, we come up with an overall story together and then I write up a script, Tara does the drawing, and then we both fine-tune and edit as we go along. Because we got into creating comics together, we’re pretty in tune with one another — and we try to keep each other in the loop the whole way through. This story was the first time I drew page thumbs for Tara, which worked out pretty well, so we’ll probably try that again.

Since A.R.R.O. is a full-color comic, was it difficult to work in black and white?

Tara: Yes!  I am a color fanatic, so it was fun to try my hand at this. The style was changed just for the stark contrast.

Artistically, was there anything you were hoping to achieve? Where you happy with the results?

Tara: I wanted to do something more cartoony from the beginning, so I'm glad it was about kids. You can draw kids in that style a lot easier than adults and still have people be able to relate to the story.

Ali: I really got excited about the theme of darkness and I wanted to create a story that would allow for visually playing with stark contrasts. And I think that came across really well, especially in the last few pages.

Tara, what is a lone-gun truck driver and what prompts you to fantasize being one?

Tara:  This will take a lot of explaining, let’s see. I had an army jacket in high school that had a name tag that said Swift on it. Against my mom's better judgment I wore that thing every day. It took coaxing to not wear it when the weather was too warm. So, I was riding with my friend Mindy to bowling practice one day and she pointed at this 18-wheeler coming towards us and said, "Hey, look, that truck has your fake name on it." So, I began pointing at every Swift truck on the road when I saw one (this was bad for whoever went to Atlanta with me...there are a LOT of them...).

A few years later, I got a Volvo and started noticing that most Swift trucks were Volvos, so, again, I had a connection. So I became a Swift snob and pointed out the VOLVO Swifts with more love than the others.

While in school I made it very obvious that at the first sign of trouble for me in Art School(TM) I was going to community collage to get a trucking license. It evolved more from there, but everyone that knows me knows that I have always loved trucks. I even made some pieces in school with trucks as the subject mater (only Swifts, even though most were extreme details of the back of them, or part of the logo.

Alison, what are some of your favorite podcasts?

My favorites are Bloody Good Horror, Night of the Living Podcast, and Killer Reviews. I like normie stuff like This American Life, Radiolab, and Stuff You Should Know, though, too.

Thank you, Alison and Tara. 

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