Rebel Grrrls: Danny Harrell Talks Raising the Dead Through Music in New Comic Series
Three girls from rural Alabama are determined to make it as an all-girl punk band and prove that punk rock’s not dead, but sometimes it can bring the dead back to life. The girls set out to tour dive bars, basements, even county fairs all throughout the South, all while being pursued by a record executive who wants to get the girls to use their newfound powers for his own personal gain by bringing back enough of the dead to overthrow the living! As Hell patiently waits for its time to rise up, the Rebel Grrrls are intent on proving that they are not sellouts and that they can make it on their own!
The series comes from writer Danny Harrell with art by Robert Ahmad and is published by Keenspot Entertainment. Geek Network got the opportunity to sit down with the writer of Rebel Grrrls and ask her a few questions.
GN: Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how you entered the world of
DH: I was born and raised in Northwest Alabama. I’ve been into comics for as long as I can remember. One of my oldest memories is getting a copy of TMNT issue 3 at a place
called Uncle Charlie’s Flea Market. It was as luxurious and glamorous as it sounds. That was probably the first comic that I ever bought, or in that particular case, had bought for me.
Art has always been part of my life. Throughout grade school I took every art class that was available to me, and then went to a local college where I graduated with a degree in writing and minors in Art and Art History. At that time, I was focused more on photography and journalism.
I’ve always collected comics and fantasized about working in the industry, but it had alwaysbseemed like an unobtainable goal. A few years ago, I started getting to know a few comic artistband writers through social media, and really turned my focus to the coloring side of comics, taking several online courses specifically geared toward comic color and color theory. I just kind of fell in love with the storytelling aspect of comic coloring.
GN: Can you take us through the journey of the idea for Rebel Grrrls and how it became a
DH: For a little over 20 years, I’ve played in various bands. Anything from punk, garage, rockabilly,rock’n’roll, and even a little bit of hardcore. Really just whatever style of music that I was into at the time. I also filled in with a few random bands from time to time. Being from northwest Alabama, we have a rich musical history, but it’s anchored in Southern Rock or “the Muscle Shoals Sound,” and if you’re not playing that style of music, you tend to be shunned at barrooms and pool halls around here. If you’re not playing Mustang Sally or Freebird, to a large portion of the audience, you’re just making a bunch of racket while they’re trying to drink.
I was lucky enough to play in front of a wide-ranging audience over the years. The shows that stand out in my memories aren’t necessarily the best shows that I’ve ever played, they’re more of the weirdest places that I’ve played, if that makes sense. When you play at music venues where people go to see a specific style of music, the shows, while being a lot of fun, always kind of feel safe. I wanted a way to tell some of the stories that I had from playing dive bars, barns, catfish restaurants, car shows, biker clubs and places like that, but I wanted to incorporate an element of the supernatural as well.
GN: You carry a unique concept with Rebel Grrrls. Combining the life of a band with a supernatural twist! What inspirations fueled the creativity behind Rebel Grrrls?
DH: Telling the stories of playing music around the south was the general idea for the book, but I needed a way to make it more interesting, or give it a bit of a twist, as you called it. When teenagers start a band, they always seem to have this idea that they’re gonna change the world, but also the idea that they can do it without “selling out.” In the punk scene, it’s almost sacrilegious to sign with a major label. The idea is that a major label would polish your sound for a mainstream audience to a point where you lose your Message.
With Rebel Grrrls, I wanted to tell a story of a group of teenagers who are so dead set on not compromising their sound and message that they don’t realize that their music is
literally bringing about the destruction of the world. The story is told from the point of view of a ghoul, in the form of a seedy record executive, sent by Satan to make sure that the band can be marketed to a wide enough audience that they can resurrect enough of the dead to overthrow the living.
While some bands might jump at the opportunity to sign to a major label and tour the
world, this particular band is dead set on not selling out. I’m a big fan of the early 90s Riot Grrrl movement in punk, so I wanted to incorporate that into the story as well, so the girls are heavily influenced by bands like Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, etc. When It came time to start looking for artists to work on the book, I just kind of went with artist who I was a fan of.
I really loved Robert Ahmad’s work on the series Headless and thought that his style would work well for how I wanted the series to look. I’m thankful that he was available and willing to work on the book. I think he has done an incredible job bringing the story to life on the page.
I had a specific look in mind when it came to the colors and knew that I wanted to color the book myself. This is my first creator owned title, and the first comic that I’ve written, but I’ve worked as a colorist on a few titles prior to Rebel Grrrls. I like to think that the way that I color is largely influenced by the music that I’m listening to while I’m coloring. A piece might look one way if I’m listening to Against Me! while color than it would if I was listening to Waylon. Maybe I’m just full of shit. Honestly, it’s probably somewhere in between.
Anyway, I guess for the overall look and feel of the book, I just wanted it to look like a comic. There seems to be a growing trend of comics that have a highly realistic look to them, kind of like screenshots from a movie rather than panels of a comic. There also seems to be a growing trend in comics where books have those weird porno looking covers. Rebel Grrrls is not a porn comic. That might cost me some sales.
For the covers, it was the same idea. I reached out to an artist who I was a fan of. I wanted an overall all punk rock aesthetic to the covers, but other than that, I let the artist have complete control of their covers, and they didn’t disappoint. We have covers from Robert Ahmad, Francesca Fantini, Brianna June, Rich Woodall, Becka Kinzie, Troy Dongerra and Daniel Lansdown. I did one for it myself as well.
GN: How far out do you have the story planned? Is it going to be something like a miniseries, or do you see this stretching out over several issues?
DH: The first story arc will be four issues. That’s the plan right now. I see it as a continuing series, or possibly going the way of Hellboy, and doing each story arc as its own miniseries. I have ideas for where to take the story for the first three story arcs, but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. The script for issue two is finished, and we’re currently a little over halfway through the art. I have issues three and four mapped out, so I’m hoping that it can at least make it that far.
GN: Do you see the story ever going beyond the South? Possible spinoffs or expansion of the series?
DH: I do. I would love to have the band go out and tour beyond the South. There are shitty dive bars all over the world, and I would love for the grrrls to hit them all. You can’t resurrect enough of the dead to bring about the apocalypse if you only play in dixie. I have ideas for a couple of one-shot spinoffs to give some backstory to some of the characters that will be introduced throughout this first arc. A lot of that will be decided based on how well this first arc of Rebel Grrrls is received.
GN: First, congratulations on Keenspot and Zero Gravity Management’s partnership. Can you divulge any other information on what we expect to come out of this partnership?
DH: I was lucky enough to have my book mentioned in some of the press surrounding that deal, but I don’t really know much about it, other than what was written in Deadline. I’m hoping that the attention that they are getting from it will result in more eyes on their titles. Keenspot has some great comic creators working on their books, and more eyes on indie comics is never a bad thing.
GN: With the success of Rebel Grrrls, do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
DH: I’m coloring a few books right now. They’ll be out later in the year. I’ve also colored a few covers that will hopefully be announced soon, but for now, I’ve been sworn to secrecy. I would love to work on a sword and sorcery title. I have a few ideas for original stories that fall within that realm of comics that I would like to explore. If anyone wants to keep up with what’s going on with Rebel Grrrls or any of the other projects that I’m working on, look me up on the ole Instagrams @DannyHarrellArt.
Rebel Grrrls #1 will be available at your favorite local comic shops on July 26, 2023.