Strip Panel Naked: The Craw County Red Of ‘Southern Bastards’
The latest issue of Southern Bastards was released last week, and we’re finally able to get back into the world of Craw County. Reading Southern Bastards always brings one thing to mind; it’s something you tend to find on every cover, and the whole interior of the book is drenched in it: red. Artist Jason Latour links so much of this story with red, and turn any page and you can see how heavy an influence it has on the palette.
Coach Boss is in red; the Runnin’ Rebs wear red; the neon lights of Boss BBQ tend to cast a red light over much of the rest of the town. So when a character comes along to one of these red-heavy scenes, and they aren’t red… Then you want to take notice of what that means.
You get that in this issue, #15, with the Sheriff. Here he attends the Rebs football game, and has a conversation with Miss Leddy and the Mayor. Across these two pages of their dialogue, there is no one else in the frame who isn’t wearing some form of red, except the Sheriff. Even the cast of extras in the stands behind all have red, and the Mayor is covered in a red blanket with a red cushion on his wheelchair.
When someone isn’t wearing red, that must have some meaning, because you wouldn’t make such a fuss about literally everyone else wearing red if there wasn’t a point behind it, and we know that red is the color of something very prevalent in issues of Southern Bastards gone by, namely blood and violence. Often you’ll see pages drenched in red when something manic is happening, such as the example from this issue with Coach Boss in his office.
It also links everyone to the football team, the Runnin’ Rebs, all garbed in that deep color. By doing this, it focuses the attention on the Rebs, and primarily on Coach Boss, the series’ villain/protagonist (depending on the arc). It links everything you see in the town back to Boss and the football team, which is a big part of the social commentary taking place in the book as well.
Now, by not including the Sheriff in this color, it means he stands apart. It happens both physically --- in the space he takes up in the panel, which is a large amount in comparison to Leddy and the Mayor --- but also in color. He is a very muted blue/grey tone, with not a single part of his attire being red. The Sheriff has always had this, back from his very first appearance, and it’s always set him aside from the rest of the cast. As Leddy says in these pages, he “don’t care about nobody but hisself” --- and it’s apparent in his visual rendering.
But the color given to him is also very subdued, and we’ve seen moments of passion from the Sheriff in the past; back in the opening arc he attempted to stand up for Earl very briefly, but eventually backed down. He is a man without that violence in him, without that passion that the red implies for everyone else. He’s drifted away from what Craw Country represents.
And it’s further interesting to note that the Sheriff’s colors are quite similar to how we see Earl in the latter half of the opening arc, after he’s accepted that he’s going to go after Coach Boss. They both wear the opposite color of red in terms of "meaning"; they both wear blue.
Colors can mean so much, and in Southern Bastards they contribute a great deal to the theme and tone of the book. Keep an eye out for characters who don’t wear red, and whosit apart from the narrative; the choice is made for a reason. They just might have a bigger part to play in this unfolding story.
It’s this attention to detail, to worldbuilding and storytelling, that makes Latour’s work on Southern Bastards so strong.
In Strip Panel Naked, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou looks at elements of the art of visual storytelling on the comics page.