Interview: Rich Tommaso on Image’s Dry County

Dry County #1

Dry County #1


Rich Tommaso is the creator of such books as Spy Seal, She Wolf, The Cavalier Mr. Thompson: A Sam Hill Novel and many others and illustrated Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow. His upcoming book from Image, Dry County, is a crime story set in Miami in which 20-something Lou Rossi attempts to find a missing woman. Tommaso tells Westfield’s Roger Ash more about this upcoming series.

Westfield: The first thing I noticed about Dry County is the style. It has a distinct design and color scheme. How did you decide on the look?

Dry County #1 preview page 1

Dry County #1 preview page 1


Rich Tommaso: When I decided to self publish my own comics in 2013, I spent a lot of time thinking about design. I knew that if I really wanted to grab people with mini comics that were mostly going to be printed in black and white, the design–of the cover especially– would be an important thing to focus on. Three out of six of the comics I was working on (for my imprint called Recoil Comics) were crime stories, so I looked at a lot of crime book designs.

Namely Keith Sheridan’s 1990s designs for Black Lizard’s Vintage Crime series published by Random House. His most impressive designs were for the great crime novels by Jim Thompson. I also looked at the early ‘90s new designs for Elmore Leonard’s novels by the famous Chip Kidd. Also, some earlier books made in the ‘30s and ‘40s–and the Criterion DVD covers–made a big impression on me as well.

For the Image reboot of the series, I have the benefit of full color, which I thought the series lent itself to naturally, being set in the colorful city of Miami. It was a no-brainer to use pastel colors for most of the landscapes, but whenever the book shifts to Lou Rossi’s world, the color palette turns to browns, grays, and dull greens. This fits as he lives in a poorer part of town, given his young age coupled with his low economic status.

Dry County #1 preview page 2

Dry County #1 preview page 2


Westfield: That was followed shortly by noticing the narrative style with a majority of the story told in notebook posts. What influenced that storytelling style?

Tommaso: I thought the pages looked a little too boring the way they were originally–tracts of narration  floating above a basic, six-panel page layout–so I decided that since he’s a writer and artist, this story could be noted down on a legal pad and possibly used for his own novel or comic book project in the future. I’m not 100% sure just what he’ll do with it by the end of the story, but it will be addressed. Anyway, I just thought the legal pad paper would simply make the pages more visually interesting.

Westfield: What can you tell readers about Dry County and who are some of the characters they’ll meet?

Tommaso: It’s a straight forward, wandering girl mystery, but everyone involved is a total amateur. The characters–the kidnapper, the detective, the muscle on both sides, the spies, stakeout guys, captors, and gangsters in the book–they’re all novices–doing their part either to help out a friend or who will work cheap to do someone’s dirty job for them. In that sense, it feels like a more realistic world than you’d find in something like Dark Corridor for example. A crime novel that is just barely a crime novel.

Dry County #1 preview page 3

Dry County #1 preview page 3


Westfield: Why did you decide to set the series in the 1980s?

Tommaso: Actually, there was a mix up in some of the initial press releases going out for this book–it’s set in 1990-1991, so the early Nineties, not the late Eighties. Part of the mix up is due to my description of it as a story set in a time where the country is still in a hangover from the previous decade that’s just wrapped up. This book is set in that time because that’s when I was living a similar life to Lou’s–I was living down in Florida,  about the same age–19, 20, 21–just beginning to date, and trying to get my first comic stories published professionally…

Westfield: Lou Rossi’s home and work life ring very true. Are there any autobiographical elements to him?

Tommaso: Apart from the crime scenarios; kidnapping, physical confrontations, car chases, shootings, etc. it’s very autobiographical. I was living with a friend–away from my home for the first time in my life and I was dating a girl who would have been my first girlfriend, but we couldn’t see each other very much and things moved very slowly because she was in the process of extricating herself from a current boyfriend who she was living with. I was working at a newspaper doing spot illustrations and a pretty lousy one-panel gag strip–a gig that didn’t last very long all told. The idea was to create a comic that was VERY autobiographical and to throw in a possible crime scenario  that lent itself very easily to the real events that were going on in my life at the time. Blending crime drama with the actual, day to day drama of being young and a little crazy.

Dry County #1 preview page 4

Dry County #1 preview page 4


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Tommaso: Another thing I’d like to mention is the same week Issue #2 of Dry County is released, Image is also re-releasing my first graphic novel, Clover Honey–a crime story set (and first published) in the mid Nineties. Another very personal crime story, by the way. So, I think that book will be a perfect companion piece to Dry County, come this April.

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