JACOB SEMAHN INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by James Ferguson
Goners, published by Image Comics, has been described as “Goonies meets Hellboy.” The comic, written by Jacob Semahn and illustrated by Jorge Corona, follows the Latimer family, a bloodline that dates back hundreds of years, protecting our world from things that go bump in the night. I sat down with Jacob to discuss the book as the first story arc, entitled We All Fall Down, has recently concluded.
James Ferguson: Let's take a step back first. We've seen flashbacks to the 1800s throughout the first arc of Goners. Is that when the Latimers first took on the role of defender of our world against supernatural dangers?
Jacob Semahn: As a plot point, I don’t want to give too much away, but the family already has a precedent in this world as shown in the Alamo by Davy Crockett’s knowledge of what George Latimer’s family does. We want to delve further into the background of this family’s history... almost like Memento. We will be going backwards through the lineage to the beginning, while we also move forward with the current family as they rush headlong toward their end.
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JF: Did the story end up where you thought it would when you initially began working on the series?
JS: Yes. I had an end in mind for the first arc even before I started the first issue. It needed to be a satisfying enough ending in case the book didn’t sell well. However, if the numbers were there, it also needed to be an ending where we still had somewhere to go with the story and the Latimer family. It was a little tricky, but overall I like to think our team pulled out some of our best work.
JF: Was there anything you had wanted to include in these first six issues that didn't make the cut?
JS: What happened to Evelyn’s soul? That’s one thing that I wanted to address, but instead opted to go for a story thread that will hopefully lead throughout multiple arcs and eventually culminate in a “Hunt for Evelyn Latimer.” The idea I have will lead to huge metaphysical ramifications on the Goners universe.
JF: You built up to some pretty amazing cliffhanger endings throughout the first arc of Goners, most notably the end of issue #3, which I fell for hard. Did you write with those scenes in mind? Or did they come up naturally?
JS: Sort of both. I laid out the entirety of the arc in beats, but I don’t like to pin myself down too much in the minutia of the scene to scene. I like to have a broad idea of the three to five beats that I plan to hit in each issue and then I let the feeling of those story beats wash over me. Issue #3 in general was a turning point. It’s the issue in the middle where these two children, Zoe and Josiah Latimer, have to stop running and start figuring out what is happening to them. So I think it over… What do I associate with change? I then write around that core idea.
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JF: There are a number of supernatural elements spread throughout Goners, including wendigos, demons, and my personal favorite, the Skin-Walker. How much research did you do into these creatures?
JS: I’ve been into folklore and monsters since I was a kid, so it almost doesn’t really feel like research per se. Supernatural elements are so interesting to me, but what is even more interesting is how regionally based these myths are and what little information there is surrounding most of them. Take the Chenoo for instance… there’s not much locked down about these creatures. Which in turn gives us a ton of leeway when telling our story. We can mold them to what tale we’re trying to tell.
JF: Did you have a favorite monster from the first arc?
JS: The Skin-Walker, which wasn’t even a character that I originally had in the script. That was the artist, Jorge Corona’s, doing. He wanted to draw a “Warg King” or “Warg Animal Trainer” or something like that. So I pushed back, saying that I don’t want to make up a creature. There are too many good myths out there to choose from and one of the rules that I set in place was that every creature would be rooted in some sort of mythological background. So after a few emails back and forth I presented the Skin-Walker and Jorge jumped on it with wild abandon. With the help of Gabriel Cassata’s colors and Steve Wands inks and lettering, the team really cobbled together an awesome character.
JF: Jorge Corona's artwork is incredible. How did the designs for some of the monsters come about?
JS: I give him the background on the myths and where they’re regionally based. Most of the mythology in this arc of Goners hails from indigenous tribal mythology, so with that knowledge Jorge would start sketching it out. I couldn’t tell you how Jorge’s beautiful brain works. Even with the Skin-Walker, he made the human form have no teeth, just gums, because he only ate when he stalked and killed his prey in animal form. That’s not something I told him to do… his brain just went there.
Whether that’s awesome or scary, I leave that up to you.
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JF: If Goners were adapted for television, who would you cast as Josiah and Zoe?
JS: Oh man… this is almost a non-starter because the entertainment world has ways of finding child actors that no one has ever heard of, but blows everyone’s mind in the room. But going to the fairy tale land of make-believe: That kid from Insidious and Jurassic World, Ty Simpkins, would be a pretty rad as Josiah. And Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones would obviously be amazing for Zoe – with darker hair of course.
JF: What's next for the Latimer family? Please tell me there's another story coming.
JS: There hasn’t been anything official as of yet, but our Goners volume 1 numbers were nice. We were no-name guys, fresh to this business, and from the numbers it looks like a lot of people “trade waited.” Which is positive news for the future of the book.
Jorge and I will reunite (we only ever physically-met for five minutes at NYCC) at Phoenix ComicCon at the end of May. We’ll grab a couple of drinks and talk over our future together. Who knows… we may hate each other in person and swear to never work with one another ever again.
That or we’ll do another story arc of Goners…
HorrorTalk would like to thank Jacob Semahn for taking the time to speak with us. Goners: Volume 1 – We All Fall Down, debuts in comic book stores on April 29th, 2015, just before Free Comic Book Day. It will be available in book stores on May 12th, 2015.
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