Jeremy Haun: Drawing the DarknessA comics interview article by: Steve Wilcox
Top Cow Productions exclusive artist Jeremy Haun is getting ready to take over art chores on one of the publisher's most popular and longest running titles, The Darkness, with new series writer David Hine. His first issue hits stores tomorrow, March 21! We recently had the chance to chat with Haun about his entire career, from its start on the indie comic Paradigm all the way to The Darkness and 2011's Pilot Season winning title, The Beauty.
Steve Wilcox for Comics Bulletin: Jeremy, first of all, congrats on winning the 2011 Top Cow Pilot Season contest with your book, (along with Jason Hurley), The Beauty. I think I may have voted a couple dozen times for it.
Jeremy Haun: Thanks. We're really excited about the win. It was a close contest and there were a lot of great books this year. I'm glad fans liked and supported The Beauty. It gives us the opportunity to finish up this pretty complex story that we started.
CB: I first became a fan of yours with Paradigm, published by Image in 2002. Was this your first published work?
Haun: I did a few really really small things here and there. Paradigm was my first real go at it. We did the initial self-published issue in 2001 and then were picked up by Image and republished that first issue with a couple extra pages, bells and whistles.
CB: Gotta love the bells and whistles. How did you guys get the attention of Image with your book? Did you and Matt Cashel submit it, or was it something someone from Image spotted?
Haun: We never really thought of doing anything beyond self-publishing Paradigm. We weren't against it or anything, it was just this little bi-monthly thing that Matt and I were doing. We took that first issue to Kansas City for Planet Comic Con to promote. Jim Valentino happened to be there, and on a lark we gave him a copy of the book. About a week later he got in touch with us and graciously invited us to do the book at Image. It changed everything.
CB: Wow. What a lucky break. And to think, you two were just happy to self-publish. I'm glad you handed a copy to Jim!
What caught my eye was your art. To be honest, it took me a few reads to get a grasp on the story. It was kind of confusing. Even today, I have an incomplete set, so I'm still a bit confused on some of the plotlines.
Haun: Ha! Yeah, Paradigm was definitely a dense book. We were young. There was a lot we wanted to explore. It was a really ambitious book to cut your teeth on. That can be a good thing and a bad one.
CB: How long did Paradigm run? Have you put any thought into a collected edition?
Haun: The book ran 12 issues, right at the end of the first big "arc." It definitely left off with more questions than answers. We didn't get the opportunity to finish it. I hate that. We always intended to get back to the book, but you know how career paths go.
We put together one trade collecting the first few issues. There were always plans to do more, but they just never came together. Over the years since, we've come close to doing a collection a couple of times. Honestly though, it would be a monumental task getting everything together. I'm not really sure how possible that is.
CB: Where did you go from there?
Haun: After Paradigm, I really wasn't sure what I was going to do. There were a few options. I ended up driving down to Dallas with B. Clay Moore for their Wizard World show. On the way, we started talking about this WWII book he'd been planning. At the time it was called Anthem, which became Battle Hymn. By the time we got back it was a go project and we started work on it pretty much immediately.
CB: I loved Battle Hymn. I remember seeing the character sketches on one of the comic news sites and being really excited. Your art seemed well suited for period super-heroics.
Haun: Battle Hymn was a lot of fun. In spite of the usual self-loathing we artists feel for our older work, it's easily one of my favorite things that I've done.
CB: Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there talk about developing Battle Hymn as a motion picture?
Haun: In light of a lot of the superhero movies that we've seen over the past couple of years, I think Battle Hymn would make a great film. We've had some conversations about it, but nothing that we can really talk about yet.
CB: How was working with B. Clay Moore? The two of you also did Leading Man together, right?
Haun: Clay is a good friend and one of the best collaborators I've worked with. We've worked together several times. As soon as we get the chance to line up our schedules, we're going to again. We work well together. There's a shared aesthetic and language, there.
After Battle Hymn, Clay and I worked on The Leading Man together for Oni. We wanted to do something modern and different following our dark WWII superhero book.
CB: During that time, didn't you also work with Jeff Marriott on his Desperadoes series? Following up John Cassaday as artist on the second series, if I'm not mistaken. Those are some pretty big shoes to follow. Did you feel any pressure coming into that?
Haun: Yeah, I worked on Desperadoes at the same time as Battle Hymn. Heh, seems like my career has been pretty full of that sort of thing. Shortly after I started Battle Hymn, IDW contacted me and asked if I'd like to draw the series. I dug the book and love westerns, so I jumped at the chance. Well, the digging the book and loving the westerns and a page rate. We'd just found out we were having our first son, at the time. Feeding the family became a bit more of an issue around that time.
"Banners of Gold," the Desperadoes arc I drew was actually the fourth installment. Cassaday drew the first one, and the other two were drawn by John Lucas and John Severin. So yeah, with those guys, no pressure at all. Actually, I just found out today that John Severin passed. Sad to see him go. His work on Desperadoes and everything he touched was just outstanding. It was a lot to live up to.
CB: He's one of the artists I always considered up there with John Buscema and Gil Kane, you know. Not as high on the ladder as Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, but right up there, maybe one rung down. Too many artists passing lately.
From Desperadoes you kind of bounced around a bit. I remember seeing you on a Masters of Horror book and GI Joe. It seemed you were never without some sort of book on the stands. After Leading Man and the other projects here and there, you began getting work from Marvel. What was it like going from small press books or independent companies to working for Marvel on some pretty high profile projects, like the Civil War tie-in and some of the X-Family books?
Haun: I have been really fortunate to work pretty consistently over the past decade. I have bounced around a lot. I've never minded that. It's allowed me to work on a variety of things with some phenomenally talented creators and nearly every company in the industry.
I was thinking, just the other day, that really the only publisher that I haven't done work for is Dark Horse. I'm going to need to remedy that before too long. Of course, given my exclusive at Top Cow that might be a few years down the road.
CB: Oh you should totally do a Lobster Johnson miniseries for Dark Horse when you're no longer exclusive to Top Cow, but I hope that's a long way off.
Haun: Getting work with Marvel was a huge step for me. It was something that I'm not even sure I was ready for at the time. I'd done a lot of more real world stuff in my books. Being asked to come in and draw such a huge Civil War tie-in book took some adjusting to. I think that was a great thing, though. I love all of those characters. Getting to draw Captain America, Iron Man and so many Marvel characters was kind of mind blowing for me. I learned a lot about epic action and storytelling during my time at Marvel. At some point, I'd like to take what I know now and revisit that universe. I think it would be a lot of fun.
CB: Back to your other work, you teamed up with Joshua Fialkov on a Pilot Season book called Alibi. [For those who don't know, the Pilot Season books basically are modeled after network television and their pilot season, where a handful of television pilots are produced to try to "win" the favor of network execs and get bought so that they can produce a full series.] What was it like working on a Pilot Season book with Josh, since he was one of two winners in the first Pilot Season contest?
Haun: Yeah, Alibi was a lot of fun to work on. At the time that I came on and did Alibi, I'd been doing a lot of superhero work. It was nice to step back into doing more of the espionage, real world stuff. I really tried to take some of what I'd learned working over at Marvel and tell this simple, cinematic spy story. Even though I'd been friends with a lot of the Top Cow guys for a while, Alibi was my first chance to work with them. After finishing the book, they were a company that I knew I needed to get back to.
Josh is a hell of a guy. He works hard and loves telling fun genre stories. He's one of those guys that, if you look at their body of work, it tells pretty much exactly the kind of stories he digs. Alibi is a great example of that. In spite of working on it with him and only being just that one issue, it's one of my favorite things he's done. Well, that and Echoes. All of his Top Cow stuff, really, now that I come to think of it.
CB: You just won, with your writing partner Jason Hurley, the 2011 Top Cow Pilot Season with your book, The Beauty. How will you find the time to work on that series while also serving as the new regular artist on The Darkness?
Haun: We won! Crazy. When Filip and Matt initially asked us to be a part of Pilot Season with The Beauty, I didn't think our little weird STD book had a snowball's chance in hell of winning. It's a huge testament to the support of the fans.
It's not going to be easy finishing The Beauty and working on The Darkness at the same time. It just has to happen, though. I've really been working hard to get ahead on The Darkness to allow myself to take the time to work on The Beauty, too, and not screw up the schedule. Typically, I'm pretty fast. It's pretty common for me to pencil and ink a page a day. Sometimes I do a bit more, sometimes -- on absolutely insane pages -- a bit less, but overall a page a day. Add to that the fact that I tend to work seven days a week, and the pages tend to pile up. These are also two books that I absolutely love. The Darkness is kind of a perfect fit for me with the whole gritty crime/horror thing, and The Beauty is just my twisted baby. These are both books that I greedily don't want anyone else doing the art on for a good, long time.
CB: That's really commendable that you are so dedicated to making your run on The Darkness a seamless one. It's nice to see an artist who is committed to being on a title more than a short arc at a time.
Haun: I've been crazy busy working on Darkness #103. We're really devoted to trying to get as much of the book in the bank as possible before our first issue hits the stands. If everything keeps going as planned I should be working on 104 by then. I'm excited about the idea of keeping The Darkness on schedule as part of a consistent team.
CB: Alibi ended up being pretty successful, didn't it? I mean, it didn't win the Pilot Season that year, but I keep hearing that there's some film interest.
Haun: Alibi was pretty successful, and in spite of not winning that season had a strong following. I'm not exactly sure of the status of it, but it is in development as a film.
CB: As you know, I loved The Beauty. I'm so glad you won, even though some of my favorite creators, some of whom I consider friends, were involved on other books. This was the best year, in my opinion, creatively for Pilot Season. You all set the bar really high for the next season.
I look forward to seeing you continue The Beauty and The Darkness. I think both books will appeal to the same type of reader, so hopefully you get a lot of Darkness readers checking out The Beauty who may've been living under a rock during the whole voting period.
Haun: I really appreciate the chance to talk. Thanks for all of the support of my work. I'm having the time of my life and I plan on doing this for a good long time.
You can follow Jeremy Haun on Twitter at @jerhaun.
Also, check out his website, where he posts almost daily shots of various panels he's working on at the time, among other updates.