Q&A: “GONERS” author Jacob SemahnBooks/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,News Svetlana Fedotov
While the name Jacob Semahn may still be a relatively unknown, it definitely won’t be for long if his latest work, GONERS, is any indication. Mixing folktale horror with modern action, Semahn has created an original work that explores the recesses of terror and the importance of family as GONERS follows two siblings solve the ghostly mystery of their parents death. With art by Jorge Corona, GONERS is slowly climbing up the comic ladder with issue #5 soon to be released. FANGORIA recently sat down with Semahn to discuss inspiration, horror, and plans for the future…
FANGORIA: What’s the inspiration behind GONERS?
JACOB SEMAHN: There have been a lot of inspirations, but none as much as the nostalgia of my own childhood. I feel that nostalgia informs a lot of creator’s decisions and motivations, and I’m no different. My childhood was filled with Spielberg adventure and King horror. So those two things are influential touches that I believe naturally evolved into the GONERS universe. That and there’s a nice little nod at the end to Fred Dekker and Shane Black’s THE MONSTER SQUAD.
FANGORIA: It seems like you haven’t done much horror before, what has inspired you to do a horror comic?
SEMAHN: While I’ve done a lot of paid-for-hire gigs in TV and some in comics, I haven’t really done much creator-owned work before, but this is where I naturally sit. I’m a huge fan of horror and have been since I was eight years old, after I stayed up late for the two night airing of Stephen King’s IT on ABC. I had nightmares for months, but it gave me an insatiable appetite for all things horror. Most of my work has twinges of genre fiction, whether horror or sci-fi; I dig it all.
FANGORIA: Despite focusing on a young brother/sister team, this comic is not all ages but more 13 and over. Was that intentional?
SEMAHN: My goal was to give it a heartwarming Amblin family feel while playing up the “real” nature of horror. Monsters don’t care if you’re a child or a virgin that doesn’t drink… you’re dead if you don’t act. It’s “PG-13,” but it’s a book about the loss of innocence and growing up fast in harrowing situations as much as it’s about family and the drama of “sins of the father”-type secrets that are revealed. I’m eclectic like that.
FANGORIA: Speaking of teen and pre-teen protagonists, you have managed to avoid the common trope of making them slaves to their puberty and dripping the oldest in black clothing. Were you aiming for a more of a realistic depiction of kids?
SEMAHN: That and I wanted to show something different from most horror books out there. These kids, despite the world they live in, are well-adjusted and whip-smart individuals. I don’t see what making them brooding puberty-addled teens would add to the book. Hell, I’ll go one step further and say that it would hurt the story. Why would you want your characters to reflect the world around them? Make them the same? No. You should make them the opposite of the world around them. That’s what makes them stand out from the terrors that hunt them and shine a little more.
FANGORIA: The monsters in the comic are actual characters from folklore all around the world. How much research went into that?
SEMAHN: You’d be surprised how little information there is out there on certain folklore creatures, which actually helps our story, as I feel much better about taking liberties on what they can do and how they can do it. But what makes GONERS unique is that it is based in a world that we all used to believe in. We actually believed in this world longer than we haven’t believed in it. These creatures are so rich and interesting that I can’t believe that there hasn’t been more done with them.
FANGORIA: How did you and the artist Jorge Corona get together? Did he have a lot of input on where the story was to go?
SEMAHN: I met Jorge at New York City Comic-Con in 2013. He showed me his portfolio and once I saw it, I immediately knew that his art was perfect to reflect that loss of innocence that Zoe and Josiah Latimer would go through. It’s a book that has a mild cartoony look, but with a darker color palette tinged with bright contrasts. We both connected on the aesthetic of the book, the adventure of a JONNY QUEST cartoon with a world that resembles an episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Jorge was a cartoon junkie growing up, so this was the language we used to convey our look.
As for story, he’s had a lot of input, and even pushed to change a character that I was going to use that is now the Skin-Walker character. He really wanted to draw a character that was an Alpha Warg-like master. And after some research, we settled on the Skin-Walker mythos.
FANGORIA: Would you like to see this as a long running project or keep it more contained?
SEMAHN: I have five arcs that I would love to explore in the series as we grow up with the characters until one big climactic battle that has the world hanging in the balance. I wanted to see the characters of GONERS live and love. Grow and die. Fight and lose. Overall, I want to show the last generation of this family and the impact that they leave on their world, for good or bad. That being said, we’re a slave to the order numbers, so it’s based on readers checking us out month to month.
FANGORIA: Is there anything else we can expect from you in the future?
SEMAHN: I have a graphic novel anthology called INFECTED that is currently with Image Comics. It’s about my life after a coma and how it turned me into a massive germaphobe… a germaphobe trying to make a connection in a dirty world. The collection is told through ten short stories, which equals one overarching story, and illustrated by ten rad artists. If I had to give a tonal comparison to something, its BLANKETS meets AMERICAN SPLENDOR.
Jacob Semahn’s GONERS is now available on shelves and digital outlets everywhere.