Geek Vibes Interview: ComiXology Original ‘40 Seconds’ Writer Jeremy Haun

Jeremy Haun has been a busy man in his career. Not only has he drawn for just about The Who’s Who of comic publishers, he is also an accomplished writer. But for his recent work for ComiXology Originals, he has turned over his artist pallet to fellow artist Christopher Mitten and broke out his typewriter or laptop…or whatever creative folk use these days.  The result is the first issue of 40 Seconds. A wonderful homage to the great science fiction of yesteryear and one of the most visually original books out there. So let’s welcome, Artist/Writer Jeremy Haun to Geek Vibes Interview. Thank you for giving us some of your time, Jeremy.

GVN: So let’s start out with the prerequisite questions. How did you get your start in writing comics? Was it something you desired at an early age or did it come later in your life?

JH: Comics have always been a part of my life. My mom used to work in a pharmacy when I was young and would bring me stacks of comics once they were pulled from the spinner rack. I don’t think I knew that comics even had covers for a while. 

I’ve always read, written, and drawn my own comics. In school, and then early in my career, my focus was on the art. I worked steadily as an artist for just about every company in the industry. Even though I was seen as an artist, I was always still writing. I had notebooks of concepts and full scripts. 

I was visiting a friend, Filip Sablik (BOOM! Studios) when we were both working for Top Cow Entertainment and we were up late in his kitchen chatting and drinking. He gently pushed me to write more. I took the advice and developed THE BEAUTY that year for Pilot Season. I’m eternally grateful to Filip for that nudge. The artist became the writer/artist– the cartoonist, I suppose. I’ve never been happier.  

 GVN: Since you ARE an artist as well as a writer, do your skills as an artist make writing easier or harder? Does it effect how you frame your story?

JH: I think it definitely helps. I really try to write a script with the artist in mind. My job is to paint a picture with words. It has to be clear, concise, and still…not get in the way of the artist. 

I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with such talented artists– be it Mike Huddleston, Brett Weldele, Stephen Green, or Thomas Nachlik on THE BEAUTY, Danny Luckert on THE RED MOTHER, and now Chris Mitten on 40 SECONDS.

GVN: So have you ever thought that a certain part of your story should be presented a different way? Do you ever offer your own artistic insights for the artists you are working with?

JH: One of the things I’ve felt is most important is to not micromanage the artists I’m working with. As an artist, I’ve always wanted the respect and latitude to do my thing. It’s only fair that I extend the same to my creative partners when I’m writing. Of course it’s also easy when you’ve got such brilliant folks bringing your stories to life.

GVN: That is a very professional attitude and I’m sure your collaborators appreciate that perspective. Which artists/writers were your inspirations? Whose work made Jeremy Haun think, I want to do that?

JH: Early on it was Claremont and Byrne. Art Adams melted my brain. Walt Simonson’s run on THOR was an obsession. Same with Annie Nocenti and John Romita Jr on DAREDEVIL. Maybe that Nocenti/Romita run more than just about anything. 

It’s impossible not to be affected by Frank Miller. His work on DAREDEVIL was epic. So much of that was Dave Mazzucchelli. Frank was brilliant on his own, but when he worked with Mazzucchelli it was just pure magic. 

Of course there’s no denying the influence of the Image folks. Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane were all huge influences. Superstars, those guys.

Somewhere in there I found Mike Mignola. I’m not sure a creator ever inspired me more. His art was weird and just perfect. Nothing like mine at all– but that’s okay– maybe even the point. It being nothing like my work made me love it more.

The other Mignola inspiration was that he started out as an artist and then evolved. Hell– he brought John Byrne on to script HELLBOY for the first arc. Now he’s writing and co-writing some of the longest standing, most enjoyable, weird comics out there. I love them. 

GVN: I love that answer. It’s always nice to know that no matter the success that a creator has, they can still “fanboy” over the greats in their profession. 🖖🏻 Now speaking of other creators, Did you have any mentors or someone who encouraged you to pursue your career? There always seems to be someone who believed in a creator where others did not.

JH: I mentioned Filip Sablik earlier. There’s no denying how much that talk led me to where I am today. I mean– I worked for him as an artist. In some ways it may have benefited him to have me stay in my lane– keep my head down and just draw. There can be a lot of that in comics. “STAY IN YOUR LANE!”  Not from Filip though. I think he was curious just what I could do. I’m not sure that he saw it leading to THE RED MOTHER (and an entire career as a writer) all these years later, but it sure seemed to. 

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of supportive friends along the way. A few years ago my friends B. Clay Moore, Alex Grecian, and Seth Peck were starting a little creative collective called BAD KARMA. They invited me along to be the fourth member. They made a real point to say that they weren’t asking me on as an artist (even though I’d still end up drawing some stuff for the project), but they wanted me on board as a writer. 

I talk a lot to people who say that they’d like to write. Sometimes it’s young creatives that are just interested in telling stories. Sometimes it’s other artists that would like to stretch their legs and write too. My advice is always the same– if you want to write, then write. The act of writing makes you a writer. It’s simple. But It’s true. 

And hey– it takes a while to get pretty good at it. That’s okay too. 

 GVN: We have talked about how many publishers you have worked for. What was your first big break in the comics industry and how did that come about?

JH: My path to comics was a weird one– and it was forever ago now. I thought I was going to get into comics right out of high school. I was drawing– trying to be a Humberto Ramos/Joe Mad clone at the time because someone told me that was what would sell. Unsolicited tip–it did not. Being influenced by things is fine, but being a lesser version of some artist’s style isn’t really the way to a real sustainable career. 

Anyway, digression aside, I went to SDCC. It was a big show then, but nowhere near the mammoth it is today. I showed my portfolio to everyone. The best advice I got was from Marvel editor Ralph Macchio. He told me he didn’t think I was drawing in my style. He felt like my character moments really shined and I needed to figure out what kind of artist I wanted to be– what kind of stories I wanted to tell. I took that to heart, went home and started to try and tell my own stories. I drew a lot over the next couple years.

The real big break came when I handed our bizarre, black and white, self published book PARADIGM to Jim Valentino at Planet Comicon in Kansas City. Jim messaged a week later and asked why we hadn’t pitched it to Image. My response was “I didn’t know if you’d want it.”. He said that they did. We ended up publishing twelve issues of PARADIGM. 

I learned a lot during that time. That book led to a book called BATTLE HYMN with B. Clay Moore. I think BATTLE HYMN was really the book that showed people what I could do.  Those books led me to where I am today. 

 GVN: The lesson in that story was basically to not be afraid to put your work out there. It certainly proved advantageous in your career. Since your start, you have done freelance work for many different publishers. How hard is it to adapt to the different formats that a different company may require? Or perhaps you work how you work and they know that going in?

JH: I don’t know, honestly. I kind of tell stories how I tell stories. Sure, every publisher is a bit different. Honestly though, when I go in and talk with a publisher I’m looking for a partner that will let me tell the story I want to tell. I’ve been very fortunate with that.

I do think it’s important to understand the company you’re pitching to. There are companies that don’t really do superhero books. There are companies that are actively looking for all ages content. I try and know what I’m walking into. Of course it does really help that I have a ridiculous list of projects that I’ve been building. There’s probably something that fits, should the stars align. 

GVN: So what was your inspiration for 40 Seconds? It seems like a throwback to the Science Fiction of old. Schematics for a portal are sent and mankind just jumps in and builds it without worrying what the motivations were behind the sharing. We humans are stupid that way.

JH: Ha! Yeah. We are kind of dumb, aren’t we? I definitely wrote 40 SECONDS as a love letter to those old sci-fi stories from when I was a kid. I always loved big, fun world hopping stuff. There was something wondrous about seeing what world they’d go to this week on STAR TREK or how they’d go from Hoth to Dagobah in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. 

I wanted to take a story that starts out as exploration and then make it…weird. There are a lot of layers to this story. Sure it’s a fun romp, but it goes pretty dark. This team starts off on one journey and then realizes they’re on a completely different path. That’s exciting to me.   

 GVNHow did you get with artist Christopher Mitten? From the first issue, the results are amazing, and clearly original.

JH: Chris and I have been friends for years. I’ve always been absolutely blown away by his stuff. We love the same things, and while our art styles are vastly different, there’s still some kind of…I dunno–connective thead there. Chris drew B. Clay Iiiiii8 had come. I asked what he was really itching to draw, he said big, fun sci-fi. I had just the thing.

 GVNThe color scheme for this first issue really stands out. With pastel colors that are subdued but beautiful to look at. Was this how you envisioned your story to look? Or did you give Christopher and colorist Brett Weldele free reign?

JH: Yeah– let’s talk Brett Weldele for a minute here. HOLY SHIT that guy is good!  If you’re not familiar with Brett’s work, you should be. He graced us with his color magic for this book, but Brett is an amazing illustrator. I worked with Brett on the second arc of THE BEAUTY. He drew the story of Ezerae–one of my favorite characters in the series. It’s lovely.

When Chris and I started discussing colorists for this project, Chris said he’d like to try something truly new and different. We wanted to take things to the next level with this project– to make something that absolutely showcased what Chris can do. 

I knew Brett had done a bit of color work. I think it was a favor really, and I honestly was a little hesitant to mention him because I didn’t want to take time away from his drawing work. But damn…I just kept thinking of his stuff. I mentioned him to Chris and he messaged back later saying that he couldn’t get the idea of Brett’s colors out of his head. We asked. Brett ever so graciously agreed. And there it is– magic.

GVN: Magic Indeed. It was the first thing that caught my eye upon looking at it. Just a beautiful, serene color pallet. Great work by Brett. Will 40 seconds be a long running series? What is your hopes for that or do you see it as a limited series? The potential is there in either case.

JH: 40 SECONDS is going to run five issues.…for now. I scheme.

 GVNDo you have any other projects coming that you are free to discuss? I’m sure our followers would love to know what’s next for you?

JH: 2020 has been a real dumpster fire, hasn’t it? I feel like amidst all this chaos the one thing that I could control has been the stories I can tell. It’s probably one part needing to focus on anything but the weirdness out there and one part therapy, but damn– it worked pretty well.

I’ve spent the past five months making things absolutely my way. I’ve lined up several projects– a lot of writing, some drawing, and a good bit of that both writing and drawing. Over the next six months I’m going to have 40 SECONDS coming out from ComiXology and THE RED MOTHER finishing up at BOOM!

I’ve also got this strange and interesting project I’ve been working on called HAUNTHOLOGY. It’s a series of black and white short stories. Mostly horror stuff. All dealing with the things we are feeling during this pandemic– fear, loneliness, exhaustion, isolation. That kind of seems heavy, but honestly they’re genre stories. Some are really dark, but others are just bizarre and fun.

For the moment I’m doing HAUNTHOLOGY as a bi-weekly release on my Patreon( I’ve finished seven stories so far and have another one dropping next week. That’s nearly forty pages so far and there’s no end in sight. I’m planning on putting together a volume for physical release once I reach a hundred (or so) pages. We’ll see how it goes from there. That book is definitely going to have a nice VOL. 1 on it. 

GVN: Finally, I have a habit of closing with a hypothetical question to encourage you to make some hard choices. So here is yours. You have done work for many different publications. 40 Seconds has put you on a short list of talents desired by the comic publishers at large. You are given an opportunity to write and or draw a character arc for any character you wish: Marvel, DC, Image, Valiant…the comics world is yours to command. Which character would you like to bring your talents to bear on? Is there a character that is on Jeremy Haun’s bucket list that you have always wanted to craft a story for? 

JH: I love to write. It’s hard for me to imagine not telling my own stories. I tell them my way and the result, come what may, is on me. All that said, I’m still an absolute nerd. I’m also not really a rule follower, so I’m going to pick two.

I’ve got an Elseworlds style BATWOMAN story that I’ve been wanting to write and draw for a long time. I’m not sure if they’re doing anything like that at all, but by all means, if so– call me. I’d also like to take a real stab at BATMAN for a while. Writing, drawing, the whole thing. BATMAN works for me best when you play up the horror and detective elements of his character. So there you go. Two things. I could probably name a dozen, but that’s just overkill. 

GVN: So you heard him…or read him DC. The offer is out there. All you have to do is make it happen. Thank you so much for your time and we will be following 40 Seconds with interest. If your  first issue is any indication, you have a winner on your hands..

JH: Thanks for chatting. Here’s to making things, telling stories, and having a little bit of good in a weird, weird time.

If you haven’t had an opportunity, check out the ComiXology Original 40 Seconds. It tells a classic Science Fiction Story wrapped in a original style and an attractive package.

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