Top Cow’s 13-issue “Artifacts” has gathered the thirteen most powerful objects in the Top Cow Universe and their bearers to do battle, and joining them has been an impressive stable of artists. The series kicked off with art by Michael Broussard followed by Image Comics founder and “Wetworks” creator Whilce Portacio, but starting with July’s #9, Jeremy Haun gets his shot. Formerly of “Detective Comics” and “Berserker,” the Top Cow-exclusive artist gets to try his hand at drawing Witchblade, the Darkness, Magdalena, the Angelus, Tom Judge, Ian Nottingham and the rest of the players as “Artifacts” heads toward its conclusion. It seems like the perfect gig for a longtime Image fanboy and upcoming “The Darkness” artist.
“Like just about everyone back in the ’90s, I was a huge fan of everything Image was putting out,” Haun told CBR News. “I followed ‘Cyberforce’ and ‘The Darkness.’ More recently I’ve been into stuff like ‘Wanted,’ a lot of the Pilot Season books and Phil Hester’s run on ‘The Darkness.’ After working on ‘Berserker’ for Top Cow, I was really excited to check out this ‘Artifacts’ book that they kept talking about. I picked it up from day one and really loved it.”
What Haun saw when he picked up the early issues of “Artifacts” was each bearer of the 13 mystical artifacts choosing which side to fight on after the murder of Witchblade wielder Sara Pezzini’s sister, Julie, and the kidnapping of Hope, her daughter with Darkness bearer Jackie Estacado. Needless to say, the book is a pretty big deal for the Top Cow Universe, which was nerve-wracking enough for Haun before even considering the talent he had to follow.
“It’s a huge book,” Haun said. “Both Michael Broussard and Whilce Portacio did such a phenomenal job on their arcs. I really felt like I had to bring my absolute best to the book. It’s a good thing, though. I’ve wanted to push myself artistically. Nothing is quite as much of a challenge as taking on an epic, universe spanning event.”
With a universe in the balance and some pretty distinct shoes to fill, some might think Haun would need to alter his style to match his predecessors, but he told CBR that was not the case. He did, however, push himself to improve aspects of his style.
“Filip [Sablik] and the guys at Top Cow asked me to come work with them because they like what I do,” Haun said. “They haven’t asked me to change that at all and I haven’t felt the need to. There are little [changes], like my page layouts and the like, that I’ve been doing on ‘Artifacts,’ but that was something that I had already started in my work at DC. With every book that I work on, I like to set a few creative goals for myself. One of my big ones on ‘Artifacts’ and my work at Top Cow has been going for that epic scope. I’m really happy with the way things are going so far. I’m going to continue to push myself with every issue. Hopefully it shows.”
A broadening of scope wasn’t Haun’s only challenge when tackling “Artifacts” though, as each of the characters offered their own unique hurdles. Undeterred by the extra work, Haun dove in and enjoyed the detailed work.
“Yeah, wow, some of these characters’ looks are so involved. While I say that, I’m really amazed at how much I love drawing them,” Haun explained. “Characters like the Darkness and Witchblade, with their bio-organic armor are pretty tough to draw consistently from panel to panel, but that’s part of the fun. So far I’ve really loved drawing Ji, Glori [Silver, bearer of the Ember Stone] and Angelus. Ji, the thirteenth bearer, isn’t as involved, but he’s just got such a great look. I love drawing his ‘dark’ form. Both Glorianna and Angelus have these really involved, beautiful costumes. While they took a while to draw, I really loved how they turned out. Oh, and then there’s Tom Judge. I could draw that guy all day. I’m going to have to figure out, at some point, how to get Filip to let me draw a Tom Judge miniseries or something. He’s easily one of the coolest characters in the Top Cow Universe.”
Haun’s fascination with the former priest, prisoner of hell and current bearer of The Rapture, Tom Judge, stems from writer Ron Marz’s badass interpretation of him in the pages of “Artifacts.” Speaking of Marz, he and Haun have a good back-and-forth relationship that includes some friendly calling-out here and there.
“I have to admit, Ron isn’t afraid to challenge me as an artist,” Haun said. “He’s said publicly a few times that he’s going to break me with this series. For the record, he’s not going to break me. I survived some of the insanity he threw at me in #9. I’m pretty sure I’m going to survive. All kidding aside, Ron is a lot of fun to work with. He definitely knows how to balance out a story. He thinks visually, which is a nice thing. He really understands when a scene needs some room to breathe. That is such an important thing. It’s nice to have a writer that understands that it is a collaboration and encourages me to do my thing. Ron gives just the right amount of description. Not too little, but not so much that it kills any creativity I might have. As far as the characters go, most of the cast has already been designed, so there’s not a lot of need to say much more than ‘[Ian] Nottingham cuts off Jackie [Estacado, a.k.a. The Darkness]’s head.’ Um… I mean… just as an example.”
Decapitation is no joke, especially between two men who have each enjoyed flings with Sara Pezzini — and wielders of the Blood Sword and the Darkness artifacts, respectively. As for where the series goes from here, Haun was tight-lipped about what he could offer up for CBR’s readers.
“You mean aside from Nottingham cutting off Jackie’s head?” Haun asked. “Let’s see, what isn’t going to get me into trouble. Well, we’re going to find out a bit more about the big baddie. That’s some pretty epic stuff. I can’t wait for people to see that. I also get to draw a pretty… steamy scene. I haven’t really done that before. I can’t say much more than that. Things really kick into high gear in these last issues. People are going to be very happy. I know ‘fan me’ is.”
Haun has more on his plate than just “Artifacts,” though. He will also be taking over the penciling duties on “The Darkness” with writer Phil Hester beginning with this fall’s #96 and noted that “Artifacts” has been a great warm up.
“They’re definitely different books, feel-wise,” Haun said. “‘The Darkness’ isn’t quite so huge and all-over-the-place. It’s a much more dark, personal, kind of street level story. Still, it’s nice to figure out a character’s look and how I want to represent that world. I’m really looking forward to getting started on ‘The Darkness.’ It’s going to be a lot of fun to step in and work on one book for a good long time.”