Myths, Monsters and the Supernatural Collide in Semahn and Corona's "Goners"

Josiah and Zoe Latimer are no strangers to the unexpected. When you're the kids of famous ghost hunters in a family with a legacy for paranormal policing, you learn pretty quickly that things aren't always what they seem. But when their parents meet a violent end, Josiah and Zoe's sheltered lives are about to explode into a whirlwind of adventure, mystery and danger from beyond the veil. Find out if the young Latimers can rise to the challenge and avenge their parents, or if they'll all be "Goners."

Written by Jacob Semahn with art and colors by Jorge Corona and Gabriel Cassata, "Goners" is a new Image Comics series that serves as a throwback to their favorite childhood ghosts and monsters. Debuting in October and filled with creepy wraiths, shadowy scares and just enough gore to make readers jump, "Goners" promises to evoke the same feeling as horror/adventure classics. CBR News spoke with Semahn and Corona to find out what sort of mythology inspires them and how betrayals, commitments and family are at the core of their story.

CBR News: Jacob, I'd like to start by finding out what drew you to telling a paranormal story. Do you have a relationship with paranormal research? Jorge, was this something you were interested in?

Jacob Semahn: My background growing up was one of relative freedom. My parents were extremely supportive of my interests at a young age. But of course there was a line. A line that I found ways of sneaking around and taking full advantage of ... that is, until the age of seven, when over the course of two nights, ABC aired "Stephen King's IT." I had nightmares for weeks. The thought of young children facing an unspeakable horror that grown ups could not perceive, terrified me. Adults were there to protect us against the horrors of the world, right?

Films like IT, Goonies, and Monster Squad are the break in the chain. Where the kids have to grow up quick. Where they have to save the day.

Those are the parallels that I draw from when I came up with this idea.

And to answer your other question, while I do not have a relationship with paranormal research per se, I would go on one of those reality shows in a heartbeat (lookin' at you "Ghost Hunters." Gauntlet thrown.).

Jorge Coronoa: I think, in the same lines as Jake, my interest for paranormal, supernatural mysteries came from my childhood. But unlike Jake, watching the big boy movies, mine came from the cartoons I used to watch. When I was growing up shows like "Jonny Quest," the original "Scooby-Doo," "Mighty Max" and even the cartoon version of "Tales from the Cryptkeeper" were always my favorites. From then on I couldn't get enough of this sense of horror and adventure that, for the most part, had children at its core. Once Jake approached me with the script for a comic called "The Family Latimer" I picked up the same elements that appealed to me as a kid and followed me until today. It was easy saying "yes" to the project.

Semahn: There was a "Tales from the Cryptkeeper" cartoon? How the hell am I just finding out about this now?

You mention that there is a deep well of mythology in this book -- what aspects will you drawing on?

Semahn: I'm big on world history and its colorful folklore. With the exception of the Ekeks (stemming from the Philippines) at the end of issue #1 and throughout issue #2, most of the mythology seen will be indigenous tribal mythology as the story takes place in the fictional town of King's Bluff, Massachusetts. Tribal mythology, while region based, is insanely rich. The fact that we as a world have made Witches, Vampires and Zombies our supernatural "all-stars" is crazy to me. Will we have those in this book? Suuuure. But let's go further. What about liver-stealing Bakaaks? Or the toddler-sized cannibals known as Teihiihan? Or the body-splitting, womb-eating, Manananggal?

This world has a plethora of mythology. "Hellboy" has done a great job of exploring some of these obscure myth types. I'm just here to explore a little more.

Corona: Jake does a great job finding ways to incorporate his repertoire of supernatural creatures into the script in a way that they are not just wandering monsters creating chaos and destruction but, using their characteristics, giving them a purpose and a reason to be there. In a way, they are weapons and soldiers and they have specific functions within the plot. Taking that, I try to incorporate the visual cues of these creatures, and Jake's vision of them for the story, to come up with a design that no matter the nature of the myth, feels like it belongs in the same universe -- the "Goners" Universe.

Have either of you ever had any paranormal experiences?

Semahn: All my ghost stories can be rationally explained or debunked. A voice heard here. A ceiling fan turning on there. When I look at all of it, it can be explained. I've heard others tell their stories and I get goosebumps. And that's what I personally get a kick out of. The goosebumps. The hairs that rise on the back of my neck. It's a fun feeling for me -- being creeped out. And yes, I realize I'm coming off as a complete weirdo.

Corona: More than real paranormal experiences I think I just had a very vivid imagination when I was a kid. If it wasn't a hole in the back of my school that I was certain was a gateway to hell, or a freaky clown toy I was certain moved when I went to bed, most of the time it was just me being afraid of the possibility of what lurked in the dark. The only time I can remember not being the only one seeing things was during a camping trip and a bunch of friends and I saw a man with nails coming out of his back lurking in some tunnels nearby. But I'm willing to bet that was just some moment of mass hysteria.

Semahn: See? Goosebumps.

What is the scope of the series?

Semahn: This is a story that I've planned out in my head since 2007. It's wide in scope and a major brain-melter at the end. However, business is a slave to numbers, so you keep buying 'em. We'll keep making 'em.

How did the two of you connect on this series? And how did it come to Image?

Semahn: Jorge and I met in NYCC one year. A mutually exclusive friend and talented artist named Dane Cypel told Jorge and others to come say "hi" to me at the Man of Action booth. I looked at Jorge's portfolio and it all lined up with a project that I had waiting in the wings. It was called "The Family Latimer" back then and it just fit the mood and artistic style that Jorge had shown me through his line work.

I emailed Jorge with the script. We geeked out over the style and tone of it. We clicked on everything. Seriously -- everything. It was zero work to match the vision in my head to what he put to paper.

And then I didn't hear from him for a few months ... Jorge was in his final year at the wonderful SCAD master's program and I, better than anyone, can respect a college scholarship. Trust.

Suddenly one day, boom! I get an email with the completed book out of nowhere. It was a rush to say the least. I then grabbed Gabriel Cassata, the chameleon of color, to lend his immense talents. With the book colored and lettered by the insanely talented Steve Wands, this baby was ready to be shopped around at Emerald City Comic Con.

Image was and always will be the first place I'll go for anything creator owned. They have a creator owned deal second-to-none. Within ten minutes of pitching to Eric Stephenson, he said he'd be willing to print it, but to change that god-awful title (he was way nicer than that though).

Corona: What Jake said.

The tone of the first issue is definitely scary, but with a sense of playfulness -- the characters are animated with slightly exaggerated proportions and the monsters are equal parts fantasy and horror. What tone did you want to set with the art?

Semahn: That exact tone and style is what we were going for. And I'm glad to hear your impressions are akin to our expressions. There's so much in-your-face gore and realism in comics that it eventually becomes noise. Same with movies. Same with TV. You get too much of something--get too predictable--and it all blends into one. "Goners" is not that book. We will absolutely have gore. But it's going to be stylized and inventive. It's going to have that energetic fun pace that Jorge does so well, but then it will stab you in the heart with a Bowie knife or razor-sharp talon.

Corona: I think, for me, it goes back to that sense of adventure within the horror story. Most of my influences come straight from animation and I'm a true believer of a visual language for storytelling. There is a certain flexibility in the way you can tell a story if you play with the aesthetic of the art and, as soon as I read the script, I knew "Goners" had a wide range of emotions and situations that varied from very personal or playful family moments to action and suspenseful scenes where the characters are literally hanging on for dear life. Shows like "Batman: The Animated Series" have shown us that you can hit all those marks while at the same time keeping a stylized aesthetic.

One of the most important factors, in my opinion, is having Gabe as our colorist. Beyond the point of camera shots and character design, Gabe has managed to accentuate the mood and atmosphere of the series with his beautiful palette and rendering of the scenes ... really bringing all the elements of the story together.

Another thing I'm excited about is Steve. Besides his already amazing lettering, he's also taking over the inking chores starting with issue 2. He definitely brings a sense of organic looseness and texture that compliments the more graphic aspect of my pencils.

Jorge, Jacob mentioned that you work quickly. Can you tell me more about your process?

Corona: Ha! It's really not that different from the way most artists work. My background is in Graphic Design and Advertising, so I've always had a tendency to approach things with that mindset: get the best result you can by taking advantage of whatever resource you have.

Once I get a script from Jake, I take a couple of days to send him the thumbnails, I usually work in a small format, a grid of 9 on a letter-sized paper. What I like to do at this stage is focus on the storytelling more than anything else. I like to take the story to the point that I feel I can understand it, for the most part, without the need for words. Once I'm done with the thumbs I go digital. I have a Wacom Cintiq [tablet] that I use to flesh out the layout and clean up the shots. At this stage I make sure I have enough room for captions and word balloons. The reason I decide to do this digitally, and I think this is why Jake keeps thinking I'm fast, is that it allows me to make any number of changes and play around with ideas quickly, without the need to redraw everything.

Lastly, I print out everything in blue line and, depending if I'm doing pencils or inks, go on top of them with details. Keeping this last step traditional helps me get a more organic feel to the final product.

Semahn: Whatever. You're fast and good. That's all I care about. Now finish issue #4 already!

The creatures that I saw in the first issue were really cool. What was your inspiration for their design?

Semahn: This is how I have and will always work with Jorge. I'll layout four features/attributes of a monster with a visual reference (if he needs it). I tell him the region. And I tell him the sound that they make. He then comes up with a sketch and shows it to me with an, "Eh?" I will then nod as if unimpressed while secretly weeping sloppy fat tears of joy on the inside. I completely trust this man's instincts.

Corona: There's a mixture of different influences in the final designs for the book. Jake is great about sending references to what he knows about the creatures and what he wants them to do in the story, I take it from there and go through different renditions of the monster in traditional folklore and what sets it apart from the rest. I research their story and where they come from and then jump to a few of my favorite artist and the way they deal with creature design. After that it's a matter of putting everything together and playing with shapes and looks until I hit one that I like and that I feel goes with the aesthetic of the book and send it to Jake.

But mostly I just like to make Jake cry on the inside.

Let's talk a little more in depth about the Latimer family. Who will we meet in the series? What time in their lives are we catching them?

Semahn: Behind the Latimer legacy are the modern day progenitors Raleigh and Evelyn Latimer, the most famous paranormal detectives in the known world -- which helps when you have a reality TV crew following your every move. This, of course, has severe net-gains and losses: Fame and funding on one side, entertaining the sponsors and "creating content" on the other.

The Latimers are always "on," whether it's with a toothy smile, catch phrase or devil-may-care attitude a la Errol Flynn, Raleigh and Evelyn have become something altogether different than what they once were: they have become celebrities. Their two celebutante children, Josiah and Zoe, are oblivious to this fact. They live safely under the watchful eye of their manservant and protector, Francis. The two are home-schooled and life is protected in this small socialite bubble of family and fame. They're proud of who they are -- their lineage -- but Zoe, being slightly older, sees chips in the veneer. She notices an ever-present darkness brooding just past her perception. Something she tries to ignore, but once Raleigh and Evelyn are murdered on live TV before her and Josiah's very eyes, becomes a horrific fact that is all too real. The Latimer children are now the ones being hunted for reasons unknown, and once the answers are found, it will forever change their world and the perception of the term "family."

The kids also have friends in this fight, but they are all-too human and all-too frail. Their Aunt Gail and Uncle Hank, a housewife and failed private investigator, respectively. Police Detective Lyle McCarthy, who is getting too old for this S&%t. And ex-Latimer lead tactician (and massive drunk screw-up), Ezra Jones.

These are the Zoe and Josiah's allies. God help them.

The concepts of legacy and the unexplained go hand in hand--we see works like "Locke & Key," "Shutter" and others where there is a familial sense of defending against darkness. What about these concepts appealed to you for "Goners?"

Semahn: From a more personal end, the thing about "Goners" is right there in the title: We're all goners in one way or another. People die. It's a fact of life that I sadly learned two years ago when a friend passed. Steven T. Seagle, my mentor, mensch and friend, told me that I'm approaching the age when people around me will just end up dying suddenly and without warning. Age does not matter. Death doesn't care about your plans. Everyone. Dies.

This book explores that thought and the sad beauty behind it. We all die. But it's what we do when we're alive that counts. Any character can give up the ghost in this book. However, we as an audience will be able to experience them through flashbacks -- Getting pieces of who they are from people's varied perspectives. It's a book that drives home the fact that heroes die, but legacies are forever.

But what legacy do children hold? Josiah and Zoe have to make their way, unprepared and thrust into a world that is trying its damndest to make sure that they don't see sunrise. It's as much a story of survival, betrayal, family loss, and family found, as it is about legacy.

"Goners" #1 hits stores in October.

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