By Nikolai Fomich
This October, writer Jacob Semahn and artist Jorge Corona will launch Goners, an all-new ongoing series from Image Comics. Goners tells the tale of Zoe and Josiah Latimer, two children from a long line of defenders against the paranormal. I spoke with Jacob Semahn about Goners and how his new series will mix horror, humor, and action to create an 80's-style epic adventure.
Nikolai Fomich: Jake, what is Goners and how did the idea for this horror comic come about?
Jacob Semahn: Goners is in a world that we used to believe in. Folklore tells us that humans co-existed with the supernatural once upon a time. They may have been at the edge of your vision, under your bed, or up in a tree… but the monsters were always there. In Goners, that world still exists and everyone knows about it. It's a world protected by a family called the Latimers… a long line of supernatural hunters that are the protectors of mankind. Think of what Animal Man is to the Red or Swamp Thing is to the Green and you have what the Latimers are for humanity. However, to fund their endeavors, the current line of Latimers, that of Raleigh and Evelyn, have turned the lineage into a brand. And on a routine case with their reality show crew, they are ambushed and murdered live on television for the whole world to see… for their children, Josiah and Zoe, to see. Now the youngest in their line and ill-prepared, Josiah and Zoe are hunted by all things that go bump in the night, as they set out to discover who killed their parents and why.
The idea for Goners came about after watching 8mm stringouts of the JFK assassination. An event that no one saw coming, and once it was over its ramifications were felt the world over. Such a massive event and as I was watching the footage… seeing Jackie panic and try to get out of that Cadillac limo, I couldn't help but wonder what that horrific tragedy was like for the family in the moment and for the days that followed. Mix that with a deep love of The Goonies, Jonny Quest and Monster Squad, and you got Goners.
NF: While firmly in the horror genre, Goners reads like an action-packed adventure – you've described it as "The Goonies meets Hellboy." I definitely get that 80's vibe of larger-than-life thrills – horrifying and fun in equal measures. Was that tone something you were aiming for going in, or was it the natural outcome of the story you're trying to tell?
JS: That was definitely what Jorge Corona and I were going for. When I brought the script to him we geeked out about 80's culture and the action-adventure thrills of an era when PG was a little more risqué for kids and PG-13 was finding its just-less-than-R legs. A time where being a kid meant you were able to be a hard fought savior, reluctant hero, or resourceful nerd. But the stakes had to be real. The stakes had to be heavy and losing was not an option. Where the weight of the world was placed on the last person who should handle it. And that's who Zoe and Josiah are… they're just kids who have lived in this familial bubble, protected from the true darkness that lurks out there. And now that bubble's popped.
[Zoe and Josiah]
NF: Why did you choose kids as the protagonists for this story?
JS: Great stories usually consist of the protagonist having a great flaw that they have to overcome in order to accomplish X. In this case that flaw is childhood… and boy, do they have to get over that fast or die trying. Children are the perfect balance of attitudes. Ranging from those who think that nothing bad will ever happen to them to those that cry when the pressure's on. That wide emotional range of 0 to 60 is really interesting for me to see in a hero. It's not what you'd typically expect and that's exactly what I dig about it.
NF: This is your first creator-owned comic, correct? How has working on Goners been a different experience for you as opposed to working on something like Spider-Man?
JS: Oh definitely. This is kind of an idea where no one really can tell us "no." This is a 100% collaborative effort between Jorge and me. When working with editors you quickly realize that 'guess what?' these aren't your characters. This isn't your baby. This is someone else's… and they have a lot more to lose than you do. So you have a responsibility to keep that brand alive and well. It pays better for a reason, folks! I compare it to parents leaving for the weekend. One scenario, you're the babysitter paid handsomely to entertain. The other, you're left alone with a $100, keys to the Corolla, and your freedom. The unique stories usually come from the latter.
NF: Talk a bit about your collaboration with your co-creator, artist Jorge Corona. What has that collaborative process been like?
JS: For the most part, the collaborative process between Jorge can be broken down thusly: 5-cups-of-coffee x 5-days-of-writing = 1 Jorge-drawing-nightmare-that-he-later-thanks-me-for-because-it-turned-out-super-rad. Rinse. Repeat. But seriously…it's been gross. We get along really well and agree on everything… and not just us! Gabriel Cassata (colorist) and Steve Wands (letterer) as well. Our email gif chains are the stuff of legend. Our camaraderie reminds me of how couples talk about the "Honeymoon Stage." Any day now, I'm waiting for Jorge, Gabe, or Steve to come at me with an axe. I can't wait for the world to see the madness that I'm having them do in the latter half of this arc. If Goners were a film in the early aughts, it would have one of those trailers set to that song "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor."
NF: In Goners, Josiah and Zoe's parents Raleigh and Evelyn Latimer have turned the family tradition of defending humanity against the supernatural into a profitable family business by starring in a reality television show. But the Latimer's have also suddenly become targets for a vicious and wide-ranging attack carried out by the undead and monsters. Does the newfound Latimer limelight have anything to do with this deadly outbreak of violence? Is there a connection?
JS: There's a lot of resentment there for sure. It's the salt in the wound. There's pride even for the supernatural. And the way Raleigh and Evelyn treat their portrayal of hunting these creatures is something that they treat with a carefree attitude. Almost spiritually neutering these powerful creatures with a toothy Errol Flynn-esque grin or hearty guffaw. The stage has been set and the Latimers are definitely the Moe to the devils Curly. As for if there is a connection? You'd have to read and see…but I will say there is a whole lot of bad blood between all involved.
NF: Finally, what can readers look forward to from the first issue of Goners?
JS: If you're a fan of throwback adventure and horror, where kids grow up quick to save the day against insane deadly odds, then give this a go. If you shuddered reading or watching Stephen King's IT, or ever wanted to hunt for lost treasure in Astoria, then give this a go. If you ONLY want to see heroes soar in spandex and fight back aliens with their mood rings… then you should give this a go, because seriously, variety is the spice of life people.
Goners #1 hits comic stands October 22! Thanks to Jacob Semahn for taking the time to chat.
Nikolai Fomich is a college teacher and writer in Philadelphia. Follow him @brokenquiver