Many stories start at the beginning, but Goners, a new comic book series from Image Comics, begins at the end... the end of a family tragedy that leaves two people dead and two others hunted by supernatural forces ranging from ferocious phantoms to sharp-beaked Ekeks and many more malevolent monsters.

With issue #4 of this ambitious horror story hitting shelves today, I caught up with Goners co-creator/writer Jacob Semahn in a Q&A feature to discuss the wide-ranging influences (including John F. Kennedy's assassination and Stephen King's works) of his series, the often overlooked creatures lurking within the panels of Goners, what lies ahead for characters and readers alike, and much more. We also have a set of preview pages from Goners #4, teasing the carnage brought upon the Massachusetts town of King's Bluff by a Skin-Walker and his furry friends.

I understand the assassination of John F. Kennedy played a part in the creation of Goners. How did that real-life tragedy factor into the creation of your comic book’s world?

Jacob Semahn: It mostly got the ball rolling. I’ve had this idea of a family that hunted monsters for a while. I mean it’s not the most original idea in and of itself. That’s why I was looking for an entry point and hook for the story. When I witnessed the assassination footage in a College History class, I knew I found my way in.

I went with a non-conventional approach of dropping readers into the middle of a family being sucker-punched. I wanted them to be as blindsided as to what was going on as I imagine the Kennedy family was in the aftermath of that fateful day in Dallas.

Raleigh and Evelyn Latimer—the parents of the two main characters—are popular paranormal investigators/fighters and their peculiar profession is a key element of your comic book series. How much did the current prevalence of reality television and ghost hunting shows influence you while making Goners?

Jacob Semahn: I dug Ghost Hunters when I had cable. Are ghosts real? Who knows? I just love to be creeped out. But in our world, celebrities are made out of chefs and people that flip houses. So I figured this was an interesting way to have the Latimers fund their endeavors of being paranormal protectors; this way they can do their job while supporting themselves at the same time.

The issues in your series begin with shocking hooks, such as the governor’s mansion explosion in Issue #1 and the birthday party massacre in Issue #2. These moments tie in nicely with the series theme of beginning at the Latimer family’s end. As the writer, what do you enjoy most about starting each issue with a bloody bang?

Jacob Semahn: I come from television, so I’ve learned that you have to start your episodes with a tease. A hook. Something to entice the viewer to stay with it. I figure what’s a better hook than murder, war, and betrayal?

At the end of each issue you include a “Horror Spotlight” that educates readers on a particular type of creature that appeared in that month’s story. So far you’ve highlighted a vast array of monsters, including the Bakaak phantoms, the beaked humanoid Ekeks, the colossal Chenoo, and sinister Skin-Walkers. These antagonists are more obscure than the general zombie or vampire and come with unique traits and habits. How much research goes into properly interweaving these eclectic monsters into Goners? Can you give our readers a tease of the creatures to come?

Jacob Semahn: I research as much as I can, but there really isn’t a whole lot of coverage given to some of the more obscure myths and monsters that I chose. So it gives it a sense of freedom to twist these creatures to fit my story.

As for future creatures, I can only speak of one from this storyline without giving anything away before issue #4 hits this Wednesday. But one of the creatures that are making the Latimer’s life a living hell is a Patchwork Monster of sorts… my version of Frankenstein’s Monster, but obviously not from the line of Frankenstein. These creations were given numbers. He’s number Seven. And that’s all I’m gonna say.

You’ve mentioned that people who like The Goonies, The Monster Squad, Jonny Quest, and Stephen King’s IT should also find something to enjoy in Goners. Have these movies, TV show, and book influenced the story and visual style of Goners, and if so, how have they affected the series’ DNA?

Jacob Semahn: I know for the visuals, Jonny Quest was a touchstone with Goners’ artist Jorge Corona, but as for story elements I definitely try to carry the tone of adventure and horror. A reporter once called Goners “the Amblin Horror of comic books” and that really stuck with me. I dig that comparison, as Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment is the adventure tone we’re striving to hit, while sprinkling the unrelenting horror of Stephen King throughout. It’s an insane tight rope to walk, and I can only pray we’re doing a fair enough job of it.

The line of supernatural-hunting Latimers stretches back centuries, giving you the chance to explore past generations of the family in key historical situations. In Issue #3, you gave readers an alternate look at the Battle of the Alamo, with Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett in deep discussion with a Latimer ancestor and his talking monster head. Can you tease what other notable historic events will be depicted in future issues of the We All Fall Down story arc or future arcs? What real life people from the past would you like to write into Goners?

Jacob Semahn: A cameo by the Roanoke Colony will play a pivotal role in issue #5, but the Alamo is the past anchor that we’re using for the true beginning of the We All Fall Down storyline. We have future arcs mapped out, but I can’t really go into it at this point. But there will be a Latimer presence in the great spiritualism boom in America for sure. There’s some fun stuff ahead for this family.

With its ambitious scope, breakneck pace, and likable characters, Goners is a great fit for a TV or movie adaptation. Would you ever like to see it translated to the big or small screen? If so, do you have a “dream team” cast in mind to play the likes of the Latimers, Detective Lyle McCarthy, Francis, and other characters?

Jacob Semahn: Like buying a lottery ticket, there will always be a fleeting thought of “what if?” However, at this point in time I’m pouring myself into writing the best comic I can and trying to market it to new readers. But yeah… It’d be cool to see my brain mess get thrown up on a screen for people to hopefully geek out over.

From the Latimer mansion to Bellweather Sanatorium, King’s Bluff, MA (the setting of Goners) has no shortage of creepy locales for readers to visit along with Josiah and Zoe Latimer. Have any memorable towns from past horror novels, movies, TV shows, or comic books influenced the way you’ve constructed King’s Bluff?

Jacob Semahn: King’s Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot, Carpenter’s Antonio Bay, and the town square in Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. Maybe slightly embarrassing. But true.

You listed John Carpenter’s score for Prince of Darkness, Geek Nation’s Killer POV podcast, and John August and Craig Mazin's Scriptnotes podcast as inspirations for past Goners issues. How did these projects fuel your creative process?

Jacob Semahn: I listen to Carpenter’s scores when I write anything to do with horror. It really puts me in the right mindset. I recall the feeling of his films and the settings for them. As for Killer POV and Scriptnotes, I love to listen to them when I drive or take a shower. The stories of struggle from directors and writers keep me going. Entertainment, and even writing in general, is a relentless and sometimes fruitless endeavor. Sitting in front of a blank page is what nightmares are made of, so hearing others have similar experiences really helps me get over my bullshit and get my head back in the game.

While crafting a series that pulls no punches, what has been the most challenging scene for you to write thus far?

Jacob Semahn: I keep thinking that I’ve hit the most challenging scene and then I find a new one. In issue #3 it was the sudden demise of a character and with issue #6 it’s all on the table. I’m proud at how #6 turned out and I can’t wait for people to finally read it. It’s the last of the first arc and I struggled to make the audience bring tissues.

You do a fantastic job blending comedic dialogue with blood-splattered horror. How do you go about finding that sweet spot when balancing these contrasting elements?

Jacob Semahn: Seriously... I’m such an OVER-writer, that I’ll throw it all on the page. Tell Jorge that the panel descriptions are locked, but not the dialogue. And once he’s done with pencils I’ll go back and tweak the script to make sure it fits in the panels without blocking his art. It’s the most idiotic way of writing that I can possibly think of, but I’m so much better at re-writing than writing. True story.

Jorge Corona’s sharp penciling, Steve Wands’ vibrant inking, and Gabriel Cassata’s moody colors give the series an eye-popping quality that superbly highlights the monsters and the bloodbaths they cause. What are your thoughts on the distinct visual style that Corona, Wands, and Cassata bring to the table?

Jacob Semahn: I honestly don’t think the series would be the same without them. The pure talent that has been assembled on this book blows my fucking mind. Their wonderful animated approach balances out the dark sensibilities of Goners. Goners is about the loss of innocence and their work brings that aesthetic to the forefront, bouncing from humorous to terror with remarkable ease.

Jorge has a unique background in storytelling and is penciling TWO-AND-A-HALF books a month! You can see the magic he weaves on his own book Feathers and his pencils on Teen Titans Go!

Wands is a miracle-worker that saved our asses in the 11th hour with his inking ability. He started as our Letterer, but when accelerated deadlines hit, he stepped up and masterfully took up the inks!

Cassata has been coloring for a bit, and I hate to sound biased, but I think his work on Goners may be the best I’ve seen. BUT! His work on Hexed is a close second! Ha.

What’s it been like landing a home at Image Comics? Were you an avid reader of their titles prior to Goners and have any of their original series affected your work?

Jacob Semahn: Image Comics has been amazing and I consider myself truly blessed being published through them. In the years of Publisher Eric Stephenson, I had become such an avid fan of the books that they’ve been churning out. And while I can’t think of any of their series having a direct correlation to Goners, they have certainly become my number one go-to in terms of finding the most innovative voices in comics.


Goners #4

Writer: Jacob Semahn

Artist: Jorge Corona

Colorist: Gabriel Cassata

Letterer: Steve Wands

"“WE ALL FALL DOWN,” Part Four With the power vacuum widening, the horrors that stalk the Latimers set their eyes on the site of King’s Bluff itself."

“A world, where the mythical co-exist with humanity, offers an alternative history where wars, civil rights, and scientific innovation are shown through a warped supernatural mirror... The Latimer Family through the centuries have been the famous first line of defense against all that go bump in the night. The modern day progenitor, Raleigh Latimer and wife, Evelyn Latimer have turned the family tradition into a profitable brand. Selling life rights and starring in their own reality show, the Latimers have found a way to fund their endeavors against those that would try to overthrow humanity. But on a routine case, Raleigh and Evelyn are murdered on live television, while their children, Josiah and Zoe, are left helpless to watch. With a widening power vacuum, devils and opportunists alike hunt the ill-prepared child detectives for a sound byte or simply… a chomp.”

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.