I think that at this point it’s pretty clear I’m a tadbit of a fan of Jeremy Haun‘s (writer and artist). Okay, it’s a little more than a “tadbit”, but rightfully so. He’s definitely become a massive force in the comic book industry over the last several years or so, and the point that really kicked that off (from what I can tell) is his creator owned book out of Image Comics, THE BEAUTY.

Since then he’s really left his mark on the industry. He now has two creator owned, with THE REALM being the second, and quite the hit for itself. He along with Seth M. Peck, Nick Filardi and Thomas Mauer have managed to perfectly combined the post apocalyptic with the fantastical fantasy of dungeons-and-dragons. It recently rapped up its first arc of five issues, with one a perfect way of tying everything together, and kicking open a new door for what’s to come.

Something that I have always found interesting and really intrigued me is the process in which it takes to make comics. And I was lucky enough to go “one-on-one” with Haun to talk the process, as well as his books.

Russell Berger: I know you explained a bit to me before, but could you explain [again] what your process is when doing an issue? And with the overall arc, how do you break it down for single issues?

Jeremy Haun: Absolutely.

Every project is a bit different. That’s part of the fun. Traditionally though, with both THE BEAUTY and THE REALM it all starts with a conversation. We discuss the arc– what we want, where things are going, and the themes along the way. Typically we tighten that up as we go. Once we know the arc, we then break things down by issue. In the case of THE BEAUTY, once we have things broken down into issues Hurley and I sit in my studio and just begin to write together. We write in Google docs so that we can see everything in real time and discuss while doing so. With THE REALM is a little different. Once we get things broken down into the issues Seth takes that plot and works up a script. I get that, make adjustments for pacing, action, and the like and thumbnail out the issue. It’s a nice process. Sometimes I’m adding stuff. Others taking away bits.

From there we talk about the changes, then I get to drawing. Seth steps in again at the end and does a final dialogue polish based on the art. Again adding or taking away stuff as needed.

RB: That’s very interesting. And you beat me to a follow up. I was going to ask if there was any major differences between THE BEAUTY and REALM. So two birds one stone.

Since you’re both writer and artist, how much of the process is almost following the script, um, not to the “t” but straight forwardly, and how much is you enhancing what’s there?

JH: It really varies, depending on the moment. It isn’t really about me coming in and changing things just to change them. I’ve drawn a lot of things exactly as they were written. I enjoy that too. When it’s my own stuff, as with THE REALM, it’s just about us working together to make the book better. We really live to excite one another and build on what we’re creating.

RB: Okay. Yeah, making the story the focal point and raising the bar?

JH: Exactly. It’s all about the story. And having fun. Not much point to this if we’re not amusing ourselves.

RB: Absolutely. I imagine not being interested in it would hurt the project? Is there any point where boredom comes into play? Perhaps like writer’s block? And if so, how does that work into the process?

JH: I don’t tend to get bored with making comics. Tired, though… That happens. We just wrapped up the holiday season. I’d been drawing like a madman right up to the week before Christmas to hit a deadline. I managed to get about a day off before the chaos of the holidays properly kicked in. I was still trying to draw and write a bit over Christmas and New Years and the combination of things absolutely wiped me out. Hurley and I met to write on THE BEAUTY and just kind of sat there like zombies for the majority of the time. We got about four pages written and then decided we needed to reconvene after naps.

Things like writers block happen. Sometimes I can’t wrap my head around a scene or some important expository dialogue. I always just move on and try and write the next bit. That usually cures things and I can get back to the thing that was giving me hell later.

RB: So using the rest of the story to cure being stuck on a small portion, almost like allowing it to figure itself out? That sounds like an organic process, and I like it.

JH: Yeah. It helps. Sometimes there are scenes that are just harder than others. This current arc of THE BEAUTY has a lot of discussion about the disease and how it works. That stuff isn’t easy to write. It’s all about giving information and desperately hoping that it can still feel organic. It’s nice to take a break from that and write a scene about a character talking to his cat.

RB: Making it as real as possible in the sense you could believe it happened in our world, which would include those little moments that not many people talk about. The things that make us smile.

What do you find easier? The writing or drawing? Or is it 50/50?

JH: Probably closer to 50/50. With writing you have to build a world in your head and convey it well enough that someone can draw it. It also has to make sense to readers. That takes more thinking than anything. Time at the keyboard is sort of secondary at that point.

Drawing just TAKES LONGER. I can write a couple books a month. Maybe even three if I have most of it figured out beforehand. Drawing is long hours every single day at the drawing board. It’s hard on the body physically. Sitting all hunched over isn’t good for anyone. Still…it’s the best. I don’t ever want to give it up.

RB: Oh, please never give it up. I would hate to stop seeing your work on the shelves. Did you have any thoughts about writing and drawing a title that have since changed? Like maybe you thought it would be extremely hard to accomplish, but now you know it’s not? Or at least easier than you assumed? Just perceptions that changed over time.

JH: Making things is about constantly adjusting expectations. I’m constantly deciding that I can do something and then it’ll take less time than I planned. Or much more time. More often the latter.

After drawing THE BEAUTY, I knew THE REALM was going to be a change. I don’t know that I knew exactly how intense that was going to be. There’s just so much more to draw. Still– for all of the creative pain I go through, I love it.

RB: A sliding scale of expectation. So I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure, is there more doing the creator-owned, or working for a company like DC/Marvel?

JH: There’s quite a bit of pressure with both. Working for a publisher usually means intense deadlines that you don’t really control. These books are often scheduled out long before you come along. More than once I was told I’d have five or six weeks to draw a book, but then the second I got the script was told that the book was already late and I had to turn it around in three weeks. It’s not malicious on their part. It’s just how it is. These books have to come out on time. When they don’t it can mess everything up.

With creator owned books all of the pressure for, well…everything is on you. You have to create, figure out logistics, act as a project manager, do all of the promotion, and more. 

In spite of that, it’s making your thing your way.

Both are hard. Making things is just hard. It’s insanely rewarding, though. That’s why we keep coming back.

RB: Would you say the deadlines, and the way you could end up behind in a blink, has been a factor of creators deciding to do creator-owned books? That the, I guess, freedom and control places like Image offer is becoming more welcoming than the big publishers that are more like a “machine”?

JH: I suppose that’s part of it. The double shipping and such makes it hard. For me it was about making something that was just mine.

I love working on big two characters. My creative experience in mainstream comics was pretty fantastic. There was a point though where I had to look down the road a bit. As I said earlier making things is hard. If I’m going to do this, I’d prefer to make my stories my way. At least for right now. That might change in a year or two. You never know.

RB: Yeah, I understand that.

So, to somewhat come full circle, why do you think the general perception of the essential audience is “an artist gets the script, draws what he/she reads and that’s it”?

JH: I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s the auteur theory– “all art comes from one place and everything else is set dressing”. I think the only time you really get that is with cartoonists– women and men who write and draw all of their own stuff. Maybe, for all of the interaction we have out there on social media and such, it’s just a lack of real explanation about the process.

RB: Okay, I understand that. And I guess it does really make sense.

With that said would you say that there might not be enough coverage on artist? In the creative process sense that exacerbates the lack of general knowledge to what they do?

JH: There tends to be chatter from time to time about the “value” of the people involved in the comics process. Most of the time it’s over cover credits, mentions in reviews or interviews, and trickle down deadline issues.

When that happens people get their backs up a bit. Things quickly turn from something like “colorists (or letterers) deserve cover credit” to an argument over who does more.

The truth is we’re probably ALL undervalued. Underpaid. We’re all overworked. Remember what I said about making things being hard?

We’re all a part of making these things. In the end, I try and look at my creative teams as families. Everyone is involved. Everyone deserves love. Especially in creator owned books.

RB: So would you say that the mentality plays a factor in crediting? How people view the job?

JH: Maybe for some people. I tend to take it in stride, for the most part. The only thing I can do is try and mention the whole team in interviews and such. We’re lucky to have Thomas Nachlik drawing, Nayoung Kim coloring, and Thomas Mauer lettering/designing on THE BEAUTY. And it’s Nick Filardi’s colors Thomas Mauer’s lettering and design that really make THE REALM what it is.

RB: Mauer is definitely an underrated creator. I see his name popping up more, and it’s well deserved.

So with THE BEAUTY, I’ve noticed how the first arc seemed to set up as an “end point” and the arcs since have appeared to place before it (correct me if I’m wrong). Why did you and Hurley do it like that, or did it unfold like such?

JH: We kind of told the end of the story with the first arc of THE BEAUTY. We knew we wanted to tell more about the world, if we got the chance. We loved those little vignettes at the beginning of each issue and thought it’d be fun to expand on that sort of thing. We decided to run with that. It’s been a real joy to tell these stories.

RB: Filardi really has been killing it. I know he said he’s doing some new techniques and man is it showing.

JH: Yeah. He’s brilliant. I love working with him. I think he’s stuck with me for life.

RB: I’d make sure of it. I know some artist/colorist stick together like [Greg] Capullo and FCO.

With THE BEAUTY, is each arc decided when you sit down to start the next (since the second), or do you guys have an idea where you’re going now?

JH: We’ve had a map for the arcs for a while now. It helps us connect the characters. As a regular reader, I’m sure you can see that we’re revisiting cast from the various arcs in various ways. All of it kind of ties in.

We’re currently working on writing the fifth arc and are having a hell of a fun time bringing five or six characters from different arcs into the mix.

RB: Absolutely. That’s one of the reasons I love THE BEAUTY so much. The continuity it has and that really creates this “real world” feel. I think that’s definitely apart of its success.

Can we expect that out of THE REALM?

JH: THE REALM is a lot more linear. We know that we’ll eventually show some flashbacks to the world before and as “The Break” happened. But that’s all a bit down the road. Even with that it probably won’t be much more than an scene or issue here or there.

They’re definitely different kinds of stories. I get a real kick out of that. They each stretch different muscles.

RB: Keeping a freshness and showing you and company aren’t one trick ponies. I like it.

Are there any, um, anything in your life that’s influenced the stories? Or just ideas you got, and ran with them?

JH: Everything runs through the “This might be a story filter.” Little bits of conversation, mannerisms, or world events end up in my work. It’s probably more prevalent in THE BEAUTY, but it happens in THE REALM too.

RB: So, as to wrap up, will there be a substantial break between this first arc with THE REALM? I know you said you’re already working on it.

And can we expect another creator-owned hit series out of you?

JH: I don’t know if I’d say a substantial break. Just the usual Image trade break. Except for a select few books, Image titles take a month off after an arc, then release the trade, then have another month off, and release the following issue after that.

It’s three months total… which I guess can feel substantial if you’re used to the purely monthly format.

That allows us to keep up. It’s easy to fall behind with these things. As I said earlier there is just so much involved in creator owned comics. I definitely need the break on THE REALM. Issue five was twenty-six pages long and basically a huge fight scene from start to finish. It took a lot longer than a standard five to six weeks to draw.

As for my next series– I’ve got stuff in the works. It’s all writing projects. I’ll probably do covers and some art direction/design too. But when it comes to art duties, I’m on THE REALM for the long haul.

I’m taking my time building the next thing/things, though. If I haven’t hammered it home enough yet– making things is hard. I want to make sure I’m not taking away from THE BEAUTY and THE REALM to do a new thing. I’m trying to do everything the right way. I think it’s working out nicely.

RB: As much as I love THE BEAUTY, I do admit THE REALM is the front runner. Could be recency bias, and your art does really hit it home.

You know me, I’ll keep a look out for any of your new stuff. But I totally understand the no hurry to do something new, especially knowing you’re about making a great product. That’s a quality that definitely sets you, THE BEAUTY and THE REALM teams above most others. Dedication and love of the product.

JH: Thanks, man. It was fun. And I completely get you loving THE REALM. It’s a different thing than THE BEAUTY. And it’s just about fun.

Luckily, in spite of what the internet tells us we can love more than one thing.

I can’t thank Haun enough, as he was beyond willing to delve deep into his thoughts on the many layers of crediting creators, the industry overall as well as talking in depth about his current books. Getting a creator’s views on the landscape definitely helps us as consumers and supporters see everything from the other side of the fence.

So make sure you pick up the latest issues of Haun’s THE BEAUTY and THE REALM, as well as support all the creators you love.