Comics Auteur Jeremy Haun (The Beauty, The Red Mother) returns from the desolate wastes of Covid quarantine bearing haunting gifts. I got talk with him about his influences, his approach, and the collaborative effort that went into this outstanding project.
“HAUNTHOLOGY is a collection of short horror stories that examines all of the things we felt over the past year and a half during Covid. Each story stands on its own, but also connects to a bigger mythos within the book and my larger oeuvre,” Haun explains. “When the comics industry went ‘Pencils Down,’ leaving many comic writers and artists in professional limbo, I needed something to focus on. For me, that focus is telling stories. I decided to focus on one story—just a short feeling. That led to another. And another. The cumulative work is this anthology.”
MFR – The pandemic seemed to spawn a ton of great horror, including this collection. Had you always wanted to create a horror anthology like this, or did the idea hit you during lockdown?
JH – A bit of both. I’ve always been a huge fan of horror and weird fiction collections. HAUNTHOLOGY is exactly that.
Getting a collection of short stories from one creator is most common in prose. You’ll get get these brilliant, terrifying books from Laird Barron, Joe Hill, Nathan Ballingrud, or Stephen King. They’re perfect glimpses into worlds. I wanted to do that.
When Covid hit everything changed. Every project I had lined up– over a years worth of work, was put on hold. I was…well…lost. I needed something. I needed to create. This project came out of that.
The truth is, something like HAUNTHOLOGY always gets pushed to the back burner. There are always projects with hard deadlines that need done first. I took this brutal situation and said “I’m going to do this for me.”
It was a lifesaver.
MFR – The art and visuals in the book are brilliantly striking, from front to back. Did the images hit you before you wrote the words to go with them, or was it vice versa? Or even a combination of the two?
JH – It’s really a combination of the two. I tend to see everything like a film. The images are there running along with the dialogue.
I definitely experimented with my process on HAUNTHOLOGY. That’s really the nice thing about working on something just for yourself. You can do whatever.
I’ve been writing pretty steadily over the past five years or so. Even though I might not need to, I enjoy the practice of writing full scripts for comic stories. I wrote full script for almost all of the stories in this collection.
JH – How did you get Fonografiks and Joel Enos involved with this project, and how did they help shape it into its finished form?
I’ve worked with both Fonografiks and Joel several times. We all worked together on THE BEAUTY and it was such a fantastic experience.
There are always corners you can cut when making things. The LAST thing you want to skimp on is your design and editorial team.
Fonografiks is absolutely, hands down one of the best designers working today. I tend to have a pretty clear vision of what I want to see on a project. They take that vison and make it a hundred times better. The first time I saw the cover and logo for HAUNTHOLOGY it felt like home.
Joel is just family at this point. He’s more than an editor. He’s someone that I can turn to for anything. He knows how to put a project together. He knows how to edit. He’s damned good at it. But it’s the extra human touch that he adds to a project that makes it…home.
MFR – Something people may not expect out of this anthology is just how funny (sometimes darkly) it is at points. Were the comedic moments something you wanted going in, or did they hit you as you were putting stories together?
JH – Life is just SO weird. I just can’t tell a story that doesn’t have a bit of humor in it. I always feel like the idea that a story should just be one thing is a real misstep.
This last year was a horror show. But there were also these beautiful and even hilarious moments in it. It’s important to acknowledge that.
I don’t think this project would exist if it wasn’t for a bit of humor. I want to unsettle you. I want to connect with you about all of the feelings of loss, loneliness, isolation, and fear we felt during 2020. But I also want to make you smile. Just a bit.
MFR – What stories, from any and all mediums, did you read/watch during the endless time vacuum that was 2020? How did they (or any other influences) make their way into your development of Haunthology?
JH – Oh, everything… Remember life when we were behind on all our reading and shows? My queue had hundreds of movies and shows I needed to watch. Nothing says “I guess I’ll go ahead and watch another full season this week” like a global pandemic.
I have to admit reading was hard for me for a while there. I’ve always been a veracious reader– novels– comics. The constant barrage of gloom messed with my focus in a way I’d never experienced before. It’s taken me a good while to get back to being about to sit down and focus enough to read.
I dove deep into the Mignolaverse, rereading HELLBOY and BPRD. I also started (and am working to finish) 20TH CENTURY BOYS. It’s absolutely fantastic.
Horror movies are an absolute staple around here. We pretty much watch everything. Now that my boys are a bit older, I’m going through and sharing so much of all that with them. It’s been fantastic showing my sixteen year old everything from HALLOWEEN to DONNIE DARKO.
Even with my love of horror, I needed a bit of a palette cleanser from time to time. We watched plenty of cartoons, PARKS AND REC (a perennial favorite rewatch), every STAR-WARS and Marvel show, and did a fantastic LORD OF THE RINGS marathon.
It’s amazing how things can influence you when you’re making things like this. I just try and be a sponge and take it all in.
MFR – This graphic novel draws on the event and the insecurities around living through the pandemic and the strange details of quarantine living. Are any of the stories here based on something you found yourself doing, or maybe saw from others?
JH – Oh, absolutely. HAUNTHOLOGY is a project that is very much about the past year living through Covid, quarantine, and general chaos. It was just important to me that while they were about all that…these weren’t stories about masks, the anxiety about trips to the store, or this virus.
I told stories about all of those feelings, but…with monsters and post apocalyptic landscapes.
Fairly early on in quarantine I was sleeping horribly. I think a lot of us were. I was getting concerned about it. I kept waking up at the exact same time to a strange noise– this droning in the distance. I’m not even quite sure it was real, to be honest. That made its way into several of the stories.
Each story deals with one aspect or another of live in Covidland. Even with that I was able to twist it all to be weird and even fun.
Many of these stories also connect back to my larger mythos– things that I’ve set up in THE BEAUTY, THE REALM, THE RED MOTHER, and 40 SECONDS. I think fans of my work are going to be presently surprised to see the little nods and bits of connective story tissue throughout HAUNTHOLOGY
HAUNTHOLOGY is a collection of short horror stories that examines all of the things we felt over the past year and a half during Covid. Each story stands on its own, but also connects to a bigger mythos within the book and my larger oeuvre,” Haun explains. “When the comics industry went ‘Pencils Down,’ leaving many comic writers and artists in professional limbo, I needed something to focus on. For me, that focus is telling stories. I decided to focus on one story—just a short feeling. That led to another. And another. The cumulative work is this anthology.”
Haun worked alongside designer Fonografiks (Saga, The Beauty) and editor Joel Enos to produce Haunthology, producing the sequential art equivalent of the chilling prose short story collections that inspired him in his youth.
“I’ve always loved collections of short stories,” Haun says. “They’re most common in prose—they’re more rare in comics. I wanted to do something that was all me– a comics version of what you’d see from Stephen King, Joe Hill, Clive Barker, Laird Barron, or Nathan Ballingrud.”