With nearly a million votes in this year’s annual Pilot Season, The Beauty beat out seven other comic candidates to become a full fledged mini-series. The Beauty is Law & Order set against the backdrop of a viral outbreak. In the series, being beautiful becomes a sexually transmitted disease. Anyone that ever had body issues or a weight problem can solve their problems by contracting “The Beauty”, but the downside of being infected is those with the disease constantly run a fever.
The series begins when an infected woman on a subway, begins violently coughing as she spits up blood and she mysteriously bleeds to death. The two detectives first to emerge onto the scene of the crime are thrust onto the frontlines to face a plague outbreak of epic proportions.
Bloody-Disgusting caught up with artist Jeremy Haun and writer Jason Hurley to discuss winning this year’s Pilot Season, where the series is headed and the pressure to follow-up their critically acclaimed first issue.
Congratulations on your win of this year’s Pilot Season. What was your immediate reaction when you heard the news that you had won?
HAUN: Thank you! The voting for Pilot Season had lasted a full month. It was three rounds of some pretty intense competition. By the last night of that final round I was just pretty drained. I was inking issue twelve of ARTIFACTS and was trying to force myself to focus on the page rather than checking my computer every thirty six seconds. At 12:01 PST, Hurley and I congratulated one another, said, “Well, now we’ve got to rock this thing,” and then I went right back to inking. Also, I may have cried, but that was after Hurley had left the room.
HURLEY: My immediate reaction was, “FUCK YEAH!”. After I had calmed down a bit, and Jeremy and I had commenced some serious high-fiveage, I went to bed. I’d been stressing about the last round of voting all week, and it didn’t end until two in the morning our time, I was totally exhausted.
Out of the series that didn’t win, what were your favorite books from this year’s pilot season?
HURLEY: I was a pretty big fan of The Test. Not only does it fall squarely into my absolute favorite genre, which is Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi, but it has an awesome creative team in Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal. Also, and I think I speak for both of us here, Misdirection was amazing as well and Chris Dibari really knocked the art out of the park on that one.
HAUN: Yeah. Definitely those. Also, I really dug Theory of Everything. It was a real honor to go head to head with them in the last round.
Talk about the genesis for this series and where the concept first started to manifest?
HAUN: I draw ten to twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Even with listening to music, podcasts, and DVD commentaries, that still leaves me a lot of time to wonder about inane things and come up with crazy concepts. I’d been thinking a lot about the lengths we go to be more beautiful. We work out, diet, obsess over fashion, and undergo massive elective surgeries– you know, little things. The Beauty kind of started with the simple question: “If beauty was contagious would you want to catch it?” I think a surprising number of people would say yes. What if it was an S.T.D? Probably still yes. I wanted to explore that world. Hurley and I are always pitching concepts to one another. On the way back from a convention in St. Louis, I ran the concept by him and it just went from there.
HURLEY: During that car ride, we had plenty of time to talk about our careers, and what we wanted to do over the next few years. Then, Jeremy told me about this insane concept he had of a sexual transmitted disease that made people better looking, but within a couple of years killed them horribly. I loved it. We discussed how an STD like that would effect society, from movies to music to sports to politics, and we also started spit-balling ideas for a story that could center around The Beauty. By the time we got back to Joplin, we had roughed out a story line for the first few issues, and realized that we might actually make a pretty decent writing team.
How do you approach the artwork on The Beauty verses a title like The Darkness?
HAUN: Both books start from a kind of gritty, real world place. Most of my work tends to. The real difference is that The Darkness has this dark horror tone, while The Beauty is balanced more by a kind of glossy “perfect” look. I love drawing both. They’re a hell of a lot of fun, and definitely challenging for different reasons. It’s interesting drawing a project that I co-wrote. I joked about being able to take care of my artist self on the project. Hurley likes to make fun of me, because in spite of all of my posturing, I kept adding in complex scenes and eight panel pages.
Another amazing thread between the two books is our colorist, John Rauch. He’s easily one of the best color artists working in the industry. He handles each project with care, bringing his own style to it, but at the same time tailoring the palette and feel to each book. Two of the best examples of that are The Beauty and The Darkness. Both are my art. I’m not really doing much different with my style, but the feel is completely different. We wanted to do something cool with The Beauty. We designed the book so that the environment and everyone not effected by the disease was done in a more dull, muted palette. Anyone with the disease is just a bit more saturated. We don’t bang you over the head with it, but it’s there. Rauch handled it beautifully…no pun intended. On The Darkness we wanted to go with a simpler, more affected palette. I’ve seen the colors on our first issue, they’re fantastic.
If I’m not mistaken this is Jason A. Hurley’s first published work. Can you tell us a bit of your background and how you got involved with the series?
HURLEY: This is actually the second work I’ve had see print. Jeremy and I worked together previously on a short story inspired by the Troma classic Redneck Zombies, that appeared in the anthology “The Toxic Avenger and Other Tromatic Tales” a few years back. We’ve been friends since long before that though. I’ve worked in and around the comic business for most of my life; working in comic shops, and eventually owning my own. Jeremy and I initially met through the local comic store and have kind of hung out ever since.
As for writing, it’s just another facet of the comics industry that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. I started out writing and drawing my own mini comics, which got a little praise from my industry friends, and then Jeremy saw fit to give me a chance to write something for him. I’m pretty much the poster child for the phrase “It’s all about who you know.”
HAUN: Hurley really downplays his talents. While we’re working together on a few projects coming up, I can’t wait for people to see some of the stuff he’s cooking up on his own.
The first issue ends on a total cliffhanger. Can you give us some insight into where the story is headed next and what we can expect?
HAUN: It’s pretty much sunshine and daisies from here on out. Yeeeeah…probably not. I’m so glad we get to pay off that cliffhanger. We talked a lot about how much it was going to suck if we didn’t win and that was it for the book. I think some fans would have killed us. After the cliffhanger in issue one, everyone is in a pretty bad place. Simply put, if you have The Beauty, you’re going to die. For some of those people, it’s very soon. There’s a ticking clock on this disease and when you go, you go bad.
Our main goal with the rest of this series is to balance out looking at the world of The Beauty and pay off everything that we’ve set up. We are definitely building toward something and the answers will come pretty quickly.
HURLEY: Yeah, I’m really glad that we get to show everyone what’s in store for Foster after that last page. While Foster and Vaughn have started to see a government cover-up, they have no idea how far that rabbit hole’s going to go. We’ve got plans to get them deeply embroiled in some pretty heavy stuff.
The series has been described as Law & Order meets a viral outbreak. What separates this book from your typical cop drama or an outbreak movie like Contagion?
HURLEY: The stakes are a lot higher in The Beauty than your average cop show. The Beauty has infected more than half of the people in the entire world by the time our story starts, and they’re all living on borrowed time. We’ve got local cops getting sucked into the conspiracies and machinations of governments and corporations who deal on a global scale. We’re also coming at the outbreak from a different angle than most other stories have. The disease has already run rampant, and containment isn’t even remotely an option. Now, our characters have to deal with the fall out.
Is this a finite story or do you have enough material to turn it into an ongoing book?
HAUN: It’s a pretty finite story. The end came to us pretty quickly. We had this crazy starting point and knew where we wanted to end up. The connective tissue is the fun part– getting there.
I do think that the world and the disease itself is so interesting that it would be easy to revisit somehow. Maybe not with this set of characters. Maybe a prequel or something set at the same time as this story in the next city over. I’d love to look at how the disease is handled by political or religious groups. There’s a whole mini-series in there about Hollywood and what you’d have to do to even get noticed after the virus hit.
HURLEY: Oh, I think there’s plenty of opportunity to tell a follow up story, or even story lines that occur concurrently with this series. If we’re given the chance, I’d love to take a look at those.
HAUN: Hmmm…now I wonder if it’s too late to beg for an ongoing…
The faux advertisements in the back of the book’s first issue were fantastic. Who came up with the idea for that and will we see more of them?
HAUN: I’ve always been fascinated by PSAs. There’s that weird line that they run between offering up real information and just promoting fear. Lately, with PSAs from groups like P.E.T.A., they sell their agenda with sexy, and it gets them a lot of attention. I wanted to play on that same idea. Here is something gorgeous… It can kill you. I did a print of that first one. People really seemed to love it. I have a whole line of them that I’d like to do. Some from pro Beauty groups, and more from the anti-Beauty camp as well. I’ll either have to sneak them into the back of the issues themselves or maybe put them up on a site, and then include them in the trade.
HURLEY: After Jeremy came up with the PSA idea, we started doing some research. While we were at it, I turned up some awesome old STD warning posters for soldiers during World War II. Some of the phrases on the posters we’ve got planned are directly inspired by those.
The initial book received quite a bit of critical acclaim out of the gate. Do you feel any pressure to live up to the critical acclaim and high fans expectations?
HURLEY: Are you kidding!?! The pressure’s crazy. It’s awesome, and extremely flattering to see how much people dug on this book, especially when I’ve got so little work under my belt. However, I really think we’ve got some strong follow-through. The twists and turns that are lined up for the rest of the book should definitely shock some people, and hopefully they’ll find the end of the story as satisfying as they seemed to find the beginning.
HAUN: You never really know how the audience is going to take an idea. We just tell the kind of stories that we like– weird genre mash-ups wrapped around character pieces. Hurley and I are going to work hard to keep doing that. The Beauty is just the start.
There has been some fan backlash to Pilot Season in the sense that only two series have. How do you plan on balancing your monthly schedule as artist on The Darkness and completing The Beauty?
HAUN: I have a lot on my plate. That said, Hurley, Top Cow, and myself are all devoted to telling the rest of this story. We’re not just going to leave it hanging out there. While the temptation might be to have someone else draw the rest of the series, that’s not something I’m interested in. Luckily I’m pretty fast. Between that and my work schedule, we’re going to be able to get this out sooner than people might expect. I’ve been working hard to get well ahead on The Darkness so that I can split my time on both books and not fall behind on either one. As soon as we finish writing the rest of The Beauty, I’m going to be able to jump right into drawing issue two. It’s going to be a lot of work. Probably a good thing that I really love my job.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to chat with us. We’re really looking forward to your upcoming projects, and again, congrats on your big win!