Mind Meld With Jarred Lujan!

He was here in 2021 and now, Jarred’s back once again to talk up the likes of Southbound, Mezo, Twin Blades, and more! So if you’re ready, then let’s begin!

1. Jarred! How the heck ya been!?

Hey! Its Jarred!

I’ve been well, thank you! There has been a lot going on in the last year, but I am grateful to still be standing and to still have folks like you to talk comics about!

2. So far this year, you’ve had Southbound and Mezo come our way, what’s next for you? Perhaps a new entry in the Twin Blades universe?

My next book is actually out through the Band of Bards/Dauntless Co-op. It’s my first real “superhero” story called Knight From Hell and I am very excited for people to get a chance to read it. I got to work with Marcus Jimenez, who is a great friend to me, and I think we’ve genuinely created something special with KFH. That book really was crafted with a lot of love and passion and I think when people read it they’re going to be surprised what the two of us together are capable of.

More Twin Blades is (probably) coming! I have a lot of things I’m working on and I really love that world, so I want to be able to devote my attention to it correctly. I want to get a little crazy with the way we release them as well, so we’ll see what happens down the line.

3. For those who may not be aware of Southbound and Mezo, what can you tell us about those?

Southbound is a Kickstarter series I’m doing with Emiliano Correa. It’s a cyberpunk crime story set in Texas about a hitman who is trying to change his ways and reunite with his family—but in the course of doing so, ignites a gang war unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It really is a story about the complexity of redemption, and if it is even possible to ever truly achieve, and I really love the book. We had a really great first issue campaign, and Emiliano and I have a date scheduled to link up and discuss starting art for #2!

Mezo is this big Mesoamerican fantasy series that was created by Tyler Chin-Tanner and Josh Zingerman. It’s been coming out through A Wave Blue World for a minute, but for the third volume, Tyler was kind enough to ask me to hop in and take on co-writing duties. Together, I think we’ve really made a fantastic new entry in this world and I really hope people give the book a chance. AWBW is having a great package deal to get the first two trades if you want to be caught up! There isn’t anything quite like Mezo on the stands and I get to work with Val Rodrigues and Gab Contreras, who are two of my favorite artists right now.

4. You’ve had some rough experiences in the last year or so with a couple of Publishers, has these experiences made you a little less trusting of Publishers and more careful about who to pitch too? Which is something I do believe I remember you saying you weren’t as willing to do anymore when it comes to pitches.

Yeah, comics is full of shitty people that want to exploit your labor and take everything they can from you without doing any real work themselves. I put a lot of time, money, and effort into my books. I spend my spare time studying different aspects of the business so I can be better. I deserve to not be treated like garbage. So, am I less trusting of publishers? Absolutely.

On the flip side of that, I tried to work with a lot of other pubs last year and was answered with mostly unanswered emails and that, quite frankly, hurt. I’ve accomplished a lot in comics and I wish that the industry could at least respect that more. I’m not sure I can explain how difficult it has been to be a creator that isn’t from a major metropolitan area, who doesn’t do cons every month, who didn’t intern at Marvel or DC, and who is loudly and proudly brown to have been able to do everything I have. And I’m grateful for that. I have the best community in comics who have constantly supported me and helped me become the writer that I am.

But, my goal is to write full time. I don’t want to do two jobs anymore, man. I’m 32 years old with a family and its only getting harder. So, my manager and I are looking at other options in TV and film to accomplish that goal. I think that was the biggest shift in my mindset, right? I went from “I want to write full time and I want to be a comics writer” to “I want to write full time” and comics became sort of an option.

AWBW and I work great together, they want more stuff from me, they’ll get it. BoB/Dauntless are doing really fascinating things with the co-op, me and those folks get along great, if things with KFH go well, I hope we can link up on more stuff in the future too. If anyone else wants a pitch, they’re welcome to come ask.

5. AI seems to be gaining more and more traction as each week passes like its our own version of Skynet, does this worry you any?

First and foremost, AI art/writing is theft. It is currently stealing from living artists and living writers who spent time and effort to develop those styles that made them unique to the person who created it. I don’t expect people who use AI to understand why we feel that way about it, because people who use AI are lazy and already opted out of doing the work when they typed in their goofy little prompts. AI is for hacks.

Secondly, I think AI is going to reduce the quality of art. You see these morons talking about how they did 300 AI books and sold them through Amazon and everything about that explains why you should never trust an artist with “entrepreneur” in their bio. It’s about craft. You have to be good at the craft. If all you’re thinking about is revenue streams and profit, then yeah, it looks like an idea to churn out a dozen of the shittiest comic books you’ve ever seen through AI and sell them to people who think The Boondock Saints is the apex of filmmaking, but it doesn’t make them good.

You’ve got to learn why things are good and how to make them that way (or, at least, try to make them that way) before you can really build an audience in a good way.
But lots of these “entrepreneur” in bio types are the people who run studios, so cutting out the human element pokes their ears up. If all there is to eat is slop, you’ll start to think slop is good. It isn’t.

6. How long of a series will Southbound be? And given Mezo is in its 3rd volume, is the title going to be around long term?

I want Southbound to be five issues, but I would love to do spin-offs and one-shots exploring the world of this futuristic Texas, but we gotta take these things one step at a time.

As for Mezo, you know, that one is tricky. Having an indie book go three volumes is a huge accomplishment already! I hope there is more and I’ll be around as long as I’m invited!

7. Given your experiences with publishers, have you considered starting your own?

I have! I run a million dollar business for my day job, and while they’re definitely different industries, I think I have a good scope of what makes small businesses successful.

Right now, though, I’m interested more in being a writer. That’s not to say I wouldn’t start my own publishing company one day, but I want to focus on writing as a specific craft and operating a business like that would distract me too much.

I will say I’m interested in what’s going on at Band of Bards/Dauntless. But we’ll see. Those folks would have to be interested in having me around to, you know? I’m trying to focus more on enjoying the journey and less on the destination lately, so we’ll see.

8. You mentioned earlier that you’ve got a new book coming soon from the BoB/Dauntless co-op venture called Knight From Hell with Marcus Jimenez as part of the creative team, what can you tell us about the book?

Knight From Hell is really my first “superhero” venture in writing. It’s a story about a firefighter who dies in a fire but returns from the dead to defend her barrio from a nefarious, otherworldly conspiracy. Marcus has been doing some really fantastic art, I’m very excited for people to get to read it and experience it. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my neighborhood and where I’m from, and I think this is my first real piece that explores that.

9. I recently read Crash & Troy and enjoyed the absolute Hell out of it and I know you’ve got something of a history with that book (and can completely ignore this question) that has likely made you skittish about coming back to the idea, but is there a possibility of a sequel?

Nothing about what happened with Crash & Troy makes me skittish about returning to it. I love that book. I love those characters. I love the team I made it with. A sequel is definitely coming. I have an outline already, Kyler and I did some character designs as well, but I’m committed to doing the book with the team that made it. When everyone is able, we’ll come back and make more and take that Best Series award at the Ringo’s. I’m not rushing anyone, I want everyone to come back to this book with the fire that we had making it the first time.

So, all in due time, I’m sure of it.

10. You recently teased finishing the draft for a book you’ve had in mind for years, any details you’re willing to share with us?

Not going to release too much, but I’ll say that it’s a love letter to some of my favorite stories while taking that inspiration to criticize some larger philosophical approaches. It was one of those books that I knew the general plot and characters, but in order to do it right I had to figure out what the story was trying to say. Once I nailed that down, it all came together beautifully. I’m very proud and very excited.

11. For my final question, who are some creatives in Comics you’ve yet to work with but would love to do so?

Honestly, she’s a monster all by herself, but I’d love to do something with Fell Hound. I’ve been trying to get Laura Helsby on something for ages too! I love they’re work, I think we could make something very cool together. Saly Lockheart has a style that I think would be great for a horror story, I just need to have one for her. I’ve said this like a hundred times, but I’m also dying to work with Tamra Bonvillain or Triona Farrell on colors as well. There’s a lot more I’m not thinking of this morning, but I’ve got a long list of talented folks I’m keeping my peppers peepin’ on.

Some of that Fell Hound goodness!

Huge thanks to Jarred for taking part in this interview! 

Interview by: Rob Wrecks