Ashley Neuhaus 14-AUG-2012 Whether it’s comic books or novels, I’m always looking for new things to read so I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read WESTWARD CHAPTER 1 by Ken Krekeler of Kinetic Press. Billed as a steampunk mystery, the series will tell the tale of Victor West, heir to his father’s fortune.
The book opens with a great speech, describing America as a great place to be at “the dawn of a new mechanical age.” But that’s how the captains of the industry see it, not as it is for the every-day man. Transported to a bar where a seemingly distressed man goes on a little rant about how the world is not great like the corporate man on the TV makes it seem. As stories generally go, something big has to happen in order for things to change, right? WESTWARD is no different. There’s an explosion. But Krekeler doesn’t show us exactly what’s going on with the explosion. He gives us little glimpses of the action through fragments of broken glass across the pages. I absolutely loved this presentation.
I thought it was a very interesting choice for this book to be in black and white instead of color, which I asked Krekeler about in our little interview (see below). I’m used to the typical brass tones associated with the steampunk genre. But then again, the focus of this book isn’t really on the steampunk aspects…yet. I think the choice to make it black and white works for the story because everything isn’t just black and white. Krekeler is writing the story and doing the art on the whole thing but neither slacks. The writing and art stay strong throughout the chapter. The only issue I had with some of the speech of characters was their stuttering and repetition. In some places it was appropriate but then there were times where it seemed unnecessary.
Through flashbacks weaved into the story, we’re given a glimpse into Victor’s life before the explosion where he was an actor/model and somewhat of an embarrassment to the family name. But in the last panel we get a glimpse at what he’s been turned into after the explosion. If you want to find out just what exactly is going on with Victor and his world, I highly suggest picking up chapter one of WESTWARD.
AN: Where did you get the idea for this story? How long has this been in the works for you?
KK: The idea for the story came from a single sentence on a random internet message board, theorizing about the true origins of Inspector Gadget. It was an off-handed remark that actually set my brainmeat-wheels in motion. I started the script for WESTWARD #1 in January, right after the release of my last graphic novel, DRY SPELL. (http://www.dry-spell.com)
AN: You’re writing the story and doing all the art for it. Do you find that easier or more difficult than if you had an artist to deal with?
KK: It’s a double-edged sword, really. By doing the artwork myself, I ensure that I get exactly what I’m imagining in my mind. But it also means I have to devote a lot of time and energy to it, energy I’d really rather use to write and produce more creative projects. I’d love the chance to work with a talented artist that understands what I’m going for. Sadly, the pitch “Hey, wanna do tons of work for no money?” does not seem to attract many skilled artists. Of course, I could offer to PAY them, but oh wait, no I can’t, because the cost of advertising/printing even a standard black and white comic is enough to make me want to burn an orphanage to the ground, cackling.
AN: Why did you choose to do this book in black and white instead of color?
KK: Cheaper to print. Uh, no, I mean, it’s a stylistic choice, carefully selected for its suitable representation of the subject matter. Yeah. That one.
AN: Is this a limited series? If so, how many chapters (issues)?
KK: It’s a ten part series. The first 3 issues complete the first act of the story.
KK: In my opinion, stories are the most important thing in the world, and one of the major distinguishing characteristics that separates mankind from everything else. Even for the more conservative among us, those for whom the realms of fiction and fantasy matter very little– the Hank Hills, the old-school cowboys, the linear-thinking engineers, the blue-collar working man– even THEY have stories on which to build the foundations of their own individual, ideal character. History is made up of stories: “America fought Hitler and his evil Nazis and saved the whole world!” Families are made up of stories: “Your father and I bumped into each other at the circus… He bought me a cotton candy, and three weeks later we were married!” Stories fuel our economy: Video games, comic books, motion pictures, novels– all these provide us with graphic designers, marketers, advertisers, actors, artists, printers, client reps, accountants. Every hero this world has ever seen– every soldier, president, peace-maker, saint– has a story they like to tell to remind themselves of something important. And humans are the only living beings who are capable of this grand power. Humans kick ass.
Westward is important because it has robots and goggles and I’m pretty sure I have a boob shot in issue #4, and boobs are important to me. To everyone, really.
AN: Will you be at any conventions this year?
KK: Yes. In October I’ll be doing 3 back-to-back conventions, one weekend after the next. I’ll be in West Virginia at the WV Pop Con (https://www.facebook.com/
WVPop), the New York Comic Con, (http://www.newyorkcomiccon. com/), and the Detroit Fanfare (http://www.detroitfanfare. com/). I advise anyone who attends to avoid my booth. If you see me, do not look me directly in the eye. I am an extremely vicious and intimidating comic book artist prone to acts of extreme violence for humorous purposes.
KK: I operate under a publishing label called Kinetic Press. The best place to keep plugged into all that nonsense is the Kinetic website:http://www.kinetic-press.com
I also have an art blog I never update: http://www.kenkrekeler.com
Additionally, I am a major star in a variety of pornographic “sad clown” pornography sites. My stage name is “Smiles Malone.” Google it. Google. “Smiles Malone Sad Clown Porn.” Google it at work, it’s fine.