One of the best looking and most entertaining new webcomics to hit the net in the last few months has been Ace Kilroy. It follows the escapades of the title character as he lives a life of mystery and adventure in the early part of the 20th century.
Created, written and drawn by friends Rob Kelly and Dan O’Connor (both local guys), Rob was kind enough to answer a few questions about the comic, themselves and whether Ace will ever make it to Philadelphia.
How do the two of you know each other?
Dan and I attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art (located in Dover, NJ) together. At the time, it was the only school that specialized in teaching the art of comic book illustration. Dan and I were in adjoining rooms in one of the houses the school had available for students. As soon as I saw his work, I knew I had a lot of catching up to do, in terms of pure drawing talent, especially when it came to drawing for comic books. I remember being so jealous, and I still am!
Where did the idea for a character like Ace Kilroy come from? What influences went into his creation?
After losing touch for a few years, Dan and I ran into each other at the 2010 New York Comic Con. Since going to school, we both maintained careers as artists, but each of us doing work other than strict comic book stuff. Dan’s art had only gotten better, and I was really horrified that he had so many horror stories to tell me (clients cheating him out of money, not treating his work with any respect, etc.), so on the way home I started thinking of a project that he and I could collaborate on that we’d both enjoy on a creative level. And if we somehow found a way to make it profitable, that would be all the better.
We’re both big fans of the classic newspaper adventure strips of the mid-20th Century (stuff like Steve Canyon, Dick Tracy, Secret Agent X-9, Terry and The Pirates), so I thought doing that kind of strip would be fun for me to write and fun for Dan to draw. I pitched the idea to him as, basically, “FDR hires Steve Canyon to fight the Universal Monsters” and he took to that immediately.
I figured we could work in those newspaper character influences, plus classic monster movies, as well as indulge in our mutual passion for 1930s and 1940s Americana. It’s basically the kind of strip we’d like to read, so we created it ourselves.
Why a webcomic? Ace seems like the kind of character that could support an actual comic book series.
First off, thank you!
Second, I envisioned it as a newspaper strip from the beginning, and to a certain extent form dictated content. I liked the idea of the story being told in brief little chunks, building the narrative bit by bit. The whole idea of replicating the form of the daily adventure strip was one of the most exciting parts of it. Also, but keeping it black and white six days a week, it ensured that we could stay on deadline and never miss a day, which to me is vitally important when building an audience—and it makes having a “color Sunday” so much more special.
That said, we’ve already had so much fun coming up with Ace’s adventures that we’ve discussed branching out into other mediums, like an online radio show and longer-form stories, like you’d see in a comic book. We have so many story ideas that we’d love to try it all!
The Kickstarter campaign so you can just focus working on the comic is brilliant. Where did you get the idea for it?
I’ve seen lots of other comic book projects try the same thing, and it seemed the easiest, most elegant way of turning Ace Kilroy from a fun side project to an actual, sustainable creative venture. Back in the days of Steve Canyon, Dick Tracy, etc., working on those strips was a full-time job for the writers and artists. Dan and I both have illustration careers going, and I knew that the best way to make sure we could keep cranking the strips out was to not be losing money in the process. So hopefully via Kickstarter we’ll take in enough money to pay for our time and effort for a while, and that will give the strip a chance to establish itself and build an audience.
Via the AK website and blog, also have a way for fans to “subscribe” to the strip, for a very low monthly amount (the same amount a daily newspaper would have cost in 1937, when Ace Kilroy begins). We figure between subscriptions and Kickstarter, people who like the strip and want to help ensure it keeps going can do so easily and securely.
There are number of web comics that have managed to build a loyal, paying audience for themselves, so the economic model is already in place—we just have to get Ace out there enough that we can follow In those footsteps, but hopefully bringing something a little new to the table, as well. At this point, I cannot imagine anything better than being able to say, if asked what I do, is “I write and color the comic strip Ace Kilroy.”
Do you think Ace will ever visit Philadelphia?
We have plans for Ace to travel the world, and since I was born in Philadelphia, I can definitely see him getting involved in some adventure involving my hometown! Dan and I love weaving in historical details in Ace’s adventures, and what city is more steeped in American history than Philly?
What can fans expect as Ace Kilroy goes forward?
We’ve been telling people Ace Kilroy will feature adventure, horror, thrills, humor, political intrigue, and even romance, and we have plans for all those things. We have a whole world we want to build, and as the strip goes on we think Ace Kilroy will only get more interesting, more fun, more captivating a read. Our plan is to make the strip an essential part of your day, because you just can’t wait to see what happens next.
There will be more monsters, more details into Ace’s past, new characters, and more adventures involving American and world history. Ace is just getting started!
Ace Kilroy updates daily at www.acekilroy.com