If you’re a fan of diverse characters and unique lore, Welderkin is a new webcomic that promises to start things off with a bang (or should we say CLANG?). Jessica and her husband, Evan, have moved to Burtonwood for his work, but there’s more to this small town than the manufacturing plant he works at. Her run-in with a mysterious young boy in the woods and the tales her neighbors tell her only fuel Jessica’s interest in the local myths.
The first eight pages of this series from Jordan Alsaqa and Joni Miller are available to read right now on the website, with new pages posting every Tuesday and Thursday. And if you like what you see, the full first issue is available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle right now!
We were fortunate enough to catch up with the creative team and asked them a few questions about this new, exciting project. Check out what Jordan and Joni had to say below.
Can you both touch on your background in comics and how you got started?
Joni Miller: I’ve always been into telling stories with panels since middle school, but we were broke and it was before lots of local libraries started carrying comic books, so my only knowledge of comics was Captain Underpants books. I went to Memphis College of Art for their comics program and it was awesome! I learned a lot considering I came from a high school that offered one art class, called art. It blew my mind to know there’s high schools out there totally focused on the arts and that many high schools offer like… photography and ceramics classes.
Oh no, I’m rambling!
Jordan Alsaqa: The first comic I ever read regularly was Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog, which I started following when I was ten. I was also a big fan of webcomics like Bob & George and RPG World, to name a few. Really, though, I was pretty much the exact audience for Marvel’s manga-inspired Tsunami line back in the mid-2000s, so I fell in love with Runaways and Sentinel and pretty much never looked back. When I was a freshman in high school, I started drawing my own stick figure comics and telling original stories in a massive, convoluted story that I think a lot of writers have in their past. In college, I majored in creative writing and started seriously working on scripts for short comics and mini-series, and that eventually led here!
How did you two connect and how was the decision made to tell this story in a webcomic format?
JM: Twitter? HeroesCon? Just the way of the universe. I’ve done two webcomics on my own now. It’s fun.
JA: Facebook just reminded me that it was about this time last year that I first discovered and started reading City of Depression, so yeah, it was basically just a retweet of Joni’s work that I saw. I liked Joni’s artstyle a lot, so I reached out about possibly collaborating and we quickly landed on Welderkin as a good match.
As for the format, it wasn’t necessarily envisioned as a webcomic, but I’d learned about Comicker from one of their creators, Kate Sherron (The Casebook of Rabbit Black) at HeroesCon last summer. When their newsletter said they were accepting pitches, it seemed like a good fit, particularly given Joni’s webcomic experience. Plus, going digital has allowed us to expand the story in each issue, since we don’t have to be as structured as we might’ve at a traditional publisher. It’s also always been a dream of mine to have a webcomic, so that was definitely exciting.
What was the elevator pitch for Welderkin?
JA: At its core, my goal with the pitch, both to Joni initially and to Comicker, was to sell it as an entertaining small-town horror story that featured an original horror creation. My hope for the story is that it captures the feel of the hidden-gem horror stories I’ve always sought out myself, whether it was the countless horror paperbacks I consumed in high school or the random surprises that show up on Netflix.
To me, that means that it is first and foremost a fun comic for people to read, even in its darker or creepier moments. I absolutely hope that it can successfully examine some deeper themes as well, but I think trying to chase those specifics too hard can diminish the entertainment and make the finer points of the story feel forced. That said, I’m still thinking about the specifics of the ending and what it ultimately says, so there does need to be some focus on the intent.
There is a fairly fast turn around with posting two pages a week, your first issue will be completed by the end of the month. How far ahead of your current arc do you work and what does your collaboration process look like?
JM: where’s that kc green gif of the dog burning… we communicate very well it’s just, on my end anyway, the unpredictability of my terrible retail job zapping my energy at a moments notice. I’m currently at the thumbnail stage of the next chapter? Issue?
JA: I’m a little luckier than Joni in this regard, since I more or less had the rough drafts of the first four issues done early on. That said, we’re still adding new scenes to help flesh the story out, and I’ve been doing a new rewrite on each issue before Joni starts. Since the digital issue release right around the time those pages start posting digitally, the aim is to be about an issue ahead at any time.
As for collaborating, I do my best to stay open to suggestions from Joni on any possible changes, which was the first thing we did when we started working together. Joni made a lot of good suggestions throughout the arc, and they had a big part in helping restructure the ending. Should we decide to continue the story beyond this initial arc, we’ll ideally be making a lot more of the narrative decisions together.
Did you find any part of the process particularly challenging? Was anything easier than you were expecting it to be?
JM: I dread coloring because I think it is gonna take 300 times longer than it actually does for me. However, as fast as I color, picking the original color palette was the most time consuming because it’s trial and error.
JA: First issues are always the trickiest for me. By nature, it’s a lot of exposition and introductions, so it’s always a challenge to try and make sure all of that stuff is exciting and engaging. I tend to default to the classic “open on a big, flashy action scene” maneuver as a result, which is something I’m trying to get better about. Fortunately, I’m still a new writer on the scene, so I haven’t played that card too much yet!
Your publisher, Comicker Digital, sells digital copies of creator-owned works on different digital platforms. Do you have any plans to sell physical copies in the future?
JM: I think once the series is complete it goes to Kickstarter as a full volume right Jordan?
JA: Yeah, there will ideally be a collected edition some time next year once all is said and done.
Welderkin has an amazing, diverse cast of characters. Can you talk about the process of bringing them to life? Do you have a favorite character?
JM: My favorite character is Chase because sassy kids who try to save the day are always my favorite. He’s a great character.
JA: Generally, I try to do my best to create a variety of characters in anything I write. As a straight dude, I tend to default to straight male characters in a lot of my first drafts, which almost always leads me to actively diversifying and changing characters in rewrites. I think stories are way better when they can engage in different perspectives and give more people characters to relate to.
For Welderkin in particular, because they’re creatures that are said to attack and kidnap married women, I knew from the start it needed to have a lot of female characters, ideally in different types of relationships and at different points in their lives. I just try to do my best to give each character a unique voice and perspective on the myths of the town.
As for a favorite character, I’ve spent the most time in Jessica’s head because she’s the lead, so she’s close to my heart. Annie’s a close second, though, as I love self-assured, confident characters that know what they want in life and aren’t afraid to speak their mind.
What kind of inspiration did you draw from in creating the Welderkin, both their mythos and the artistic interpretations?
JM: I was told blacksmith-themed demons and I tried to channel the visceral look of every 80’s horror tv show in them.
JA: Since the initial idea really was just “welder demons”, I worked out from there. So everything from the legends about their origins to the way they take women hostage was built around the idea that they were blacksmiths, they’re builders. And since fire and metal are big parts of that, it made sense that they would dwell in the natural world while also destroying and overtaking it in different ways.
Also, I’m glad Joni’s head was in the 80’s for developing their look, because I’m a huge fan of 80’s horror, particularly the old anthology shows like Tales from the Darkside or the 80’s Twilight Zone. If by some miracle there’s ever a Welderkin movie, they would absolutely have to be realized with practical effects instead of CGI.
Can you talk about lettering Welderkin? The sound effects feel very ominous from the start and many of the word balloons are delightfully animated.
JM: I love hand lettering sfx. I use a water brush I found on the floor at school in junior year that for whatever reason hasn’t gummed up on me yet. The water brushes can’t handle the thick ink, it dries in the Ferrell of the brush and I can never fix them. It’s ominous because I guess the brush is cursed? It’s done over 200 full pages of inks for me.
And finally, do either of you have a favorite urban legend?
JM: I was always weirdly obsessed with the Loch Ness monster in elementary school. Or is that a cryptid? My favorite creepypasta is the Anansi’s Goatman story, because it felt very real while reading it. Bloody Mary always creeped me out.
JA: I love the idea that our pet cats and dogs are seeing ghosts whenever they just stare intensely at one spot or start barking at nothing. I hate to give the popular answer, but I was also big on Slender Man, especially the Marble Hornets webseries. Also, Majora’s Mask is my favorite Zelda, so I also love the BEN Drowned creepypasta.