The Jekyll Island Chronicles
Recently I had the opportunity to chat via email with Steve Nedvidek, one of the ‘Lost Mountain Mechanicals’, a trio of like-minded gentlemen who have created a new comic book series.
Set immediately after World War I (often referred to as ‘The Great War’), the series centers on the peace and hope of the post war era fading “as a cryptic organization moves to threaten fragile governments and their people with a campaign of chaos and terror”. At first glance it was easy to confuse the overall feel of the series for Steam Punk. Steve however helped clarify that Diesel Punk, naturally, involves less steam and more oil based technologies. In his own words, diesel punk is “…a little more modern than steampunk. And it felt like a natural connection. When you think of all the technological advancement happening at the end of the 19th and early 20th century, you wonder, “What if…?” For example, what kind of untried, non-commercialized tech could Carnegie and Ford have explored? It was fun to think about.”
Indeed it is. That period of history saw so many changes in western society that it is often easy to forget how long things have been in existence. Plastic and bullet proof glass were both invented in the early 1900’s, for example.
Further descriptions of the series, and the types of people readers may encounter were of “broken men and women who have already sacrificed, but who haven’t surrendered; people who only need their bodies repaired – perhaps improved- to mirror the strength in their souls”. Diesel cyborgs? I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of that before. It sounds intriguing. Steve himself said it was a unique idea to them too.
When it comes to the cast of the Jekyll Island Chronicles, Steve, along with partners Ed Crowell, and Jack Lowe, wanted to examine what the first team of action heroes might be like. These heroes have no supernatural powers, no mutations, and haven’t fallen victim to chemistry accidents. They are just “broken, good-hearted soldiers, with natural skills, that were enhanced through wild technology to give them an advantage.”
Their inspiration came from looking at history – remember that bullet proof glass? They continued to explore the technology of the period, with a focus on what was used in WWI that was undercover. They had a few surprises, and discovered things they had never considered before.
The ‘Lost Mountain Mechanicals’, as they call themselves, worked with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), via a specially created class, and 10 select students on the project. I was curious as to how a team of unknown comic creators got an Art and Design college to help bring their creation to life. It turns out they “had been working with SCAD students of commercializing work projects.” Since Steve said the story idea for this group of early heroes had been milling in his head for a while, he approached SCAD about allowing private individuals to sponsor projects. SCAD’s response was yes.
From there Steve explained the project. SCAD then agreed to let their students in Sequential Arts try their hands at it. The Lost Mountain team “put together the course, identified a deliverable and SCAD provided a professor to help”. The students involved were grad students from SCAD. Once the course was finished, two of the students were identified as “super talented and who wanted to continue to work with us on the project, Moses Nester (illustrator) and SJ Miller (colorist)”.
They take the script, and Steve does a rough for the composition. Then they find reference photos for details. Pesky thing those details. Not that any of us artistic types know ANYTHING about that. Moses tightens up the composition, illustrates, and inks, and SJ colors in the pages. Steve says “It is such a blessing working with them. SO talented”!
The Jekyll Island Chronicles has already been picked up by TopShelf (an imprint of IDW). TopShelf, based in Marietta, Georgia, has published works of literary sophistication, visionary artistry, and personal resonance. IDW is an award winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels, and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Recognized as one of the top four comic publishers in the U.S., IDW has a diverse catalog of titles: Transformers, GI Joe, Jem, and Star Trek, just to name a few. Taking the finished product from the SCAD class (a “pitch packet” containing detailed scripts and character descriptions) Steve, Ed, and Jack contacted Chris Staros of TopShelf. The story plays out almost like a Hollywood movie deal, however, everyone is based in or around the Atlanta Georgia area. They did lunch, they talked, they gave their pitch, and explained it all. They did well, because the next day Chris called Steve and said he wanted to help with the Jekyll Island Chronicles. The creative trio loved the fact that they (the creators), the SCAD students, and the publisher were from Georgia. To further add to the magic… Jekyll Island is on the Georgia coast, not far from SCAD. “All the pieces came together in a very weird, cosmic way! It was a “you’ve got to be kidding me” moment”. Like I said, it almost like a Hollywood deal.
To promote the series, all three of the ‘Lost Mountain Mechanical’ will be attending San Diego Comicon this year. Steve has attended a comic convention twice before, but Ed and Jack are in for an awe inspiring first time experience. While Steve may have gone to a con before, this will be his first experience as a creator. To him it is a dream come true.
In addition to San Diego Comicon, and an interview with The Geekian Report, Steve said they are planning on using Twitter to promote their title. However, they will wait until they are at events before cranking it up. To quote Steve ” Here we are, middle aged guys, trying to navigate social media”! I fully understand that struggle.
When it comes to creative teams, I always am curious how they met. For Steve, Ed, and Jack, they’ve known each other for almost twenty years, having met in an adult Sunday School class at their local church. With similar interests, and being close enough to the age of 50, they “just decided that this was going to be our midlife crisis project. It was a cool story, scratched an artistic itch and gave us the ability to really have creative control of something that was truly our own. We all have full time jobs—so this is our hobby. Instead of golf, we work on this! [Steve’s] no good at golf anyway…” For the extra curious, Lost Mountain is a geological feature near Atlanta, Georgia.
The future of The Jekyll Island Chronicles holds a six part series, with the team working on part two as I type this. Beyond that depends on how well the first issue does. According to Steve, they have new characters, locations, machines, and some pretty amazing history to bring to readers. Fingers crossed it all goes well because the current planned story arc will continue into World War II, with all of the technological advances of that era.
If you love history, even just a little bit, The Jekyll Island Chronicles can satisfy your curiosity, and blow your mind with previously unknown facts, all while entertaining you in a ‘What if’ story line. Head over to their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jekyllislandchronicles/ check out all the photos, and keep up to date with their progress.
In the meantime, I’ll see you at the next con!
Photos courtesy of Steve Nedvidek.