This interview was conducted back in November of 2008. At that time I had known Ty Wakefield and Benjamin Kreger for less than one year. During that time Ben was working for Ty as part of his Alternate Reality Comics company. This interview was done as part of a series of interviews that I was doing for a comics news site. I do not remember the name of this site, but it seems of little importance now 9 years later. The website closed down after publishing one of the interviews. I meant to publish this elsewhere but lost the original file for it. Or so I thought. Recently while going through all of my old files I discovered this on a forgotten flash card. I thought about correcting the spelling and grammatical errors in this, but Ty would not have wanted that. I don’t know why.
ADAM WATSON: What got you into comics? Do you remember the first one you ever read?
BEN KREGER: What got me into comics?
Superman: The movie! Superman always inspired me and I often acted like him. Then my Dad was really into the Batman tv show and the Incredible Hulk so really I don't think I had a choice in the matter.
I remember being facinated with comics. I remember buying a Green Lantern/Green Arrow double sized book at a flea market once and a Superman book but I the first one I really read was Spectacular Spiderman #168.
I soon subscribed to it as soon as I had enough allowance to do so. After that it was all down hill. I became a big Spidey fan and soon moved onto other Marvel titles, Fantastic Four, X-Force, Darkhawk.
I didn't start reading DC until a few years ago. Starting with Green Lantern and then the new Batgirl, the first DC book I followed for over a year and then Batman. Though I love Superman, his books quite frankly are never written very well so it is rare I'll pick one up.
But now I'm writing my own and hope someday I'll be able to write a good Superman book myself!
TY WAKEFIELD: What got me into comics was "A Death in the Family" when DC killed Robin. This was the first comic book series I ever really "read", I use to just look at the pictures. The story was not a typical "Batman" story. That was the first time I realized that the Joker was well Crazy. I knew at that piont I wanted to at least draw, but then I started to write some stories and then that was it I was hooked.
AW: What comics are you currently reading? Are there any particular authors that inspire you?
BEN: I was reading Amazing Spider-man until One More Day ended. Right now I'm reading Civil War and trying to follow Batman R.I.P. and I'm kinda hoping the local stores will carry all the Superman: New Krypton story. But lately I've been waiting until the books come out in TPB so I don't have to wait for the whole story month by month and I'm not really a collector anymore. Now I just buy them for the story and that's about it, tired of all the gimmicks.
As for authors that inspire me, a new name to comics but an old hat at writing, is Orson Scott Card. I've learned a lot about writing from him.
I've followed J. Michael Straczynski from television's Babylon 5 to Rising Stars to my favorite Spidey story of all time Spiderman: The Other Evolve or Die.
Out of the comic world I really like Jim Lee's work on FF and wish he would return to Marvel and write and draw another great story. So many names come to mind, Clarmont, Brubaker, Bendis I like Kevin Smith's Daredevil story but didn't like his Green Arrow (though that may be cause I think Green Arrow is a jerkoff) and I think Stan "The Man" Lee goes without saying. However, to narrow it down, cause this answer is getting long, I really like what Neil Gaiman did with the Marvel Universe in Marvel 1602. I keep meaning to read more from him since I read this graphic novel and hope to soon. But that book really amazed me and I haven't been so excited by a comic story since Marvels (Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross)
So I guess the short answer is Neil Gaiman.
TW: To be honest I haven't read any current comics, except those I pick up from independent publishers. I have been busy getting back to the "roots" going to things like Batman in the 40's and 50's, Dick Tracy from the 30's and 40's, comics that make you escape reality, not question whether this could happen, but rather get lost in the journey.
I would say that some of my influnces of couse would be Bob Kane, Chester Gould, Ty Templton, Paul Dini, and William Gaines. William Gaines and his staff at E.C. comics let the artist and writers invent a new line of comics, a new line of "conventional" wisdom.
AW: This one is for Ben. When did you decide that you wanted to write comics?
BK: Writing or telling stories is something I've always loved. From my pre-school days when I would record my G.I. Joe adventures on tape to the present. I've told stories as far as I can remember. I'm not sure what caused me to start writing comics. I started writing in forth or fifth grade by eighth with a friend of mine. I still have a good number of those books too. Then in high school I wrote and drew a #0 issue base on some of those characters. That one was cool but I seem to have lost my copy of it some time ago.
In high school I started writing short stories and by college I had gotten into film so I learned how to write screenplays. Then some time passed and I would work on a short story here or there but it wasn't until I met Ty that I really considered going back to my roots and writing comics, even as to make a living.
AW: How did your work with Ty and Alternate Reality Comics come about?
BK: Well, I was a co-worker with his wife and she found out not only do I make short films but I'm also a comic geek but most importantly I'm a writer. So she approached me and told me her husband had started his own comic book company and he was looking for talent. She asked me if I had anything I'd like to submit and I said, probably. At first I gave her one of my screen plays. They liked it so I picked out an old short story and updated it and then translated it into a comic script and gave him that to peruse.
I then went on a trip. While at a friends house I got a call from an over excited Ty telling me about how much he liked the story and how he had already started doing character drawings and he knew he shouldn't before he spoke to me but he was just to excited about it and then he asked if he could do the story and put it in his next comic.
I must admit I was a bit flabbergasted at first, really blown away about his excitement but I got excited to and say, Hell yeah, you can do it, that would be awesome!
When I got home I went to his office to take a look at what he had done in that short time and I was blown away. Next thing I know I'm working on several different projects and we begin planing the book together and before I knew it I had a new best friend.
It's been a rollercoaster ride I never want to get off of.
AW: What is your overall goal in the comic industry?
TW: That's a hard question. There's so much that I want to do in the industry. I mean the most important goal is to entertain, right. I think that we all (the industry) has to remember people pick up our comics for entertainment. I want to bring back the sense of escape to comics, less reality and more imgination. I would also say that I would like to bring a sense that what I do is ART, not just a paycheck. I strive for that standard with every page I do. But for the most part our overall goal at Alternate Reality is to entertain.
BK: I'm not as ambitious at Ty. My goal is simply to get read and maybe one day I'll get to write for my big three, Spider-man, Batman and Superman. I actually already have a few stories for the DC books I'd love to do as an Elseworlds title.
AW: This question is for Ty: When did you form Alternate Reality Comics? What made you decide to go the self-publishing route?
TW: I guess AR formed when my brother, Beau and I were, maybe 10 or 11. We wanted to draw comics and we started with a few in school, and then in 2007, I said we should just do it and I remembered an article in Wizard on how to make mini comics, so why not invest in some and try it, if it doesn't work, we'll try again. Both Beau and I knew deep down that our stories, artwork, and imaginations would be too much for the mainstream publishers, and who knows maybe if we create just the right stories, maybe they will come to us. Not to mention self publish has what we all want FREEDOM.
AW: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
BK: I really want to fly. But it really wouldn't be safe to fly unless you were tough like Superman. So really I also want to be like bullet proof and super strong.
Have you ever noticed that if you are a superhero you seem to be able to take a lot more damage than regular people even if your only poser is to read minds or something?
TW: Man, I just had a flash back, I never thought of myself to be Broady. This is a really hard question, because the heros I enjoy to read about have no superpowers, just good old fashion smarts. But I think that have a superpower of unlimited strength, that's what I would want, all heros have that.
AW: Tell us a little bit about the stories you are doing for AR. Which is your favorite to date?
BK: Alternate Reality Comics (the book) is a horror anthology I like to call a cross between Outer Limits and Tales From the Crypt. The story you will see in the next issue is a very personal story even with it being a horror story. Like most writers, I took what I know from my own life and then threw in a bit of fantasy.
Another story, waiting for the artist to finish, is a fun little zombie story. Since zombie stories are a dime a dozen I took what I know about mythology and mixed it with what so many love about horror movies, T&A. It was really fun to write, if not somewhat embarrassing. However, I can't wait to see it finish I think readers will really like it.
Something I really like is when all the hard work has been done before me. Ty has asked me to translate several stories into script form and I find it really enjoyable to pick apart someone else's work and make it work for the visual medium of comics. I work really hard to keep the original artist integrity cause that is what I would want and I only add or make small changes that are simply needed to make the book the best it can be.
TW: Being the Editor, I get involved in all of them, at one point or another. I will say that "Revenge" and "The President of the Divided States od Hamelin" where my favorite in AR 1. We have a couple in AR #2 that took a lot more thought and working with other's work than AR 1 had.
The stories all have some facet of horror in them, but depending on what kind of person you are, how funny or how scary they are to you, that's what I love about all of our stories. No good guys, all bad guys. Take "Revenge" in AR#1, a classic tale of a boy, a bitch, and a football. We took it and made it fun, and sinister. In a new story you'll find in AR#2 "Him" you'll see just exactly how love will tear a man apart. I enjoy all of our little yarns, and to pick one at such an early stage in our company would be I don't know almost like a jinx on the whole project.
AW: Who does the majority of the editing in your books?
BK: I think the artist has the final edit. I do a lot of self editing and will take suggestions from Ty when writing and then when he is penciling he will ask me if he is going in the right direction. It is a very collaborative process. I really enjoy it. It's a real back and forth but I'm betting Ty will say he has the final cut, the power hungry bastard that he is. lol
AW: Besides the big three you mentioned previously, are there any other comic companies you would like to work with in the future?
BK: Maybe Darkhorse cause they are local but I have no idea what title I'd want to work on, maybe a Star Wars one or maybe I'd try to talk them into doing something independent like they started with. It would be nice to see DH do a book like Concrete again.
TW: Of course being a hugh Batman fan, I would love to work with Mad magazine. In truth I have always enjoyed Batman, but my ultimate thrill would do work for Mad, I have even toyed with the idea we (AR) put out something like Cracked (no longer in circulation) or Mad. I would also love to do some work for Heavy Metal, there stuff is absolutly AWESOME!!!
AW: This question is for Ben. While most people may not know it, you are something of an artist yourself. Do you have any plans to illustrate one of your stories in the future?
BK: I am working on a kids book right now based on an old ghost story my friends and I would tell eachother back in the First grade. I am planning on doing all the art for it myself and I've been working on a kids comic based on some cartoon characters I've been keeping around since High School. I really have no idea when this will be done as I have a lot to learn as far as drawing goes. But I think it will be a really fun book to do and it is silly enough to be popular. I laugh just at it's concepts! Wish I could tell you more but I'm as paranoid and guarded about my unfinished work as any writer.
AW: Is "Him" the story that Ben wrote for AR #2? How many creators comprise the AR crew?
TW: There are only 3 creators on our crew, we always want more, trying to find them is hard, not to mention we're so small and capital is so low. "Him" was written by ben, and putting some graphics to this made it explode off the pages, pretty excited!
AW: For Ben: You have a background in film? Any plans to return to that at some point?
BK: Yes, I've been making films since I was 20. I've done been on both sides of the camera as well as done some screen writing. This experience, surprisingly, translates easily to writing for comics. As the comic book could be looked at an exaggerated story board.
And of course I have plans to return to film! lol. I recently co-wrote, shot and edited a PSA-like video for a friend of mine about Traumatic Brain Injury that has has some moderate success on Myspace as well as other internet sources.
I often flirt with the idea of taking a comic book idea or story and making it into a short film. One of the projects I am working on now is taking one of my short films I did in college and translating it into a comic books limited series. I'm very excited about this project.
Aw: Anything you can tell us about this project? Is it true that it features a guy creating a gun from chicken parts?
BK: LOL. Yes if fact it does involve a hero with a chicken-guts-gun though the comic adaption will attempt to explain the oddities of the story a little better and not to belittle the creator but bring out the comedy that the film sometimes missed.
What can I tell you about this story?
Well it is about the eternal struggle between Theater and Television. Since the dawn of time...err the dawn of Television attendance of classic theater has diminished. Until one day a balance of the audience was achieved. However, on the campus of one college in Oregon the battle rages on between a group of public broadcasting students vs. a group of thespians, pant-suited thespians.
When the delicate balance of power is tipped in favor of the theater, the television students are bestowed awesome and somewhat grotesque super powers to stop the thespians from destroying their dreams.
AW: Sounds like a very fun story. I understand that you made a cameo in the original film version of this project?
BK: I was brought in as an understudy with no explanation in the story as to where I came from. I plan on exploring this twist in the comic version as the character in the film loosely alludes to foul play upon the actor he replaced.
AW: When can we expect to see this project? Will it be coming out under AR or another company? Do you have anyone in mind for the art chores?
BK: wanted this project to come out by Jan. but now, I have no idea, I suppose when I get it done. lol but yes it will be coming out under the AR banner and the artist has been tapped, he has worked in comics for a year or two now [I'll get back to you on his stuff soon] His name is Warren Blyth and... well, he has his own style for everything. A very nice and cool dude but, lets use the word eccentric. I'm very excited about working with him and I know he will bring the right look to this book.
AW: Do you find it more challenging to get a comic off the ground in Lewiston, ID? Are there any specific problems you face that you feel you wouldn't if you lived in a bigger city?
TW: I think to most challenging thing is distrubution. We have to drive a lot to meet new people, and hope they will pick us up. I guess another is supplies, we have to get supplies as in professional supplies 45 miles away. But all in all We are going, and as long as we keep our focus feirce we will get out there.
AW: Any last words of advice for aspiring creators?
BK: Yeah, don't wait until you're 30 to start your dreams! LOL Seriously I should have kept at it, I'd be freakin' RICH by now if I hadn't listened to all those people who told me entertainment was not a viable career choice.
So if you want to entertain people, tell stories, draw, paint, be artistic in any way, no matter your age, get started now and don't stop, never stop. DO NOT LISTEN to all those people who say you can't do it. Do as the commercial says, "Just Do It!"
Trust me, the starving is worth it!