I have never met Benjamin Kreger in person, only as an internet entity, so I can’t verify that he actually exists, but if you go to his Lil’ Lincoln webcomic you’ll be happy that at least someone calling themselves that name is real. Its a wild ride combining history and fantasy seamlessly. We had a cool chat about his upbringing and comics.
Tell me who you are, where you’re from and a little bit about yourself.
lol. Now there’s a question! I’m from the Northwestern states of the U.S.A. Growing up in both WA and OR with a little bit of time as an adult in ID it isn’t easy to narrow down but, I have spent most my growing years in the Albany, OR area. As for who I am, that took most my life thus far to answer for myself. Presently I accept that I am a geek who is lucky enough to be writing comic books. I’m also lucky enough to be father to two very smart, creative and wonderful girls who keep me on my toes every day!
I’m sure they do. So how did you get from growing up in the Pacific Northwest to writing comics? What influenced you to become a comic writer?
My story isn’t unlike many comic scribes I know… When I was, what is now called, a “tween” my parents separated and shortly after divorced. It was then that I picked up my first Spider-rman comic book, Spectacular Spiderman #184, and I’ve been a geek ever since. While in JR High, my brothers and a few friends of mine endeavored to make our own comics.
Many of them were very much inspired by X-Men… so not to original. I called our company Quantum Comics! and I still have many of the comics we made, though none of them are really good enough to share with the public! lol Comics for us were an escape back then but they quickly became a love for me. I dreamt of becoming a best selling author and using that money to fund my comic publishing biz… but it would be almost 14 years later before I ever attempted writing comics again.
I did the same thing in Jr. High back in the day. What made you decide to make Warrior Innkeeper Comics as an adult? That’s an interesting name by the way, where does it come from?
I had to overcome many of my own demons, some of them, the resentment a child has toward his divorced parents, some of it the hatred for my bullies and, of course, learning how to love oneself and believe in ones dreams… from the age of 19 to about 30 I lived in what I call, a fictional world. I was in a terribly difficult marriage, working nights just to get away from my home life and earn enough money at my “practical” job. I wanted more from life; I joined the army and served my country but that alone did not fulfill this need building up inside me…
I soon found myself divorced and very, very angry. That is when Ty Wakefield found me. I have to mention him because without his influence, without his friendship, none which followed would have ever happened. Ty is the creator of Alternate Reality Comics, a small publishing company based out of Lewiston, ID. He is most famous for creating the character Captain Cure and his charitable work in the war against Cancer. He pulled me out of the gutter I was making for myself and gave me my first work in comics. He kept me going. I must take a moment to mention, at the time, he was battling his own cancer, osteosarcoma, a bone cancer in his leg. But he didn’t let that stop him from following his dreams or stop him from helping others like me and many of his friends and family. Just a really cool guy. Well, my financial sitch just got worse and I had to move back “home” to Oregon. It was then, while I was sleeping on a friends couch that it occurred to me, a person can take responsibility for their own lives; I could take responsibility of my life!
So, slowly but, surely I pulled myself up off that couch and with the help of friends began constructing my new life. It began by accepting my geekhood and my love for writing and for comics. I created Warrior Innkeeper Comics and launched it as a web presence about 6 months before I actually had a comic to share! And to answer the second part of that question: I got the name from the meaning of my last name.
I didn’t think Kreger Komics sounded very cool.
Wow, that’s quite a journey. And yeah, you made a good choice with Warrior InnKeeper. So you had your company, you had your internet presence, how did you go about creating your first story? The Less Than Historical Adventures of Lil’ Lincoln.
I like telling stories and the best audience, for me, has always been children. While I was working for Ty, my desk faced a giant painting of President Lincoln, as he was one of Ty’s heroes. One day the two just came together. I think it was back in ’08. I had this daydream which turned into a fantastic adventure featuring a 10-year-old Abe, Ben Franklin, a Gremlin named Mike, Time Travel and George Washington! But in the course of developing that script into a comic it got bigger and bigger and more epic! Eventually the developed their own story lines and as many of my characters do, they took on a life of their own and their stories out grew the original draft I wrote.
That’s one heck of a daydream. And yes, I totally understand how characters can take on a life of their own. How did you go about taking your daydream to finding an artist and creating the comic?
Well, I got myself a mentor in the indie comic biz, you may have heard of him, he’s quite full of himself, Darkslinger Comics took me under his wing, metaphorically speaking and, showed me the ropes. He helped point me in the right direction and it was through him that I was connected to artist Paul Johnson As much as he taught me, I knew there was still much to learn. So I interviewed as many pros at as many cons as I could get to.
One of those pros I spoke with was Brandon Jerwa. It was he who gave me the advice of starting with a webcomic. I’m glad I listened to him. Starting Li’l Lincoln as a webcomic gave Paul and I a great playground to learn what we couldn’t learn from books and friends. The instant feed back taught us many of the do’s and don’ts. I highly recommend any amateur of comics wanting to learn how to tell a story in this medium to give the webcomic a shot
Thats terrific advice. And now Lil’ Lincoln is like an epic. I quite enjoyed reading it. That leads to what I believe is your next project, The Inventions of Ben and Mike. Wait, that’s not the actual name…
Close enough, I just call it Ben & Mike but the full obnoxious title (I like obnoxiously long titles) is THE MAGNANIMOUS INVENTIONS OF BEN & MIKE
Ahhh, I see. What’s this one all about?
Ben & Mike was originally intended as a subplot to Li’l Lincoln but their story quickly took over the webcomic and when we decided we were ready for print… well, we went back to the drawing board and rewrote everything and split comic into two separate stories with in the same universe.
Ben & Mike, of course, follows Ben Franklin in the time just before the Revolutionary War which I think was prob his most inventive time.
He befriends a Gremlin named Mike (though this is short for a much longer name Ben had no patience to learn how to pronounce) and Mike, like most gremlins, is a muse for Ben leading to the creation of a Time Machine hence the Magnanimous Invention theme of the book.
The first book, which is presently raising money on Kickstarter http://kck.st/KzTg6b tells the story of how the machine got built but not why… well, not exactly why.
I was going to ask about your Kickstarter campaign. How is it going? Are you on track to make your minimum?
Not even close! lol It’s only been up for a few days. I think part of the reason we are so behind is because, I’m relatively new to the scene and, honestly, I’m not so good in marketing my own comics. I’m learning. One can always learn more. But I’m still optimistic. The book itself is wonderfully fun to write and those who have read it enjoy it. So, if we don’t raise our money this time, we can always try again. Like a mock-space captain once said, “Never Give Up! Never Surrender!”
I believe in that whole heartedly.
Right on man. I feel the same way. Lastly, tell me a little bit about this Super Vampire Bunny story that seems so intriguing.
Yes! I love this story a LOT! It is actually a creation by my Niece who came up with the characters when she was 8 or 9. She’s now going on 13 so it’s taken my brother and I a while to cement the story behind the characters. It follows a teenage boy, who happens to look like a bunny, he plays on his high school’s football team and just as he is about to have all his teenager dreams come true, Team Captain, girl of his dreams, etc, etc. his life is turned upside down by strange happenings behind the curtains of his school’s administration. The first issue doesn’t reveal it so this is a spoiler but, as it turns out, he’s really a vampire… um, bunny… and there are malicious characters out to use him for their own purposes. My li’l brother Josh Kreger is at the helm for this comic, it was always his dream to open up a comic shop and draw comics and now, he’s about to do both! His comic shop in Lebanon, OR is called The Phone Booth (comics, cards and collectables) opens June 6th!
The story sounds fun and best of luck to the opening of your brothers store. Well, thanks for the great interview, I feel like our readers have learned alot about you and your books.
I appreciate you taking the time to pick my brain and read my ramblings.
Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!