Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Home Free! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
John Kratky: Thank you for the opportunity to introduce people to my work!
Michelle and I had recently finished a graphic novel titled The Black Wall which was years in the making. Originally, it was published as a webcomic, so, of course, we wanted to release a print edition, but we thought that coming in hot on our first Kickstarter together with a graphic novel was a bad idea. We decided to do a smaller comic as our first run, and came up with the idea of introducing readers to The Black Wall through a loose sequel, but keeping in mind that we had to craft this story in a way that you could read either first, and go into the next story with a set of expectations that may not pan out the way you think.
Home Free is a road story in our favorite genre to work in, dramatic crime fiction. We follow Sara from The Black Wall as she breaks out of the mundane life she purposely set up for herself after spending years as a sex worker. She meets Emmy, a girl much like herself who lives under the thumb of a brooding pimp named Grip. The first book is one of escape, but within an America that is falling apart, it’s a task not so easily accomplished.
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process in working with artist Michelle Lodge and letterer Eduardo Camacho to bring this story to life, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
JK: I feel very lucky to have met Michelle as we want to create the same kind of comics. The process we go through as a team is incredibly easy as she enjoys my writing and I enjoy her art and together they just gel together in the right way. There’s really never any questioning of what each other is doing. Everything always feels spot-on. We are committed to the noir-style, but in the context of modern stories. While I love the era this style comes from, I want to create characters that make sense now. I’m hoping the next few Kickstarters introduce a lot of people to our work as I’d like this creative partnership to go as long as it makes sense to.
I have worked with Eduardo on quite a few projects, and he always adapts the style of font and balloons to the type of story being told. He presents a few options to me, and there is always one that is spot on. He’s very professional in what he does and has great communication. Highly recommended to folks looking for a letterer.
My creative influences are all over the place as I’m sure they are for most, but with comics right now, I’m just really into old horror and crime comics from the '40s and '50s and I’ve been exploring those. I love the short and pulpy stories that provide a quick and dirty ride through desperate situations. I’ve also been diving into crime novels from the same era and have been watching noir films regularly for the last 20 years. In the end I would say that my own crime fiction takes the hard-boiled pulp of EC comics, and the real world character dramas of '70s cinema, and throws them into our modern times, most likely with a dark jazz soundtrack.
BD: How many issues do you have planned for this series?
JK: Home Free is a 5-issue mini-series. Originally, it was 3, but after some consultation, there was just more to explore and develop, so it expanded. It’s still half the length of The Black Wall, so while it ended up a bit longer than planned, it is for good reason. It felt incomplete at 3 issues.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Home Free’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
JK: The last few years have been rough on people and are worth exploring. While Home Free may not take place in the America we live in, it has similarities, and I was able to explore a lot of the breakdown of our society through events that happened in The Black Wall. I’m really concerned about Americans and their view of their neighbors as enemies just because their minds don’t hold the same thoughts. Living in Portland, it has come to people killing each other because they think they are in this desperate struggle against their neighbor enemies. This is the bigger scope of the comic, but there are other layers to it that are more personal to Sara. I’d like for people to discover those themes for themselves.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JK: Home Free is going to run for 4 more Kickstarters (next one is August due to the inconveniences of life) and will complete in 2023. Then, it is onto The Black Wall graphic novel. I’m crossing my fingers that these are all successful, because Michelle and I have another project that is more down & dirty noir that I would love to see the light of day. It’s hard to see that far into the future and other projects could get in the way. Michelle may want to take a break from noir. She also has a talent for colorful and fun kids comics, as well as her own comic strip about motherhood. Right now, it is pretty open after our current books are funded.
As for other projects, I’m working on a gothic horror with artist Anna Wieszczyk, an extremely talented artist from Poland. It’s almost like a graphic novella and reads like a very dark fairy tale. I’m really excited about this comic as I want to get my horror stories out there too. While my crime stories are modern, all my horror takes place in an older time, but not a historically accurate time or place. It’s my own, made-up version of old Europe. You can see it in my other works, The Goblet at the Black Oak & Upon the Judge’s Order.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Home Free?
JK: You can visit my website at www.johnkratky.com, or Michelle’s website at www.comiclodge.com. We both have newsletters you can sign up for so you can keep up to date on all of our work.