Art News

Local Comic Book Creators Debut Junior

Junior lands this Fall
Junior lands this Fall Alex Kmeto/Scout Comics
The friendship of artist/writer Alex Kmeto and colorist/designer Sean Callahan began at Mile High Comics, specifically at the much-missed satellite store in Lakewood that shuttered in April 2019. It seems only fitting that they’d debut their collaborative project — the forthcoming comic book Junior, out this September from Scout Comics — at another local comic book joint. They’ll be two of the guests at this weekend's MutinyCon II at Mutiny Information Cafe.

When Kmeto and Callahan met, they were fans and collectors who were interested in becoming part of the industry. “So we decided to dip our toe into exhibiting,” says Kmeto. “I was like, 'I do line work and you’re a colorist, so let's start making some prints, and we’ll go and do the Denver Con' [Now FANEXPO Denver]. That worked out well enough that we did other cons, as well. And from all that time spent together, we started talking about the idea for Junior.”

That idea became the limited series that launches this fall. Kmeto says the initial idea came from early sketches, which then became something of a storyboard for what happens in the first issue. “Young space Marine is working to fix a satellite, the satellite gets hit by an asteroid, and then I kind of followed the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom model," Kmeto explains, "where every solution to every problem turns into another problem. She gets into the ship, but the ship crashes. She walks away from the rough landing and gets bit by a dinosaur. Boom, boom, boom.”

click to enlarge
Alex Kmeto/Scout Comics
That isn’t a spoiler, by the way: it’s only what happens in the first few pages, right up to the opening title splash.

Kmeto credits Callahan for encouraging him to develop the idea even further. “Back in the ’90s, everyone was looking for talent,” he says, referring to what’s often called the era of the artist, when comic books were going through a speculative boom and the superstars of the medium were mostly pencillers with a signature style: Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld. Those three (along with several others) left DC and Marvel to form Image Comics, a company devoted to independent voices that’s still a major player today. “Now they’re looking for books, for projects.”

Still, Junior began as a portfolio of sorts, to show the larger companies what this Denver two-man team could do for their existing properties. “That was the initial idea,” says Callahan. “I already had my ear to the ground pretty heavy in the industry. A lot of these comic book companies want product. We decided to treat them like the businesses they are: 'We know how to make a comic, you want a comic to sell, let’s do this.' It’s worked out.”

Junior is currently a four-issue limited series. “It made sense to come out with Volume One and have that done before we moved on to start the process for the next storyline," Kmeto explains. "Having a complete project before we started promoting it was the safest bet for everyone.” The collected trade paperback is planned for late 2022 or early 2023.

Kmeto and Callahan have already received a lot of positive support for the project. “We've had really great responses from a lot of local stores — Mile High, Mutiny Comics, I Want More Comics — they were all super supportive. Wayne [Winsett] up at Time Warp was awesome — and surprised in the nicest way possible that the art was as good as it was. But that makes sense: We’re a product of how we grew up, so what we produce now is very Marvel/DC-friendly. It’s a very accessible art style, I think.”
click to enlarge
The creative team behind Junior.
Alex Kmeto/Sean Callahan
Kmeto says that Junior — and you’ll have to wait until the reveal in the second issue to find out why the main character is called that — is sort of a sci-fi take on Indiana Jones combined with Disney’s Brave. “And not just because both those female characters have red hair,” laughs Kmeto. “When we were exhibiting and selling prints, something people were connecting with in my art was the way I drew women. Female superheroes, in particular. Obviously still a very idealized body style, but I don’t oversexualize. They were always in strong poses, and they’ve got the muscles to show the strength. Junior isn’t some ninety-pound Victoria’s Secret model who's gallivanting through space. If she’s going to be jumping off of satellites and crash-landing planes and running from space dinosaurs, I want her to look like she’s capable of doing all of that.”

Junior’s partner in the comic is a diminutive space-hippo of sorts that’s bound to be a fan favorite. “My first take on the character was a droid, and Sean shot that down pretty immediately," Kmeto says. "It’s just been played out. So I was thinking maybe an alien, and my wife and I have a pitbull/Shar Pei mix. As a puppy, they look a lot like baby hippos. So I figured what the hell? He’s an alien named Walter that looks like a mini-hippo. What’s not to like?”

While Junior’s premiere issue won’t be coming out until mid-September, Kmeto and Callahan will be on hand at MutinyCon II with promotional ashcan copies, and to meet the four-color faithful here in Denver. “It’s all about the comic book being a comic book,” says Callahan. “So many people in the industry today want to make a comic so they can make a TV show. We just want to make a good comic book.”

Alex Kmeto and Sean Callahan will be signing ashcan copies of Junior at MutinyCon II, August 27-28, Mutiny Information Cafe, 2 South Broadway.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen