Bolts #2 (Action Lab/Danger Zone Comics)

indie366163_20160602192301_largeIf last week’s book, Kim and Kim #1 (Black Mask Comics) was influenced by pop-punk music, this week’s book, Bolts #2 (Action Lab/Danger Zone Comics) is pure heavy metal! This book is in your face from page 1 of issue #1 and never lets up. The action is chaotic, but detailed and beautiful (in a heavy metal sort of way). Dark shadows and heavy shading are everywhere. Giant, multi-toothed monsters stalk a desolate, dusty landscape. This is the stuff of very bad dreams and I do not want to wake up.

Bolts is written and drawn by an exciting, young creator named James Whynot. He tells a story of Frankenstein’s monster that starts out pretty familiar. Surrounded by angry, pitch-fork wielding villagers, the monster is in trouble. That’s about as familiar as it gets though, as mother nature (or something else) intervenes and sends a lightning bolt down from the sky that obliterates the monster. Sometimes, it reallys sucks having metal bolts in your neck. Frank’s head goes flying through the air, freaking out the villagers that were trying to kill him just seconds before, and the story of Bolts truly begins.

Frank meets a number of people and monsters, all grotesque in their own way, as he explores the nightmare world I described earlier. Some are helpful, but most are obstacles he must face along the way. The world looks to be a grotesque, monster-filled version of the wild west. Frank quickly learns that he cannot let his guard down or feel safe here. No one and no place is safe here. In the first two issues of Bolts, the reader also gets a glimpse of The Guardian, a dark entity with a thirst for power. He has a following of creatures that do his bidding and I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more of him as the book progresses. I am excited to see where it goes from here.

I want to tell you more, but I also want you to read it for yourself. It is a very rich, fun read. It can be read and appreciated at face value, but there is also much more going on here. James Whynot, the creator, has gone above and beyond to make this a book that you will want to read and re-read to make sure you don’t miss anything. From the book’s mostly black and white appearance, with splashes of intentional red, to its detail-specific backgrounds, James is working on something grand. He states very clearly at the conclusion of the first issue that he has “snuck in” a lot of things for readers to find and things that will lead to “Aha!” moments later on. One thing readers can look for right away are references to 80’s and 90’s pop-culture things the creator loved as a kid, like elements from classic video games and movies. There is at least one of these references in the first issue.

There is so much happening in these first two issues that I had to reach out to the creator. I had a ton of questions and wanted to get a better sense of his overall vision. Lucky for us, he was more than willing to answer my questions and share more about the world of Bolts.

After reading Bolts #1, I can tell that you have a very unique voice and aesthetic. I wanted to know more about you as a creator, so I thought up a bunch of questions about your motivation and inspiration. Then, while doing my research, I saw that your girlfriend, Stephanie Cornelius, who has created a series of YouTube videos, known as “Comics and Cats Club,” about all things comics, already asked a bunch of the same questions in one of her videos. I will encourage our readers to check out the video and find out more about you. From the video, I heard that heavy metal, Akira, and horror movies are sort of your key (non-comic) influences or things that shaped who you are as a creator. Does that sound about right? Is there anything you would like to add that sort of sums up your style, etc.?

As far as influences go. Heavy metal, Akira, horror, and all that other stuff I said in the video interview that's kinda all the stuff that makes up my personality and interests. Akira is a huge influence on my work, with how detailed that manga is and the movie. I've always been drawn to things that look like a labor of love and you know a ton of time went into it, to make it the best quality it can be. Bolts is exactly that, I really try with every page to challenge myself and push my artistic limits with every page and issue. Readers will see that from issue to issue.

Your comic book reads like heavy metal. I can picture myself reading it while listening to something heavy. Do you listen to music while you create? What would you recommend I listen to while reading your book?

Yes, I listen to music ( mostly metal ) when I'm laying out pages, penciling, and inking. I also listen to music while I write, but mainly orchestral music from video games or movies. For example, I listened to the score of Arkham Knight while writing issues 3 and 4. It's just super dark and ominous and gets the creative side of my brain going. For drawing the issues, I listen to a massive amount of Meshuggah, Black Dahlia Murder, Humanity’s Last Breath, Fit For An Autopsy, and Carnifex. With the music, I can take what I listen to and tap into the primal aggression and darkness. That is channeled into my work to give it the look that it has. I think everyone has frustration in their lives. Drawing is my outlet to get rid of that in a constructive way. For issue one, I would suggest listening to the album “Catch 33” by Meshuggah while reading.

I can imagine, based on the first issue of BOLTS, that Frank will be going on some pretty wild adventures. It seems as though he will be traveling for a good portion of the time as he makes sense of his surroundings and discovers his purpose (if he has one). Is BOLTS primarily a road trip/buddy(or…enemy) story? Will he find allies on his journey? What can we expect from his adventures? Also, nothing seems to spice up an adventure like running into freakishly large, multi-toothed hound/horse thing. Will he be encountering more of the types of awesome monsters we saw in issue #1?

Bolts is all of the above, a road, buddy, and enemy story. I know that’s super vague, but issue 1 ends with a cliffhanger in the middle of a fight scene. So, maybe Frank dies in the second issue and that’s it. Two issues is all you get. But probably not, since there were other issues solicited in previews. You'll have to read issue 2 to find out. I can't really answer too much. What I can say is that Issue 1 is the set up and Issue 2 gets everything moving. There are monsters and weird creatures throughout Bolts. In every single issue, you'll see something different. Monster-a-plenty!

I have heard you talk about how important the red accents are to your story. Will red be the only color we see throughout your story? Or, will other colors make their way into your book as the story progresses?

By issue 2, the one color scheme will make a whole lot more sense. No, red is not the only accent color I will be using in the future issues. I won't tell you what other color is coming next, but it’s coming soon. It’s funny to me that I'm making the existence of another color introduced into the book a mystery. It’s a color you seen everyday but when you see it in Bolts, you might say, “ooooo, ahhhh, another color!”

Also, the name thing? I guess you can't say much because it will be revealed later, but…is there anything you can say about why the characters are not named yet in the story?

Ugh, previews ruined this for me. But, you can't write in a synopsis, “This guy meets that guy and that lady and they do this. And, that guy is the main guy and she's the main lady and they fight that dude, and he's real bad.” I've found my way around this by saying “traveling companion”, “allies”, and so on.

The characters in the start, for the most part, have titles that they are addressed by. For example, Jamie Lannister from Games of Thrones is “the king slayer.” In Bolts, it’s like if you were mainly addressed by your profession or a nickname that was given to you. In the synopsis of issue one that I wrote for previews, it says “Frank meets Casey, a scavenger.” Why I chose the name Casey will become very apparent in the issues to come. But I had to ruin the mystery for the book to sound marketable. People like to connect with characters that have names. Who knew!?! If you can’t wait for that to be explained, one of the characters states why people in the Bolts world are not called by name in issue 3.

You pointed out at the end of issue #1 that you will be paying tribute to a number of your favorite pop culture things from the 80's and 90's in your book. Can we expect them (and be scrutinizing each panel) in every issue, or will they be more sporadic? Do you have any plans to point out any more of the ones you have included? Or, are fans sort of on their own to seek them out?

Hmm.. I think, in issue 2, there aren’t that many pop culture references. In Issue 3, I make up for that in spades. Not quite with new characters being introduced but with paying tribute to the way “The Simpsons” always had amazing sign gags. I would suggest looking at every panel of issue 3. There is something hidden in every panel. I know we are talking about issue 2, but I'm excited for people to see the future issues. I try to keep myself limited with references, but I feel like putting in stuff I like and my kind of humor will make the reading experience more personal. That’s why I leave my email address in the back of every issue. I want people to make their guesses about characters, any of the references, or anything at all. I'm not leaving anyone in the dark in terms of the references. If you guess, I'll tell you if you're right or not. I may even give you a hint.

Looking beyond this second issue, what is the ideal length for the complete story you want to tell? Do you have an end-point already set in your mind and have you discussed it with Action Lab/Danger Zone? Will the single issues be collected in trade paperback form at some point? How many volumes do you anticipate in the entire run?

This first volume consists of two parts, 1-3 and 4-6. The first three are going to come out in trade a month after the release of issue three. A small break. Then, issues 4-6 will be solicited. If I can convince Action Lab/ Danger Zone to let me go monthly with the release of 4-6, the small break will be much shorter. I have discussed the first volume with them, but not much further. Ideally, Bolts would be 3 volumes consisting of 6 issue each volume. We'll see how the first volume pans out sales wise.

BOLTS was originally published as a webcomic, correct? How far did you get with the webcomic before you worked out a print deal with Action Lab/Danger Zone? Was it a completed work? If not, how much of the story have you completed in some form or another? Are you altering the webcomic at all or will it be printed the same as it was published digitally?

I guess webcomic is the right word. Bolts was something I really wanted to get out there in some form or another and just have fun with making comics and doing my own thing and seeing people react to it. When Bolts got picked up by Action Lab, I had the first issue ready to go at like 48 pages long. To keep the price of the first issue down, that page count was cut to 22 pages. I did have to go in and add a number of pages and change stuff around to make sense and have a better flow. I altered the book a ton. Most of my first crack at the lettering was way off, horribly so. I was using a font that looked cool on the computer but looked like garbage when scaled down and printed out. So that needed changing, which I did. Some of the coloring was off as well. I had a ton of Bolts pages done by the time I went to Action Lab, but, like I said, tweaks were made and things were changed. Action Lab's main concern was the lettering. The story and script changes were on my end. For the most part, the issues are the same. They have the same flow and pacing as the book did when it was originally online.

BOLTS #2 is being published by Action Lab/Danger Zone. Unless I missed a professional credit while looking over your bio, this is your first work for them. What are they like to work with and how is this experience different from what you have done in the past? Do they communicate with you about the number of issues sold? Goals for the book, etc.?

Bolts is the first time I've worked with Action Lab/ Danger Zone. They are different from other companies. They are very hands off when it comes to the material. It's been a learning experience for me and a transition from the companies I've worked with in the past. They are ambitious. They publish a lot of books and they want to make sure those books come out on time. They did communicate the number of pre sales for issue 1. I have not heard anything about the presales for issue 2 from them. I'm sure they know I have goals for the book, but they've never asked, so maybe that’s an unspoken truth. They have their way of putting out books, which is probably different from the way publishers normally put out books, i.e. policies and what not.

Do you know how many copies of issue #1 were sold? Were you happy with how it was received/reviewed?

I only know the presale numbers of issue 1, which was 2300 copies. For a book like Bolts, that is so different than other books on shelves now, I'm extremely happy with how it’s been received and the response I'm getting from people. My art and writing style aren't going to be for everyone, but the reviews have been great. I've only seen one bad review, because my friend sent me a link to it. What great friends I have! Overall, people seem to like Bolts.

I have seen some of your commission work and sketches that you have posted online. I was pretty impressed with your Lobo and Earthworm Jim. Off the top of my head, I could see you doing an amazing Ghost Rider or Spectre . If you were able to take over one of the established characters for either of the major two comic book publishers, who would it be? Would you want to write, draw, or do both on this title?

Ghost Rider, hell yeah! Martian Manhunter. Animal Man. Swamp Thing. Silver Surfer. Non Marvel or DC: Godzilla, TMNT, Hellboy, Alien. I could go on all day with titles I would love to draw and write. Call me, anyone that can make this happen! For now, I think I'm going to stick with creator-owned books. I have more original stories that I want to get out into the world.

That sounds fantastic! I will be looking for more original stuff soon then and keep my fingers crossed for seeing you work on licensed title too! I really appreciate your time in answering my questions. I hope BOLTS is a tremendous success. You are a very talented writer and artist. I hope that we will be seeing much more from you in the months and years to come. Thank you again!!!

366163_20160602192301_largeBOLTS #1 (REGULAR COVER) 366276_20160603095020_largeBOLTS #1 (VARIANT COVER)

During a brutal attack by townspeople in his own time, Frank is torn apart and loses his memory. Only to have his mangled body pieced back together and thrown into a new and strange dimension where he crosses paths with Casey, a scavenger with a penchant for trouble. Now the two must face merciless monsters and perilous roads, while Frank fights his own battle to become a righteous hero or spiteful villain!

Bolts is Frankenstein’s monster like you’ve never seen him before from rising star James Whynot!

Bolts #1 was released on June 1st, 2016 by Action Lab/Danger Zone Comics. There were two covers. There were only 1,500 copies of the limited edition cover printed. Last I checked, they were still available at several online retailers.

STL010950BOLTS #2 (REGULAR COVER) STL010951BOLTS #2 (VARIANT COVER)

Life and death hang in the balance as the epic battle against the World Destroyer rages on! Tensions rise as the battle is joined… the question being: will these new combatants be friend or foe?? Frank's journey continues through terrifying post-apocalyptic terrain in this re-envisioning of the legend of Frankenstein's Monster by break out talent James Whynot.

Bolts #2 will be released on July 13th, 2016 by Action Lab/Danger Zone Comics. Look for it, and Issue #1, this week at your LCS! I do not think you will be disappointed!

4 comments

  • accustomfigures
    Avatar

    I bought a stack of these when they came out for spec. Loved those covers and was able to find both pretty easily. Was super excited to be ahead of the curve on a cool indi book. Then I read it. Sadly, one of the worst comics I’ve read in years.

  • Avatar

    Each person is entitled to their opinion. I think it’s best if you put some thought into it though and be more specific with your criticism. It’s pretty easy to say “it’s the best ever” or “it’s the worst ever” or something similar, but a lot harder to come with something meaningful.

  • accustomfigures
    Avatar

    You’re right. I really wanted to like it. The art would have worked if the story was a bit more coherent. But I felt it had a severe lack of focus and that brought the whole book down. Juvenile can be fun and different (i.e. Ax Cop), but this seemed juvenile without a point to it. Kind of like it was written by a 6 year old with a great imagination. I’m sure Whynot is a decent fellow, but this was definitely a let down. Would love to see him draw a book for a different writer.

  • Avatar

    Well, thank you for a more detailed critique. Sounds like it’s just not the book for you. I disagree pretty strongly with your comments about the writing, but I realize that different people see things differently. Thanks for reading!

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