As part of our ongoing “Actual Comics at San Diego Comic-Con”, I’d like to you introduce you to Devin Kraft. I met him at a wild party at the Tiki Bar, hosted by publisher Bad Idea. He is the type of guy who is bubbling up with good ideas, and his current series, Neverender from Behemoth Comics is innovative and getting noticed. Enjoy my five-and-a-half questions with Devin:
Ed Catto #1: What’s your origin story, Devin? How did you ever start writing comics?
Devin Kraft: I’ve got a pretty amazing case of ADHD, so as a kid to keep me preoccupied my parents would give me legal pads and a pen. This helped me to both communicate visually and use art as a means of keeping out of people’s hair. I tend to move a bit faster than most people, so drawing in class helped me to slow down and not disrupt class as much.
I grew up on Archie’s Sonic line, and I’d make my own version of Sonic comics from time to time. Eventually I got hooked on Pokémon and Capcom’s various Marvel fighting series, and that led me to falling in love with anime and manga, and in seeking that out at comic shops I became interested in American comics – I’m sort of a student of both visual languages.
In high school, my friend (and incredibly talented artist) Logan Pack and I started to synthesize the Chinese gun-fu films we were enjoying into a neo-noir comic called Jabberwock. I planned on writing initially but started trying to hone my art during college – primarily during classes. Through a study abroad program, I was able to live in Japan for a bit and dive deeper into the wide variety of manga. I actually submitted a few manga to publishers, but my style was a bit more molten and my subject matter probably wasn’t what they were looking for.
I continued to create and self-publish indie comics throughout college, and for a short time I worked in the film industry. After saving a bit of money from a medical job, I went freelance in 2012 and ran Kickstarter campaigns for original comics pretty much yearly since, publishing Dragon Slayer (2012-14), Silence (2015-17) and the first two issues of Neverender (2019-2020).
EC #2: Neverender is such a cool premise. Can you give us the pitch and also let us know some of the main characters?
DK: Neverender is about the friction between society’s outliers and a dictatorship that controls society through entertainment. It follows a terrestrial youth, Merrick, who grows up in an unimaginably densely populated dystopian tenement, his mentor and amateur rocket scientist Dr. Urasawa, and Radio, and an AI Dr. Urasawa discovers in a crashed Sputnik-shaped spaceship. Merrick dreams of one thing – getting as far away from earth as possible.
Space is controlled by a dictatorial regime, the Colonial Republic, a rogue remnant of political dissidents who fled the planet when it became clear they would be wiped off the map. After taking over several space stations, they raided terrestrial resources using a new fuel that pretty much blasts whatever they need off planet for collection later.
To mollify their populace, they sponsor a civilized duel to the death – the Universal Duelist League. The UDL’s rules are simple:
• The Duel Must Be Agreed Upon by Both Crows
• A Time and Place Must Also Be Agreed Upon
• Both Duelists Must Acknowledge Each Other
• Only Two Crows May Duel at a Time
• A Crow Must Have Direct Contact with His Weapon
• Once the Kill is Confirmed the Match is Over
Through a series of events, Merrick finds himself caught in the sights of the Colonial Republic’s leader, Jihye Moon, as she is forced to bend and twist the narrative of the league to account for Merrick’s unpredictability.
EC #3: Anyone who’s picked up an issue of Behemoth’s Neverender can tell “world-building” is a big part of how your imagination and creative process works. Can you explain why that’s important and how it works for you?
DK: It’s funny – the core idea didn’t start as a coherent world, but more as a concept. I thought it’d be an interesting aesthetic to have astronauts strapping armor on over their suits, and sort of started worldbuilding from there.
EC #4: I know you also are a Mad Men style advertising guy. What’s that business like in 2022, and how do you juggle a demanding business like that and making comics?
DK: It’s interesting! There’s a lot of phenomenal tools and data that can help agencies make informed creative decisions. There’s also wild fluctuations in the best way to approach each business’ challenges – what’s Google’s algorithm doing this week? Can this business thrive with organic content on TikTok? How can we best understand a brand’s target audience and try to connect with them? It takes a lot of thought and careful planning to be effective for our clients.
My secret to juggling both is naps x). I work from 8 to 5, oftentimes shipping product out during lunch, then crash for 30 minutes to an hour before switching into comic mode. I try to save writing for the weekends, and focus on penciling, inking, and coloring during the weeks, since those tasks are relaxing for me
EC #5: You spend a lot of time at various conventions. Which conventions do you go to and why? Is that an important part of your marketing plan? Or your creative plan? Or both?
DK: I love conventions. I tend to create in a vacuum, so there are few things better than seeing people’s eyes light up when they see something they like at the booth. Art is a service for the audience, so it’s a place where I can see if I’m doing a good job or not. I feel weird selling, so I use it as a chance to try to form genuine connections where and when I can, and if not, I can at least make someone happy with something I drew.
It’s tough to pitch comics at shows, but I’m much more likely to get someone excited about a project in person than over the internet. Ultimately, I just want to meet like-minded people, and if my story resonates with them, even better!
EC #5 ½: You jumped into San Diego Comic-Con with both feet. What did you think of it all?
DK: It was a blast! My Dad got tickets back in 2019, and he was excited for it the entire time. I do shows all the time, although I rarely get a chance to just attend as a fan, so I was keeping my expectations metered. I was also worried Covid would shut it down again, so I tried not to get too excited until it seemed like a certainty.
Once I knew it was happening, I made a whole schedule, mapped out routes, and started planning so I could try to see as much as I could. Overall, it was a blast! I tend to seek out more niche stuff, so I found some Roujin Z cels, some rare artbooks from Ashley Wood’s Underverse, and some incredibly well-designed vinyl toys. I got to attend a lot of panels on pitching comics, because I usually just make and self-publish my projects and wanted to learn more about that whole process. I also got to run around with some cool creators, like Marlin Shoop, and Sharlene and Matt Kindt.
The coolest thing that happened was a sort of side quest. I helped a friend deliver some pins to a designer in San Diego, and he told me a local shop really enjoyed Neverender. My parents are from New Mexico, and our hometown doesn’t have a comic shop, so they haven’t got to see the book on shelves. We made it a point to pop by Now or Never Comics after one of the days of running around. The people at the shop enjoyed the book, and one of them knew me by name, so my parents got to see that the book was doing well, while I got to make a few new friends.
EC: Thanks so much, Devin!
You can find Devin on his website https://www.cheshirecatart.com/
Neverender issue #4 is out in comic shops today, so go check it out!