It’s been a few years since SLG publsihed the first volume, but this July brings the release of Halo and Sprocket: Natural Creatures, the second volume of Kerry Callen’s fun comic series. Callen was kind enough to answer a few questions about both volumes of his light-hearted yet metaphysical stories.
JK: For those who may not be familiar with your work, tell us how you got started in the business.
Kerry: Oh man. My very first comic story was actually for DC comics. I mailed in some samples and became part of their “new talent program” back in the 80’s. I had a story, that I had written and drawn, printed in Talent Showcase #18. After that, I thought it would be fun to create some of my own characters and submitted an idea to the now-long-defunct comic company Eclipse. They printed The Directory to a Nonexistent Universe, which was a parody of the directory books that DC and Marvel put out. I still run across people who remember some of the characters, like “Grow-Arm-Hair Lad.”
Like a lot of people, I was trying to figure what I wanted to spend my life doing, and I ended up at a major greeting card company. At that point, I pretty much stopped creating comics, but I never stopped reading them. I would occasionally piddle around with a superhero idea (You can see the superhero side of me at my blog). but for most of the following years I spent all my time creating licensed product. I’ve worked on characters belonging to Peanuts, Disney, Warner Bros, and so on. It’s a great experience. I’ve been lucky enough to have met and worked with a lot of incredibly talented people.
Then, a few years ago, a friend of mine, Mike Huddleston, was drawing The Coffin for Oni Press. Seeing his work made me want to give some of my own comic work a try again. I thought about it for months. I had a lot of ideas, but I wanted my comic premise to be something that would allow me to write about anything I wanted. Working on all the licensed product had expanded my mind beyond the superhero mindset. Finally I came up with Halo and Sprocket.
Soon I mailed a Halo and Sprocket mini-comic to SLG Publishing, and shortly after that I was fortunate enough to be doing a mini-series.
JK: What is — or, more appropriately, who are — Halo and Sprocket?
Kerry: The short version is that it’s a book about an extremely powerful angel, a socially naïve robot, and a young single woman all sharing a house together. There are hints that Halo is stuck on earth to help Sprocket in his development as an individual, but I haven’t really told that story yet.
The real reason they live together is because I wanted to tell stories that showed three radically different viewpoints of life. Sprocket, as a robot, looks at everything from an incredibly logical point of view. Halo, as an angel, views everything from a metaphysical perspective. Katie, as a human, sees the real life point of view, which is usually somewhere in between the two, or contrary to both.
The book is called “Halo and Sprocket,” but Katie is just as much a part of the book as they are.
I should mention too that one of my goals was to create something that anyone could read, not just normal comic readers. I’ve kept the stories fairly short and the art very accessible. I get tons of comments about, “It’s one of the few comic books my wife will read,” and such.
JK: I always have a hard time explaining the book to people. Calling it a “humor book” doesn’t really seem to fit, because there’s more going on there than just laughs. Is that intentional, or am I reading too much into it?
Kerry: When I first decided to do the book, I told myself I would include anything that I thought was really funny or anything I thought was really interesting. I feel, in many stories, both apply. People tell me they see a lot of philosophy in it. But I also have bathroom humor in it. You never really know which way a story will go. Bottom line, I’m comfortable calling it a humor book. People like to laugh.
JK: It’s been awhile since the first Halo and Sprocket mini-series came out. What have you been doing since then?
Kerry: Well, I messed up my neck, actually. It wasn’t bad enough to keep me from performing my “day job,” but it did keep me from putting in the extra hours at night for Halo and Sprocket. I did do a couple of short stories here and there. I’ve slowly gotten over it and started drawing the book again.
JK: How has the first run been doing on Eyemelt?
Kerry: Halo and Sprocket is one of the most downloaded on the site, but I’m sure how the site is doing overall. I don’t have numbers, but I do know that when someone downloads one issue of H&S, they tend to download them all. It’s a great, cheap way to sample the book. The only thing I don’t like about Eyemelt is that reading the single issues means you miss the extra material in the Volume 1 collection. It has one of my favorite stories in it from a SLG’s FCBD book. (Read it here).
JK: What can we expect from the second volume?
Kerry: More short stories that take a quirky look at life. Although, in my opinion, the art is better. When the first series came out, the writing was the most fun for me. I did art all day long at the office. Looking back I would love to add more backgrounds and such. I gave the art more attention in this second volume. Also, the characters have a more consistent look. When I first started, I didn’t know what the characters looked like, really. I was making it up as I went! I still solidly stand by all the stories though.
JK: Also, it’s a graphic novel rather than a mini-series this time. Was that your choice, or did that have more to do with SLG’s approach to the market nowadays?
Kerry: Since it’s been a while since issue #4 had come out, I suggested doing a giant-sized special #1 instead of a regular #5. I was thinking 48 pages. SLG suggested I go ahead and bump it up to graphic novel size. It’s a good suggestion. It means it can go to the direct comic market, the book market and libraries at pretty much the same time.
JK: One final question …what’s your favorite Halo and Sprocket story you’ve done so far?
Kerry: Geez, what’s your favorite internal organ? Actually, I might have an answer to that. One of the first stories I did was titled “Suckers.” (From H&S #2 and reprinted in the first collected TPB.) I think Katie exhibits some incredibly normal behavior in it, yet Halo and Sprocket are relentless in their non-understanding of her actions. It talks about spit and saliva and making fun of children. And even though Katie can’t really justify any of her opinions, she comes out on top at the end. I think it may contain the quintessential Halo and Sprocket dialog. It was an early story, however, so the art’s a little wonky.
The newest book has shiny, polished art, though!
Check out an eight-page preview of the new book on SLG’s website.