Benjamin Kreger: Comic Lettering and publishers
Meeting the Rising Writer No. 35
It didn’t take long for Ben Kreger to realize he was a writer, but it didn’t take him long to find his passion for comic publishing, either. Ben seeks both ends of the writing industry, both as a publisher and as a writer. But, he also does something else I’ve never thought of—he designs comic book lettering.
Ben has a lot to share about his journey into the comic book world, and he also has quite a bit planned for his future. First thing to know, however, is that he doesn’t just go by “Ben.”
Do you go by that name as a writer?
I have two pen names. Most often, I use Benjamin J Kreger, but use Benny Jack K when writing for kids or writing an all-ages story (i.e. The Less Than Historical Adventures of Li’l Lincoln is written under Benny Jack K).
What do you do when you’re not writing?
The majority of my time is swept up by children. I have four kids, two girls, and two boys. It’s an amazing challenge keeping up with them. Their ages are 17, 11, 3, and 1½. Somehow, I also manage to squeeze in enough time in the day to also work as a freelance graphic designer, and of course a publisher for my company, Warrior Innkeeper Creative.
When did you start your publishing company?
I started Warrior Innkeeper Comics September 2009. I published my first web comic, The Less Than Historical Adventures of Li’l Lincoln, Feb 14th and it ran for about 20 weeks. The artist and I took what we’d learned from the feedback we got and went back to square one, rewriting the comic and redrawing it for a print edition. Li’l #1 debuted in print 2011 at Emerald City ComiCon in Seattle, WA.
How did that go?
It was a very small run, only 250. In our excitement, we gave away as many as we sold. I don’t think we ever broke even on that print run.
Do you have any published works, whether yours or others’, you’re most proud of?
I take pride in each book. I know well what it takes to get that book to print. Each book, I feel, is the best book to date. J
Li’l Lincoln does have a special place in my heart, though, because it was the first and I can share it with my kids.
What kind of graphic design do you offer?
I am currently focused on logo design and comic book Lettering, but I’ve also designed mascots and ran a full marketing campaign which included billboard ads & TV commercials.
I’ve even created a couple comic books as out-of-the-box marketing which were received well.
What company was that for?
I ran the marketing campaign for the local cable/Internet provider—a company called MINet (Monmouth Independence Network).
It focused on the mascots I was asked to create for the company. MINet Man and Gig Girl.
They fought against enemies of fast internet speeds, i.e. Century Link. We manifested the competition as a cave man called Klink.
Do you design covers or anything for your company?
I do a lot of design but I usually hire artists to complete the work. I prefer working with words and letters and whatnot I like to say I do everything except the art. I make words pretty.
Though lettering comics, designing the look of letters and the combination of words, etc. is an art all its own.
It’s taken years of practice to get to where I am today, but there is always more to learn.
What brought you into that field?
Back in high school, I studied graphic design and in my first attempt at college, I majored in it, but I let things get in the way and have yet to complete my formal education. However, since I began creating comics, and not wanting to spend more money than I had to, I took on the lettering duties myself and began studying graphic design on my own.
I had learned a lot over the course of the years and back in late 2014, I somehow mustered the courage to speak to an acquaintance of mine who worked at MINet about possibly doing some billboards for them. Next thing I know, I’m working full time as a graphic designer and marketer. It was a really exciting year.
When did you start writing?
As soon as I knew what writing was.
I really took a shine to storytelling in junior high. I mostly wrote revenge fantasy, as I was bullied. It was my way of coping with a difficult situation. I’m not a fan of violent solutions in real life but it can be a fun device in writing. However, that quickly developed into writing my own comics. My friends and I created a comic imprint called Quantum Comics; it was little more than a Marvel Comics knockoff universe but still fun to write and draw. I also dabbled in writing a novel about a time-traveling boy who fought demons.
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
My current project is a new comic series we’ve spent years attempting to get up and going. I say “we” because I have a co-writer on this book. My buddy, Ed Ellsworth, and I had this idea for a grim reaper-like killer way, way back in the day when we were still young adults fresh outta high school. It took fifteen years for us to think of approaching The Black Suit of Death through the comics medium, but when we finally did, it was a perfect fit.
We recently ran a successful Kickstarter to fund the art and a small print run of the first book in the series. We have twenty-seven issues planned and have created a vast universe, leaving the series open for spin-offs as well as maintaining the ongoing series for years to come.
How did you get into writing comics?
I’d always been fond of comics and wanted very much to write and create them one day. After returning from my first tour in Iraq with the Army National Guard, I found myself divorced, losing my house, my job … my sanity. I struggled with PTSD and depression for years before finally finding the courage to get help. Along with meds and counseling, it was writing and creating comics that pulled me through. Being creative kept me focused on something positive and gave me much to look forward to. In 2009, I created my own comic imprint, Warrior Innkeeper Comics, after getting a little push from a good friend. In 2014, I formalized my imprint into a publishing and marketing company called Warrior Innkeeper Creative.
What’s different about writing comics?
I feel the difference is in the collaboration. Comics are mostly a team effort while writing a novel can be a solitary and personal effort.
Also, when you write a comic, you’ll maybe write the description for a panel or page but it’s up to the artist to interpret it for the reader. Honestly, that is one of the greatest parts to make a comic from the writers point of view—to see the story you wrote become a work of art. It’s a unique feeling.
What I’ve discovered about writing a novel is I’m writing less dialogue and more internal monologue, and I’m much more concerned with description than I do with comics.
I feel more pressure to get things right the first time because I don’t have a team to help steer the story.
What’s your favorite part about writing a novel?
World building is by far one of the greatest parts of the adventure. More specifically, when writing the novel I’m working on, Little Girl, Dead, it was really exciting when I first started it. The words just flowed. It almost felt too easy. It was the first time in a very long time I’d sat down to write something without really planning it. I’d had the idea for quite a while, it being based on an experience my family had in a haunted house we lived in for about four years, the book I’m writing is fictional with bits of truthful experience here and there. Yet, I was still surprised and a bit thrown off by how easy things came to me. I simply started typing and the words just appeared. That is certainly my favorite part of it. (I’m at a wall now—would love to go back to that ease.)
Give us insight to your main character. Who is he or she? What is his or her purpose?
In Little Girl, Dead, the main character is not unlike me. It feels a little like cheating at times but I justify it by this being my first novel; why make it harder than it has to be? Write what you know, I know me.
His name is Alma Holden. He was born and raised in The Church of Jesus Christ and The Latter Day Saints aka Mormon. He served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan with the Idaho Army National Guard Corps of Engineers and has now returned to civilian life full-time. He’s a little more put together than I am, but we share a struggle with faith and God. He’ll tackle this struggle full-time when he becomes aware of the little girl haunting his family’s new home.
What does your character mean to you?
Though this began as a retelling of an event from my own life, I hadn’t thought much about what my character meant to me until I really got into the book. I got to know him and his family as I wrote them. It’s been a new experience for me. When writing comics, I find the characters through their voice, the dialogue, how they speak. In Little Girl, Dead, I’ve found the characters through their inner thoughts, their actions, and how they react to the circumstances around them. It’s been different. I’m not really sure what he means to me. He is not unlike me, but he isn’t me at all. I think I’m still getting to know him. Alma and his family and what happens to them are important to me, so maybe he’s like a close friend right now.
BONUS QUESTION: What type of character do you like most and why?
I grew up on Superman and Spider-Man. I like the heroes who keep fighting despite the great odds against them and fight for what is right no matter what others say about them.
A Superhero should inspire us, lift us up, show us we can be better than who we are.
As a kid, I looked up to Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The world was against him. The media smeared his name every day, but he hit up and went to work saving people’s lives and fighting for what is right.
Superman has all this power, he could conquer the world in a day, but he uses this great power to help people, to stop the bad guys. When a writer understands these kinds of qualities in the characters they write, that’s when you get a really good superhero book.
How can readers and fellow writers discover more about you and your work?