I’ve always been a big fan of stories set during the World War II era, ever since the comic book ‘All-Star Squadron’ and the ‘Indiana Jones’ movies.  I even love stuff that isn’t action-adventure oriented, like Neil Simon’s plays from that time!  So I was immediately intrigued when a friend of mine, Rob Kelly, the owner of one of my favorite websites The Aquaman Shrine co-created a daily adventure comic strip featuring WWII-era action, starring a Steve Canyon-esque hero named Ace Kilroy battling the Universal Monsters!  (I’m a fan of them, as well!)

Like comic strips of old, every day the pair delivers a short black and white chapter of the story, with a longer, color segment on Sundays!  The strip is a lot of fun and should appeal to those with a fondness for the Golden Age of Adventure!  I conducted a short interview with Rob to get some behind-the-scenes insights into this new venture:

1. How did you come up with Ace Kilroy?  What was his development process like?

Ace Kilroy was created a week or two after the 2010 NY Comic Con, where Dan and I ran into each other after almost twenty years. Back when we first met at the Joe Kubert School, I was so impressed by Dan’s work, and he had only gotten better over time. He was telling me all kinds of horror stories about various publishers that had ripped him off in one way or the other, and that really annoyed me–no way did a guy this talented deserve to be treated like that: his work deserved the proper outlet. So I started mulling over a project we could work together on and, knowing Dan’s love of 1930s Americana and classic newspaper strips (loves I share), I came up with the idea of a Steve Canyon-type who fights the Universal Monsters. I basically pitched it to Dan in just that one sentence, and he immediately was intrigued. After that we started hashing out the basic tenets of the strip–the name, the mission, the back story, etc. Dan had a lot of great ideas that I would, often as not, incorporate into the overall “story” of Ace Kilroy. Eventually, we had a framework that was strong enough to support producing the actual strips, and off we went!

2. How did you decide on the comic strip format?  (Which I love by the way, especially the longer color segments on the weekends.)

We consciously set out to do a modern version of a classic newspaper adventure strip, like the ones we both loved so much–Steve Canyon, Dick Tracy, Buz Sawyer, Secret Agent X-9. I liked the idea of telling stories in that style, which would enable us to have content every day and help build an audience (as opposed to a longform comic book, which could only be put out once a month or something like that). The idea of a “Color Sunday” occurred to me not too long after we started working on the strips, and Dan agreed that it would be a perfect extra special something every week.

3. How long is the first story line?  And will all storylines run about the same length?  Is it all written ahead of time, or is there some “improvisation?”

I don’t have a firm end date, though I know the Ace vs. Dracula story I want to tell. I’ve found that some parts of the story just naturally expand as I’m writing them, because some moments need more space, which others contract. I know the final moments of Ace’s encounter with Dracula; how long we take to get there is up in the air. In fact, Dan added something via his art that made me rip up the whole end of the arc because I liked what he did so much (I don’t want to say what that is and spoil anything!).

So, yes, there is lots of improv and there will be no set length for arcs. If Ace can find a way to take down a particular monster extra quickly, then good for him!

4. How would you describe Ace as a character?

Ace is your classic devil may care man of adventure: he’s seen a lot, isn’t scared by too much, and is generally cynical about people. He drinks a little too much. He’s fought in a war and thinks life doesn’t have much new to show him. He’s wrong.

I’m hoping, over time, Ace will actually develop as a character: in this first arc, he’s going to learn some new things that will, ideally, reveal themselves down the line. He’s really fun to write, because he’s all the things I’m not: brave, athletic, confident. Plus he gets to meet FDR and lunch at the Automat, two things I wish I could have been able to do!

5. The first villain is Dracula.  How are you approaching such an iconic character?  I know you’re a big fan of the Universal Monsters, but your take on Dracula looks vastly different from Bela Lugosi.

Doing Dracula in any sort of creative venture is such a conundrum: you don’t want to just “do” Bela Lugosi, but if you go too far from that it just looks like you’re trying NOT to do Bela Lugosi. Luckily, with Ace Kilroy, we can (and do) freely acknowledge that the Lugosi Dracula exists, and play off that: we kind of get to have our blood-soaked cake and eat it, too. Later on, as Ace takes on more classic monsters, we’ll see just how far off Hollywood is from truly portraying their real-life inspirations.

Dan came up with the look of Dracula; I tweaked it here and there but it’s mostly his doing, which I think is a good middle ground, in terms of finding something new to do with the character. As for writing him, I’m using some of classic Dracula elements but hopefully adding some new interesting wrinkles. Ace’s mission is to kill Dracula, but he finds it’s a little more complicated than that–in almost every respect. Ace Kilroy, among other things, is a tribute to those classic monster characters that inspired me so heavily, and Ace Kilroy the strip will treat them with the respect they deserve.

Ace himself, on the other hand, is a different matter…!

Thanks Rob!  Interesting stuff!

The creators are hoping to raise money to fund the strip.  For the ridiculously low price of $1.60 a month, you can join Ace’s Allies to continue enjoying this thrilling ride!  If you have more money to contribute, the pair is also raising money via KickStarter.  It’s still early enough for you to get on board the Ace Train!  For more information visit the links below:

Ace’s Facebook Page
Twitter: @AceKilroy