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Saluting the New Recruits - Part I

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The names of Ian Culbard, Nick Smith, Adam Adamowicz, Andrew Krahnke, Jacob Chabot and Rafael Silveira probably don't ring a bell with you. However, on January 4, 2006, you will become a little more familiar with these six gentlemen when they make their comic book debut in Dark Horse's New Recruits anthology.

In case you don't remember, the anthology is the result of the 'New Recruits Contest' Dark Horse held from late 2003 to early 2004 in the hopes of finding new talent. And the company did. The six finalists were asked to submit original stories, tales that will find their way to a store near you early next year.

Each Thursday, we take a closer look at one of these horsemen of the future so you can get more acquainted with them. The first New Recruit to salute you is Andrew Krahkne.

BROKEN FRONTIER: What do you do in real life?

ANDREW KRAHNKE: I’m a 24 year-old freelance artist from Michigan. I currently live in New Jersey and when I’m not working on my own stories and artwork, I pay the bills as an Illustrator for a design company in Manhattan.

BF: At what point did you decide to enter Dark Horse’s “New Recruits” contest?

AK: It was the fall of 2003, I was living back home in Michigan and I didn’t have too much going on, my brother had seen a few ads for the New Recruits contest and thought it was something I should check out. My main interest in comic books has always been doing my own stories and the contest seemed like a real good opportunity for someone to get their own stuff looked at by one of the bigger companies.

BF: Did you have any experience in visual storytelling before you sent your submission of to Dark Horse?

AK: Some, I’ve always had an interest in comic books and after high school I attended The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. The instruction at the school covers quite a few areas but the main focus was on comic books and sequential art. I’m still not awesome at it, but I’ve spent a lot of time working on pages and stuff like that.

BF: Many of today’s current writers and artists have been die-hard fans of comics ever since they were kids. Has becoming a professional comic book creator always been a dream of yours?

AK: Yeah, I would say it probably solidified around 4th grade for me. My brother is mostly to blame for it. I’ve always enjoyed drawing, but it was around that time that he started sharing his comics with me. I loved drawing the types of things you find in comic books (commandoes, monsters, etc.) and after I started reading them on a regular basis, it was just natural for me to want to draw them for a living.

BF: If you read comics during your childhood, which books appealed to you the most, and why?

AK: I would gravitate towards anything that I thought looked cool. The first comics I ever made a conscious effort to collect were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles books. I thought they looked awesome and they were really fun to draw. Then when Image started up, I was collecting everything with Rob Liefeld’s name on it. The characters he draws always looked great and his books seem to have an “if it looks cool, include it” mentality to them which was exactly what I loved and still love to see in a comic. Beyond that I would just grab whatever was on the shelf that looked interesting or had cool art in it.

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BF: What about the current comic book landscape? What are some of your favorite reads today?

AK: When I’m all by myself in the comic shop, I’m proud to say I still use the “If it looks cool, buy it” mentality when picking out comics. If a book has really cool eye-catching art, I’ll definitely give it more consideration than a book that looks story-heavy. If a book’s got a good story then it’s a bonus, but for me the art usually comes first. Consequently, the titles of books I buy on a regular basis depend greatly on who’s drawing what. Like most people, I’ve got a list of favorite artists that I always look out for. There are also times when I rely pretty heavily on other people’s opinions when it comes to what to read. I’m lucky enough to have a good group of comic lovers that I interact with on a daily basis and if something’s got a real good story or is just fun to read, then I’ll usually hear about it from them.

BF: Has your perception of comics changed, both in terms of comics as a medium and how the industry works, now that you’ve got a story being published at a major company?

AK: Not too much. My perception of the medium always changes after finishing a chunk of pages, but never in a drastic way. Usually just “I need to draw faster and way better” and I wouldn’t say my ideas about the business side have changed too much either. The Kubert School does a real good job preparing you for how things work and what to expect.

BF: The story you submitted is called “Zombiekiller”. What is it about?

AK: Like 96% of the comic books published nowadays it’s about zombies. That’s the short answer. The long answer would be that it’s a story about a tough, rock and roll playing high school kid whose attention is being pulled in a million different directions by friends, band mates, teachers, etc. And a well-timed zombie monster invasion helps him sort out what’s really important. I’m kind of disappointed in myself because I only got 15 pages done for the book and you don’t really get a chance to see much of the story unfold, but I think the pages are fairly indicative of what could follow.

BF: Why did you decide to enter the “New Recruits” program with this particular tale?

AK: When I found out about the contest, it was already the fall of 2003 and the deadline for entries was at the end of the year. So, I didn’t have too much time to come up with a whole new concept and story as well as draw and letter the ten pages that Dark Horse wanted for the submission.

“Zombiekiller” was a really simple concept that I had used all through art school whenever I needed a cookie–cutter hero to fill the pages of an assignment. As soon as you saw the tough-looking kid with a sword and a Mohawk staring down an army of zombies, your brain automatically fills in the story. Since I wanted to have the story completely worked out before I started drawing submission pages, “Zombiekiller” was the only concept I had in my head at the time that could be quickly and easily worked out in a short amount of time.

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I was a little bit hesitant about entering the contest with this story only because in the past few years “zombie comics” have really exploded. It seems like everybody in the world has their own zombie story idea and they’ve all decided to do them as a comic. But I figured that no matter how cliché the subject matter, if a story is done well, it works. Not that I can do it well, but I figured I’d give it a shot.

BF: Where did you get your inspiration from for Zombiekiller?

AK: When I was a sophomore or junior in high school I saw “From Dusk til Dawn” and thought it was awesome. I loved the fact that the movie starts with a great premise and really interesting characters and that it uses those characters in a fairly brainless splatterfest. It was also around that time that I saw “Dawn of the Dead” for the first time and really liked the idea of zombies and a zombie invasion.

I’ll be the first guy to admit that I’m not a terribly original writer, so the first concept of Zombiekiller was basically “From Dusk ‘til Dawn” in a movie theatre, with zombies and high school kids as the main characters. Over the years it got boiled down to the concept of a kid with a sword versus zombies. I guess the idea survived just because a guy fighting zombie monsters was always fun to draw.

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