It is a truth universally acknowledged that small towns are full of strange, and sometimes supernatural, occurrences. Burtonwood, home to an urban legend about terrifying, demonic welders called the Welderkin that live deep in the dense surrounding woods, is no exception. When Jessica and her husband move to Burtonwood, she quickly becomes fascinated with the town’s history of deadly fires (including the one that all but destroyed her new home five years earlier) and kidnapping cases. But while Jessica initially assumes that the story of the Welderkin is only a story, and that the strange burn patterns and mammoth metalworks she discovers in the woods are purely coincidental, she soon can’t help but feel that something else, something potentially very dangerous, might be afoot.
In this TNL Spotlight we talk to the creators of Welderkin, Jordan Alsaqa and Joni Miller, about their rural horror comic, their respective creative processes, and what some of their favorite urban legends are.
The Nerd League: To start things off, tell us a little about yourselves. Have you always been a fan of comics? Is Welderkin your first project?
Jordan: I got into comics when I was about 10. The first book I ever read regularly was Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog, which I read until it ended last year. Then, when I was in middle school, Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s Runaways came out, and that led me fully into reading comics regularly. I’ve also always been a big webcomic fan, from early classics like Bob & George and RPG World, to my all-time favorites like Girls with Slingshots and Multiplex, so I’m super excited to have a webcomic of my own now.
Welderkin isn’t my first project, but it’s my biggest so far. Previously, I created Terminal Protocol with artist Rem Broo, a sci-fi one-shot published by Scout Comics, and Finding Peace, a horror mini, with Marie Enger. I’m also working on a number of other pitches and shorts that will hopefully be announced soon.
Joni: Comics are great! As a kid I wasn’t aware of a lot of comics since it was before public libraries started to regularly keep them. My closest thing to comics was the Captain Underpants books. They’re beautiful.
Welderkin is not my first project. This is my third webcomic project. My first webcomic project was Apoppytheosis, which was completed this past December. I have another webcomic called City of Depression which will be completed in six thousand years.
The Nerd League: How did you come together to collaborate together on Welderkin?
Jordan: I saw City of Depression through a retweet on Twitter and started following Joni there. We just sort of started talking after that, and when I was looking to work on a pitch, I reached out to Joni about doing something together. Welderkin was their favorite idea, and we just sort of went from there!
Joni: It was the magic of Email.
The Nerd League: Some creators work well while listening to music, and even are inspired by it, while others need to work in complete silence. Where do you two fall? What does your creative process look like?
Jordan: I like to have some kind of noise in the background while I’m working, whether that’s music or TV. Honestly, as long as it’s not completely quiet, I’m good at getting work done. My biggest problem is getting distracted online, so I try to set goals for myself before checking the internet again, whether it’s finishing a set number of pages or a scene, or even something small like nailing a specific conversation between characters.
Joni: I have to have everything on. Its awful. I’ll have the Tv on whatever marathon is going that day, but it’s really just an eye-rest for when I’m working. I’m not even paying attention to it. I’m also listening to music. With Welderkin I like to play my ancient Die Antwoord pandora station and I honestly don’t know why. It’s not really a mood match.
The Nerd League: What has been some of your favorite moments working on Welderkin so far?
Jordan: My favorite part of any project is seeing the character sketches and designs for the first time. I loved it when Joni sent basically the entire cast in a single email. Along a similar vein, there’s a page in the first issue that lays out a lot of the welderkin myth that takes on a slightly different visual style, and Joni absolutely killed it on realizing that page. It’s my favorite in the first issue, and I’m excited to see more in that style down the road. Lastly, this was the rare story where the bulk of the story all coalesced at once, and I remember rushing to write a lot of the details and reveals down at once when that happened.
Joni: I like the pacing Jordan creates in the script. It’s very good. As much as I love working on the pages without dialogue, the ones with the most present a fun challenge. I guess my favorite for this first issue is the scene where Jessica meets chase. I get to draw a lot of the environment and it’s quiet to kind of just take it in. It’s a good balance.
The Nerd League: What are some creative drawbacks you have faced?
Jordan: Dialogue-wise, I’m always trying my best to differentiate the characters so that they don’t all sound the same. That’s been one of the biggest challenges with Welderkin, given how varied the personalities of the characters are. Beyond that, with the re-writes I’m trying to give the talking head scenes a bit more emotion and action to them, since Joni is so good at drawing big, expressive characters.
Joni: Thumb-nailing from another person’s script presented itself as a big change of pace for me considering that I mostly work directly on the thumbnail stage, skipping scripting all together. Now that I’ve gotten used to it, it’s actually a lot faster and I’ve begun trying to incorporate scripting into my future projects. But at first it was definitely throwing me off.
The Nerd League: Welderkin is described in its title as a “rural horror” comic. What drew you to write something that might make readers want to sleep with the lights on?
Jordan: Back in high school I basically read nothing but horror novels, a lot of which would take place in small, backwoods towns, so it’s a genre I’ve always wanted to explore in my own writing. I like the idea of settings that are isolated and removed from modern society in some ways.
Joni: I grew up and currently live in rural horror. It’s normal for me. My own Relatable Content.
The Nerd League: Similarly, Welderkin is the story of a small town urban legend. Are there any urban legends that inspired Welderkin? If you have any, what are some of your favorites?
Jordan: There’s not a specific urban legend that inspired Welderkin, though that’s mainly because I came up with them from saying someone’s last name in a weird accent, so they’re more an accident than anything. For me, I love the Jersey Devil, and the creepypasta classic Slender Man.
Joni: My favorite creepypasta is the Anansi’s Goatman.
The Nerd League: What writers and artists (of comics or otherwise) have inspired you?
Jordan: My favorite horror comic currently is Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook, and Bunn’s horror work in general is great across the board. Marguerite Bennett and Gail Simone are also always favorites, and of course Brian K. Vaughan. In regards to all those horror paperbacks I used to read, Brian Keene’s Dark Hollow was one of my favorites for rural horror. I haven’t read that in over a decade though, so I have no idea how it would hold up; pretty sure it didn’t have the best gender politics.
Joni: I wish I had more time to read books or could force myself to take the time and not feel guilty that I’m not working. I like Christopher Moore books. I like comic books that have sad twists or endings. My favorite webcomic in high school was Darwin Carmichael Goes To Hell. It was really good.
The Nerd League: Is there anything you’re reading or bingeing right now for fun that fans should know about?
Jordan: It was on a lot of “Best of the Year” lists, so I started watching Halt and Catch Fire recently. It’s a show that has the reputation of only getting better each season, and that’s been my experience so far. It’s worth sticking through the “only ok” first season to get to the better stuff down the line, and it’s only 40 episodes across all four years.
Joni: I finally took my Lucky Penny book off the shelf in hopes that I might actually read it this time. The artwork is beautiful, and the premise is really cute.
The Nerd League: What advice would you impart to aspiring writers and artists?
Jordan: The biggest thing I think is to just respect your collaborators. If you’re a writer, you’re depending on your art team to bring the thing you’ve written to life, and you have to appreciate the work they’re doing. Be open to their suggestions for the story, the flow of events, everything, because I guarantee they’ll be coming at it with fresher eyes than you. Also, if you have a specific artist you want to work with, pitch them multiple ideas to choose from if you don’t have a set story in mind. They’re going to be a lot more passionate about the book if it’s a story they’re legitimately excited to work on. Even if you’re the project manager, be a collaborator, not a dictator.
Joni: START THE COMIC NOW. Or the series of illustrations. Whatever. I have like three or four half-started, never finished high school/ early college comics and they all suck. If I had never done them I’d still be drawing that way. You won’t find your comic groove until, like, chapter three.
Jordan and Joni can be found on twitter @endigomaster and @jocosejoni respectively. Keep up with Welderkin by paying a visit to https://welderkincomic.com.