Fans of Robert Kirkman’s “Tech Jacket,” a six-issue series that ended in 2003, had their prayers answered when the writer announced at Image Expo 2014 that not only would the character return in his own series — he was already back. Immediately following the announcement, fans could head to ImageComics.com and pick up “Tech Jacket Digital,” a three-issue miniseries from writer Joe Keatinge and artist Khary Randolph. Kirkman added that he felt the series had ended prematurely, although it consistently remained a fan-favorite. “Tech Jacket has always been near and dear to my heart and I’ve been dying to do more adventures with Zach Thompson and crew,” said Kirkman.
“Tech Jacket Digital” picks up later than Kirkman’s original, but features the same cast of characters including Zach Thompson in his role as Galactic Guardian — a role he isn’t fitting into as easily as he thought. Keatinge spent some time during Image Expo with CBR News, discussing how he came to work on the miniseries, the appeal of working with Randolph and on his relationship with digital comics.
CBR News: How did you get hooked up with “Tech Jacket Digital?”
Joe Keatinge: I’ve known Robert [Kirkman] since 2004 and around the same time I started writing, he started Skybound and it always became a thing, us saying we should do something sometime. I love Robert’s aesthetic, what he looks for in comics, and I wanted to be part of that. At one point I asked him what was going on with “Tech Jacket” and he said he wanted to get back to it at some point, and I don’t remember how long it was after that but I got an e-mail or a phone call from him asking if I wanted to do “Tech Jacket.” And I was like, “Fuck yeah I wanna do ‘Tech Jacket.'” The concept of a three-issue miniseries released complete digitally, like this Netflix “House of Cards” model where you can binge read it, I found that very interesting.
What was the appeal of the project? Were you a fan of the original “Tech Jacket?”
Whenever I’m working on projects, I find that person I want to work with rather than a company. I’d always wanted to do something with Robert and I’d wanted to see “Tech Jacket” come back. I loved the format. Then when Robert said he wanted to get Khary Randolph to draw it I was so excited. Khary is one of those guys whose art I’ve admired for a long time; he’s just amazing. He can just draw any crazy thing.
So I get to write three issues of this weird space adventure with this guy who can draw all of this weird space shit and make it look incredible. It looks way better than any blockbuster movie; he’s an extremely impressive storyteller. I just had to work on it.
Is it just limited to these three issues, or do you think it will go further?
I’m not sure right now. We’re focusing on the three issues for the time being but after that, we’ll see.
When a series is available in its entirety for binge reading, it can change the reader’s experience with it. Do you find that you write differently, knowing that the entire story can be consumed in one sitting?
With anything, no matter the format, it’s like a puzzle. How do you make the story work? So yes, it’s for sure in the back of my mind the whole time. What if it gets collected? How’s that going to read? I think about all of those things. I think about what it could become and how the story will need to work in all sorts of different formats, considering the difference types of reading experiences. Right now, how people consume their media — especially comics — is diversifying so much.
Do you consider the changes in readership with the digital medium? Does the pacing or aesthetic potential of reading comics in a different format factor in to your storytelling?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and one of the many comic stores I went to was Hi De Ho Comics in Santa Monica. They had everything. Single issues, superhero comics, underground comics, European books and weird hardcovers, all of these different formats. I didn’t realize it was all unique, and I didn’t realize that most comics coming out were in single issues, so I’d read all sorts of formats. I wanted to do comics like all of it. I’m basically still ten years-old in that regard.
My favorite is still the serialized monthly format. There’s something cool about it, especially when I can do something like I am in my other Image series “Shutter,” where there are no limits to what can happen. I’ve always been open to all sorts of formats, which was why when Robert mentioned this, I was super excited to try it.
What has been the most enjoyable part of this so far?
My favorite part of comics is collaboration. That’s why I do it. I like working with people and having multiple creative voices come in and make something that wouldn’t exist without those people. I also love the experimentation of how you write a three-issue binge read miniseries versus how you do like a monthly book that could be collected.
All three issues of “Tech Jacket Digital” are available now at ImageComics.com