Casey and Axel 13 Unleash "Krash Bastards"

While writer Joe Casey has been recognized for his work on such iconic figures as Superman and the X-Men, he is also well known for pushing the envelope, as seen in such series as "Gødland," and "Automatic Kafka." With February's new Image Comics graphic novel "Krash Bastards," Casey continues to explore new creative areas, in this case approaching the manga aesthetic with his own unique voice. Joining Casey in this venture is Axel 13, a graduate of the Art Center School of Design in Pasadena, CA who has worked for the likes of NBC, Nickelodeon and Creature Effects. The pair sat down with CBR News to talk about "Krash Bastards," their choice of style and the project's long journey to the marketplace.

"It's a super sci-fi blast of kinetic action and widescreen adventure," said Casey of "Krash Bastards." "[The story] follows the exploits of a band of nomadic warriors who travel around serving justice with the swift slice of their shredders.  The main conflict in the book is their confrontation with Kau Death, the scourge of the Twelve Known Realities."

The Krash Bastards themselves are, in Casey's words, the coolest of the cool. "Led by the hyper-slick Tran Lo Zip, it's a loose collection of combat-ready warriors, including Tran's girlfriend, Xia Xu Bang, Sun Tsai, the original Krash Bastard, Ren Kid Zip, Tran's younger brother, and the mysterious, masked femme fatale, Xi Pop Li.  They want what all heroes want, justice and sex and the right to party."

Krash Bastards is being marketed as an "original adventure manga," and Casey has taken that aesthetic to heart in the creation of this graphic novel. "It's not just the art style," he said. "This is 100% authentic manga in its presentation.  It reads right to left, it deals with sweeping emotions and white-knuckled angst, it moves fast, and it's action-packed."

"Manga rarely has anything to do with 'art style. Japanese comics have just as diverse a selection of artistic approaches as Western comics do.  I was interested in the form and the format, that's why we did it as though it were an authentic, translated-from-Japanese manga."

"I'm really not manga or anime influenced," Axel 13 told CBR News. "Don't get me wrong, I do like the medium, but I'm more influenced by European and American-type comics and animation. Joe pretty much let me do 'Krash Bastards' my way, linear style, It wouldn't feel right to try and do a manga style knowing full well that I don't do that."

Casey first announced the "Krash Bastards" project several years ago, in 2004. At that time, the book was slated to come out from AiT/PlanetLar. Now, just over three years later, the book is finally hitting the stands courtesy of Image Comics. "It took quite a while for Axel to draw the damn thing," said Casey of the delay. "Doing these [original graphic novels] on spec is not for the weak-willed.  You've got to have focus. You've got to have stamina.  Luckily, I can fake both of those things.  Ironically, the change from AiT to Image had a lot to do with both focus and stamina.  Putting together a book like this from a production standpoint was a daunting prospect, and much to my surprise, Image never even blinked when I brought it to them."

"I know it has been a long time since 2004," Axel 13 added, "but at the time I took the gig to do the book I was already working full-time for a video game developer. 'Krash Bastards' had to be a part-time thing."

"To be honest, I'm pretty fuckin' relieved," Casey said of the book finally hitting the stands. "I actually think it's one of the most fun things I've ever written.  I came up with a freewheelin' style and an approach to the dialogue for this book that I doubt I could apply to any other project, so it's cool that it's finally see the light of day."

Axel 13 first met Casey through studiomate Eric Canete, illustrator of Casey's "Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin" for Marvel Comics. "It was Larry Young at AiT/PlanetLar that really hooked me and Joe to do 'Krash Bastards,' back in 2004."

Said Casey, "Axel 13 was the only artist who was ever on this book.  Lord knows what he's going to do with his life now that this book is no longer hanging over his head."

The artist has little trouble, though, filling the hours. "For the past six months I've done work for companies like Animax Entertainment, doing background and layouts for an animated show plus developing new characters for new shows that Animax wants to produce," explained Axel 13. "I work across different industries. I even teach a Character Design class on Sundays over at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood. It's a real fun gig."

While the possibility exists for further "Krash Bastards" stories, Casey is uncertain as to whether that will happen. "I have no idea.  We certainly constructed the story so there can be further adventures told with these characters.  The best manga series certainly consist of multiple volumes, so I could see more 'Krash Bastards' books down the line.  It also depends on the response we get.  For anyone who follows my work, I acknowledge that this book probably looks like it comes out of leftfield.  But, honestly, that's what I like about it. I'll let the readers be the judge."

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