A New Kind Of Weird Hero
Kent Menace is a new comic series created by Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden and artist Mike Malbrough, making its debut later this year, and here’s a preview of it from journalist Meggan Groves Robinson…
The cover of the comic book demands attention, but that’s not all it does. The insouciant curls, bold lines, and mysterious reflections in the eyeglasses of Kent Menace invite readers to kindle their imaginations as they engage with what creators Scott Braden and Mike Malbrough call their “all-new weird hero.”
The fictional Kent Menace has a backstory that’s pure pulp—think watery depths, infernal fighting techniques, a pirate king father, and a Tritonblade imbued with the power of time travel, all leading up to an epic battle on which the fate of the world depends.
While Kent Menace faces mythological foes and grapples with making the ultimate sacrifice, here in the real world, Kent’s creators have labored long to see their hero brought to life in the pages of their comic book.
Writer Scott Braden originally conceived the character and backstory in 1999, and it was Braden’s collaboration with artist Mike Malbrough that breathed life into the supernatural sailor. Every aspect of the forthcoming preview comic, scheduled for a Spring 2021 release, is layered with deep, geeky knowledge and reverence for the comic book as a genre.
Kent Menace is a decidedly reflexive, self-referential comic book, and Braden is all too aware of his hero’s place in a long line of meta-fiction. Braden cites Grant Morrison’s “critically acclaimed revamp of DC Comics’ Animal Man; a four-color story impressing upon me what it would be like if a fictional figure came to life,” as one of the forbears of Kent Menace, a comic book hero who unexpectedly finds himself ripped from the pages of his fictional quests, followed, of course, by nightmarish creatures who threaten the world we puny mortals inhabit.
The creation of a comic book by a writer and an artist is a uniquely collaborative process. Braden didn’t deliver a set of instructions to Malbrough; the two fashioned their weird hero together in an endeavor that sparked mutual inspiration and character development. Braden describes one such instance: “For example, in my writer’s direction on the bottom panel of the front preview’s third page, I only told Mike to draw Kent with other heroes of his making. In turn, he created Boss Monkey – which I named (aren’t I clever) – as well as two other heroes that readers will learn more about in next year’s KENT MENACE SPECIAL. Mike is that good – and he makes our comic book world come to vivid life!” Braden’s description of his collaboration with Malbrough doesn’t just describe the creation of Kent Menace, though. In the process, we see mirrored the very act of engaging with the entire genre.
For readers who might not be familiar with the genre (like me!) Braden explains why he and Malbrough choose to share their creation in the form of a comic book: “Paraphrasing award-winning scholar Scott McCloud, the comic book is based on a simple idea – placing one picture after another to tell a story. But it’s the spaces between the pictures that chronicle the passage of time. It’s up to the readers to piece together the story between the panels, and to add all the bits that are literally left off the page and into the imagination. This makes comic book storytelling a very personal partnership – an engagement between creators and their readers. Comics are a series of scenes and situations sequentially strung together to tell a story. That’s something you just don’t get from other modern mediums like movies and television.” While comic novices might assume the genre is simplistic, relying on art to create images for readers too lazy to exercise their imaginations, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Kent Menace invites readers to luxuriate in a strange place, suffused with camp, myth, danger, destiny, and necessarily fraught familial ties. While Malbrough’s richly textured artwork evokes fantastical, otherworldly creatures, there’s a deep, wide vein of self-conscious humor that runs through both artwork and writing. The language is, Braden notes, distinctive and appealing to fans of comic books. Braden elaborates: “Comics are as varied as any other medium, but as far as my take on KENT MENACE, well, I’m all about going over the top. I’ve read comics since I was five, and I’ve always been attracted to stories and dialogue that make you think and smile. When I write KENT MENACE, it’s all about having fun and trying to make comics that others would deem fun, too.”
As far as the future for Kent Menace, Braden and Malbrough have big plans. Their Kickstarter campaign launches in Autumn 2020, to raise funds to support the printing and promotion of the preview comic, along with a special comic scheduled for a 2021 release. The Kickstarter campaign will feature cool rewards for backers, like autographed posters, a proposed Kent Menace coloring book, and even a gift certificate to the Buttersburg Inn, an American restaurant owned by Frank Tunzi and Jim Rowe that features prominently in the Breaking Glass Pictures film, Union Bridge. Braden plans to hold a signing party with the creative team at the Buttersburg Inn in Union Bridge, Maryland.
I asked Scott Braden what perils might be in store for the hero, himself, and the writer clearly knows where his story is heading. He explains: “as far as our supernatural sailor goes, The End Times bring about final combat and the promise of a new world. With that, Kent must decide whether he has what it takes to put an end to an evil so great that even the Devil himself has joined the fight against it. Does our weird hero have the courage to make the greatest sacrifice of all?”
There’s no denying that Kent Menace is fun, a melodramatic celebration of life-and-death struggles that invites readers to accompany a strange superhero on his quest to save the world. But the forthcoming preview comic is more than just a beautifully rendered romp; it’s a celebration of an underappreciated genre that simultaneously engages with serious themes like sacrifice and salvation, while also requiring readers to unleash their imaginations.