Comics Features

INTERVIEW: Ken Reynolds, Creator of Cognition

AP2HYC caught up with writer Ken Reynolds to discuss Cognition, his latest project with artist Sam Bentley. Get ready for steam-powered robots with human souls and demons that make you want to climb on a chair and go “Eek”.

AP2HYC: Tell us how the idea for Cognition came about.

Reynolds: The initial idea was more of a Pinocchio story. I had an image of a partially built robot sitting in a basement somewhere slowly being surrounded by more attempts at perfecting whatever the inventor was trying to achieve. Then something happened to give it life. I was originally going to make a one-shot, with the little robot exploring the basement as its entire universe and making its own mechanical friends from the machinery it forages from the scrap.

As with my writing process I couldn’t stop adding elements, then bending others to fit, until eventually the whole thing was quite unrecognisable. As soon as new characters begin cropping up and twisting the original idea, I sort of went with it. I believe the concept has grown in a more interesting direction. There is greater scope and possibility going forward.

AP2HYC: What is the basic premise of the comic?

Reynolds: Cognition is about a steam-powered robot called Cal and a demonically possessed mouse named Sigma. They work as agents for the British Occult Secret Service (BOSS), which protects the British Empire from the threat of malicious supernatural monsters and spirits.

On one level it’s a supernatural battle, on another it’s a detective mystery, but all the while it focuses on the internal struggle of figuring out what draws the line between good and evil.

AP2HYC: Explain the influence of Sherlock Holmes on Cognition.

Reynolds: The influence of Sherlock Holmes is more about his author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He created Holmes, a character steeped in solving mysteries through logic. Later in his writing career he began to make stories exploring mysticism and spirituality. How his interests and ideas changed, how they morphed and overlapped is where I got the inspiration for my own setting. Victorian England was was a time of huge industrial progress while at the same time society had a fascination with spiritualism. The perfect setting for my characters to exist and to feel, if not real, at the very least possible.

I’ve always imagined Cal to be the first invention in this alternate timeline world, one that sparked a change in direction of how technology evolved. I see Cal as the fork in the road that turned Victorian Britain as we know it into something that resembles a “Steampunk” world.

AP2HYC: What made Sam Bentley the right artist for the job?

Reynolds: I met Sam through another contact whose project I was lettering. The joy of lettering is working on lots of projects and meeting a huge range of comic creators.

I was immediately struck by Sam’s black and white work. It had such impact and presence. I always feel like he starts with a black and white page and carves the image out of it, like a woodcut, but he doesn’t. I asked. His work had the correct feel for what I had in mind. Heavy and dramatic but with enough nuance to make sure the storytelling was the primary function of the art.

I love getting art pages through. Sam’s interpretation always exceeds what I had in mind while writing. Now we have the first book under us, it was a pleasure to write the next book with Sam in mind. I wrote a few passages and images knowing that Sam would relish and ultimately kill the execution of it.

AP2HYC: This question is for Calibre 507 (Cal). Neuroscientist Cristof Koch states that, “Consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex information-processing system”. Is this true?

Cal: I’m sure Mr. Koch is a learned man, and I have no reason to dispute his ideas, however I do not believe they apply to me. To be honest, I don’t anything about how I was created. I feel just like you, or anybody else, except for when I catch myself in a mirror or look down at my hands. My consciousness isn’t the product of a complex system, the complex system is simply a vessel for my complex spirit.

If you want any real answers, ask the mouse. The cruel joke of my existence is that I must share my thoughts with a demon. It may be physically limited, but it knows a lot more about me and our situation than it’s wiling to share.

AP2HYC: A Mr. R. Burns of Ayrshire sent sent in this question for Sigma. “Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie?”

Burns…really? At least quote Shakespeare to me. He seems the best your lot have to offer.

I existed before humanity and I’ll cling on to what’s left after you. Human poetry hasn’t quite reached the rhythmic peaks and sublime troughs of the moans and wails of the Underworld.

The only thing you have going for you is mortality. Flesh and bone, breath in your lungs, blood pulsing through your muscles. Life is enviable. To watch you waste it is the real punishment.

The only “panic” in my “breastie” is that of impatience. I’ve earned the power that’s denied me and the mortal soul blocking me is weak.

Have you ever heard a mouse roar?

AP2HYC: So when will we get to see Cognition#1?

Reynolds: The fantastic success of the #0 issue print run Kickstarter has given issue #1 a real shot in the arm. Once we had reached our initial funding target, I added stretch goals that would fund extra rewards, while at the same time contributing to the cost of the art for #1. If we hit our final stretch goal, I’ll have enough funds to to complete the production of issue #1, and it means I’ll be able to run a similar Kickstarter campaign to cover just the print costs.

The issue#1 final script edits will be completed next week, and once that Sam’s schedule is open, we will start work. I’m very hopeful that we’ll be running another Kickstarter later this year.

We are in our last week of our current Kickstarter campaign. At time of writing, we are around £250 away from the last stretch goal. Something I couldn’t have possible imagined when it all began. The support has been amazing, and I’d like to thank everyone that’s pledged as well as all the people in the small press community that have helped me spread the word via social media, on podcasts and media websites.

So it’s not too late to get involved, and every pound from here on in will help improve the rewards to all physical backers and secure the funding for issue#1.

Our rewards include print copies of the #0 issue, a signed/sketched bookplate, a postcard set, art prints and a t-shirt.

Plus, if you are an indie comics creator, I’m offering my lettering services  at a reduced rate. Please check out the campaign for more details.

There’s not long left for you to back Cognition on Kickstarter, so donate now! Once you have, let us know on Twitter or in the comments section below!

About the author

Haydn Hades