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INTERVIEW: Charlie Stickney, Creator of White Ash

White Ash is a comic that boasts a large premise within a small setting. Written by Charlie Stickney and illustrated by Conor Hughes and Fin Crab, White Ash tells the story of how a small mining town in Western Pennsylvania hides a dark, fantasy-soaked secret…

Combining fantasy, horror and romance, charismatic leads and an intriguing set-up, White Ash promises to be a story not to be missed, and you can back it on Kickstarter here. We caught up with writer and creator Charlie and dive deep into the comic’s history.

A Place To Hang Your Cape: What is White Ash all about?

Charlie Stickney: Well, big thematic picture, it’s about that time right after high school when it hits you — Wait, is this really all there is? Followed by — No, c’mon, really, there’s gotta be more, right? White Ash is about that quest to discover who you are and how you fit into the universe. And if you you find out, is it actually going to make you happier? Or in this case, is it going to get you killed?

Killed? Yep. White Ash isn’t as quiet as it looks. As we say around these parts, “The smaller the town, the bigger the secrets.” And White Ash has secrets to spare. The comic is a genre mash of fantasy, horror and forbidden romance set in a small mining town in Western Pennsylvania. Think one part Supernatural, one part Twin Peaks with a healthy dose of Lord of the Rings.

To give you a taste, this short film, while dated, does a pretty good job of presenting a little slice of life in White Ash.

As for the nitty-gritty of the book, the story follows Aleck, the son of a coal miner, who’s been counting down the hours till he can get the hell out of town and head off to college. But as he packs his car, disaster strikes. An accident at the mine keeps him in town for three more life-changing days. During which, he sparks up a romance with the enigmatic Lillian Alden, runs afoul of her father Thane (who owns the coal mine, and pretty much the rest of White Ash) and uncovers a secret about his family that changes everything he knows about himself, the people around him, and the town of White Ash.

And if that wasn’t enough, Aleck learns if he leaves town, there will be no one left to protect the people of White Ash from an ancient evil that’s returning.

AP2HYC: Where did the idea for the comic come from?

Stickney: White Ash actually started out as a television pilot that I came to realize might be better served (at least at first) as a comic book. As for the idea behind the television pilot… well, without giving away too much of the mythos, my wife and I had just watched The Hobbit Trilogy and part of it stuck with me as the great foundation for a television series. The more I thought about it, the more I was shocked that no one had ever attempted before. So cryptically, here we are.

AP2HYC: Why are you funding it through Kickstarter?

Stickney: I came to Kickstarter for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it’s a great way to find an audience without having the reach of a publisher. Secondly, it was to raise the funds to print the book. I didn’t want to do White Ash as a comic unless I could find an exceptional art team. And if you want quality, you need to be prepared to pay for it.

Thankfully, Kickstarter has been a huge success for us. We funded the book in less than a week. Backers continue to pour in and we’ve even been approached by a couple of publishers all on the strength of our campaign. So while Kickstarter might not be right for everyone, it was definitely the right choice for us.

AP2HYC: What’s your own background in comics?

I grew up on comics. They were my first love, long before film and way before television. In college I interned at Marvel and were it not for a job offer with a film company in Los Angeles, my plan had been to move to NYC to embark on a career writing and inking comic books.

Then, shortly after moving to LA, I stumbled into animation where I was lucky enough to create a few television programs. So I’ve been working with words and images for years, even though they haven’t always been static. But White Ash is a return to the form that first got me excited about telling stories professionally. (And perhaps a way to explain to my wife why one of our closets is filled with long boxes of mid-80’s to mid-90’s Marvels.)

Double Ks FINe

AP2HYC: White Ash fuses fantasy, horror and romance – what might this comic offer that others of a similar fusion don’t?

Stickney: The amazing art team of Conor Hughes and Fin Cramb? Aside from that, probably that the genre mixing isn’t an attempt to throw a bunch of cool things into a blender. More so, the mixing arose organically out of me adding various layers to the story I was trying to tell. Each part has a very specific function and reason for being represented. I think the fun thing about White Ash is how those various layers are revealed and how (hopefully) the readers perception of the book will change as they uncover the town’s secrets.

AP2HYC: Did any specific works of fiction influence the comic?

Stickney: Yes, definitely. The Lord of the Rings, Twin Peaks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. All of those were touching points for what I was trying to build in White Ash.

AP2HYC: Do you have any other comic projects underway at the moment?

Stickney: Right now I’m focusing on building White Ash. It’s a lot to be functioning as writer, publisher and doing the PR. But if the series of White Ash continues to be as well received as our initial Kickstarter campaign, I do have a follow up project ready to go. Look for that launch toward the beginning of 2018.

Many thanks to Charlie for giving us his time. Don’t forget to check out White Ash on Kickstarter, the campaign finishes in about 24 hours!

Are you intrigued by White Ash? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Fred McNamara