Friday, January 19, 2018 • Morning Edition • "All nerds welcome. Bring your own toilet paper."

Boke Expressway: a mind expanding journey

Written by The Indie Huntress on Monday, January 16 2017 and posted in Features

Boke Expressway: a mind expanding journey

Reading this book was a powerful experience, and I interviewed the one man team behind this creation: Jacob Halton.


Source: Jacob Halton

Last March, I met a wonderful fella named Jacob Halton. He pinged me on Facebook just after C2E2, requesting a review on his book, Boke' Expressway: Chasing a Song. At that point in time, I took it on and lumped him in with the large C2E2 article that covered several other artists. We recently joined back up again and I am here with a full review of his graphic novel and an interview with him. Jacob opens the book stating it is, "Dedicated to everyone who's ever refused to give up something good that they love, even if no one else understands."

That's the exact theme this story is built on.

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The story is about a boy named Mikey, who is a typical twenty something year old in an inner city. The opening scene takes place just outside a popular dance club. He and his friends are about to enter and Mikey is popping some sort of hallucinogenic pill. The club is lit up with people everywhere.. Mikey complains about the music being dull, when suddenly a tune fades in from nowhere that puts him in a complete trance, having a full body experience that seems to make him feel completely one with the music...he is enveloped in light and seems to be floating in another dimension briefly. He feels every beat, soaking it in, and just lets himself go. He is soon grounded again, as the music of another song brings him back to reality. When he asks the DJ for the song name, he hasn't a clue what Mikey is talking about. He blows it off, and decides to try to search for it on his own. The problem is he doesn't remember much, other than a few words, and the feeling it gave him. The story continues on as he begins to search frantically for the song, each day that passes, more of it dissipates from his memory and the struggle to find it becomes increasingly difficult.

The more absorbed he becomes with the task of finding this tune, the more he lets his responsibilities fall to the wayside. His friends are angry with him for abandoning them in their time of need. Just as he is scrambling to make things right, Mikey heads back out to the club- taking several more hallucinogens hoping that he'll have the same experience as before. He does hear the song again, but he gets more than he bargained for. As he slips into a drug induced haze, he finds a girl that also knows the tune, when he calls out after her- she takes off, sending Mikey into a frenzy chasing after her. Which nearly kills him as he attempts to scale a building. Thankfully his friends were able to pull him out of his unconscious state and drag him back home. While there is a spat that follows, they go back out the next night. This time Mikey realizes that chasing the song might not be the answer. As he loses himself in the music once again, she comes back to take him...

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I loved this story because it is one that is written so well not just in the words. This book is a visual masterpiece, as you can see from the images displayed here. Jacob's use of lighting and colors really capture the feel of the music, club, and atmosphere. Beyond that, the various panel sizes and shapes make the pages most impressive. While traditional layouts are more than fine, this story required something much more than a standard 5 or 6 panel page. It needed to be something that could suck the reader in so that they may feel the entire experience. The pinks surrounding the girl during his times of being with her, the blues and greens in the club, the way that the streetlights flooded into a car Mikey was riding in...all of it so gorgeously displayed in a masterful way. I've been back through the PDF four times now, and I am certain that even my words aren't doing it justice. I am anxiously awaiting a print copy. There is something special about holding print in your hands, it's like seeing it for the first time again. Another aspect of this that I appreciated was the speech bubbles. Not many deviate from standard oval like shapes. Jacob chose to use angular styles that were hexagonal, octagonal, or trapezoids. I felt that the use of these fit well with the dialogue, the characters' personalities, and the overall flow of the pages. At first it was a bit of a shock, but the more I got into it, I found that it worked perfectly.

 What I enjoyed about this book the most, is the point that Mikey hits where he finally learns to let go of it all and just accept it for what it is. It didn't have a perfectly happy ending, but then again most stories don't. Not the ones that are real anyway. No. He reached some level of acceptance that is rarely had. People in general are impatient, quick to be frustrated, and live for instant gratification. Mikey coming to terms with that in himself, and letting go and finally enjoying what bit he did have, made for a beautiful story. This is a book than anyone can get into and I would recommend it for anyone who ever needed to feel something more than what they already do. I would especially recommend it for anyone who loves to absorb art in a deeply passionate way. This book is pleasing to the mind on many levels. 

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 One of the things I appreciated most about this book is your way of interpreting that deep feeling of connection to music. You captured that perfectly with Mikey. What are some songs that give the same full body/soul sensation to you?

A lot of songs with heavy bass and swooping synths. I'm big on techno, and that's what the book was themed around, so some specifics would be 'I Remember' by Kaskade & Deadmau5, Haley's voice is one of those ethereal sounds that pulls you in with the long slow lyrics, and the pulsing bassline behind it makes me feel like it's pulling me in. Some more great examples are: Oceanlab - 'Lonely Girl', Adam K & Soha's remixes of 'Need to Feel Loved' and '4am'.

Have you considered writing her song fully? "Catch you like a falling star"? If you did, would it remain trance music? 

I actually tried writing and rewriting that song a few times, and in the end, I think it doesn't actually fit rhythmically into the correct measures to be a song. I prefer it that way, since the idea is you're trying to remember or figure it out, and something just isn't right about it, so the fact that it's frustrating to hum along to it in your head adds to the feeling in the book of it being just out of reach. Also, I wanted to take advantage of comics being a silent medium to be able to say "this is the best song ever", and the readers can fill in the way they'd want it to sound, since my taste is probably different than theirs.

 Speaking from a production standpoint, what did you learn about the creation of this book? Would you change anything about the way it was made?

jac 5Oh boy, so many things. First, I would've done it much faster. It was a side project for a long time, and only really came together once I dedicated myself to working on it. Production-wise, I handled all the printing myself, which was a good learning experience, but I think next time I'll probably work with someone who deals with that to save myself the headaches. The entire Kickstarter video was done end to end in one week, which I'd like to use as a benchmark for myself for the next one, limiting your time makes you work faster and be more creative.

 

How did you grow personally with this book? Do you feel that you took away as much from it as you gave?

Selfishly, I feel like I learned more than I was able to put back into it, though I'm making sure to use everything I learned from making this for future projects, to not keep those things I learned to myself. I guess that's the cycle of making things.

My biggest takeaways were a sense of how long it really takes to complete something like this, and a lot of the mistakes made along the way to avoid: get a solid plot down so you don't have to redraw and shuffle pages, or just say forget that and freestyle the whole thing. I'm actually doing each of those on 2 upcoming projects right now.

Will there be a continuation of this series, or will you leave it as it stands?     

It will be ongoing, but in the Boké Expressway world, I'd like each book to revolve around one of the characters in this group. That's the "expressway" part of the title, they're all connected, but the paths will take you to one place or another.

As I had mentioned previously, this book is a visual masterpiece. Talk to me about the color schemes. What were some of your methods for achieving the designs?

Wow, that's a great compliment, I can't thank you enough for saying that! (And you'll have to let me quote you). So in the back of the book there are some diagrams that show where I got the specific colors from, but the way I'm using color was the tricky part. When you're in a club, you don't see random colored lights hitting surfaces that already have color, everything just becomes those colors, so I used a method of only coloring the lights and leaving the shadows as the same background color. During the day scenes, I only color the shadows so everything looks hot and washed out, like you're hungover.

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What mediums did you combine for the illustrative work? What are your preferences for tools?

I draw everything by hand on paper, and prefer using manga pen nibs to ink. Some of the pages in this book I was experimenting with brushes, but I'm not as good at using them as with a pen, so I'm sticking to that now. All of the coloring and effects were Photoshop and Clip Studio.

What did you take away from the writing experience?

I actually didn't really write this (much). I'll admit I started drawing it before I really knew where the plot was going to go, then had to go back and change some stuff to make it make sense. It mostly was written as thumbnails first with notes for dialogue. The final, "chase" scene is a long sequence of wordless panels, so I just wrote down some bullet points of actions I wanted the characters to do and storyboarded it all out.

The lettering on this was particularly attractive to me as you used varying shapes that were sharp edged, opposed to traditional speech bubbles. What made you decide to go that route?

                                                                                                                             jac 6

I wanted the voices to have a little abrasiveness and edge to them. They're based on
grafitti-ish design angles. That's how I like drawing balloons by hand, but it would've taken too long to try and letter it the old fashioned way when I'm doing everything else, so this was a good compromise to use vector tools and keep them clean. The balloons have a little transparent outline around them so they blend with the artwork more, to add to the trippy feeling.

 

 

Where can people purchase copies of this book both physically and digitally?

I sell physical copies by mail at: shop.volatilestud.io

Digital versions at: gum.co/bokeexpressway1

Visit the website at: http://bokeexpressway.com/http://bokeexpressway.com/

Do you have any conventions lined up for 2017 for people to catch you in person?

Yup! A lot of these shows' lists aren't final, but the shows I'm hoping to do are: Emerald City Comic Con, C2E2, Indiana Comic Con, TCAF, VanCAF, Northwest Indiana Art & Comics, Heroes Con, Honolulu Comic Con (maybe), Tampa Bay Comic Con, SF Comic Con, SPX, Baltimore Comic Con, Brooklyn Comics & Arts Fest, MoCCA.

Where can we follow you on social media?

@jacobhalton on most sites. I'm most active on Instagram. I've been known to tweet occasionally. I'm planning on relaunching my Patreon page soon and do more engaging (and weird) stuff.

What new projects do you have lined up for 2017?

I'm drawing a futuristic action comic with a writer friend that we're pitching to publishers, or may just release ourselves if that makes more sense. The preview and info will live at: volatilestud.io/malfunction

There are also a couple other things in my backlog of to-dos. Follow me for more info.

Can we touch on Sinktober for just a moment? I really loved following you for those illustrations. I am curious if you will combine them into a sketchbook and also what made you decide to do the sinks?

Ohhh Sinktober... I had a lot of fun doing those. Yeah, I plan to release a sketchbook of them in 2017. I'm a big fan of the "show up every day" mentality, and doing a sketch a day is a good way to keep your skills up while not taking the work too seriously and falling into perfectionism.

I've done Inktober before, and seen some friends do, "Linktober" with Zelda themed ink work, so I wanted to do one that was another pun. I used Jake Parker's list of prompt words for regular Inktober so it was in the same theme, but they were all acted out by a quirky, slightly awkward, personified sink. Not in any way a representation of myself or my own actions! (No it's actually just my awkwardness projected as a sink, and I was having an especially awkward October, so it was easy to make it relatable, 'Socially Awkward Penguin' has always been one of my favorite and most relatable memes...sigh.)

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If you'd like to follow me, you can on Facebook or Twitter @indiehuntress





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About the Author - Crystal O'Rourke


"ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!!"
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