Thursday, April 17, 2014

Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868

Comic Therapy

INDEPENDENCE -- Benjamin Kreger's keyboard will take a beating this summer.

Warrior Innkeeper Comics writer and owner Benjamin Kreger's office feels like part business headquarters and part comic book shop

Photo by Pete Strong

Warrior Innkeeper Comics writer and owner Benjamin Kreger's office feels like part business headquarters and part comic book shop

June 26, 2012

INDEPENDENCE -- Benjamin Kreger's keyboard will take a beating this summer.

He wants to wrap up his script for the second issue of his comic "The Magnanimous Inventions of Ben & Mike" -- the chronicles of a time-traveling Ben Franklin -- and the next two-part story for "The Less Than Historical Adventures of Li'l Lincoln." That's his flagship title about an adolescent version of the 16th U.S. president.

His brother, Josh, will draw their co-creation "Super Vampire Bunny" later this year -- that plot is self explanatory.

"I tend to work on more than one script at a time ... my mind won't stay quiet," Kreger said.

Kreger, 34, is the comic writer and the owner of Warrior Innkeeper Comics, a small press publisher of web and print comics. His books are meant for all ages, though with kids as part of his audience, he's learned to censor himself.

"As a soldier, it's hard to remember that swear words are bad sometimes because I've used them so much," he said. "But I'm not interested in filling up a book with them."

Writing comics is an outgrowth of a lifelong fascination with "funny books."

It's also therapy that's helped the Independence resident beat back the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) he developed after the first of two tours in Iraq with the Idaho Army National Guard 116th Engineer Battalion.

Kreger served two tours in the Middle East as a member of the Idaho Army National Guard

Courtesy of Benjamin Kreger

Kreger served two tours in the Middle East as a member of the Idaho Army National Guard's 116th Engineer Battalion.

Kreger doesn't hide his affinity for all things geek. His office -- maybe "Batcave" is a better description -- is filled with action figures and graphic novels.

Two of his ongoing books are illustrated by Paul Johnson, an artist who lives in Manchester, England. The creative vetting and interplay between the two takes place mostly via e-mail and instant messaging, Kreger said.

Kreger, whose family moved across the Pacific Northwest when he was growing up, got into comics when he was 13.

"This was about the time my parents got a divorce," he said. "I looked at Peter Parker's -- Spiderman's -- personal struggles and that sort of helped me."

Originally intent on being a writer and actor, Kreger married in his early 20s and moved to a military base in Idaho when his wife, a member of the National Guard, learned she was to be deployed to Iraq. Kreger enlisted to join her and became a combat engineer.

Kreger, a private first class, and his unit were stationed in Kirkuk in northern Iraq between 2004 and 2005. Daily interaction with the Kurds, Arabs and other nationalities was a rewarding learning experience, he said. At the same time, this was a combat zone.

Warrior Innkeeper Comics

Warrior Innkeeper Comics

Kreger said he became accustomed to mortars overhead -- "nine out of 10 times it's a dud." His battalion lost perhaps seven soldiers, including a 19-year-old woman killed by a roadside bomb.

He recalled guarding a hospital in Kirkuk where he often saw Iraqi troops who were fighting alongside the U.S. brought in horribly wounded.

"That left a definite mark on me," he said. "And there were other things ... that I'm still not comfortable talking about."

Kreger and his wife divorced a few years after returning to Idaho when their tour was over. Both carried emotional scars, Kreger said, noting his peers began to comment on his "self-destructive behavior."

"I was falling into this dark pit," Kreger said, noting he lost his home "because I wasn't paying attention to bills and my job -- at a bullet factory -- because I called in sick way too much."

Kreger wrestled with depression between 2006 and 2009, but salvation came in the form of a friendship with Ty Wakefield, an Idaho comic book artist who took a shine to some writing Kreger had done.

Li

Li'l Lincoln

Wakefield convinced Kreger to write and helped him market a comic Wakefield had created drawn from his experience battling cancer -- "Captain Cure." Wakefield died in 2011.

"Here was a guy fighting a deadly disease, he's creating comics and he put me and my depression before his own challenges, which is inspiring," Kreger said. "I've told his daughters many times that he saved my life."

Kreger started Warrior Innkeeper Comics, doing interviews with comic creators online and coming up with his own characters.

Kreger and artist Paul Johnson held their first signing at a comic convention in Seattle in 2011.

Courtesy Benjamin Kreger

Kreger and artist Paul Johnson held their first signing at a comic convention in Seattle in 2011.

"Comics helped me combat my depression as an outlet for my frustrations ... and focus my mind on something other than those things which dragged me down," he said.

Kreger returned to Oregon in 2009 to be closer to his daughter. He also remained a reserve in the National Guard, and was recalled to active duty in Kuwait just as Warrior Innkeeper Comics was getting off the ground.

It was a "deflating" feeling going back to the Middle East, though it did allow him a proper diagnosis for PTSD, he said.

"It was difficult to admit at the time," Kreger said. "It took me a long time to get the help I needed."

Kreger jumped back into comics when he returned in 2010. He co-created another comic, "The Black Suit of Death," is developing new titles for Warrior Innkeeper and trying to produce a print version of "Ben & Mike." He and Johnson did their first signing at a comic book convention in Seattle in 2011.

At some point, there may be a book "loosely based on my own personal war story," he said, "though I haven't the foggiest idea when it will be complete."

Learn More

* Benjamin Kreger lives in Independence with his wife, Emma. He has two daughters, Ellie, 13, and Olivia, 7.

For more information on Warrior Innkeeper Comics: http://www.warriorinnkeeper.com/about.php.