Kekionga is a genre story, though nobody, least of all me, is sure exactly which genre it is. As such, it is is populated primarily by archetypes. All the main characters are members of familiar archetype classes, and my goal as a cartoonist is to make them into real people. Here they are:
Josef is the main character in Kekionga, at least according to Josef. Every story with Josef in it is automatically a story about Josef. Josef is a creature of mystery; all we really know about him is that he is strange little animal from another dimension. His origin story, such as it is, is told in the minicomic Bud and the Bugs from Dimension X, which is the very first story in the current Kekionga continuity.
Josef seems to be intelligent, and he almost certainly understands everything that people say around him. He communicates in goofy monosyllables that some people, primarily Bud, Jack and Iowa, can interpret. His main motivations are hunger and curiosity: although he is only about the size of a fox terrier, Josef can take prey as large as a deer, and he also enjoys mice, raccoons, tacos, calzones, orange soda, lo mein, and chocolate chips, in or out of cookies. And he sticks that white snout of his into everything. Josef always has an opinion.
Longtime readers, and anyone who reads the Kekionga series from the beginning, will notice that Josef’s ears get larger with every story for the first few years until they reach a more or less stable size at about the time of the above drawing. I can only explain this by saying it sometimes takes time to get to know your own characters.
Archetypically, Josef takes the place in the Kekionga stories usually occupied by a Dog. He eats more insects every year than the rest of the cast combined.
Bud is Kekionga’s local Wise Teacher. He’s an Esoteric Master from a Distant Land, exactly the right person to train a young hero. And he doesn’t want any part of it, being long retired from the Hero’s Mentor business. But even Bud, with all his ancient wisdom, can’t resist the power of the narrative for long. He draws the line at being called Sensei, Master or Guru, however. It’s just Bud, thanks. Bud is also the owner/operator of Kekionga Salvage, a big junkyard out at the edge of town,where a variety of unusual objects can be found. Visitors (not all of them people) come from near and far (sometimes very far) to find the exact thing they very much need. Bud himself is much, much older than he looks, and can turn his hand to just about anything.
Bud is not only the oldest character in the cast but the first to be created. He appeared very long ago in my sketchbook, a battered Buddha in work clothes smiling in a very mellow way at a large dragonfly. Sort of Kekionga in a nutshell, really. The next thing I knew he was picking apples in an orchard, and Josef was scampering around, and I had finally found my story. Everything else came later.
Jack Swann is the “secret identity”of Kekionga’s classic all American Superhero, Foursquare. He was a student at Sauk Trail when he “discovered” his powers, but he has since dropped out and devotes himself to learning his craft while working for his mentor, Bud (who calls him “Soup”), at the Junkyard. He lives alone in a little white house in an obscure neighborhood. Jack is everything a young hero should be: courageous, idealistic, humble, dedicated and rather naïve. He is not profoundly educated, but he is far from stupid and never afraid to see the obvious truth that everybody else is delicately avoiding. His solid good looks attract attention from a variety of sources, but he is (of course) devoted to his Best Girl, Iowa.
Foursquare has four basic powers: he can fly, hide himself or other things behind an obscuring cloak, protect with a barrier, and wield a blast. He is also very strong and more or less indestructible. Powering all of this takes a lot of fuel, and Jack is constantly eating.
Iowa Ginsberg, a lady and a scholar, is Our Heroine, and the Superhero’s Spunky-But-Sensible Girlfriend, and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, all in one. She is both very smart and possessed of an abundance of common sense (a rare combination, that) and nothing seems to faze her.
Iowa is a student at Sauk Trail State, where she majors in several esoteric subjects in the humanities, but her main academic focus is her Assistantship with Professor Lykander in the Archives. She is well on her way to becoming a Librarian with a captital L. Iowa shares an apartment with Gale and Shelley, drives a little red MGB, and loves Jack Swann to distraction, the big lug.
(My own Mentor, Matt Feazell, gave Iowa her first name.)
Every genre story needs a Werewolf Librarian. Well, maybe not, but Kekionga has one. Professor Gideon Lykander (Sauk Trail’s academic librarians have faculty status) is in charge of the Archives of Sauk Trail State University, which are housed in the basement and sub-basements of the Noakes Library and are considerably larger and more … complicated than one might expect from a medium sized state school. Gideon is a full fledged esoteric Librarian, and has the vast store of general knowledge to prove it. The snappy wardrobe and high levels of snark and sarcasm are his own distinctive contributions to the role. He is also a werewolf. In his “human” form he is a tall, slender, physically unassuming guy with a lot of body hair and long sharp fingernails, but that form is actually about 10% wolf, giving him the enhanced senses and some of the strength, and he is much tougher than he looks. As a full wolf, his other form of choice, he calls himself the Mighty Moondog. He has full control over his transformations (although he’s always tempted to a lupine frolic by the tug of a full moon), and is the same person whatever shape he wears.