The journey to bringing the Cognition comic series to a conclusion has been a long one, which fans have been avidly following for years. In 2018, creator Ken Reynolds finished the story after releasing the first chapter in 2015. It was revealed later that year that the full series of five comics is now due an anthology paperback release.
Cognition follows a Cal, a steam-powered automaton, and his familiar, a mouse possessed by a demon, through an investigation into a string of mysterious murders plaguing Victorian London. Far from your ordinary Jack-the-Ripper-style riddle, Cognition goes beyond the usual gore into a dark and twisted underworld of malignant spirits bent on tearing the mortal world apart.
We caught up with Ken to find out how he feels now that the story has reached its conclusion and what he’s got planned for the future.
Kirstie: You’ve been working on Cognition for more than three years. How does it feel now that the story is finally complete?
Ken: It’s a great feeling! To have a complete story is a wonderful place to pause, assess and figure out what’s next. Whenever you start out on something you know is going to take a long time there is a hint of relief when you complete it. That fear of failure never totally relents, and in a way it’s still there because, compared to when I began this story, I now have a new set of aims and ambitions.
Kirstie: Does the final project look and feel how you imagined it would when you first started creating it?
Ken: It’s better than I ever hoped it might be. The story for the entire arc changed a bit halfway through the production of issue #1. From there, it just found its feet. Of course, the longer you collaborate with someone else, the better your working relationship gets. You understand one another better, you get more comfortable with the back and forth and you try new things. That exchange of ideas has always elevated the scripts I write.
Kirstie: Was there anything about the process of creating Cognition that took you by surprise?
Ken: How easily the characters led the story. When I’m scripting, I will plot in broad strokes, try to figure out the scenes that will make the beats work, then I put the characters in the situations and I’ll write pages of dialogue. I just let them go on. Then I’ll edit and pare it all back. I guess I’m always surprised that the character voices have got stronger. All of that is a bit of an ‘artsy-fartsy’ way of saying that I’ve learned a lot about my writing process.
Kirstie: What has been the best thing about creating Cognition?
Ken: Getting the story out of my head and having it be a real thing. Holding the comics and having others buy them… It’s still a bit surreal.
One of the best things is meeting people that make a point of finding me at conventions to tell me how much they enjoyed the story, and the similar reactions online. That really does fuel you. It’s proof that your story lived in another head other than yours for a while, which is very cool.
Kirstie: Every step of the way, the Cognition series has been supported by crowdfunders. How does it feel to have such a big following behind your work?
Ken: Humbling. I started off with issue #0. I had no real online presence and I was a bit of an unknown in small press comics. I took the book to Kickstarter hoping to find an audience. Something that I never suggest to creators now. I always say you should funnel your existing following to Kickstarter. Luckily, I was asking for a small amount and we got funded. From then on, it snowballed, and by the 4th campaign, we had over 350 backers, which is wonderful.
Of course, once you achieve something, you always recalibrate your hopes and expectations. Or at least I have a habit of doing this. So you’re always trying to push for more readers, to reach more people. I hope the next release will do that.
Kirstie: What made you decide to compile the five separate issues into a single paperback?
Ken: It seems like the most natural move. Single issue floppies are special in comics. There are collectors that love them, but there are also collectors that only read trades. To widen the audience, it seems like a good idea to produce a product that will encapsulate the three years of hard work into a single product. I’m really excited about it.
It will also give us an opportunity to possibly add some previously unseen backwater, maybe make some new pin-ups… All the usual fun campaign stuff.
Kirstie: When can fans expect the finished book to be available for purchase?
Ken: At the moment, I’m hoping to run a Kickstarter campaign in April/May for the trade collection. The way I work things, I’d expect to be sending those out by June, if all goes well.
Kirstie: Do you have plans for any more stories that follow Cal? Or take place in this universe?
Ken: I have LOTS of ideas. I’m currently writing a series of short stories that covers the early career of Silas Pope as a Spymaster Magician in the early 19th Century. I may release those on a monthly schedule on Patreon once the trade is complete. I also have a few ideas about writing an RPG in this world… And, of course, the ending of this arc has left the door open for Cal and Sigma’s story to continue. I have the shape of that tale in my mind, but I’m not sure what form it’ll take yet.
Kirstie: What will your next big project be?
Ken: I always have lots of projects on the go. I’ll be running a Kickstarter early 2019 to fund the final print volume of the experimental comic anthology I edit, Sliced Quarterly. I’ll be continuing my solo comic, In Trouble, as a webcomic in 2019 as well. Beyond that, I’m lettering for lots of wonderful indie comics, editing for a few other writers and writing a prose novel.
Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring comic creators?
Ken: Start. If you’re not actively doing something to try and make the thing you really want to do, the chances of it ever happening are greatly reduced. Once you make a start, do your best to keep going. Persistence will beat any other factor every time.
We’d like to thank Ken Reynolds for taking the time to talk to us and wish him all the best with his projects!