Come to the Mountain: A conversation with The Crag’s Jeff Beineke and Jeanine-Jonee

by Clive Dodge

The monsters with strong ties to the environment have been around since before the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. One of the first “swamp monster” characters was the Heap, created by Harry Stein and Mort Leav as a regular character in Airboy Comics during World War II. The character returned when Eclipse picked up Airboy in 1986.

Americans became more environmentally conscious in the early 1970s, and so both Marvel and DC Comics introduced their own marshland monsters, the Man-Thing and the Swamp Thing respectively. In 2021, as the world becomes more invested in ecological concerns, Volt Comics writer Jeff Beineke and artist Jeanine-Jonee introduced The Crag to comic book fandom. Free Comic Book Day 2024 saw the long-awaited second issue.

Set in a world analogous to our own in the city of Bayton, the titular hero of the book is a golem created centuries before to protect the people of the region. However, the Crag has become disillusioned with humanity’s irreverence towards the planet. The “City Captain” of Bayton, Rudell Syphus, and his indigenous right hand, Ennio, recruit the Crag to help curb the growing violence in the city’s streets. Hijinks ensue.

Jeff Beineke and Jeanine-Jonee talk about their rocky brainchild and some of the challenges in bringing the Crag to life.

CD: Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Can you tell me how you came together as a creative team to tell the story of The Crag? Have you previously collaborated on any other projects?

JB: My first email to her was on February 1, 2019. I saw her post in a “connecting comic artists and writers” group and proceeded to message about working together since I liked the work I saw. It came together easily from what I recall. Her professionalism stood out to me. We have not worked on anything else together, just The Crag.

JJ: The concept of The Crag felt like an intriguing classic action-adventure-type story. It was different than other projects I was working on at the time.

CD: Did The Crag evolve out of concerns about climate change and urban violence, or did you have other motives in crafting these stories?

JB: Yes, both of those issues were on my mind. …Just the state society seems to be in currently. A big issue I want to explore in future issues is how corrupt politicians have just left Bayton out to dry. I briefly touched on that in the first issue. Politics is an extremely touchy subject, so I’m still plotting how to get more in-depth with that. The Crag is the outsider—from “the old days”—and has been around to see things going downhill. He’s the lens through which we are viewing this society.

CD: Where many of the monster vehicles for the environmental heroes are creatures made from vegetation, the Crag turns that image on its head with a golem born from mountain rock. I like this take, as well as the subtle differences between the Crag and the traditional, silent golem from Hebrew folklore. What were the inspirations for the Crag?

JB: The Crag’s roots are pretty old! I remember a slew of superhero characters I made in high school. One of them was a large, blocky stone creature named “The brick” That character merged into the Crag when I was going through a hardcore cryptozoology phase. I wondered what civilization from a sasquatch’s point of view would be like… if it were real, of course. Since there have been tales of sasquatch for hundreds of years, they would’ve seen lots of change. I just replaced Sasquatch with the golem character for some reason and it was born. The Crag is really just a stone, magic-powered sasquatch in reality

JJ: I went through some Swamp Thing and Hulk just for reference and to make sure I was drawing the Crag big enough to fit what he is supposed to be. I also have to make sure I draw him bigger than how I usually draw even muscular characters in my other work.

CD: The first issue tells us that the city of Bayton evolved out of a geographic area called Krayanna, which was the home to magic. Will there be prequel stories to show the history of your storyworld and the earlier adventures of the Crag?

JB: Yes, if things go well, I would definitely like to show some early adventures of his! I think they would deal more with magic and higher fantasy.

JJ: Bayton is very much a modern city with old and still ancient roots so it’s a mix of modern and arcane. Jeff is a great writer and I’m excited to see where the story is going to go. I can’t wait to explore more lore and see what other ancient creatures Jeff is cooking up.

CD: I was really impressed by the opening panel of the first issue. It is a very nice image of the area that your storyworld is set in.

JB: Thanks. Jeanine did a really good job.

JJ: I also really love that first shot of Bayton. I can’t take any credit for that as Kyle Holland, who worked with us on the first book, really brought that scene to life. I thumbnailed it and Kyle cleaned it up, added the finer details, and painted it beautifully.

JB: We definitely synched up with the tropical/South American vibe.

CD: The first issue of The Crag dropped in 2021, the second in 2024. Why the long delay?

JB: The was my fault. I’ve had a myriad of bad health issues. I have an auto inflammatory condition that has, in all honesty, really put my life on “hold” for a few years. I developed it in late 2020 and things have progressed in a bad way since then. But I’m to the point that I have to just fight, fight, fight and do my best to make something happen despite my health

CD: How did the art style evolve between the two issues?

JJ: I’d say that between the two issues I have settled into their look. There’s a bit of a gap between when I worked on the two books so I do have to rewind a bit when jumping back into it.

CD: # 2 introduces Luster, who appears to be every bit as powerful as the Crag and to have similar attitudes towards humanity. What else can you tell readers about this supervillain?

JB: I’d say they both have suffered from society’s “advances,” but Luster’s [motives] are more personal since his race was wiped out. The Crag is more just an angry observer as he hasn’t had many personal connections to humans throughout the years. The Crag comes of a place of sorrow and disappointment and Luster is fueled by anger. 

CD: Luster’s appearance reminded me of Kokopelli. Was this deliberate?

JB: I just had to look up Kokopelli, so it was not deliberate! I see the similarities. A lot of the things I write come out from my subconscious though. Sometimes I’ll write then look at my work and see layers I didn’t even intend on doing.

JJ: You know, I wasn’t sure to be honest! Jeff gave me a concept sketch and a detailed profile of what he’d like him to look like. And we went from there. The main idea was he was a metallic type of creature. I felt he was a contrast to the Crag, who is a stone golem.

CD: How can readers keep abreast of the latest Volt Comics news and order titles from you?

JB: The best way to follow is through social media. We are Volt Comics on Facebook, Volt.Comics on Instagram, @voltcomics on X, and @volt comics on Cara.

JJ: All socials for me are Jenjoink. I’m most active on Instagram.

CD: Do either of you have any other projects currently in the works?

JJ: I am currently working on the prequel to my all-age comic, Seafoam: A Friend for Madison. It is a singular graphic novel that shows how the two main characters met. I’m aiming to have the book completed in time for a 2024 release. Those who’d like to read pages as they’re completed are able to in my $1 Patreon tier. Once the book is complete, I will post more about how people can support the release.

Currently, there are no crowdsourcing opportunities to support Volt Comics or The Crag, but Jeff tells me that he is looking into the viability of a fundmycomic campaign. For Jeanine-Jonee’s Patreon, visit www.patreon.com/Jenjo. Both issues are currently available for the Kindle through Amazon, and physical copies can be picked up at Indianapolis-based conventions or at Fishers, IN-based Atomic Comics.
                Keep your eyes open. More of The Crag to come!

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Clive Dodge

ByClive Dodge

Clive Dodge lives in the American Midwest with his spousal equivalent and an imaginary cockatrice named Pete. He has written fiction and pop culture under various pen names for an impossibly long time.

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