Matt Kelly brings Steampunk into the Mainstream with ‘Annabelle Avery’

Credits: Matt Kelly and Mike Gallagher
Credits: Matt Kelly and Mike Gallagher

Matt Kelly brings Steampunk into the Mainstream with ‘Annabelle Avery’

In an industry dominated by capes and tights, when a new idea comes around it’s always a breath of fresh air….or in the case of writer Matt Kelly’s steampunk Kickstarter campaign, fresh air may not be the best word.

Enter Annabelle Avery: Steampunk Girl, the overly curious heroine who seems to constantly get into trouble. A cross between Indiana Jones and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Annabelle resides in a world where flying metal ships and steam-run elephants reign supreme.

At least that’s how her creator describes it:

“Non-stop action with great little character moments sprinkled in to let us empathize with the characters. It’s a roller coaster, it’s relentless but not in an annoying way… but in a fun and thrilling way. It’s a breathe of fresh air if you’re sick of people brooding all the time in comic books.”

“Its like an 80s Saturday morning cartoon, in the best way possible.”

Meet Matt Kelly, Huntington’s adopted son and writer of ‘Annabelle Avery Steampunk Girl.’ Ever since he was a child watching ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ and ‘Back To The Future’ with his autistic younger brother, he wanted to tell stories. While spending this quality time with his brother, Matt began to see a pattern in how stories are told. There’s a ‘formula’ to how stories are shaped and that “storytelling is a craft that can be learned.”

With this knowledge of story structure and a fervor for storytelling, Matt decided to pursue a career in film. The Syracuse native took to school to master his skills, but found film was not the road he was meant to take. After meeting a man who would later become his friend, who used his knowledge of script writing to break into the world of comics, Matt figured he could do the same. After all, Matt grew up on his father’s old Conan the Barbarian and Flash stories and fostered a love for the medium.

Matt would find his way to indie publishers like Red Leaf Comics and Emerald Star Comics to be a part of a few of their anthologies before having the idea for Annabelle Avery.

It was the Winter of 2010, and Matt just finished listening to an interview with actress and mathematician Danica McKellar, (yes, Winnie from the Wonder Years) about her desire to see more women interested in math and science. So Matt came up with an idea for a character who would be brought up in science and the world she would live in would be dictated by it.

“What’s holding me back? Nothing,” Matt said. “So I started the web comic to build a fan base and meet some artists and when Mike [Gallagher] and I hit it off we decided to move forward with the Kickstarter.”

And so Annabelle Avery was born. Matt took his talents to the digital screen and created a site for his original web comic. Collaborating with several artists — including Gallagher — to complete his seven-chapter story, Matt felt it was as good a time as any to move forward with the character and the world he had envisioned.

After gaining a fan base and growing a good rapport with Gallagher and colorist Giuseppe Pica, the trio decided to take the concept of Annabelle Avery and continue the story after the web comic. Thus, the Kickstarter began.

“We’ve talked for a long time. And I feel he’s [Mike] a brother from another mother. We have the same tastes and we communicate very well,” Matt said. “His inking style is so labor intensive and detailed that it takes a long time, but luckily we both get each other and very rarely do we have to clarify for the other.”

The collaborators would eventually reinvent the world of Annabelle Avery to their liking as the story picks up with the title character being raised by her uncle. She’s always been curious about her parents’ whereabouts and her curiosity is only heightened when she tries to figure out the mystery of a special key that was left behind for her by her mom and dad. However, the evil Roderick McCallum has his eyes set on the key and the power it possesses.

Readers who are worried about continuity between this graphic novel and the web comic can rest assured that you do not have to be familiar with the web comic to understand what’s going on in the story. Almost like a ‘soft reboot’ — or retelling — the graphic novel will be a good jumping on point for new readers and old as the OGN can stand on its own with the web comic acting as a ‘zero year’ — pretty much supplementary reading that is not essential to the story.

Now residing on Long Island for 10 years, Kelly is trying to reach his goal of funding his first original graphic novel. With the support of local comic book shops like his “home base” Escape Pod Comics in Huntington Village, Collector’s Kingdom in Huntington Station and Fourth World Comics in Smithtown — who gave feedback and put Matt in touch with professionals who have already broken into the industry — Matt feels his dream will come true, but with the help of the public.

With some amazing incentives and stretch goals — including original art from comic book mainstays Dafu Yu (Grimm Fairy Tales), Len Cruze Webb (Corinthia: My Name Is Corinthia) and many other sensational artists — the Annabelle Avery campaign is a no-brainer for those who are looking for something new.

“Five years ago if I told you that a horror comic that’s in black and white would sweep the nation, you’d think I was crazy.” Matt said, referring to the Walking Dead. “And this is the same thing, it’s an action adventure that anyone can get into.

“I think steam punk is about to breakthrough to the mainstream.”

“People who like comic books, like a good story, concept and characters. So if you like comic books you’ll like this story.”

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Read More by Phillip Martinez

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