Kickstarting Comics: Talking With Street Artist Keith Hopewell About His Debut Comic, ‘After The Robot Apocalypse’ #1

by Olly MacNamee

As previously reported, Keith Hopewell has made a name for himself in the world of commercial street art. And it was from this day job Keith, who goes by the street name of S.P.:Zero76, that he got the idea for a comic book. After The Robot Apocalypse #1 is already a success on Kickstarter, but I was keen to know more about Keith’s fascinating story. After all, it’s not everyday a graffiti artist pivots into comics. 

Olly MacNamee: Alright, Keith. Ive known you for some time now and its true to say that while by day your are a cool as they come street artist, by night you are one of us. A huge comic book fan. Was this why you had desires on creating your own comic book?

Keith Hopewell: Hey Dude. I’ve always been a massive comic book fan since I was a kid. I loved reading Battle Action Force (I was addicted to Action Force), and 2000AD, Rogue Trooper, Judge Dredd and Bad Company…. 

But it was on a fabled trip to Toys R’Us that a pack of three G.I. Joe comics fell off a shelf to my feet. (Issues #59-#61 with Stalker, my fav, on the cover of #61. Classic cover). I searched the store and couldn’t find any more comics anywhere. 

It was a sign from the big man. 

And from that point on I was addicted to US format comics. I’ve gone through phases of Batman, Punisher, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, Venom and Spidey Over the years.

I didn’t have loads of money so I spent a lot of time flicking through comic boxes on market stalls and grabbing the best I could afford, now I read everything I can get my hands on. Check out my Instagram @what_did_i_read_this_week no one follows it but me. Ha.

P.S. I am the uncoolest Street Artist. Ha.

OM: Now, After the Robot Apocalypse #1, has a rather unconventional secret origin story doesnt it? What was the impetus for this sci-fi series?

KH: Yeah. I guess it’s unconventional. Not many comics are initially painted and created on walls on the street. 

I taught myself to spray paint about 12 years ago. I remember seeing the Walls of Fire event in Bristol (back in ‘99 I think)and was blown away with how you could create amazing art on walls. It was quite a scary thing to enter a new field and it took me a while to build up the confidence to do it. 

Initially I painted one or two characters on walls, but I really wanted those walls to tell a story. A bit like the cover of a comic. 

Each wall I painted under the banner of ‘After the Robot Apocalypse’ told its own story, centred around a group of characters in a post apocalyptic world.

Eventually I had written enough of the story that it was time to knuckle down and focus on my real love.. comics. I have come up with a fun story and some awesome characters that I want to get down in print. 

OM: Its been a longtime coming too, hasnt it? 

KH: I did always want to be a comic artist. I think I said that when I was in school, but it’s a LOT of work (especially when you do it all yourself! Everything from the script, character design, pencils, inks, colours, design, font, logos, and even fake adverts).

It ended up becoming my passion project, that I have had to complete in between freelancing as an illustrator and street artist. Those jobs paid the bills (and were fun) but the comic was something I felt I had to do. Like an itch I needed to scratch. An itch that was unlikely to make any money but needed itching. Ha.

As it’s just been something in the background it’s taken around 4 and a half years to get to this point, from the initial walls I painted with the characters to the Kickstarter. Seeing the response I’ve had so far to the Issue 1 Kickstarter has definitely made me realise I need to get an Issue out every year though. Luckily Issue 2 is already half drawn!

OM: Now, I suppose we should discuss the actual plot line and main cast? Give us the hard sell on why comic book fans might want to back this already successful campaign? And, what are some of the influences fuelling this story?

KH: Ok. It’s set 57 years after the Robot Apocalypse in a dystopian world. I know there are many great stories that take place in a desolate world and I didn’t want to be just another… 

I remember hearing Robert Kirkman talk about selling The Walking Dead to Todd McFarlane and he told him it was a post apocalyptic zombie story. Apparently Todd wanted more, a new spin on the genre, so Robert told him there were aliens involved… then eventually after several issues and massive popularity, that there weren’t aliens involved. Ha.

This made me want to do something with a twist. I love Mad Max, but this isn’t Mad Max with robots. There is plenty of that too though. Ha.

Over the ten issues I plan on telling the story of a group of humans trying to reconnect with lost loved ones and a mysterious power source, while experiencing the good and bad humanity can bring… and the leftover angry robots from an old war… plus more!! Like I said, this story is galactic!! 

But I don’t want to give away too much. Hope that sounds fun. I want the whole comic to have a sense of humour and not take itself too seriously. It’s written by a nerd who grew up on movies and comics.

OM: And what were the biggest challenges for you transferring your artistic skills from street art to the printed page? Layout and composition, I imagine, could have been a big one what with street art often focussing on one oversized image/collage?

KH: I’ve attempted to create comics several times as a kid and dabbled as I got older, with some walls even having comic style layouts, so that wasn’t the biggest problem. 

Maybe I could have left more room for speech bubbles, plus I got carried away on some background details when drawing, that you don’t even see due to speech bubbles. Ha. 

Time has been the biggest problem. Time and money. Like everyone I have to take on freelance jobs to pay my bills and rent, which left little time for creating the comic. Now that Issue 1 is finally coming out it has made me excited to get Issue 2 out though. I’ve already created covers for Issues 2 and 3.

OM: Of course, this is a Kickstarter, so fold will be interested in some of the rewards they can get. What can fans get their hands on?

KH: I wanted fun stuff that I would want. So there has to be a variant cover, a tee shirt, stickers and badges… but I wanted to be a bit different and have a colouring book plus a tote bag to carry it all in.

Then the big rewards give away pages from Issue #1 and a chance to appear in Issue #2. I already know where the guest appearances will be. Ha.

For issue #2 I’m even thinking of CGC graded Issue #1s, prints and maybe even a Funko Pop!? Maybe. Ha.

OM: One more and then Ill let you get back to your spray cans. After the Robot Apocalypse #1 has done so well, its definitely coming out. But, what about a second issue? What are the current plans and timelines for a second issue?

KH: I need to get back to the comic! Ha. Forget the spray cans. 

I have already created the cover for Issue #2 plus 12 pages have been drawn already. I’m aiming to get a few more done this week and the plan is to release one Issue a year for now. Eventually I would love to have the money to get someone else to colour the comic, which would save time… but who has money? Ha. 

OM: Keith, thanks for the chat, and see you soon. And at a comic convention selling After the Robot Apocalypse #1, maybe?

KH: Yay. Can’t wait. My first comic convention is ICE Birmingham in September. I have a table there. I plan on doing many more in the future though.

You can back After The Robot Apocalypse #1 here now.

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