In October last year, I had the pleasure of meeting artist Alejandro Lee at the Gaslight Steampunk Expo in San Diego, California. He had a booth in the vendor hall where he was selling copies of his creator-owned graphic novel Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete: The First Adventure. I’m always delighted to explore cool-looking indie titles, so I decided to pick up a copy. I was surprised and delighted when he also threw in vinyl figures of the title characters as a bonus.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world with overtones of the Wild West. Pete is a robot built sometime in the past who has lost much of his memory, but is compelled by a strong need to fix anything that’s broken. Given that he lives in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world, there are a lot of broken things that need fixing. Early in the story, he stumbles upon the crash of an airship and finds a little girl, barely hanging onto life. He takes her back to his workshop and gives her a robotic body. Like him, she’s lost much of her memory, so he names her Sally Sprocket and she becomes his sidekick.
Pete also works to bring reliable power to the town of Kratera. He finds a capacitor that allows him to collect energy from one of the many fierce storms that rage across the hostile landscape. However, this puts him at odds with a mad scientist Morticus Angstrom IV, who also claims the capacitor. Both Pete and Morticus are vying for a highly coveted place in the Daedalus League, an elite academy of science. One of Pete’s supporters is Doc Governess, the chief physician of Kratera, manager of its orphanage, and who seems to know something of Pete’s mysterious background.
I love the artwork in Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete. For the most part, Lee works in a subtly sepia-tinted grayscale evocative of old photographs. Occasionally, he drops in vivid color for effect. The art style walks the line between cartoonish and realistic. While Lee’s style is uniquely his own, I’m reminded of Brian Kesinger’s steampunk work. I cared about the characters and the story engaged me. One of the challenges of comic writing is making sure that all your panels tell a complete story, but you don’t bog the story down with unnecessary details. I felt like there were a couple of places where Lee wasn’t as successful with this as he could have been. That said, I get the impression Alejandro Lee is a serious student of comic books and graphic novels and is improving his narrative skills as he progresses. I would absolutely pay full price for a sequel to see what happens next in the adventures of Sally and Pete.
If you would like to read Sally Sprocket and Piston Pete: The First Adventure, you can find the book on Etsy at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThePistonAndSprocket. The Vinyl figures are also available at their Etsy store. You can see Alejandro Lee’s amazing art and read some samples of the graphic novel at his DeviantArt site: https://www.deviantart.com/47ness