The creators of the Jekyll Island Chronicles envision a super-charged alternate history
By Charles Bethea
Art by J. Moses Nester
Color by S. J. Miller
Ed Crowell, Steve Nedvidek and Jack Lowe have been friends for two decades, during which time the three Georgians have spent their days raising families and climbing career ladders. Crowell is CEO of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association, while Nedvidek and Lowe both work in corporate roles at Chick-fil-A. But in 2012, at a Christmas party, they decided to pursue an unusual ambition: creating a graphic novel. The idea, as Nedvidek first explained it to Crowell, was an early superhero story. “What would superheroes be like right after the first world war,” he mused, “in that machine age? What would it be like if injured, wartime heroes were rebuilt to fight anarchists trying to control the world?” The resulting “diesel-punk, sci-fi fantasy” called the Jekyll Island Chronicles was born.
“When Steve talked about the time frame and how wealthy people could play some of the good-guy roles, my reaction was, ‘We’ve got to talk about Jekyll Island,’ ” says Crowell. “I knew about the financiers and industrialists who made it their club for a while in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was a perfect fit.”
They all write, but each focuses on different things. “Ed is a history lover,” Lowe says, “and brings a wealth of knowledge and desire to research. I like writing action sequences and kind of lean toward some of the details around the mechanical and architectural things.” Nedvidek specializes in character development and handles storyboarding. The result goes to Atlanta illustrator Moses Nester, then to Las Vegas colorist S.J. Miller; both were discovered at SCAD.
“One of the things we loved about creating this alternate history was that a lot of it still exists,” Nedvidek says. “There’s the massive tower at the Jekyll Island Club hotel that my wife and I actually spent a few nights in to take pictures: of a special room, spindles of the staircase, the wall sconces, the lights, the chapel. The fireplace with the boar’s head over it. We also look at old pictures when we can and see how well much of the site is preserved. It’s exciting to think that a lot of people in Georgia have no idea of the history right under their noses.”
After a brief stint working out of Nedvidek’s daughter’s dance room, the trio now uses a converted storeroom in his basement. The space is littered with superhero memorabilia. An old kitchen table became a writer’s table covered with Marvel clippings.
The first novel in the series earned an award—one of 2017’s “Top 10 Books Every Young Georgian Should Read”—from the Georgia Center for the Book. The authors have posted free educational resources on their website to help teachers utilize the book in their classrooms. For everyone else, the books are available on Amazon.com and in Barnes & Noble bookstores.
The team hopes to publish five more installments in the next decade, including book two in July ahead of San Diego’s Comic-Con. While Hollywood film adaptations would be nice, they don’t expect to quit their day jobs. Impressing their neighbors is enough. “It’s a little bit of home-state pride to have it set here,” Crowell says. “We get a kick out of having folks here make the connection that the world we’ve created isn’t really that far away.”