Trying very hard to stop fangirling so I could let you Geeks know that we’ve had the extreme pleasure of doing an interview with the creative minds behind 1001 Knights: Annie Stoll (@aniistoll) and Kevin Jay Stanton (@kevinjaystanton). Setting a humble goal of $70,000, they have since SMASHED this request and are trending towards almost $200,000 in about 3 weeks. If you dont know what 1001 Knights is, you can check out our latest Kickstart Your Weekend edition, to get the basic info.
I have to say Annie and Kevin are inspiring people and there are absolutely no regrets when I backed their project. Check out our interview below and be prepared to feel their dedication and passion for their 1001 Knights project.
Give us the quick and dirty about your team! Are you artists and graphic designers by trade? What are some other projects (and/or collaborations) that you have worked on?
Annie: I’m a graphic designer/art director by day. At night I love to doodle and work on my comic Ode and other passion projects. I’ve worked on a lot of art for music as an art director- from Ani DiFranco to Pentatonix. As far as comics anthologies go, I was recently in Valor and I created Hana Doki Kira (a shojo anthology) along with my Year 85 Group girls.
Kevin: I’m a freelance illustrator who likes to create a lot of work in between jobs. I’ve done a series of laser-cut illustrated Shakespeare plays (Signature Shakespeare) and am finishing up work on an big educational notebook about English and Literature right now. My first zine project was FEZZINE, a zine dedicated to the game Fez, and I’ve been in a bunch of anthologies since.
How did 1001 Knights project start? And why a knight theme (no complaints though! We love knights!), was there a special kind of meaning?
K: 1001 Knights started when Annie and I started talking about how much we wanted to do a project about strong female characters. I would say that it’s about strength in all its forms, not just about knights, per se! After figuring out the core of the project we wanted to make, we opened it up to a whole spectrum of genders, sexuality, race, beliefs, etc. What we realized is that what we’d felt was missing was strength in diversity!
A: Yes what Kevin said! We talked a lot about what we can do to give artists a space and a platform and how we can change the conversation about ‘what is strength’ by using a traditional and very old trope of knights. It means a lot to see better representation and a celebration of diversity within a subject as ancient and ‘beloved’ as romanticized knights are. The characters in this book do more than just have cool armor- they explore complexities and nuances on the meanings of strength of character which are really wonderful to read and see. We felt that maybe where we were at, this was something that was missing in the conversation, so by opening this up to artists from different experiences and backgrounds regardless of gender/sexuality/race/beliefs, the conversations has become rich with many amazing perspectives and so many fantastic voices are expressing themselves! This means everything to us.
1001 Knights is divided into three specific themes; Courage, Wisdom, Fellowship, why is that? Why are these specific themes important?
K: We feel that Courage, Wisdom, and Fellowship are the three tenets of a good, strong character.
A: Also the book was getting so big it wouldn’t fit into one volume– so creating 3 volumes that make up one work with these three core themes, allows us to have a more cohesive and ordered anthology
Why a collaboration project? Was this something that happened organically where a multitude of people wanted to join or did you have to reach out for contributing artists?
K: One of our hopes was to show a diverse group of artists as well as their characters! We’d done a call for art for the original idea (a Game of Thrones-inspired zine) and got portfolio submissions from over 100 people almost immediately. I think we realized pretty quickly that there was a lot of people looking for the same sorts of characters we wanted to see more of. So we expanded out from a Brienne/Arya-inspired zine into something much more inclusive and diverse and hopefully meaningful!
A: It’s really amazing how what we thought was going to be a small zine really evolved into this huge and ambitious project! It’s been this organic process that’s really bigger than any one of us- and I love that. It’s a testament to how inspiring the characters and the artists themselves are as well as how much audiences really want to see this kind of content made.
What’s your favorite part about working on huge collaboration projects like these?
A: This is my first SUPER huge project of this magnitude. I think the best part of the collaboration with Kevin is how easily we get along and how much fun we have brainstorming and coming up with ideas. I also enjoy our 2am chats about silly anime! But in all seriousness, working and getting to know 250+ artists is a dream- everyone is so enthusiastic and it pushes and inspires me.
K: Same! I am very glad that Annie and I, as two strangers on the internet, came to become such a strong duo. We work really well together and highlight each other’s strengths! But then to turn a crazy dream of such an enormous into a reality, to see the community that has formed around 1001 Knights – that is unbelievably powerful to me. I’m in awe of the work that our artists have done.
Every creator has dreams for their work, what are you hopes for the 1001 Knights and why do you believe this anthology is important? What are you hoping your audience will take away from the anthology? What messages do you want to convey the most to them?
A: It’s my most sincere hope that readers will pick up 1001 Knights and be inspired! We are challenging readers to think about what it means to have strength and to aspire to a better world where people are accepted and loved for who they are regardless of race, creed, gender ID & sexuality etc. And hopefully these notions of people positivity can translate into their everyday life. 1001 Knights is a way to give artists who are often spoken over, a platform to shine and be creative. I really hope that readers can discover new artists and new art styles to love. And I also hope that the artists can come away with a sense of kinship with their fellow artists- and perhaps some pros may see this book and hire our artists for future projects! I feel so very honored and proud of all the artists as well as the team behind 1001 Knights! From a small idea of a lady-knight zine to a big-time kickstarter, our message has always been one of hope, acceptance, and strength! What is important to me about 1001 Knights is about what this book represents– a safe space for diverse artists to be heard. 1001 Knights is important bc not only does it challenge societal notions about knighthood/strength, it’s a feminist look at the kinds of characters and the many artists who we want to be seen and heard. And the colossal support from the audience and artist is a testament to how desperately we need more great content that is people-positive. The sheer amount of creativity and amazing work in 1001 Knights shows how very vital it is for our society to embrace diverse artists and to listen and lift up voices that are often spoken over. We need to strive to create more content that empowers artists and inspires others to do the same.
K: Annie said everything I was gonna say and more eloquently too!
I know it’s hard to decide but what are some of your favorite pieces from 1001 Knights?
A: I honestly can’t pick because everything and everyone in the book is truly amazing. It’s been such a wonderful experience to meet new artists and also have some artists who i’ve admired for years be in this book. I feel very mama-bear about the artists and art of 1001 Knights, so I really can’t play favorites- I love them all equally. And that’s really our message as well– 1001 Knights gives artists a platform to be heard and discovered we’re all in this together!
K: Same! It’s been an honor to see artists from all walks of life create such amazing work!
Not to sound greedy, but we love your stuff and want more! Do you have any other projects, or collaborations, scheduled for the near future?
A: This is certainly not the last time that Kevin and I will collaborate that’s for sure!! Right now we are focused on completing 1001 Knights. But certainly in the future, we’ll be back for more.
K: Yes, Annie and I are totally gonna do more stuff!
Lastly, convention season is upon us! Will we be able to meet you, or any of your contributing artists, at any conventions?
A: CPAC, Otakon, MOCCA, SPX, TCAF ????
K: MoCCA, TCAF, SPX, and maybe Thought Bubble!
We can’t wait to see you there! Thank you so much for your time!
Scarlette’s humble opinion?: 1001 Knights is a project, as Annie and Kevin have said, that fandoms and the creative industry NEEDS. For far too long society norms of “what is” and “how it should be” have been portrayed in the lime light and 1001 Knights obliterates the cookie cutter mold. Life and its participants are vibrant, colorful, and diverse- it is high time our art and outlook is reflected as such. Artist and lovers of art are allowed to be who they are and represented without any shame; and we know the 1001 Knights zine will clearly bring this message to its audience and beyond. 1001 Knights not only has top notch art work, but its full of passion with a meaningful message. Bang for your buck? Check! Meaningful message for you life views? 1001 Knights brings that in aces. Be sure to visit 1001 Knights on their Kickstarter page and fund the project!