One of the most fun comics to be released by the good people at MonkeyBrain has been Amelia Cole. I had the chance at Emerald City Comicon this year to have a freewheeling conversation with Amelia's scribes.
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: You're creating magic! It's magic I tell you!
DJ Kirkbride: It is magic, you know?
Adam Knave: Certified magic.
CB: Amelia Cole, it's been a bit of a hit.
Kirkbride: Yeah we're having a lot of fun with this. We enjoy the book.
Kirkbride: The first volume is sold out, so they went to a second printing. The second came out May 7th, and a third one is already in the works.
Knave: In November.
CB: Wow, you're churning this stuff out.
Kirkbride: We love writing it. We want to keep writing it until we have to stop for some reason.
Knave: Until someone comes by and forces us.
Kirkbride: We'll never choose to stop.
CB: So why would anyone force you to stop? That's what I'm trying to figure out here.
Knave: Well hopefully they won't. The world is unfair.
Kirkbride: Society, man.
CB: The world is unfair. Wait, how is it unfair? You get to produce comics you love, sell them to people who will buy them, they give you some money.
Kirkbride: Yeah, it's great. It is a dream come true.
CB: You guys have been collaborating this for a while?
Knave: We've been writing stuff for years now. We met back in 2001 I think and that's when we started writing together.
CB: So how did Amelia Cole grow? Umm, her parents had her and she grew.
Kirkbride: Right! That's top secret. Spoilers!
We're always looking for people to collaborate with because we both write, so we need artists. And a friend of mine named Tim Simmons, he saw Nick Brokenshire's art online and he told me that he thought we would like the work. So I checked the site, liked it.
We talked to Nick, and Nick wanted to do something magic and fantasy. And we all thought that doing a female lead would be a good idea. That's how it came about. It really came out because Adam and I like to write a lot, and we found an artist we dug. Then the three of us together kind of molded a type of comic that we all wanted to work on.
CB: I love the female lead. She's so uniquely herself. She's not some Power Girl type.
Knave: Right, well we didn't want someone who exactly wears a skimpy outfit, and does the break back poses and all that. We wanted it to be real, and one thing that D.J. started was her constant quest for lunch. It's one of my favorite things.
Kirkbride: She's always hungry. Magic takes energy.
Knave: Saving people is hard work.
CB: Well at that age, weren't you always hungry too?
Kirkbride: I still am always hungry. It's a problem.
CB: I think I got some nuts in my bag.
Kirkbride: Maybe after the interview.
CB: Okay okay, don't want the crunching or anything like that.
Kirkbride: That's right.
CB: It seems kind of resonating for people too, I mean there are a lot of follows on the Twitters about Amelia. People seem to really appreciate how you guys are bringing this whole cosmology to life, I guess.
Knave: It's always fun to hear. I mean from our point of view we're writing this thing kind of almost in a vacuum and Nick's drawing it, but we don't see it. People are buying it and responding to it. Someone came by earlier and was like "Oh, I bought Amelia and loved it!" and we're just like "Wait, people actually like this and we didn't know!"
CB: Do you feel like you're more isolated because it came through MonkeyBrain onto Comixology, rather than going onto the stands right away?
Kirkbride: I know that being a part of MonkeyBrain allowed us, number one, to do the book because print is expensive. It's hard to get those going, and MonkeyBrain — Chris [Roberson] and Allison [Baker] — take chances on what they like. They don’t really worry too much about if it's mainstream and what everybody else is doing. So that gave us a lifeline to help continue to do the book. ComiXology has been great, too. It's brought me around to digital, working on this book. So that's actually how we got to do it, I give a lot of credit to Chris and Allison because we had already done the first issue and they contacted Adam when they were starting MonkeyBrain, and he was like "Um, we already have something.” I think we really lucked out. It's great timing.
Knave: And from the isolation of it all. I don’t think it hurt us so much as than when you're digital-only, when you first go to a show, we couldn't do anything for the book until we got to the trade. We had nothing to sell people. We had nothing to communicate to the fans. So it was a huge stretch. We were at issue #7 or #8. That's practically almost a year of working on the book before actually being able to go to the fans and go "Oh yeah, what do you think?" So there's that really weird delay for us.
CB: I feel like it's harder to get people's attention to it, also, because it's not through one of the publishers in Previews?
Knave: Well they're single issues, because the actual digital market is 15% of the actual comic market. So when we come to show with print copies, people are like "What's this? We’ve never heard of it." Retailers are think it's a trade for the higher buy-in and bigger risk for them. So it's a bit of an uphill fight for us. So it's always like "Hey we sold out our first printing!" I'm like "How did we do that?" I don't know. It shouldn't have happened, frankly.
CB: Did it really surprise you?
Knave: Yeah! It seriously should not have happened.
Kirkbride: Yeah what was that, somebody contacted you, Adam, right?
Knave: A store owner in DC let me know that they couldn't order copies. I let IDW know because it just happened so quick that nobody could catch it.
CB: Do you think you know why it kinda caught on so well?
Kirkbride: A huge part of it is Nick's art. His design of Amelia as a character is very appealing. She's fun, she's nice, she's friendly, she's cool. Lemmy is an awesome design — and actually that cover too. That first trade cover too, what we have on the banner and everything, the color palette is different than most books out there, the look of it. I think it really stands out.
CB: The first issue has one hell of a hook, too.
Kirkbride: Thank you!
CB: It's a unique world and then everything kind of twists.
Kirkbride: Yeah, that initially was Adam's idea. I was like, "That's insane. We can't do that!" Then, uh, we did it.
Knave: We just weren't sure whether this was going to turn everyone off. Like here's this world's building, and we're going to throw it out. And so it was a bit of a risk. I felt like it was one of those fun risks to take.
CB: Maybe it's because you built your character so well through the issue that it felt like there was so much risk involved with what happened to her that you had to tune in tomorrow, or next month or whatever to find out.
Knave: That was the hope.
Kirkbride: I think it is the appeal of Amelia. Even if you don't love fantasy, she's just a kinda funny character.
CB: My pet theory is that I have a strong hunger for female leads in comics in particular.
Kirkbride: Oh, definitely. Yeah, I agree. We feel the same way. My mom and grandma are the strongest women I know. I feel like there should be more characters like these crazy ladies, so I’m happy to be a part of one.
CB: Where you going to go in the future of it? Without spoiling too much.
Kirkbride: Oh gosh, Adam. What could we say? We don't want to spoil anything.
Knave: Everything comes back to haunt. You don't do this without paying a price, and that's always been the story, but as she does more and her interactions will get bigger, so does the cost.
CB: Okay. So it's building?
Knave: It is definitely building.
Kirkbride: Yeah we're paying off stuff now that we were hinting at in the first volume. It's not like you knew you were missing it, but things are happening where you're like, "Oh right I remember!" It's constantly building.
CB: Did you plan the book that way? With the beats in the first issues that paid off later on?
Knave: We dropped a few things that we knew we wanted if we got that far. We didn't know how far we would get. It's one of these "If we ever get that far, we can play with this later." and then once we realized we're actually going to keep going , then we start building it bigger and bigger.
Kirkbride: And then there's some stuff, honestly, that we're just thinking would be cool, and then later on we go, "Oh this can happen now because we did that and we didn't know why we did it, and we'll make it look like we meant to do it."
CB: You plant those seeds for yourself!
Kirkbride: Yeah, on accident sometimes.
CB: That's it! "I wanna get back to this idea, I love this idea!" That actually makes perfect sense really.
Kirkbride: It does. It’s just not actually planning to do something and then realizing after the fact that you did it.
Knave: Yeah the instinct that you get with storytelling where you leave breadcrumbs for yourself, and part of the fun is learning how to stream them together later and that gives you all the best creative accidents.
CB: I think that's something you learn from working together for so long, since you've left yourselves over a decade of collaborations to leave yourself that space.
Knave: Oh yeah, and I know that I've left stuff unintentionally that D.J. will see and be like "Oh, you do know you did this right?" No, but okay!
Kirkbride: I learn a lot from Adam, working with him. I’ve become a better writer. Actually one of the things we've learned, and the reason we keep building things to get bigger and trying is to top everything, is, for me, anyway, I can't let Adam down when I'm co-writing with him. I don't want Adam to think I suck, so I pull out all the stops.
Knave: Same thing with Nick too, I think we both do that. Like when we're writing I don't want to ever let Nick down either. I keep challenging him, and we're challenging ourselves. We're finding bigger and better places to grow just to keep growing.
CB: Well you're turning this around in your own way. It's not Dr. Strange or something. You're channeling your own unique realms, I guess is a way of putting it.
Kirkbride: Aw, thank you very much.
Knave: I will say though the cosmology of the book is much bigger than we had lead on, and someday we will get there. That actually was one of the early things we decided, too.
Kirkbride: Yeah, we started small, and it's going to build to crazy. It's going to have stuff that you can only do in comics, that we can only afford to do there. We want to celebrate that it's a comic.
CB: That's the best part of it. It's a comic, we all love comics!
Kirkbride: Hooray for comics.
CB: Hooray for comics!