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Curated by Kevin Jay Stanton and Annie Stoll, 1001 Knights is a three-volume anthology of illustration, comics, poetry, and prose that explores what it means to be a knight and what makes for a strong character. Their intention for the anthology was to showcase people-positive characters with feminist overtones – and do so they did with the help of 250+ contributing artists, ranging from battle-tested professionals to spirited amateurs.
The 1001 Knights anthology set will soon become a reality thanks to the generous donations of over 1,800 backers on the project’s Kickstarter page, where you too can back this awesome project and snag yourself a copy of 1001 Knights and other cool rewards. The books themselves look absolutely stunning with cloth bound hardcovers, ribbon bookmarks, and gold gilded edges. In addition to the anthology set, backers may also receive art prints, sticker sheets, a 1001 Knights crest patch, and more as outlined by the dollar amount pledged.
To put it bluntly, 1001 Knights looks freaking awesome and is the kind of thing we here at Kabooooom can totally dig. To learn more about how 1001 Knights came to be, we asked Kevin and Annie a few questions about their passion project. Read our Q&A below!
Why an anthology of tales about knights? What’s so alluring about this particular fantasy? And especially, why make the focus on having predominately women in the roles of knights?
Kevin: Ultimately, 1001 Knights is an anthology about strong characters. I think that knights are a symbolic shorthand for strength. We started talking online after seeing Olivia Huynh’s beautiful animation Awake, and the idea of women as knights really struck a chord in both of us. But as a larger goal, we wanted to create a project that was about inclusivity and diversity and about unconventional characters who are the heroes of their own stories. All we asked of our artists is that they create strong characters with feminist overtone, everything else was up to them. I think the fact that 1001 Knights has such a strong presence of ladyknights is a testament to a deep need for more strong women characters!
Annie: Yes! We need to create more spaces for artists where they can feel safe and have a platform to express themselves. We never told artists that they had to draw ladyknights, it was open to all gender ids/sexuality/race/creed. I will say that seeing many artists create such incredible ladyknights like Kevin says really speaks to this need we have to see more strong characters where strength can mean more than cool armor!
Obviously, 1001 Knights is a play on 1001 Arabian Nights, but did that idea come before or after you began recruiting enough contributors that it became possible to feature 1001 characters throughout the three volumes?
Kevin: The title, like everything in this project, came about while talking to Annie on the phone. While we were spitballing ideas for titles, one of us mentioned 1001 Knights in passing and it just stuck. We’d had a ton of people ask to be in the first version of the planned zine, so we knew we could make it work! Our artists also count toward the 1,001 characters, because we believe in their strength as much as their characters’!
Annie: Our first call for art generated more than 100 responses and just kept growing. And a many of the artists wanted to do more than one knight–with this many characters, we thought–we should make the artists a knight as well (they even drew really cool avatars for themselves you’ll see in the back of the book!) so that truly there will be 1,001 characters across all three volumes! I think it’s a fun play on words but also a nod to a really historic collection of stories. Our project does a lot of nod to the past while updating and modernizing these concepts, so the name and the spirit really reflect what we are trying to achieve with this new people-positive anthology.
The anthology includes all sorts of artwork, from illustrations and comics to poetry and prose, was it always the intention to feature a variety of art or was this dictated by what contributors wanted to work on?
Kevin: I tend to be pretty cut and dry. Coming from illustration, I saw it as a series of illustrations. Annie really expanded that, with her love of comics and her eye for talent. And I’m really glad she did. We have such an incredible variety of styles and mediums–it makes for something really special.
Annie: We talked so much about the need for strong characters and being inclusive, that it felt like–“Who are we to limit this to only illustrations and comics? Let’s see some amazing unexpected art – poetry! prose! puppets!” There are some really fantastic artists with work that cuts across genres and mediums and I want to expose the audience to new ways to viewing the world–so I didn’t want to have too narrow of a focus on the media itself. I love that you can flip to any page of 1001 Knights and find inspiration and encouragement.
The artists who’ve contributed to 1001 Knights appear to be a mix of known professionals and up and comers, was that intentional? Was there an intent to feature lesser known creators?
Kevin: Very much intentional! Our hope is to give a voice to people who sometimes go unheard, and that means giving the space for all kinds of people to speak up! We have people who have won awards for their work, and we have self-proclaimed amateurs – and they all created something special and incredible!
Annie: Yes! Kevin put this so eloquently. All of the artists of 1001 Knights are so very talented and amazing. Sure, some of the names you may have heard from, but we also hope that you see the up-and-comers and support them–they are our future! Everyone in 1001 Knights is equally amazing and it has created this space where new artists and established artists are working together to form a highly creative, collaborative and inspiring environment. I think that everyone involved in this project is coming away a better person for it–we are all fighting for each other and for these people-positive ideals.
The mock-ups of the finished books look amazing, what has been your favorite part of designing the final look? Which push goal (slipcase, gilded pages, etc.) has been the most exciting to reach?
Kevin: Thank you! Annie and I worked in pretty tight collaboration for those, with her art directing and me designing. She made these amazing inspiration boards with what she was thinking for the overall look, and we were on the same page every step of the way!
I think my favorite push goal is the gilded pages – more than ever, these books are gonna feel like old, special tomes, and I’m so excited about that!
Annie: The entire process is an absolute blast. Kevin and I have a really fun and creative chemistry where we bounce ideas off each other and come up with tons of cool ideas while we brainstorm. Seriously, I can’t stress enough how much Kevin inspires me as well as all the artists involved in this project! And I will say that creating a book with gold gilded edges and cloth bound cover has always been a dream of mine–and now it’s coming true!! The design is a mixing of a nod to the old, but updating it and bringing this aesthetic into a more modern sense. This is also a great metaphor for the spirit of the book; taking an older trope of knights and flipping it upside down with modern/inclusive/positive sensibility through the lense of creative and diverse artists resulting in an anthology that we hope will inspire future generations to come!
Of the 250+ artists who’ve contributed to 1001 Knights, we’re happy to say that Kabooooom’s own Alex Chautin is one of them! So we made sure to ask Alex a few questions about what he brought to the project and how he became involved. Read on below!
What is it you’ve contributed to 1001 Knights?
“For 1001 Knights, I’ve contributed a three page illustrated story called “Shifting Sands”. It’s a narrative about a young woman from a desert and cave dwelling society attempting to live on limited resources. The story came from a story idea that I was struggling to anchor somewhere about a character who I named “the collector” and 1001 Knights turned out to be the perfect thing to anchor her story to.”
How did you become involved with the project?
“I had known about the project for a while from speaking with Annie Stoll, one of the curators, but had no involvement in it other than excitement for the concept. Sometime last year, Annie and her partner Tim (they have an incredible comic called Ode), as well as my writing partner and me were panelists at a library conference in New York promoting webcomics, where we had all day to gush and talk about like minded projects. We were both invited on into the project by word of mouth. It was very natural and exciting. We will be back at that conference this Spring, likely to talk about the anthology post-Kickstarter.”
Was this project a challenge for you? And if so, was it a welcomed one?
“The biggest challenge for me is that I tend to be a bit of a slow artist. I will sit and consider how to ink a single line for ten minutes, it’s pretty silly and pretty against what you need to do as a comic artist. Second to that, I don’t write a lot of fantasy/knight-like stuff anymore. I found my own fantasy to be cliche, but “Shifting Sands” is pretty different from what I would have done for a typical knight story–because 1001 Knights isn’t about the typical knight. As far as a welcome challenge? I wanted so badly to be part of this project, so yes, I thought ‘bring it on.'”
The 1001 Knights Kickstarter runs until February 25th. Already, the project has surpassed its initial goal and has even hit several of its push goals, which has allowed for many of the added perks that make the print editions of 1001 Knights look so spectacular. You can find more info, including all you need to know about how to snag your own copy, on the Kickstarter page. To see more samples of the awesome art included in 1001 Knights, check out the official website.
Thanks again to Kevin, Annie, and Alex for talking with us about 1001 Knights. We cannot wait to see the final product and hold it in our hands!