Erica McCrystal, Fanbase Press Contributor: While there have been a lot of adaptations of the Arthurian romance tales, your modern version is really unique. Can you tell us what inspired your version of King Arthur, and how you approached the adaptation of such a legendary character?
D.J. Kirkbride: After Nick, Adam, and I wrapped up our AMELIA COLE series, we wanted to work together again, not only to continue the fun working relationship, but also take what we learned on 30 issues of a comic and apply it to a new first issue. One thing we talked about was building on something familiar and giving it our own twist. A phone call between Adam and me lead to the general modern Arthurian legend take, but with a female lead. We knew Nick was a fan and an expert, certainly compared to me, so we hoped he’d dig it, too. When he did, we were off and running.
Nick Brokenshire: Once Adam and D.J. described who Rani was (i.e., a half Indian, punk rock chess prodigy), I was very enthused by the idea of designing such a character. One of the first things I came up with was her “crown” hairstyle. I really enjoyed trying to capture some heroic Arthurian essence within these modern people. Rani embodies a certain royal detached-ness, which is quite “royal,” although she also has the insecurities that one would expect from a person who is thrust into this circumstance. I think Gwen is the biggest departure. In some ways, she's more like one of Arthur's round table knights than the original Guinevere. Lance is your classic, good-hearted Lancelot/Gawain-type knight. It's interesting to imagine what modern kids like these would do in these situations, so I tried very hard to capture as much realism in their expressions as I could.
Adam P. Knave: Luckily, we were dealing with one of the most adapted stories in human history, too, so it didn't ever feel like we could stray too far or be too bold. That meant we could shelve the worry and just create a good story and fun characters within the framework we'd adapted.
EM: Portland, Oregon, worked very well for the setting, and I’m curious why you chose it. Can you shed some light on how Portland became a modern-day Camelot?
NB: Well, I visited Portland a couple of years ago to hang out with Adam and D.J. and other chums. Upon visiting different areas in Oregon, I commented that it was very much like where I grew up in the north east of Scotland. I find places that retain a certain wildness to be very magical and inspiring, and I told the boys this... I shall let Adam and D.J. tell the rest, because it gets a bit squiggly now...
APK: Oh, we're telling that story, are we? Well. I remembered wrongly Nick saying Portland (where I live currently) was like Cornwall, instead of Scotland, which is what he did say. So, when D.J. and I first hit on Arthurian legend and how much fun this all could turn out, I suggested, "Well, we can set it in Portland and really give it a twist! Nick said it was just like…" and suddenly my remembering what Nick said wrong kicked off a location! It works, though, because once we considered it, we could see parallels even if not the ones I thought we had.
DJK: I misremember most things, but it all worked out pretty well for the book, methinks.
EM: I love that the villains are fae (i.e., mythical beings). How did you come up with the idea to include evil fae who want to wage war on Earth?
NB: I enjoyed drawing these guys. One of my favourite things about The Lord of the Rings movies was the portrayal of Orcs and Uruk Hai. I was going for that kind of thing.
APK: Morganna being known as Morgan le Fae opened the door for us, storywise, to make this about a giant external threat, and that let us turn the angles a bit and question if they were even wrong.
DJK: Nick’s monstrous designs and the fact that we have the Fae doing awful things make them easy to see as the villains, but we hint at points of view. It’s not like Rani, Gwen, and Lance don’t swing their blades for the kill, too, especially at the start. We wanted to play with a little more gray than the black and white we dealt with in Amelia Cole. Further stories would hopefully play that out a bit more, as right now it’s buried in the “Ah! Monsters are attaching Earth!” action.
EM: Your version of Arthurian legend brings up some great discussion of self-identity and especially sexual identification and relationships. What sparked your creative decisions to explore sexuality alongside warfare?
NB: I always thought it was because Adam (middle name: Pendragon) Knave was a big, ole sexy warrior o' love. Is that not correct? He just wanted to write about what he knows best. War and sexiness.
DJK: It first started with our not wanting to just play into the known and well-trod Arthur / Guinevere / Lancelot love triangle. It’s a compelling story that has been told well many times, but we had it in our minds to do it a little differently, to not only reflect our modern times, but also a general casual acceptance of other sexualities and relationship dynamics that have always been around but are now thankfully becoming acceptable norms in society. While there can and will be drama in their poly relationship, we didn’t want it to be because a girl liked a girl who also liked a boy. The standard jealousies didn’t need to apply, and we wanted to just go for it without making a big, complicated deal of it. Rani, Gwen, and Lance each fancy one another in different ways, and they make a great team in all aspects of their lives.
APK: I think both Nick and D.J. are right.
EM: The character of Rani’s parents play a big role in this volume. What were your thoughts when creating their family dynamic?
NB: This was another big challenge for me. I had more distinct characters to portray in non-combative situations. Not only that, but I had to show that they were where Rani had sprung forth from so their appearances had to show that. There was a lot of interpersonal interactions in this book, and keeping that flowing visually was tricky.
DJK: Ah, but you did it wonderfully, ya’ sweet potato.
APK: I think we were all sick of stories that just remove the parents. They're hard to deal with! Most parents won't let their kids fight crime, so there is a long history of superhero comics knocking off parents. It can also be great motivation. But we wanted to go a different route. Rani needs support, and that's not just from her friends, but also her parents. She has to bring them around, and for their part we wanted to play with how they would, if they could, accept their child's fate.
EM: I find this work to be so relevant to 21st-century readers. What do you hope that readers will take away with them from The Once and Future Queen?
APK: Friendship and hope can change the world. The world itself is worth fighting for. Standing up for what you believe in is a good and valid choice. We all have choices to make, every day. Big and small. We need to make more of them consciously, kindly, and thoughtfully.
NB: I want young people to remember the lessons taught unto us by Adam Pendragon Knave and the D.J. Kirkbride: Keep your weapons clean. Always use eco-friendly detergent. Upon finding yourself in a battle with bloodthirsty Fae, do not hesitate to chop off their limbs. If you do decide to enter into any form of intimate congress with a person, remember to use a gentle light source. Maybe a pink light bulb or some nice candles. A little bit of romance goes a long way.
DJK: It’s always about finding that sliver of hope in the despair with the three of us when we work together. Don’t let the bastards get you down and fight the good fight while doing your best to remain true to yourself. Also the eco-friendly detergent and romance.
EM: After all of the excitement of Volume 1, what can we expect in Volume 2?
DJK: While we want volume 1 to stand on its own, we’d be lying if we didn’t say that we hope to do more—and that we know that’s obvious. Without giving any specifics away, I’d say to King Arthur and the Round Table fans who found favorite bits of the legends missing that there’s a good chance we didn’t just forget about them or cut them completely. There’s so much story to mine while in future adventures also going off in our own directions.
NB: My money is on more limbs getting chopped off. Maybe Ardeen can lose his other eye, and he'll become like a blind ronin. I wouldn't be surprised if things get a bit confused in the trouser department for our friends.
APK: The world is bigger than they know. The worlds are bigger.
EM: What is the best way for readers to learn more about The Once and Future Queen and your other work?
NB: Feel free to type my name Nick Brokenshire into your search engine of choice. I'm on Faceplant, Twitty, and Instacoffee. When looking for Adam, type in "Sex Warrior: into Google... Maybe. The D.J. can usually be found practicing his Burning Man set out in the Mojave desert late at night... Perhaps. Those are just my guesses.
APK: Like Nick, I can be found via my whole name on Twitter and Facebook. The three of us all worked on the Amelia Cole epic together, which can also be easily found. I also write other comics and novels, and a quick Amazon search will drag those up for you.
DJK: Google or Bing or Ask Jeeves our names, and ye shall find us! (But be wary of Nick’s other suggestions… I can’t imagine googling “sex warrior” will turn out well, at least at work.)