For today’s interview, Devin spoke to Daniel Kalban, creator of the comic American Dreams about his latest project, Knightwrath! Currently on Kickstarter, Knightwrath is a gritty anti-hero comic inspired by the likes of material such as Venom, Pitt, and the Darkness. Let’s dive into interview to learn more about Knightwrath.
Devin: What’s your favorite sandwich?
Daniel: Starting off with a tough one, aren’t ya! In all seriousness, there’s a sandwich from Buffalo (where I went to college) called beef-on-weck. It’s rare roast beef, au jus, and grated horseradish on a local kind of roll called a kimmelweck roll. It’s probably one of the best sandwiches out there, it’s so simple, and it’s really good. I think there’s a good one at the restaurant atop Niagara Falls.
Devin: What inspired you to create Knightwrath?
Daniel: It was actually part of a back-and-forth between me and Gabe (Santos, aka Eskivo, the artist on Knightwrath) trying to figure out what kind of story we wanted to tell. We basically settled on wanting to do a big bruiser kind of character, so then, I wanted to think of the character’s background. I wanted a new twist on things, so I made Joe, our erstwhile antihero, someone with no self-esteem. He’s one of the last people you’d expect of being the brash and aggressive Knightwrath, before or after his transformation. Plus, it’s fun to have the personalities war internally within the character, but not in the way you’d see with Venom (even though that was an inspiration). Gabe, I know, was also influenced, design-wise, by the Maxx and Pitt, with a tad bit of Spawn. He actually nailed the initial design pretty much on the first try.
Devin: Does Knightwrath take place within the same universe/continuity as American Dreams?
Daniel: It does. We’re teasing it mainly for this first arc (with little teases here and there), but I wanted this to mainly stand on its own two legs for the first story before we bring in a certain high-flying familiar face. However, said hero does make an “appearance” of sorts in the first issue if you look carefully.
Devin: Let’s shift things a bit. What are a few tips you’d share with other creatives who wish to achieve success in comics?
Daniel: Be hard-working, hit your deadlines, but above all, be kind. You need a combination of the three to really succeed.
Devin: Being of the Jewish faith, do you incorporate anything of your heritage into your work?
Daniel: It depends on the work. American Dreams is more obvious as it’s dealing with a more overtly Jewish protagonist in the very Jewish milieu of the Lower East Side at the start of the 20th Century. So it’s easier to bring in aspects of how I approach my background, culturally and religiously, through that lens than in Knightwrath. But I do enjoy bringing in more Jewish aspects into my stories because, despite Jews basically starting up both the comics industry and Hollywood, we don’t really see Jewish stories in either medium. I mean, most representation I had growing up on kids’ television was either Rugrats holiday specials, Lamb Chop holiday specials, or the token menorah lightings. So I want to bring more Jewish, or Jewish influenced, stories into the world. An example of this would be a western I’m working on, Tzaddik. The title comes from the Hebrew word for “righteous man”, and definitely looks at the genre through a Jewish-American lens. I half-jokingly refer to it as my “Kosher Western”. In Knightwrath, it’s less Jewish influenced, at least in issue 1. Issue 2 will be bringing in some references to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), but not as overtly as you’d find in American Dreams or Tzaddik.
Devin: As a creator, what do you hope to achieve in the comic industry?
Daniel: Well, Big Two work would be great (laughs). But in all seriousness? Just to have a body of work that I’m proud of and people enjoy.
Devin: Do you have any favorite indie creators currently? If so, who?
Daniel: Jarred Lujan is one; probably one of the hardest working people in indie comics. Kat Calamia, who I have tabled with in the past, is another. Laurie Foster and her Unlikely Hero Studios are constantly putting out good work, as is Mike Watson over at Freestyle Komics and Charlie McElvy at Xion Studios. And I do love Vito Delsante’s Stray as well. I’m probably leaving out a ton of friends and fellow creators who I’m unfortunately forgetting.
Devin: Daniel, could we get some more information on Knightwrath going forward? Anything special planned for the character?
Daniel: I have written the next two issues of Knightwrath already, which completes arc 1. Issue 3 will be extra-sized. Gabe and I have been discussing future arc ideas as well, but it’s also somewhat depending on his schedule. We have plenty of teases for the next arcs set up at the end of issue 3.
Devin: Any plans to have Knightwrath team up with another indie comic protagonist?
Daniel: What’s funny is that a few weeks ago, I had Dody (Eka, artist on American Dreams) draw up a pinup of Knightwrath and Liberty fighting. So…there might be some gears turning, especially since there were some great reactions to the pinup. As for outside the “Liberty-verse”? Some people have expressed interest in a crossover or two, so I’ll have to see how it all goes down.
Devin: Final question. Where can readers find your work and support Knightwrath?
Daniel: You can support me by buying digital copies of American Dreams from the Atlas Studios store (I’m working on my physical copy inventory before making those available as well). Until April 14th, we are running the Kickstarter for Knightwrath, and we’re hoping to get the rewards out in June. After that, I’m hoping to quickly launch the Kickstarter for American Dreams, Vol 1, which will be our first trade. To be more up to date, you can check out the American Dreams FB page, the Atlas Studios FB page, my Twitter, or my Instagram.