For this installment of the Geeks OUT Comics LGBTQ spotlight we’re going to switch it up and speak with someone on the editorial side of comics, Konner Knudsen
Chris Allo: What drew you into wanting to work in the comics industry? What was the first comic or OGN that made you really see the power and potential of the medium?
Konner Knudsen: The passion I saw from creators in artist alley is what really drew me in to wanting to work in the industry. My passion is storytelling, and I consider it a privilege to get to help creators tell the stories they want to tell.
That comic was Hellboy. Mignola’s work made me rethink how I want to tell my own stories.
CA: So I came across you on Twitter, you’re very open about being queer, and you really want creators in the community to succeed. If at all, how has being queer informed your work, or how you edit a book or work with creators?
KK: This is a tough question. I would say that the treatment of other LGBTQ people in our industry drives me to do the best job I can. I suppose it also makes me more critical of non-LGBTQ creators’ portrayal of LGBTQ people, we exist and deserve strong representation not the slapdash tokenism or outright bigotry we have so often been subjected to in the past.
CA: As someone who works in mainstream comics, what do you think the future of LGBTQ representation looks like there?
KK: I believe that representation will continue to improve in mainstream comics, where in recent years some of the best-selling work has been driven by or at least featured LGBTQ characters. Ideally, it will continue in the direction where our characters are not treated as props but as people.
CA: You’ve worked on some really cool projects! Some of which are licensed: Aliens, Stranger Things, etc. What are the challenges of working with licensed content? What are the perks of working with licensed content?
KK: I love science fiction and horror. I have an acute interest in stories that include elements from mythology and folklore…
All the Stranger Things books, Dragon Age: Blue Wraith (HC coming out August 19th!), and Giants (by the Valderama Bros). In particular, Death Orb by Ryan Ferrier and Alejandro Aragon is still one of my favorite creator- owned books that I have worked on, the team is as energetic and outrageous as their comic. Another is Berserk. I love manga and have really enjoyed getting to work on our new big beautiful deluxe editions!
Recently I got to work on a fantastic new edition of Andrew MacLean’s ApocalyptiGirl and am absolutely in love with how it came together. Our designers did a killer job. I helped put together the sketchbook section and am abnormally proud of how it turned out.
ApocalyptiGirl art by Andrew Maclean
There is often a large amount of responsibility attached to creating licensed comics. Fans expect a lot from us but we also need to keep the parent company happy. We are like kids playing at a friend’s house: we get to borrow their action figures and owe it to our friends to not break or scuff those characters in any way. The challenge is taking their toys on a compelling adventure without bringing them back with scars. I would say we do a pretty great job. The main perk of course is having those huge fan bases to make happy and hopefully draw them in to read other comics too.
CA: Aside from the licensed projects that you’ve edited, you’re also continuing the great tradition of supporting and publishing creator owned books that Dark Horse started so many years ago, which is amazing! Can you discuss any type of criteria you guys have for selecting creators or projects that you decide to publish?
KK: The brilliant thing about Dark Horse editorial (in my experience so far) is that everyone here can pursue any project they want to do. From OGNs, to art books, to video game guidebooks, to reprinting historic anthologies like Creepy and Eerie, to first time creative teams with exciting new mini-series, to wild crossover comics such as Aliens vs. Predator. The criteria is that the editor believes in the project, and I think a lot of wonderfully creative things have come out of this loose format. Without the ability to tell you in detail, I can guarantee there are some more exciting books on the way.
CA: It’s promo time! Can you tell us about some of the creator owned projects you’ve worked on that will be coming out in the next year? Are there any particular projects/creators that stand out for you?
KK: Ooh spoilers! Man, I have quite a few books I wish I could tell you about but don’t want to spoil just yet. I am getting to edit some really exciting creator owned books with some amazing teams, and if I could I would shout them all out right now. I can tell you that more than half of the books I am bringing to Dark Horse are from queer creators. The “Expanded” edition of Grafity’s Wall by Ram V, Anand R.K. and Aditya Bidikar comes out in March. It is going to be beautiful and if you haven’t read it yet I highly recommend you check it out. In my humble opinion it is one of the greatest graphic novels of the decade (if not all time).
CA: What can LGBTQ creators do to maximize our representation in the industry?
KK: Signal boost and reach out to your fellow LGBTQ creators, stay connected, keep relationships positive. Provide constructive feedback and push each other to make the best work you can! I have been honored to work with people who aren’t just excited to work with me but excited to introduce me to their friends and their friends work. Do more of that! Introduce your non-LGBTQ pros and fans to your queer friends’ work so that they are more visible. Those who have found success in this industry need to keep speaking up for fellow LGBTQ creators who are trying to break in. When someone appears to have “made it” keep supporting their work so they can keep kicking butt, and lift others up.
CA: Is there something the comics publishing industry as a whole can do to get more people interested in reading queer content? If you were in charge of an all inclusive content company, what are some strategies you’d employ?
KK: I think the sales of queer comics and OGN’s have already proven the “Old Guard” (whoever they were) wrong about people not wanting to read queer content. I think the challenging part of your question is separating “Queer Content” from “Not-Queer Content” The strategy I would employ is to have plenty of books that aren’t explicitly “Queer” make sure they have inclusive rep and that they treat that rep fairly. Queer people and BIPOC (*looks around the town square*) EXIST! They should be present in all forms of media. The other part of that equation is making sure to hire diverse voices and let them tell the stories they want to tell. Don’t pigeonhole them! Asking marginalized creators to only write about characters that share their identity is also bad (and something that happens too often).
CA: You mentioned really loving LGBTQ stories-can you tell us a few titles and creators that you feel do a great job of representing queer voices?
KK: Too many people to mention everyone!
On A Sunbeam art by Tillie Walden
Tillie Walden: if you love comics and haven’t read any of her amazing OGNs you are missing out. MY favorite so far is On a Sunbeam.
Mark Russell: what can I say? I feel that Exit Stage Left is simply one of the best comics DC has ever published.
Contact High by By Josh Eckert & James F. Wright is stunning queer sci-fi.
Contact High words and art by Josh Eckert and James F. Wright
SO MANY PEOPLE: Terry Blas, David Booher, Joe Carallo, Rosemary V. O., Marie Enger, Bee Kahn, Mags Visagio. I could go on for days.
CA: What lesson or advice would you give to aspiring artists/writers? What is some practical advice you can give to someone pitching a story or submitting a portfolio?
KK: While pitching can be scary and time consuming, don’t stop everything to do it. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to make comics, make your own. Print your own zines. Try your hand at webcomics. Write scripts and keep drawing and coloring and lettering. Put yourself out there, tell the story that only you can tell.
Practical advice on pitching and etc:
Aim for Brevity.
Be organized, confident, and respectful of other people’s time.
Your pitch pages will generally be the most important part.
We need to see that you and your team know how to make a comic, which is something you have to show.
CA: What do you wish you knew then that you know now when it comes to being an editor in today’s comic book industry?
KK: That most creators are a lot easier to talk to than I thought and that I shouldn’t be afraid of telling someone I want to work with them. Because sometimes (if you are lucky) they might want to work with you!
CA: Who is your favorite existing queer character? Why?
KK: This is a super difficult question for me to answer. . .
Art by Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson
Lucifer, in so many iterations is painted as queer. DC’s Lucifer is great but my personal favorite is Luci from The Wicked & Divine. Rebellious, confident, too honest, full of answers and secrets. Too eager to be loved. I could go on.
CA: Luci from Wic/Div is one of my favorites as well! Thanks you so much, Konner!