Dennis Knight, Pronto Comics editor and writer, joins us to discuss inspiration and the future of CROSS, Pronto Comics, and creative collaborations. CROSS follows Xavier Cross, a conflicted contract killer that grows weary of his line of work. He discovers that an alternate version of himself in a parallel universe is willing to terrorize America and sets his sights on a new target — himself.
ComicsVerse: I know you’ve known Juls Capella since your college days at St. Thomas Aquinas. Having just graduated myself, I’m curious as to what you studied in college?
Dennis Knight: Psychology, believe it or not. The mind always interested me, the way personalities can develop, coping mechanisms, moral compasses and how they vary from person to person.
CV: Did your appreciation for the human psyche play into the kinds of comics you enjoyed reading and writing?
DK: I guess to a degree. I wasn’t aware of it until after I studied psych. I had a better understanding of the characters after classes. The characters resonated more with me when I read them.
CV: I ask because I know the main character in CROSS questions the ethics and morality of his line of work. What inspired CROSS?
DK: An idea I had fixing my tie for work one day. That just stayed with me and then I started writing things down like snatches of dialogue, how the characters would look.
CV: Oh wow. And did any of your own favorite comics or creators inspire the way the dialogue and story formed or how you envisioned the art?
DK: Yep — Brian Michael Bendis. His work on Dark Avengers inspired me to the point that I thought I could write comics too. To this day, everything he writes is gold to me.
CV: So, to ask you about the process of publishing CROSS – the idea that Pronto comics is an independent non-plot publishing company is interesting. I love that they work to set up these wonderful collaborations between writers and artists and help people publish their works. As I understand it, that’s not how Kirk and yourself met. What made you approach Pronto Comics?
DK: Approaching Pronto comics was 100% Kirk’s idea. I did not know who they were before Kirk told me and I researched the company. I think the fact that we had four completed issues by the time we submitted made us attractive as a creative team to work with.
CV: What was it about Pronto that made it appealing to both of you to publish through them?
DK: I liked the fact that they were local to me. I also liked the fact that they helped people break into the comic book business.
CV: That was one of the first things I thought going through their work as well. Building on you and Kirk as a creative team, the use of color and the boldness and sharpness of Kirk’s style is incredible and really compliments the story. How did you manage to find that balance? How does a writer-artist relationship like that develop?
DK: To be completely honest, I got very lucky with Kirk. I tried to work with a few artists before him and it did not work out, for one reason or another. I wouldn’t trade Kirk for anybody in the business.
CV: It’s not easy to translate what you want as a writer to another creator. Your dynamic works and it shows.
DK: I hope we have a long professional relationship together. I know it’s not easy, I am truly fortunate that he understands my scripts and is eager to offer suggestions to improve how it looks on the page.
CV: That was actually going to be my next question. Did you give him an idea of what you wanted the comic to be like stylistically or did he suggest a style and format?
DK: Well at first I was very controlling as a writer, much to my embarrassment. My scripts were 60 pages long for a 22 page comic. Rookie mistake. One day, Kirk told me to let him do his job. So I eased up and let him have more control in the artistic aspect of the comic — best decision I ever made. His artwork really shone through the final pages and improved my story a lot.
CV: I think that’s only natural. When you write, you already have an idea of what the comic looks like, so I’m always curious as to how that comes through in a writer-artist relationship
DK: Trust. You have to trust that your artist is talented enough to depict your story in the best light possible. I trust Kirk very much. I give him a script and never worry what he is going to do with it.
CV: That’s the mark of a great collaboration!
DK: Yes, [it’s] not easy to come by. Also, when you check your ego at the door, it makes the collaborative process a lot easier. Nobody wants to work with an asshole.
CV: [Laughs] That definitely transcends all industries, but is always especially unfortunate to hear about with comics.
DK: Yeah, unfortunately not everybody knows that comics are a team sport. Each job is important and credit should be shared.
CV: Absolutely. It’s a collective creative effort.
DK: I agree, 100 percent.
CV: As I understand it, you were advising Dorphise Jean for her story Spirit’s Destiny (which looks incredible). Do you see yourself collaborating with more indie creators in that sense?
DK: Dorphise is a wonderful person and a talented creator. I wish her well. From what I hear, her book is doing very well and I am happy for her. How me and Dorphise met is a funny story. We were in a lot of the same Facebook groups. I would comment on her questions that she posted in the groups, she liked my answers. Then she just sent me a Facebook message out of the blue and we have been friends ever since. But as time went on, she didn’t need me as much. I am always here for her but I think she has a good handle on things now so I am happy for her.
CV: I always love hearing about how the internet connects creators. The potential for artist-writer consultations and future collaborations grows and it’s great. Do you see yourself working with more creators in that advisory capacity, through Pronto or individually?
DK: I do see myself working with more creators in an advisory capacity, which brings me to two organizations I would like to talk about — Creator After Con Network (CACN) and the Comic Book School. They are very valuable establishments for people wanting to work in comics. The Comic Book School is run by Buddy Scalera. His work with Marvel Comics and Wizard Magazine has made him a staple in the comic book industry. He has written many books in the self-help genre about comics. I have had the pleasure of working with Buddy many times during NYCC on the Creator Connection panel. Buddy has a genuine desire to help people break into the business and help people establish professional networks. CACN encourages people to network and break into the business. They hosted two after parties during NYCC and I had the pleasure to be attached to both of them. We hosted our first round table discussion. It was great.
CV: Thanks for speaking on both of those wonderful organizations! Comic books have such potential as a medium and the industry is, now more than ever I think, so receptive and open to independent creators thanks to organizations like this.
DK: Hopefully we will host more events like the round table in the future. Yes, I work with them every chance I get because I did not have such opportunities when I was starting out.
CV: Yes! I think that would be great at smaller cons like MoCCAfest (which is a favorite of mine) as well. It really fosters a professional community.
DK: I agree.
CV: I wanted to ask you about the future of CROSS. How many issues and arcs do you see Kirk and yourself working on?
DK: This question is always the most fun. Kirk and I have discussed the future of CROSS many times and he has really thrown himself into the planning stages of future issues. The current arc we are working on will probably have four to five more issues. He’s really excited for the future of the characters, so we will sit down and plan issue #8 in the near future. I have an idea for the second arc and we will discuss that when the first arc is finished.
CV: That’s great! I’m really excited to see what happens next. I know the issues are available through indyplanet and the first issue is available in print and as an e-comic. Do you have plans to digitize the others as they continue to be released?
DK: Yes, I’m trying to decide the best way to go about it
CV: Great to hear! I love and primarily prefer print comics but I also love having electronic copies to read on the go. And finally, can we get any information on your project KNIGHTZERO with Kristian Kruz?
DK: Oh man, it’s such an interesting concept and project. Kristian Kruz is a visionary creator and I am happy to be attached to the project. The vision is his, I am just helping with the technical stuff like formatting and slight creative suggestions. Due to my schedule, I haven’t been able to meet with Kristian as much as I would like, but I plan on meeting with him soon for another creative team meeting. The concept is mind blowing — it’s a high-end sci-fi fantasy epic. Normally I don’t write fantasy, but this project is pushing me to write in a genre I am not comfortable with, so I welcome the challenge.
CV: That’s incredibly exciting. How did you two meet?
DK: Another funny story — I still can’t believe it. I was out at a bar. I like to play a game – I ask a stranger if they can guess what I do for a living, with no hints. Kristian overheard me ask someone and he guessed that I wrote comics on the first try. I was surprised because no one ever guesses, correctly anyway, so I bought him a beer and he told me about his project. I gave him my card and I didn’t really think anything of it — I give my card out all the time, people rarely use it. About two days later, he called me and left a message. I called him back and we set a meeting for that Tuesday night. I met him and he asked me for my resume, so I put my [CROSS] issue #3 on the table. Two pages in, he told me he wanted to work with me.
CV: That’s amazing. By far one of my favorite collaboration stories. The universe works in such weird ways. Now I’m even more excited to read KNIGHTZERO.
DK: Thank you, I will let him know you are excited for the project. That will make him happy.
CV: Thanks for taking the time to interview with us, I’m looking forward to see what the future has in store for CROSS and to see what comes of KNIGHTZERO and your future work.
DK: Thank you for having me, it was a pleasure.