Welcome to Self-Published Spotlight, a regular interview column where I will be highlighting self-published comics and the creators and small print publishers who make them.
When I discovered SPACE KNIGHTS, by Kevin Anthony Catalan, (published by Cosmic Lion Productions) it was love at first sight. A multi-layered space epic, influenced by Jack Kirby, Heavy Metal Magazine, Moebius and Steranko, Space Knights is a comic that will pop your eyeballs and invade and stay in your head. I sat down with Kevin to get the rundown on the book, his influences and what is coming next in this brilliant space epic!
Monkeys Fighting Robots: Kevin, what’s your comic book origin? How did you get into comics?
Kevin Anthony Catalan: Comics were introduced to me by my late father that was a professional animator when I was 8 years old. I actually wanted to become an animator first, I drew on his light box desk. But I wanted to tell stories, and animation takes a long time to draw out scenes when it’s frame by frame. So my dad saw that and showed me Akira (Book 2 of the Epic Comics collection) and told me that this would be a route I should take if I wanted to tell stories. So he took me to a comic shop and in a 25-cent bin I picked up random comics I thought looked cool. I remember it was The Authority, War Machine, Steel and some ninja comic. The way my dad introduced me to comics helped me see them in an artistic view and medium. So I actually didn’t buy comics for its stories but the art and design, until High school, when I read Civil War and some Halo comics that Marvel put out.
MFR: Is that when you started becoming a heavier collector?
KAC: In high school, I bought what I can from my minimum wage job of 7 dollars an hour haha. But it was really college when I started to collect more. I dove deep head first on a lot of modern titles like paper girls, saga, southern bastards and so on. It’s mostly image but I got into Dark Horse Comics after. Cartoonist Kayfabe and the CK Ringside group have really guided me on older books to look at since I noticed I gravitated toward that. That has since influenced my work greatly.
MFR: What older books and artists specifically influenced you?
KAC: Early issues of Heavy Metal were something that influenced me greatly in college. Mobius, Druillet, and Steranko were my standouts. Druillet’s illustrative and design approach to comics really influenced the way I draw pages, that’s why you see a lot of spreads. Same thing as Starenko’s Outland for Heavy Metal. Mobius’s ability to immerse the reader into his weird worlds with his use of color and his drawing technique.
MFR: I definitely see Moebius and that Heavy Metal aesthetic to your art. Also Kirby.
KAC: Oh yeah! Kirby. That’s my approach to aesthetics and story. Out of all the stories, New Gods really influenced Space Knights.
MFR: Oh hell yeah! Totally see that! So since we’re talking Space Knights, can you share its origin? And maybe a new elevator pitch style description for our readers?
KAC: Yeah! Space Knights is actually difficult to pitch as a story. But I rather pitch the world. Here’s the pitch I used at cons: Space Knights is a space-fantasy comic series that tells 3 stories taking place within the same solar system plagued by interplanetary race warfare between men, elves, Eldritch cults, religious inquisition and corporate-sponsored genocide. I believe this is the best way I can describe it since Space Knights has three stories that are entirely different from one another. But here are the pitches for the individual stories. Cult Hunters is a buddy cop adventure that is a bit more humorous than the other two, where we follow Hale and Hellion, freelance mercenaries that specialize in hunting “cults” or heretics. They are pretty much hired guns by the church. Iron Hand is more of a superhero story. That focuses on a father and son tale and brings up the question of what it means to be a hero to someone. Lastly, Mudfoothill is a war tale of Grunts on the ground. Where were in the middle of the fight between men and elves but not in the eyes of fantastical heroes but the expendable troopers told in both perspectives of the races. Origin story I would say something that’s a bit weird. I technically started this story back in elementary school where it was supposed to be a superhero comic like the X-Men. But that evolved through our high school where I became a big fan of fantasy and medieval history. Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. But it became too big with all the world-building. I had maps and journals full of lore. But I always failed to start the comic. Then, I’m college I put it on the back burner, and I focused on honing my skills, studying art at San Francisco State. I then had a final project for my comics class where we just had to make a comic! I was really into my era of wrestling (2000s), retro sci-fi, aesthetics of pulp fiction art covers, and medieval knights. So I came up with a short comic called Space Knights where Iron Hand is a challenged champion in a knights’ tournament that’s very similar to wrestling events. I treated the knights as wrestlers with commentators like “Baldee McDaddy”. I liked the world and that short story so much that I needed to make it into a comic. I needed to do world-building again. But then it clicked. I had this fantasy world built up with years of work. I then fit that into Space Knights and it blended spectacularly.
MFR: Oh wow. Do you still have that version?
KOC: Yes! It’s actually in the back of the Cosmic Lion reprint. Eli (Cosmic Lion Publisher) wanted to have a lot of back matter. So I found old scans and got to work. Although I wasn’t able to finish that comic. More of a setup. I wanted to do 16 pages but my professor at the time told me I couldn’t do it. But I knew I could but then he told me I only had a week. So I was only able to do the set up of the story which was 8 pages. I was still doing lettering during the class before I turned it in. He lied to me and I actually had another week. I don’t know why he did that. But I felt robbed (laughs). So angry in fact, that I made the series
MFR: That is weird. That he would lie!
KOC: Yeah. I think he just didn’t think I’d finish.
MFR: How did you link up with Cosmic Lion Productions?
KOC: I linked up with Cosmic Lion through the Cartoonist Kayfabe Ringside group on Facebook. Eli Schwab, the publisher of CL, was a fan of my work. And we’ve talked in the Zoom calls with the group and even did an indie spotlight for me. But I never knew he publishes, so in the Jim Rugg symposium, Eli asked about my progress with Space Knights, concerning the second issue or the prelude zine and why it was out of print. I told him my current problem is funding. I used my tax return money to pay for printing. Big gamble I know. But this time I had none saved. He told me if I ever needed help just contact him. And this was in January of 2022. Fast forward to July, I knew I couldn’t do it myself. So I asked Eli what he meant by “help”. We had a Zoom call and pretty much explained to me he wanted to publish it. We met in person in LA in August. Signed the paper and we got to work to bring you the books we have today.
MFR: And it’s such a beautiful book. I love the paper stock of the pages! Besides Space Knights, do you do anything else creative?
KOC: Thank you! And yes. I actually do 3D models and sculpting in my spare time. I started using 3D models for issue 2 of Space Knights to help out speed up the production. But really I want to make toys! Another creative thing is just painting and writing short stories but I haven’t had the chance since I’ve been focused on making comics. It’s something that’s fun and I keep to myself.
MFR: Man I would love some Space Knights figures!
KOC: I can’t say much. But it’s in the works. Been linking up with people in the designer toy field.
KOC: I guess just a little advice for other cartoonists out there. Making comics is hard. Mostly when you’re doing it all by yourself. But the life you live will be harder when you bare that crushing weight of regret by giving up and never finishing that comic. So Keep moving forward, and Make More Comics!