GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Interview: Jeremy Whitley (The Dog Knight graphic novel) | I Smell Sheep

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Interview: Jeremy Whitley (The Dog Knight graphic novel)

Give a big Sheep welcome to The Dog Knight writer Jeremy Whitley!

Do you have a dog?
I do! Though, fun fact, I’m a little bit allergic and didn’t want to get a dog. My daughters, on the other hand, wanted nothing more. They talked us into going out to the local rescue and finding a dog and I just accepted that I was going to need to take allergy medicine pretty regularly.

However, once we got there, the girls were running around playing with every dog on the little farm they had. Meanwhile, this big old hound dog came up to me and gently but insistently pushed his haunches up against me and quietly demanded to be scratched. He was so funny and silly and…a little bit dumb. I fell in love with that big oaf. We named him Ace and he mostly lives on our couch these days.
dog named Ace

How did the idea of The Dog Knight come to you? Characters first or story first?
This one was pretty unusual in that it came together concept first. Dogs are so weird and they do so many little things that don’t seem to make sense. The idea that they were quietly fighting some secret war to protect humans was where it started. But I liked the idea of there being one human character that got a look into this world and help dogs do the things that dogs can’t.
The Dog Knight middle grade graphic novel
Once I had that idea locked in, the question became “what kind of person would dogs choose? What sort of things would dogs look for in a champion? Frankie as a character was born from that question along with the question of what sort of person could need the sort of absolute and unquestioning love that dogs provide.

How did you find a publisher interested in The Dog Knight?
Well, all credit here goes to my agent Moe Ferrara. As soon as I brought the concept to her, she said “I know who will love this book” and she was right. It was the really basic concept and a few plot points when Holly West at Feiwel and Friends saw it, but she saw the potential in it right away. From there it was just a question of chipping away at the marble until we had the full picture. The full picture being of course a non-binary drummer kid wearing a helmet with big fluffy ears on it.
As a cis-white male (if I’m wrong, please correct me) why did you choose a Black non-binary character like Frankie?
Well, as a cis white male, there is not a shortage of heroes out there that look like me. There’s a superhero movie about one coming out almost every month this year. I think it’s much more important to tell stories about people who are under-represented in these types of stories.

Frankie, non-binary character from The Dog Knight graphic novel
When I started making comics, I wanted to make sure that my daughters could see themselves represented in comics the same way I had been able to. 
Princeless comic book by Jeremy Whitley
That’s what led me to create Princeless. I continue to let that desire to build characters that might represent and inspire young readers in ways they’ve never experienced in fiction drive the kind of characters I write. Right now, non-binary and trans kids are being made to feel wrong and excluded throughout the United States and other countries, but particularly here in the south. I have the amazing luck of knowing a number of incredible non-binary people in my life and I wanted kids and other readers who might not have that same luck to be able to see it in fiction. This story called for someone who is themselves even when it’s difficult and Frankie was the perfect fit.

How did you find your artist, Bre Indigo?
When I first brought the book to Feiwel and Friends, one of their conditions for picking it up was that they got to approve the artist/art style we used for it. I was fine with that under the condition that we find an artist who was non-binary. I wanted to make sure we had somebody who understood the importance of that aspect of Frankie as well as or better than me and could check me on mistakes I might not even realize I was making.
To their credit, F&F was very amicable to this request and brought me art from several different non-binary artists that they liked for the project. When I saw Bre’s art, I was sold immediately. I knew they were the perfect choice for this book and I was so excited when it turned out they were available to do it. I literally haven’t had a second thought about it since then. I think Bre is the secret sauce that takes this book from something I thought was good to something that’s extraordinary. Every time I get new art for the book, I have to do a little happy dance. They’re so good!

How much creative license did Bre have to illustrate your story? As a Black queer person, did Bre share some insight you might not have thought about?
That insight was actually something I was excited to receive. I told Bre from the get-go that if there was ever anything in the story that they thought didn’t work or needed to change, to let me know. As long as fixing it didn’t break some other part of the story, I’m prepared to change it on their say-so. I always want artists I work with to feel like a book is collaborative and not just some case where they’ve been hired as employees to realize my perfect artistic vision. But I think with this book that was even more true than usual. I can confident in saying that his book would not be the book it is without Bre.

Do you have a favorite dog in The Dog Knight?
This is a harder question than you would think because it often changes depending on the dog I’m writing at the time, but I think the truth is, once the art comes back, it has to be The Yorkshire Terror.
Just writing the Batman-esque dialog that comes from the Champion of Justice makes me chuckle, but seeing this tiny little Yorkie deliver the lines in Bre’s style never fails to tickle me. I may never come up with another concept as purely funny as “a yorkie with the attitude of Batman”

Do you have a personal playlist for The Dog Knight? What music would play during the gremlin battles? What music would Frankie listen to?
You know, I have specific playlists for some other projects but not really for The Dog Knight. I honestly write a lot of film scores and orchestral music. I spent a lot of the writing of this series listening to my playlist full of John Williams music.
As for Frankie, I think they choose a lot of the stuff they love based on the drums. They like a good mix of rock, pop, r&b and rap, but really like songs with a great beat that they can try and figure out on their snare and play along with.

What is Frankie’s favorite meal?
You know, I think Frankie is the kind of kid who will try just about anything once but ultimately prefers old favorites like mac and cheese.

What is your favorite meal?
I’m a sucker for a nice big bowl of Ramen. Especially Tonkatsu, but really any warm bowl of broth and noodles with a ramen egg will do it for me. I’ve become the sort of old man who’s a big fan of things in the soup family at the ripe old age of thirty-eight.

Chapter 9: The Trial of Smell was my favorite (Chapter 8 Trial of Justice was a close second!) Do you have a favorite chapter? And Why?
That’s a tough question, but I think I’m with you on this one. The Trial of Smell is a rare and wonderful example of, when I was outlining, only having a very vague idea of what I was going to do and then really finding it in the moment as I was writing. I don’t want to pay myself on the back too hard, but I think a lot of this is Bre’s doing as well. It could have easily been the worst or least engaging test, but on the page, it just clicks. I love both the chapter and the two characters who are introduced in it.

The Dog Knight (The Dog Knight, 1)
by Jeremy Whitley (Author), Bre Indigo (Illustrator), Melissa Capriglione (colorist)
May 16, 2023
Genre: graphic novel, middle-grade, fantasy, superhero, Children's Animal Comics , Children's Fantasy Comics, comics
Publisher: Macmillian
A nonbinary middle schooler saves a dog from bullies and is offered the chance to become the Dog Knight, protector of a magical pact between humans and dogs, in the first book of this humorous and heartwarming middle-grade graphic novel series from Jeremy Whitely, author of Princeless, and Bre Indigo, illustrator of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel.

Frankie knows who they are. They’re a drummer, they’re nonbinary, and they’re… the Dog Knight?

One day Frankie is a relatively normal middle schooler, with relatively normal challenges, like finding the perfect outfit to wear during their drum solo during the upcoming band concert. The next, they save a friendly golden retriever from bullies and suddenly find themselves in a giant magical doghouse, with a funny looking helmet, talking to a group of dog superheroes called the Pawtheon about a job offer.

If Frankie can prove that they possess the six dog virtues of loyalty, kindness, honesty, justice, stubbornness, and smell, they will be named the Dog Knight and be given the power to fight alongside the Pawtheon and save the world from the forces of chaos.

Maybe there is more to Frankie than they thought?

About the Author
A writer of comic books, books, podcasts, and more living in Durham, North Carolina. He is the creator of the Eisner Nominated and Glyph award winning series "Princeless" as well as it spin-off "Raven the Pirate Princess" and "The School for Extraterrestrial Girls." He has also written several books and comics for Marvel Comics including the critically-acclaimed "The Unstoppable Wasp", "The Future Foundation", "Champions", and "Avengers". He has also written over fifty issues of the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" comic book series.

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