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Adventure & Romance In Cosmoknights: An Interview With Hannah Templer

Fans of Hannah Templer’s Cosmoknights had reason to be excited when Top Shelf announced in early April a second volume of the “gladiator lesbians in space” saga as Templer describes it. Today there’s more cause for celebration with the book’s official release in comic shops, bookstores, and online retailers. Templer was gracious in taking time for this interview and to talk about Cosmoknights.

Now what if you’ve never heard of Cosmoknights before today? Something made you curious enough to click over so I hope you’ll take a few moments out of your day to read the following interview to discover a memorable ragtag crew out to smash the patriarchy and a celebration of found family and queer romance set against the backdrop of grand space adventures and epic worldbuilding!

Please check out the Top Shelf page with review blurbs and handy links to buy a copy from a number of retailers.


Gay League: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Cosmoknights volume 2! What does it feel like to you knowing the book will be out in a matter of a few days? The timing for Pride month couldn’t be any more perfect!

Hannah Templer: It feels really good. I worked hard on this book for a long time (and during the pandemic), so it’s great to be closing this chapter of my life. And as for pride month, I feel like a lot of the themes in this book are very relevant right now!

GL: Admitting this may be bad form, but I’m a latecomer to Cosmoknights. After Top Shelf’s PR people got in touch with me about the new book I got a hold of volume one. The first twenty pages of teenage Pan and Tara’s story had me hooked and I binge read the rest of the book. Likewise with binging on the second one. Your story is about queer romance against the backdrop of a space adventure but it’s also so much more than that. How would you describe your story for people who are new to your work?

HT: Thank you– I think you hit the nail on the head. One of my goals with this series was to write queer characters and relationships against an epic backdrop. The hook is “gladiator lesbians in space”, but if I’m being honest, what Cosmoknights is really about is female friendship, found family, and fighting tooth and nail for the people you love.

Cosmoknights follows the story of Pandora Leverett, a young woman who grows into her own as a feminist and queer adult after stowing away on a lesbian couple’s spaceship. We meet her at the beginning of the series as a teenager, sneaking out to go to a concert with her best friend Tara– but we quickly learn that Tara is a princess, soon to be betrothed to a stranger. In this universe, gladiators called “Cosmoknights” compete for the hands of princesses in aerial jousting matches– Tara asks Pan to help her run away, and she accepts, changing the course of their lives forever. Years later, when a pair of injured Cosmoknights show up on Pan’s doorstep, Pan is intrigued– she learns that these women are different, competing in jousting matches not for the hands of princesses, but for their freedom. She sneaks onto their spaceship to join the cause, and the rest of the adventure unfolds from there!

GL: One of the impressions that came to me from reading Cosmoknights is how seamlessly it flows together from the characters and their growth to the impressive worldbuilding and social customs to the interwoven messages. How did the idea for the story come to you and what was the process like from initial idea to the point when you were confident to start it as a project?

HT: Truthfully, the story is inspired by real events! I wrote Cosmoknights when I came out as a lesbian fairly late in life, and had to fight tooth and nail for myself and my freedom– that energy translated directly into the story you see today. I put a little bit of myself into each character, but Cass’s story mirrors a lot of the things I experienced in my own life.

As for the process, I jumped right into the project, with a pretty good idea of the characters and where I wanted things to go– character-driven writing comes the most naturally to me, so it feels very fluid to worldbuild through that context. As I mentioned earlier, the characters and their relationships should actually feel quite familiar, with the epic sci-fi backdrop almost seeming incidental at times. That being said, I really enjoy fleshing out the world and all of its details (and designing spaceships and mech armor!), but the window into the universe is always through the eyes of the main characters.

GL: One of the themes, perhaps the major one, is found family. Your dedication in both volumes reads: “To Found Family.” The way you explore the notion of found family, first between Pan and Tara, and then with Pan, Bee, and Cass, and the other cast members as the story progresses is beautiful and also honest in how characters are allowed to have concern, doubt, and other emotions about who becomes part of a found family.

HT: Thank you– yes, it felt right to dedicate the series to Found Family because I credit my own survival to my chosen family as well. I think the process of choosing who to keep and let into your life is a very familiar experience for a lot of queer people, and the second book really digs into the joys and complexities of that.

GL: The contrast and balance you’ve created with futuristic elements such as interplanetary space travel with a version of Medieval culture and traditions makes for imaginative visuals and also from a plot perspective in that the primary mission for the Cosmoknights in that their goal is to rescue princesses in a very “smash the patriarchy” sense. While the feeling of danger is never far from the minds of Pan, Cass, Bee, Kate, and the others you also infuse the characters with a celebratory energy of queer anarchy that really resonates even more in the wake of a conservative SCOTUS majority gutting Roe. That really isn’t so much a question as it is an appreciative “thank you!” Using Kate and Scottie to introduce different concerns or approaches to the reality of their worlds and lives is quite a nice move.

HT: Thank you– a big part of the second book focuses on how certain voices in our communities tend to overpower others, and the reality of coexisting and cooperating can be more nuanced if “freedom” looks different for different people. I really enjoyed digging into this with this group of characters. Queer victory is definitely a centerpiece of the series!

GL: The action and high concepts possible in sci fi holds a lot of appeal to people who love the genre. It does for me too but I also need meaningful characterization to really appreciate a movie, show, or comic. You manage to combine big screen elements with more intimate or even somewhat mundane scenes without them being overshadowed or, worse, irrelevant. Another thing you’ve done is to make your characters grow and reveal parts of themselves in the process. The scene with Bee opening up to Cass about the things she’s given up and Pan expressing her doubts and concerns to Scottie and the whole twist between Scottie and Kate come to mind. Did you face any challenges in these respects because it appears effortless to me.

HT: The quieter scenes are my favorite to write! I am a big believer in raising the stakes of flashy, “big budget” sequences by letting readers first fall in love with characters during their quieter moments. Allowing characters time to cry, reflect, converse, and argue really helps drive home their moments of victory! These scenes are difficult to write, but I prioritized them especially in the second book because of the central theme: learning to balance autonomy and community. How do Cass and Bee reconcile what they have each given up after ten years of marriage? How do two best friends who have grown apart reunite as two very different, full-realized adults? And how is an anarchist supposed to cooperate with a princess??

GL: Speaking of characters, are there any particular moments that are your favorites?

HT: Honestly, I think the private conversations between Cass and Bee are some of my favorites. I really love writing a mature, stable, married lesbian couple who are far from perfect, but are working through things together. It’s something that feels great to write, because I know it’s out there!

And then of course, I love Scottie’s transformation at the end of the book! No spoilers, but seeing her come into her own and take back what’s hers was so fun.

GL: Would you talk about your work/creative process? As the sole creator how do you manage feeling overwhelmed or getting past any blocks you might experience?

HT: Oh man… let’s just say that this book would not exist if I were not self-driven and completely obsessive, haha. Being a sole creator is a double-edged sword, because I get to make every decision myself and have total control, but it also means the entire project is contingent on my well-being and ability to haul ass.

Unlike most other webcomics, I write Cosmoknights as complete books rather than page-by-page weekly updates, so I approach it fairly traditionally– I write the script for the book, thumbnail the entire thing, and then ink and color the pages. I also am usually juggling multiple projects at once to pay the bills, so it can be challenging to maintain momentum when timelines stretch out over 2-3 years.

In terms of blocks and feeling overwhelmed, I actually found that the pressure of creating a sequel was pretty terrifying! The first book got a bigger response than I ever could have dreamed (and I am forever grateful for that), but it also meant that I spent a lot of time fretting over the quality and impact of the second one. In the end, I overcame that stress by finding joy in the process of what I was doing– I really love making comics, and I am very proud of this series on a personal level because I believe in it, I challenge myself to be ambitious with it, and I pour my whole heart into it!

GL: It occurs to me that Cosmoknights would make an incredible movie or series. Would you ever consider having your story adapted for a movie or series? If so, who would make your dream cast and who do you picture being the ideal director?

HT: Yes– in the right hands, Cosmoknights would make an amazing series, I agree! But I am extremely picky and would only hand it to people I trust completely.

It has been a while since I have updated my dream cast list. I always loved the idea of Brianna Hildebrand as Pan, and Kiersey Clemons as Tara… and many people have suggested Katy O’Brian as Cass! For Bee, Angelica Ross, and Trace Lysette for Kate. And I have no idea who Scottie would be, but I’m sure she’s out there!

GL: Do you have any advice to anyone reading today who has aspirations of writing or drawing comics?

HT: Keep something for yourself! Truthfully, Cosmoknights is a passion project, and I take on a lot of other work to pay the bills. But personal projects fuel my passion in a way IP work does not, and my most important work is not dependent on the approval or financial wellbeing of a corporation. Releasing Cosmoknights for free and sharing it with the world keeps me going, and I encourage other artists to find their own version of that, whatever that looks like for them.

GL: Where can people find you on the internet?

HT: My website: hannahtempler.com

Read the comic online: cosmoknights.space!

Find me on twitter: @hannahtempler!

And if you want to support me (and read ahead), you can subscribe to my patreon: patreon.com/hannahtempler

GL: Thank you very much, Hannah! And thank you, dear reader, for taking time to read our interview! A note of special thanks to IDW’s Leigh Walton for providing images used in the interview. Please enjoy these preview pages here.

Please look for Cosmoknights volume 2 at your local comic shop or bookstore or ask to order a copy using this ISBN: 978-1603095112. Or use Bookshop to find volume 2 and volume 1. If all else fails, you can order from Amazon.

June 13, 2023
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