Tara Kurtzhals and Sarah Bollinger are no strangers to tugging at our heartstrings. Their slice of life webcomic, Girls Have a Blog, was a deeply affecting, honest, and hilarious look at what means to start a career as an artist and deal with life as an early adult. And while that series is over, Kurtzhals and Bollinger are just getting started. They’ve been hard at work creating Knight & Beard, a fantasy webcomic about Knight, who desperately wants to be a hero but struggles mightily with it, and Beard, her gentle giant comrade in arms. Like their previous work, Knight & Beard is equal parts absurd and heartwrenchingly real. And you can now help support the print production of Knight & Beard volume 1 on Kickstarter!
As their journey begins, our hapless heroes are given a series of odd jobs– performing at a puppet show and rounding up stray pigs– anything to keep them away from actual guard duty. However, as time passes and the world’s most celebrated holiday, Friendship Day, draws near, Knight and Beard are forced to step up to the responsibilities that come with their jobs. And as people flood into the city from all over the world, “the two start encountering all sorts of people: new friends, old foes, and a legendary hero.”
When asked what launching Knight & Beard‘s first volume on Kickstarter means to them, both Kurtzhals and Bollinger described the series as “a learning experience.” Bollinger pointed to how the series has helped her grow as an artist and writer, stating that “It’s fun to flip through the books and cringe at the stuff that I think totally suck and laugh at the things I totally nailed. So I’m really excited about where I’ll be as an artist when this monster of a series reaches its conclusion.”
Kurtzhals said that she was “grateful” that Bollinger joined her on Knight & Beard, a concept that Kurtzhals came up with five years ago but wasn’t convinced would ever be more than “scratchy doodles and word documents.” She continued, stating that “And more so than anything else, to me, [Knight & Beard is] something I’m fighting for. I want to improve it, I want to make it better, and I want to see it to the end. Knight’s journey as a character is so beautiful and personal, and I really want to share it with as many people who may need it too.”
Here’s a special look at one of those “scratchy doodles”:
In celebration of their Kickstarter campaign, Kurtzhals and Bollinger recently sat down to reveal their five favorite moments of Knight & Beard volume 1!
Knight & Beard #4, pages 8-11
Tara: Knight & Beard’s working relationship is perfectly captured in these four pages. Their dynamic in a nutshell is Knight being enthusiastic about being a hero and Beard being supportive… perhaps to a fault. Not only does Knight suck at what she does, but Beard doesn’t even think about the structural integrity of the building when he just throws her in there.
Sarah: Yeah. I love how these two are simultaneously very thoughtful and thoughtless. They both have a desire to do the right thing but have no idea about the right way to do it. But these pages also emphasize a major difference between these two. Knight wants to be BIG. She cares about heroics at a grand scale. Beard just wants to do what he can for those immediately around him. I like to think his words to Knight about saving his friend are very deliberate, to help her see the two tasks at hand as equal and feel good about her part in saving the day.
The Page Long Stare
Knight & Beard #7, page 22
Sarah: This page! We didn’t decide to make Knight & Beard for print until issue 3, and once we made that decision, we became really strict about sticking to a 22-page format. HOWEVER, Issue 7 came around. I had a vision of Chad and Vincent silently communicating some mystery feelings, but including it would make the issue 23 pages long (because this part absolutely had to be a whole page). I tried and tried to cut out other segments to make room, but I just couldn’t cut enough. Eventually, I just said “screw it. I’m breaking format”. The issue ended up being 25 pages long. I figured if I was gonna be this self-indulgent, I might as well throw in a few extra gags that were originally cut.
Tara: This one is all Sarah. Vincent and Chad are commonly referred to as her sons, and the drama between them has only just begun. It’s hilarious yet sad. And I think the singular text bubble of “Bro” really shows just how ridiculous this whole stare fest is.
The Rose Wall
Knight & Beard #2, page 4
Tara: Chad was one of the first characters I developed for Knight & Beard, and somehow along the way, roses became his symbol. Rose anime boys are some of my favorite in media, I’m looking at you Kurama, and I’m glad to have one in this series. I also just like that his name is Chad. It adds to the humor of his character and reveal.
Sarah: I love this reveal. I love thinking about how this is the only section of the Newport wall covered in roses, and Chad found it, posed, and waited for Knight to come around the corner just for the sake of antagonizing her. We often think of little gags that explain how some of the dumber things happen in the comic, and some day, we’d love to do something that captures those quirky, behind-the-scenes character moments.
Bad At Names
Tara: A consistent gag throughout the series is Knight’s inability to remember names. And it is not only inspired by my personal problem with names (oh I’m so bad at them), but it’s also inspired by the weird names we’ve called everyone in our cast. One of our character’s names is Poet! And… well, no one knows Knight & Beard’s names yet! In fact, I think Knight & Beard were given full names after everyone ELSE was named even though the major point of contention between these two is the fact that neither of them call each other by name.
Sarah: I think we pretty much had the whole series figured out before characters became more than random characteristics. For a looooong time we referred to the cast as Knight, Beard, captain, headmaster, poet, the silverette. Even Chad is a bit of a stereotype, and for a long time, we called Sir Robin Sheppard “Chris Evans”.
Nervous Kid Interrupts Old Friends
Knight & Beard #7, pages 12-13
Tara: These pages are winners for me. Robin and Oliver’s dynamic is one of my favorites in the whole series! They’re two old war heroes reconnecting for the first time in years, throwing jabs back and forth at each other. And Beard is out of the whole loop. Him hiding behind the wall is consistently one of the favorite moments of many of our readers. Many people relate to his desire to just disappear in the background.
Sarah: I always think of this less about Beard disappearing and more about him being anxious about what the most normal thing to do is. Should he walk in with Robin? Would that make Robin’s entrance less cool? Should he just leave? What if Robin still needs a guide after this? Maybe he should check in first? I think Beard’s desire to be unobtrusively polite is part of what makes his character so much fun to write. Every interaction he has with another person involves nerves making him say something weird.