How 'Cosmoknights' Will Bring Lesbian Romance and Mechsuit Gladiators to Comics

Cosmoknights - Hannah Templer/Top Shelf Productions-Publicity- P 2019
Courtesy of Hannah Templer/Top Shelf Productions
Creator Hannah Templer describes the Top Shelf project as "a fun sci-fi comic about friendship, romance and kicking ass."

In the future, the fight against the patriarchy will involve mechsuits and punching.

This spring, Top Shelf Productions, an imprint of IDW Publishing, will debut Cosmoknights, a new multiplatform project from Hannah Templar. Set in a future that mixes medieval and manga influences, mechanic Pan discovers that the universe is larger than she thinks when off-world gladiators show up to fight over the hand of a princess — the first step in a chain of events that will bring her into a resistance movement made up of women fighting the system from within.

The project will debut as a serialized webcomic in March, coinciding with International Women’s Month, before a collected print edition arrives this fall. Templer will be talking about the book at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting next week, and talks to The Hollywood Reporter about it below.

Where does Cosmoknights come from?

There’s really no way of answering this without getting a little personal. I first came up with Cosmoknights back in 2016 while wrestling with issues in my own life around gender, sexuality, marriage and the culture I was raised in. So, as I was sketching characters and situations, they pretty naturally materialized into a story about queer women fighting tooth-and-nail for their independence.

Contending with homophobia and misogyny while navigating a supposedly modern world, I wanted to explore that tension with the neo-medieval setting of Cosmoknights, where technology is advanced but gender roles are bound by these archaic rituals of jousting and costumes and prizes ... of "winning" someone's "hand" in marriage. But despite the potentially challenging subject matter, it was important to me to steer clear of doom and gloom — it’s a fun sci-fi comic about friendship, romance and kicking ass.

People might recognize your name from the recent GLOW announcement from IDW, or your work on the Jem and the Holograms comic book, amongst other places. How does this book compare with those projects, or anything else you’ve worked on?

Yes, if you like Jem and the Holograms and are looking forward to GLOW, then Cosmoknights is right up your alley! It draws a lot of visual and fashion inspiration from the '80s, and features an ensemble cast of powerful women overthrowing the system.

This one has mecha-gladiators, though.

You've already previewed some of the concept art for Cosmoknights online — what has the feedback been like?

Really great! I’ve been talking about Cosmoknights and teasing the characters and concept art for a while now — people have been really positive and excited about it. One thing that is especially important to me is positive representation of butch lesbians, something that can be difficult to find — in that sense, my characters have really resonated with people, even just as designs. I can't wait to see the reaction when they start talking and doing things.

What was the thinking behind the release schedule, with the free webcomic ahead of the print edition?

More than anything I want people to read it. I especially want Cosmoknights to be accessible to closeted people unable to borrow or own queer books without drawing negative attention to themselves, like I was! Releasing it as a webcomic, and then a bookshelf edition, gives it more chances to reach the people I wrote it for.