Matt Knowles has become a familiar friend in the Florida steampunk community. Creator of Heirs of Isildur, a mash up of comic, music, and steampunk culture, Matt shares his work and enthusiasm at events across the state, and now across the country. He’s taken Heirs as far as LA Comic Con and Emerald City Comic Con.
Matt’s creations are part of what brought him to Aethertopia; his enthusiasm, energy, and embodiment of character have encouraged us to bring him on the team. This year you’ll see Matt on stage, leading events and bringing the immersion one step further. He is Mykal Isildur, and he will be guiding your journey through the Nomadic City of Makers.We asked Matt a few questions about his work, his team, and his inspiration. Catch up if you don’t know him already, learn a little more if you do, and don’t forget to wave him down and say hello in Aethertopia this June.
A: You describe Heirs of Isildur as “where steampunk, comics, and metal collide”. What inspired you to meld these art forms to tell your story?
MK: It was a fairly organic process. I come from the metal music world, and I had taken an ‘indefinite hiatus’ that lasted for many years. When the creative juices started flowing again I knew I wanted to do more than just record songs. I wanted there to be a universe attached.When I first started with the song construction, I ended up pulling some lyrics that I had previously written, repurposed and reconstructed them and came up with something new. It felt very much like the process of steampunk creation in that sense. Image-wise I had done the whole black and goth and wanted something different. It just felt like everything I did wheeled back to the whole ‘taking something old and making it new and futuristic’, hence why the steampunk look became a perfect fit as a visual representation of my musical creations.As for the comics: I wanted to write a backstory for the music so that the universe could expand a little bit. That backstory turned into a short story, that begat an E-Book, that begat a comic series. All this is how steampunk comics and metal collided for Heirs of Isildur.
A: What inspired the character of Mykal Isildur?
MK: In the original construction of the story, there were actually going to be two main characters. One for me and one for original Underoath guitarist Corey Steger. It was going to be a duo working in a clock and watch repair shop. One day Corey told me that he wanted to not be a part of the promotion, since it was my story that he came in and just played guitar on, and he didn’t want there to be any confusion as to whose story it was. So I took the best elements we had created for those two characters and merged them into one, hence Mykal Isildur was born.
A: The single fall to temptation plays a major theme in your story. What does this theme mean to you?
MK: I think you could say the fall to temptation, but I see it more as ‘the curiosity killed the cat’. Mykal is very curious by nature, and while it may stem from some innocent motivations, he still has to adjust to the consequences that his curiosity unleashes. Whether by intentional, accidental, or nefarious means, the necessity to take responsibility for your actions is all the same.
A: Your comic production has grown to include a new, medieval spin off, set in the land of Nocturnia. How does this different world affect your creativity?
MK: Its been fun exploring an offshoot from the Heirs story, but one that is fairly autonomous by nature. One does not NEED Heirs to enjoy ‘Tales From Nocturnia’. Its been an amazing ride so far creating that universe with Steph Cannon. I’m quite used to writing on my own and then having others assist me in building on the foundation I have laid (be it other musicians or artists), but with Nocturnia she and I both have creative input so the two of us are affecting the evolution of the storyline and universe creation. It’s a refreshing process.
A: Nocturnia has just completed a successful kickstarter. What draws you to this method of funding and why do you feel it works best for you?
MK: Yes, we are very excited that we successfully funded on kickstarter and we are super excited to get that title into people’s hands! We fully expect to have issue #1 available by Aethertopia 2019!
Why did we do it? We looked around at our contemporaries in the content creation scene and saw that anyone with any level of success did crowdfunding. It’s really the only way to create a strong financial base to build a business in this industry. We want to be able to continue writing Heirs of Isildur, Tales From Nocturnia, and whatever other stories we desire, alongside creating some cool collectible merch to go with it, and the only way to do that is with an influx of cash flow that crowdfunding provides. We have a rough schedule for where we want to go with our next few kickstarters, so stay tuned, they are gonna be fun!
A: You and your team have a way of inspiring fans through in person and online interactions. What do you like most about these events and meeting new fans?
MK: Nothing beats the feeling of knowing you or your work has inspired someone or brought some positivity into their lives. As we say we either want to create characters people can relate to, or universes they want to escape into, and we are satisfied if we’ve done that!It’s a complete rush explaining the story to someone for the first time, and watching their eyes light up with intrigue and interest… but its even better watching them come BACK to get subsequent issues because they have become invested in the series.
A: Speaking of your team, you’ve got a strong support network and a team of people involved in your productions. How did those relationships come about?
MK: My best friend and business partner in all this is Stephanie Cannon, and if you were at Aethertopia 2018 you saw the first appearance of the two of us together. Before we met, we were both aspiring writers and creators individually and were grinding out solo careers. It was clear from the very get-go that we had compatible interests, energy, and drive, and that we’d be able to accomplish more as a team than separately. This is why we created our content creation company ‘Insymmetry Creations’ to centralize all of what we do.We haven’t let being on opposite coasts deter us (currently I’m in Florida and she is in California), and actually, we’ve found ways to make it work to our advantage for now (i.e. doing appearances on the same day at the same time on both coasts).Soon that will change because she and her family will be moving to Florida and we’ll then be able to initiate the next phase of our business plan. We are really excited about those prospects!
A: You and your team have traveled to the largest conventions in the country. What is it that brought you in as part of the Aethertopia team?
MK: We appreciate the level of commitment those associated with Aethertopia have to create something new and awesome for the area. The AetherTeam is taking a lot of risks with the grand scope of excellence they are trying to achieve, and it seems like there is a relentless desire to make it happen.I have a background in P.A. announcing and I still moonlight as a semi-pro soccer announcer, so me helping out in that capacity this year just seemed like a perfect fit. The concept of Aethertopia is exciting and I want to help bring that excitement and energy to the attendees all weekend long!