Kaytee Brown on Arthurian Legend, Getting Slapped by Inspiration, and “Nimue”

Kaytee Brown (she/her) is a Seattle-based artist, colorist, and writer. She is the creator of “Nimue,” a short comic set in an alternative Arthurian legend, where Excalibur’s fate is changed…by a sandwich. It will appear in the Destinations Anthology.

Click here to support “Nimue” on Kickstarter!

In addition to the Destinations Anthology, she has pieces appearing in the anthology Sharp Wit and the Company of Women from Extra Pages Press as well as Under the Stars: A Sci-Fi Romance Anthology. She is the colorist for the ongoing Kickstarter series Ruination from Curious Perspective Comics and has recently joined the team for the latest Boston Metaphysical Society series by Madeleine Holly-Rosing. Currently, Kaytee is working on getting more of her own stories and comics into the world. She is expanding the pitch of her Destinations story—”Nimue”—into a serialized comic for kids and parents alike.

Illustration by Kaytee Brown for local production of “Working” – winner regional theatre award for best poster 2022.

Tell us how you started creating comics, Kaytee!

It was actually kind of incidental. I have loved comics for much of my life but when I started looking seriously at a career doing art, I leaned more towards the video game industry—of which I knew very little. But we have a lot of game developers in the PNW, and it seemed like a steadier path. I ended up doing my graduate studies in Visual Development but the time I graduated I had cooled a bit on video games, having learned what the environment is actually like for development artists.

I decided to try my hand at freelancing for a little while and set myself a six-month benchmark—if freelancing isn’t taking off by then, I’ll go get myself a “real job.” This was December of 2019 (cue doom music). I picked up a few illustration gigs but what I seemed to be getting hired for the most was coloring—pinups and fan-art type things at first and then a few short comic projects. I had not really considered coloring comics until then, but it was fun and people seemed to like what I was doing. Then the world shut down and it all dried up for a while.

Obviously when June rolled around I couldn’t exactly go out and get myself a “real job” because, well, I couldn’t go out. So I doubled down on the freelancing and by the end of that summer I had three series lined up to color.

nimue concept sketch by kaytee brown
“Nimue” concept sketch by Kaytee Brown.

What led to the creation of “Nimue,” specifically?

I originally pitched the idea to a “girl power” anthology that had put out a call for four-pagers. “Nimue” was actually the first short comic I ever tried to develop and it ended up being a really fun process. This one started as a single image for me—a young girl in a scout uniform trading half her sandwich to the Lady of the Lake for Excalibur. That was my final beat, the punchline so to speak, and I built the rest of the story backwards from there.

Unfortunately, that anthology fell through and “Nimue” was proverbially shelved, unfinished, for about a year. It never was far from my mind though, and I started to think of other stories from Arthurian legend that could be twisted in a fun way for a young, contemporary audience. When I saw the call for submissions for Destinations I knew it was time to dust off the four pager and finish it up!

Are you a fan of Arthurian legend more generally?

You know, I was all ready to say, “Eh, not really” but then I started to think about it and realized I had something of a childhood obsession there. I put my mom through way too many viewings of that movie The Quest for Camelot, I listened to the musical Camelot on cassette to fall asleep at night. My generation was blessed with a mess of excellent kids books spun from Arthur and company’s stories, and I’m pretty sure I read them all.

I think that was a driving force behind developing “Nimue.” The more I write and make comics, the more I find that my target audience is always me. I write the story that I want to read, the way I want to read it. If other people like it, that’s really really cool. But “Nimue” is a story that I made for the ten-year-old me who lives rent-free in my brain rewinding The Sword in the Stone for the zillionth time.

"Ruination" issue 6 by Ryan Bis, lines by Sarah Fletcher, colors by Kaytee Brown from Curious Perspective Comics
“Ruination” issue 6 by Ryan Bis, lines by Sarah Fletcher, colors by Kaytee Brown from Curious Perspective Comics.

What kinds of things do you draw creative inspiration from?

To be perfectly honest, the reason it’s taken me so long to finish this interview is because I have been hung up on this question. I don’t so much seek out inspiration so much as it slaps me in the face when I’m supposed to be thinking about something else. I think when you spend your day creating, it opens your mind to getting creative input from anywhere and anything—kind of like exercising a muscle, but the muscle is…imagination?

Who are some writers, artists, or other creators whose work you admire?

Oh so many! First of all, I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work with some incredible people who are just amazing at what they do: Ryan Bis, who writes the excellent and unique and emotional fantasy adventure comic Ruination; the series’ line artist, Sarah Fletcher, whose cinematic compositions are breathtaking; and Elisabeth Mkheidze, who draws with this fluid, beautiful sense of line that I just cannot get enough of.

"the Batmans" by Kaytee Brown
“The Batmans” by Kaytee Brown.

What comic book (or other fictional) character do you most identify with?

Raised as I was on Batman: The Animated Series, I have always had an affinity for Harley Quinn. There are many iterations of the character that I do NOT identify with and have Opinions on, but nobody came here for a soapbox speech about female representation in video games and comics. In (what I will defend as) her purest form, though, Harley Quinn is a chaotic person who’s just trying to do her best and honestly, the older I get the more relatable I find that.

What do you think comics bring to the world that other media can’t?

I’m not sure I would compare media in such a way. The goal is to tell a story, right? I think the reason we have so many different and equally pervasive kinds of storytelling media is because they all have the potential to tell that riveting story. Some stories shine brightest through longform prose, some through short episodic installments of a TV show, some through sequential art.

I’m sure someone with more experience or better words has an actual answer for this question but for me, deciding how to tell any given story that might pop into my head is very much a gut thing. Sometimes, like with “Nimue,” the story appears in pictures first, which is a good indicator that it should be a comic. Other times I’ll keep an idea on the back burner for a while until the right way to tell it clicks.

nimue cover concept art by kaytee brown
“Nimue” cover concept art by Kaytee Brown.

Are you currently working on any projects—comics, art, or other things?

So much right now! I have a story in the upcoming anthology Sharp Wit and the Company of Women (recently funded on Kickstarter!) that I am working on with Elisabeth Mkheidze. And I have paired up with Sarah Fletcher on a script that I wrote for the sci-fi romance anthology Among the Stars, which will be on Kickstarter soon. Right now I am also the colorist for the Kickstarter series Ruination (with Sarah Fletcher and writer Ryan Bis), which is gearing up to get started on issue seven, and the Boston Metaphysical Society comics (with Elisabeth Mkheidze and writer Madeleine Holly-Rosing).

Independently, I am ever so slowly editing my Giant Sci-fi Novel, developing a few one-shots that I want to start pitching in the coming year, and working on expanding “Nimue” into a longer series.

Where can our readers find you online?

Trying to find me online is like doing a Where’s Waldo, but there is no Waldo because Waldo has his notifications turned off and “appear as offline” turned on.

I joke. Mostly. I have a lot of anxiety wrapped up in social media so I do not post or interact nearly as much as I should. Hardly at all really. But I do try to smash that retweet button.

If you want to see what a bunch of comics creators I like and admire are up to, I’m on Twitter as @this_is_kaytee. I can also be reached at kb.colorst@gmail.com, and my colors portfolio can be found at kayteebrown.myportfolio.com.

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