DRAWiNG THE KNiGHT RiDER: DAViD LLOYD iNTERViEW

I was elated to discover how well the first Knight Rider Annual held up today when I reviewed it a few days ago. Any fears I had of a cheap cash-in were quickly dispensed with when I saw the comic strips inside. They were simply gorgeous. Coupled with fun prose tales and backed up with interesting articles featuring photographs which enthralled me as a kid, it was a superb package and one I felt proud of as an absolutely massive fan of the show.

I was thrilled to find out none other than David Lloyd (V for Vendetta, Wasteland, Hellblazer) was responsible for all of the art, both the strips and the illustrations for the prose stories. David is the editor of Aces Weekly, the superb digital anthology comic which has featured on the blog before. I thought I’d reach out and ask David if he’d be willing to answer some questions about his time working on the Knight Rider books. He said yes!

Not only was David very forthcoming with some fascinating information he also sent over scans of some of his early sketches, drawn while watching a recording of the series. These show his initial designs for K.I.T.T. and Michael, including a study of David Hasselhoff. I’m thrilled to include this post on the blog and I’m sure it’ll be as interesting to comics and Knight Rider fans alike.

OiNK Blog: I was (and I’ll admit still am) rather obsessed with Knight Rider. The show was a massive hit with families and kids of all ages. How familiar were you with it before working on the strips?

David Lloyd: I liked Knight Rider at the time too, though not quite as much you, obviously!

OB: I just love the finish of the drawings you did for the first two annuals, especially on the strips, they seemed to capture the darker atmosphere of the pilot movie in particular.

DL: I have particularly good memories about the first annual because I was very happy with the work I’d done on the wash drawing. Loved using wash and there were few places you could use it in regular comics art at the time. I had fun with the illos, too.

OB: The show couldn’t have been on for very long when you started work on this, did that hamper you in any way?

DL: No problem with it not being long-running [yet] and no one’s going to wait for you to become familiar with it all before you can draw an adaptation of it. You do your job and get on with it as a professional! And anyway, annuals were usually planned during a first season of a new series in expectation of some success, enough to justify the publishing of them, and also as part of some package of various launch/promotional agreements that might have been made, so you’d normally be drawing one for a new series before it had become massive, if it was going to.

OB: The show’s newness may not have hampered David but he did have to get creative in gathering references.

DL: By the way, to add some detail, I did that first KR annual before I had a video recorder, so I asked the help of a friend who did have one, and went round to sit and sketch some details from one of the shows I’d asked him to tape for me – pausing to sketch dashboard detail, etc. If you’re interested I can scan some of those scribbles, and some Hasselhoff studies I did before starting the job. I think you’d probably like to see them.

OB: What did a study entail?

DL: Just trying to study the likeness and get his face right enough.

OB: There were no credits in the Grandreams annuals but David has let us in on who wrote the strips and prose stories.

DL: The comic scripts and the shorts were all written by the brilliant Steve Moore. In fact, he wrote everything I ever drew on all the annuals I did for Grandreams. He was so good he could write any character to be exact to their personalities in any TV show he had to write stories for. And in some of the annuals, I think his stories were better than the TV scripts.

OB: I haven’t heard of the name Steve Moore before but you’re right, his stories in these were fantastic, especially the text stories. One in particular involving an art heist would’ve made a fantastic episode and I completely agree, some of his stories were better than some of the TV scripts! He definitely got the funny partnership between man and machine perfect.

DL: I’m surprised you hadn’t heard of Steve as I’d imagined you knew a lot about Brit comics as someone running a blog named after OiNK. Everyone who was around at the period of that particular comic were mostly aware of the general scene in Brit comics at the time and its denizens. If you have heard of Alan Moore, though, then you should know that Steve – no relation but a long-time friend – taught Alan how to write comics. Steve was a great writer but never busted through into making a great international profile for himself as some including Alan were lucky enough to do. He was just a fabulous craftsman in a specialist field of writing. And he wrote a book on the I Ching called the Trigrams of Han. No ordinary guy.

OB: David went on to name some of the other titles Steve wrote for, many of which were published before I started collecting comics as a young child with OiNK (and so haven’t been covered on the blog). These titles are classics through and through.

DL: On Steve Moore – he did most of the backup strips in Doctor Who magazine that I did, he created Laser Eraser and Pressbutton for Warrior, amongst other things, and Abslom Daak Dalek Killer and Hercules comics. Check them out if you can sometime.

OB: As far as choosing which parts of those wonderfully written prose stories to illustrate…

DL: The brief on the short stories in Knight Rider, and on all the other annuals I did, was to do a bunch of scenes that you could pick yourself, so it was very freeing creatively to do those. And I had particular fun using coloured inks on the KR stuff.

OB: Can I just ask about your drawings of K.I.T.T. himself? After the first two annuals another artist took over and (I’m not just saying this) the artwork was nowhere near as good or as detailed as yours. How difficult (or indeed, fun) did you find drawing the Trans-Am in these action strips, especially that complicated dashboard?

DL: Not difficult, though I’m no great fan of drawing cars. If you have a good story to tell and enough reference to do it well and you can enjoy yourself with good characters and settings, it’s fine. I sketched enough of what I needed to sketch and used what I could from elsewhere. I don’t know who did the following KR books but annuals publishers generally used talents of varying quality – some straight out of art school, some who were just jobbing illustrators who had no real feeling for comics art, and sometimes guys who knew exactly what they were doing : ) I did a Knight Rider colouring book, too, so if you’re a completist and want to seek that out from somewhere! (I’ll add that to my eBay searches then – Phil)

OB: Of course it wasn’t just K.I.T.T., the character of Michael was just as important and thankfully you and Steve realised this too. Can I just ask you about your process for drawing the strips? They’re unlike anything else from the time that I read. Most used more standard line work, whereas yours was completely different. How did you achieve the finished look?

DL: I can’t say much about the process it would take too long. It still begins with some degree of line drawing to start with except the shading that might be done in line drawing only – with cross-hatching, etc – is substituted with black watercolour washes of varying strengths. As I said, there wasn’t much wash drawing used in most comics at the time, as you attest, so it was good for me to be able to take the opportunity I could with KR. 

OB: Just one more question, all of the images of K.I.T.T. (drawings and photos) have “Knight 2000” on his bodywork somewhere, no matter the angle. This was never the case on the show, he was meant to blend in, but I remember all of my toys as a kid had the same thing. I’m guessing it was to differentiate between Knight Rider and Pontiac Trans-Am merchandise in licensing, can you remember this being something you had to add and why?

DL: The car branding, I don’t remember any instruction about that and there are drawings of mine in the strips and illos where it isn’t added – so I forgot about it if I had been – but I think it must have been a requested requirement from the licensor because on the second page of Crime Buster K.I.T.T. in the second annual the car has the branding, but badly done, so it wasn’t done by me.  Yes, so, perhaps a contractual need from Trans-Am.

I just want to say thanks so much to David for his time, I can’t begin to describe how appreciative I am to have the chance to chat to him about Knight Rider and a book which brought so much joy to not only six-year-old me, but also to the 44-year-old who now writes about these childhood comics and books. To see more of David’s work from the first Knight Rider Annual you can check out the full review and then wait (patiently or impatiently) for the next one in twelve months time.

Don’t forget to subscribe to David’s Aces Weekly, the digital anthology comic. Each volume is made up of seven weekly issues for only £7, that’s just £1 each! The entire back catalogue is also available on the website and even features work by OiNK cartoonists David Leach and Lew Stringer. So don’t miss out, click on the title below and off you go!

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