The comics industry is marked by truly talented and impactful duos. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Marv Wolfman and George Perez. And while they’re not nearly as legendary as those other creative tag teams, another such pair are making some interesting noise: Kane & Able.
Shaky Kane is the pseudonym of British artist and writer Michael Coulthard, best known for work in 2000 AD as well as The Bulletproof Coffin. Able, meanwhile, is Krent Able, another UK artist whose works include I Feel Love and Krent Able’s Big Book of Mischief. Together, the duo have teamed up for a titular graphic novel, which is due out June 30 via Image Comics.
This “over-sized anthology of never-before-published” comics encapsulates the pair’s bizarre, often trippy approach to “genre-busting mischief and masked mayhem.” For a deeper dive into what that all truly means, we spoke with Kane and Able via email, tackling the project’s genesis, the differences between British and American comics, and their inspirations and favorite books, among many other topics.
AIPT: What’s the origin story for this project/OGN? How did the mighty Kane and Able actually come together?
Krent Able: Jane Kane (Shaky’s missus) came up with the title Kane & Able, and Shaky told me about it at a screening of my Ink, Cocks & Rock ‘n’ Roll biopic in London, four years ago. Like all genius ideas, it seems obvious, like it’s been under your nose all along. It would be a crime not to do it. We just needed to find the time.
Shaky Kane: Once we’d settled on the idea of an anthology title, rather than a “jam” as such, I spent around a year, working around commissioned comic books (I had four on the go) figuring and drawing up my two strips.
It was lock-down which freed up my time to put pencil to paper.
AIPT: What was the collaborative process like? Was it easier or more difficult considering you’re both pretty well established in the comics biz?
SK: Krent’s the best to work with. We would send each other fully realized pages, as we worked, just to see what we were each cooking up. It kept me keen to plough on. I don’t know how Krent sees himself, but I’ve never felt part of a comics biz. Image Comics have always been incredibly supportive, but I rarely come across anyone with more than a passing interest in comics. I’m the lock-down king!
KA: Shaky is an absolute delight to work with, so everything just fell into place naturally and very smoothly. I don’t feel ‘established’ in the comics industry at all, and barely part of it. I feel like an anomaly who doesn’t fit in with either indie or mainstream comics. It’s nice to be thought of as ‘established’ though!
AIPT: There’s been a few team-based comparisons made, like Siegfried & Roy or Godzilla and King Kong. Is there a more apt team that parallels Kane and Able?
SK: I like to feel we’re more like David Blaine and Uri Geller. Krent can pass a six-inch needle through his arm without drawing blood. And me? I’m pretty good with spoons.
KA: True. And he has a see-through head.
AIPT: You both come out of British comics. For fans who may not be as well exposed, how does this style/tradition/etc. compare with American comics? Do you feel like ambassadors of sorts, bringing more British comics to U.S. audiences?
SK: I’ve only ever had a liking for American comic art. Not even the stories in comic books, but the actual look of the art itself. I’m fairly obsessive about 1960s comic books. My interest wanes as we hit the ’70s.
KA: I don’t really feel like I’m a typical representation of British comics. My sense of humor could probably only be British, but I’m not sure how many British people share it. But I do I like this idea of me being a Comics Ambassador. Will I be wearing a tuxedo? I’m sure the UK Comics community would be over the moon to have me representing them at the Grand Comics Gala. Just keep Shaky away from the Ferrero Rocher.
AIPT: Why opt for a series of stories and not one larger story? Is there a standout tale in the book (I’d lean toward “Creepzone”)?
SK: Krent’s “Creepzone” is a revelation! It was quite a treat seeing this one take shape. Personally, I was keen to get “Dustmites” down on paper. I often find myself fantasizing about basements and sub-basements.
KA: Having two artist/writers working on the same single larger story is a lot more difficult logistically, and would make doing the book way more complicated. Who would write what? And who would draw what? It’s asking for trouble! I’m not getting into an argument about who gets to draw which dinosaur – especially with a man who’s really into sub-basements.
The standout stories are, without a doubt, Shaky’s. What a question!
AIPT: The humor across this whole book really opts for stealth and subtlety. Do a lot of superhero-centric comics just take themselves too seriously?
SK: I’d imagine that superhero-centric comics take themselves seriously in just the right measure. Considering the man hours it takes to produce those books, that’s a serious commitment.
KA: I rarely read superhero comics, so I’m not qualified to answer. I don’t like the art in most of them. The last one I did read though was Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer, and that seemed just fine to me. Exactly the right amount of seriousness.
AIPT: Press for the book called it “genre-busting mischief.” Is there an art to both paying homage to a thing and maybe even spoofing/satirizing it to an extent?
SK: “Genre-busting mischief.” Sort of sprang to mind at the time. It implies how far away from the contemporary mainstream our sensibilities lie. I never set out to spoof or satirize a particular time in comics. To me, what I do, always seems bang up to date.
KA: I didn’t feel like I was spoofing or satirizing comics at all, or even really making a homage. I was mostly trying to get that feeling you would get, as a child, when you would read an early ’70s Spider-Man comic (in my story, “Black Fur”), or from watching Scooby Doo and spooky ’60s animation (“Creepzone”). And then using that to say something that’s hopefully new, interesting, funny, and beautiful to look at.
AIPT: If this book had a theme song, what would it be and why? And if it had a narrator, who would you want and why?
SK: Danny Elfman and Danny DeVito; get the Dannys on board and you’d hit it out the park.
KA: I can only concur.
AIPT: Why should anyone pick up Kane & Able?
SK: I don’t know if it was clear in the press release, but this book is oversized at 12 inches tall. Think how hip you’re going to look with a book that tall under your arm. Leave it on the coffee table at home for when you’ve got guest calling around. Book that tall is sure to make the right impression. Start all sorts of conversations.
KA: Like Shaky said — purely for its extra-large size. If you try and swat a fly with an ordinary comic or graphic novel, you’re not guaranteed a kill. With Kane & Able, insect death is guaranteed.
AIPT: Could we expect a second book or any further collaborations?
SK: It’s early to say, but if this book is any sort of success, I’d personally like to see it as a regular summer event. I’ve already got the next Shield Bug story mapped out, it’s an idea I’ve had floating around for a while now entitled “The Man From Maybe.” I’m ready to roll.
KA: I hope we get a chance to do another. Buy this book and make it happen! No pressure or anything….but it’s on you, dear reader.
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