The Darkly Historical Comics of Kendra Josie Kirkpatrick
There’s something dark about Kendra Josie Kirkpatrick’s comics and illustrations. It isn’t just the heaps of black ink darkening the pages…
It takes a special sort of talent to take some of history’s darker moments – like the witch trials, the Moors Murders, and a fair bit of Ancient Egypt – and tell a story that’s not only true to history but can elicit a few smiles, too.
Kendra Josie Kirkpatrick, who began drawing in preschool and cartooning in the second grade, was torn between pursuing a career as historian or an artist. Though she was talented in both regards, her mother expressed concern that Kirkpatrick might be pigeonholed into teaching or writing history books if she became a historian and encouraged Kirkpatrick to explore a career as a cartoonist.
“How ironic,” says Kirkpatrick when I get the chance to chat with her by email for a mooky Q&A. “My mother wanted me to go for the art degree out of concern over job security.”
Now Kirkpatrick combines her knowledge of historical events with a bold art style, working exclusively in traditional media.
Informative Ancient Egypt
“I’m like an old woman in the way I’m so against me making digital art,” says Kirkpatrick. “It’s pathetic and out of touch, but here I am. I generally work with ink, brushes, and pens.”
Most notable in Kirkpatrick’s art is the copious use of black. It draws the eye to the action within each panel like a light in a dark tunnel. It also provides a fitting backdrop for the rather grim inspirations for many of the stories.
While historical events are the most obvious inspirations in Kirkpatrick’s work, she cites true crime narratives as another inspirational source. “Recently, I’ve gotten more interested in autobiographical pieces. There’s an overarching theme of an interest in all things non-fiction.”
Kirkpatrick’s personal favourite to date is PENDLE: the forgotten witch trials.
“It’s not my most popular comic I’ve made but I’m particularly fond of it,” Kirkpatrick explains. PENDLE follows the life of Jennet Device after her accusation causes her entire family to be hanged for witchcraft. The story is dark, ironic, and a little sad, too, but perfectly showcases Kirkpatrick’s style.
Kirkpatrick’s work isn’t limited to her comics; she’s completed several illustration series as well, including Black Metal Girls, Crime and Punishment, and Oni Girls.
“The Onis are a lot of fun to draw,” Kirkpatrick explains. “I actually drew those because I was going through drawings other artists have done inspired by Onis, and all the girl Onis were too pretty and voluptuous to me, so I decided to make mine creepy and emaciated. They are demons, so why not make them off-putting?”
The off-putting nature of her work hasn’t stopped history professors from showing Informative Ancient Egypt Comics in their classrooms. Kirkpatrick explains that more than one person discovered her work as a result of a history professor presenting her comics to their students.
“I made those solely out of things I found darkly funny and they’re filled with curse words, so picturing a professor saying ‘NOW CLASS…’ and putting them up on a projector in their classroom is really funny to me,” she says.
A 2016 graduate, Kendra Josie Kirkpatrick holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cartooning from the School of Visual Art in New York. Kirkpatrick’s comics and illustrations are available on her Official Website and Tumblr.
Images used with permission.