Friday, August 29, 2008

Interview with Keith Knight

Keith Knight, 42, is a cartoonist known for his weekly K Chronicles strip, which was recently collected into a 500 page Complete K Chronicles book by Dark Horse. He also does an editorial panel (th)ink and his newly-launched Knight Life daily strip.

I recently conducted an email interview with him. My questions are in bold.

How is "Knight Life" similar and different to your "K Chronicles" weekly strip?

Both the Knight Life and the K Chronicles have myself, my wife, family and Gunther as characters, but the K Chronicles is more like a blog and the Knight Life is more like "Seinfeld". It's less real.

In the past, you have stated that you recieved offers from editors about doing a daily version of "K Chron." but always turned them down. What made you change your mind when you decided to sign with United?

A couple of things: I'm not running around (touring with my band, the Marginal Prophets) as much. Not taking off to Europe for months at a time. I've settled down enough where I could put in the time. Also, Ted Rall, a friend and colleague, became the acquisitions editor at United, and he gave a passionate argument in favor ofdoing a daily.

It also helped that I talked to a lot of folks who were doing it, and enjoying it. As opposed to before, where I was talking to people who hated it and quit.

How many papers picked up "Knight Life" so far?

I will not divulge the number of papers until it's a number i can boast about.

Will your newborn child ever appear in the daily strip?

Sure. But I want people to get to know and enjoy that other characters first. I don't want it to be a baby strip.

Newspapers, both mainstream and "alternative," have been losing readers for the past several years. Do you think they'll disappear altogether in the near future? Should cartoonists start adapting to the internet presence?

Cartoonists should be adapting a web presence regardless!!

Newspapers are not dying. The business is morphing, much like what the record industry is going through.

People said the same thing about radio and movies when television came about.

There are still things that newspapers do better than the internet. The internet is perfect for short, factual information. But it's a nightmare to read something for longer than 5 minutes.

Newspapers have to hire interesting graphic designers, artists and cartoonists to create exciting layouts. Their stories have to be deeper than just some basic info. Focus locally. USA Today and the New York Times can take care of all the big national and international news. Daily newspapers should also consider picking up weekly cartoonists like Stephen Notley and Ruben Bolling. They should be surprising their readers every day with something a little different. That way, people will look forward to picking up a new issue every day.

How far ahead are you with your daily strip?

5 weeks with the daily. 8 weeks with the Sunday.

Let's see if I get this right: You do THREE newspaper features, contribute to MAD and ESPN magazines, and also do commissioned work occasionally. Yet, you somehow have time to make regular appearances at various organizations and conventions. What's your secret? Do you have a machine that stops time or somethin'?

I have franchisees who pretend to be me at all the conventions. And I have a sweatshop in the garage of my apartment complex.

By the way, I only use U.S. Grade-A American children in my sweatshop.

How did the Dark Horse book came about? How long has it been in the making?

13 years worth of comics. But it only came together last year because Shannon Wheeler turned me on to Dark Horse.

You are now self-publishing your "K Chron" and "(th)ink" books. Is it more overwhelming, managing the books yourself, or is it easier than going through various editors, etc. Will you put out "Knight Life" books once you have enough strips?

There will be a Knight Life collection. And it will be put out be a major publisher. That's all I can say at the moment.

But I will continue to put out the others on my own. It's easier not to deal with editors and publishers and distributors. Just sell em of my site, at conventions and at signings. Nice and easy.

Ever thought about getting your stuff animated?

Yes. That's why I moved down here to Los Angeles. I wanna be where the action is.

In the past, there have been comic strips that had potential, but in the end, didn't last, getting cancelled after short time (sometimes as little as 6 months). Do you have any favorite strips that was a victim of that?

My good pal Nina Paley had a nice strip about a couple that had a lot of potential. Cannot remember the name, though. [Brubaker's Note: The strip in question is "The Hots," co-created by Stephen Hersh] And I liked the Popeye strip that was out a while ago. And there was another, by this guy whose writing was excellent.

Sorta lame that I cannot remember any of the names.

Are cartoons (in general) lacking diversity, whether its the cartoonists and/or their characters? Should we have some sort of affirmative action for cartoons?

Yes, they are lacking in diversity. No, there doesn't need to be any affirmative action. Editors just need to stop treating the comic page like it's a jury. You can have more than one or two cartoonists of color on the comics page. It's about what's funny.

Cartoons depicting minorities, including blacks, Jews, and Japanese, have been, um...questionable, at best, especially those made during World War II. Should we keep these cartoons locked up, or should we release them, but with historical context? And do you think we will we view post-9/11 cartoons depicting Muslims as racist 50 years from now?

There are cartoons that depict Muslims in an okay way and there are cartoons that depict them in a racist way. It doesn't take 50 years to figure it out.

All those racist cartoons should be available for people to view, just to show how moronic people can be. They should be recognized for what they are so folks can learn from our past misjudgments.

And finally...if you ever get sent to Gitmo, but are allowing you to bring one book, what would it be?

Stephen Notley's latest Bob the Angry Flower book, "Pamplemousse".

All comics © Keith Knight
Interview © Charles Brubaker


Anonymous said...

Great work, amigo! Got to meet Keith at the Comic Con this year, and he was as nice and generous in person as you'd expect him to be. His huge compilation book looks amazing, and I'm stoked he's getting more "mainstream" attention. Always funny and thought-provoking...a hard and rare mix these days!

Anonymous said...

Charles!! I forgot to mention that I'm doing my "Cartoons are Serious Business" workshop at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco on Sept. 21st. I'll be spilling my guts about all I know about making it in the industry. Sign up at or call (415)CAR-TOON!!