Keith Knight Interview! Respect the prophet!
Keith Knight is pretty much the chilliest socially conscious funny black man
doing comic strips today. He’s one of those cats I see kicking it at all
types of conventions giving and getting love like its going out of style. He’s
always fun to interview because he’s always got something going on, either
a new cd with MarginalProphets, a new art project, or just something funny
to say. He just sold a copy of “Are we feeling safer yet?” Only
$14.00. He signs it for a girl named Martine then tells her the best place for
the book is the bathroom “Then invite friends over.” He smiles.
She just bought a magazine rack for her bathroom so she’s happy. While
I’m sitting there shooting the shit with him another artist who has a
strip in the Daily Planet comes over and genuinely thanks Keith for taking the
time to respond to an e-mail the other man has sent. “It’s Barry
with a B right?” “Yeah, you’ve got a great website by the
Keith: The size of the books,
I made them so they’d fit perfectly on the back of the toilet or on the
magazine rack in the bathroom. They’re the same size as the old Archie
digest from back in the day.
ME: So what’s the upcoming project you’re
most excited about?
Keith: Ok, man I’ll say something. I’m working on
the K chronicles as a daily strip. I’m not exactly sure when its going
to happen but folks should anticipate seeing the K chronicles in a new way,
but also in the old way, but also in the new way.
ME: A new angle that’s come
up in your work is the political. It’s always been broadly socially critical,
but there’s a lot more pointed political critique. Any particular reason
Keith: I suppose after September
11, it got more political because of all the crap that went down and continues
to go down all over the world especially with the Bush Administration. But I’d
have to say lately it’s been getting away from that. I think everyone
now knows how horrible the administration is and so I’m not on that tip
for too much longer. Now I’m just figuring out where to go next, which
for me is the move. To see how the strip is going to change with the move (Keith
Knight has abandoned the Yay Area for Hollyweird and we wish him the best).
The one thing I don’t want to focus on is the obvious L.A. stuff. I actually
want to show the good side of L.A., you know the stuff you don’t talk
about. Especially in the bay Area. Everyone up here is all “Oh you’re
going down to L.A? You’re such a traitor” (I was one of those people)
Expect to hear about some good stuff about L.A.
ME: Yeah, ok. So you’re black.
Keith: Oh really?
ME:: How has that blackness thing
worked out for you lately in comics? Has it gotten easier or harder?
Keith: Well this interview taking
place in early March, is coming right after Black history month which is always
the busiest time for me. I always get lectures and stuff like that ( We get
interrupted by fans and Panell, a local artist who has done back up work for
Lil Gloomy and was on crew for the Afro samurai videogame until it flopped in
his face like a dead fish. We all start talking about Black snake Moan. I refer
to it as a great Uncle Remus story. That’s when Keith says)
Keith: You know when I went to
see Hustle and Flow at the Sundance film festival I couldn’t believe that
thing won. I was like “Are you kidding me? The heart warming tale of a
black pimp and his hoes? And all these white people are “Oh my god this
is beautiful.” And someone asked the question to the director, “Do
you feel awkward being this white guy doing this black pimp story?” He
did this awkward answer, then someone from the audience was all “Don’t
be ashamed to be white.” Yeah it was weird and bad and horrible. I mean
it was an Ok movie but the fact that it won Sundance as the...It was like Oh
My god. Whatever. That’s a whole other interview. What were we talking
ME: Black history month being the busiest time for you.
Keith: Oh yeah. I just did an
interview with the Chronicle about how when I first started out the only time
I got calls was during black history month. What’ I’d say was “Thanks
for contacting me and just to let you know I also work the other 11 months of
the year.” Now that I work all throughout the year I anticipate February
being the busiest time on the month so I send out business cards out and all
that to make sure I get the work. So in that sense, it’s good to be black
in the industry. And in another sense it’s just bizarre. I’ve had
editors say “Oh we’d love to have your strip but we don’t
have any black people in our town.” But the editors are white and they
love the strip. So I say “You’re a white guy and you like my strip
so why don’t you think other white people will?” Then they just
think about it for a minute and walk away. So you know, its just a weird weird
thing. But its nice to see a lot of people coming up and doing their work. More
and more you see people of color coming up in conventions. I was just talking
to this one young lady who does a strip I think would be a great daily and I
told her its an angle you should use, The first Asian American female doing
a daily. I mean that’s the way they market you. It makes you cringe but
anyway to get in, and then you show people how great you are no matter what
color you are. And I understand that people will probably market me as a replacement
for Aaron Mcgruder , but anyone who knows my stuff knows its different. And
that will be proven once I’m in.
ME: Any words for aspiring artist
wanting to break into the strip industry?
Keith: Perseverance. Keep taking stabs at it, keeping working
keep grooving. Look at stuff you like, and stuff you don’t like. Find
out what it is you like and why and what you don’t like. Then proceed
as you see fit. Do a comic you’d like to read. Don’t try to anticipate
the editors. They’ll be enough people out there trying to hinder you so
just do yourself. If its an idea in your head, get it out on paper and hopefully
it’ll help spawn another idea.