Keith Knight is an award winning syndicated American cartoonist and author. His comic strips have been syndicated in Mad Magazine, Salon.com, and the San Francisco Examiner. Always outspoken, his weekly strips The KChronicles, (Th)ink, and The Knightlife showcase his humor and perspective on the social and political issues that face all of us in America. With a career that spans nearly 20 years in comics, Keith has decided to take a look back at his early formidable teenage years with his first graphic novel I Was A Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator. The project was successfully funded on Kickstarter last month, and I got the change to chat with Keith a little about his work and Michael Jackson.
Ari: Your style of comic strip has been compared to Calvin and Hobbes, was Bill Watterson a big influence on you?
Keith: Watterson was a huge influence on me. I changed the way I drew cartoons after taking in his work. My style became simpler and more expressive, which is very important when working with such a tiny amount of space.
Ari: You’ve received many accolades during your career, did you ever see yourself being this successful?
Keith: Yes. Dream big, I always say.
Ari: Like most syndicated comic strips, do you get a lot of your inspiration from daily life?
Keith: I’d say I take more from my daily life than most, considering my strip is autobiographical.
Ari: What is the most important and key part of your creative process?
Keith: Taking that sketchbook out every day and putting pen to paper. Sometimes it’ll come easy and sometimes it’ll come hard, but you should always do it. Being open and receptive to ideas coming in from everywhere.
Ari: You have given commentary on race in America, how do you feel that relates to “geek culture” and particularly women of color?
Keith: Geeks have been goofed on and mistreated for years until the age of the internet. Now the geeks are getting their revenge. I think the same thing is gonna happen for women of color. That’s why all these old white dudes are trying to restrict voting and women’s reproduction rights…They see the writing on the wall, and they’re totally over-reacting.
Ari: Do you believe that America still has a problem with race, and if so, what is the biggest obstacle in overcoming that?
Keith: Oh yeah..Though younger people have a better attitude about it. But as long as people refuse to have frank discussions about race in the U.S., things will never significantly change.
Ari: You’ve been active during the transition of more newspapers going on line, and more established newspapers going out of print, is print media becoming obsolete?
Keith: No–print is just going through a transition. The same transition that radio went through when television came in to being. Print media will be a smaller piece of the pie, but it’ll never go away.
Ari: What was your reaction when Michael Jackson died?
Keith: I felt terrible. A piece of my childhood went away. Same with Adam Yauch of the Beasties.
Ari: What is your favorite Michael Jackson album and/or song, and can you still do your Michael Jackson routine or the dance moves?
Keith: “Off the Wall” is my favorite MJ album. Though I’m also partial to the Jackson 5’s “ABC”. “Workin’ Day and Night” is a favorite. There are many, though.
I’ve ruptured my achilles tendon and haven’t been able to walk, must less dance, but I caught my 3-year old lip-syncing to the Jackson 5, so the torch is passed!
Ari: What advice do you have for artists and/or writers, particularly women of color, who want to get into the comics industry?
Keith: Practice. Patience. Persistence. Embrace a D.I.Y. philosophy. Be prepared to dance with the industry when they come seeking your expertise, but don’t completely rely on them to fulfill your every dream!
Visit Keith at his websites below, and you can still pledge to help fund his graphic novel directly on his website.