COMIC-CON 2010: Keith Knight talks new books, Nappy Hours & why he won't be on an Angry Black Panel
KEITH KNIGHT used to sneak onto Artists' Alley at San Diego Comic-Con, displaying his 'zines till someone told him to fold up shop. Now, nearly two decades later, for the first time, the acclaimed creator of "The Knight Life" and "The K Chronicles" gets his own featured-artist "Spotlight" today at the Con.
The young man who once had to squat for a spot to get his work seen will now have an army of fans eager to hear his stories. As such, Knight is a testament to just how far the one-two punch of talent and perseverance can take you.
Comic Riffs caught up with the cartoonist to discuss his new book, his brand-new attempt to adapt cartoonists' barroom chatter to Comic-Con proper -- and why you won't see him featured on an Angry Black Panel next to a wannabe-cartoonist rapper:
MICHAEL CAVNA: You're a Comic-Con veteran, Keith, but you've got some new twists happening this year. What exactly have you got going on?
KEITH KNIGHT: Well, I've got a [Featured Cartoonist] "Spotlight" going on. It's the first time I'm doing one of them. Also, over the past few years, I've held "informational gatherings at a local bar [on Island and J] -- I call it "Nappy Hour." Cartoonists come up and meet up, but this is the first time I'm doing it as an official panel, just talking with creators. I call it the Nappy Hour Panel of Black Cartoonists where no one is a rapper just releasing a comic book and trying to break into comics.
I wanted to get together folks you'd never see on the Angry Black Panel. I want to transfer that kind of casual talk about the industry that we do at the bar into a panel at Comic-Con -- well, without the booze.
[ Ed. Note: The other "Nappy Hour" panelists are Ned Cato Jr. (GeekRoundTable.com), Spike Trotman (Templar AZ) and Dwayne McDuffie (Static Shock, Justice League). Knight says the scheduled David Walker (BadAzzMofo.com) won't make it. ]
MC: So any topics in particular you guys are gonna discuss?
KK: I don't think I'll talk about the real difficulties -- I'm going to focus on what works. I'm not going to focus on the frustrations, [except] maybe to convey that here are some mistakes I've made. It will definitely be more about giving people some ideas to emulate.
For example, one thing I talk about constantly is perseverance. So many people show up at Comic-Con and say: "How do I do this and get done?" and they might give it a year and then give up. I'm must been doing it for so long. I just did a strip about [the recently departed] Harvey Pekar. Look at how he finally got rewarded [after decades]. He is really is one of those folks who put in the time.
MC: Definitely. Neil Gaiman told us the other day that everything else Harvey did professionally was all about the comic. He just wanted to raise the money for his comic -- and of course, for his family once he had one.
KK: Exactly. He just wanted to be able to support his family. What more noble thing is there? I'm a family man, so that's what I'm doing now. Once upon a time [my cartooning aspiratioins] might have been for fame and riches. Now I'll be selling original art that has baby scrawlings on it.
MC: Congratulations. How old is the baby?
KK: He just turned 2. I call him The Incredible Cuteness of Being.
MC: So what have you got going on to support the budding family?
KK: Right now, I'd say I'm really happy with the new collection. It's called "Knight Life: Chivalry Ain't Dead," It's my first collection -- it just came out in June, so it's really making its debut at Comic-Con.
MC: Speaking of debuts, when was your very first Comic-Con?
KK: It was 1992 or 1993. I sneaked into Artists' Alley. I literally squatted on the alley -- I just sat down and put my 'zines there for a couple of years, till they wouldn't let me do it anymore. They said: "It's time you went legitimate.
I always advocate that -- because a lot of [artists] don't show at Artists' Alley till Friday or Saturday -- they should let another professional sit there. They have the open spaces. It's like the people who sit in at the Oscars when [audience members] go to the bathroom. They have professional sitters. No one wants to walk down an aisle with only two or three [artists] in it.
MC: So do you walk the whole convention center, from showroom floor to panels?
KK: I mostly just stay in the small Press section and stay behind my table. I barely walk around unless someone says to me: "Go see this!" It's gotten so crowded. Last year it was weird because so many people are wary of the crowds on Saturday that it became the slowest day on the floor. Everybody was upstairs.
MC: So much of Comic-Con is about the extracurricular activities. Other than barstool Nappy Hour, what are some of the best scenes you've found off-site?
KK: The most interesting time was when we stumbled upon a hotel bar where every major webcartoonist was there -- the "Penny Arcade" guys and everybody. Avery Brooks was there, too, and also No.-1 from "Star Trek: Next Generation." And they were drunk and singing the piano-bar versions of old standards. It was the weirdest thing. ...
Also, last year, I went to a party [involving] artwork I'd done for a computer-parts company. And there were all these amazing old-school artists -- Jeff Keane ("Family Circus"), Sergio Aragones, Jerry Robinson, Scott Shaw! Some of us ended up [North of Broadway] at this absinthe bar with this eclectic group of people as "absinthe fairies" -- young women in their 20s -- were fanning us.
MC: I should have hung out with you last year. So, even since your first Comic-Con, Hollywood seemed to come more and more to cater and cultivate the geek crowd. How has being a "geek" changed?
KK: Geeky became cool. I used to say: Everyone who got beat up in high school shows up at Comic-Con. Now these are the guys other people turn to. I mean, look at the Geek Squad at Best Buy -- I betcha these guys now do house calls to Hollywood women. ... But mostly, I think people are empowered by being a geek, especially at Comic-Con. I remember years ago, the thing about Comic-Con was: It was the only place where you I felt like I could beat up [most of] the guys in the room.
MC: So has Comic-Con outgrown San Diego, or should the Con stay in the city of its birth?
KK: I'm nostalgic for the way it used to be in San Diego. I liked the sleaziness of downtown. I think that it was amazing then. There were raves and a weird kind of warehouse thing we used to go to that had a boxing ring. It was all rundown and weird. That's what I liked. But I do like how big it's gotten. And I still think you can find what you're into out on the showroom floor.
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| July 22, 2010; 2:15 PM ET
Categories: Interviews With Cartoonists, San Diego Comic-Con | Tags: Keith Knight, San Diego Comic-Con 2010, The K Chronicles, The Knight Life
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