Keith Knight doesn't mess around. The author of (th)ink, The K Chronicles and his most recent series, The Knight Life, Knight blends his experience working in autobiographical, gag, and editorial cartooning across three ongoing series on GoComics. It's no small thing to illustrate this volume of work, let alone to stay inspired, so we got in touch with the globe-trotting Knight for insights into how he manages his workload.
Keith Knight: The K Chronicles was a strip I started in college..which was essentially developed from an autobiographical strip I did since junior high.
(th)ink came about when I was asked by a website to come up with a second strip. I wanted to do something the exact opposite of The K Chronicles; single panel instead of multi-panel..taken from the news instead of from my life.
The Knight Life came about when I finally gave in to syndicates asking me to do a daily version of The K Chronicles.
GC: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as the creator of three comics, and what have you found rewarding about maintaining the balance?
KK: In a word? DEADLINES. It's a nightmare maintaining three strips.
The rewards? I love working the different formats. Each strip has its own rhythm..it keeps things from getting boring.
GC: Your comics each have a different core genre/focus, but they also share a consistent voice and tone. Do you ever have ideas for one strip that find their way into another?
KK: Sure. I've plagiarized myself plenty of times. Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery!
GC: One major criticism of the comic strip format -- particularly those syndicated in newspapers -- is that they can be sentimental fluff. The Knight Life includes its share of warmth and humor but tends to actively confront serious issues. Does the "corniness stigma" of newspaper strips inform how you approach your work?
KK: Corniness done right is wonderful. Sentimentality too. There's just not a lot of folks who do it well. The daily strip format is a tough, tough thing to keep consistently funny and/or topical and/or interesting. I'd like to think I do my fair share of funny stuff.
GC: People talk about the current state of politics being a double-edged sword for professional social commentators like cartoonists. On one hand, there's plenty to talk about. On the other… who cares if you're too stressed to compromised by reality TO talk about it? How has America and the wider world's social and political climate been affecting how you balance your identity as a civilian and a public-facing cartoonist?
KK: It bugs me when people say "at least you'll have plenty to write about these next four years." That drives me crazy. Hey said that with Gee Dubya Bush, and look how THAT turned out. I'd rather not have an idiot in the White House.
GC: Family is an important theme in your comics. You show it literally in your auto-bio work, but it shows up in your completely fictional characters' stories as well. Do you ever use your fictional characters to show an aspect of your own life as opposed to including it directly in a bio-comic?
KK: Definitely. Each character in the daily strip is a different aspect of my personality. Daily strips are more about characters people can check in with every day.
GC: You do your share of traveling for talks, presentations and more. How do you balance travel with cartooning? Do you work ahead or are you among the mighty who is somehow able to draw on planes?
KK: I draw everywhere. On planes. At airports. In hotel rooms.I am best on a train traveling through Germany. I can do a week's worth of dailies on a trip from Stuttgart to Berlin.
GC: As prolific as you are, the demands of a creative career can take a toll. How do you recharge your comics batteries?
KK: I travel. I have two sons that we homeschool. Tennis. I just bought a house. I'm on my town's arts commission. And I advocate against prisons, police brutality and voter suppression.
GC: You've been making comics for most of your adult life. How do you think your art and your voice as an artist has evolved over time?
KK: I swear a lot less in my work. And I show up nude in fewer and fewer strips. So I guess I've matured.