Pronto Presents: Comic Creator Ken Knudtsen

Pronto Presents: Comic Creator Ken Knudtsen
By David Rondinelli

72845_10151016563772835_742622834_12138876_435477765_nKen Knudtsen is a writer and artist who has been a prolific voice in independent comics. Quite the Renaissance man, he’s been a letter, editor, and colorist for SLG Publishing, and is perhaps best known for his own title, My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer. The series follows a male monkey named Jennifer who gets embroiled with Dr. Tunick, a man bent on harvesting the brain energy of people.

A graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts, Knudtsen has worked in the comic industry since 2002. He became a regular with Pronto Comics when he hosted a Q&A with our monthly podcast. Knudtsen has also lent his talents to Pronto Comics as a guest judge at our semi-annual Phrases to Pages fundraiser and by illustrating the cover of Blackout #2. Below, Knudtsen shares some tips on how he creates a cover, ways to unblock creative jams, and what’s coming up for him in the future.

Pronto Presents: How did you get involved with Pronto and what attracted you to working with us?

Ken Knudtsen: I’m pretty positive that my first meeting with Pronto Comics was when Dominic Sparano and James Babbo stopped by my Artist Alley table at the New York Comic Con a bunch of years ago. They laid out what they had already started and what was going to follow, and it sounded interesting and ambitious. I think that I was a guest speaker not too long after that, possibly on a “Surviving Comic Con” panel.

PP: How was it working on the cover for our book, Blackout #2?

KK: I had a blast working on the cover for Blackout #2. Doing an anthology cover is always a little tricky, particularly when there is no connecting theme for the stories. Therefore, I thought about the old school J.L.A. annual covers, and went from there.

kingcrux_finalPP: Does cover art present different challenges than sequential pages? Which one do you find more difficult/easy?

KK: For me, doing a cover that I end up happy with is significantly tougher than drawing a sequential page. I love the art of telling a story with panels, so trying to do that in a single image is certainly a challenge each time out for me. I have a lot of fun any time that I get to do either one.

PP: How long does it take you to draw a cover? In addition, how do you come up with a concept?

KK: When it comes to a cover, I really like to try to hook the viewer not only with a strong image, but something that would get them to be interested in how the story inside turns out. That’s why it’s tough to pull off an anthology cover. I put in a ton of prep and sketching ideas for the covers of My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer issues. I feel that they are successful in that even now.

PP: How long have you been in comics and what got you into them?

pg 22KK: I’ve been into comics since I can remember reading. I fucking loved them growing up, probably started off by the Superfriends and ’60s Marvel cartoons (you kids today don’t know how good you have it). Something that was pretty cool, when I was a kid, was sitting on my front stoop reading comics as my upstairs neighbor passed by. He stopped, talked to me for a few minutes about what I was reading, and then excused himself to go back to his apartment, only to return with a huge box of his old comics to give to me. That was so fucking great! I now make it a point to donate my old comics that I don’t read any longer. I was constantly drawing in school, which was tough to get away with since I was in all advanced placement classes. I then decided that I wanted to go to art school, so off to the School of Visual Arts I went.

PP: What are some of the strategies you use to get over any art blocks or challenges when it comes to designing a page or cover?

KK: It is incredibly frustrating when I can’t get on a page what’s in my head. Most times, I just need to get away from my board, so I find that any kind of exercise (particularly if it gets me outside) works best. I’ll try to do something related to comics, whether it’s finding reference for something, looking at art from people that I admire, or just taking a break to read some comics.

wolverine_Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation_colorPP: What kind of schedule do you put yourself on when it comes to finding time to draw? How many hours a day do you put in?

KK: This is one of those tricky questions, like “where do you get your ideas from?” The truth is, I have to find as much time for my comic work as I can possibly make without completely burning myself out. Trying to work around a couple of different work demands, it can get really tough at times. On days when everything works out great, I’ll get to draw and write from after breakfast to late at night. Then there are times when it just seems like I’m too tired to care at all. That’s when it’s important to be as honest and critical with myself as I can. If what I’m going to do for the next two hours is going to suck and only make me more frustrated, then it’s better to just wait until tomorrow and give it another shot.

PP: What do you enjoy most about being an independent comic creator?

KK: You mean other than not being incredibly wealthy and famous? I love that My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer is all me, because I handled everything in that book. Yeah, it was an unbelievably draining experience when I finished the extra stuff for the first graphic novel, but man, this is exactly what I dreamed about with my buddies in class at SVA. It’s pretty cool when I get people telling me that they’re fans, because they’re responding to something that I put together all on my own. That’s one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve ever had. I feel that the fans I’ve gained from this tend to be extremely loyal to not only my comic, but to whatever I’m working on, and that’s pretty cool.

cover_issue1_finalPP: You are well known on the independent circuit for My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer. How is that title coming along? Can we expect to see more of Jennifer?

KK: New Jennifer…I’m still trying to put together a complete story that would span another graphic novel. As an artist that also writes, putting together a full script is the hardest part of the process for me. So, I’m clearly not finished with him (not a typo, Jennifer is a cross-dressing…well, read it yourself and find out) just yet.

PP: What are some of the new projects you’re working on?

KK: As for current projects, I’m thankful to have been getting some recent freelance work on book/comic covers, trading cards, and character design. The last couple of years gave me the opportunity to work on some animation, so I’d like to continue that. I’m working with a Marvel writer on a new book that I’m not sure I can talk about just yet, but man, it is going to be a very interesting story.

PP: Bonus question: I know you’re an Aquaman fan. How do you like his New 52 title?

KK: I am really enjoying the new Aquaman. Johns quickly acknowledged, and then changed, the common perceptions of who Aquaman is and what he can really do. And I like the most recent story revelation that really throws the “who rules Atlantis” story idea up for grabs. Unfortunately, I’m not really happy with how Pelletier is following up Reis as penciler. To be honest, I’d love to see what Albuquerque would do with the book if DC decides to pull him from American Vampire

To learn more about Ken Knudtsen, check out his website at kenknudtsen.blogspot.com.

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