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.

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The Non-Cartoonist Cartoonist ~ The Non-Political Political Cartoonist

By James Donahue

As someone who creates a politically oriented comic strip, I’m sorry to admit that I’m not actually very politically savvy. However, 2014 is already shaping up to be big year for politics and political cartoons, so I expect that to include I’ll Kick Your Ass and Asskickin’ Jim.

The landscape in American politics could see some very serious changes by the end of 2014. For the briefest of overviews, I can tell you that it’s an election year for the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by the GOP. Of the 435 congressional seats, the Democrats need 17 more than they currently hold to take back Congress. In the Senate, 33 of the 100 seats are up for election, and the Republicans need six more seats to take control. Each state will deal with its independent issues, of course, but some nationwide themes could end up making the difference in the end.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the most incendiary issue today and will probably be the issue most Republicans use as a jumping off point when facing their Democratic rivals. More commonly known as “Obamacare,” the ACA took a major hit when the October launch of turned out to be an epic failure. It could not be accessed by many of the people who visited the site and was rife with technical difficulties and glitches. The president had to address the issue multiple times and even had to apologize for the errors in launching a government website that didn’t work. This does not bode well for an already controversial program or the people who backed it.

On the same day as the launch of the website, the United States government shut down. This was due in part to disagreements over the ACA and the fact that Congress would not agree on a variety of fund appropriations for fiscal year 2014. This shutdown saw many government agencies closed or understaffed and some employees furloughed or asked to come to work not knowing when they would next be paid. It even closed down the National Zoo’s Panda Cam!

Congress was finally able to reach an agreement to get the government up and running again 16 days later, but the issue will be revisited in February 2014. This agreement was reached one day before the US would default on public debt. The debt ceiling has remained an issue since 2011 and will no doubt be revisited again in the coming years. A failure to solve the debt ceiling problem would cause the credit rating of the United States to be lowered, affecting its economic power in the future.

But the real question for political cartoonists is who will garner the most attention by saying or doing something stupid on the campaign trail. Considering that an army of advisers surrounds most politicians, it’s especially disconcerting that they are so notorious for saying and doing unwise things.

Here are a couple choice doozies, both spoken by former vice presidential hopefuls. How these two statements ever saw the light of day is anyone’s guess:

But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.
—Sarah Palin

I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have is that I didn’t study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people.
—Dan Quayle.

Not that I’m complaining. It makes the job of any political cartoonist easier when politicians have a huge public platform and endless media outlets from which to share their too often misguided opinions. Politics is a passionate subject for many people, from supporters, rivals, and members of the media, all the way down to the average citizen. When emotions become involved, logical thinking has a way of exiting stage left, resulting in wildly unpredictable statements. Celebrities often get involved or are actively recruited by political parties, to interesting results (see Clint Eastwood, Chair).

As such, you can expect to see a bit of evolution for the I’ll Kick Your Ass strip in the new year. Politicians have been targeted in the past mainly because of the reasons stated above. It’s the same reason celebrities and athletes are often the butt of the joke: With social media and countless networks dedicated to every word they say, they have a constant platform to spew their every thought.

I think this is a good time to evolve and become more aware of those making the decisions that affect the country in which we live. I’m certainly not going to stop picking on other public figures who say idiotic things, but may make an effort to focus more on politics. The 2014 federal elections could be even bigger and more hotly contested than ever because the issues are so emotional. The ACA and Debt Ceiling are hugely disputed, for starters, but as long as politicians continue to vomit careless rhetoric at their every chance, the possibilities are endless.

Pronto Presents: Creator Jorel Lonesome

Pronto Presents: Creator Jorel Lonesome
By David Rondinelli

Jorel 3Jorel Lonesome is a veteran member of Pronto Comics. As writer, editor, and manager of his three-issue anthology title, Blackout, Lonesome has become an accurate representation of the “do-it-all” creator. His unique storytelling for Pronto’s line of anthologies has given him an open and fresh approach to creating comics and managing the different art teams that come together under his title. Lonesome imparts what he has learned about story telling and crafting an anthology. Learn more about the Bronx native as he discusses the joys of the comic medium, how he got started, and what we can expect to see from him in the future.

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The Non-Cartoonist Cartoonist ~ Love Hate Like

By James Donahue

I remember when I first started loving comics. I also remember when I started hating comics. I’m trying to just like comics again.

The first comic book I ever read was Marvel’s G.I.Joe. My parents had given me a few dollars at a local fair. I wandered around trying to find something to buy, the money burning a hole in my pocket. Under a small tent was a booth with comics new and old. I picked an issue off the rack and bought it. My uncle had a trailer at the fair, where he was selling pumpkins painted with goofy faces and red noses. As I sat in his trailer reading it, I was instantly hooked. I think I went back to that tent two or three more times, buying one or two more each stop.

The first job I ever had was in a comic book shop at age thirteen. I was too young to be paid cash, so I was paid in comics, a setup that suited me just fine. Friday was new book day. I would help bag all the new comics (cover priced at just 60 cents!) and fill the customers’ files with the books they requested each week. At the end of the day, I would take my own new books and ride my bike home. Thus began my comic book collection.

Issue 21 of G.I.Joe made me love comics. It was the silent issue featuring the revelation that both Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow had matching tattoos.

Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns made me love comics. I remember the day we opened the box of new books from the distributor, and sitting on top was the first issue with its iconic cover of a silhouetted Batman and lightning striking in the background. The other kid and I just stared, our jaws on the floor. He lifted the issue from the box like Indiana Jones lifting the idol at the beginning of the first Raiders film. We had come upon something sacred and magical.

Issue 78 of Cerebus made me love comics. A psychedelic dream issue where reality is stretched and oddly transformed. I had never seen anything like it and was mesmerized.

Finding or being given old comic books from tag sales and flea markets made me love comics. Different books like The Unknown Soldier and Weird Western Tales featuring Scalphunter. They were torn and tattered and smelled of a damp musty attic, and they were great. They were just a little bit older and slightly less politically correct than the newer books. It was as if I were reading something meant for adults.


Lots of things influenced my love of comics. I began “collecting,” but luckily was too young to see the investment aspect. I knew it existed, knew old comics were valuable, but it wasn’t really on my radar or within my means. I would never be able to afford a copy of The Amazing Spiderman Number One. Hell, I never even got a copy of Daredevil Issue 158, which was considered “affordable” at the time. Why would I? I could buy a dozen new comics for the cost of one older comic.

The first shop I worked in was eventually sold. The investment era was upon us. A chain outfit from somewhere down south named Big Bob’s bought out the previous owner, a super nice guy but terrible businessman. His most common phrase was “I have it, I just don’t know where it is.” This was true; he had most everything, but it was lost somewhere within his vast inventory. The shop went from a dingy, disorganized, chaotic mess to a cold, commercial, heartless entity. The walls were all painted bright yellow (Big Bob’s signature color), the cases were shiny and new, and professional shelving was installed. I continued to work there, seeing as I was practically part of the deal when it was sold. It was never the same, though. They even brought in sports cards! Sports cards in a comic shop? This was not a good sign.

There is an old saying: “familiarity breeds contempt.” This is how I started hating comics.

I had overstayed my welcome. I was too familiar, too close, had seen too much. The “investors” made me hate comics. They bought multiple copies of certain books and would complain if one tiny crease existed in the spine. One guy would come in with what looked like a shammy towel and lay each issue out like a precious antique (similar to how we treated The Dark Knight, but for the wrong reasons).

The gimmicks made me hate comics. The Investment Era is also sometimes nicknamed the Chromium Era for this very reason. Chromium covers, hologram covers, die cut covers, glow in the dark covers, bagged issues, trading card inserts, all of it was hard to take.

Death of Superman made me hate comics. Not that I cared that Superman died. I knew he wasn’t going to be dead long. That storyline combined the worst traits of the era in one neat little package. A gimmick for the investors and everyone else in the world. People I had never seen before came into the store asking for five or ten copies of the black-bagged book—a comic book you couldn’t even read! At one point the owner of the store took copies from the regular customers’ files to sell to strangers off the street, leaving loyal customers empty-handed. I worked at the shop a little while longer, but didn’t love comics anymore. I read less and less. The things that made me love comics were killed by what made me hate comics.

On occasion, while in college I would visit the various comic shops of New York City in search of something to read. In was an exercise in futility. Little to nothing interested me, at least from the superhero side of things. Part of it was I was older and had different interests, but part of me still held a grudge against the big companies and what they had done by making comics into something to be put in a vault instead of scattered about the living room. I read Hate by Peter Bagge, Eightball by Dan Clowes, or other independent autobiographical-style books. I would purposefully treat the books casually, even badly, to remind myself they weren’t for investing or even collecting but for reading and enjoying.

I want to like comics again. Not sure I will ever love them. Certain characters still interest me, mostly ones on the fringe like Swamp Thing, Demon, or Deadman, who exist on the spectrum of the supernatural. The movies help, too. Seeing larger than life characters done well on the big screen is pretty neat. They make me want to go back and find out their origins, although I’m not sure I’ll ever be a regular reader again. I would be more willing to give smaller publishers with new ideas a chance at my money than the movie studios. Chances are, next time I’m in a comic shop, I might look in the bargain bin for a well-read copy of Sgt Rock or Machine Man instead.

Pronto Presents: Technician & Videographer Ignacio Jaramillo

Pronto Presents: Technician & Videographer Ignacio Jaramillo
By David Rondinelli

jaramillo headshotTechnician and artist Ignacio Jaramillo has been a part of Pronto Comics almost since its inception. Born in Queens, New York, Jaramillo is a graduate of The Art Institute of Philadelphia, where he received his BA in Media Arts and Animation in 2006. Helping to progress Pronto, Jaramillo has seen the publisher evolve from a small meet-up group to a full-blown company. Providing many of the video trailers for various Pronto comic titles, he helps to bring marketing awareness with unique animated trailers that emphasize the individual style of each book. An avid gamer, Jaramillo is no stranger to the deep bond that comics and video games share. Learn more about the process of what it takes to connect the wires with the technical side of comics as, this month, Pronto Presents Ignacio Jaramillo.

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