*The K Chronicles — Recommended Series

The K Chronicles is a weekly semi-autobiographical strip about a struggling cartoonist and musician — Knight is half of the hip-hop group The Marginal Prophets — living in San Francisco. This isn’t a typical newspaper comic, mainly due to the nature of some of the jokes, which have involved vomit, snot, poop, cannibalism, and penis size (illustrated).

Dances with Sheep cover
Dances with Sheep
Introduction by
Harvey Pekar
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Common themes include family, the difference between the East and West Coasts, popular culture, liberal politics, foreign views of our country (through his European vacations and his work in a youth hostel visited by tourists), male/female relationships, and drawing the comic itself. Recent volumes emphasize family interactions — I loved the strip about going to SPX with his sister, and how you don’t realize some benefits from a relationship until it’s too late — and current events.

Knight establishes a good sense of place and pays attention to the regional differences that are disappearing; the unique flavors of Boston and New Orleans are two that he highlights. Some of the strips are a bit dated, as when he takes on the Spice Girls or the Woodstock anniversary, but that’s not uncommon for social commentary.

The strip somewhat resembles the classic Hey, Look! by Harvey Kurtzman, with large amounts of text at the top of each panel occasionally squeezing out the pictures. The pages are primarily populated by talking caricatures while the text narrates the events and provides an internal monologue.

Fear of a Black Marker cover
Fear of a Black Marker
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His lettering has real personality and individuality, supporting his unique voice. The pictures are more illustrations than an essential part of the comic combination, but the comic strip format serves as camouflage for things that otherwise couldn’t be said to this audience. The sometimes challenging material comes across as less harmful in this context.

The real-world observations of daily life are humorous, and Knight has a unique perspective on urban politics and social issues mixed with a healthy disrespect for authority. There’s also fun in vicariously living his somewhat Bohemian lifestyle, with bars, band tours, and the like.

Many strips have a tone of grouchiness spawned by the frustrations of other people’s thoughtlessness. His artist’s imagination sees things just a bit askew. Who else would think of responding to everyday rudeness by literally throwing tomatoes, spiced by the acknowledgment of casual racism?

What a Long Strange Strip It's Been cover
What a Long Strange
Strip It’s Been
(Published by Top Shelf)
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The strongest strips are those relating to race; with the freshest insights and most daring comments, they seem most his. The one that made me a fan was done as a reaction to the 41 shots fired by NYC police at a black man holding nothing more threatening than a remote control. The strip has the text “BLAM” repeated 41 times, filling most of the space. (It’s included in the third book.) Paradoxically, this mostly text strip works well as comics. Aside from the consistent reminder of the position of the questioner — a small, harmless character in the corner of the panels — the BLAMs figure as both graphic symbols and text, integrating words and pictures in one object.

With the third book, he’s also begun talking about cheap thrills and little victories, small moments of optimism in daily life. Personal revelations, as when he shows how he was starstruck meeting Maya Angelou, make me feel I know him, but at the same time, they shed light on human nature in general.

The recurring “Life’s Little Victories” feature demonstrates Knight’s underlying appreciation of life, especially food. He’s willing to say uncomfortable things and take unpopular positions, but he’s generous with compliments when they’re deserved and appreciative in acknowledging those who’ve influenced him in music, comics, comedy, and more.

The Passion of the Keef cover
The Passion of the Keef
Introduction by
Aaron McGruder
(The Boondocks)
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The books require flexibility of thought. It can be a little weird to read a rant about needing to teach kids a second language early followed by a literal matter of life and death followed by his band playing naked. I find this variety a significant part of the book’s appeal; I never know what subject will send the author off. Like life, I’m suddenly reminded of mortality or fallibility in the middle of enjoying myself.

Many comic strips may be read online at the Salon.com archive, or visit Knight’s web site. These four books have been collected as The Complete K Chronicles. I Left My Arse in San Francisco is the newest strip collection.

Knight has also released Are We Feeling Safer Yet? A Th(Ink) Anthology. He was interviewed in Attitude 2: The New Subversive Alternative Cartoonists.


10 Responses to “*The K Chronicles — Recommended Series”

  1. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] I was glad to find out more about old favorites Keith Knight and Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch Out For), and I was excited to discover new talents like Emily Flake (Lulu Eightball), Tak Toyoshima (Secret Asian Man), and Mikhaela B. Reid. Also included are Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man), Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks), David Rees (Get Your War On), Jason Yungbluth (Deep Fried), Stephen Notley (Bob the Angry Flower), former Usenet buddy Barry Deutsch (Ampersand), and ten more. [...]

  2. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] I don’t do much with audio on the web myself, but this site has posted interviews with a number of independent comic creators, including Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers), Keith Knight (The K Chronicles), Jim Rugg (Street Angel), and Tom Beland (True Story Swear to God). [...]

  3. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Keith Knight (The K Chronicles) mentors Tom from the next table over, demonstrating the helping hand of an established professional to a newcomer. He shares some clever tips and more importantly, the need to commit and treat this as a business. [...]

  4. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Keith Knight has put out a second collection of his (th)ink comics. Where The K Chronicles are multi-paneled and often biographical, (th)ink more closely resembles editorial cartoons. They’re single panels that directly address political issues. [...]

  5. A Detailed Harvey Awards Ceremony Writeup » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Chinese. Jose Villarrubia presented Best Syndicated Strip or Panel, awarded to Keith Knight’s K Chronicles, and Best Online Comics Work. Dustin Harbin accepted that award on behalf of Nicholas Gurewich for [...]

  6. Two New K Chronicles Books » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] greatly enjoy Keith Knight’s Harvey- and Glyph-winning strip The K Chronicles, but most of the collected volumes are now out of print. Which means it’s time for an [...]

  7. Recommend Good African-American Comics » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] exception is Keith Knight, whose K Chronicles are autobio but quite funny without self-pity. You might also enjoy the works of Kyle Baker. His [...]

  8. Keith Knight on Complete K Chronicles » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] man in comics, Keith Knight’s definitely one of the top ten. He’s the creator of The K Chronicles, the Harvey and Glyph Award-winning weekly comic strip, as well as the weekly editorial cartoon [...]

  9. The K Chronicles: I Left My Arse in San Francisco » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] newest K Chronicles compendium, as artist Keith Knight labels his strip collections, is now available. It’s [...]

  10. The Knight Life: Chivalry Ain’t Dead » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Knight‘s first successful* comic strip was The K Chronicles, running in alternative weekly papers. (*I’m judging success here by longevity, running for [...]

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