1. Graphic fiction, we are told, is in; it has arrived. Academics talk about it, literary publishers include it -- sometimes -- on their lists. But how accepted is it really? Is it genuinely accepted by the high-brow, and viewed with true objectivity? Or is some of the praise that it is given merely bumpf? After all, MFA programs specialize in writing, not graphic fiction; English departments rarely if ever pay attention to graphic fiction; major publishers do not publish much of it, and major prizes never include it in short lists, even though it can be a form of novel. What needs to change for graphic fiction to gain more acceptance?
MK: I don't know if I'm qualified to answer that question - but my best guess would be readership. There needs to be shift in readers of monthly genre books that go to the store every week to more traditional readers that pick up graphic novels as they would any other book, instead of just the few that do make it to mainstream attention.
2. Literary fiction (particularly by new authors) is struggling these days while graphic novels are enjoying steady, healthy sales. Any observations on why that is?
MK: Entertainment. I think readers want to be entertained. And I can't say that I'm very impressed with "literary fiction" in its modern form anyway. Simply put, it's boring. I won't name authors but a lot of what I consider literary fiction, I can't even get through the descriptive copy on the back of the book without rolling my eyes. I think a lot of writers forget what their first goal is and it should be to entertain. The second goal should be to make a reader think differently about something. But those 2 goals need to be in that order.
3. There are a lot of comics artists who self-publish. As in the music industry -- with bands with their own labels -- this is considered perfectly acceptable as long as the creative result is good. Yet self-publishing is deeply frowned upon in literary circles. Why do you think that is?
MK: There's more history and culture there and it's really a different world. It's like the fine art community -- where the "accepted" art is determined by the academics. Comics is still the wild west to some degree -- anything goes and the good stuff rises to the top regardless of publisher or agent.
4. How did you start out?
MK: I self-published my first few comics and just hand distributed them to local comic shops. In 2000 I submitted my first finished graphic novel to Top Shelf and they agreed to publish a week after I handed it to them. There was a lot of sweat and work before that first book got handed to Top Shelf but I just didn't bother trying to get published until I thought I was ready.
5.What kinds of drawing materials do you use?
MK: Japanese Sumi Calligraphy ink, #2 sable hair brush, and windsor newton travel water colors, and water color paper
6. Cartoonists tend to refer directly in their work to the influence of other cartoonists, while traditional artists get "left out". Any fine art influences on your work?
MK: Edward Hopper and Dave McKean are probably my biggest visual influences.
7. How about literary influences?
MK: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and 9 Stories by J D Salinger are by far the most influential books I've read.
8. The United States has produced some of the biggest names in experimental comics, as the form as gone through a series of incarnations: the surreal satire of Krazy Kat by George Herriman, to the underground comics of R. Crumb, to the graphic fiction of Chris Ware. Any other names you'd like to add to the list?
MK: Dan Clowes I think really towers over everyone as well as Cristophe Blaine and Gipi.