Ken Knudtsen interview

Get ready for something different in Ken Knudtsen's My Monkey's Name is Jennifer, published by Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently spoke with Knudtsen about this crazy monkey.

Westfield: How would you describe My Monkey's Name is Jennifer?

Ken Knudtsen: [laughs] Usually when people ask what it's about, I would just answer that it's about a little girl and a monkey and the monkey's crazy because the little girl treats this male monkey as a little sister and she dresses him up as a little girl with dresses. They have tea parties with stuffed animals. The monkey's always going crazy because he can't take this any more. The parents beat him because they see that he is going crazy, and they feel bad for him, but they don't want the little girl to get hurt. When the girl gets kidnapped, the monkey goes to save her because he thinks he'll get beat more if he comes home without the girl. You've read the first issue right? What did you think of it?

Westfield: [laughs] I enjoyed it. It was very weird. It seemed like a children's story gone horribly, horribly wrong. [laughter] You have all these classic children's stories of a little boy or a little girl with their favorite stuffed animal or their pet going out on adventures together. It has that flavor, but completely turned on its head.

Is this your first comics work?

Knudtsen: That's being published? Yes. I've been sending out submissions since high school. So it's been a long time. I went to art school in The City. I went to the School of Visual Arts. A lot of comic illustrators taught there and I thought this would be a great way to help me get started. That's when the industry started going under and it became clear that it's going to be tougher to break in than I thought it was going to be. I've been doing some small stuff here and there that's never been published or printed.

Westfield: Where did the idea for My Monkey's Name is Jennifer come from?

Knudtsen: A friend and I had done work for this company, and he paid us a lot of money for it, and we decided to write our own comics. I had never really written anything before so I asked a lot of my friends and my brother, who do write, to come up with stuff. I didn't really like anything that they had done. The Simpsons episode with the helper monkey, Mojo, was on and I'm like, All right. Something with a monkey would be funny. I thought of maybe an angry monkey and I started to build around it.

Westfield: Do you see Jennifer as a reluctant hero, or is he simply looking out for himself?

Knudtsen: Ultimately, I think that Jennifer is a reluctant hero. But there is no way in hell that he would admit it to himself, much less anyone else.

Westfield: Is this planned to be an ongoing series?

Knudtsen: Yes. I actually have the first four done and I'm half way penciling the fifth one.

Westfield: What can you tell us about what's on the way?

Knudtsen: The second issue concludes the first story. The monkey does get the girl back with some help. I don't want to give too much away. In #3-5 they end up on a pirate ship. I'm plotting the 6th one now. It'll show what they have to do to get the monkey out in public and keep him behaving. They go see a movie and I thought it would be a good idea if the parents, as a precaution, every time they take the monkey out in public, they drug him with Nyquil or something just to keep him calmed down.

Westfield: One of the things that Slave Labor is using to promote the book is a quote from Peter David. How did that come about?

Knudtsen: I live in New York and there's not really too many conventions left any more. About a year and a half or two years ago, almost, I was getting ready to go to San Diego for the first time, that's when I first met Slave Labor. The month before that, there was a New York convention and I almost had the first issue completely done. It was penciled, it was lettered, and it was almost entirely inked. So, I was walking around there. There were really no companies there. Marvel and DC didn't show up. Bill Tucci was there. That was about it. I saw Peter David there and he's one of my favorite writers. He had a little Mojo Jojo doll on his desk, the monkey from Powerpuff Girls. I walked over, and the people he had been talking to just happened to walk away. I introduced myself, Hi. My name is Ken. You're one of my favorite writers. I'm trying to get this published. If you could take a look at it when you get a chance, that would be great. I handed it to him and he had just gotten up to leave, so I completely forgot about that until I got to San Diego. I'm showing it to people and every single one of them, the first five people I showed it to, said, I've seen this somewhere before, but I can't tell you where. So I thought, Great. This is not working out for me at all. Someone else has something almost exactly like this. And the sixth person I hit said, Oh. This is the Peter David thing. I got a hold of the Comics Buyer's Guide, and the reason why everyone recognized it was because he had printed the first three panels in his column, and that was the first page I was showing people. So that helped me out a lot. When I talked to Slave Labor, Dan Vado, the head guy there, he's like I saw this somewhere. I brought up the Peter David thing, and he's like, Oh yeah. That's great. That's right. Peter David liked it. And it turns out that Dan loves monkeys too, so it was two things working out for me right there.

Westfield: Do you have any closing comments?

Knudtsen: I'm really glad that this is finally starting to work out for me. I was getting a little nervous. When I was first showing it around at San Diego, I had no idea what people would think of it. I really didn't have any super hero pencils with me. I lucked out that Peter David happened to write about it and it happened to come out that weekend. I lucked out that I caught Dan at the table as opposed to walking up to the table and getting submission guidelines handed to me. They called almost right away to say that they were interested and they were going to send a contract to me. So I'm very happy and I'm thrilled that it's finally coming out now. March can't come soon enough.