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Ken Knudtsen
By Zack Smith


Ken Knudtsen had been trying to break in to the comic industry for years, and wasn’t sure his offbeat book MY MONKEY’S NAME IS JENNIFER would find an audience. However, he soon found the book gathering positive word of mouth before it was even published - from fans and pros alike.

“Basically, I had the first issue almost done,” recalls Knudtsen, 27, at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con. “I went to a convention two years ago, it was a month before the San Diego con, and I gave a copy to Peter David.

“I went to San Diego a month later, I still had the book, and everyone I showed it to was saying, ‘I’ve seen this.’ It turned out Peter had reviewed it [in his COMIC BUYERS GUIDE column ‘But I Digress’]. That was just incredibly flattering. It really gave the book a boost.”

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MY MONKEY’S NAME IS JENNIFER (Slave Labor Graphics, $2.95) has quickly gained a loyal following since the first issue premiered earlier this year (three issues have currently been published). It has received glowing reviews, was spotlighted as “Certified Cool” in Diamond’s PREVIEWS catalog and has become a favorite of many pros (during the course of this interview, STARMAN creator James Robinson came up to pick up the new issue and proclaim JENNIFER “One of the few comics I read any more”).

Not bad for a book whose inspiration came from a gag in a SIMPSONS episode.

“I was watching that episode of THE SIMPSONS where Homer gets a helper monkey - ‘Mojo,’ that was his name - and I thought, ‘What’s better than a monkey? An angry monkey!’ Then I thought, ‘How come he’s angry? Well, there’s a little girl who loves him and dresses him up…’ It all came together from that.”

JENNIFER chronicles the misadventures of the titular (male) monkey, who’s been declawed and forced to act as a pet for the naïve and adoring Kaitlin, a sweet, trusting little girl who’s unaware her monkey’s thoughts consist of nasty bits of broken English dealing with little Kaitlin’s violent, horrible demise.

Along the way, Jennifer gets dragged into Kaitlin’s frequent misadventures, which involve evil scientists, irate pirates, and Kaitlin’s guardian angel, who appears as a skeleton in a business suit. This synopsis does not include the really strange stuff.

“It’s a lot of fun to do,” says Kundtsen (whose name is pronounced NOOD-sen). “Right now, there’s a three-issue storyline where Kaitlin and Jennifer meet some pirates, then in issue six, we have a single-issue story where the family takes the monkey out for the day. We might do a trade after that, I’m still figure out where it’s going to go from here.”

“Because I’m not that great a writer, I plot everything out. It’s definitely harder to write than draw - I’ll write a whole script that’s not as detailed as the real script, but I know what I want. I can put in things, have the guardian angel show up, there’s no explanation why he’s there, but if I do it right, it’ll still make sense in a way.”

Knudtsen’s worries over his writing were part of the reason he spent several years developing his craft at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan (two of his teachers there, Klaus Janson and Walt Simonson, have contributed cover art to JENNIFER issues). “I wanted to make sure I did a good job with my work - I took some writing classes, studied comic writing so I could get that right. Jack C. Harris (THE RAY) was a huge help with that.

“The most important thing to remember with writing is you can’t do enough work. Otherwise, you’ll be trying to cover up for all the short cuts you took later if you’re not a seasoned writer.”

Knudtsen was also careful to avoid lateness once he found a publisher for JENNIFER. “I didn’t have the first issue solicited until the first four issues were already complete. We have issue three out right now and I’m still drawing number six, so I’m hoping I can keep up with it!”

Still, Knudtsen’s happy that the book has been so well received. “This is the first time I tried to do my own story, and it’s gratifying to know people like it.” His advice for other aspiring professionals is to “keep at it.” “Eventually, your hard work will pay off. And as hard as it is, there’s nothing better than walking into a comic store and seeing your book on the shelf.”

Click here to view a nine-page preview of My Monkey's Name Is Jennifer (highly recommended)

MY MONKEY’S NAME IS JENNIFER has currently published six issues. For more information on the book, check out Slave Labor’s web site at www.slavelabor.com or Kundtsen’s home page at www.epicprops.com.


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