You wouldn't go so far as to call Keith Knight unassuming, but he certainly is the sort of person who leaves grandmothers saying, "He's such a fine young man." And at first glance, the lanky Knight hardly seems like a troublemaker. But upon further inspection you can't help but notice the glint of mischief in his eye, or the sly, devilish grin that betrays his subversive nature.
For over a decade, the San Francisco-based Knight has been writing and drawing K-Chronicles, a weekly, semi-autobiographical comic strip steeped in politics, pop-culture and racism. Along with his other comic strip, (th)ink, and his career in the Bay Area hip-hop cult phenomenon Marginal Prophets, Knight has become a leading figure in the world of underground DIY art. This weekend he will be in Portland as one of the key exhibitors at the annual Stumptown Comics Fest.
Heading into its third year, Stumptown Comics Fest has quickly grown into an exciting gathering place for fans and creators of comic books that venture outside of the superhero-in-tights genre of the medium. For a town like Portland, home to some top creative talent in the comics medium, as well as publisher Dark Horse, Top Shelf and Oni (all three of which have blazed trails in the alternative market), Stumptown is something that should have happened many years ago. Much like APE—the Alternative Press Expo held every year in San Francisco—Stumptown steers clear of the flea-market-like environment of other comic-book expos. The emphasis here is more on the cultivation of the comic-book medium beyond the stereotypical trappings of the mainstream—Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, variant Spawn action figures—and that's what has brought in out-of-town talent like Knight.
In addition to Knight, Stumptown has pulled in an impressive lineup of guests that includes Paul Chadwick, whose series Concrete helped put Dark Horse on the map two decades ago; Matt Fraction and Farel Dalrymple, who both created names for themselves in alternative comics before bringing the edgy style to the mainstream; and Steve Rolston, whose art graced the pages of writer Greg Rucka's critically acclaimed Queen & Country. And that's merely a sample of the talent that will be at Stumptown, not to mention the wealth of Portland-based creators who finally have an event that caters to their diverse and eclectic body of work.
Stumptown Comics Fest, Oregon Convention Center, 777 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Visit stumptowncomics.com for a full schedule. 4-8 pm Friday and 10 am-6 pm Saturday, Oct. 27-28. $5 per day, $10 weekend pass.