Khanh Nguyen, “Awake”
KHANH NGUYEN is a visual designer from southern California. For two years, he drew a weekly strip for UCSD’s The Guardian newspaper, and now hosts his work through his tumblr and his website, kn-comics.com.
ON HUMOR AND EXISTENTIALISM
The way I was exposed to comics was as a medium for telling jokes. When I started doing it, it seemed to resonate with people, so I kept on doing it. But the more I used comics as a tool of expression, the more my existential and non-comical thoughts began to express themselves.
When I was a child, Far Side strips were a huge influence, and then I also grew up with a lot of comedic manga, like Azumanga. It was slice-of-life kind of comedy, and that really resonated with me. My earlier comics, I think, reflect that a lot. Black and white, only three panels — setup, joke, reaction. A very structured kind of thing. And when I worked for UCSD, I was only given 8 1/2 inches. Practicing in that structure taught me a lot.
I’ve had a few moments of Tumblr fame. It’s like fireworks. Brilliant, but it lasts just a moment. My relationship comics with my ex-girlfriend — apparently that’s a very niche thing on Tumblr, black women and Asian men. That is a thing that is very alive on Tumblr, I learned.
I get noticed on Tumblr sometimes, but it doesn’t fill the void. (laughs)
ON INTROSPECTION AND TIME
All those comics I make, they take a great deal of introspection, and a great deal of time. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for interaction and bonding. For the jokes, I have to dig deep into my own life — it that funny? Is this funny? Could it be funnier? The inspiration comes from my life, so it takes a lot self analysis. There’s this strain of always looking for the next idea.
It’s kind of like how people who really like photography are never absorbed in the moment. It’s like mentally I’m always in tune — “this could be a good comic idea, and what if I did this? What if I did that?” It mindfulness. You’re not mindful of the present. At least that’s my problem.
It’s a neat thing if you create something that people want and love to consume. You’re creating something that has value. Whether or not the stuff I’m doing does that, I don’t know.
I love drawing. I love love love love love drawing.
But storytelling — especially when it’s about your own life — it’s different.
*From top: “Reassessment,” “Scars” (excerpt), “Comics of 2014,” “Want”
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