INTERVIEW WITH JEFF SMITH
A variety of international stars gathered on May 5 & 6, 2012 for this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF). Sequential Highway was fortunate enough to interview a few of the festival’s very engaging and outstandingly talented guests.
Julinda Morrow: How are you?
Jeff Smith: I’m doing really well, I’m a little tired, had a very hectic show so far…Monster signings, unbelievable, we did a signing over at St. Paul’s, what a great venue though – beautiful. Very unusual to have a comic book show in a church but, you know, that’s where comics should be.
JM: Have you changed much as an artist over the years since you first began publishing Bone?
JS: I think probably I have. I mean, for one thing, my new project Rasl is entirely different than Bone. It explores topics that didn’t even interest me when I started Bone. With Bone I was interested in comedy and life and things just beyond what you can see and Rasl is much more about… like…mistakes. Mistakes you make that kinda…like…trap you; and how, you know, tough life can be. But it’s also about things that you can’t really see just beyond the pail now that I think about that – now that I heard words come out of my mouth – it’s all about string theory and parallel worlds… And, yeah, I’ve changed. I have different interests and different pursuits.
JM: We’ve found that many artists have at least one professional experience that touched them and changed their life for the better. Do you have such an experience that you’d agree to relate to our readers?
JS: Ah…professional experience? I think, just getting into the comic book community. Once my comics…once Bone started to really connect with the community and I began to meet heroes of mine, you know…Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, and at the same time I began to meet fellow travellers like Steve Bissette and Dave Sim…Charles Vess. I mean these are all brilliant artists who have become, you know, lifelong friends and companions and it’s profoundly changed my life. I know who I am now and I know who my friends are.
JM: By any measure, it’s reasonable to say you are professionally successful. Are you ever concerned that success might dampen your creative drive or does your success ignite your creative spirit?
JS: I think it fans it. I think ah…when I kinda found out that people were really reading them it was exciting. I mean it could have had the opposite effect, it could have like, scared me, but I think it like really lit a fire under me. I like it. I still have an idea after Rasl so as long as I can think of a project that would be interesting to work on I think I’ll be OK.
JM: If you were to have a favourite tool of the trade – one you couldn’t live without – what would it be?
JS: Oh, well, I mean it’s gotta be my paintbrush, right? That’s it – that’s my tool. I could not live without my paintbrush and yet the Cintiq is making it possible to do it without it, but on the other hand is that then just a new paintbrush, you know? But I would miss my paintbrush.
JM: Does music of any genre play a part in your creative life?
JS: Absolutely! I play music very, very loudly at midnight and it’s usually, you know…it’s usually blues, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Bob Dylan; so it’s that kinda stuff…and I play it loud.
JM: First Bone, now Rasl. Are you developing another comic book series that you are at liberty to tell our readers about?
JS: It’s too soon to tell. I do have a project. Rasl will be finished this year. I’ve been working on [a] science fiction noir book for four years and I’ll finish it this year and we’ll start the next project after that, but I’m not ready to say, I don’t have a title for it yet. I know what it’s about, I know the characters but it hasn’t settled on that title so… maybe next year.
JM: Besides the story, what is a comic’s single most important element? Would you mind explaining your choice to our readers?
JS: Well I think…that probably the most important element is just how the panels are used. I mean it’s the panels. You have to tell a part of the story in the pictures and then you have to make the pictures move in time; ‘cause that’s what you’re doing – you’re manipulating time with the use of panels. However how the character changes from one panel into the next is that leap that the reader adds to it and moves the thing so I’d say it’s any two given panels as the most important element.
JM: Do you still have moments where you’re searching for inspiration, or do ideas just flow out of you?
JS: Well it’s both. I mean, sometimes you really have those great moments where the comics just come out in the work and other times you struggle for days to write three panels and still not like ‘em when you’re done. So it’s both.
JM: If you were asked to recall one movie that has been a particular inspiration for you, what movie would that be?
JS: Oh, my…so many movies. Well I would say with Rasl it was The Maltese Falcon and, ah, just in general one of my favourite movies is Jaws. I just think that’s a perfect film.