Jeff Smith (cartoonist)

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Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith with life-size RASL figure at the opening of CCAD MIX Event in Columbus, OH, Sept. 27, 2013.jpg
Smith with life-size RASL figure at the opening of CCAD MIX Event in Columbus, OH, Sept. 27, 2013
Born (1960-02-27) February 27, 1960 (age 54)[1][2]
McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist
Notable works
Bone, Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, RASL, Tüki Save the Humans
Awards 2 National Cartoonists Society Comic Book Awards
11 Harvey Awards
10 Eisner Awards

Jeff Smith (born February 27, 1960)[1] is an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the self-published comic book series Bone. His most recent series, RASL, focused on an art thief who hops through dimensional barriers, hiding out on various parallel worlds.[3] He is currently working on a webcomic series, Tüki Save the Humans.

Early life[edit]

Jeff Smith was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania[1] to William Earl Smith and Barbara Goodsell.[4] He grew up in Columbus, Ohio.[5]

Smith learned about cartooning from comic strips, comic books, and animated TV shows.[6] The strip he found to be the most entertaining was Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, which he had his father read to him every Sunday, and which inspired him to learn to read.[7][8] Smith was also inspired by Scrooge McDuck creator Carl Barks, whom Smith calls a "natural comic genius" for his ability to move characters effectively from panel to panel, and for their expressiveness. Alluding to the influence of Barks' influence on Bone, Smith commented, "I always wanted Uncle Scrooge to go on a longer adventure. I thought, 'Man, if you could just get a comic book of that quality, the length of say, War and Peace, or The Odyssey or something, that would be something I would love to read, and even as a kid I looked everywhere for that book, that Uncle Scrooge story that was 1,100 pages long."[7] Another seminal influence began when Smith was nine, and he saw The Pogo Special Birthday Special on TV, which was created by Walt Kelly and Chuck Jones, whom he would later call "two of my most favorite people". The day after that program aired, a girl brought her father's Pogo book to school and gave it to Smith, who says it "changed comics" for him. Smith keeps that book on a table next to his drawing board today,[7][9] and refers to Kelly as his "biggest influence in writing comics".[8]

Smith has cited Moby Dick as his favorite book, citing its multi-layered narrative and symbolism, and placed numerous references to it in Bone. He has also cited Huckleberry Finn as a story after which he attempted to pattern Bone structurally, explaining, "the kinds of stories I’m drawn to, like Huckleberry Finn, are the ones that start off very simple, almost like children’s stories...but as it goes on, it gets a little darker, and the themes become a little more sophisticated and more complex—and those are really the kinds of stories that just get me going." Other influences in this regard include the original Star Wars trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and the classic fairy tales and mythologies that inspired those works.[7]

Smith says the earliest forerunner drawings of what later became Bone and his cousins occurred when he was about five, and sitting in his living room drawing, and he drew what looked like an old C-shaped telephone handset receiver, which emerged as a frowning character with its mouth wide open. Elements of that character and its demeanor found their way into the character Phoney Bone, the upset cousin to Bone. His name is derived from Fonebone, the generic surname that Don Martin gave to many of the characters that appeared in his Mad magazine strips.[7] Smith began to create comics with the Bone characters as early as 1970, when he was about 9 years old.[10]

Smith graduated in 1978 from Worthington High School in Worthington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, where he was a classmate of Jim Kammerud. Later on, in 1986, Smith and Kammerud would co-found Character Builders, an animation studio in Columbus where Smith worked until 1992.[11][12] After high school, Smith attended the Ohio State University, and while there he created a comic strip called "Thorn" for the student newspaper, The Lantern, which included some of the characters who later featured in the Bone series.[13][14] He also studied animation.[7]

Career[edit]

After graduating from college, Smith and his two friends, Jim Kammerud and Marty Fuller, started an animation studio called Character Builders Inc. Their first paid job was producing a 60-second animated opening for the TV series Super Safari with Jack Hanna. Other jobs followed for clients such as White Castle, sequences in films that the studio was given when other studios fell behind, and a claymation project that they were given following the rise in popularity of The California Raisins. Initial budgets were restrictive for the studio, which required the animators to be resourceful in order to meet their deadlines. Smith sometimes did the voice work as well as the animation on certain projects, and the animators sometimes had family members come in on some evenings to paint animation cells. Though Smith found the projects exciting, he realized that it was not the type of cartooning he wanted to do, which was complicated by periods in which the studio had no work. It was during one of these slow periods that Smith reconsidered his career. Drawn to the idea that he could produce his own animated-type story but in the comics medium, and convinced by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Art Spiegelman's Maus and Alan Moore's Watchmen that a serious comic book with a beginning, middle and end structure was both artistically and commercially viable, Smith decided to produce Bone.[7]

In 1991, Smith launched his company, Cartoon Books, in order to publish the series.[6] Initially, Smith self-published the book, which meant that did all the work required to both produce and distribute the series as a business, including answers letters, doing all the graphics and lettering (which he did by hand), sending the artwork to the printer, handling orders and bookkeeping. This made it difficult to focus on writing and drawing the book, and as a result, he fell behind in his production. To remedy this, he asked his wife, Vijaya, to quit her lucrative job at a Silicon Valley startup company in order to run the business side of Bone as the President of Cartoon Books. As a result, Smith was able to refocus on drawing, and sales improved.[7] Smith published 55 issues of Bone between 1991 and 2004. The black and white comic book proved very successful, and has been collected in a number of trade paperback and hardback collections, including a series of nine books that collect all 55 issues, originally published by Cartoon Books in black and white, and more recently reissued in color by the Graphix imprint of Scholastic. In 2004, when Cartoon Books released a "mammoth" one-volume black and white collection of the entire nine-volume series, Time critic Andrew Arnold called Bone "the best all-ages graphic novel yet published".[15]

In 1994 Smith created an original cover for Dan DeBono's Indy - The Independent Comic Guide (issue 13), and was interviewed to help to promote his and other alternative comics.

Two additional volumes, Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails and Rose, collect a number of Bone prequel comics created by Smith, working with collaborators.

In 2003, Smith began work for DC Comics on a miniseries starring Captain Marvel, a superhero of which Smith is a fan.[16] The series, entitled Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, was published in four prestige format issues in 2007, and later collected into a hardcover edition.

In 2007, Fantagraphics Books named Smith as the designer for an upcoming series of books collecting the complete run of Walt Kelly's Pogo. He also designed the cover art for Say Anything's album In Defense of the Genre.

Smith released the first issue of RASL, "a stark, sci-fi series about a dimension-jumping art thief with personal problems", in February, 2008. A six page preview was shown on the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con. Originally intending RASL to be released in an over-sized format, Smith consulted with retailers who unanimously cautioned him against the unconventional size.[17] Smith now self-publishes RASL as a standard-sized, ad-free, black and white comic book. The first trade paperback, titled The Drift, is in stores in the originally intended oversized format.

Smith's art was featured in a pair of museum shows in Columbus during summer 2008: "Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond" at the Wexner Center for the Arts, and "Jeff Smith: Before Bone" at the Cartoon Research Library of Ohio State University.[18] The exhibits were featured in a segment on the PBS news program The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on July 21, 2008.

In 2009, Smith was featured in The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE, and the Changing Face of Comics, a documentary film on his life and work.[7][19]

In September that same year, Toon Books, the children's book line launched by cartoonist Art Spiegelman and New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly, released Little Mouse Gets Ready, a 32-page children's graphic novel written by Smith and aimed at very young "emerging readers". February 2009 Newsarama interview, Smith noted that the book featured another character Smith created in his childhood, "a little gray mouse with a little red vest".[20][21]

In March 2013, Smith said his next project would be a webcomic series called Tüki: Save the Humans, which tells the story of the first human being to leave Africa.[22][23]

Personal life[edit]

Smith lives in Columbus, Ohio,[11][24] with his wife and business manager, Vijaya Iyer.[25][7]

Awards[edit]

For his work on Bone, Smith has received numerous awards, among them ten Eisner Awards and eleven Harvey Awards. In 1995 and 1996 he won the National Cartoonists Society's award for Comic Books.[26]

Eisner Awards[edit]

  • 1993 Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication[27]
  • 1994 Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story (for "The Great Cow Race"; Bone #7-11)[28]
  • 1994 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series[28]
  • 1994 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist[28]
  • 1994 Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication[28]
  • 1995 Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication[29]
  • 1995 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist: Humor[29]
  • 1995 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series[29]
  • 1998 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist: Humor[30]
  • 2005 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: Reprint (for Bone One Volume Edition)[31]

Harvey Awards[edit]

  • 1994 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist)[32]
  • 1994 Harvey Award Special Award for Humor[32]
  • 1994 Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work (for The Complete Bone Adventures. Reissued in color as Bone: Out from Boneville; [Scholastic Corporation])[32]
  • 1995 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist)[33]
  • 1996 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist)[34]
  • 1997 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist)[35]
  • 1999 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist), for his body of work in 1998, including Bone[36]
  • 2000 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist)[37]
  • 2003 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist)[38]
  • 2005 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist (Writer/Artist)[39]
  • 2005 Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work: Bone: One Volume Edition[39]

Nominations[edit]

  • 1993 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist[27]
  • 1995 Eisner Award for Best Single Issue (for Bone #16: "Eyes of the Storm")
  • 1995 Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Item (for Bone figurine, shared with Randy Bowen)[29]
  • 1996 Eisner Award for Best Title for Younger Readers[40]
  • 1998 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series[30]
  • 1998 Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Product (for Bone Red Dragon cold-cast statue, shared with Randy Bowen)[30]
  • 1998 Eisner Award for Best Comics Publication for a Younger Audience[30]
  • 1999 Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Product/Item (for Phoney Bone inflatable)[36]
  • 2003 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album Reprint (for Bone vol. 8: Treasure Hunters)[38]
  • 2004 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist[41]
  • 2005 Eisner Award for Best Comics Publication for a Younger Audience[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Biography: Jeff Smith. Scholastic. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  2. ^ Tom (February 27, 2009). "Happy Birthday Jeff!!!". Boneville.
  3. ^ Burns, Ian (April 29, 2010). "RASL #1-7 review by Ian Burns" The Comics Journal.
  4. ^ Smith, Jeff (2006). Bone: Eyes of the Storm. Graphix/Scholastic Books.
  5. ^ Szadkowski, Joseph; Smith, Jeff (June 16, 2007). "Mix of tradition, fantasy comics pays off for artist". The Washington Times.
  6. ^ a b "About Jeff Smith". Boneville. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ken Mills (Director) (July 21, 2009). The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics (Documentary). Mills James Productions. 
  8. ^ a b Lucy Shelton Caswell and David Filipi, Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond (Columbus, O.: The Ohio State University, Wexner Center for the Arts, 2008), ISBN 978-1-881390-46-6, pp. 7, 17.
  9. ^ "Jeff Smith's 'Bone' Goes From Comic Book to Gallery Wall". The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. July 21, 2008. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  10. ^ Jeff Smith, The Art of Bone (Milwaukie, Oregon: Dark Horse Books, 2007), ISBN 978-1-59307-441-8, p.19.
  11. ^ a b Candy Brooks, "Two cartoonists from Class of '78 are named distinguished alumni", ThisWeek Worthington, August 27, 2008 (retrieved January 27, 2009).
  12. ^ "Distingished Alumni Award of Worthington Schools". Worthington City Schools. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  13. ^ French, Kristin M. (October 2, 2001). "Comic man returns to roots". The Lantern. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  14. ^ Eichenberger, Bill (May 4, 2008). "Bone and beyond...Award-winning cartoonist Jeff Smith given his due with talks, exhibits at OSU". Columbus Dispatch.
  15. ^ Arnold, Andrew (September 17, 2004). "No Bones About It". Time magazine.
  16. ^ Jennifer M. Contino. "Jeff Smith: Bone comics, games & Shazam". 
  17. ^ "It Came Out on Wednesday, presented by comixology" episode 19 interview with Jeff Smith
  18. ^ Exhibitions: Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond at Wexner Center website.
  19. ^ The Cartoonist. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  20. ^ "Jeff Smith Does New Children’s Graphic Novel". Toon Books press release. January 23, 2009.
  21. ^ Rogers, Vaneta (February 3, 2009). "Jeff Smith - From Bone to Little Mouse". Newsarama.
  22. ^ Johnston, Rich (March 31, 2013). "Jeff Smith’s New Comic – Tüki Save the Humans, A Free Webcomic". Bleeding Cool.
  23. ^ "CBR TV @ WC13: Jeff Smith on "Bone," "RASL" & "Tüki Save the Humans". Comic Book Resources. April 4, 2013.
  24. ^ Jeff Smith, Philip Crawford, and Stephen Weiner, Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom: A Guide for Teachers and Librarians (Scholastic/Grafix, n.d.), ISBN 0-439-82769-8, p.6.
  25. ^ Rogers, Aventa (May 8, 2013). "Superheroes Aside: JUDD WINICK Makes Dream Career Switch with HILO". Newsarama.
  26. ^ List of Comic Book Award winners at National Cartoonists Society website.
  27. ^ a b Eisner Awards for 1993. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  28. ^ a b c d Eisner Awards for 1994. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  29. ^ a b c d Eisner Awards for 1995. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  30. ^ a b c d Eisner Awards for 1998. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  31. ^ a b Eisner Awards for 2005. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  32. ^ a b c Harvey Award winners for 1994. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  33. ^ Harvey Award winners for 1995. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  34. ^ Harvey Award winners for 1996. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  35. ^ Harvey Award winners for 1997. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  36. ^ a b Harvey Award winners for 1999
  37. ^ Harvey Award winners for 2000. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  38. ^ a b Harvey Award winners for 2003. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  39. ^ a b Harvey Award winners for 2005. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  40. ^ Eisner Awards for 1996. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  41. ^ Eisner Awards for 2004. Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved December 28, 2011.

External links[edit]