There is no shortage of taxons for comics creators. There’re the Marvel guys and the DC guys, the independent bros and the artsy-gals. Some artists are known for illustrating superheroes and some writers are summoned to script crime noir. When we think of members of the comic book community, chances’re pretty good that we pigeonhole `em.
But I think I’ve come across a breed entirely unique unto itself.
As a writer, this being has brought fan-beloved and critically-acclaimed series into existence. In the editorial department, this same comics-creature has made contributions that have earned him both an Eisner Award and a Harvey Award. Upon further inspection, it appears that this individual is now rummaging through the Creator-Owned Forest, using Kickstarter to put comics directly into readers’ hands.
What are we to call this amazing creature? Here’s a name – Mark Andrew Smith.
Mark Andrew Smith is the writer behind such works as The Amazing Joy Buzzards, Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors and The New Brighton Archaeological Society. Moreover, he is one of the editors that helped elevate Popgun to the award-winning status it knows today. So after learning about Mr. Smith’s plans to distribute Sullivan’s Sluggers (a collaboration with the mighty James Stokoe) via Kickstarter, I sought an interview and was obliged!
Hit the hyperspace jump to check out Mark Andrew Smith’s thoughts on finding inspiration, the daily life of a comic book writer, and what conditions would have to be met for him to drink with Hemingway!
- For those out there who’re unfamiliar with your work, what’s the story of Mark Andrew Smith? How did you get to this current juncture in space-time (I’m hopin’ a rocket ship was involved), and what’re you plannin’ to do now that you’re here?
I started by writing the Amazing Joy Buzzards, then I edited the Popgun Anthologies that won the Eisner and Harvey Awards, next it was New Brighton Archeological Society and Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors. Now I’m working on wrapping up Sullivan’s Sluggers and getting it into readers’ eager hands.
- Sullivan’s Sluggers appears to be a devil-may-care combination of sports and horror, like a late-night booty-call between Major League and Dawn of the Dead. Are you a sports guy that wanted to try your hand at a zombie story, or a horror-fan that’s dippin’ your toes into the sports pool? Where’d this idea come from?
Good question. I’m a horror fan that’s dipping my toes into the sports pool. I think it’s a mix of “Baseball Furies” from The Warriors and a steady diet of zombie and horror films.
- Although you are a man of repute in the comic book world, you are putting out Sullivan’s Sluggers via Kickstarter. How has this process been going for you? What role do you think this model will have in the distribution of comics by both established talents and aspiring newcomers?
It’s going very well, we did 20K in the first day. The amount of support has been tremendous. I think Kickstarter is less a charity thing, and I view it as a direct Creator Centered distribution system where creators are on the top of the food chain once again.
- James Stokoe’s Orc Stain is, in my humble estimation, one of the best original series to come around in years. What was it like to work with Mr. Stokoe on Sullivan’s Sluggers?
I love his work. It was a good experience and I feel lucky to have been able to work with James.
- If given carte blanche, which artists would you like to collaborate with in the future? Any dream projects that you’re hopin’ to put together?
I’d like to work with JR JR and Mike Mignola but those are hard ones to get.
- How did you originally get interested in comic books? Was there a particular title that caught your eye? A creator that you followed religiously?
I was a fan in the 90s in the boom. Then discovered them again in 2001 and caught up on everything. Mike Allred is one of my favorite creators.
- What’re the paneled pages that you currently find to be worthy of admiration? Any current books just knockin’ it out of the narrative park for you?
I’ve been reading books this year, and have been slow on comics. I like some of the comics that I’m reading but nothing has floored me so far this year. I want to catch up at some point but I need to get some free time.
- Some of comics’ greatest creators have dabbled in film/television/video games, with mixed results. Now that you’ve made a name for yourself as a comic book writer, do you ever find yourself tempted to jump ship to another medium?
I like comics and it’s a very comfortable territory. I feel like I’d have to be set up in comics and financially secure to make a jump like that, but I would like to try other mediums because I think it would keep me on my toes as a writer and that I would probably benefit from the experience.
- It stands to reason that you don’t fill every waking moment of your day reading funnybooks. So what’re your other sources of inspiration? Film? Music? Your glue-sniffing mailman that regales the neighborhood children with misremembered anecdotes about his time in `Nam?
Books and reading. Sometimes music and film. Then walking about.
- What does the average day of an award-winning comic book writer look like? Maybe I’m projecting my dream-life onto you, but I’d like to imagine that you spend the day drinkin’ bourbon, watchin’ monster movies, blastin’ tunes, and scriptin’ panels. Any truth to that notion?
I wish it were like that. I have two jobs right now working seven days a week. I’m hoping that this Kickstarter does well enough to buy my freedom so I can actually get moving. Despite having so much out, I want things to get streamlined and easier for me to do this and put out more work.
- Do you have any advice for inspiring writers/artists? Is the trick to totally forfeit security for the sake of the dream, eschewing the very notion of having a day-job? Or is it wiser to get a gig with health insurance and plug away at one’s craft whenever possible?
I don’t have any advice to give because I don’t want to tell someone to follow their dreams to the point of it messing up their lives. Sometimes I wish that I had just gone to law school and never had read or known what a comic book was. It’s a hard road to walk and people tell you to be an artist you struggle but never in your life could you understand it without living it.
- Mark Andrew Smith has turned his back on comics in the hopes of becoming a professional wrestler. Please tell us your finishing move.
- Who would you rather drink with, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway?
Hemingway as long as all the shotguns were put away.
- Anything else you’d like to share with the OL faithful? This is your chance to plug any upcoming projects, drop sage-like bombs of knowledge, or even write a haiku.
I’m working on Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors Volume 2 and New Brighton Archeological Society Volume 2.