Moose Kid Comics – The Jamie Smart Interview

Moose Kid Comics is the fantastic all-ages anthology which launched just one week ago. It is available for free on the lovely internet here. It’s packed with amazing talent, wit and fun. I gushed about how joyful and wonderful it is here.

Moose Kid Comics’ ringmaster and contributor Jamie Smart was gracious enough to answer some questions about the book, his influences, and the future.

Geek Syndicate (GS): You’ve worked for a wide variety of comics aimed at children. How is Moose Kid Comics different to those?

Jamie Smart (JS): I think our focus with Moose Kid was coming up with brand new, original characters, ones which were hilarious and ridiculous enough to warrant their own tv shows and the like. That was what we told the artists. The key was making memorable characters, I think that’s how you sell a title now, having imagery and personalities which really stick into people’s minds. And whereas there are many children’s books that do this, there aren’t too many children’s comics, at least not all collected together in the same place. The Beano has its core group of characters, who incidentally, still work brilliantly in the modern age, and The Phoenix has its own, but we wanted to concentrate on page after page of ridiculous humour. Punch in the gags all the way through and leave readers wanting more.

GS: Do you see a distinction between “all-ages” books and “children’s” books? Which of these do you see Moose Kid Comics as?

JS: It’s certainly a question you ask when you’re doing something like this. All-ages seems to be the most suitable term, it implies that children will enjoy it but adults should get a lot out too. When you say ‘children’s’ I think some adults, perhaps, assume it wouldn’t be for them. I’ve always thought humour should cut a swathe through the demographics, like The Simpsons or Adventure Time does, and be able to work on all levels, for everyone. That’s what we were trying to do here.

GS: You’ve assembled a crack team of amazing contributors some well-known, some less well known. Was there anyone you were particularly pleased to get on board? Anyone who you’d like to get for issue #2?

JS: It was brilliant to get such a mixed group of artists, each bringing their own distinct styles to the comic but still working together as a whole. There were certainly some artists I grew up admiring and tracing over their work when I was a kid, so to actually get them involved was such a personal honour. But there’s a whole new generation of artists around at the moment too, who are all forging their own careers in their own way. Basically, I’m saying I wouldn’t want to pick any one artist out, since I am genuinely chuffed with everyone who joined in.

As for issue 2, I do have some names I want to add to the mix, people who either couldn’t join in with issue one, or who I haven’t yet been able to approach. The only problem is to include more artists we’d have to increase the page count, and I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. So, we’ll see.

GS: When I look at your work, I see real echoes of Tom Paterson’s who you’ve got as a contributor. Would you view Tom as an influence of yours? Who else inspired/influenced you?

JS: That’s fantastic that you say that, thank you! He definitely was, also Lew Stringer, Steve Bright, David Leach, pretty much most of the artists working in UK children’s comics in the eighties influenced me. Then when I was at art college I discovered Deadline and the work of Hewlett and Martin, Evan Dorkin, folk like that. It was a real revelation to me how unrestrained their comic art was, how liberated. As much as comics though, TV inspired me massively, and I spent a long, long time watching telly. The Young Ones, Monty Python, Blackadder, all contributed towards the mix.

GS: There’s a real “question authority” streak throughout a lot of the strips which was also in many of the older British comics for children (Whizzer and Chips, Beano, Dandy, etc.). Is this British thing? Have we lost it in recent years?

JS: What I wanted to do in Moose Kid was have some sort of narrative, a way for the reader to not only get involved in the comic, but also feel attached to the content. So we have this opening story of a kid being turned into a moose, then sent INSIDE a comic, where he runs around having all sorts of fun. The wizards who first sent him there then pile in after him, and chase him around the comic, determined to stop anyone having any fun because they’re miserable old sods. So while you have the main pages of comic content, sneaked in around it all is this constant battle between Moose Kid running around like a loon, and the wizards intent on spoiling everyone’s amusement.

I do think it’s an interesting technique, I remember Oink! used to have butchers trying to kill the pigs who were editing the comic, as well as a censor running around being a killjoy. It makes you, as a reader, associate and empathise more for the characters you’re reading about I think, if you can all rally together against a common enemy.

GS: You’ve got loads of the traditional comic archetypes in Moose Kid Comics – Knights, Wizards, Monsters, Aliens, Seal Magicians. No superheroes – was this a deliberate choice?

JS: Actually it never really occurred to me that we didn’t have superheroes. It certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. Every artist who got involved was asked to bring their best idea, the one they’d never wanted to sell the rights to, the characters they would love to spend their lives working on. So if not one of them suggested a superhero, perhaps that’s a sign of where children’s comics are heading?

GS: So what’s next for Moose Kid Comics?

JS: At the moment there are a lot of discussions to have about the future. We’d certainly love to do more issues, of course, but how we do them is up for debate. We’re taking it to publishers to see what interest there is (and on initial view, there seems to be a fair bit), but if that doesn’t work we might just do it ourselves again. It’ll be a little while before issue 2 sees the light of day, unfortunately. Something like this takes a long time to do and get right – now we have the framework it’ll be easier, but I’m trying to fit it in around my regular projects.

Whatever happens, we’ll keep fighting the cause for children’s comics one way or another. To reach audiences who might not have read comics before, that’s key to keeping our industry alive I think.

Interviewer: Tom T – @Silent_Tom_T

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