Episode: 117: Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith made comics safe for kids again. In 1991, the cartoonist began self-publishing, an all-ages adventure story rendering in a style reminiscent of legends Walt Kelly and Carl Barks that felt like a breath of fresh air in a world of sequential art utterly disrupted by Watchmen and the Dark Knight half a decade before. With 55 issues spread out over the course of 13 years, Smith created one of the medium’s great masterworks, a 1,300 cartoon page epic to rival the likes of the Odyssey or Lord of Rings, racking up ten Eisners and 11 Harvey Awards in the process. After a decade and a half in Boneville, Smith abruptly shifted gears with RASL, a sci-fi tale of a dimension-hopping art thief also published on his own Cartoon Books. Shortly after the end of RASL’s run, Smith once again pivoted, exploring the world of Webcomics through Tüki, the largely wordless tale of African tribesman who dared venture to other continents. We sat down with Smith at Book Expo of America to discover his wideranging and pioneering works, the wild world of self-publishing and how his hometown of Columbus, Ohio has been transformed into Comicstown, USA.