Moose Kid Comics: Interview With Jamie Smart
Last week Moose Kid Comics caused quite a stir in all age comic circles with the release of their first issue: a collection of super sweet kid-friendly comics from over forty artists. The big deal? They were all good.
Speaking from a US perspective, the past thirty years have driven mainstream kids comics to the brink of obsolescence. The medium entered a new era where comics are serious books dealing with serious subject matter in serious ways. While many of these artists and writers have created incredible bodies of work, some of the fun has been lost. Until recently, the number of children’s titles were on the down-swing and the few survivors were gimicky and predictable (I’m looking at you, Garfield and Archie).
Gears have been slowly shifting to make all age comics cool again with the advent of titles like the Adventure Time series, Tiny Titans, and Scribblenauts (to name a few). Still, there has not been nearly enough discourse on the dearth of kid’s comics. The above named comics are great, but they’re backed by huge studios and all sport the same basic look. There is not a wide range of content, and all age comics need to be updated with more versatile aesthetic styles and subject matter.
The UK-based anthology is a totally free thirty-six page collection of creator driven kid’s comics. Each comic introduced fresh characters and new storylines. In short, every story was a unique little gem.
Best of all, the group of artists were diverse in background and experience. The authors included Viviane Schwarz, Aaron Blecha, Sarah MacIntyre, Marc Stafford, and many, many more. The artists and writers retain copyright over their work, and at this point in time MKC is only available online. In this way, the issue does not have to compete with other big name titles.
To get even more of the low-down on this action I sat down (at my computer) with MKC’s creator and editor Jamie Smart.
So, Moose Kid Comics is incredibly awesome. What can you tell us about why you decided to create it?
Thank you! It all started a couple of years ago, when The Dandy went out of print after seventy-five years. A lot of people started asking what had happened to our children’s comic culture, and a lot of artists started asking what we could all do about it. I had ideas, like everyone, and much though I loved talking about them, I realised I should try putting in the hard work myself. So, I started putting Moose Kid Comics together as a statement, a banner, declaring that we still have incredible children’s comic artists, and a lot of energy and vitality in the scene, so let’s try and do something about the situation.
How did you round up so many great artists for the first issue? Did you bring the idea to them or did they come to you?
I put out a call online just asking for a show of hands, to see how many artists would in theory be up for it. Hundreds got in touch, and while it was hard choosing who was right for this particular idea, I did have a clear notion in my head of what I wanted this comic to be. I had to say no to some really great artists, but there was a particular aesthetic I was looking for. At the same time, I was approaching a wishlist of artists I thought would be really great. Most of them said yes, which was such a buzz, so I combined them with the artists we’d found online.
Do you have anyone in the roster for future issues? If so, who might they be?
I’d like to keep the same artists. I think it’s important to keep continuity, so readers can become familiar with, and fall for, the characters we’re showing. At the same time, there are a handful more artists I’d absolutely love to add to the mix. So I’m not sure how that’ll play out, possibly we’ll add more pages to the next issue, although I did wonder if our issue one was slightly too long!
Part of your mission statement is “to open up the discussion about how we can make children’s comics great again.” What do you think happened to kid’s comics that made so many so blah for so long?
The thing is, kids absolutely love comics. Still. A lot of the discussions miss this point, a lot of arguments rally against modern technology, iPads, and the Internet as distracting kids away from comics but it’s simply not true. Where the problem lies is that we stopped showing kids comics. The distribution of mainstream titles became increasingly difficult. Comics that could thrive in a local newsagent then had to compete for shelf space in a supermarket, and without the money or savvy to do so, they faded away. Adults who might have loved comics as kids, didn’t bother buying them for THEIR kids. What was once such an integral part of childhood started to become a memory, simply because comics weren’t getting into the hands of children.
So that’s where I believe the problem has been, a lack of initiative when it comes to reaching new audiences. We need to really find the children who haven’t seen a proper comic book before, and show them all the joys inside.
What do you think can encourage experimentation in all age comics?
Part of the advantage we had, with Moose Kid, is that we’re all artists. There was no business plan, no money restrictions, no distribution idea. And I’ve always been very open about that, we’re coming at this from an artistic point of view, the kind of children’s comic we believe should exist with no consideration given to the restrictions. I think that’s really important, because otherwise you’re sunk underneath the weight of test groups, sales models, distribution limitations, all before you’ve even begun!
That’s why I think it’s time for the artists to take the lead. It might be thankless, and pay nothing, but it’s about proving a point and showing what CAN be done. And that means creatively as well, really stretching out and drawing the type of comics you, as an artist, want to draw. Not the type of comics you think will sell or fit into existing models.
The hope is, if we’re all showing what can be done, that’ll begin to find wider attention and possibly the means to actually do it.
What were your favorite comic books when you were a kid?
I grew up reading Whizzer And Chips, Buster, The Dandy, Oink!. They’re what really got me started. Alongside them, Calvin And Hobbes, Garfield, The Far Side. Then when I went to art college I discovered Deadline, Tank Girl, Milk And Cheese, and it just blew my mind. That you could do whatever you want in comics, really express yourself.
I think that’s when children’s comics are at their finest, when they’re sweet and funny, but also raw and personal.
And what are your favorite all age comic books now?
I have to put a plug in for The Phoenix Presents books, which are collected edition books of the comic strips from the UK weekly children’s comic The Phoenix. My own is called Bunny Vs Monkey, which was released alongside the Etherington’s Von Doogan, and Adam Murphy’s Corpse Talk, with more to follow. The Phoenix comics are potentially heralding a golden age of comics and books, I genuinely believe that, and for that reason alone I think it’s important to support them.
And of course The Beano, who have been creating children’s comics every week for three quarters of a century, which is an incredible feat by anyone’s standards.
As for books, I always fall back on Simone Lia’s Fluffy, and Gary Northfield’s Teenytinysaurs. But children’s books, both picture and, to a lesser extent, comic books, are a rich bounty of goodies these days, there are so many to choose from. I just think somewhere along the way, children’s comics got forgotten.