A Rabbit, A Kitten, and a House Party: Profile of Rachael Smith
In 2014, Rachael Smith funded her graphic novel House Party through Kickstarter in only four days. The speed of funding suggests she has more than a fan or two who believes in her talent as a comics creator.
An illustrator since 2008, Smith is steadily building a resume that spans a little bit of this and a little bit of that, all in a very good way. From Doctor Who comic strips to award nominated indie-published graphic novels, I bet if you take the time to scroll through samples of her work you are definitely going to find something, if not everything, you’ll like. Her comics are varied in genre, but her wit, humor, and underlying kindness in everything she writes and draws not only melts my heart, but gives me hope she is on the fast track to becoming a much sought after creator in the comics industry.
Smith humbly names creators such as Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim) and Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant) as influences for her art, and I can agree the clean lines and expressive illustrations make the panels in all her work easy to digest. Add the bright, high-contrast coloring and there’s a recognisability to her art that allows a reader to know they’re in a world she’s created.
And with that built-up introduction, let’s play the if you like game…
If you like Doctor Who comics
If you are a Doctor Who comics fan, then you may already recognize Smith’s work on Titan Comic’s Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor comics strip series. Smith has mentioned before that her Tenth Doctor comic strip is not canonical (although, with the Doctor, who can really say for sure).
When I asked Smith about her inspiration for the comic strip, she said the following,
I guess my idea was that my strips would be set just after Rose Tyler and the Doctor parted ways—which, to me, seemed very much like a break-up. So the Doctor in my strips does a lot of cliché break-up things—the first one being that he gets a cat. So the cat (which he calls Rose) becomes his new companion. Zany antics ensue.
Not only does Smith write and illustrate this insanely sweet comic strip (found on the last page of the comic book), she’s also illustrated two of the variant covers for Year Two and hopes to have a third variant cover out before the end of 2015.
If you like blue cats with a side of Dear Abby
Who doesn’t like blue cats and kindness and advice from a kind, blue cat? Ask Flimsy should come with a warning—can get lost in cuteness for days. Smith’s ongoing Tumblr webcomic Ask Flimsy takes real comments and questions from Tumblr fans and responds to them the Flimsy way. As I scrolled through two years of Flimsy whimsy, my attention was drawn to the kindness Smith and the blue-furred kitten show even when asked uncomfortable questions.
Not only is she kind, but it’s amazing how much humor can be depicted in one panel:
And if you can’t get enough Flimsy from the webcomic, Smith also offers Flimsy’s Guide to Modern Living from her on-line store.
If you like autobiographical webcomics
If your tastes run along the lines of being a fly on the wall and living vicariously through a creator, then you should check out the webcomic One Good Thing. Although Smith no longer updates, there are still a few years available to peek into Smith’s life and revel in her relatability.
If you like award-nominated graphic novels
Have I mentioned the award nominated graphic novels? There are two to choose from and I’ll start with my favorite and Smith’s most recent release, The Rabbit, nominated for Best Book by The British Comics Awards 2015. It is very hard to discuss all the reasons I enjoyed this story without giving away the ending and it would be a true disservice to spoil it. I can say the coming of age comic takes a surreal twist that will suck you in and not let you go until the last page. And, as a parent, I especially liked the aspect of two siblings sticking together in tough situations, and this is a story I can share with my nine year old and feel like she can get it. As the blurb for The Rabbit states:
Eleanor and her younger sister Kathy have run away from school, from home and from all of their troubles. They may also be running from reality itself, as they seem to have acquired a new friend in the form of a talking cartoon bunny rabbit called Craig. As Craig grows bigger and bigger, the girls soon discover exactly what kind of creature has joined them on their adventure. Running away is not as easy as it seems…
Smith’s Kickstarter funded graphic novel House Party landed her a nomination in the Emerging Talent category of The British Comics Awards 2013/2014. I can’t look at her cover without having flashbacks to my own early 20s. As the blurb for House Party says:
Three lost 20-somethings are feeling disillusioned after being shoved into the real world since feeling like superstars at university. In an attempt to get their happiness back they throw a massive house party, just like they used to. Things go a little differently, however, and the three of them must decide how to move forward in lives that none of them really asked for.
If you like all the above and want more
I haven’t touched on everything created by Smith, but I would like to note a couple more interesting projects she has coming out this November. The first is a new webcomic on Tumblr titled Bess, and Smith says will be about feminism and Japanese mythological creatures. (Yes, please!)
The second is the first full length graphic novel Smith has illustrated for another writer. Blue Bottle Mystery: An Asperger Adventure is based upon a children’s book by Kathy Hoopman and adapted into a graphic novel script by Mike Medaglia. It’s about boy with Aspergers who finds a magic blue bottle that grants wishes. Since this project is a little different from what I’ve seen of Smith’s so far, I asked her to give a little insight on working on this project from an artist only perspective:
It’s a great story, Kathy Hoopmann’s characters are really well-rounded, so that did a lot of the work for me—it was easy to imagine what they would all be thinking and feeling, and so easy to imagine their expressions and body language in each panel. Mike Medaglia did a great job adapting Kathy’s book into a graphic novel script too—I was lucky enough to have met Mike a few times before so our working relationship kind of hit the ground running.
If you are not convinced by now to check out Smith’s work then I hope you will at least keep her in your peripheral vision and when she’s a comic shop “household” name, I’ll be happy to say I told you so.