Jeff Smith Says “Manga Is Just Not that Good”
At the last stop on his year-long Bone World Tour, Jeff Smith sat down at SPX this afternoon with Heidi MacDonald for an engaging hour-long chat in which he spoke of Bone, Shazam, and his forthcoming Rasl. And yes, he also uttered the pull quote I shamelessly used as the title of this post, but you’ll have to read on to get the context for that statement.
Plainly stating that he is “not a children’s author, [he is] a comic book guy,” Smith spoke of the dual existence that Bone now enjoys as a truly all-ages book. Smith explained that “in the graphic novel section [of a book store] is the big, black and white book for adults, and in the kids section is the very same book in color.” Smith explained that he “didn’t make Bone for kids, I made it for cartoon heads like us…but kids found it, librarians found it, and claimed it.”
In response to a question about being known for all time as “the Bone guy,” Jeff replied that, “I’m fine with being ‘the Bone guy.’ I love Bone. I’m very proud of it.”
Of his Shazam miniseries, Smith agreed that “a breather is a really good way to put it” by way of describing his having taken on that work-for-hire gig following his twelve years creating Bone, and also noted that of all the characters that DC could have offered him, Shazam was the one that he felt he couldn’t refuse.
Speaking of his highly anticipated new creator-owned series, Rasl, Smith explained that the book represents his “interest in physics and Carl Sagan and James Bond,” going on to explain that, “Rasl is an inter-dimensional art thief…you can hire him to go to a parallel world and steal a Mona Lisa for you.” I’m hooked already, and can’t wait for the February debut of the title, which Smith anticipates publishing quarterly.
MacDonald devilishly (and, presumably already in possession of the answer) asked Smith in front of the capacity crowd if he reads manga, to which Smith replied, “nope.” Smith went on to qualify that response, however, explaining that he has read Miyazaki, Tezuka, and Otomo (“Akira is amazing”), but that in general, he thinks that, “manga is just not that good…I just think they’re kind of corny and cookie-cutter, but the ones that aren’t are transcendent, and as good as anything.” On an enthusiastically positive note, Smith observed that “manga, if anything, proves that kids love comics.” Which, I’m sure we can all agree, is a Good Thing.
But Smith saved the best for last, teasing the crowd with the mouth-watering possibility of a sequel to the Rose miniseries written by Smith and painted by Charles Vess. It seems that Vess told Smith at San Diego this year that he wants to do a sequel to Rose, and that he feels he has one more big graphic novel in him…it just depends who gets a script to him first, Smith or Neil Gaiman. At which point Smith mimed madly scribbling away on just such a script, much to the delight of the crowd.
Kinda makes you wonder if Vess said the same thing to Gaiman, who was also in attendance at San Diego this year…and if so, whether he may have mentioned a specific character to Gaiman. Hmmmm…