Comic Con-versation with Shane W. Smith!

Shane W. Smith is the creator of seven full-length graphic novels, and a number of shorter pieces. His latest work is the graphic novel Undad, which was shortlisted in the Australian Shadows Awards and tells the tale of a vegetarian family man who unexpectedly turns undead.  His oddest achievement is getting a comic published in a refereed academic journal.

Could you describe your journey as an artist/creator ?

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Ever since I could hold a pencil, I’ve been writing stories. I got my first rejection letter when I was seven and accumulated something like a dozen more for my first novel.
I guess it probably all started when my parents encouraged a deep love of books when I was little, and that’s never left me. I learned everything I ever needed to know from fiction - it’s the prism through which I understand the world. To me, it seems natural that writing stories would help me to understand myself and grow as a person.

This crazy obsession has been all-consuming for my whole life, and it's the only life goal I've ever set for myself. My leisure time was spent writing stories and drawing pictures, often at the expense of a social life. I’ve always taken it pretty seriously and been devoted to it as a vocation. But ever since I got married and had kids and landed a full-time job and basically became extremely busy, I’ve descended into a kind of desperate mania about my writing. It’s no longer an option to use leisure time to write, because by and large, leisure time doesn’t really exist anymore in meaningful quantities.

Why did you choose to use the format of a graphic novel?

I went through a bit of a Joss Whedon fanboy stage in 2004-2005 that led me to pick up Fray, the first comic I’d read since I was a little boy. There was something about the way it flowed, the way it read, that made me feel like perhaps this was something I could branch out into.

And since then, I've come to appreciate the immense, immeasurable power of the graphic novel.
One of the most interesting things about using images in conjunction with text is the effect that it has upon a reader’s brain. One thing that cropped up consistently in the research for my Honours year is that people tend to trust words more if they’re accompanied by pictures, symbols or pictographs. There’s something about an image that is inherently authoritative. Like it taps directly into that part of our brain that says “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Comics can tell stories that no other medium can. And because of that, they offer a unique perspective on the world, a brand new window we can peek through to glimpse our humanity, or a fresh twist on a lesson that we can take with us back into the real world.

Could you tell us about the three art works included in the exhibition Another Dimension: Comic Art beyond 2D? 

1. "Oops" is an original piece produced for this exhibit. I'm not generally a fan of making light of violence, but I find nonchalance like this charming in any context. It - like all my artwork - is entirely digital.

2. "Executioner" is a print of some concept art I produced a couple of years ago. The project never really got off the ground, but I was really pleased with how the art turned out. This dude is a god called Ranye, and he's capable of wiping people from existence if they displease him. Not someone you want to cross.

3. "The Game" is a fun page of artwork from one of my books, The Game. There aren't too many pages in my books that present a self-contained vignette as neatly as this one does. Plus, this exchange amuses me. It's one of the very few conversations in the book that wasn't rewritten several times during the book's production.

Can you tell us about your work in progress, All The Kings Men?

I'd love to! All The King's Men is an anthology of science-fiction prose and comic short stories, featuring two dozen brilliant writers from around the world. I'm dazzled by the amount of amazing talent this book attracted.

The book itself is an ode to the disenfranchised, the people on the periphery, the people that it seems too easy to either demonise or forget about these days. Just ordinary people struggling to make sense of their lives and dreams in a galaxy torn apart by civil war. Each of them is fleeing something different, but they've all come to the same place. When their ship is marooned in deep space, they pass the time by sharing stories. Things that have happened to them, events they've witnessed, rumours they've heard. An uncertain future lies ahead, and they have nothing to rely on except each other...

We're hoping to launch the book at the end of the year, and might (hopefully) be taking it on the road for a few events.

What does the W in your name stand for?

My grandfather is the artist in the family, and has painted several gorgeous landscapes. His name, my middle name, is William. It seemed particularly apropos to include my creative genesis in my pen-name; while it does break up the humdrum between Shane and Smith and bring a little cadence to the proceedings, it's also a familial tribute.

Find out more about Shane W. Smith on Facebook and check out his website!