Interview: Jeff Smith talks about bringing TUKI to Kickstarter
Jeff smith is the paradigmatic designer of the modern era. His work set the standard for what a comic book can do and what a graphic novel can be. Smith’s Revolutionary BONE, a series that does not need to be introduced, introduced new generations to the adventures and the large-scale storytelling that the comic book medium begets. In time since BONEThe epic run completed in 2004, Smith has been busy with a variety of projects including RASL, Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil, as well as co-found Columbus cartoon crossroads (CXC). In 2013, Smith announced TUKI, a comic book set two million years ago. Although several issues were published, the project remained on hiatus in the years that followed due to extenuating circumstances. Now Smith is ready to bring TUKI to readers once again, this time redesigned as a newly launched Kickstarter campaign for two heavy volumes of the tale.
Rhythm spoke with Smith to learn more about the background to TUKI, how the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the writing of the books, and why he ultimately decided to go with a Kickstarter to bring this epic story to the attention of readers.
AJ Frost: Hi Jeff! It’s an honor to take the time to chat with you today. TUKI has long been in development. Can you tell me how this story came to you and what interested you in exploring these characters? What made it worth telling about their adventure?
Jeff Smith: I have always been interested in evolution. I am also a lover of lost kingdoms and fantastic pulp fiction heroes. It’s a fantastic story, my eleven-year-old child, in love with Frazetta, draws a drawing at the ball!
The initial seeds for TUKI were planted during my visit Olduvai Gorge in the 90s. It is the famous archaeological site of Tanzania where many early humans have lived over time. Standing among the rocks and dirt, watching the trees swaying above the gorge, I had a vision of several species of humans walking to interact with each other. It was almost like seeing an echo of something that had actually happened. And, of course, two million years ago it could have!
Gel: TUKI was announced in the Stone Age of 2013. Along the way, several issues have been published, but readers are now receiving the full two-volume story. If you can tell, what happened during that time? What prompted you to finish the books?
Black-smith: The webcomic version of TUKI, later reprinted in four issues of comics, was shelved for various reasons. On the one hand, I was busy co-founding the CXC comic book festival with Vijaya [Iyer, Jeff’s wife], Lucy Shelton Caswell, and Tom spurgeon. But above all, I felt TUKI needed to be reworked to flow better. I was trying at the time to reproduce the feeling of classic Sunday pages like Flash Gordon or Valiant prince, and while it seems to work on the web, once collected the one page per week format had a sense of start and end that didn’t allow the story to come to life in a way that I was satisfied with. . Also, when the kids got to the strip, I realized it was a family affair and I needed to start over from the beginning. What I have done! This is essentially a new job.
Gel: TUKI takes place at the dawn of humanity, which is an interesting canvas to work with. What intrigued you about placing a story as early as possible in human history?
Black-smith: As I mentioned, two million years ago several human species existed at the same time. Isn’t that cool for beginners? Australopithecus, the species of the famous Lucy, is half hominid, half human from the waist down. Homo Habilis, still shaggy but with a bigger brain, invents the hand ax, a precision tool. And more! It turns out the Evolution is a bit messier than it looks on the bumper stickers showing a line of characters slowly standing on their feet. But what’s really interesting about this particular moment is the frequent traveler ‘s first appearance. homo erectus, who not only has the biggest brain of all, but shows up with an incredible new power – the ability to control fire! This inflection point, this crossroads, with so many players and high stakes, is too good to let it pass.
Frost: How much influence has the COVID-19 pandemic had on the book?
Black-smith: Without putting too much shine on it, it gave me more time on my drawing board. In 2019, I was playing with the idea of doing TUKI a graphic novel, then in 2020, I made two. TUKI: Fight for fire and TUKI: Fight for the family. Both books are part of our Kickstarter campaign, and if successful, Fight for fire will be shipped in July, thirty years after the month in which Bone n ° 1 was released, and Fight for the family will follow in October.
Frost: As you mentioned, we’re thirty years after the first issue of BONE, which certainly does not need to be introduced. How did the comic book business develop over the next thirty years? Have there been any developments that you consider to be positive for the industry? Worrisome trends?
Black-smith: Well, that’s not a gigantic question, is it? The biggest change is the wider acceptance of comics. The diversity of readers and creators, in terms of age, gender, race and content, has enriched our art form. Graphic novels led to more comics in more hands. The most incredible change, and the best for me, is probably the level of talent of the current generation. In mainstream and indie comics, the art and stories are amazing! Coloring! Ideas! If you can’t find a comic that matches your taste or wows you, you’re not looking! In many ways, we are living in a new golden age.
Frost: Continuing my previous question, what do you think has been the most important or disruptive paradigm in self-publishing? What is possible now that would not have been possible thirty years ago?
Black-smith: I think about the fact that the distribution system that existed thirty years ago collapsed in the 90s and never regenerated. When I started there were eleven distributors, eleven monthly catalogs, so if one business didn’t sell your books, others would. On the bright side, with the advent of digital comics and vehicles like Kickstarter, the self-publisher has a chance to find their audience without having to go through any gatekeepers. I want to stress that people who want to avoid Guardians always want to be on the shelves of comic book stores. This new era is still on, but when things get back to normal and we can go to comic book shows where creators, readers, and retailers can be together, connections will be made. All the retailers I know love comics and love finding books for their customers. In this sense, I am optimistic.
Frost: For you, what are the most interesting perspectives of a Kickstarter campaign?
Black-smith: As we conduct this interview, we are days away from launching our campaign, so the most exciting is the energy of anticipation. What’s going to happen? I do not know!
Frost: What do you want from potential supporters of the TUKI Kickstarter campaign to know not only your project, but also the special relationship between the creator, the patron and the direct support generated by crowdfunding?
Black-smith: I guess I would like people to know TUKI is a passion project for me. This is my third work owned by a creator and self-published after BONE and RASL. TUKI is a book that I wanted to do for a long time. And it’s done! The first two TUKI the books are finished! We just need to get them to printers and readers! Hopefully this will be the start of an epic new series! I also want retailers to know that there will be a fair level for them if they are interested.
Frost: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me!