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“Industrial” Work Ethic Pays Off for Writer

Toronto resident produces his first comic book

by Katy Littlejohn

photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Recent Sheridan College graduate, Kyle James Smith, has managed to do the near impossible for a student of the arts: secure a job in his chosen field right out of school. Having graduated only last spring, Smith studied film and television in Sheridan’s Media Arts program before getting work as an editor for Glass Box TV in Toronto. He also runs a music video company with his brother. An all-round art lover and practitioner, Smith’s main focus is writing “anything that involves a story.” So far that has meant scriptwriting, but Smith doesn’t rule out the possibility of someday writing a novel.

photo by Kyle James Smith

It’s what Smith does during his time off that has become his pride and joy: his very own comic-book. “It is a passion project and it’s based on everything that I’m passionate about,” says the self-professed nerd. “I love comic books and always have, and superheroes are something I really enjoy…why not tie these things together and do something I love to do?” Even though Smith is enjoying his work at Glass Box, he recognizes the importance of doing independent projects. “I’m a creative person, but I’m [used to] only doing things for school [or] for money, or I’m only doing things to get a job.” Smith did some soul searching and came up with an ideal solution. “I asked myself ‘What do I want to do? What am I passionate about?’…I took some time and I really thought about it.”

What he came up with is called The Industry: A comic about superheroes and their agents. “They’re just normal people who put on costumes and fight bad guys,” explains Smith. “There are no [super]powers. It’s real people and it’s set in the real world.” Christina, the story’s protagonist, is Smith’s favourite character to write. He explains that her storyline is loosely inspired by his own life experiences. “She’s the main character so obviously she’s the one I put the most into writing. At least so far.” Smith describes her as “someone who wants to make their way into an industry that’s tough to get into. She’s someone who’s really smart and doing well in school.” Christina turns down her place in law school to pursue her dream of becoming a superhero. Smith’s choice to write a female protagonist is something he thought hard about. “I wanted to make her female because I feel that there’s a lack of female main characters in comic books…having a female as a protagonist is [more unheard of] than having a male protagonist in a comic book.”

Smith is currently working with only Tim Brandon, a colourist, to create The Industry, though he is on the lookout for a possible illustrator to take over the drawing. “I just want to focus on the writing aspect of it,” he says, and with at least eleven up-coming issues an extra hand would really speed up the process. “Just finishing it was a big sigh of relief because I’d put all this effort into it…I’ve finished writing the second one and I’m drawing it right now. I’m hoping to have it out by the end of January.” He’s not stopping there either. He has big plans for his little operation. “I’d like to see [The Industry] go for a while. Realistically, I can see myself doing maybe a standard-year’s worth which is 12 issues…usually comics come out once a month but I’m not on the schedule.” With Smith doing most of the work, the first issue of The Industry took seven months to complete.

photo by Kyle James Smith

Besides taking on the writing, illustrating, printing, and distributing, Smith has learned that there’s a lot more to producing a comic book than just the ideas. “I never really thought about it before, but there’s a person whose whole job is just lettering comic books.” He explains that there is a specific technique to the placement and typesetting of the dialogue and narration text in comic books that he had to figure out. “It’s actually really difficult.”

Smith notes that much of his success is due to his timing. “To do this, the way I’m doing it now, isn’t something I could have done 10–15 years ago.” Smith is taking full advantage of social media to promote his work on the comic. “This is the first thing I’ve ever done that I’m showing to people…it’s a little scary,” he confesses, but despite his nerves he’s managed to get The Industry circulating the internet where digital copies are available at graphic.ly, and ordering print copies is possible at Etsy.com. In the end, all of his efforts have paid off. “It took me a long time to do—it’s one little comic book, but I wrote it, and I drew the whole thing, I formatted it and printed it all myself; just going through the process of learning how to do every aspect of designing a comic book and getting it out there, which is…difficult.” Smith has sold The Industry to buyers in both Canada and the USA.

Growing up in Cambridge, Ontario, Smith discovered his love of comic books, his favourite being Spiderman. The Spiderman ring he wears is a testament to his admiration for Peter Parker’s super alter ego. Surprising then, that Smith confesses his favourite superhero to be Batman. “I feel like Batman is more… someone who could actually exist because he’s just a normal person. That’s how I did my comic book: I wanted to make it relatable.” Smith’s favourite comic to read these days is Morning Glories, by writer Nick Spencer and illustrator Joe Eisma.

photo by Kyle James Smith

The second issue of The Industry is set for release this winter. Keep an eye on the website, or follow his Twitter page  for news. Smith isn’t taking any down time between issues. “I am in the process of starting something right now,” a secret project he’s planning with an old high school friend. If all goes well, you will be able to purchase Smith’s work in bookstores in the coming years.

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