Kevin Smith Interview

Tue, May 1st, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Keith Giles, Staff Writer

[Kevin Smith Interview]According to the Internet Movie Database, after seeing Kevin's film Mallrats, in which two of the characters dialogue about Superman's reproductive habits, Executives at Warner Brothers hired Kevin Smith to write the doomed film project Superman Lives. When Smith was told to cut a romantic scene between Superman and Lois on Mt. Rushmore. Kevin complained, "This has the best dialogue in the script." Executives responded, "This is a toy movie. People don't care how good the dialogue is."

Maybe that's why Kevin felt the urge to write his own comics?

The website also mentions that Kevin did some re-writes for the movie Coyote Ugly, but we're not gonna talk about that right now.

Keith Giles had a rare opportunity to catch Kevin Smith between films and comics to ask him a few questions about…well, about films and comics.

Keith Giles: What was the first comic you remember buying?

Kevin Smith: It wasn't the first comic I ever actually READ, but the first comic I remember slapping down hard-earned money for was a 'Superman Family' Annual in which the first story featured a married Lois and Superman waking up on a cloud. I remember being oddly aroused by the whole thing. I mean, the implication was that these two were fucking.

KG: How did you get involved with writing Daredevil?

[Daredevil]KS: Quesada called me about putting together this line of titles at Marvel under a boutique banner called Marvel Knights. They were all characters that no one cared about anymore: Daredevil, Black Panther, The Punisher, The Inhumans. He said he recalled me being very into Miller's run on 'DD', and asked if I wanted to write their 'DD' relaunch. I first said yes, then later balked, then got guilted into doing it by him and Jimmy Palmiotti. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made (even though, technically, it wasn't really a decision in the end). At the time, I asked Joe why he wasn't being given any of the big guns to work on, like Spidey or the X-Men. He told me the higher-ups at Marvel said those characters were too big for him to play around with; too popular. Now Joe runs the show over there, and can play with any character he likes. Life can be fair sometimes, can't it?

KG: How did you meet Joe Quesada?

KS: Met Joe at the San Diego ComiCon in '95. We were test-screening 'Mallrats' there, and hadn't yet come up with the opening credit sequence. At the Con, Scott Mosier (my producer) and I started whimsying about doing a comic book cover credit sequence. A gent by the name of Kevin Fitzpatrick (who did the 'Mallrats' trading cards) knew Quesada and introduced us and our idea about the credit sequence. Joe said he'd be down for doing one. Ever since then, we'd kept in touch.

KG: Do you realize that your run on Daredevil is responsible for bringing many old comics fans back into collecting again? (Myself included) How does that make you feel?

KS: All-powerful and god-like.

KG: Any new comic projects on the horizon for you?

[Green Arrow]KS: Aside from the current run on 'Green Arrow', there's a 'Bluntman and Chronic' graphic novel we're doing at Image. Then there's this future Marvel project I'm kicking around.

KG: How did you know that Green Arrow had to be your next comic project?

KS: It didn't have to be, it just was the next project. I'd been up to the DC offices when I was working on the 'Superman' movie, and Mike Carlin introduced me to the then-editor of 'Green Arrow', Darren Vincenzo. I said if he was ever inclined to let me take a crack at it, I'd love to write 'Green Arrow', and that I felt I could put it in the top ten. A year or so later, he called me and offered me the gig. I was already talking with Joe about doing 'Daredevil' though, so 'GA' got pushed back. Then 'Dogma' pushed 'GA' back even further. It wasn't until Bob Schreck, my old editor at Oni, got a gig at DC that I started really moving on 'GA'. He's a whip-cracker, that Schreckles.

KG: Do you have a pretty extensive comic collection?

KS: Not really. I dumped my collection to raise the cash to help finance 'Clerks'. When I started making that sweet movie money, I went back and bought some of the stuff I'd collected before, but not all. A few years later, I'd open my own comic book store, so the need to collect seemed to die, as the store suddenly afforded me a very, very large collection. Now I just collect what I read, and bag and board them out of sheer habit.

KG: What happened with this Comic Book store you bought?

[Stash Bash]KS: I used to get my comics at a store in Red Bank called 'Comicology' (if you have the 'Chasing Amy' DVD, you can see it featured in the first deleted scene). One day, the owner revealed that he was moving to Taiwan (or Thailand; can't remember which) with his wife, and he was closing up the store permanently. I was crushed, because I was getting a then-sweet thirty percent discount on my books. He asked if I'd be interested in buying the place (the client list and the back stock, really; the store itself was leased). I always figured I'd eventually wind up owning a comic book store one day (when I was washed up in the film biz, presumably), but the thought of getting my books at fifty percent off pushed me over the edge. I wound up paying thirty grand for the business (which, incidentally, was marginally more than 'Clerks' cost to make). We took over in January '97, and I put my friend Walt Flanagan in charge, as he's our resident comics genius. We re-painted the interior, re-did the front window with a logo Mosier had drawn, hung a few props up, and re-christened the place 'Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash'. Over the course of the next year, we noticed this strange phenomenon: not only did we get local traffic, but we also started getting out-of-state visitors as well. Then, it was out of the country. Then off the continent. I felt bad, because the store was just your average comic book shop, really - nothing worth traveling for. After two years, I decided to move the operation to larger digs in town, so that we could really do something special with it - make it worth the trip for all the cats who were making the trek. I brought on Ratface - our production designer from 'Amy' and 'Dogma' - to create something really cool. We tricked the joint out with every prop we had from the flicks and all the artwork as well (including the Holden and Banky 'Bluntman and Chronic' pages from 'Amy' that Mike Allred had drawn, and the Buddy Christ statue from 'Dogma'), and used a Matt Wagner Jay and Bob drawing for the new logo. We opened the doors to the new store in March of '99, and threw a gala 'Stash Bash'. To say the store does insanely well is an understatement

KG: What main titles do you read on a regular basis now?

KS: I'm kind of die-hard DC, and even moreso a superhero junkie. JLA, JSA, Martian Manhunter, some of the Superman books, Some of the Batman books. On the non-hero stuff side, Hellblazer, Strangers in Paradise…aside from that, I'll read anything written by Alan Moore, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, James Robinson, Matt Wagner, Frank Miller, or anything drawn by Quesada.

KG: All of your work, from print to film, usually references a spiritual or Judeo-Christian element. Why is that?

KS: It's just part of who I am, and subject matter that tickles my fancy.

KG: Do you believe in God?

KS: Look at my life. Come on. Of COURSE I believe in God.

KG: How did you begin your film career?

[Clerks]KS: The film career started on August second, 1991, though I didn't start getting paid for it until January '94. In '91, I saw Richard Linklater's 'Slacker', and figured film was for me. So I watched any indie flick I could get my hands on, and read all the books published on the subject (which, back then, weren't many). I went to film school in Canada for a very brief spell in '92, and met Mosier. In '93, we shot 'Clerks'. In January '94, we were invited to Sundance, and Miramax picked the flick up. I've been working ever since. I am living proof that anybody... ANYBODY... can make a film. All it takes is a small modicum of talent and a great deal of luck and timing.

KG: Talk a little about the film you're just now finishing.

KS: 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' is the last flick set in what we took to calling the View Askewniverse (View Askew is our production company). It's an all-out comedy, that savages the movie biz and internet culture, and features an all-star cast. It'll hit theaters August 10th.

KG: Would you like to direct or write a comic book themed film?

KS: Dave Mandel (one of the co-producers on the 'Clerks' cartoon), Scott and I sold a superhero show to HBO that's kind of a mature (if such a thing is possible) look at the cape genre. I don't know when we'll get around to doing it, but that'd be the closest I'd like to get to a comic book themed film.

KG: What comic book characters are on your dream list to develop next?

KS: I don't really have any left. I was a fan of the Daredevil and Green Arrow characters, so it seemed logical to write them. Now I'm kind of interested in taking obscure characters and seeing if we can turn them into top ten books. I mean, DD and GA had somewhat built-in audiences, so there was a basis to work from. But could we take a Doctor Strange book and put that in the top ten? That'd be a fun challenge.

KG: In your opinion, what is the best film ever made?

KS: There are five, I'd say; Jaws, JFK, Do the Right Thing, A Man for All Seasons, and The Last Temptation of Christ.

KG: I know you just finished your new film, but what's next for you as a Director?

KS: No idea yet.

KG: Would you ever return to writing Daredevil again?

KS: The problem is monthly runs kind of conflict with my day job, so I have to pick them carefully. I've been offered a bunch of different things to write, like 'The Authority' (which I've yet to read, even though I'm a Millar fan), 'The X-Men' (which was too daunting to jump onto, due to all that continuity), and even 'Daredevil' (which I had zero interest in, if Quesada wasn't drawing). But while a monthly 'DD' is out of the question, a one-shot or a hardcover story of some sort is not. Joe and I have talked about doing something along those lines.

KG: So, are you planning on a return to Daredevil? Will he get revenge on Bullseye for Karen's death?

KS: Hmmmm...

KG: Ok, you've written DD and now GA, but, come on, don't you really want to write a Batman story next? Or SpiderMan?

KS: I get to write Batman in 'Green Arrow', so that takes care of my Batman jones, and Spidey I handled in 'Daredevil', so I'm not chomping at the bit to write that character either. But I wouldn't rule out a one-shot of either character just yet...

KG: Do you think that comic books can ever transcend the funny book stereotype and become as mainstream as books or films?

KS: Nope. Never. Doesn't make them any less valid, though. It's so sad that there are people who feel that comics' salvation lies in mainstream acceptance, because it implies that comics are a dying artform. They're not. Comics don't need to be saved. Comics aren't going anywhere. There will always be a comic book field, despite all the nay-saying braying of a group of Chicken Little's, who feel like they have their finger on the pulse of a medium that's been around far longer than their two-bit opinions of it. What fans/critics/pundits need to understand is that comics are a rarefied medium, and that they'll never be able to compete with movies and television (or video games; or the internet; or even mimes). Just accept that and be happy with the audience that IS out there, and do your best to keep them entertained. Cater to them relentlessly with hero books and non-hero books alike. Hell, there are enough fans of both! But don't slap them in the face by telling them constantly that they're not enough. Heavens, love the one you're with, you know? Besides, what kind of insecure soul would crave mainstream acceptance anyway? Aside from Warren Ellis?

KG: What is a typical day like for Kevin Smith?

KS: Pretty fucking excellent, to be honest.

KG: I do have a few more questions though.

KS: Good Lord, man...

KG: What is this future Marvel project you mention?

KS: Keeping quiet on what the Marvel project is right now. I've spoken to Axel about it, and he seems to dig it. Don't look for it for another year or so.

KG: If you could only do one thing creatively would you write, direct or act?

KS: Write.

KG: If you could clone yourself and have your clone Direct your films and write your comics, what would you do with all your free time?

KS: Fuck my wife and play with my kid. Relentlessly.

 
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