New comic magazines are a rareity in the UK, so we couldn’t let tomorrow’s launch of Moose Kid Comics pass without a nose around.
Aimed squarely at kids, Moose Kid is the brain child of Jamie Smart. With a reworking of Desperate Dan, a regular slot in the Phoenix and a raft of adult comics under his belt – Jamie is one of the UK’s best loved artists
But now he has entered the murky world of magazine publishing, to head up a new weekly-style comic full of original characters. We know better than anyone how difficult it is to launch an independent and so had to find out more.
Hi Jamie, how are you?
I’m good thanks! Actually I’m a bit nervous, launching anything like this is kinda nerve-wracking isn’t it, as you know!
You’re launching Moose Kid Comics tomorrow (20 June) can you tell us a little more about it?
Moose Kid Comics is an online comic, 36 pages, full colour, available to read on the website or download. And it’s completely free! We have nearly 40 artists involved, some well known to comics fans, others big on the indie or web scenes, all contributing their own original creations. We say it’s an all-ages comic, really it’s a children’s comic, but we want everyone to know there’s plenty of material in there for all audiences.
There’s been a real buzz from the moment that you first announced the project. What made you want to start a kids comic magazine?
It was when The Dandy went out of print a couple of years ago, after 75 years. I myself had been drawing for them for their last ten years or so, and a lot of artists started asking what can we do about this. It felt like a real sign of the times that kids comics, especially in the UK, were dying out, and perhaps it was up to the artists to initiate the change we needed.
And how have you found the process of founding a magazine?
Oh it’s hard isn’t it! I was the editor on anthologies a few years ago, and I didn’t enjoy that much. It was really exciting getting artists involved and seeing the work they produced, but the actual fiddly bits of editing together a comic, keeping schedule, all the admin – it takes away a lot of time from what I really want to spend my time doing… which is drawing.
So full credit to comic and magazine editors, they work REALLY hard. I had a strong idea for how I wanted this comic to work, the narrative behind it and the direction it would take, so really that wasn’t something I could farm out to anyone else. I had two awesome editorial advisors, Chris Garbutt and Andy Davidson, who both helped keep us on track, but it has taken about a year now to create just this one issue.
I have to say though, despite the time it takes, it’s been pretty thrilling working on Moose Kid. Seeing the work come in and the comic come together, that’s why you do it, isn’t it? To see that end product with all the amazing comics inside, all the hard work the artists have put in. That’s an incredible feeling.
How will Moose Kid stand out from other kid’s comics, such as The Phoenix? What’s your angle, if you will?
What The Phoenix are doing is brilliant, and they’ve not only helped revitalise our children’s comic industry by sheer graft and quality, but they’ve also been really supportive of Moose Kid from the start.
But I knew there would be no point trying to repeat what they do, so our comic was intended to have a lot more goofy characters, less emphasis on story and more on comedy. Like if Nickleodeon and Cartoon Network did a comic together. That’s the level I wanted to go for.
You’ve already announced a couple of artists, including Gary Northfield. How have you gone about choosing the line up?
We put out a call online and got hundreds of artists replying – from those we chose a good handful we felt were right for Moose Kid, a lot of artists I’d never known before but now am a big fan of. I also had a list of artists I wanted to approach directly, some were real long shots (and never replied, but I’ll keep asking), and some were people I knew were producing exactly the kind of characters I wanted in Moose Kid.
So that was our two pronged approach to collecting the artists together and trying to find the right balance.
And now, the dreaded question… why digital and not printed?
What we’re doing here has a few different purposes. One of those purposes was to open up the discussion. To say look, this is what we can do, this is what we want to do, how do we do it? To reach out to publishers and media companies, to find an audience and bring it with us, to help inspire both the current generation of artists, and the next, to start things up themselves.
To do that, we only need to be digital. That’s why we’re free, there’s no profit here, no other agenda, we’re just trying to make a point. If we were to get copies printed (and don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely part of the masterplan, just maybe after we’ve got this first issue out), it would be to distribute them free, similar to OFF LIFE! I’d love to get our comics into children’s hospitals and schools, places where kids need entertaining.
That’s where comics have their way in, I believe. Finding whole new audiences just by doing what they’re designed to do. There’s no doubting the talent we have in this country (and beyond), it’s finding creative ways to get it out there which is the issue. So, that’s why we’re digital at the moment. To get interest and get things rolling.
What are your hopes for Moose Kid? Is their a master plan for world domination?
I think there’s a certain habit, particularly amongst comic enthusiasts, to shout about our creations to each other. We’re all very good at promoting our work in comics circles, but not outside of them. And let’s not forget, most of the population have pretty much forgotten about comics – they’re the things movies come from, and the things next to the horoscopes in The Sun, but they’re not really much beyond that.
That’s most people’s experience with comics. And while mature comics are really seeing a resurgence, winning literary awards and finding the respect they deserve, children’s comics are getting lost. And as such, we’re losing a generation, the next generation of comic artists we’re going to need. The Beano and The Phoenix are doing such great things to fight against this, but we need everyone pitching in to make sure children don’t forget about comics.
So that’s what we’re aiming to do. To help children’s comics reach slightly further. And if we can do that, however we can do that, then we’d of been a success.
We at OFF LIFE know all about the struggles and the joys of starting an independent magazine. So, with that in mind, give readers your best plug.
Moose Kid Comics is a genuinely exceptional all-ages comic, absolutely bursting with charming and ridiculous characters. And that’s not hyperbole on my part, that’s entirely down to the incredible artists who got involved and contributed some of their most original creations.
We have comic greats like Tom Paterson, Eisner winners like Roger Langridge, and some of the best names from the current scene like Gary Northfield, Will Kirkby and Joe List. Not to mention, of course, Alan Martin and Warwick Johnson Cadwell have created ‘Young Tank Girl’, which is a special Tank Girl prequel, just for us. Oh did I forget to mention that? A TANK GIRL PREQUEL. AMAZING.
Thanks Jamie, best of luck to you and to Moose Kid.
Thank you guys! OFF LIFE was a big inspiration to me as to how free comics can be great comics, long may you reign!