Andrew Smith: “The legacy of British comedy has influenced my sense of humour”

Andrew Smith: “The legacy of British comedy has influenced my sense of humour”

Andrew Smith’s interview about the comic book “Lobisomem” and other projects.

Podes ler a entrevista ao Andrew Smith em português aqui.

Nuno Pereira de Sousa: Before you came to Portugal, you published comics in several British fanzines and magazines. What can you tell us about that work?
Andrew Smith: My first experience of producing comic strips to a deadline was for the flying Stilton club fanzine. I was 17 years old and the flying Stilton club was an obscure  ‘do it yourself’ venue hidden in the English countryside. Later after graduating art school my first published cartoon in a well known magazine was for the humour magazine Punch. It ceased publication soon after, but I don’t think this had anything to do with my cartoon. For the next ten years I freelanced as an illustrator providing political caricatures, illustrating articles and other commissions. I also produced a whole bunch of cartoon strips for the adult humour comic Zit, it was a formative experience to have to think of new ideas every month. I never showed my mother some of the work I made for Zit,  they regularly asked for me to include more ‘adult’ content.

NPS: It seems Portugal has conquered you and your family. How did that happen? What year did you start living in Portugal? And why did you choose Serpa to live?
AS: In 2010 my wife and I had the good fortune to fulfill an ambition of ours and tour Europe for a year. Because of our interest in art, architecture and quirky stuff we had a list of ‘must sees’ such as Toledo and Fatima. Serpa admittedly was not on that list. We would stop at places of interest along our route. We read about a life size waxwork model of the last supper, in Serpa. We never found the last supper (we discovered later that it was being restored) but we found a town and region that captured our hearts.

NPS: Since you came to Portugal, do you still publish comics in the United Kingdom?
AS: There came a point in my freelancing career when many of my regular jobs ended. The reasons were businesses cutting costs by dropping the in house magazine, magazines stopping publication and in one case the owner of the magazine was a bit of a crook and didn’t pay the artists. So knowing that I was a terrible self promotor and how competitive the market was I decided to retrain as a teacher of art. And once I was teaching I found I had little time left for art. Although I would still self publish Zines.

NPS: You have been publishing comics in the Bedeteca de Beja’s [Beja’s Comics Library] anuary anthology Venham +5. Tell us about that experience. What is the feedback about the comics you published in that magazine?
AS: Discovering the Bedetecca de Beja was serendipitous for me. A wonderful place, I was warmly welcomed by Susa [Monteiro] and Paulo [Monteiro] who invited me to join the atelier [Toupeira]. Here I have met a great group of people and made many good friends. Having my work published in Venham +5 is wonderful. It has given me the confidence to redirect my energies to illustrating comics.

NPS: Last year, Bedeteca de Beja published your comic book “O Desastre do Palhaço” in Coleção Toupeira. How was the feedback?
AS: “O Desastre do Palhaço “ was my attempt to create a subversive war comic book. The comics highlighted the obvious; that war is very dangerous, also that it’s not always clear who are the good guys. At the end a troop of soldiers mutated into flaming zombies. The feedback was that some people found the story confusing and others said it was very articulate.

NPS: You also had an exhibition of your comics work at Beja. What can you tell us about that?
AS: It felt like a retrospective, the exhibition included examples of comics from every decade I have been working. I really love the Festival Internacional de BD Beja [Beja’s International Comics Festival]. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk with the international artists and comics enthusiasts.

NPS: This year, Chili Com Carne published “Lobisomem e outros mitos”, the #40 of Mesinha de Cabeceira. How did that happened?
AS: It was at the Festival Internacional de BD Beja that Marcos [Farrajota] invited me to produce a comic book. I had talked to him at the Amadora BD and was impressed by the work published by Chilli Com Carne. So I was really happy that he asked. I had already made a few three shepherd children strips so I wove the werewolf story around that.

NPS: In this comic book, it seems you have experience as a van man. Is van life different in Portugal from other countries?
AS: I love to camp. In Northern Europe camping is very regulated and usually only allowed in campsites. In Portugal the camping is regulated and the campsites are relatively cheap. But some Northern Europeans choose to ignore camping prohibitions and ‘wild camp’. Or pay a few euros to camp on large carparks in the Algarve. I was always a little irritated by people who had a narrow experience of life in this country hold opinions about Portugal that were often ill informed.

NPS: A big part of the comic book is dedicated to Os Três Pastorinhos [Miracle of Fátima’s Three Shepherd Children]. How did you perceive the Miracle of Fátima before and after you came to Portugal?
AS: I had first read about the miracle of Fatima in ‘the rough guide of the unexplained’. I am fascinated by places of miracles and magic. Over time I have learnt more about the context of the miracles, and tried to reflect this in “Lobisomem.”

NPS: Humor and irony seem to be omnipresent in your comic books. Would you agree with that perception? And why is that?
AS: Maybe it’s part of my cultural heritage. I don’t think the use of Irony is unique to the British isles but it’s woven into our sense of humour. Self deprecating and often sarcastic the British use irony to “make fun” of almost anyone or anything. The British also have a reputation for satire, absurdity (Monty Python) and the double entendre.(Benny Hill) The legacy of British comedy has naturally influenced my sense of humour.

NPS: What do you miss most from England? And when you go back to England, what do you miss more from Portugal?
AS: I miss friends and family and also fish and chips, real ale and Marmite ( served separately of course) and when I am in England I miss my friends also, “migas” with grilled meat, the accessibility of live music and the ability to enjoy outside events without planning for rain.

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