Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith on the Value of Libraries and Librarians

Jeff Smith, creator of the best-selling Bone graphic novel series, says that it was a librarian who opened up the entire universe for him by recommending a book on cartooning.


Librarians have been very significant to me.

Especially since Bone got started and it was a graphic novel which so few people really understood or knew about, and it was the librarians who really "got it." They understood that comics were reading and were the very first kind of group of people outside of comics to embrace the art form, to embrace them as books. Because when we were starting in the late 1980s and the 90s, it was a very hard sell to get comics out of the comic books stores and on to book store shelves and in libraries.  And as I sad, it was the librarians. And since then I've grown to love them and their embrace of the First Amendment and just championing anything that is reading and that sparks the imaginations of kids or adults.

And I'll tell you a quick story.  When I was a kid, I wanted to understand comics and cartooning. I was a big fan of Peanuts, Pogo. those kind of comic strips in the newspaper. But I couldn't understand how it was done. So, I kept tring to draw comics, my own comics, and I would go to the library, which was the only place that had a Xerox machine back in the 1960s. And, it didn't work.  I would put my dime in the machine and it didn't Xerox, because things were, it was back before you had adjustments.  So I went up to the librarian and showed her what was going on and I was probably like ten years old. And she got a book on how to do cartooning out for me, on how to use a pen tip or a paintbrush and use india ink, you pencil it first. And that opened up an entire universe for me. So yeah, I love librarians.

In just allowing graphic novels or comics inot the libraries, just understanding that when kids are reading them they are reading. And that is, I can't overstate how important that was to me, personally, and to the entire art form, and probably to the country.

And second of all, I've found myself in the top ten of most banned books in the last year, and have been challenged for a long time. And it's generally librarians who come to my aid or who write to me and ask me to get involved or something like that. And I've seen alot of great librarian displays on banned books. Bones is always in there, so they've been very important. They're the front lines.

How does it make me feel [to be challenged]. I'm not crazy about it, but when I first heard about it I was, I was a little shocked. I felt I was being attacked, you know. You want everybody to like you. But, you know, I think any author, cartoonist or prose author has to have a moral point of view. If that's the kind of thing that gets me on that list, then so be it.

I am currently working on a comic book that I hope will be serialized into a graphic novel soon. It's called, "Tüki Save The Humans." It takes place 2 million years ago and it's the story of the first person to leave Africa, cause somebody had to be the first one and I'm sure he had a good adventure.