The Origins of Cling: An Interview with Kerrie Smith
One of my favourite books of 2015 was CLING which was written by Kerrie Smith (with art by Brian Burke). I thought I’d ask Kerrie a bit about the origins of the book and some of the other projects she has been working on.
The first Superhero Helpdesk collection was released at Cork Comic Expo. How does it feel do have it finally see print?
It felt amazing! Helpdesk was the first comic I ever worked on. A lot of hard work and dedication from everyone involved went into the series and I used it as an acid test to learn how to letter. To see it in actual print form is just wonderful, I feel I put a lot of myself into it.
It must have been a lot of work. There’s a lot of extras involved.
It was a lot of work. I’m a big fan of learning on the job in comics, so I now know how to put a book together. It was a little overwhelming at first with the idea of putting together a 60+ page book with such diverse page structure. We got some great advice from Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire for the layout on the comics strip pages. I really wanted the Ask Us pages to look like letters pages in a magazine. Working on the sketchbook structure of planning out the artwork from sketch to digital while still trying to show the artwork’s development was a real challenge as I’m just not an artist. It was a very big undertaking.
You also had CLING debuting in Cork with Brian Burke on art. How did you end up doing the book together?
Yes, Cling! I had an idea last year for a book I wanted to get out of collected ashcans as a sort of a “writers portfolio”. Hugo had met Brian at DCC last year and introduced me at D.I.C.E.. I absolutely loved his artwork, I loved the style he used and I just thought the lines would look beautiful in a horror story. He seemed like a lovely guy and I’d seen his portfolio so I asked him if he’d be interested in some work and we went from there.
I was wondering what were the influences behind the book.
They really come from my love of really bad horror movies. The “last girl” trope was something I really wanted to explore but with a more modern twist. I, and most of the women I know, have at some point been harassed online. Nothing so bad as death threats or anything like that but a stranger constantly hounding you to talk to them really puts me on edge. As much as social media is public, it’s like carving out a space for yourself online so there’s kind of a possessive protection of your personal space through privacy, while other people can feel entitled to your privacy because its in a public space. So it can be jarring when someone invades the space you feel safe in and demands your attention. It creates the idea that you can’t escape, you can’t do something as simple as checking your messages in peace and I really wanted to put a voice to that feeling. Comics were a fantastic medium to tell the story as you can take the show and tell elements and build the kind of tension that you feel in that situation.
It was quite a change from the other books you’ve worked on. Any trepidation about doing something so different?
None. I love horror, thrillers, and kind of tension in stories, plus I got to put my voice out there in the issue of the harassment of women online. I feel that Cling was more like what I want to do in comics. Honestly, I had a lot more trepidation about Helpdesk, I’m not really a natural comic, and stuff I read is generally not “all ages” at all, so that was a really big challenge.
What’s next for you? I know there’s going to be a new season of Superhero Helpdesk.
We have a new season that we are currently working on. We have plot lines laid out, scripts are being written and I just saw sketches of the first few strips the other day. What’s more I have a collection coming out for Thought Bubble! I’m so excited about this, I’ve been working on it all year with some fantastic artists that I’ve wanted to work with for a while. It’s called “Girls Like You” and it’s a collection of short comics with some feminist undertones, generally about some difficulties women tend to face in everyday life. Cling is one of the stories it’ll collect. The artists I’ve been working with have been very into the idea and coming up with their own ideas to add and having their voices come through too.
Kerrie Smith (along with Superhero Helpdesk cohorts Hugo Boylan and Triona Farrell) will be exhibitors at ComicCity Fest. Check out http://www.comiccityfestival.com/ for more details.