Q&A with Chris A. Bolton and Kyle Bolton,Writer and Illustrator of
Smash: Trial by Fire
Published by Candlewick Press
Giveaway (See Rafflecopter below)
About the book
Whap! Thud! Crash! An action-packed graphic novel simultaneously spoofs and pays tribute to superhero lore while inspiring a new generation of crime-fighters.
Ka-boom! Clobbered by fallout from a blast that kills the local superhero, Defender, Andrew Ryan suddenly has super strength and speed! And he can fly! Now it’s up to him to protect citizens from thieves, thugs, and fearsome villains. He dons a homemade costume to hide his true identity, and Smash is born! But fighting crime isn’t easy, especially when you’re in fifth grade. On top of evil robots and trigger-happy bank robbers, there’s homework, curfew, and the school bully to deal with. Not to mention the Magus, a fearsome villain who will stop at nothing to steal Smash’s superpowers for himself! Influenced by film, cartoons, and of course, classic comic books, this vivid escapade features a rib-tickling, high-energy storyline and the colorful, exaggerated figures of nostalgic comic-book art: a combo perfect for kids longing for a secret identity of their own.
About the author
Chris A. Bolton (left) and Kyle Bolton (right); photo by Ocean Yamaha – See more at: http://smashcomic.com/about-2/#sthash.YwhDUq9H.dpuf
Chris A. Bolton has written short fiction, stage plays, sketch comedy, and screenplays. His first published short story appears in Portland Noir and he recently completed a novel. Smash is his first comic series, which he co-created with his younger brother, Kyle. Chris A. Bolton lives in Portland, Oregon.
About the illustrator
Kyle Bolton has been drawing since the age of four, although SMASH is his first professional comic work. A graduate of the Art Institute of Seattle, he has worked for a variety of game companies creating 2D and 3D animations. Kyle Bolton currently draws and lives in Seattle, Washington.
Smash: Trial by Fire (Candlewick Press) is an all-ages graphic novel about a 10-year-old superhero named Smash, who inherits the powers (and villains!) of his superhero idol, Defender. The book is the creation of brothers Chris and Kyle Bolton, who grew up reading comics together, often sharing a bedroom.
For more information about the Boltons and Smash: Smashcomic.com
It’s a WINNER! Love the “wimpy-MG-boy-turns-into-a-superhero-by-incredible-circumstances,” reminiscent of the best comic book heroes. This graphic novel is perfect for reluctant readers and comic book fans. The dialogue is spot-on and the graphics are fantastic and classic comic book, but with an updated, modern artistic flair. This belongs in school classrooms and libraries and is an excellent gift, especially for boys who don’t necessarily like to read. They’ll get sucked into the story because of the sharp wit and cool graphics. Readers will want more the second they reach the last page. If I were to place a bet on Smash and his creators, I’d definitely wager that they’ll become a “smashing” success!
Q & A:
Were you the kind of kids who read comic books?
Chris: Oh, absolutely! I read Spider-Man religiously. I also liked X-Men, but it was a little complicated for me at the time, with the many subplots and tangled relationships. I’m sure I went through a period of loving almost every Marvel comic for at least a few months, from Iron Man to Captain America, The Avengers… probably all of them at one point. But Spider-Man was always my favorite.
Kyle: Pretty much anything you had, I would read. I don’t know that it was me reading them at first — I was more captivated by the art. And I would bug you to tell me what was going on in the story. It wasn’t that I couldn’t read, I was just too lazy about it. But eventually I grew to love them so much, I got into them on my own. The first series I remember being really crazy about was Rocket Raccoon [by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola].
Chris: What other ones did you like best? I remember you had a lot of Batman comics.
Kyle: I got into, obviously, Batman first. I didn’t have a lot of them, I only had about three or four comics of my own, and then I would borrow a lot of yours.
Chris: Do you remember the first comic you ever read?
Kyle: I want to say one of [our older brother] Gary’s Daredevils or the couple of Conan the Barbarians that he had. Or maybe ROM.
Chris: We were definitely children of the ’80s! I remember my first comic was a Pocket paperback collection of the old Lee/Ditko Spider-Man comics from the ’60s. Gary gave it to me, I think he’d bought it for a train ride to California. I read and reread that book until the cover came off and the spine broke. For years after that, we’d find little six-page sections all around our bedroom.
Kyle: We had lots of comics with no covers.
Did you ever dress up like superheroes?
Kyle: I don’t think we ever did that, no. We dressed up as other people, not superheroes.
Chris: We did play “Star Trek” a lot in the living room, but I don’t think we ever wore costumes. I’m sure we violated Federation protocol by wearing blue jeans on the bridge of the Enterprise.
Kyle: Our older brothers drew instrument panels and viewscreens on the backs of our dresser and a desk. It was a very low-budget “Star Trek.”
Did you play with superhero action dolls?
Kyle: Oh, you mean action figures! Or “poseable sculpted men.”
Chris: Yeah, we had a bunch of the Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars figures. And the DC toy line, Super Powers.
Kyle: Well, we had “Star Wars” before that.
Chris: Yup, “Star Wars,” G.I. Joe, the Transformers…
Kyle: We had all the major ones.
Chris: We used to put all our figures together from different toy lines. Then we’d have a giant, epic game where we used their toys but made up our own characters and stories…
Kyle: And you would write the script.
Chris: Well, I never actually wrote a script — it was more like I directed the storyline.
Kyle: Yeah, and I made suggestions that always got shot down by a majority of one.
Chris: Right. I remember you loved the character Puck from [Marvel’s Canadian superhero team] Alpha Flight. And you would always pick one of the Ewok figures to be your star —
Kyle: Yeah, I remember which one, it was the light-tan, fat one.
Chris: The chief of the Ewoks, or whatever. And because you loved Puck and had never met a real-life little person, you thought all little people were super-agile and could leap and flip around.
Kyle: Yeah, I always picked one character that would be the “superhero dwarf.” And another that was my version of Wolverine.
Chris: I remember we would play-act these epic, day-long sagas — probably inspired by a lot of the soap opera storylines in Chris Claremont’s X-Men comics. Somebody was always in love with somebody else but they couldn’t be together because they were enemies, or something.
Kyle: If that’s what the stories were about, I don’t remember them.
Who were your favorite superheroes and how did that influence your graphic novel?
Kyle: Well, Batman was the largest influence for me. He’s pretty much always been my kind of hero.
Chris: Dark and brooding, like you.
Kyle: Except I’ve never been rich. Also, the origin story of Spider-man appealed to me. So, I would say a mix of those two.
Chris: When you look at Smash, what sort of Batman influences do you see?
Kyle: Since Smash’s costume is basically an offshoot of Defender’s [Smash’s superhero idol], it’s more I guess that Defender was inspired by parts of Batman.
Chris: I always thought of Defender as our version of Superman.
Kyle: Yeah, he is the Superman of the comic. But in his look and costume, I think I was more overtly influenced by Batman — the colors, chest plate, utility belt, pointy boots… And then, when it comes to Smash, I was partly influenced by Spider-Man. When I look back at my early sketches, Smash’s goggles were very small. Making them larger and rounder was more of a Spider-Man influence, like the eye-holes that take up half of Spider-Man’s mask.
Chris: I’m glad to hear that. It feels like my childhood obsession with Spider-Man has come full circle into adulthood.
Does a superhero have to have a superpower?
Chris: Obviously not, because Batman doesn’t have super-powers. Just powerful money.
Kyle: Hawkeye has no super-powers, either.
Chris: But in the Avengers movie, he was shooting arrows blind, behind his back, and never missed. That had to be some kind of super-power.
Chris: Works for me.
What super-powers of your own would you want to have?
Kyle: Flight and invisibility. [evil laugh]
Chris: That’s a terrifying combination. Flight is a pretty universal choice. That’s why we gave it to Smash.
Kyle: Well, flight, and I guess I would have to be able to break the atmosphere barrier. I’m talking interstellar exploration. I’ve always wanted to be able to go anywhere, have complete freedom of movement and not just be stuck to the ground. When I watch nature programs and documentaries, they always show the aerial view, which is more impressive than being on the ground. It would be nice to float, fly around things, go as high as I want.
Chris: I remember the summer before I was in sixth grade, after we’d just moved to a new house across town, away from my friends, I was reading a ton of Spider-Man comics. He had a villain called Puma, a Native American billionaire who could change into a man-sized were-puma…
Kyle: I remember that guy! Didn’t Ron Frenz draw him?
Chris: Yeah, Ron Frenz, he was one of my favorite Spider-Man artists. I used to love the look of Puma so much that I wanted to be him. I thought if I chanted some sort of Native American ceremonial prayer before bed, I would wake up with the ability to turn into an actual puma.
Kyle: Oh, is that what those noises were?
Chris: I didn’t know any actual Native American ceremonies, so I had to make up my own. And I was so disappointed when I found out that it didn’t work. That was actually a big part of my inspiration for Smash: remembering how badly I wanted to turn into a guy who could change into a giant puma and then go to school and everybody would be really impressed.
Kyle: Batman had no powers and was always able to go up high, so it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a super-power or even flight. I guess intelligence, because Batman, who had no actual powers, was one of the most dangerous people on Earth. So to have that level of intelligence to master all these different skills, bring your body to a physical peak, learn all of the martial arts, and then you’re just the master of any situation… Sounds like a lot of work.
Chris: Now, as an artist, what super-power would you wish for that would help you draw better or faster, or just easier?
Kyle: Flight. That’s my answer, I’m sticking with it. I don’t know, maybe telescopic vision? Or night vision?
Chris: If you were the Flash, you could draw a hundred times faster…
Kyle: No, because it’s never about drawing faster. I enjoy the process of slowly putting the image together. If you’re getting it done quickly, I don’t necessarily know that you could slow your brain down enough to enjoy it. So it would just be fast motion. To never get tired would be good. If my wrist never hurt. So, vision and I guess, invincibility. What about you?
Chris: A superhuman vocabulary would be helpful. I type really fast, but I write most of my first drafts by hand, so if I could hand-write at 100 words per minute… No, you’re right, doing it faster wouldn’t necessarily help your mind keep up. I think I’d just end up with about 500 words more than I needed. Tons of useless adjectives. Maybe it would be cool to write while flying.
Kyle: Flight! It always goes back to flight.
Chris: When you were growing up and reading comics, who were the artists who inspired you most?
Kyle: Berni Wrightson. Michael Golden. Mike Mignola. Mike Zeck.
Chris: All the Mikes.
Kyle: Yup, all the Mikes. Later on, Alan Davis with Excalibur. John Byrne on Alpha Flight.
Chris: He was a big early influence.
Kyle: Definitely. That’s all I can remember, but that’s a pretty good list. Who were the writers who influenced you?
Chris: I don’t remember a ton of superstar comic book writers. I mean, there was Stan Lee, but he hadn’t written much since the early ’70s — certainly not since we started reading comics, although I used to buy a lot of back issues to catch up. I knew Chris Claremont from X-Men, and John Byrne from Alpha Flight, although that was kind of a cheat because Byrne was also the artist. That was the thing in the ’80s — most of the writers we knew by name were also artists, like Frank Miller and Walt Simonson. That probably means no one who reads Smash will know my name. They’ll be like, “Whoa, Kyle Bolton! And the guy who writes the balloons…”
Kyle: The guy who shoots down all of Kyle’s ideas.
Chris: I can live with that. Okay, we’ve talked about our own childhood love for comics and superheroes. What do we hope young readers of Smash will take away from it?
Kyle: A sense of fun! And a big, new world to explore.
Chris: I would love it if a couple of brothers who are forced to share a bedroom read Smash until the cover falls off and the spine collapses. And many years later, the brothers publish their own graphic novel that reaches back to their childhood memories.
Kyle: I just hope we’re retired by then.
Chris: Living on a beach somewhere, arguing over which superhero has the best powers.
Blog tour schedule:
Monday, 9/9: Random Chalk Talk — Guest Post on the evolution of SMASH from webcomic to book.
Monday, 9/9: Powells.com Book Blog — Guest Post on the birth of Smash, featuring the scandalous true story how we designed and created the character.
Tuesday, 9/10: Who R U Blog — Q&A with Kyle and me talking about what it’s like to work together as brothers and other titillating tales.
Wednesday, 9/11: Book Bitch — Exclusive interview with none other than Smash himself! (Plus a surprise guest.)
Thursday, 9/12: Cynsations — Guest Post, “Graphic Novel 101″ — how we make the comic.
Friday, 9/13: Green Bean Teen Queen — Guest Post about the magic of libraries and how they helped create a certain pint-sized superhero.
Saturday, 9/14: Charlotte’s Library — Guest Post featuring a comic titled “The True Origin of the Brothers Bolton.” Yes, it’s all true!
Monday, 9/16: Hooked On Books — Guest Post featuring the SMASH playlist, for the perfect soundtrack to accompany the book!
Tuesday, 9/17: Bildungsroman — Q&A with Kyle and me.
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