For those who grew up in the seventies and eighties, pornography wasn’t easily available like it is today. There was no internet. For many of us, our first exposure was the occasional nipple seen through a scrambled signal on our cable box.
So, when I read Kody Chamberlain’s brilliant pitch for his new Kickstarter project, it immediately brought me back to my early teen years, “(Smut and Jeff is) a heist story set in the 1980s about a teenager trying to steal his very first porno magazine.”
Cue the nostalgia…
Kody took some time to discuss the genesis of the project, his inspirations behind it, and his other upcoming projects.
FOG!: Smut and Jeff is a coming-of-age story as a porn heist. What was the genesis of the story and how much of the story is based on truth?
Kody Chamerlain: Smut and Jeff is actually a broad spectrum of memories pulled together in a very creative way, so it’s not true in the sense that this all happened as told, but the bulk of the ideas are pulled from real memories, events, and most of all, the emotional journey. It’s not an entirely new approach to crafting a story, we’ve seen it done by Stephen King with The Body (aka Stand by Me) and from what I’ve read, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg did the same with Superbad. In a way it’s all true, even the lies.
As an example, the early catalyst for the story centers around Jeff’s anxiety about starting high school. I can recall most of those irrational feelings quite well. It was a skewed perception of being a boy about to enter a man’s world, and trying to figure out how to grow up as fast as possible. In my mind, there was a unknowable and terrifying journey ahead and I was essentially preparing myself to step off a cliff. Or so I thought.
As we live and learn, rational thought takes over and this stuff goes away, but for this particular story, I spent a lot of time trying to find that kid I know I used to be, and tapping into the fears and the challenges I faced. It was an incredible journey of rediscovery.
The art is by newcomer Gavin Guidry. How did you start working together?
I was preparing for my trip to San Diego for Comic Con, and I put out an open call for any artists that planned to be there, and maybe wanted to meet. The plan was to walk around Artists Alley and network my way to finding a great artist that could draw the book. Gavin replied to my post on Twitter and we started chatting. He sort of snuck in and nullified my big plans for Comic Con. I still had a great convention, but by the time I stepped foot on the convention floor, I had already decided I wanted Gavin to draw the book.
You’re both from Louisiana and the book is set there in the 1980s. What makes the location in the story so special?
I grew up very poor, lots of moving around to trailer parks and housing projects. In my teenage years we started to land in rent houses, but we didn’t have much disposable income for the toy-based pop culture of the 80s. I spent most of my childhood on a bicycle exploring every inch of my home town, visiting friends, trespassing, and discovering whatever was around the next corner.
I’d mow lawns around the neighborhood to get cash for things I wanted now and then, so it wasn’t a complete pop culture void, I remember I bought a Starscream Transformer once and loved it, but I never really developed a connection with all the stuff guys my age seem to love so much.
To this day I don’t have much nostalgia for any of it. The adventures we had, that was the real magic of my youth. We were doing all sorts of things we shouldn’t have been doing, nothing particularly illegal, but often very dangerous and stupid. Digging for Jean Lafitte’s treasure (didn’t find any), homemade parachutes (almost worked), exploring spillway drain pipes (not recommended), and a million other mini adventures we’d take on just to pass the time.
You’ve been working in the industry for over a decade. What’s attractive about publishing Smut and Jeff through Kickstarter?
I wouldn’t call Kickstarter a publisher exactly, because it doesn’t do anything an actual publisher does. We still have to do all those things on our own, so it’s more like self-publishing with a funding component.
Still, we did show Smut and Jeff to a few publishers and we got some interest from a few, but I hadn’t done a Kickstarter since Sweets:A New Orleans Crime Story and I had been thinking about it for a while.
Crowdfunding was something I wanted to try again at some point and this seemed like a good fit. Longterm, setting up with a publisher is still part of the plan, and if you’ll recall I used Kickstarter for Sweets and published with Image Comics. It’s a strange hybrid model, no doubt about it, but it can work with the right structure.
What were your influences in your approach to telling this story as a graphic narrative?
I don’t think I pulled from any influences directly, I always do my best to approach every project with my own voice and my own ideas about what works and what doesn’t. However, you can’t ignore all the great projects that might align with the genre or subject at hand. In some ways, those things are more helpful for the audience than the creator.
To tell someone the book might speak to fans of Stand By Me, Blankets, Any Empire, The Sandlot, Essex County, and The Goonies. That stuff carries weight in promo material, but I wouldn’t say any of what I’ve done was inspired by or pulled from it in any way. The opposite is probably true, I’ve shied away and finessed a few things that are actually true, but might be too familiar to other popular stories already told.
What else do you have coming up?
I’ve been writing a ton these last eighteen months or so, and I’ve got a new thirteen issue crime script all done, and I’ve been thumbnailing that project.
Still unannounced, but moving along pretty well. I’ve got several other scripts done or nearly done.
I did story and art for Halo: Tales from the Slipcase, an anthology from 343 Industries and Dark Horse that should be out in October, and I’ve been working outside comics a bit on an original startup idea that may play a part in some of my upcoming projects. More on that in the near future, but it’s a very cool idea and I’m thrilled about it.
The downside is I’ve been away from comics a bit trying to get it off the ground. Getting very close.
What are you currently geeking out over?
I know I’m going to forget some big ones, but in no particular order (or medium): Southern Bastards, Masters of American Illustration by Fred Taraba, Hit from Carlson and Del Rey, Bosch on Amazon Prime, I like what A.F.R.O. is doing in hip hop, IDW ARTISTS & ARTIFACT EDITIONS, especially Hellboy and Daredevil: Born Again. I reread the Westlake/Cooke Parker series again last week, and I just put Hester and McCrea’s Mythic on my end table. I’ll probably give that one a read over the weekend. In fiction, I’ve been reading The Chill by Ross Macdonald.