Jonathon Marc Schmidt has a lot going on in his head. He’s a prolific comic writer and artist, has dabbled in animation and his essays on popular culture have been published internationally. He currently lives in Kansai, Japan.
Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Schmidt’s passion for drawing was evident from a young age. “I liked that I could give flesh to my thoughts and fantasies that way,” he says. “I’ve always liked the feeling of having a finished drawing to look at.”
From there a comic artist was born. “I enjoyed the film Akira when I was still pretty young and impressionable”, he says. Based on reviews comparing Akira to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, and Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and Watchmen, Schmidt sought out these other forms of graphic narrative and his rapturous fascination with comics grew.
His first comic, the critically acclaimed Egg Story was published in 2004 by SLG Publishing. It is a surreal tale about eggs breaking out of the refrigerator in search of a life of their own. “It wasn’t intended to be [allegorical]. However, after Eating Steve, one journalist asked me if there was anything to the fact that both it and Egg Story seemed to be about a fear of being devoured. So, maybe?”
Schmidt’s second graphic novel with SLG was Eating Steve: A Love Story, published in 2007. Eating Steve is the story of Jill, a girl who, after unexpectedly trying to eat her boyfriend’s brain, is forced to come to terms with her zombie-esque state and find herself. “One of the many things I attempted to do, which few people noticed…is challenge notions of ‘story.’ I say things like Eating Steve is an ‘anti-narrative’ with an anti-heroine.”
In 2008, Schmidt began collaboration with Jason Franks on the webcomic series The Sixsmiths. Conceived it as both a webcomic and as a separate graphic novel, The Sixsmiths is a comedy drama about an ordinary family of Satanists who have fallen on hard times. In 2010, The Sixsmiths was published as a hard copy graphic novel by SLG publishing.
In 2009, Schmidt began work on 3rd Blade, a series of stories published as a web comic. 3rd Blade was created entirely by Schmidt, with one story arc, Psychoderelict, adapted from of the Psychoderelict concept album by Pete Townsend. “I wanted to adapt it because it was and still is my favourite album. I’ve liked Townshend since I found out about him, we might be kindred spirits,” he says. “The story of Psychoderelict resonates with me and I think other comics creators will get it too. The thing I boiled it down to was the big question of ‘why create anything?’ Why write songs, why draw comics?” Schmidt’s adaptation of Psychoderelict adapts the radio play part of the album in 45 pages, and was self-published in 2010.
More recently, J Marc Schmidt worked with The List creator, Paul Bedford on a new minicomic, The Day I Stopped. “A guy works in an office job and hates it. He starts to question why he should bother, and one day he rebels by completely stopping his body, sitting and staring and contemplating. He’s carried out of his workplace, carried into his home, and stays there until one day he has a sudden desire to mow the lawns. He realises that human beings have ‘purpose’ inside them which impels them to ‘do’.”
“It’s a very philosophical story. Paul was interested in one of the aspects of Eating Steve, which was that the main character does almost nothing in order to resolve the story, it was similar to the theme of The Day I Stopped, so he asked if I’d draw it.”
The Day I Stopped is an old fashioned, handmade comic featuring a linocut cover and with interiors done in black and white water colours. “I’m getting back into a low-tech approach to comics after doing a lot of computer-aided comics,” he says. 3rd Blade and The Sixsmiths were created using GIMP to colour and polish the line art from A4 paper. “[It was] very slow and frustrating, and it took away one of the pleasures I had in making comics, namely holding the finished page in my hands and looking at it.” The Day I Stopped is currently available in selected Australian zine outlets, and will be published in Bedford’s upcoming comic anthology The Light and The Dark of it All.
Schmidt has recently begun work on a new project, as yet untitled. Branching out from his usual illustrating style, the new project is influenced by comic artist Stan Sakai, creator of Usagi Yojimbo and will indulge Schmidt’s study of Manga style illustration. Like The Day I Stopped, the new project will feature a more hand made aesthetic. “I want to get back a more childish idea of comics,” he says. “We didn’t have computers when I was a child!”
This same lo-fi approach to illustration is also evident in Schmidt’s animation work. The video below shows the titles of Bamboo Shoots a documentary by Katy Bullen on children in Phnom Penh who make their living by collecting garbage in the city dump.
The old fashioned ink and crayon animation was Schmidt’s first foray into animation, and while he enjoys the art, he prefers to work in comics claiming the comic artist has more control over the finished product than an animator.
In addition to his extensive work in comics, J Marc Schmidt is also a popular culture essayist. He studied at Macquarie University in Sydney, earning a Bachelor’s degree and Dip. Ed. with Honours with majors in History and English Literature, as well as research in Film and Television Studies. His first book of essays The Secrets of Popular Culture was published in Korea in 2008. It features nine essays on a wide range of topics: ‘Socio-Political Themes in the Smurfs’; ‘Evolution of Disney Princesses from the Little Mermaid to Lilo & Stitch’; ‘Utopian and Dystopian Views of the Future in Science Fiction’; ‘Super-powers and the Superpowers and the Ethics of Intervention’;‘Homophobia in Pop Culture during the Bush Era’; ‘God, the Soul and Sex and the City’; ‘Korean Cinema and the ‘Sunshine Policy’’; ‘Harry Potter, X-men and Genetics’; ‘Bratz, Destiny’s Child, and Female Sexual Expression’.
“I wanted it to be pretty broad, so most readers could relate to at least some of it,” he says. “It kind of reflects what’s happening in my head, always too many thoughts!” Schmidt is currently working on a series of essays revolving around the theme ‘Beautiful Losers’, a look at the prevalence of underachiever characters in literature comics.
Despite his education and interest in academic analysis, Schmidt has found himself moving away from a great deal of academic thinking. “I think one’s attitudes to ideological things generally change when one gets older. One’s experience and so on colour those old ideas, and they either become more practical and rooted to reality, or tossed aside altogether.” So how does J Marc Schmidt feel that his own creation, Eating Steve: A Love Story is now studied alongside the likes of Robert Crumb and Shaun Tan in a course on Graphic Narratives at Melbourne University? “I’m glad to have them analyse it and other comics. But, I think a lot of what people think of as ‘good’ comics is influenced by academia, and academia itself is influenced by things that they don’t acknowledge… To be honest I am happy with any labelling of my book as long as it’s thoughtful and makes sense.”
He writes on his blog: “I am very pleased to see that comics are getting more critical attention from the academic community, partly because the wider community still doesn’t really know what to make of comics.”
As someone who studied economics and chemistry instead of art in high school because they scaled better on the final exams, J Marc Schmidt has come to learn the value of pursuing passions for its own sake in his work. “Those Disney movies were right,” he says. “Listen to your heart”.
To find out more about J Marc Schmidt and his work, visit
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