Movie review: The Cartoonist

From the 05/20/2009 edition

Filmmaker Ken Mills, also known as the president of local production house Mills/James, helms this short portrait of Columbus-based comics sensation Jeff Smith.

The creator of Bone is covered from early drawings foretelling at five-years-old the style of his best-known characters to recent, packed book signings and a publishing deal with the same company behind Harry Potter.

As the always genial and entertaining Smith fills in personal details and cites influences such as Walt Kelly and Frank Miller, memories of founding animation studio Character Builders and launching a self-publishing enterprise are enhanced by archive clips and clever use of stock footage. Professionals such as Harvey Pekar and Paul Pope attest to the odds Smith had working against his success.

The film is more mash note than journalism and its voiceover and soundtrack seem better suited to a more serious subject, but for the most part, the subject also transcends these challenges.