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Chris Bolton Talks w/411 About Creating Smash, Webcomic vs. Print & More

June 28, 2018 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. Chris Bolton had a dream and through hard work and perseverance, we see the beginnings of that come to life in Smash.

You can visit and learn that Chris has written short fiction, stage plays, sketch comedy, and screenplays. You can discover that he also wrote and directed a web-series called Wage Slaves and had his first professional short story published in Portland Noir (Akashic Press, 2009).

But if you really want to know more about the creator behind one of the most captivating books on the market, you have to go to the man himself.

Chris was kind enough to answer from questions for about Smash and its future.

Steve Gustafson: Thanks again Chris for answering some questions. To kick it off, everyone always wants to hear about how someone got their start in writing. Speaking to Smash, how did the idea come together? How did you team up with the amazing artist Kyle Bolton?

Chris Bolton: Kyle and I are brothers (I’m older) who grew up reading and loving comics. He was the artist, I was the writer—but we never managed to successfully collaborate on anything until we became adults.

We batted around some ideas for comic series before deciding we wanted something fun and exciting, a throwback to the kinds of comics we grew up with: Calvin & Hobbes meets Spider-Man. And, since we were creating a comic aimed at kids, I wondered: what would have happened if we, as comic-loving kids, had been gifted with super-powers? The idea for Smash grew from there.

Steve Gustafson: What made you decide to launch it as a webcomic in 2009? What do you see as the benefits for someone doing a webcomic over print?

Chris Bolton: We put together a pitch package for Smash in 2007 and submitted it to various publishers. All of the ones that responded said they liked it, but unfortunately, “kid’s comics just don’t sell.” (What a difference a few years can make!) So, after one very close call turned into a “no,” Kyle and I decided to stop waiting for permission and publish Smash online ourselves.

Let me say that webcomics in the 2000’s was a very different scene from webcomics today. Back then, there was a chance (but certainly no guarantee) that you could build a decent audience with a good story, strong characters, and regular publication schedule. Nowadays, it feels very niche: your comic needs to hit a specific target—whether it be pug lovers or anime fans or die-hard roleplaying gamers. These days, it seems like a webcomic aimed at general audiences is a losing proposition that will go largely unread.

That said, the main benefit is money. It costs a lot more to print copies of a book (if you’re self-publishing) and distribute that—and there’s a very real risk you could end up with a garage full of boxes of unsold comics. If you do all the work yourself and don’t have to hire (for instance) a colorist, webcomics are less expensive (though there can be domain or hosting costs). However, you’ll find it often costs money to promote the comic in order to expand your readership. I’m not sure anything is ever truly “free” anymore.

Steve Gustafson: For someone just hearing about Smash for the first time, how would you describe the book to them?

Chris Bolton: Smash is an all-ages graphic novel series about a 10-year-old boy who accidentally absorbs the powers of his superhero idol. Andrew dons a Halloween costume and sets out to fight crime as Smash—but he’s also inherited his hero’s worst enemy, the villainous mastermind called the Magus, who will stop at nothing to take Smash’s powers for himself.

There have been two books so far, Trial by Fire and Fearless (just out in May), both published by Candlewick Press, an imprint of Penguin Randhom House. You can find or order them at bookstores and comic shops everywhere!

Steve Gustafson: I saw that David Benioff, writer/producer of Game of Thrones, is a fan. How surreal was it to see his support? What’s been the most satisfying fan feedback you’ve received so far?

Chris Bolton: I was fortunate to interview David Benioff for my former employer,, back when he published his novel City of Thieves. (He mentioned that he was working on developing a fantasy series for HBO. Sounded like a longshot.) He was extremely nice and asked about my own projects, encouraging me to send Smash to him. At the time, we’d only published about 30 pages of the webcomic, and he gave us a wonderful pullquote: “Great job, I’m hooked!” We’ve used that with his permission, but I haven’t had any contact with him in the years since.

The most satisfying feedback so far is an email we got about a 9-year-old boy named Mason, who was having difficulties in school, then discovered Smash and radically improved his reading comprehension in order to read the book himself. His story continues to inspire me every time I get down about something in life. You can read it here.

Steve Gustafson: Ideally, what’s the future hold for Smash? Where do you want to see it in 5 years from now?

Chris Bolton: A lot of things are up in the air. We’d love to finish the first trilogy with Smash 3, but that will depend largely on how well Book 2 sells. In my head canon, I have nine books plotted out for the entire series, but life sometimes has other ideas and I may have to adjust that. I’m excited to see what the future holds, one way or another.

Steve Gustafson: Many fans have an idea and dream of doing their own comic but only a few chosen actually follow through on it. What’s been the most surprising thing about bringing Smash to life?

Chris Bolton: The happiest surprise has been how much kids love it. When we do a reading at a library, classroom, or bookstore, it’s always a delight to have young kids come up and quote my own dialogue to me, or tell me about their favorite characters or scenes, or ask a dozen questions about one of the books. Their enthusiasm is contagious and reminds me of how excited I was to read the next issue of Spider-Man when I was their age.

At the end of the day, no matter how the future unfolds, I have two published graphic novels on my bookshelf that I can turn and look at. It’s not just a dream anymore, it’s a tangible reality, and that’s a tremendous thrill for a lifelong comics lover.

Steve Gustafson: Thanks again for your time Chris and everyone else, head to and get started today!

article topics :

411 Interviews, Smash, Steve Gustafson