Good gosh do we love Scott Campbell! What a kind, talented and all-around awesome guy. He is a maker of paintings, illustrations, comics, kids books and video games. His artwork has been shown in galleries around the world (often at one of our favorites, LA’s Gallery 1988) and his comics have a serious fan base. In that fan base are Neil Patrick Harris, Morgan Spurlock, Seth Green and Edgar Wright (YES EDGAR FREAKING WRIGHT!) to name a few. But no need to name drop, his work speaks for itself, and we are super excited that one of our favorite comics, The Great Showdowns, is now a book. Put this on your Christmas list early, I’ve had the pleasure of reading it and it’s truly divine. A book to share, leave on your coffee table, or just keep around in case you ever need a smile. I talked with Scott about the new book and more, and he really is a pure delight. Enjoy!
Serial Optimist: Hey Scott! If you had to choose one, what do you think the best childrens book of all time is?
Scott Campbell: Oh, man. I am so bad at choosing favorites. Maybe Stinky Cheeseman or Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever or The Monster At The End Of The Book? But there are more that I can’t think of at the moment. Favorites are hard.
SO: At what age did you develop a love of comics? What comic made its first early and strong impression on you?
Scott: I had an Incredible Hulk book and a Spiderman comic that I enjoyed super hard. I still have them, but the covers are destroyed. But it wasn’t until I got an X-Men comic that I decided to start collecting like crazy and making my own. Later on, Love And Rockets, Eightball, and Yikes shifted my interests.
SO: I’m a huge fan of your illustrations and the style in which you create them. Was this an organic style that came as you grew as an artist or an idea of a look you had predetermined and wanted to explore?
Scott: It is definitely a style that has evolved and I hope keeps evolving! The list of artists that influence me is always changing as I am exposed to new ways of interpreting things. I think 50’s era illustrations had a great influence on my style loosening up with the lines and colors. So yeah, I hope my work keeps changing!
SO: This will be hard, but I’m going to ask you to describe the process of creating a comic. Does it start with an idea, then sketching it out, or writing things based on one character? I think it would be really interesting to hear the process from idea to comic.
Scott: For any project, I do a lot of list making and reference gathering. I never know what ideas might present themselves from this stuff. I try to keep it stream of consciousness style! I draw on sheets of paper because they are less stressful than sketchbooks. I just scan them in and cut and paste the doodles that I like to compose paintings and comic panels. I do a lot of little thumbnails for comic panels and just blow those up. I keep it loose!
SO: Watching you livestream The Showdowns is super fun. It really puts the audience and fans right there along with you. What gave you the idea to do this?
Scott: I think I started seeing my friends Mike Mitchell, Penn Ward, and Meredith Gran do them and really enjoying just having those going in the background while I work. Just like having studio mates! But yeah, I like being in direct contact with people as I make those paintings. It’s really fun.
SO: Whom do you consider some of your biggest influencers?
Scott: So many influencers! Jim Henson, David Lynch, Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak, Heronimous Bosch, Tim Schafer, Pendleton Ward, Jon Klassen, Wes Anderson, PT Anderson, Nicolas Winding Refn, the list grows every day…
SO: Favorite video game of all time and why?
Scott: Man! Favorites. Geez. Paperboy I guess.
SO: I’m killing you with these favorites! Paperboy, great, unexpected answer though. What made you initially want to create work for children via books and video games?
Scott: I think Stinky Cheeseman was the first book that opened my eyes to the potential of stories and experiences for children having incredible levels of depth that adults can appreciate just as much. I like that challenge. I don’t want to talk down to kids because they tell the most amazing stories I have ever heard and I have great respect for how their minds work.
SO: You’ve won countless awards, given countless lectures, and are just all around extremely highly regarded. But lets take you back to the age of 18. Where did you think at that time, where you would be now? Has everything worked out as planned?
Scott: Wow, thank you for those kind words! Wow. Age 18, let’s see. At that point I wanted to draw for X-Men comics, but I have done enough other things that I think I would be pleased. But the style of my work is so drastically different than that time of my life; I think I would be very surprised with myself. In a strange way.
SO: My personal favorite of yours, the series The Great Showdowns, is now a book. First, YAY! Second, how excited are you?
Scott: I am 2045% excited. Very excited. I have wanted The Showdowns to become an object for people to hold in their hands and take with them places and show people for so long! Very happy to see it happening.
SO: “…showing strangely good natured confrontations between your favorite movie characters.” Where did this lovely idea come from?
Scott: Well, I think I am a rather good-natured fellow. I like creating work that makes people feel good, so often times the characters and situations in my work reflect that. Sometimes they are embarrassing or uncomfortable times, but you can always smile about it. The Showdowns from the actual films vary in intensity, some are quite gruesome. But I find that if I make them all enjoying themselves, it brings them to the same level for us to enjoy them as a group and just get pumped on them in general. Those film memories.
SO: And that’s just another reason we are such big fans, you’re all about the smiles! If you had to pick one, what would be your most favorite showdown in the book?
Scott: I always choose Ghost. The one that shows Demi and Patrick holding each other tenderly showing down with the little smiling clay dude on the pottery wheel. Sexy and silly. A very good combo.
SO: You have literally the BEST possible people endorsing this book and that are big fans of yours: Neil Patrick Harris, Morgan Spurlock, Seth Green, and Edgar Wright. That has to feel pretty amazing. When you see people like that say such nice words, it just has to be an unreal feeling. This seems to be turning into a statement, not a question, but please, your thoughts?
Scott: Oh, yes, it is always an amazing feeling for anyone to enjoy my work, but when artists and people whose work I love and admire like my work? Well, I just lose my mind. It feels stupendous.
SO: Any chance we could ever see Showdowns turned into a movie? Preferably directed by Edgar Wright?
Scott: Haha I wonder how that would work. Just a movie with lots of confrontations? Hm. Maybe Edgar Wright could figure out some clever way to do it.
SO: What things make you smile each day?
Scott: Leaving my apartment in the morning and smelling the air. The trees and benches and parks and food. Friends and people talking with each other. Kids saying weird things. Jokes.
SO: Tell us, where can we get the new book, and what else should we be keeping our eye out for from you?
Scott: You should be able to pick it up at any bookstore anywhere and online anywhere. Should be everywhere! Next thing that is coming out is the next collection of my Double Fine Action Comics from ONI Press next spring. Then after that will be the Bob Dylan picture book that I Illustrated from Simon & Schuster later in the year. Aside from that, various art exhibitions around the towns!
SO: Thanks so much Scott!
Scott: Thank you! I enjoyed these questions!