An Interview with Artist Matt Smith

by Nick Devonald on October 29, 2019

I recently got the chance to talk to Matt Smith, the latest talented artist to join the Mignolaverse. His first foray is the latest Hellboy & The B.P.R.D. one-shot, Long Night at Goloski Station, which is out now. Click Here for our review.

Hi Matt, thanks for taking the time to let me interview you. First off can I say how much I loved your art in Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: Long night at Goloski Station. It’s a really natural fit for Hellboy, and has put you up there as one of my favourite Mignolaverse artists.

First off can you tell our readers a little about your career?

Wow, thanks so much! That’s really nice to hear. As far as comics go, it really got going with Barbarian Lord, a character that represented my love for the medieval Icelandic Sagas and Norse mythology. Shortly after that I collaborated with Nathan Fairbairn on his story Lake of Fire for Image Comics, and later a handful of short story projects with Boom. Currently I’m working on Folklords with Matt Kindt for Boom. Simmering on the back burner are Metal Quest with Tom Pappalardo and a Barbarian Lord sequel.

This was my first exposure to your work, and I am very interested in seeing some more. Where would you recommend starting?

I’d say Lake of Fire.  Nathan wrote up a great story there.

As well as comics you’ve also done children’s books. How does this compare to drawing comics, and do you have a preference?

Well, comics involve a whole lot more drawings. It’s generally a good amount more work all around, for me anyway, but it’s the best format for the stories I’m most interested in working on these days. The space you have to develop characters, put them into interesting scenarios, and see how they fare is definitely greater in comics.

This is your first entry into the Mignolaverse. Was it daunting or exciting to join a world filled with so many talented artists?

Both in turns! More exciting though. Exciting wins out.  

Do you have any plans to tell any more Hellboy stories? I for one hope you do.

Thanks again! I’d definitely be up to it.

How did you get the job drawing Hellboy? Did [Mike Mignola] approach you for it?

I got a message from Mike asking if I’d be interested while I was out raking leaves last fall. It was very early on and the story hadn’t been written yet, but I said yes very quickly and then raked the rest of the yard with newfound zeal. It’s time to rake again so I need more exciting news to make the work less dreadful. Ha.

I read a quote where you said it was Mike Mignola who inspired you to draw your own comics. How was it working with someone who directly influenced you? Does his background as an artist mean he gives you a bit more freedom with the drawing?

That's absolutely true. I would have never attempted Barbarian Lord without being inspired by Mike's work on Hellboy. It probably should have been more daunting than it was, but Mike was so welcoming and completely clear about things he liked or didn’t like that it went about as smoothly as a comic book can go. I definitely felt like I had freedom and trust to go at it however I felt best. I should add that the Dark Horse editors Katii O’Brien and Jenny Blenk also helped make it a great experience.

More and more artists are drawing digitally. I’d like to know a little about your technique. Do you like to draw with pencil, pen, or digitally?

Acrylics were what I used to for children’s lit, but I’ve been all digital with comics. I do most of my sketching in Corel Painter as I’ve modified and gotten used to the brushes there. I use Clip Studio for final line work. I keep thinking to switch to a hybrid process of digital pencil and traditional inks and hope to make that jump before too long. In fact, that was my plan for this issue initially, and I bought a handful of pens, brushes, and board for it. It'd be hard to go back to traditional pencils, as digitally sketching is how I think now. Resizing things, moving panels around on the fly–it's all part of a fluid decision-making process, especially in the earliest layouts. I'm not saying it's better, only that it's now a very familiar way of working.

What is the work you’re most proud of and why?

I suppose that would be Barbarian Lord. It was a tribute to all of my favorite things in both the writing and in the art from the medieval Icelandic Sagas to Conan to Hellboy to Bone. It started out with it as a self-published book and I had zero thought as to who the audience for it might be, only that it worked for me. For that reason and that it’s a heavy tribute to the unvarnished tone of the medieval Icelandic Sagas, I think it’s destined for a fairly narrow group of readers.  That said, I’m still fairly proud of it.  I’ll get back to him at some point.

On social media have you ever been mistaken for The Doctor?

Ha! Never actually mistaken, just a lot of jokes. My main concern is Matthew Dow Smith. Though I like him as a man and highly respect him as an artist, we have a date with broadswords on a Scottish heath. Matt looks pretty tough, but I’ll start training at some point, or at least start imagining a training montage set to Queen.

This one-shot has given you a chance to draw a number of iconic Hellboy characters, the Baba Yaga, Edward Grey, Trevor Bruttenholm, among others. Each of these characters were instantly recognizable. How easy it is drawing other people’s creations?

It’s not so hard to look intently at other people’s characters and try to get something of their likeness, especially as I have so many Hellboy books here in the studio with all those characters to look at. I think the real trick is getting at the right feel of the character while keeping in your own way of drawing. Whether I pulled that off okay or not is for others to decide. It’s something I certainly hope to get better at.

I have an eleven-year-old son who draws every opportunity he gets and is determined to be a comic book artist for Marvel when he’s older. What advice would you give him, or indeed anyone, who’s determined to make a living from comic book art?

First off, that’s great! He’s doing all he needs to be doing, drawing all the time. That’s about it.

Other than that I’m not sure I have any advice useful for comics. I fell backward into them. I had been ghost-drawing chapter books for an established author/illustrator, which was sucking the artistic life out of me, when I started up Barbarian Lord.  BL was more or less an effort to remember that drawing should be exciting and fun, as I was ready to hang it up with art and find something else to do. Maybe there is some kind of advice in there. Focus on making something you really enjoy, as that’s where all the good stuff you have will come out.

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for Comics: The Gathering.

I highly recommend getting Hellboy & The B.P.R.D. Long Night at Goloski Station, check out my review to find out why. I will also be looking up some of Matt's previous work, starting with Lake of Fire, after enjoying his art so much in Long Night at Goloski Station.

You can check out some of Matt's artwork at