Arts Desk

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Jennifer Zyren Smith

Jennifer Zyren Smith is a local cartoonist responsible for the Web comic LaSalle’s Legacy, which is a seafaring strip created with manga's simplified lines and style. "It's a manga-inspired fantasy graphic novel and has been online for a year and a half," she says. Smith has collected the comic as both a print-on-demand comic book and downloadable PDFs, pointing the way to making at least some money on her fledgling strip.

Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Jennifer Zyren Smith: I have a very manga-influenced style, though I think some of my love for western art and comics shows through in my paneling.

WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

JZS: I was born in the late '70s in the D.C. area.

WCP: Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

JZS: I graduated from University of Maryland College Park and came back to get a job close to family. Then I got married, and stayed.  I live in Laurel.

WCP: Zyren? Is that a family name? Or does it mean something in another language? It does make you stand out.
JZS: Zyren is my maiden name. It's Lithuanian.
WCP: How do you work: pen on paper? Or digital? Or a mixture?
JZS: With LaSalle's Legacy, I draw out most of the storyboards and figures onto paper with blue pencil, then scan them in and do the inking and backgrounds in Manga Studio.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

JZS: I am heavily self-taught. I do have a bachelor's degree in fine art, but when I went to school, I learned that fine artists look down on illustrators and cartoonists so they tried to steer me away from all that. I did a lot of fan comics for shows and books that I liked, and I just kept going from there.

WCP: Who are your influences?

JZS: Wendy Pini of Elfquest is a huge influence. I'm also influenced by Rumiko Takahashi, CLAMP, Eichiro Oda, Yoshihiro Togashi, and Pre-Raphaelite art.

WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

JZS: I think I would have tried to spend more of my education focusing on illustration rather than fine art. Although I did learn some at school, most of my teachers were of the mindset of letting us explore without giving us any foundation and I think a lot of my art, particularly my color work, suffered from that.

WCP: What work are you best-known for?

JZS: Right now, LaSalle's Legacy.

WCP: What work are you most proud of?

JZS: My mini-comic The Ballad of Sir Percival. I entered it into a contest, and though it didn't win, I printed it anyway and people still enjoy it.

WCP: What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

JZS: I would love to continue to work on LaSalle's Legacy, and possibly update it more than twice a week. I would also love the opportunity to work on ElfQuest at some point in time.

WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

JZS: I go for a walk or take a nap. Both are very good for clearing out your head.

WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?

JZS: I think Web comics are the way to go, especially if you are going the independent route. I'm curious to see how the iPad will change how we view Web comics and whether we can start having e-comic books. The Nook and such aren't really good for color art.

WCP: What's your favorite thing about D.C.?

JZS: The free museums. Especially the National Gallery of Art.

WCP: Least favorite?

JZS: Rush hour.

WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?

JZS: The Smithsonian museums. There's just so much to do!

WCP: Do you have a website or blog?

JZS: My website is http://lasalleslegacy.com. I tend to do most of my blogging there as well.

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  • Mike Rhode

    I asked Ms. Smith how to get her minicomic as well -

    "The ballad of Sir Percival" is only available through me, and they can contact me at Captain@lasalleslegacy.com if they're interested in one. I also bring them to the conventions I go to, a list of which is usually on the site. I haven't confirmed my 2011 cons yet.

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