Lack of Government Support For Comics Industry No Laughing Matter

Illustrator and animator Lamaro Smith wants more support from government.

NASSAU, The Bahamas, Thursday April 11, 2019 – With half of the top 10 grossing films of 2018 based on comic books – an industry estimated to be around $865 million in the United States, according to market research group IbisWorld – a local illustrator and animator has called for increased government support.

“[We need] more patrons of the arts. There are some here and there are some real strong patrons in Nassau especially, but I think if Government supported it more it would go really far,” said Lamaro Smith, creative director and founder of Motionsmith Studios, a boutique graphic design agency specializing in storyboards and animated commercials.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis recently announced a $1 million government allocation to help promote the arts and cultural development in The Bahamas. The fund is geared towards assisting painters, writers, sculptures, filmmakers, artisans, playwrights, poets, musicians and performing artists engaged in cultural projects.

It’s unclear how much of that, if any, would go to those packing talent and an entrepreneurial spirit who are looking to rev up The Bahamas’ slow emerging comic books and animation industry presently fuelled by very few creatives producing largely self-funded works.

Smith believes The Bahamas needs to create its own globally iconic superhero, similar to American comic book publishers, DC Comics – creator of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, among others – and Marvel, home to Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and the like.

In fact, he has created his own modern-day mythology, the environmental crime fighter, Conchman, Man of Shell.

“I wanted to create a comic book that represents The Bahamas not just the touristic aspect that most people know us for in the world but a comic book that showcases The Bahamas, what we go through and the challenges we face,” said Smith, a native of Holmes Rock, Grand Bahama who recently relocated to New Providence to further his career.

“The more I worked on Conchman, I started to gear him towards environmental aspects. It’s a crucial problem and no one is really paying too much attention. Conchman is an avenue to tell these stories and it’s also an avenue for me to push myself, create art for The Bahamas that’s going to branch out.”

A full comic book release is scheduled for later this year.

Smith’s comments were made at Taking Comics Seriously, a recent panel discussion about comics and animation. The discussion was moderated by Dr Philip Smith, assistant professor in UB’s English Studies Department.

“What we are now seeing is a body of work from different Bahamian creators that’s emerging in a way that hasn’t existed before,” Dr Smith noted.

“There is a vacuum for new talent. This is not a case of people jealously guarding their piece of the pie….There are actually opportunities here for someone to get a hand-up to get mentorship, to get work, to get the opportunity to see how things work so you are not starting from scratch.”

During the session, the panel urged young, imaginative minds looking to break into illustration and digital animation to surround themselves with other artists in order to develop a strong, supportive community.

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