There are still people (read: idiots) who think girls can’t be geeks. Of course anyone with half a working brain knows how wrong that notion is. But in case you need proof, we give you Tiffany Smith. She has worked for Marvel, is the host of DC Comics’ YouTube show All Access (with Jason Inman), has her own Star Wars-themed podcast, used to host the comic book review series Stacked on the Schmoes Know YouTube channel, and she probably owns more comic books and more geek-themed clothes than you ever will. In other words, Tiffany Smith isn’t just a geek, she has turned being a geek into her profession. And she is an independent content creator. More than enough reasons for a talk with XCENTS. And of course one does not simply get a Tiffany Smith started on nerdy topics without things getting out of hand pretty soon…
► I hate being predictable, but there are a few questions you simply have to ask a Tiffany Smith in 2015. So I’d like to quickly get the obvious ones out of the way. I’ll even give the answers. All you have to do is tell me that I’m correct.
Oh, okay. Hit me.
► 1) Who would win in a fight, Batman or Darth Vader? Batman. Obviously. 2) The new lightsaber with the cross guard – is it nonsense? Yes. Obviously. 3) Did they miss a trick by not casting you as Wonder Woman in the upcoming Batman v Superman movie? Yes, they might have. Right?
(laughs) Let’s see. Batman – obviously. That’s the correct answer. The cross guard? Well, I am a huge fan of Star Wars Rebels right now. I’m not sure if you’re watching that, but they just showed Ezra get his first kyber crystal, to create his first lightsaber. He made a hilt for it that is also a gun. Which is an interesting idea and makes sense. So for me, the thing about the cross guard on the lightsaber we have seen in the teaser for the movie is to see who created it and to what purpose. I think it could say some really interesting things about that character. There is also an awesome video on YouTube, where a guy figured out whether you would actually impale yourself with it if you were doing swordplay. He put paint on the two sides, to see if it would mark his body. And it didn’t. So you can fight with a lightsaber even with a cross guard. Also, it kind of gives gravity to how long lightsabers have been around and how they have evolved until the streamlined versions we are used to. And as far as the Wonder Woman casting is concerned? Literally before we started the interview people have been tweeting me about Miss Marvel and how I could or should play her. And then I have gotten a number of other characters as well, like Zatanna, and Danica from the Flash universe. I’m always excited to see what character people suggest I could play. And since I’m doing a little more acting now, fingers crossed that some of those actually come to fruition.
► Between acting, hosting and the various podcasts – do you even know how many different things you do in a given year?
I have to be careful that I have enough time for myself and family and friends, but that’s because the amount of work, not because of the amount of different things. There are only a few things I do consistently throughout the year. There is DC All Access, of course, and the work I do for Fandango. Which is great, by the way, because since I started working in the nerd-centric field I’ve worked for Marvel and now for DC, and of course that restricts what I will be able to talk about. Working for Fandango enables me to talk about all the different films, so I have a place where I can talk about the Marvel films and their cinematic universe. So DC and Fandango are the two jobs that are consistently there. Then obviously Schmoes Know, the movie podcast, whenever I can fit that in. You can count that to the consistent things as well. In addition to that it can be a number of things. This year I started working with The QYou, which is a network that is similar to MTV, but with YouTube videos. Recently, I also started working with the CW, doing a show called CW Fan Talk. That’s pretty fun because we get to talk about cool shows like Arrow and Flash, we bring in the show runners and an actor from the show, but we also bring in fans through Skype. Overall it’s not enough different things so that I would get confused. (laughs)
► But do you sometimes get to hear things at DC that would be relevant somewhere else and you start to wonder, ‘Can I say that? Or did I just say something I’m not supposed to say?’?
It does happen that I hear things that are not for the public yet. But most of the time it is pretty clear which ones are the things I am allowed to talk about and which are the things I have to keep to myself. The film and TV stuff is pretty guarded anyway, so I don’t get to hear a lot there before I would be allowed to talk about it. When it comes to the actual comic books, I sometimes know about storylines in advance. Especially when I talk to writers and after the camera stops rolling they tell me, ‘I can’t wait until you read this – here is what we have planned, this is gonna be the villain’. Those are really cool moments to me, because I get to see the writers fan out during interviews, but afterwards we can geek out together. And of course then they tend to reveal some more. But luckily I haven’t blurted out anything yet before I was allowed to talk about it.
► Do you remember when and with which book you started reading comic books?
I want to say that I was about eight or nine. And I think it was an X-Men book. I don’t remember what the actual story was. I had been watching the cartoons with my dad – X-Men, Spiderman, Batman The Animated Series, and I remember my dad saying, ‘If you like the cartoons, you can also read these comics’. In a sense, I was just expanding a world that I already knew and loved from the cartoons. You know, when I was young, my dad used to travel a lot and he always brought me a little gift. One time he came back from Hawaii and gave me a doll, and I thought, ‘This is so cool, this is the first doll that actually looks like me’. And it was kind of the same with the comics. In X-Men, there was Storm, and I thought, ‘I could be her!’. That was the first time I knew I was totally sold on this whole comic book thing.
I’ve always been a pretty positive person. If there is something I want to do or there is a goal I set for myself, I will do anything I possibly can to get myself there.
► Back then, which thought would have seemed less likely to you – that we would one day have one massive, superhero Hollywood blockbuster after the other or that you would work in the world of comic books in some capacity or another?
Honestly, the least likely thought would have been just how much comic books would permeate TV and film. I’ve always been a pretty positive person. If there is something I want to do or there is a goal I set for myself, I will do anything I possibly can to get myself there. I sometimes jokingly refer to myself as ‘scrappy’. (laughs) For example, when I first came to L.A., working for G4 was a goal of mine. So I set up meetings, not caring whether or not there was a hosting gig on offer at the time. I just wanted to show them that I am a huge fan of the show, of gaming and comics and all the nerdy things they were covering at the time. I thought, if I just show them what a good fit I am, the job would come. And it did. So as you can see, I don’t ever doubt the things that can possibly happen in my career. If I have a desire in my heart and I keep pushing towards it, that will open a door and I will definitely walk through it. So if you ask which of these two things I would have thought is less likely to happen, it has to be the movie thing, just by process of elimination because working in the comic book industry was something I had in my own hands.
► But have comic books really permeated the mainstream culture or do people like you and I, who have been reading comic books all along, just perceive it that way? I still think that the whole superhero movie hype is a bubble and, like any bubble or any Hollywood trend, it will burst/end at some point.
I don’t know that I agree with that. I see it less as a trend and more as a completely new genre of film. That’s why I don’t think the ‘bubble’ of superhero films will burst completely and we will be back to where we were a few years ago, where they were few and far between. But as far as the whole machinery of that genre is concerned? I think at some point it will slow down. Even now I catch myself looking at all the TV shows coming out, wondering whether there is enough room for all of them. The answer is: Probably not. The cool thing about it is that it will weed out those that aren’t good enough to last, and only the really good ones are left standing. If there were only one or two shows, you’d watch them just to get your comic book fix on TV, even if they are not that great. But now that there are so many of them, as a comic book fan I don’t have to hold on to every single one of them just because they are a comic book show. It allows us to be much more discerning with our taste. Much like in comic books. I don’t have to like every series that comes out. I can pick and choose. And that’s another thing: Comic books aren’t a bubble within publishing, they are a genre that has lasted for a long time now, and I don’t think it will go away anytime soon either. That’s how I think about the films.
► Despite the huge offering of existing and upcoming shows, is there one that you feel is missing?
Well, I’m a big fan of Zatanna and I hope that there is a way that they can incorporate her into the Constantine world. If that doesn’t happen, I would love to see a show just about Zatanna – a more fantastical world that focuses much more on magic and sorcery. I’m also very excited about the rumours about the X-Men show. TV lends itself much more to stories about a whole team than films do, whether it’s X-Men or Teen Titans for example. I think there are so many stories that could be told in that format that we don’t usually get to see. As far as upcoming shows are concerned, I’m extremely excited about iZombie, because I believe this is one of the shows where they will be able to pull a lot directly from the comics, but also because it’s Rob Thomas, which should mean that we should be okay if it veers off from the comics.
► Okay, movies then. What are you most excited about, Batman v Superman, new Star Wars or, which we can now add to this, Spiderman in the Marvel Universe?
Oh man, they have all such different reasons why I am excited about them, which makes it really difficult to say which I am excited about the most.
► Not a problem. Takes through your thought process.
Okay, we’ll start with Star Wars. Huge fan growing up. You know, we had the prequels…
► I’m sorry, what now? There is no such thing as a trilogy of Star Wars prequels that ruined our childhoods in retrospect with absolutely annoying characters and a whiny Emo-Darth-Vader and some great actors forced by George Lucas to horribly overact, which made the entire thing painfully cheesy. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
(laughs) Yeah, I guess that’s where the Star Wars bubble burst for a while. But seeing what J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek, and the actors that have been cast so far, and getting the original characters back – that just gives you hope. I think what got me most excited about it was the fact that Harrison Ford was willing to come back. If you know the backstory, you know that he didn’t want to do Star Wars anymore. He thought the character should have died a while ago. So knowing that the story is exciting enough for him to come back makes me really excited about it. So that’s Star Wars.
Batman v Superman? Where to start? I mean, I would always love to see these two characters on the big screen together. And the pictures we’ve gotten to see so far – Ben Affleck in the Batsuit, the Batmobile, Henry Cavill’s version of The Man of Steel – that suggests that the interaction between the two is going to be very gritty, and that gets me really pumped. In the Man of Steel film we got to see Henry Cavill as Superman, but not a ton of it because he was just learning. Now I’m excited to see him embrace that character more in this next film.
► And then on to the Spiderman news: It is finally possible to add him to the Avengers movies. What do you think about that?
I am so excited about this because Marvel has done such a great job of creating this line-up of films that will come out in the next couple of years, and when you hear Civil War as a comic book reader, you know how integral Spiderman is to that storyline. Up to this point, the question has been which of the characters Marvel is allowed to use in their films would be able to fill this role. But now that we know Spiderman can be involved, we don’t have to guess anymore. And we don’t have to fight about who would be best to take on the role of Spiderman in that story. In the post credit scene of Captain America 3 I’d really like to see some Spiderman. Then obviously in Civil War, but also in Infinity Gauntlet because in the comics there is a moment where he goes up against Thanos. What I don’t want to see is a reboot. I don’t want to see an origin story yet again. At this point, everybody knows how Spiderman became Spiderman.
► You’re preaching to the choir. I don’t understand why Hollywood still feels the need to explain who Superman is or how Batman became Batman. We know. And the few who don’t know still know the characters and don’t need a backstory.
I totally agree. I think because Spiderman can be part of the Avengers world now, we might get around it, because there wouldn’t even be time for it in an Avengers movie. I think Spiderman will just show up and naturally be a part of this world now.
► Possibly with a snarky throwaway comment to the effect of, ‘Took you long enough to get here’…
Very possibly. Talking of little asides: Maybe we get a little origins monologue because comic book readers are used to Peter Parker giving sort of a commentary. But that’s all we need. Peter Parker, bitten by a radioactive spider. Done. Real quick. We don’t need another movie explaining that or how he came up with his first costume.