Who is the man behind the monkey? Well, my name is Barry T. Smith and I am an artist, a creator, a father and a devout coffee drinker. Oh yeah, and I typically has a beard (since my children mock me when I shave).
I grew up in the 70s on the East coast in a suburban cocoon of Star Wars toys, back issues of CineFX, and Heather Thomas posters. I am one of those people who, literally, had his childhood ruined by the Star Wars prequels.
Being an avid comic book collector led me to work as an office assistant at local comic book company, Comico. I got to see, first-hand, how comics were created by one of the top indie comic companies of the 80s. I got to witness the birth of Matt Wagner’s Mage and Grendel, Art Adam’s Gumby, Bill Willingham’s Elementals, along with other licensed titles like Robotech and Johnny Quest. Of course, being a hormonal teenager, I made a rather shitty employee. Luckily, it was time to go to college soon and be hormonal somewhere else.
The College Years
My love of cartooning and graphic art led me to attend the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey. I majored in traditional animation under the tutelage of ex-Disney and ex-Warner Brothers animators, as well as working professionals in the industry. Of a first year class of over 100 students, I was part of a graduating class of three animators and eighteen graphic arts students. Upon graduation, I secured a job at DC Comics as an assistant editor to Denny O’Neil who was working on the Batman titles at the time.
The heavens parted! Oh, glory day! I would live in New York city in a beautiful loft apartment. I’d help edit some of the most pivotal comics on the day and have input on the direction of the Batman franchise! I would be a luminary in the comics field! … and then I checked the job description and pay.
I would be commuting in from a cheap apartment in New Jersey. I would be fetching coffee. I’d be allowed to overhear hallway conversations from the people REALLY making the decisions. I might, might, be able to snag a free issue or two. *sigh*
Just after graduating, as I edited my final animation demo reel on school equipment, I was approached by an administrator who had gotten a call. “Do you know anything about video games?” he asked. “Uh, I had an Intelevision.” I replied with a quizzical look. “Well, some game company in California need animators.” “Does it pay?” “Yes, I think it does.”
Luckily my parents came home from vacation a day early or they would have come home to a note telling them how I packed up my car and drove to California. I gave my notice to DC (uh, before I had even really started work I guess) and was off. So long comic berks! I’ma make gamez!
Go West Young Man!
The game company, which I had never heard of, was Sierra Online. The game I was hired to work on was Kings Quest 5. Over six years at Sierra, I worked on over a dozen titles such as Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, Space Quest and many more. I even helped develop one of the very first graphical MMOs, The Realm. They even let me do silly voices and make videos with my Sierra friends.
After leaving Sierra I did freelance video game work and even tried to launch my own game studio with some friends called Angst Technology (hey, that sounds familiar). Eventually, I moved out of the mountains and over to the Bay Area to work as a web developer and eventually product manager. But my creative urges could not be stifled.
After dabbling with posting comics online I launched my first full-fledged webcomic Angst Technology in 2000. Angst Technology quickly rose to prominence in webcomic circles, running on the Gamespy site as well. Over the next five years I launched some more webcomic series, such as the paintball-themed strip Weak-end Warriors and my take on comic book retail stores with Sorry, We’re Open.
In 2005 I went on an extended hiatus to focus on my family life after the birth of my first daughter. In 2008 I returned to the cartooning game with a new, semi-autobiographical strip titled InkTank. The strip ran for two years and re-incorporated many of the characters from the “Inky-verse”, including most of the staff of Angst Technology and Ian and Owen, owners of ‘The Citadel’ comic book shop.
During the hiatus, I returned to my animation roots and got a second animation degree in 3D character animation from Animation Mentor. I was fortunate enough to be mentored by some amazing animators and was lucky enough to make some great friends and see them in their workplaces at studios such as Pixar, ILM, Dreamworks and more. In particular, I excelled in story development and ran an “unofficial AM story department” with fellow students where we could bounce ideas off each other and create together. But alas, animation, even with the aid of 3D tools, was STILL too tedious for me. One week just working on the proper way to pick up a cup? Endless hours tweaking an eye glance? Ohh, it is not a job for the impatient, faint of heart, or those with OCD.
Show Me The Monkey!
This is where the Bearded Coffee Monkey comes in. After watching my daughters enjoy Cupquake’s YouTube channel, I realized … you can do games on YouTube without screaming your head off! Or swearing like you have a daily “offensive quota” to fill. You don’t even need to be particularly good. Just have fun!
After a few test videos, I was hooked. In January of 2015 Bearded Coffee Monkey was born on YouTube. So far the ride has been GREAT and I think I have found my creative niche.
Oh yeah, and this website. I do this too.
Oh, and post on my Facebook page. That’s pretty entertaining. I think.
And I’m trying to learn the ukulele. So … a few creative niches.
If you read all the way down here, then you at least deserve some dirt. 😉
I used to be in a “neighborhood watch” program in which I and two friends would dress as ninjas and patrol our neighborhoods at night. That’s right, I was a NINJA! Complete with a full shinobi shōzoku, and throwing spikes (in case of trouble). Admittedly, we never stopped any crimes, but we did screw up a lot of gardens and flowers (sorry) and saw a lot of teenagers making out.
Ok, technically, I guess we were well-armed voyeurs.