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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Interviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. The Little Comic That Could – A Conversation about How a Graphic Novel from a Small Publisher Achieved a Film Adaption [Interview]

After learning about a comic-to-movie adaption not familiar to most, I spoke with Peter Simeti, the president of the Diamond-distributed Alterna Comics whose graphic novel The CHAIR was recently adapted into an indie film. I was curious about how a book from a smaller publisher gained the attention of filmmakers and was able to fund a full-length movie. Read the answers I received below to get a sense of the kind of conditions that can lead an indie comic book or graphic novel to a turn on the big screen.

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Can you describe the graphic novel version of The CHAIR in your own words?

In terms of the plot, it’s a psychological horror/thriller that revolves around a man who believes he’s innocent of the crimes he’s been convicted of and his struggle to survive against a sadistic and psychotic prison warden and his guards. But the story itself has strong themes of isolation, the ethics of torture, morality, child abuse, domestic violence, fate and the demons of one’s past.

The CHAIR was released through Alterna Comics, where you’re the publisher. Can you describe its business model?

Alterna is a creator-owned company, similar to many other independent comic publishers. We’ve been around since 2006 (celebrating Year 10 very soon!) and in that time I’ve had the pleasure of working with over 100 talented individuals; it’s been an amazing experience.

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What was the reception like to The CHAIR when it was first released?

Back in 2008 when the compiled graphic novel was released, I remember that it did fairly well. Nothing huge or record-breaking, but it did good for a small press indie book. The coolest part, to me, was that people really seemed to enjoy it and, more importantly, they understood it. It’s a bit of a heady, trippy, downer of a book, so I’m glad that people have taken a liking to it.

Who’s behind the movie adaption? What experience do they have in filmmaking?

Chad Ferrin is the director of the film and along with myself, Erin Kohut (who wrote the screenplay), Zebadiah DeVane (Executive Producer), and Kyle Hester (Producer) — we all helped to champion this story into being made into a film. I encourage everyone to visit The CHAIR’s IMDb page for information on our cast and crew.

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How did they learn about the graphic novel, and what made it appealing to them to adapt for film?

Erin adapted the graphic novel for film (she edited the graphic novel, so of course she did a great job on the screenplay) and we pitched it to Chad Ferrin about 2 years ago. He liked the story, characters, and writing a lot – so we moved forward from that point. Chad’s previous films shared similar themes to the ones found in The CHAIR – psychological elements and stories that were ripe in metaphor.

The original Kickstarter wasn’t able to hit a funding goal of $300,000 to make The CHAIR. You successfully funded a second campaign with a $40,000 goal. How were you able to lower the budget so drastically?

Well, because of the original Kickstarter, we actually attracted many private investors that supplemented our budget. We figured out that we only needed about $140K in reality to get production going, so we worked around those numbers to hit our production goal.

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Did you have a chance to visit the set while The CHAIR was being filmed?

No! Unfortunately I was snowed in, in Massachusetts during the two weeks of filming in Los Angeles. We had a historically horrible winter here; just my luck right? [Laughs]

What kinds of restrictions did a shoestring budget put on the production?

We had to be creative with a lot of things, especially our use of space. Luckily 75% of the film takes place on death row, so it was “easy” to keep location costs down. Producer Kyle Hester did a great job on bringing along some amazingly talented people on board; I can’t thank them enough for the terrific job they did bringing this film to life.

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Can you describe how the rights were negotiated? What does a contract look like for a smaller budget independent film?

Well, I’m the majority rights holder of the film. It wasn’t sold or optioned, it’s as indie as it gets! We’ve got private investors and everyone gets a piece of the pie, but there’s no big studio involved here, even though there’s many well-known actors involved (all of which, are super nice people and incredibly talented as well).

How can a comic book creator who isn’t necessarily in the mainstream get the attention of filmmakers?

By asking and showing your work! I say this all the time – you can have the greatest story/song/piece of art ever made, but if no one knows about it, then it’ll stay that way until you put it out there. If you’re a creator, share your creations!

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What’s next for The CHAIR?

We’ll be having another crowdfunding campaign, this time on Indiegogo for post-production funds (editing, sound design, music, color correct), in late April. For details on that, I recommend everyone stay tuned on Twitter by following @theCHAIRhorror, @alternacomics, and @petersimeti.

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2. Five Questions for Lindsay Eyre, author of THE BEST FRIEND BATTLE



1. Tell us a little bit about your book.

Sylvie Scruggs is the heroine of this series, and she’s a lot like her name: interesting, energetic, and a little rough around the edges. In The Best Friend Battle, Sylvie comes home from a family vacation to find that her best friend, Miranda, has made friends with the enemy, Georgie Diaz. Sylvie’s entire world is threatened by this new friendship, and she does everything she can to get things back to normal. But normal doesn’t come easily, and Sylvie seems to have a penchant for making difficult situations much, much worse!

2. If this book had a theme song and/or spirit animal, what would it be and why?

Sylvie’s theme song would probably be "Life’s a Happy Song" from the new Muppet movie. It’s all about how life is a happy thing if and only if you have someone, a best friend, to share it with. But what happens when you don’t? (Sylvie does not want to find out.)


3. Please name and elaborate upon at least one thing you learned or discovered about writing in the course of creating this book.

Writing this book was not easy. I don’t believe (or at least I don’t like very much) writers who claim writing is an easy thing whether they are writing their first book or their hundredth, but certain things can make writing go much more smoothly. When you can hear the voice of your main character — when that person is large-as-life in your head — many difficult issues take care of themselves. Your writing struggles will revolve around plot, not plot and character. As flawed as Sylvie is, she’s now a friend I could sit down with and have a conversation about anything from mushrooms to ice dancing. That familiarity makes writing (mostly) a pleasure. I don’t always know what will happen to Sylvie or even what she will do, but I usually know what she would have to say about it!

4. What is your favorite scene in the book? 

The scene where Josh and Sylvie build the castle together. I love Josh (who gets a big role in Sylvie’s third book) and all of his interactions with Sylvie.

5. What are you working on now? 

Sylvie’s second adventure, The Mean Girl Meltdown, is in the final stages of publication [editor's note:  out this fall!], and her third book, The Spelling Bee Scuffle, is in beginning stages of the editorial process. I’m also working on a novel about a twelve-year-old girl named Rory, the middle child in a dysfunctional and eccentric family, whose mother is in Sweden for a month. As Rory, a very different character than Sylvie, attempts to save the family from their dictatorial grandmother and an impending eviction, she alienates her best friend, Owen, nearly kills her younger brother, and gets her grandmother arrested for illegal possession of a motorcycle. This book has been much harder for me to write because of what I was speaking about earlier — knowing your characters. I get into the heads of many characters in Rory’s book, and I’m finding out very quickly that I know some of them much better than I know others!

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3. When it’s too close to home: Writing Q&A with Anne Bustard, author of Anywhere But Paradise

AnneBustard_PhotoIt is my absolute pleasure to welcome Anne Bustard today, in celebration of the release of her new Middle Grade book, which comes out today. Anne, a part of Egmont’s Last List, has graciously agreed to indulge my questions about her writing process with her brilliant answers. So without further ado, welcome, Anne!

Anywhere But ParadiseSet in 1960 Hawaii, Anywhere But Paradise is the story of reluctant seventh-grade newcomer Peggy Sue Bennett, who is baffled by local customs, worried about her quarantined cat and targeted by a school bully because she is haole, white. At first, Peggy Sue would rather be anywhere—anywhere but paradise. But a new friend, hula lessons, the beauty of the islands and more, help Peggy Sue find her way. This is a story about fear and guilt. About hope and home. About aloha, love.

I’ve read that Anywhere But Paradise was inspired by your growing up in Hawaii. Can you tell us more about that? Did you do a lot of research on Hawaii in 1960 or mostly rely on your personal experiences?

I was born in Honolulu, moved away when I was a toddler and returned to paradise after fifth grade. I have wonderful memories of hiking to waterfalls with my cousins, aunt and uncle, eating lilikoi (passion fruit) shave ice on the bench outside the Matsumoto storefront on the North Shore, stringing lei from plumeria flowers from our yard and listening to the ocean.

I did not live in the islands in 1960. But even if I had, research would still have been a gigantic part of my process. I couldn’t have written the story without delving deeper and double-triple checking details. I love research, so this part of the writing process was particularly fun! I needed to verify the animal quarantine requirements, when the night-blooming cereus flowered, stories about Madame Pele and dozens of other facets of the novel. I did a lot on my own, but so, so many generous people helped me along the way. I am exceedingly grateful.

Small moments of my personal experience flavor the narrative. I know what it’s like to hear a tsumani warning siren wail and evacuate to higher ground, to be verbally threatened by a bully (though unlike Peggy Sue, it happened to me only once) and to be enchanted by the beauty and rhythms of the islands.

Writing about a character’s problems can unearth a ton of old ghosts of our own. How did you go about navigating your past and finding the inspiration for the character of Peggy Sue? Did you ever find her problems difficult to confront due to them being too close to home?

All writers draw upon some portion of ourselves, no matter how small. Part of my own journey was to recognize that I was holding back. In a pivotal conversation with the wonderful children’s and YA writer, Janet Fox, it occurred to me that Hawaii was the antagonist of the story. I love Hawaii. It is my home. I told Janet that I did not want it to be the antagonist.

“I know,” she said in a soft voice. “But in the end,” Janet said brightly, “Hawaii isn’t the antagonist.”

True. But. I realized not only had I been protecting Peggy Sue, I’d been protecting Hawaii. In the end, both would have to stand up for themselves.

What advice would you give to a writer who is struggling to separate their reality from their fictional character? How can we protect ourselves emotionally if a character reminds us too much of ourselves?

You are not your character. But there may be parts of her that resonate with you.

So my answer may surprise you—don’t separate. This is where you will find the gold.

It’s way scary.

It took me years to get to the point where I could do this. Years.

What was the most useful lesson you learned while writing this book? If you could go back and talk to the you who is about to begin writing, how would you warn or arm her against the difficulties ahead?

My big takeaway? Go there emotionally.

Breathe. Trust the process. It’s going to take as long as it takes. It’s all about revision, going deeper. About finding the heart of the story. About discovering what your characters really want.

Tim Wynne-Jones says, “The answers are in your writing.” He posits that we give ourselves clues to unlocking the mysteries of our own work. It’s our job to look carefully, to look differently, until we discover them.

Amen to that, Anne. Thank you for your wonderfully insightful answers!

To celebrate the release of Anywhere But Paradise, we are giving away a signed copy to a lucky winner! Enter the draw through the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win this beautifully written book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Anne Bustard is a beach girl at heart. If she could, she would walk in the sand every day, wear flip-flops, and eat nothing but fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts and chocolate. She is the author of the award-winning picture book Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). Her debut middle grade historical novel Anywhere But Paradise (Egmont Publishing) is out on March 31, 2015. She lives in Austin, Texas.

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4. Paul Driessen Q&A: “I Don’t Look Back”

The great Dutch shorts director turns 75 years old today and he's not slowing down one bit.

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5. Interview: Hope Larson on Adapting A Wrinkle in Time

Wrinkle in Time Graphic Novel_hi

By Matthew Jent

Hope Larson is a New York Times bestselling graphic novelist, an Eisner-award winning cartoonist, and the writer & director of Got A Girl’s music video for “Live Too Fast.” Her graphic novel adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic sci-fi/fantasy tale A Wrinkle in Time is out this week in paperback. Originally from Ashville, NC, she currently lives in Los Angeles.

A New Yorker profile on Madeleine L’Engle a few years ago said, “There are really two kinds of girls. Those who read Madeleine L’Engle when they were small, and those who didn’t.” Did you have a relationship with A Wrinkle in Time or L’Engle’s writing before coming on board to adapt & illustrate the graphic novel?

Larson: Yeah, I was definitely the kind who read L’Engle. I started with A Wrinkle in Time, but I ended up reading a lot of her other books, too. There was a bookstore in Asheville called Accent on Books, and my parents would often take me and my brother there after church on Sundays, since it was next to the restaurant where we often ate Sunday lunch. Accent on Books had a great kids’ section, and there was a shelf with seemingly limitless books by L’Engle. Her books fascinated me because they were more thematically complicated and edgier than most of the other books for younger readers.

Wrinkle is one of those books I returned to many times over my childhood and adolescence. I loved the sci-fi/fantasy aspects of it, and I loved the imperfect character of Meg.

What’s it like to take on something that looms so large in the culture and in readers’ lives? Did you have any hesitation in adapting it?

Larson: I was definitely nervous about adapting it. I actually declined the job at first, but when the publisher asked me to reconsider I said yes. I thought, well, I love this book and I know what it means to people, and at least I know I’ll be adapting it with love and respect.

My version will not and cannot take the place of the original, but maybe it will serve as a gateway to this story for kids who might not have found it otherwise. Hopefully those kids will go on to read the original, too.

What was your process like for scripting or outlining the adaptation?

Larson: I bought a very cheap copy of the book and completely butchered it — drew page breaks in it, highlighted it, ripped the pages out as I completed them. I put pretty much everything that’s in the novel into the script for the graphic novel. I figured I’d make the publisher tell me what to cut, but none of us could figure out what to remove without destroying what makes Wrinkle special, so we ended up with a very large graphic novel.

Does the dialogue come entirely from the text of the novel?

Larson: Very little of the dialogue changed. I tweaked a few bits for space, and I added a few bits of internal monologue for clarity. L’Engle had a background in theater, and her work makes a lot of sense in light of that fact. Wrinkle is mostly dialogue, like a play, without a lot of action or direction. This made it a good candidate for adaptation into a comic since the story was carried primarily by the dialogue, and I had a lot of freedom with the “acting”.

Did you learn anything new about Wrinkle, or your own craft in general, through adapting & illustrating this book?

Larson: It was a luxury to live inside someone else’s book for a while, and get to know it intimately. When I’m drawing a book I’ve written, a book I’ve already spent months or years scripting and editing, it’s hard to see the whole for what it is and to appreciate it. I generally have no idea if what I’m writing has much value, or where it stands in my body of work. It was nice to work on a book that absolutely, definitely was a great and important story.

I don’t know how much I really learned about craft, but I implemented workflow practices that I still use now. I put in a lot of checks and balances. I made self-care and taking care of my body — since drawing is so physically destructive, believe it or not — a priority. I definitely learned my limits on this book.

Afterwards I burned out big time and there were a couple of years when I didn’t draw much. I focused on writing and film and doing other things. While I don’t recommend burnout as a career choice, it led me to some interesting places before I found my way back to drawing again.

You do a lot with the white & black & blue color palette in A Wrinkle in Time, especially the blue/black flashback or memory panels. Can you talk about your use of color in this book and in your work in general?

Larson: Thanks! A big shout-out to Jenn Manley Lee, who did the coloring and was an all-around rockstar.

The flashback stuff was one of the trickier bits to figure out. The first chapter was one of the most challenging parts of the adaptation since it’s largely in Meg’s head and she’s reflecting back on things which have happened while lying in bed during this terrible storm. There’s a lot going on.

I’ve never been comfortable working in full color, and I also have a background in printmaking, so I stick to limited color palettes as often as possible. Flat washes of color and bold black lines have always appealed to me. Eleanor Davis and I were talking recently about how we both struggle to combine line and color in a way that feels integrated and satisfactory to us. It’s an ongoing frustration and I still haven’t figured it out.

What do you look for in a protagonist? Is there a relationship between Meg in A Wrinkle in Time and the characters you write and draw in your own books?

Larson: Yeah, there’s absolutely a through-line from Meg to the characters I write. The earlier ones, for sure. I can’t get enough of weird-outcast-girl-saves-the-day stories. These days I write more of a range of character types, but the complicated outsider is the one that comes most naturally to me.

What was the reaction like to your adaptation? Do you introduce yourself at parties as New York Times Bestselling Graphic Novelist Hope Larson?


Larson: Yes, and I have a license plate frame that says that, too.

Honestly, the response has been a gratifying one. I was locked up with that book for so long with no idea what would happen when it came out; I was just hoping not to be tarred and feathered. What’s meant to most of me is hearing that reluctant readers and kids with autism have found the adaptation useful and accessible. That validates my work as a cartoonist like nothing else.

Are there other novels or stories you’d like to adapt as graphic novels?

Larson: There isn’t a story I particularly want to adapt. I’m pretty busy with my own stuff right now, but never say never.

Can we talk about your webcomic Solo? You recently called it your romance comic, in response to the Fresh Romance Kickstarter. Is a modern narrative about love & relationships inherently a romance comic, or do you see Solo as part of the tradition of romance comics as they existed from the 1940s-70s?

Larson: I haven’t read that many of those old romance comics but I have read a few of the classic DC ones… and thought they were boring. I don’t know that Solo exists within any kind of romance comic historical context, but it’s the only story I’ve ever written that is, definitively, a love story. There are a lot of other elements, but the relationship between Leah and Wade has always been the reason I wanted to write this story.

But is it a romance? What is a romance versus a love story or a story about love? I don’t know! Just looking at modern romance novels, they’ve come a long way from the ones I used to get from the library as a kid. They can be very smart and complicated and empowering. I don’t know that Solo fits in with those stories, exactly, but it’s not radically different from them, either.

You’re releasing Solo page by page as you complete them, “the moment the ink’s dry, raw and fresh and full of mistakes,” as you said on your blog. It seems like a very personal project. Do you want to publish Solo in book form when it’s complete, or will it live exclusively online?


Larson: It’s quite a personal story but it’s not autobiographical. It’s had a looooong gestation period. It’s not The Story of Hope’s Divorce because the script predates that, but having gone through a divorce I have to pat myself on the back and say that I nailed the emotional aspects of divorce. There was a long period when I thought about shelving the project over my worries that readers would see it as some kind of tell-all, but ultimately I decided that would be a shame. And anyway, a lot of people assume my other work is autobiographical, too!

I definitely want to publish it when it’s complete. I’ve been putting together little minicomic versions for shows, which has been fun. I’m about a third of the way through the story right now, so it’s going to be a while before I have to worry about what to do with the thing.

What’s a normal workday like for you? Are you writing or drawing every day?

Larson: Right now I have a lot of different projects on the go, so I try and split my workday up. I either write in the mornings and draw in the afternoons or vice versa, with a break in between to go for a run or bike ride. If I have busywork (lettering, or flatting colors, or e-mails) I try and leave that until the evening. It really depends on what’s the most pressing item on my to-do list, though. Whenever possible, I take weekends off to rest and hang on to my sanity.

Music plays a large part in Solo — do you listen to music as you work? Did you have a playlist for A Wrinkle in Time?

Larson: I do listen to music when I work, whether I’m writing and drawing. I love music, but in a naïve way; my understanding of music on a theoretical and historical level is fairly shallow. I like writing about musicians because it’s a way to put all the ideas that interest me about being a creative person into a more appealing wrapper.

I didn’t have a playlist for A Wrinkle in Time. The main thing I remember listening to while drawing it is the Millennium seriesThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.

What are you excited about in comics today? Are there books or creators you’re reading or looking forward to?

Larson: I’m presenting the LA Times Book Award for graphic novels this year, so I’ve been reading the finalists. I really need to read more of Jaime Hernandez’s work. I need to read more Roz Chast. I’m very excited about Sam Alden’s work right now. I’m reading Saga. I liked Megahex a lot in spite of the fact that I’m not the target audience for that book!

What’s next? What are you working on in the near future that you can (and wanna) talk about?


Larson: Hooooo boy. So many things! Next week Jen Wang and I are starting to pitch the cartoon series we’ve been working on for the past year, which is exciting! I’m finishing up the first draft of the script for a middle-grade graphic novel I’ll both write and draw. I’m working with Rebecca Mock to put the finishing touches on Compass South, the first book in our Four Points series of middle grade graphic novels, which will be out next year. The second volume, Knife’s Edge, will be out in 2017; it’s scripted, but we have a long road of drawing, coloring, lettering and revisions ahead. Those projects and Solo are the biggies, but I’m also working on a few other things that may or may not happen.

If my life is a rollercoaster, it feels like I’m just about to go over the top — and I mean that in a good way.

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6. Interview: we talk Doctors, Secret Wars and Hitchhiker’s Guide with Ninth Doctor issue 1 writer Cavan Scott

Ninth Doctor issue 1 coverIn 2005, few believed that a modern re-launch of the BBC adventure series Doctor Who would be successful. The show broadcast it’s last episode just before Christmas, 1989 after running for 27 years. In reviving the show for a new audience, the casting of Christopher Eccleston was a masterstroke, as the actor was known for his more serious roles in both television and film. Eccleston burst onto the scene as the Ninth Doctor, grabbing former pop-star Billie Piper’s hand and telling her to “run!” Eccleston parted ways with the show after only one season, something never done before or since in Doctor Who history. This left fans of Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor hungry for more. When Titan Comics announced they’d be releasing new Doctor Who comics,  fans reportedly stuffed their email inbox with pleas for the release of a Ninth Doctor comic series.

We spoke with Cavan Scott, writer of the new Ninth Doctor Comic series about what it was like to bring Nine back to life in a new story featuring fan favorite companions Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness.

Edie Nugent:  So, first question: why did you choose this particular moment in the Ninth Doctor’s timeline for your story?

Cavan Scott: For two reasons. First of all, it seemed the only natural gap in the series. Most of the episodes lead straight into each other, like one continuous story. Here, between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town, we have a definite gap where lots of stories are said to have happened that we never saw. Handy!

Secondly, we wanted Jack in there, mainly because we never saw enough of the three of them in the TV show.

Nugent:  I had that thought instantly upon seeing where this story occurred: the fans will be so excited, because this group and moment were so popular.

Scott: Well, I hope so. They’re such a well-oiled machines when we see them in Boom Town too. They’ve obviously been adventuring together for some time.

Nugent: You have a lot of dialogue describing the “science” of the situation up front. Do you have a real interest in the science part of science fiction?

Scott: That question makes me smile because I have an ongoing ‘debate’ with Doctor Who book author Nick Walters where I insist that Doctor Who is fantasy and he throws things at me shouting that its science FICTION!

You know, in this case I didn’t even think about whether there was a lot of pseudo-science in the book. I was just trying to capture the tone of the original series, where they throw a lot of pseudo-science around. I think with Doctor Who, you need to make it sound plausible even if some of the science is dodgy!

Nugent: Nine is showing his most chipper self in this book, is that due to being flanked by the ‘dream team’ of Rose and Jack? Or has he just progressed in his emotional healing from the Time War by this point?

Scott: I honestly think that Doctor number Nine is chipper for the most of the time we see him – or at least he’s trying to give the impression that he is. A lot of people pigeon-hole him as an ‘angry’ Doctor, but he spends a hell of a lot of time smiling and even cracking really, really bad jokes.

Trust me, we’ll see his angry side as the book continues, but I wanted to show the fact that he is enjoying himself again.

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Nugent: Sure, but there’s a real difference in tone here from, say, Dalek for instance, which is only 4 episodes earlier.

Scott: Well, the situation in Dalek is pretty grim. Certainly, we see a ‘lighter’ Ninth Doctor in The Empty Child to The Long Game. I think the resolution of The Doctor Dances would have helped as well. There we see the Doctor at his most optimistic. I definitely think he’s enjoying life with Rose and Jack.

Nugent:  This story had a real “hitchhiker’s guide” feel to it, was that intentional?

Scott: Not at all! In fact, I didn’t realise it was there! Never a bad thing though, especially as Douglas Adams’ City of Death was apparently one of the templates for 21st Century Who.

I’m intrigued now. Which elements did you think were Hitchhikers-esque? (Is that a word? It is now)

Nugent: The story set up: they’re beamed into the hold of a sluggish and war-like race, scanned repeatedly to determine who they are, then saved from death only to be sentenced to it a moment later. Reminded me of Ford & Arthur’s first stop after hitch hiking off the earth into the Vogon ship. No poetry from your war-bots though.

Scott: I think the Lect would be particularly bad poets. All those ‘Directives’ and ‘Possibilities’ in their speech patterns will never touch the soul!

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Nugent: Your credits are so diverse–was it exciting to be able to tell a self-contained, more adult television episode-style story? Was your approach to the material different as a result?

Scott: It was. In a lot of ways writing the comic was similar to writing Doctor Who audio plays, definitely when I was structuring the plot for all five issues, I went about it the same way as my audio work, working out the big set pieces, working out where the cliffhangers sit.

But – and this is a huge but – the fact that it’s a comic has left me giddy with excitement. Writing a long-form American style series has been a dream for me ever since I first picked up a Marvel UK reprint back when I was a kid.

Nugent:  And what comic was that, do you remember?

Scott: I do. It was Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars issue one. I knew superheroes from TV and films and, even though I was a massive comic fan, it was largely British humour weekly titles. That first issue of Secret Wars literally changed my life, or at least my interests. It opened my eyes to the Marvel universe, which led me venturing into a comic shop and seeking out US comics, both for Marvel and their Distinguished Competition.

Oh, and it had Alpha Flight as the back up strip which introduced me to John Byrne, who I became obsessed about!

Nugent:  That’s a lot of continuity to absorb for a first ever comic experience! Sort of like Doctor Who…

Scott: I think that’s what appealed to me. i like continuity and diving into new universes. It’s why I’ve been enjoying picking up the Valiant books recently.

Marvel’s Transformers comic was another major hook for me. Basically, the UK weekly soon ran out of original US material and so started slipping in extra stories between the US issues – which of course were part of the Marvel Universe too. And the Doctor Who universe for that matter, as Death’s Head first appeared in Transformers and then slipped into Doctor Who and then into the main Marvel U.

You’ll be sorry you asked me about that now! I could talk about this stuff for ages!

Nugent: Well, it is somewhat timely. Are you following the announcements from Marvel about the new Secret Wars? As a comic writer AND fan, you probably have different perspectives on it.

Scott: With a huge amount of nostalgia! I’m certainly intrigued to see what’s coming. The continuity geek in me is having a whale of a time spotting references in what’s been released so far. The writer in me is having heart palpitations about what they’re trying to pull off. I’m looking forward to it. I’m a sucker for these big game-changing events. Again, it’s John Byrne’s fault for Man of Steel!

Nugent: I noticed lots of moments in your story where Rose reaches for the Doctor’s hand & is pulled away. Is this an intentional after-the-fact foreshadowing of the separation from the Tenth Doctor in Doomsday?

Scott: Heh! It might just be. It might not be the last time you see that motif in the series either.

Nugent: So far you’ve written for Doctors: Three, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten and Eleven. What Doctor would be your top choice to write for next?

Scott: Well, I wouldn’t say no for a chance to write for the current model – but really I’ve got a hankering to complete the set. In fact, I’ve written for another incarnation that I can’t mention yet. Spoilers!

Nugent:  Speaking of spoilers, are there any tidbits you can give our readers regarding events still to come in your Ninth Doctor story?

Scott: Well, there are going to be suns and romans and floating octopi and dinosaurs and masks coming off. And lots and lots of more great art from Blair!

Ninth Doctor issue 1 is available in comic stores on April 1st.

 

1 Comments on Interview: we talk Doctors, Secret Wars and Hitchhiker’s Guide with Ninth Doctor issue 1 writer Cavan Scott, last added: 3/31/2015
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7. Interview and Giveaway: Kim Amos, Author of A Kiss to Build a Dream On

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Kim!  What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

{Kim Amos] Toast the ghost! He’s a stuffed ghost I found at Target one year on the Halloween clearance rack. He looked so lonely, so I took him home, and now I sleep with him even though I’m probably well past the age when I should be sleeping with stuffed anything but, hey, he’s super snuggly! When I travel, he always comes with me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

{Kim Amos] Post-Its (I’m forever making lists, hoo boy do I love a good list), Tana French’s novel THE SECRET PLACE (it’s amazing, everyone should read it, especially mystery lovers), and an antique pen that’s gilded and lovely, which my wonderful sister-in-law bought me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

{Kim Amos] CARBS OMG ALL THE CARBS NOW OM NOM NOM. Just kidding. Sort of. Not really. I’m a carb-o-holic, which I’m trying to change and be better about. It’s tough! So these days, I’ll probably snack on some air-popped popcorn (instead of, say, all the Doritos in a two-mile radius), or even an apple and peanut butter. Around this time of year, though, the Cadbury mini-eggs are definitely calling to me!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

{Kim Amos] Amelia Earhart, I think. She was gutsy and brave in so many admirable ways during a time when not much was expected of women. I would love to hear her internal thoughts and learn how she shut out the haters. Her spirit of adventure awes me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

{Kim Amos] I would have the power to help every animal that needed a home, love, and care. I would be a voice for animals that had no voice. I’d help them in any way I could, and hopefully ensure they all had wonderful lives. *tries to hug all the animals*

About A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON

Twelve years ago, beautiful, blond, wealthy Willa Masterson left White Pine, tires squealing, for New York City, without looking back.  Since then, she’s enjoyed everything New York has to offer a girl with unlimited resources. But the recent discovery that her boyfriend has squandered her inheritance in a Ponzi scheme sends Willa back to White Pine, to the only asset she has left: her childhood home, which she plans to turn into a high-end B&B. 
Enter Burk Olmstead, the best contractor in town-and Willa’s high school boyfriend, whom she left high and dry when she moved away.  Hard-working, hard-bodied Burk, who has been taking care of Willa’s childhood home for years, also has plans for the beautiful old house-plans that conflict with Willa’s B&B.  When these two argue, sparks fly and reignite the fire that’s always been between them…but it may take the whole town of White Pine to get these two lovers back together for good. 

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1xfmEZm
B&N: http://bit.ly/1ErH3HJ
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1AxKQ4M
BAM!: http://bit.ly/1F4vQC8
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1I04MCu

About Kim Amos

A Midwesterner whose roots run deep, Kim Amos is a writer living in Michigan with her husband and three furry animals. 

Website: http://www.kimamoswrites.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimAmosWrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kimamoswrites

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kimamoswrites/

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8. ‘Harvey Beaks’ Creator C.H. Greenblatt on How to Break Into The Biz and Why Artists Should Post on Tumblr

C.H. Greenblatt, creator of the animated series "Chowder," is back with a new series, "Harvey Beaks," that premieres this Sunday on Nickelodeon.

0 Comments on ‘Harvey Beaks’ Creator C.H. Greenblatt on How to Break Into The Biz and Why Artists Should Post on Tumblr as of 3/27/2015 9:37:00 PM
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9. Interview: We talk Europen graphic novels with Titan’s new editor Lizzie Kaye

Lizzie_pic1

Last week Titan Comics announced it had hired Lizzie Kaye,  formerly of SelfMadeHero, to the position of editor for their European graphic novel line. We talked with Kaye within a week of her jumping on-board the Titan Comics team about her new gig and Titan’s expansion into the bande dessinée market.

Edie Nugent: Congrats on your new position as editor for Titan’s European graphic novel line. How does it feel to step into those shoes after many years with indie publisher SelfMadeHero?

Lizzie Kaye: Thanks, it’s wonderful to have joined Titan, it’s a company that’s doing really interesting things and moving in a great direction. Obviously, it’s a bit of a change from SelfMadeHero, in terms of the kinds of books each company puts out, but I’m excited by so many of the titles we have coming up and can’t wait to see other people getting excited by them too!

Nugent: You have a background in literature. How you feel you’ll be able to draw on that knowledge in bringing bande dessinée to Titan readers?

Kaye: I think it’s most useful in that studying literature results in you being well-read, which leads to a good understanding of pacing, character, and plot.

This is something that the European market deals with differently than the US/UK market, as the standard length of an album is normally 48 pages. When they have the luxury of that page count, creators can take their time building characters and revealing the plot at a slightly slower pace.  A lot of, though by no means all, BD series are designed from the outset to be at least three volumes, so you could almost consider them as neat, three-act plays.

It also helps in that the European market operates within a slightly different outlook, and BD are often filled with literary references, even if the subject matter itself may not explicitly be so. For example, the series The Chronicles of Legion, the first three volumes of which are out now, with the fourth coming soon, is ostensibly a vampire story. But it’s also more than that. It draws heavily on the origins of gothic literature (before vampires could sparkle!) as well as using devices traditionally found in that literature, such as a story within a story and a layering of narratives. Form my perspective, a literary background helps in that I can see the references, and therefore am able to judge the tone and direction of the story, and consider how that may translate to a market less familiar with seeing those devices used in a sequential art format.

Nugent: Three-act play, it sounds almost like a more Manga way of telling a story. Do you think the BD market exists in that place between monthly single-issue sequential storytelling and the more fast-paced, multi-volume format of Manga?

Kaye: That is one way of looking at it. BD readers can sometimes have to wait a long time for the next volume of a series they are following. It’s important from the outset that the narrative is tightly constructed, and that the characters are memorable, in order to retain the reader. I don’t necessarily think it exists in a place between monthly single-issue releases and manga, more that it uses the medium of sequential art for a different kind of story-telling that is less episodic in nature.

Having said all that, there are of course a number of series that go into much longer runs, Samurai, the first four volumes of which will be released by Titan as an omnibus later in the year, being one of them.

Nugent: Titan has released BD’s of Snowpiercer, which was a French graphic novel-turned-movie starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, Elric, which is based on Michael Moorcock stories, and now Void. How does Titan decide which BD’s to put on the publishing slate? 

Kaye: A lot of factors come into play when we’re choosing which titles to put out. There are certain books that we’d love to see in the English speaking market that we specifically seek out based on our own love of the stories or creators, such as the upcoming Lone Sloane series by Philippe Druillet, and my own personal favourite, The Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal.

For others with creators that might not have had as much exposure in the English speaking market, we take a lot of time to consider the artwork, the story, the length of the series, and how we feel readers might react to it. There are a lot of incredible BD series out there, luckily, so we have a rich seam to mine, and we want readers to really love what we offer them.

Nugent: What series would you recommend to readers just starting to explore what BD’s have to offer?

Kaye: That’s a tough one, as there are so many great stories out there! It depends on each reader’s specific interests, and that’s the beauty of the BD market, it caters for all readers.

I think Elric is a great starting point, because it is so incredibly beautiful, each page is a joy to look at. It’s a good introduction to the more European artwork style, which tends to be a little looser and fluid with a more painterly aesthetic. Titan also has a wonderful new series coming out now called Masked, which is a European take on the Superhero genre, and would be a great entry point, too, and the artwork in that would probably be a little more familiar.

1 Comments on Interview: We talk Europen graphic novels with Titan’s new editor Lizzie Kaye, last added: 3/28/2015
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10. Interview: Balak, Bastien Vivès, and Michaël Sanlaville bring the award-winning Last Man to the states

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A collaboration of French stars from three different mediums, Last Man brings together the gifted animator Balak, Bastien Vivès, the much heralded comics creator, and Michaël Sanlaville, a rising talent in game design, for a manga influenced, tournament-based martial arts adventure that’s been all the rage in their native country.

The planned 12 volume series, 6 of which have been published, was recently awarded the Prix de la Serie at Angoulême this year, highlighting the popular and critical acclaim of the series overseas. Last Man centers on Adrian Velba, a 12 year old boy enrolled in Battle School whose highest ambition is to participate in the annual tournament sponsored by the King and Queen. After the sudden departure of his required partner, Adrian faces having to wait another year to compete, until a mysterious loner named Richard Aldana, who is also in need of a partner, crosses his path. This unlikely pair, and how they turn the tournament and city on its ear, makes up much of the excellent first volume, entitled “The Stranger”, which sees English-language publication from First Second on March 31st.

I was fortunate enough to chat with these three creators in the lead-up to its release in the U.S.:

balak 2

L to R: Sanlaville, Balak, Vivès

You began working on Last Man in 2013, what was the origin of the project and how was the creative nucleus of this ensemble formed?

Balak: Bastien and I have known each other for 12 years. We hung out at the same message board, catsuka.com<http://catsuka.com/>, chatting about comics, Japanese animation and well-endowed women, the usual geeky stuff. Then we went to the same animation school in Paris, Gobelins, where we met Michael. Bastien and Mic got along well and quit the school to make comics. Years later, Bastien told me he’d like to make a comic book with eveything we like in it: cool one-liners, great adventure with a manga-ish epic feel, larger than life characters and larger than life natural breasts. In short: The very reason Art exists. The catch is that we wanted to do it the manga-way: to draw 20 pages a week and publish 3 books a year. So we had to be a three-person team, well organized, and say goodbye to any social life for a few years. It seemed like a cool project, so  here we are.

While reading the first volume, I was reminded of my time perusing some of my favorite mangas, including that of the shounen variety, was that an influence…or more specifically, was there a particular type of action-based storytelling that informed this series?


Balak: Yes, that was the reason Bastien asked me and Mic to join in the first place. He knows we’re avid manga readers since forever. Basically, we wanted to have this very calibrated shounen feel that we love in the first books, and put our little twist on it: What if John McClane was thrown into a Dragon Ball tournament? We mixed the two things we loved: manga and US action movies we watched as kids. This stuff made us who we are today, for better and worse. Last Man is the result of this.

Last Man looks to have a fairly wide audience appeal, particularly in terms of age, what is it about tournament stories that seem the draw the younger audience?


LASTMAN-sampler-1lowBalak: Even the worst Hollywood script doctor would tell you that story is about conflict. A tournament is the core of the most basic, comprehensive storytelling. You’ve got a hero you’re rooting for: he wants to win the cup, and everyone wants the same thing as well. The premise is simple, almost visceral. That’s why manga of this type are popular, they manage to convey each characters burning will to win and emotions; each battle is a story in itself. But when we say it’s simple, it doesn’t mean “simplistic.” Keeping things simple is hard, there is an unnoticeable elegance to it that is very difficult to achieve.

Were there any story elements in particular that you implemented or had to adjust in order to attract younger readers?


Balak: Not at all, we just did things as we pleased. The only thing we naturally refrained was sex. It can be sexy, but you don’t have anything too graphic.

Describe a typical day in the creative process for the series, were you all huddled in a room together planning out the beats of the story or was it more segmented?


Balak: “A quiet mayhem” is the best expression that could sum up our typical day and creative process. We don’t write much like a regular script. Bastien puts down his ideas on 10 or 15 pages for the book to come. Mic and I read it, then we discuss it, have several meetings, decide what is changing, what would be better. I take quick notes on a paper towel and I directly draw the 20 first pages of storyboard, come up with dialogues ideas, new situations. Each Monday, we discuss what the next 20 pages will be about, while Bastien and Mic draw the previous pages, 10 each. It’s not very kosher, and it’s quite exhausting, but it’s what keeps our ideas fresh and our motivation going. If we had the classic “here is the script, then we do the whole storyboard, then we can draw the whole thing,” it wouldn’t work for us. With our method, it feels very organic, we are constantly reacting on each others pages, at any time.

There’s a fascinating sense of culture combination in this first volume, with a setting that resembles pre-Revolutionary era France but with Eastern traditions sprinkled throughout. What is it that makes these two very different cultures mesh so well together?


Balak: To be honest, we didn’t put a lot of thoughts into this culture mix. We just drew what seemed right to us, the French medieval thing is a part of our culture, we just put a martial art in it not thinking twice if it would match or not… It seemed obvious to us!

Bastien, you’ve had a few of your comics translated into English into the past, how has the LASTMAN-sampler-2lowtranslation process for Last Man compared? Has it been relatively smooth overall or have any pieces of dialogue had to be changed outright?


Bastien: My English is not very good, so I can’t really tell!!!  But I think First Seconds did a good job!
Balak: The translation is very good, some cultural, typical French things are well adapted to an English audience. The main difference is that the French version is filled with cursing and very bad language that the English version is toned down a little . . . Aldana is even more rude in French!

For Balak and Michael, was the transition into comics a difficult one from the work you’re used to, or is there a natural handover from gaming and animation into sequential art?


Balak: I always wanted to draw comics. That’s the very first thing I wanted to do as a kid, so it’s not an issue at all. Sometime I’m a little frustrated by the page constraint, the fact that you can’t surprise the reader anytime you want, you have to take care of the double spread, keep your surprises for the first panel of the left page. . . . But it’s fun. I tried to get rid of this by creating something called Turbomedia, a way to make digital comics. You can see how it works by looking up Marvel’s Infinite Comics line, I’ve worked with them on this. Or even better, check the great Mark Waid’s Insufferable, at Thrillbent.com.  It’s cool. (Yes, that was a shameless plug.)

Do you see Richard Aldana as a character to be admired or one to be pitied? Is it somewhere in the middle?


Balak: You pinpointed Richard. He’s right in the middle. He’s a badass, he’s looking cool and cracking jokes, but you wouldn’t want his life. But don’t try to show him pity, he would punch you in the face. Or walk away with a burning one-liner that would hurt you even more. Or both at the same time, if you’re not lucky.

Will Richard’s background play a bigger part going forward in the next chapters being released this year?


Balak: Yes, a big, BIG part. We’re even making a whole animated TV show about Richard’s past. It will be out in 2016 in France. It will be dark, violent and funny.

When you’re writing the dialogue of a child Adrian’s age, how difficult is it to find a right tone of voice that sounds natural?


LASTMAN-sampler-3lowBalak: Adrian’s way of talking is mostly Bastien’s. He’s kept is inner ten year-old child very close. It seems very easy for him. When I’m writing Adrian’s dialogues, it almost always sounds wrong.

Last Man was incredibly well received in your home country, to the point that it won the Prix de la Serie at Angoulême. What was the first thing that went through each of your minds winning such a prestigious honor?


Balak: I should’ve dressed better for this.
Bastien: It’s very good to feel supported in your country.
Balak: (Bastien tries to look tough and all, but he cried on stage. Really.)
Mic: It happened quite fast, I think I haven’t realized yet what it means. . . . To me, this prize goes out to all the great Japanese manga artists that inspired me to draw, and are still unknown to the wide audience for the most part. . . . But things are changing, so that’s good.



At what point was First Second the natural choice to bring Last Man to the states?


Balak: Mark Siegel gets the book totally, it seems that everybody there genuinely loves what they are publishing. We’re proud to be  surrounded by all these other great books.

Beyond the translation of Books 2 and 3 this year, what’s next for the series? I understand there are other media plans. How is that process coming along? Is it possible I’ll be playing as Richard Aldana in a video game soon?


Balak: Hopefully, it should happen this very year! We’re producing our own video game, called Last Fight. It’s kind of like Power Stone, you can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLFxFKmqYDs If everything goes smoothly, it will be released in September. And as I’ve said previously, the animated TV show about Richard’s past is scheduled to next year. On each project, we have a very close look on the whole creative process.

What can/should your American readers look out for in Books 2 and 3? Any major surprises you can tease?


Balak: I can guarantee you some surprises . . . I can only say that you won’t stay into King’s Valley too long.

You can pick up Last Man Vol 1: The Stranger this coming Tuesday, March 31st from First Second at a book retailer near you.

1 Comments on Interview: Balak, Bastien Vivès, and Michaël Sanlaville bring the award-winning Last Man to the states, last added: 3/30/2015
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11. Alan Moore Interview Part I – Steve Moore, River of Ghosts, The Show, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…

It’s the 26th of February, and the time is 7.00pm, the usual time for all my telephone interviews with Alan Moore, since the first one we did, back in March 2008. This is something like the eighth time I’ve interviewed him 1, but I still get nervous. There’s the usual fumbling around with a voice recorder, and making sure I know how to put the phone on speaker – I’m totally technically incompetent, so Deirdre, my wife, has to come and oversee all this, to make sure I don’t do something stupid.

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: I’m going to get stuck into this thing because I’ve a long list of questions, at least some of which we’ll get to. OK, I was going to ask you about Steve. Obviously Steve Moore’s death must have been an enormous blow to you. 2

Steve MooreAlan Moore: Well, yeah, obviously, and it – it was a period of massive shock, and of course a few marvels in there. There was an ethereal period. We managed to follow Steve’s instructions, and scattered his ashes on the burial mound in Shrewsbury Lane by the light of, not only a full moon, but of a Supermoon, which is when the Moon is full at its perigee, which is apparently its closest approach to Earth, and it was just at the tail end of Hurricane Bertha so we didn’t think that we were going to be able to really do it successfully, but as it happened, the hurricane had blown all the clouds out of the sky by the time we got down to Shooters Hill, and it was a – a rather magical night in its way, even though I managed to end up wearing at least a small portion of Steve, when we had a difficulty transferring him to the scattering tube. Funnily enough, I’d said on the way down there that I hope this doesn’t end up like The Big Lebowski, with me kind of going on inappropriately about Steve’s service in Vietnam, while getting ashes all over me, but apart from me going on inappropriately about Steve’s service in Vietnam, that was pretty much what happened. But otherwise it was a great night and, yeah, I suppose that after Steve’s death I kind of hurled myself into a great deal of creative work – it’s just my way of dealing with things, you know? Or perhaps my way of not dealing with things, I don’t know. But, yeah, it still goes on, like at the moment I’m, I just went down last weekend to Steve’s place to talk with Bob Rickard3.

I went to the burial mound – it’s been padlocked since we did the scattering there, which – I don’t think it was in response to our scattering, probably more in response to some of the empty cider bottles that I’d noticed around the site, but I suppose in its way it’s fortuitous – if Steve had died a year later it probably wouldn’t have been anywhere near as – convenient? – to honour his final wishes, but – no, he’s still an immense presence in my life. I’m still, I’m wrapping up dealing with his estate – and I shall be dealing with that for a number of years, I’m sure. But, yeah, we’ve still got the Book of Magic to come out, which is very very much a joint venture, even if – even if one of the members of The Moon and Serpent is now only active upon the Inner Plane, it’s still going to be both of us on the cover, there. It’s going OK, Pádraig.

Bumper BookPÓM: Good, I’m glad. As you mentioned the book, The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, is there any kind of a timescale for that?

AM: Well, at the moment I have just finished the final article, the big concluding essay that me and Steve had been working on for about six months before last March and that leaves me one episode of The Soul4 to do, and then I’ve got to go back and tinker with the Tarot Card, and the Kabala Boardgame, and some of the other, more art-centred things, and less text-centred – most of the text-centred stuff is completed. As to when that will come out – we would like to get it out in 2016, but that is not a promise, that is an aspiration5.

PÓM: [laughter]

AM: I’m sure that – yeah, you know what that means – we’ve been living under a coalition for some several years now, so we will know what we mean by promises and aspirations.

PÓM: Somebody was suggesting – are you likely to do a performance related to that when it’s finally finished?

AM: Don’t know. Don’t know – I hadn’t been thinking of a performance related to it. Eh, don’t know, is the answer to that, it is nothing that I’d actually considered. These things tend to come in seasons. There was a period when I was closer to Tim Perkins – Tim moved to Oxford – me and Tim still communicate, and we still talk about possible projects together, but it doesn’t feel like the time at the moment when performance stuff is probably at the forefront. I had a very very nice offer from Paul Smith of Blast First records, talking about the possibility of getting some satellite time for something live, but, quite honestly, it would be filling three hours of live – no. It’s not like I – my urges at the moment are not really towards live performance. That said, tomorrow night I shall be going down to the local café, and me and Robin Ince and Grace Petrie will be doing another one of our, just impromptu little events6 which Robin is – we’re recording them all, Joe Brown is doing all of the mixing and everything, and they will eventually be released as podcasts. But that’s pretty much the extent of my public appearances at the moment.

PÓM: I met Tim Perkins for the first time in August. Worldcon – that’s the World Science Fiction Convention – was on in London, and myself and himself and Gary Lloyd ended up doing a panel about your musical output.7

AM: Aw, brilliant! And how is Tim? I haven’t spoken to him for ages.

PÓM: Tim was good! I was delighted to meet him, because I have a lot of his work, but I’ve one question I was asking him that I had always been interested in, which was, in all the musical work that you did, did you play a musical instrument at all?

AM: Oh, no. No, I never played a musical instrument. I am – yeah, I know I’m a fairly multi-competent kind of individual, but no, no. Playing a musical instrument has always been beyond me, and I have nothing but the greatest of respect for those that can, and I tend to – even if I could play a musical instrument, I’ve known such brilliant musicians that it would have been foolish not to leave that side of things to them, and to play to my strengths.

PÓM: Yeah, I know. He did say something about your playing – was it with one hand, was it Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, something like that, on a piano?

The Sooty Super Xylophone, Green Monk Products (Games and Toys 1956)AM: Oh, I can actually – because when I was a child, I had a Sooty Xylophone, with numbered keys, and the actual score to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, with numbered keys on xylophone, is 1155665 – it’s been a long time since I played it, but I could remember it all the way through, on my Sooty Xylophone. So, yes, I suppose technically, if there is ever any need for a kind of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star refrain on xylophone, then you’ve got my number.8

PÓM: Fair enough. I always wanted to clear that one up.

AM: Well, it’s an important point, Pádraig. No, I’m surprised that Tim remembered that.

PÓM: Yes. Well, it obviously made an impression.

AM: Yeah, obviously, obviously.

PÓM: Tell me about The Show. What’s happening?

AM: The Show. Well, The Show is the name of the project that follows on from the Jimmy’s End films – which, surely to Christ, should be out soon. It should be very very soon – I’ve been kicking up a fuss, Mitch [Jenkins] has been kicking up a fuss…9

PÓM: This is the stuff from Lex Records?

AM: Apparently there’s been unavoidable delays on the packaging side. I don’t know!

PÓM: Yeah, I know, I know. It’s bad enough having to always wait for your comics to come out, but really…!

jimmys endAM: It’s this film business, it’s – and I am kind of limited in what I can actually do. And it’s the same with the comics business, I suppose. Anyway, that should be out soon, and I have written a screenplay for a feature film, called The Show, which is designed to follow on from that. We have been talking with various parties about maybe making that screenplay into the first two episodes of a serial, which – we could probably have done it, but that doesn’t seem to be – that’s not technically gonna happen. At the moment we’re talking about maybe doing what we had originally intended to do, which is to bring out The Show as a feature film, and then to launch The Show as a television series, so at the moment, that’s all up in the air, and in my experience of these things, some things just remain up in the air forever, in defiance of gravity. So, who knows? But there are talks going on, it’s looking quite promising, and I’m sure that one way or another there’ll be – we’re asking for so little, to do this film, at least in terms of money. We’re asking for complete control, and complete ownership. But financially we’re asking for very little. It would be a very good film – it’d need me writing a few more songs, and it would be very differently paced to the five short films, because short films, they can be as long as you want them to be, and you can linger, whereas a feature film, that’s got to have – I’m not saying that it’s gonna be kind of action/thriller paced, but certainly a lot more conventionally paced for a feature film, put it like that.

PÓM: Yeah, of course.

AM: Yeah, that’s all going on as we speak – there might be more news – I’m sure if there is any more news, that’ll be in a couple of – in a couple of months we might know more.

PÓM: OK, fair enough. Emmm, what was I gonna ask? The League. The next – the third part of the Janni Nemo trilogy is coming out soon…?10

River of Ghosts coverAM: River of Ghosts. I’ve just looked in the box that I got from Knockabout the other day, and I’ve got – yes, very soon, I’ve got my copies already. We are very pleased with it. It’s funny – when me and Kevin O’Neill first got our complimentary copies, we both looked through it, skimmed through it, independently, and when we were talking on the phone later I was – he was saying that he’d been – he’d felt that his art really, it was a bit tired-looking, and I was saying, ‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘I thought your art was great,’ I said, ‘but I don’t know with my script – I’m not sure that the ending’s not rushed, or something.’ Like, all these little things. And then, after that, I was still a bit despondent, but I sat down, and picked up the copy again, and started reading it. And I got to the end, and I went and phoned Kevin and left an answer phone message saying, ‘Actually, Kevin, I should go back and having another look at River of Ghosts, I think that it might be about the best run of the League since the first couple of volumes.’ And I got a phone call back from Kevin about ten minutes later, saying ‘Actually, I was going to call you and say the same thing! ’ It’s just that, when your expectations are up, and you first see the thing in print – I should know by now that very often my first reaction is disappointment. But then, you read it again and, yes, this is – it’s a bit of a corker. I think, beautifully rounds off the Nemo trilogy, and I hope will put the other two books into perspective, ‘cause I did hear a couple of comments saying, ‘Oh well, we’ve read Heart of Ice, good story and all that, but it does seem a bit – a bit slender, a bit thin, a bit inconsequential, compared to other graphic novels.’ It’s forty-eight pages, it’s like two issues of a comic and, really, it’s not until the River of Ghosts that we get to the end of the story – yes, they are all self-contained episodes, but there is an over-all story that’s going on, which I think we tie up quite nicely in River of Ghosts.

The story opens upon Lincoln Island in 1975, so this is six years after we saw Janni in League volume three in 1969. She’s now – what? – around eighty, and it’s been very interesting – I’ve always wanted, since I started writing Halo Jones, I always intended to have that conclude with Halo Jones as a very old woman, and I – I don’t know, I think that there is something magnificent about old women, and I’ve always wanted to do one with a very old woman in the main role. So, with River of Ghosts I think I’ve accomplished that.

Hugo HerculesThere’s – we see a couple of old characters. There’s a couple of interesting new characters, one of whom might be of interest to you. Kevin found an American newspaper strip from, I think, 1902, that was entitled Hugo Hercules, and this is a very very big, very very strong man. I think it lasted for six or seven episodes – it wasn’t very long-lived. But, yeah, the first American superhero, I think, pretty much. I can’t imagine any earlier than that. Certainly earlier than Hugo Danner in Gladiator, a long while earlier than Superman.

So, yeah, I had a look at some of these early strips, which generally don’t have much in the way of dialogue balloons, but put most of the dialogue into captions under the panels, and from that, in the transcriptions of whatever the accent was supposed to be that Hugo Hercules was speaking in, I finally figured out that it was probably a racist and ill-informed transliteration of an Irish accent. It could just as easily have been Polish, or possibly Trinidadian, but I think probably it was meant to be Irish. So, we’ve kind of worked out, yeah, all right, if this Hugo Hercules, so-called, was Irish, what might be his backstory. Me and Kevin are very pleased with him as a character, and he plays quite a major part in River of Ghosts – which deals with, as you might expect from the first two volumes, it deals with a conclusion to the Ayesha question. Just kind of tying it all up in a neat and somewhat blood-stained bow.

The River of Ghosts in question is the Amazon, which means that we get to – as we did with Heart of Ice, less so, perhaps, with Roses of Berlin – but with Heart of Ice we were very much depending upon the New Travellers’ Almanac, and its gazetteer of fictional sights, and we’ve fallen back upon that quite a bit for this exploration of the Amazon. So, if that gives you any hints as to what sort of things we might be running into…

New Travellers' AlmanacPÓM: It does! I actually find, I go back and I reread the New Travellers’ Almanac and the Black Dossier quite a bit, because I think that there’s a huge amount more information, a huge amount more stuff, about various adventures that’s coded into those than you’re probably ever going to put down on the comics page.

AM: Well, that’s true. And also, because we were very specific – I think back in the New Travellers’ Almanac there’s already bits talking about Jenny Diver…?

PÓM: Yes, yes.

AM: And we did have this fairly fully planned out, right from the start. One of the things that I’ve thought about is the possibility at some point in the future, of an actual integrated volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in chronological order, to see how that reads? I don’t know. This is nothing I’ve discussed with anybody else, so I’m going off the menu here, a little bit. But…

PÓM: I know – from all the stuff, there’s all sorts of bits and pieces, and there’s dates, and it is possible to build up quite a detailed chronology of – particularly from the beginning of the Victorian League, and Mina Murray and all of that, upwards. It’s remarkable how much little bits and pieces fit in. Like the current volumes, the Janni Diver stuff, is filling in more little odds – and you go back and look at something and say, ‘Ah, that was there all along.’

AM: This is it, this is what we’re trying to do. And, actually, having said that it would be nice to put it all in chronological order, there is a lot to be said for the way that we’re doing it, where we’re jumping back and forth a little bit. Jack Nemo, whom we glimpse at the end of volume three, and in River of Ghosts, it’s almost like an origin story. Jack Nemo features in it – he’s a very small boy, a couple of years older than when we saw him as a five- or six-year-old running around on the Nautilus in 1969. We’re stitching all of this together, and we’re doing it all for a reason. One thing that might be of note is that this will be the last piece of work that me and Kevin will be doing on the League for a little while. We – this is largely because – me and Kevin have both been doing the League for fifteen years now. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it actually is.

PÓM: I know. It’s 1999, wasn’t it?

AM: Something like that. Fifteen or sixteen years? And during that time I’ve been doing quite a bit of other work, but Kevin, the League has been pretty much the only thing that he’s been doing, so it’s more like – it’s a long-term sentence. And although me and Kevin are both in love with what we’re doing on the League, I could see that, it was a bit of an unfair strain upon Kevin, because the League might not be the only thing he wanted to do with the rest of his life. So, anyway, I can’t tell you very much about what we’re doing – in fact, I can barely tell you anything at all, except that me and Kevin are going to be doing something new for about eighteen months, summat like that.

PÓM: OK. In a comic form, I presume, is it?

Black DossierAM: In a comic form. It’ll be an episodic thing. It will be a million miles away from the League. And we’re both very excited about it, we think we’re actually breaking new ground in term of the effects that comics can achieve. Which is, again, ‘cause I know that Kevin’s always had a hankering to experiment, and we’ve done as much as we can of that in the League – the League is limitless in some ways, but in other ways there are certain stories that perhaps wouldn’t fit quite so easily into it, and with this, yeah, we’re a long way away from the League. What we’re thinking is, we’re going to do this, as a break for Kevin, for the next eighteen months, or something, and then we will probably be going back to do book four of the League, but this is a long way in the future, but we have got a lot of good ideas that would – in some ways I’d like to do a book four that wouldn’t be the last book of the League, but could be. And if it was the last book of the League, then everything would be tied up. All of the strands and insinuations and implications in the Black Dossier, all of the tiny little threads, going right the way back to issue one of the first volume, I can see a way that all of this could be tied up splendidly into a fantastic story – but that will have to wait until me and Kevin have had our little vacation. We’re about four months into this eighteen months sabbatical anyway, so hopefully it won’t seem as long as that in the outside world.

PÓM: Before we leave it, can you tell us anything about what’s going to be in volume four?

AM: Other than, like I say, a tying up of ends, it would probably be set not long after 2009 and it would be tying up threads from all three volumes of the League, from the Black Dossier, and from the Nemo trilogy. It would be a – it’s a kind of story that I’ve been thinking of for a few years, but, yeah, after we’ve taken this sabbatical, both me and Kevin thing that, when we do go back to the League, we’ll go back refreshed, and capable of giving – not that we aren’t incredibly pleased with River of Ghosts. Like I say, that seems to have some of the energy – I wouldn’t want to deny the energy of any of the volumes of the League, but it’s undeniable that, say, the first two volumes are paced and structured very very differently to Century. And there were some people who thought that Century was a bit slow, or a bit over-complex, but that was just what we wanted to do with the characters. We wanted to show that it didn’t always have to be a fast-paced Victorian romp, that there was plenty of interesting stuff in this world that could do with lingering over. But, when we finished Century we thought, all right, let’s take a break from that stuff, and do the Nemo trilogy, something very fast paced, where we’re paying a lot of attention to spectacle, where that is a big part of the story development, and that gives Kevin an opportunity to really show what he can do on some nice spreads, and things like that, of which there are a couple of – some of the best pages of art by Kevin I’ve ever seen, in this upcoming issue. Some very memorable little images there.

To Be Continued…

——————————————————————————————————-

FOOTNOTES11:

1Previous interviews I’ve done with Alan Moore in various places, including the Forbidden Planet blog, 3:AM Magazine, here on The Beat, and on my own Slovobooks blog:- June 2008 FP I, FP II, May 2009 FP I, FP II, FP III, March 2011 3:AM, July 2011 FP, April 2013 CB I, CB II, October 2013 MM I, MM II, MM III, and January 2014’s Last Interview? Which, of course, it wasn’t. That question mark wasn’t there for nothin’!

2In case you all think I was being hideously impolite by launching directly into talking about Steve Moore, I should point out that there was a certain amount of small-talk in there beforehand, which none of you need to know anything more about. However, if you wish to read my interview with Steve, called The Hermit of Shooters Hill, you’ll find them all (six parts so far) here on The Beat, under the tag HERMIT.

The News, issue 1, November 19733Bob Rickard is the founder of the Fortean Times: The Journal of Strange Phenomena (Originally called The News, which both Alan Moore and Steve Moore contributed to over the years. He is also one of the two people Steve described to me as being his best friends. The identity of the other one should not be hard to grasp…

4The Soul is a strip, written by AM and drawn by John Coulthart, that was to appear in America’s Best Comics’ Tomorrow Stories, but is now going to be in The Moon & Serpent Bumper Book of Magic.

5A favourite saying of British politicians.

6 Another of these events, Alan, Grace and Robin’s Blooming Confusion is in the NN Café in Northampton on the 31st of March 2015, and there are still tickets available, here. Robin Ince is a comedian, and Grace Petrie is a singer.

7Tim Perkins is AM’s main musical collaborator, with five CD releases thus far between them. He has a hopelessly out-of-date website, here. Gary Lloyd is another of AM’s musical collaborators, having worked with him on the audio version of Brought to Light. The interview with Tim and Gary is slowly being transcribed, and will doubtless turn up on the ‘net eventully.

8Before anyone writes into to point out that the Sooty Xylophone isn’t actually a xylophone, not being made of wood, we’ve already got that covered. All I can do is report what is said!

9This is in reference to Lex Projects’ Kickstarter for Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins’s His Heavy Heart short film, which those of us who backed it are still waiting to see make its way into our hands. It’s by no means the only Kickstarter project I’ve backed that I’m still waiting for, mind you.

10There was some confusion about the actual publication date of this book. It first made landfall on the shelves of GOSH! Comics in London on Tuesday the 3rd of March, and should have been available elsewhere – not just in the UK, but also in the US – that same week. However a labour dispute at American west coast ports meant that containers remained in the docks, rather than being shipped onward, with the result that copies weren’t available until about a week and a half later on the 12th of March.

11Why all the footnotes? I’ve been reading through the works of Flann O’Brien, and bits of it have rubbed off on me. It’s even slightly relevant to the subject of this interview, as it was largely his fault that I went back to them in the first place. Further enlightenment, at least of a sort, here.

1 Comments on Alan Moore Interview Part I – Steve Moore, River of Ghosts, The Show, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…, last added: 3/26/2015
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12. Interview: Colorist of BONE Steve Hamaker on Making His Own Webcomic PLOX

Scholastic’s editions of Jeff Smith’s BONE were what originally put Steve Hamaker on the map, and he’s only improved since his introduction to the comics scene. After coloring over a dozen BONE graphic novels, Hamaker went on to color Jeff Smith’s follow-up RASLStrangers in Paradise-related projects for Terry Moore and Scott Kurtz’s webcomic Table Titans. Recently he’s been producing his own webcomic named PLOX that shows off his illustrative chops as well as his honed coloring skills. I spoke to Steve about his background, workload and growth as a creator and storyteller.

 

Photo

Let’s start with the origin story. What brought you into comics?

I was working for a small toy design company that worked on license action figures.  We did toys for lots of properties, like Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog, Speed Racer, and BONE.  I was the designer on BONE, so that’s where I met Jeff Smith.  He hired me away from that job, basically the day I was being downsized, so it worked out perfectly.

Was coloring comics always the goal?

Actually no.  I’ve always wanted to make my own comics.  The toy design thing was a stepping stone, but I really did enjoy that as a creative career.  Jeff inspired me and then taught me how to not only make comics, but how to self publish and promote them.

Line art by Jeff Smith.

You only work with a select few artists. Jeff Smith, Scott Kurtz, Terry Moore… How do you decide who to collaborate with?

Well, Jeff happened to be my boss, so that was an easy choice [laughs]. Coloring BONE was a huge undertaking for us both. It taught me every technique I use, and made me fall in love with the whole process. Terry Moore is a good friend of Jeff’s, so that was also very natural to work with him. I have been a fan of Scott Kurtz’s since he started PVP, so I stalked him early on, and once the coloring of BONE got more and more attention he took notice. We became friends along the way too, so that adds another layer to it. Coloring BONE was really the flood gates opening for people taking notice of me. I have a lot more choices to be selective, and that makes a difference in how I approach the work.

With those artists and with PLOX you’re aiming a little outside the typical Wednesday Warrior demographic. Do you have any desire to color a “mainstream” comic?

I would be interested, sure. It would have to be meaningful subject matter to me, so hopefully the right book will come along. Technically, I have done some work for DC with Jeff’s Shazam story, and Marvel was very nice when I colored a Thor story for Terry Moore. Ironically, the bigger publishers pay better, usually give cover credit, and even pay royalties in some cases. That’s not why I would do it, though. It’s just good to see them treating colorists in an increasing positive way.

An example of a reward for Patreon subscribers.

You mentioned marketing earlier. What kind of efforts do you make to market PLOX?

Right now it’s mostly social media, cross promotion with other online comics folks and general word-of-mouth. Terry Moore is running PLOX ads for me while I color his new SiP Kids mini series. Scott is obviously a great help with his PVP audience. He runs banners for my comic and I get to attend shows with him like GenCon and PAX.  The audience building has been one of the most incredible experiences in making this comic. Seeing the reader numbers increase, but more importantly knowing that so many of them are genuinely invested in the comic.

I’d say your Patreon campaign is another form of marketing.

Yes! I haven’t given Patreon quite the love and attention it deserves, but it’s a great tool for reaching your audience. It’s tough because I have to spend so much time coloring or creating PLOX that I can’t devote the time to making the Patreon really engaging. It’s a Catch-22 of sorts. I hope to change that in the future.

It must also be hard to use something ongoing like Patreon that it is to promote something one-off like Kickstarter.

Yes. I haven’t done a Kickstarter yet for PLOX, but I plan to. I want to make sure the Kickstarter for the collected book is really well organized and rewarding for the donors, and especially that they won’t have to wait two years to get their stuff! I will most likely tackle that when I am really close to being done with the first PLOX story.

When will that be?

Hopefully later this year. I keep writing new scenes that push the ending back.

Early Page 4

Now a question I’m sure you’ve been asked many times: what does “PLOX
mean?

I chose PLOX for the title from the idea of how our language has been affected and truncated on the internet.  The word ‘please’ change to ‘pls’, then to ‘plz’, then gamers would type so fast that it became ‘plx’. Then people started speaking over the internet with Teamspeak and Ventrilo, and they would phonetically say “plox”.

It also looked cool as a logo.

How is “please” central to the story?

The word isn’t important really. It was the idea of how the internet can affect things like language, and in the case of my story, relationships.

Hallucinations

Since the story is centered around a World of Warcraft-like game it would be easy to include a lot of fantasy visuals, but there aren’t many in PLOX. Was that intentional?

Starting out, I definitely envisioned that I would do in game cut-aways, like we do in Table Titans. After writing the first 3 or 4 chapters, I realized that the game isn’t the central ‘thing’ about the story, and it didn’t seem appropriate anymore.

The dream sequences were key for showing the in game avatars, however. That was a big breakthrough for me in writing this.

It’s really important to me that people can read PLOX and not have to know everything about Warcraft. The story is semi-autobiographical, so I felt like I had to include the game because it was tied up with my emotional state and daily life during that time.

It’s a story about three people. That’s hopefully compelling enough [laughs].  I’m half-kidding. I love that it has the gamer slant to it, and it affords a lot of opportunity for comedy, but I don’t want it to be a barrier of entry for my readers.

Chad would be a dick to his Bingo group down at the church. The game could be anything.

What do you like about the square page layout?

It looks good on the computer [laughs]. Honestly, I wanted the comic to take up more space.  I could have gone rectangular sideways, I realize.

The format was kind of mystical for me actually.

It kind of cracked my brain for writing and layout… in a good way! I was struggling with writing a comic page in the conventional format, and the square page just liked me more. I can see pages and scenes before I draw them much more easily.

Early Page 2

So you find the four or less panels a page more freeing than restricting?

Exactly.

I think a lot of people who come from more of a writing background would feel the opposite.

I wouldn’t doubt that. I’m not complaining, but It’s a very daunting task to write, draw and color a long form comic. It was a crucial thing for me to overcome in order to move ahead.

Oh, totally. I was just kind of musing on the differences. I feel like in the creative process artists (whether they be illustrators, writers, etc.) do best when they limit the number of things they take chances with. Like how you should only have one or two variables in a science experiment.

I think it’s different for everyone, to some extent, but I agree that limits can (not do) make better art.  You can agonize over every aspect of the writing or drawing, but in the end, you need to stop and share it with the world. That’s why God created editors and deadlines.

Homosexuality

Where are you kind of taking risks with PLOX?

I don’t have as many fears as I did when I started.  The risks were numerous. Can I write, draw, and color the whole story by myself, will people like my art… or my writing for that matter!

The character of Kim being gay was also scary for me.  I’m not gay, so I had this huge weight over my head that was telling me to abandon it.

The more I wrote and thought about each character the less scared I was. It sounds cheesy, I know, but they really started to tell me what they needed.

I think of a setting or a story from my own life, and the characters just kind of embed themselves into it like they were always there.

I know I’m not a really great writer, but I try to be honest with the story in every way.

I disagree with that last part, but well said! Last question: what’s inspiring you? Whether it be comics, stories, life, whatever.

Well, thank you. I’m proud of the writing, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t have an inflated ego that I am doing something new or groundbreaking.

The last few years since I got married and my son was born, my real life has been the most influential. I have art and music that I enjoy, but my friends and family are the ones that really push me forward.

Cover

You can check learn more about Steve at his website, follow him on Twitter, support his Patreon campaign and read PLOX at plox-comic.com.

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13. Interview: Doctor Who: Revolutions of Terror

Titan---Doctor_Who_The_Tenth_Doctor_Vol_01_BookWhen David Tennant’s Doctor departed the hit BBC series in 2009, fans on both sides of the pond were stricken at seeing him go. Apparently, even the BBC was concerned the show didn’t have much of a future without it’s 10th Doctor and Russell T. Davies, the creative mind that resurrected the series in 2005. Luckily, Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor came on the scene with a new creative team and won scores of new fans for the long-running series. For those who still miss the 10th Doctor’s particular brand of swashbuckling, writer Nick Abadzis has penned the popular comic book adaptions that give fans a bit more of Tennant’s iconic turn. We talked with Abadzis about being a British expat in New York, and the first Mexican-American companion Gabby Gonzalez: also the TARDIS’ first artist.

Edie Nugent: How did you decide where in the 10th Doctor’s timeline to begin the story?

Nick Abadzis: That was part of the brief [from Titan], but it made sense to me. No-one really knows how long the Doctor has lived, and there’s always potential for setting stories between TV episodes or seasons or any kind of gap, but that end of the tenth Doctor’s life is largely undocumented, so there’s even more room than usual.

Nugent: What made you choose the Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY as the setting for Revolutions of Terror?

Abadzis: Because the books were initially aimed at the US market (albeit all Who fans) it was suggested it could be an American companion. I’m British, but I live in New York, so automatically I wanted to set some stories here. I live in Brooklyn, next door to Sunset Park as a matter of fact, and I happened to be cycling around there while I was thinking about all this. It’s a very Mexican and Chinese area and it struck me that it would be a lot of fun to have the TARDIS materialize in the park there, with that fantastic view of the bay and Manhattan. The idea for Gabby Gonzalez as a companion and Cindy Wu as her best friend came shortly after – it all sort of grew from there.

Nugent: How long have you lived in New York? You’re name-checking10D_03_PREVIEW actual anchors from NY1: the beloved new york city local cable news channel, and setting an alien invasion on the subway (finally!)–along with the wonderfully representative location art it feels very New York City.

Abadzis: Thank you. I’ve lived here for just over five years now, but I go back a long way with this city. I first came here in the early eighties when I was a kid – my oldest friend is from Westchester County and eventually he moved into an apartment on the Upper West Side around 72nd St. and I visited him a lot as a teenager. So NYC has always been a big part of my personal mythology. See also my strip Hugo Tate from Deadline magazine.
The NY subway is overdue for an alien invasion, no? The London Underground had the second Doctor rooting out an infestation of Yeti down there. Cybermen on the F train – now, there’s a thought…
Nugent: So did the idea to set the story in Sunset Park come first, and lead to the development of Gabby Gonzalez as a companion? Or was it the other way around?
Abadzis: I think they occurred concurrently. Gabby assumed a character very, very rapidly in my mind… I was bouncing ideas at Andrew James, the Titan Comics Doctor Who editor, and Robbie Morrison, one of my co-writers, and once I had the idea for Gabby I really went for it; I really wanted to write this character, her family and friends. It all sort of cohered. When that happens, as a writer, as a storyteller, you listen to those instincts and you go for it.
Nugent: It’s so wonderful to see some real diversity in companions for the Doctor. What about Gabby stuck out to you most as first, that defined who she is? The kind of energy & dynamic she brings to the TARDIS?
Abadzis: There’s probably a lot of me in her – first generation, immigrant parents, their children are of the country they’re born into rather than the old one, but at the same time, to a certain extent, she’s bound by the constraints and expectations of family. She’s very open-minded, she wants to get out there and really live, experience things, so she chafes a bit at what’s expected of her. These are not uncommon traits; I’m sure they’re recognizable to many readers…
She’s also creative, she lives by her instincts as well as her intelligence (which is both emotional and intellectual) but, other than Turlough, a companion of the fifth Doctor’s, I’m not sure there’s been an artist per se onboard the TARDIS before. This seemed like a good way of availing ourselves of the language of comics and at the same time giving Gabby a distinctive voice, a way of recording all she sees and experiences.
Also of course, I must just say, once the initial character sketches started coming in from Elena… that just sealed it. Gabby was there. Elena had loads of little visual ideas about how to bring about these characteristics of Gabby’s, embed them in her visually and it was beautiful to see Gabby come alive. You should’ve seen all the work she put into trying out all these different hairstyles for her.
10D_04preview2Nugent: Well, unless you count the brief Van Gogh trip to see his future art gallery, I can’t think of any TARDIS artists either. What you say about Elena’s art sealing the deal makes sense: Gabby feels like a very real person to me. The comment about her last name–Gonzalez—being used to taunt her on the playground by referring to the discontinued Loony Tunes character hit me right in the heart.
Abadzis: Doctor Who is about diversity in a way – if you dig, there’s been a lot of stories about intolerance in Doctor Who. The Daleks are essentially fascism personified.
Nugent: Oh yes, the Kaled’s from Genesis of the Daleks even wear the Hugo-Boss stye Nazi uniforms before they are turned by Davros to the Daleks we know and fear. I agree that Doctor Who often explores intolerance, but rarely have we seen it through the eyes of racially diverse companions.
Abadzis: True enough. Given that we had the opportunity to pick a companion from New York City, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, she could’ve come from almost any background…
For a while I played with the idea of naming her “Gabriella Gomez.” I kept Gonzalez because I was aware of the discourse over the animated character. Also, Gabby is named (sort of) after a friend of mine, a real-life mexican-American cartoonist and teacher, Gabrielle Gamboa. I always loved the way her name sounded, kinda reminded me of the LL thing in the Superman books – Los Lane, Lana Lang, if you see what I mean. Although I will probably refrain from naming other characters in a similar way.
Names of characters are important. I spend a lot of time getting that right.
Nugent: I really appreciated the inclusion of the song “Cielito Lindo” as a source of power. Looking at the lyrics it seems tailor-made for a Doctor Who alien invasion! 
Abadzis: Like I say though, when I was cycling through Sunset Park, I saw potential Gabriellas everywhere – I imagined the TARDIS landing there, and if the Doctor came out, who would he meet? One of the locals. When a character feels like she created herself (I’m romanticizing it), you have to go with it.
Nugent: How did you decide where Gabby would travel to on her inaugural TARDIS trip?
Abadzis: She wants to be an artist (she already is, she just doesn’t know it) and she asked the Doctor to teach her… so he decides to take her to an art gallery. Not just any art gallery mind, because the Doctor is a show-off… he wants to take her somewhere impossibly glamorous too, so that’s why he picks Ouloumos. he has a history with the place (of course).
Nugent: It was great to see the 10th Doctor falling through those MC Escher staircases after name-checking that the artist they visit as having become and adept at Logopolis. Did Classic Who of that era influence how you decided to tell this story?
Abadzis: All that stuff, those classic episodes, are in my head, so yes. Can’t quite recall where the idea of a block-transfer sculptor came from precisely, but I just thought it’d be fun to have someone who was trained on Logopolis be able to use similar abilities in a creative way. It gets out of hand, inevitably.
Zhe (the artist) has known the Doctor at least since his fourth incarnation, as you can tell by the portrait of him and Romana II on her wall.
Nugent: Does that place the start of the Doctor’s friendship with Zhe during that era?
Abadzis: From that you can infer that the Doctor has known Zhe a long time – s/he certainly seems to be very long-lived and from this adventure and that painting, we know that at least two incarnations have known her – probably more. I’m sure she really dug the sixth Doctor’s coat and I can certainly imagine her sharing a cocktail or two with the eighth Doctor.
But as to when precisely it takes place…? “All of time and space, my dear, all of time and space…”
Nugent: You penned a story about the 10th Doctor and Rose for Doctor Who Magazine almost 10 years ago. What was it like returning to the same character at this point in his “song” (or maybe “Coda” would be more appropriate)?
Abadzis: Yes, that was strange… that was the tenth Doctor’s debut adventure in comics, and at the point that it was written, no-one knew what he was goig to be like, how David Tennant would play him! I’d seen Tennant in things before, so I recall us basing his manner, his cadences a little bit on previous performances and also, fundamentally, it’s the Doctor, it’s the same man, so there are certain basics to his charcater that are common to all incarnations of the character.
It was really lovely to be asked to write him again… Of course, by this point, I knew everything about him, how he’d lived and regenerated, so I had a much better angle on how to approach it. In my mind, he’s still very much a living breathing character, his time has not ended, that song is still going strong. I think that’s the ebst way to approach it, because it makes the threats he comes across very real and all the more terrifying.
Time can be rewritten, don’t forget…
Nugent: The idea that a harsh critic can aid in transforming a creative spirit into a lethal monster is an interesting framework for a Who adversary, as is the fact that creatives can often be their own worst enemy; how did you decide on that idea?

Abadzis: It developed naturally out of the narrative. Originally, this was going to be a story about artists becoming subsumed into a wider, greater entertainment machine, about creatives servicing a voracious alien entity, but it was just too huge for two issues and, quite correctly, the BBC and Andrew, my editor, made me slim it down to something less epic. The element common to both versions was the block-transfer sculptor Zhe, who sounded like an interesting character, so I worked more on her. I had these very visual ideas about Giacometti-style sculptures coming to life and Elena drawing these and to a certain extent, when you get an idea like that, it suggests a story. And I was right, she did a great job there, with that whole sequence of the Doctor and Gabby’s journey up to Zhe’s mansion.

And Zhe is the ultimate artist in many ways – oversensitive, but full of empathy, creative but holding herself to high standards so that when she doesn’t meet them, she feels she’s failed. She’s kind of a reflection of the Doctor in some ways, which is probably why their friends – that, and he’s a real Renaissance man too, of course.
Nugent: How are you both feeling about the recent news that your comic story line will merge with that of the eleveth and twelfth Doctors this fall in a limited series to be written by Hugo-nominated Doctor Who television writer (and longtime who fanboy) Paul Cornell?
Abadzis: I can’t answer for Elena, but I’m fine with that! I’ve read (and watched) Paul’s work for many, many years and he really is among the greats of Doctor Who writers in my opinion. He wrote Human Nature (which, if you haven’t read the original novel featuring the seventh Doctor, go buy it now)! Multi-Doctor stories are part of the tradition of Doctor Who and I get the idea they’re tough to write, but you are in extremely good hands with Paul Cornell. He’ll write a blinder.
Nugent: Are there any tantalizing story clues or tidbits you can share with our Comics Beat readers from the upcoming issues of the 10th Doctor?
Abadzis:Let’s see… we have a new “big bad” on the way, a being who isn’t deliberately out to get the Doctor but simply by virtue of his very powerful presence upsets a lot of things, keeps them out of balance. He’s not even a villain exactly, he’s a almost a victim of circumstances himself who is weary with the universe and this huge weight of responsibility he has upon his shoulders. When he encounters the Doctor, he sees a solution to his problems and wants the Doctor to help him. But it’s not the kind of help the Doctor is inclined to give…
Doctor Who: Revolutions of Terror is available in comic shops on March 25, in bookstores March 31. For more information on Gabrielle Gamboa, the inspiration for companion Gabby Gonzalez, check out Gamboa’s website: http://www.gabriellegamboa.com/

 

 

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14. Oksana Lushchevska: An International Collaboration

What a treat I have for readers today, especially those of you who, like me, enjoy following international picture books. In fact, next week is the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy (how I wish I were going!), so the timing of this post is particularly good.

Today, I welcome Oksana Lushchevska, a PhD student in Reading, Writing, Children’s Literature, and Digital Literacy in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia. She is contributing a guest post on contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature. Oksana’s doctoral research is focused on international children’s literature, and she also translates picture books from Ukraine into the English language, some of which have been awarded the Bologna Ragazzi Award. She also works with a private publishing house in Ukraine, creating bilingual picture books for children.

Oksana reached out to me to see if she could write here at 7-Imp about Ukrainian picture books. “I strongly believe that contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature might be of interest in the U. S.,” she told me, “especially bilingual picturebooks and award-winning translations.”

I was so pleased she contacted me; I’m glad to have met her, if only online; and I am grateful she is contributing this post today, especially since it’s filled with art. She calls this piece “Contemporary Ukrainian Children’s Picturebooks: Why Shouldn’t We Welcome Them?” Let’s get right to it …

* * *

Oksana: First of all, I am very thankful to Jules for this wonderful opportunity to introduce contemporary Ukrainian picturebooks on her marvelous blog, which I’ve been following for quite a while. To briefly introduce myself, I’d say that I can surely call myself a children’s literature enthusiast, and my involvement in children’s literature is multifold. I must admit that all my activities often divide my daily routines into two parts: my “Ukrainian” phase of the day and my “American” phase of the day (because of the seven-hour time difference). It is sometimes really challenging, but is also very interesting!

I am currently a third-year PhD student at the University of Georgia, researching and studying U.S. and international children’s literature. Together with my academic advisor, Dr. Jennifer Graff, I am serving as a columnist for the “How Does That Translate” column. Additionally, I regularly contribute to the IBBY European Newsletter, which focuses on contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature. From time to time, I am doing children’s book reviews for Bookbird, WOW, JoLLE, the WGRCLC Blog, and several Ukrainian literary websites.

Three years ago, my friend Valentyna Vzdulska, a Ukrainian children’s book author, and I co-established Kazkarka, a blog about children’s literature written in the Ukrainian language. A year ago, I initiated a Kickstarter project, A Step Ahead: Becoming Global with Bilingual Ukrainian-English Picturebooks, and I cherish the incomparable experience that I am gaining from it!

In my spare time, I write my own children’s books in the Ukrainian language and translate contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature into English. Also, from time to time, I work on interviews with international children’s book writers.

In this post, I would like to present five contemporary Ukrainian picturebooks. These books might effectively foster global awareness and visual literacy, broaden cultural horizons, and provide social messages with “a high degree of cultural authenticity” (Markus, 2010, p. 50). They might also serve as a set of quality titles to start communication about similarities and differences between cultures via both vibrant verbal and visual narratives.

Perhaps, the strongest picturebook that features the Ukrainian landscape is A Tale about an Old Lion, written by a popular Ukrainian poet, Marjana Savka, and illustrated by Volodymyr Shtanko. A Tale about an Old Lion is a “postcard” of the “cultural” capital of Ukraine — the city of Lviv. The main character of this book is an Old Lion who settles on a mansard of the City Hall, which is home to the City Council and is one of the most cherished symbols in Lviv. From his perch there, the Lion admires picturesque views of the Old City. Since the weather is often rainy in Lviv, the Old Lion’s ceiling starts to leak. He needs immediate assistance with its major repairs and maintenance. His friends—a Crocodile, Elephant, and Giraffe—come to Lviv to help. On their way, the guests get into a number of misfortunes and turbulences, but in the end, the Mayor of the city welcomes all of them and invites them to enjoy Lviv. The story’s ending offers a verbal invitation to tourists all over the world to come to Lviv and see with their own eyes the welcoming atmosphere of an ancient city:

Tell me, have you still not heard of the city of Lviv?
Hurry right now to book hundreds of tickets indeed.
Invite all your relatives and closest friends,
Come to Lviv soon, come to our land!
This is a city where you’re bound to be lucky,
Poets and singers think it’s just ducky!
There are squares, and cobblestones, shiny tram tracks,
And on the oldest mansard, the Lion still lives,
He drinks some tea and smokes a pipe,
And books for children he happily writes!

A Tale about an Old Lion offers not only vivid views of the city and the layouts of its famous landscapes, but also warm colors in the illustrations, brown and yellow, that depict a unique authentic state of both the old and contemporary Lviv. Since the city is often known as “the city of coffee” with its numerous coffee houses and pastry shops, this particular color palette is the best choice to recreate the aroma of the city.




(Click each image to enlarge)

A Tale about an Old Lion was published in Lviv in 2011 by the Old Lion Publishing House. The book was awarded the Best Book of the Year Award and was included in the White Raven Online Catalogue, 2012.

The bilingual picturebook “Монетка”/A Coin is written by Ania Chromova and illustrated by Anna Sarvira. This playful story offers the universal experiences of a child: activities during daycare and relationships with parents and friends. When Romko receives a coin from his mother, he takes it to his daycare. Unfortunately, Romko has a hole in his pocket, and he losses the coin without noticing. At first he gets upset, but not for long, since he acquires something much more valuable — a rewarding communication with his father, who helps him to understand that humor and imagination can be essential to overcoming misfortune. While A Tale about an Old Lion represents Lviv, “Монетка”/A Coin recreates some geographical and cultural must-see places in Kyiv, the official capital of Ukraine. This book provides a vibrant visual experience that moves readers through the pages of an unfolding story. Additionally, it is important to mention that this book was published as part of the project A Step Ahead: Becoming Global with Bilingual Ukrainian-English Picturebooks, which is an on-going bilingual picturebook project that provides some important possibilities for literacy practices and developing global awareness. With the emphasis on two languages, this book provides advantages to learn from/about Ukrainian children’s literature, to familiarize readers with the Ukrainian language, to use this literature in educational settings and Ukrainian immigrant communities, and to assist Ukrainian readers in learning the English language. It also contributes to the body of bilingual picturebooks that offer a joyful reading experience.


… “‘It looks like a dried apricot!’ said Romko. ‘It also clanks.
Mommy, may I take it to the daycare?'”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


… “‘It’s not magical, daddy. It’s not magical!
It’s holey!’ Romko grew angry. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“‘I can put the Earth in it. Or, the entire Ukraine. Together with the Dnipro River!'” …
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Another book that was published through this project is a picturebook Скільки?/How many?, a poem written by Halyna Kyrpa and illustrated by Olha Havrylova.

 


(Click to enlarge cover)


 

The text of this poem raises many philosophical questions and might stimulate deep critical thinking:

Скільки у сонця промінчиків? / How many rays does the sun have?
А скільки хмарок у небі? / And how many clouds are in the sky?
А скільки піщинок на березі річки? / How many grains of sand are there on a riverbank?
А скільки хвиль у Дніпра? / And how many waves are in the Dnipro River?


 


“How many rays does the sun have?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“And how many clouds are in the sky?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“And how many waves are in the Dnipro River?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Both “Монетка”/A Coin and Скільки?/How Many? were published in Kyiv in 2014 and 2015 by Bratske Publishers. Скільки?/How Many? is recommended by the Ukrainian “Critic’s Rating.”

A traditional Ukrainian folk tale, The Mitten, designed by Art Studio Agrafka (Andriy Lesiv and Romana Romanyshyn), is—to put it in Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles’ words (2012)—“‘the unique art’ of picturebooks” (p. 50). The story about a mitten is primarily known in the U.S. due to Jan Brett’s version.

A Ukrainian version of The Mitten was retold and recorded in the 19th century. It is a cumulative folktale that tells the story of how an old man loses his mitten in the forest and how a number of animals try to fit in it. Lesiv and Romanyshyn’s The Mitten not only has full-color illustrations, but also represents the meaningful and thoughtful process of creating a book as a cultural artifact. The designers masterfully reinterpret the traditional story and offer an adorable example of synthesis between text and image. Page by page, they demonstrate a number of design variations to introduce the artistic merits of contemporary Ukrainian illustrators and the printing technology available in Ukraine. The Mitten can generate a broad and “an effective cultural message” (Marcus, 2010, p. 49), while revealing a new version of a well-known folktale for English-speaking communities.

 




(Click each image to enlarge)


 

This picturebook was published by the Navchal’na Knyha – Bohdan Publishing House. It was included in the White Raven Catalogue, 2013 and was given an award by Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (BIB).

 

Another picturebook by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriv Lesiv, Stars and Poppy Seeds, narrates the story of a young girl, Dora, who is interested in mathematics. She is the daughter of well-known mathematicians, and she inherits her parents’ enthusiasm for figures and numbers. Dora counts everything around her: real and imagined animals, grains of rice, beads on her mother’s necklace, stars in the sky, and even poppy seeds. Figures are always in her head. While admiring the Milky Way, Dora plans to count all the particles of stardust. However, she finds this task to be impossible. Dora is upset, but her mother explains that to achieve any dream, one needs to handle challenging tasks by accomplishing small steps. Romanyshyn and Lesiv’s illustrations of mathematical, geometrical, and astronomical features connect readers with science, while emphasizing the humanities as well. Stars and Poppy Seeds was awarded the Bologna Ragazzi Award 2014 in the category of Opera Prima. It is translated into four languages (French, Korean, Spanish, and English). It was published in 2014 by the Old Lion Publishing House.

 


“Dora strove to count everything around her. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“During a walk in the park, Dora counted the leaves, dandelions, stones,
ants moving every which way, the buttons on coats of passersby,
and even the holes in those buttons.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“… Looking at the Milky Way, Dora imagined the stardust and
strove to count each of its particles.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

In a nutshell, these are five selected Ukrainian picturebooks that I wanted to share with enthusiasts of children’s literature, but there are many, many others! Additionally, I want to say that the English translations of the texts of these picturebooks are available. Starting in the summer of 2013, I co-translated these picturebooks, together with Michael M. Naydan, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, and cherish a wish that one day these books will be published in the U.S. and reach U.S. readers.

In her article “Where Worlds Meet,” Maria Machado (2011) reinterprets the possibility of building and extending an understanding of humankind by touching on the marvelous diversity between cultures (p. 397). She believes that representing the art of literature created all over the world will provide opportunities to cross borders, to meet neighbors, to get to know different people, and to see a variety of landscapes. Moreover, it will offer the possibility of fueling readers with unknown languages and authentic reflections of their otherness. Machado raises the question: “… why not meet otherness through what otherness creates?” (p. 398). Indeed, I believe that the best way to represent the rich experiences of voices from many countries is to translate and read what is created and written in them. In this scope, contemporary picturebooks for children from Ukraine not only represent creative approaches and perspectives of Ukrainian authors and artists, but invite readers to enjoy many exciting literary journeys. Today, Ukrainian children’s literature strives to claim its place on the international stage, so why shouldn’t we welcome it?

References

  • Khromova, A. (2015). “Монетка”/A coin. Kyiv, Ukraine: Bratske Publishers.
  • Kyrpa, H. (2014). Скільки?/How many? Kyiv, Ukraine: Bratske Publishers.
  • Machado, A.M. (2010). “Where worlds meet.” In Shelby Wolf et al. (Eds.), Handbook of research on children’s and young adult literature (pp. 397-403). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Marcus, L. S. (2010). “Outside over where?: Foreign picture books and the dream of global awareness.” The Horn Book, 86(6), 45.
  • Romanyshyn, R., & Lesiv, A. (2012). The mitten. Ternopil, Ukraine: Navchal’na Knyha – Bohdan.
  • Romanyshyn, R., & Lesiv, A. (2014) Stars and poppy seeds. Lviv, Ukraine: Old Lion Publishing House.
  • Savka, M. (2011). A tale of old lion. Lviv, Ukraine: Old Lion Publishing House.

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15. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #424: Featuring C. G. Esperanza


“With her trunk she grabbed a brush and joined my little game.”


 

This morning at 7-Imp, I welcome artist C. G. Esperanza (Charles, pictured right), whose newest book is from Sky Pony Press. Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White, Too!), a promising author-illustrator debut, was released this month. Charles has previously illustrated Tania Grossinger’s Jackie and Me: A Very Special Friendship (Sky Pony Press, 2013), a story that is partly about famed baseball player Jackie Robinson, and he lives in the South Bronx. He tells me and 7-Imp readers more about himself below, and we get to take a look at some more art from Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White, Too!), as well as some early sketches from the book and a few of his other portfolio pieces.

I thank him for visiting.

P.S. If you want to read Charles’ thoughts on why picture books are the new Hip Hop, head over to his piece at Afropunk

.

 

Jules: Can you talk about the seeds of this story, Red, Yellow, Blue … and how the story came to you?

Charles: I actually thought of the story back in my art school days, when I realized a lot of my non-artistic friends didn’t know the primary colors and how to make secondary colors. So I decided to make a picture book about the primary colors that would be cool enough for adults to read and would perhaps inspire people to express themselves artistically. I decided to design the main character after my sister Crystal, who was seven years old at the time, after I saw her running around the house with her gigantic afro and writing her name on everything in crayon. For the first version I created in Eric Velasquez’s picture book class, I used her as a model. Since then, I’ve revised the story multiple times — and added her big blue elephant friend, Elebooyah.


(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“Like a PINK dinosaur that can bite!”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“BLOOO BLOB BLUB! This mix made a muddy GREENISH GRAY
Like an ugly mud monster!
GRAAAAH is all he could say.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

Jules: You live in the South Bronx, yes? How do you think the Bronx has influenced your work, if at all?

Charles: I do live in the South Bronx. So does most of my family. For a long time I was ashamed of being from there. I didn’t learn to appreciate it till I met people in college from around the world, who had never been there before and were fascinated that I was from there. I became more interested in the history of these neighborhoods. They were once filled with beautiful mansions owned by the famous Tiffany heirs — and meadows that were demolished, burned, vandalized, and now rebuilt. I couldn’t help but let it all inspire me! My art is influenced by the hand-painted Bodega signs; the beautiful, vintage, abandoned architecture covered with colorful burners; the colorful bottles that sit on top of the old Puerto Rican dude’s Piragua cart; and all of the other untold stories waiting to be told.






Early sketches from Red, Yellow, Blue …
(Click each to enlarge)


 


Early cover
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Who are some artists/illustrators who inspire you?

Charles: Jerry Pinkney’s amazing drawings full of imagination and color; Kadir Nelson’s stylized, powerful expression; Adam Rex’s edgy, whimsical characters; and Ezra Jack Keats’ gritty, simplistic, yet complex execution and ability to see the world through a different perspective all inspired and shaped my voice as a picture book illustrator.


Nelson Mandela, a 2012 piece from the Paint It Black series
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: What else inspires you?

Charles: There’s something inspirational about things like a dirty ice cream truck loudly playing a slightly warped, melodic tune, as children chase it down the street, or a beautifully sculpted statue, decorated with bird droppings, that really gets me going. The undiscovered beauty of something that is ugly or imperfect. I like to see the potential and emphasize its beauty.


(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Explain how you’re a “Visual Emcee,” as mentioned in the AfroPunk piece.

Charles: I once had a vision of Sam I am and Will I am eating green eggs and ham and then BAM! Hip Hop and street art were the fists of a Bronx-born spawn; with one fist the message was shouted and with the other it was drawn. Nothing Gold can stay, especially when it turns Green. So Hip Hop and Street art parted ways at the seams. Or at least that’s how it seems, until you take another look! I’ve brought Rhythmic poetry and Art back together in Picture Books!

Jules: I see at your blog that your father is West Indian and your mother is Puerto Rican. Do you think that (or they) influence your work in any way?

Charles: My parents are very Americanized, so they never really introduced me to their native cultures. But Heriberta, my grandmother who grew up in Borinquen, definitely inspires me. Her chairs are decorated with the finest wood-carved rococo designs and floral patterns on the cushions. Her wardrobe is filled with art nouveau textiles and pastel colors. She’s always loved collecting dolls and listening to Celia Cruz. She’s also very funny!


Percy Julian, a 2012 piece from the Paint It Black series
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: When did you know you wanted to illustrate picture books? What are the biggest joys of it for you? The biggest challenges?

Charles: Fortunately, I met Eric Velasquez while taking his Picture Book Illustration class. He reintroduced (or, in some cases, introduced) many of the students in his class to Jerry Pinkney’s, Shel Silverstein, David Wiesner, and E.B. Lewis. But it was after I saw Eric’s work in the book The Rain Stomper [by Addie Boswell] that I knew this was something I wanted to pursue.

 



 

The greatest joy of making picture books is making books that change people’s perspectives on what a children’s book should be. Also, being able to tell stories is great. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is trying to do things the way I want, while still pleasing my mentors, editors, peers etc. Thankfully, they all seem to love what I’ve done so far!

Jules: Any new projects you can talk about and/or anything you’re really eager to do next?

Charles: The boom bap beat in my head continues to loop, just waiting for a new rhythmic stanza that tells a story everyone can enjoy. I am having discussions with a couple of popular rappers about possibly collaborating on a fun story, using hip hop style rhymes that speak to the new generation of kids who love hip hop — and the older generation that loved Dr. Seuss and Slick Rick.


– From Tania Grossinger’s
Jackie and Me: A Very Special Friendship


(Sky Pony Press, 2013)
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Anything else you want to add? What’d I forget to ask you?

Charles: I am very honored to contribute my voice to the amazing culture of picture books and to be talking about my work on Seven Imp! I consider this blog to be the best for discovering how awesome picture books can be. I hope to inspire everyone, especially people in the Bronx, where few are exposed to the visual arts. Also, I would love to adapt Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White, Too!) into a film. So, if Alejandro Jodorowsky or Ben Zeitlin are reading this, call me!


(Click to enlarge photo of Charles)

RED, YELLOW, BLUE (AND A DASH OF WHITE, TOO!) Copyright © 2015 by Charles George Esperanza. Published by Sky Pony Press, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Charles.

Photos of Charles taken by Manny Sy and used by Charles’ permission.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I appreciate Charles’ kind words, and his art woke me RIGHT UP before I even had coffee.

2) Starting a project I should have started a good while ago.

3) My girls and I are reading Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird. We are enjoying it, and check out the beautiful cover art from Sophie Blackall:

4) Laura Marling’s South X lullaby at NPR.

5) Laura’s new CD is playing in its entirety here, and it’s good stuff.

6) We saw Song of the Sea on the big screen. Holy WOW, such beautiful animation.

7) We also saw What We Do in the Shadows. So funny, this movie.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #424: Featuring C. G. Esperanza, last added: 3/22/2015
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16. Interview: James Kochalka conjures up the latest adventure of The Glorkian Warrior

Glorkian-Cov-300rgb

By Cal Cleary and Harper Harris

James Kochalka, the first Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont and an Ignatz and Harvey award winner, has had quite a varied career, ranging from fronting his own band (James Kochalka Rockstar), to creating comics, to collaborating on video games. His long running online comic strip American Elf continues to have a strong fan base, and his SuperF*ckers comic book has become a popular animated series on YouTube’s Cartoon Hangover channel. His newest work, the Glorkian Warrior series, sees the release of both a video game based on its characters and the second book in the series, The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie. We got a chance to chat with Kochalka regarding his career as well as his lovably bumbling hero, the Glorkian Warrior.

How did you get started as a cartoonist? 

Professionally?  Well, that road began when I bought an early issue of Eightball by Dan Clowes.  Then, a couple months later I saw there was an interview with him in The Comics Journal, so I bought that.  I had never encountered that magazine before.  In The Comics Journal I think I saw something about some mini comic, and decided to order it through the mail.  Before very long I trading my own mini comics with other cartoonists through the mail, and soon after that I was a full time professional cartoonist.  It all happened within a period of about two years or so… from discovering Eightball to becoming a professional cartoonist and quitting my job as a waiter at a Chinese restaurant.

Did you read a lot of comics as a kid, or was it something you got into later as an artist? 

Excerpt from The Blue Drip (1976)

Excerpt from The Blue Drip (1976)

I read them constantly as a kid, and drew them constantly too.  I have over 2000 pages of comics saved that I drew when I was a kid.  There was only a very brief period of not drawing comics… the first couple years of college I didn’t draw any comics, but the rest of my life I was always working on something.  Long before I knew that mini comics were a “thing” I was making them and selling them to my friends at school.  I drew my first graphic novel when I was a kid in the 1970’s… which probably marks it as one of the first graphic novels ever drawn, although noone has seen it beyond one of my childhood friends.

The Glorkian Warrior has been a resilient idea, starting with a short comic for Pop Gun, going into a Kickstarter-funded video game with Pixeljam (Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork), before your current three-book deal. What is it that keeps bringing you back to Glork?

I just love to draw him.  As soon as I did the first little doodle of the guy, he just felt so real to me, so alive.  Basically that’s how I create my characters, I just doodle until one of the doodles has an undeniable spark of life.

Now, with Glorkian Warrior… I was working on this at the same time I was working on my autobiographic comic, the American Elf diary strip.  And then when I quit American Elf, and my elf-avator stand-in was gone, I suddenly started to think of Glork as my stand-in.  The spark of life that Glorkian Warrior has is my spark of life.  What makes me a living being is the same thing that imbues Glorkian Warrior with life.

I hope that doesn’t sound too weird.  I just like to draw him.  He’s elastic and springy, and he does silly things.

What made you go with First Second as a publisher for the Glorkian Warrior series?

Excerpt from The Blue Drip (1976)

I thought the book would fit in well with their line, and I wanted to see what a new publisher could do for me.  I asked Top Shelf’s advice before bringing it to another publisher, and they were all for it.  I don’t need permission to do books with other publishers, but I always talk it over with Chris Staros before I do.

Your work has had lots of multimedia crossover…with SuperF*ckers you had the animated series (which you did a voice on too), and with Glorkian Warrior you’ve got the video game. Were these things you thought of initially when formulating the characters, or just natural extensions of the kinds of stories you wanted to tell?

Glorkian-300rgbI just love making art, music, anything. I just like making stuff, anything, all the time.  I like writing songs, I like making sand castles, I like inventing new recipes, I like to draw, I like to design board games, I like to invent drawing games.  I also like to move my body and dance, or swim, or hike in the woods.  I just feel like a creative, active life is more fun.

Regarding, Glorkian Warrior I came up with the basic idea for the video game before I started drawing the comics, but then I started drawing the comics before I started actually making the game.

You’ve obviously got a pretty wide range of work…what was it like going from something like SuperF*ckers to Glorkian Warrior? 

Easy.  The transition is easy.  Whether I’m working on books for adults or books for kids I feel like I’m still exploring the fundamentals of human nature.

What inspired you to write books aimed at a younger audience?

First it was accidental.  I wrote Monkey Vs. Robot and Peanutbutter & Jeremy and Pinky & Stinky thinking I was making them for an adult audience.  Kids just happened to like them.  Then once I had my own kids I started drawing books with them in mind as my target audience.  So the Johnny BooDragon Puncher, and Glorkian Warrior books were all written as bedtime stories for my own kids.

You were Vermont’s first Cartoonist Laureate. What was that experience like?

It was like being named the State Flower.  I’ve always been proud of being a Vermonter, but it was an amazing feelingGlorkianWarriorII-sampler_Page_3 to think Vermont is proud of ME.  Honestly, it just felt so good I think the good feeling might last the rest of my lifetime if I’m lucky.  And every time a new Cartoonist Laureate is named, I feel like I’m being honored all over again.  Ed Koren, the amazing New Yorker cartoonist, is the current Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont.  He’s also a volunteer fireman in the town where he lives.  Anyhow, he called me up for advice a few times leading up to his inauguration.  It was rather amazing to be in the position of offering advice to such a seasoned master of cartooning.  Oh, and we did a drawing together about it.  That was really fun.

One of the most charming things about the Glorkian Warrior stories is the fantastic hand lettering. Do you feel lettering plays a strong role in the way you tell stories? 

Yes!  Oh thank you so much.  I’ve been waiting for the last twenty years for someone to notice that there is something special about my lettering.  Secretly I’ve always coveted a “best lettering” Eisner award, I don’t know why.  Partly because it’s probably the worst Eisner award, the most laughable.  But also because lettering is actually incredibly important in comics.  Meaning is conveyed through the artistry of the lettering, or at least it can be if you do it well.  I try to use my lettering to convey emotion, it’s one more tool to that effect in addition to the words themselves and of course the drawings.

I also letter with a brush and ink, which I think very few people do.  Most letter with a pen.  And I know why, it’s because lettering with a brush is outrageously difficult.  For several years I’ve inked my taxes with a brush and ink… but that’s probably a colossal waste of my time.

What is your technique when it comes to illustrating the Glorkian Warrior books? Have you found your style changing dramatically with new technology?

I draw with a brush and india ink, but I do all the coloring on the computer.  I use a Cintiq, so I can draw the color right on the screen.  So, all the swirling colors in the backgrounds of the Glorkian Warrior books were drawn on the Cintiq screen, in photoshop.  Yeah, that’s a big change.  I wouldn’t be able to do that without the Cintiq or something like it.

The Glorkian Warrior stories tend to have an interesting shaggy dog structure. How do you go about plotting these stories? And how hungry are you when you’re writing them?

I write them fairly stream-of-consciousness style, and then I go back and edit to give them some kind of narrative structure.  There’s just enough, I think, so you feel like maybe something actually happened.

I’m hungry all the time, except when I’m drawing or when I’m full.

What were your inspirations for the original characters Glorkian Warrior and Super Backpack? Are you drawing from any other bumbling hero analogs? 

James.KochalkaIt comes from me carrying my sons on my back or shoulders when they were little.  I sometimes still like to lift my 11 year-old up on my shoulders and carry him around.  I plan to continue to carry them both until I’m just not physically able.  Anyhow, I’m the bumbling hero.  The bumbling hero is me.

By the end of the third book it should be clear that the Glorkian Warrior graphic novels are a sprawling metaphor about fatherhood and raising children.

I know you’re passionate about video games, and Baby Alien seems like the cutest homage to Super Metroid I’ve ever seen. Do you have any plans or hopes to work on another video game anytime soon?

Yeah, I love the baby Metroid from Metroid 2.  I was definitely inspired by that for Baby Alien.  I also took inspiration from Space Invaders and also my cats.  My Baby Alien is like a space invader with a cute kitten face who sucks on your head like a baby Metroid.

Gosh I hope I make another video game.  I’ve been designing some games, but I need to find a developer who’s willing to take them on and work with me.  But if Glorkian Warrior is the only commercial video game I ever make, at least I had fun and it’s a good one.  I’ll never stop designing new games in my mind, though.

A few years ago I invented a new version of chess that I’d like to turn into an iPad app, and I may have just found GlorkianWarriorII-sampler_Page_4some guys who want to make it.  We’ll see if they can handle it.  Last year I invented a really cool new way for three people to play tic-tac-toe.  I amaze myself with this stuff, probably more than I amaze anyone else.

What can readers look forward to in the third volume of Glorkian Warrior?

Gonk joins the Junior Junior Glorkian Warriors, we finally meet the Glorkian Super Grandma, and there’s a new villain introduced: Quackaboodle the Space God.

Any other upcoming projects you’re excited for readers to get their hands on?

Yes!  I’m making another animated cartoon, a short pilot episode, for a major kids network.  I think I’m not supposed to talk about it, and it’s killing me to keep quiet.

The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie will arrive in stores near you from First Second on March 17th.

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17. Fuse #8 TV: Henry Clark and The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens

I’m a sucker for a good time travel story.  By my count only a few have ever won the Newbery (is it two or three? You decide).  Fewer still have won the National Book Award in the youth category.  Even so, they live in a special place in my heart.  So to hear that a book has the title The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens . . . well that’s a near impossible title to resist, is it not?  This week on Fuse #8 TV I interview Henry Clark, but only after I tell you the terrible secret lurking in your copy of Go, Dog, Go.

By the way, this episode was very fun to record.  Too fun, in fact.  Under normal circumstances I can remember to thank my sponsor and to place their title card at the end of each episode.  This time I was so wowed by the prospect of coffee cups and what have you that it completely skipped my mind.  So a big hearty THANK YOU to Little, Brown for Mr. Clark’s presence.  Here is the slide I forgot to project:

And here is SLJ’s info:

As you can see, all the Fuse #8 TV episodes are archived here.

A tip of the hat to all parties involved!

 

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18. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Michel Fiffe

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Michel Fiffe has just released the second collection of his self-published comic book hit, COPRA: Round Two. Launched in 2012, COPRA was Michel Fiffe’s dream project inspired by Ostrander & Yale’s memorable Suicide Squad series from the late 80’s/early 90’s. It’s about an eclectic group of super-powered “agents” out for revenge after one of their own betrays them. Fiffe self-publishes COPRA in small batches, and sells them on his Etsy shop here. The comics are eventually collected into volumes published by Bergen Street Comics.

Previously, Michel Fiffe published his personal comics anthology Zegas, an infamous Suicide Squad tribute comic Death Zone, and various contributions to independent anthologies.

Fiffe creates his art using various media including brush, pen, ink, watercolor, color dyes, color pencils, paint, nibs, marker, pencil, etc. etc.

You can keep up with all things Fiffe at his blog here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

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19. Danny Gregory interviewed me about one of my favorite subjects: making art with kids

Sketchbook Skool Q&Art video interview

Well, this was quite a treat. My recent post on ways to encourage a family art habit caught the eye of folks at Sketchbook Skool, which led to my being interviewed by Danny Gregory for a Q&Art video. As an eager viewer of this excellent video series, I was delighted to find myself chatting with an artist whose books and classes (I mean klasses) have been a tremendous source of inspiration and education for me. What a joy. Danny asked me for advice on encouraging creativity in children—one of my pet topics, as you know!

(Not included in the video: the two minutes of Rilla bouncing up and down in her overwhelming glee at meeting Danny, one of her heroes, via Skype just before we began the recording. She was absolutely starstruck. :) )

(direct link)

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20. Erik Larson: The Powells.com Interview

I've been a fan of Erik Larson's riveting brand of narrative history for years, and his latest book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, is his finest work yet. Suspenseful and expertly researched, Dead Wake transports the reader to the Atlantic theatre of WWI, where the luxury passenger liner Lusitania and a German [...]

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21. Claire Fuller: The Powells.com Interview

Our Endless Numbered Days tells the story of eight-year-old Peggy and her survivalist father, James, who inexplicably leave behind their London home and start a new life in an isolated cabin in the woods. Both stylistically rendered and deliberately paced, this book is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the ability [...]

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22. A Visit with Darren Farrell

Author-illustrator Darren Farrell (or is it Shel Silverstein?) visits 7-Imp this morning to talk about his work and to give me a sneak-peek at his upcoming 2015 book, Stop Following Me, Moon! (pictured above). I asked him about his inspirations, and then he took it from there, as you’ll see below.

This is Darren’s third picture book, his most recent being last year’s Thank You, Octopus! from Dial Books, which the Horn Book described as a “hilarious nautical comedy of errors.” And never was there a weirder or more wonderful bedtime companion than Octopus. Bleep, blarp, bloop.

Let’s get right to it. I thank Shel Darren for visiting.

* * *

What inspires me? John Oliver, street art, Oliver Jeffers, hip hop, jazz, skate videos, Mo Willems, The Monster At The End Of This Book, heaps of yogurt, writing in a notebook while commuting on public transportation, hanging out with my family, the New York Times, church, and—right now—the color purple (not the book, although it is fabulous, but the actual color purple).

My original inspirations were Hong Kong artists Michael Lau and Eric So, mixed with the minimalist black and white work of Shel Silverstein. I set out to create odd characters who had a unique, asymmetrical design. I didn’t want them to be perfectly cute or perfectly symmetrical. And so I gravitated toward a design with one huge pink eye and one dot eye. To me that felt cool and strange and graphically strong. People I showed those early big eye characters to really seemed to like them, and so I kept working on that style. Originally, I intended to make black and white illustrations, where the only color was that big pink eye.


Darren: “A very early Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib spread,
where he was still a wild haired human and before he turned into a colorful sheep.”

(Click to enlarge)


Darren: “Doug-Dennis as a colorful, cutie sheep
– still with the pink eye”

(Click to enlarge)

Ultimately, I began to explore color, and today color is one aspect of creating a book that I most enjoy. Honing a color palette, trying to tighten everything into a cohesive color theme — this is something I spend loads of time on, mostly because I do not know what I am doing and I just keep working until my eyes are happy.

For the opening endpaper of my latest book, Thank You, Octopus, I tried oodles of color combinations for the city and the sunset. I wanted four shades of the same color — with the buildings and trees reflecting the sky and blending into the it. I tried a chocolate city with a creamy sky, an all-pink city with a dark pink sky. So many different versions. I finally landed on a yellow city with a deep golden sky, and I just fell in love with it. From here, the gold worked its way into my Thank You, Octopus color palette and was used throughout the book.


Opening endpapers from Thank You, Octopus
(Click to enlarge)



 

My next book, Stop Following Me, Moon! [Dial, Winter 2015], has a grape-jelly color scheme with lots of plums, mauves, lavenders, and deep grayish purples.


Page from the beginning of Stop Following Me, Moon!
(Click to enlarge)

I also experimented with a new shading concept in Stop Following Me, Moon!, which was loosely inspired by vintage Missoni prints. I added bands and waves of shade to almost everything on each page. So the colors get several steps deeper as they move away from the moon. Usually, there are two waves on each item for three shades of deepening color.

The act of shading Stop Following Me, Moon! was for me almost an exercise in Zen meditation, as I made wave after wave of color and shadow.


Where the Stop Following Me, Moon! mayhem begins
(Click to enlarge)

Stop Following Me, Moon! was inspired by a taxi ride in Seoul, South Korea. My wife, son, and I were riding home from dinner, and as we wound around one of Seoul’s elevated expressways, we kept watching the moon dodge in and out between the tall apartment buildings. My son was three at the time, and so we talked about how the moon was following us — and I watched his eyes as he kept searching for it while we drove along.


Darren: “A Seoul taxi. They come in silver, white, orange and fancy black ones,
which charge extra $$ for being extra fancy”

My son’s fascination stayed with me, and almost immediately what popped into my head was, wow, what is you don’t want the moon to be following you? I mean, who wants something following them around all night long!? And I just imagined this crazed bear out in the woods, running away from the moon and yelling these funny outbursts up at the moon in a hopeless effort to escape.

We get to see toward the end of the book how this bear feels when the moon actually does “listen” to him.

Stop Following Me, Moon! is a really nice and silly way to begin a discussion about how and why the moon follows you around all night long. It’s also a book about sharing, so hopefully it will generate good discussions about what it means to be a kind friend.

Here’s how a Stop Following Me, Moon! page comes together for me:

1. A rough pencil sketch. Here, we see the bear running almost directly into the camera, right through a picnic two beavers are having.


(Click to enlarge)

2. I block everything out in greys, full-size on my computer, and take measurements so that I know roughly how large everything needs to be.


(Click to enlarge)

3. I draw everything by hand—in pencil, item by item—and add everything to the page, based on the measurements I took earlier. And one by one, the grey items disappear — and the final pencils take their places.


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4. I color.


(Click to enlarge)

5. I shade.


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6. I refine the colors and fine-tune the shading and build on the artwork and the layout — until I am completely happy with everything right up until the very end. Here, I revised the hills and the shape of the bear and played with the colors and shading quite a bit.


(Click to enlarge)

7. I add the final type. Here, I swapped in a new line to help set up the story in a stronger way and give the bear’s dialogue slightly better pacing.


(Click to enlarge)

Speaking of type: When I make my type, I use a combination of hand and digital. First, I lay the words out in a chunky typeface to use as a guide. Then I hand-make all of the type. And last, I digitally fill the hand-made type with a color and take away my line work. What’s left is a hand-made type that sort of looks like it is cut out with scissors.


(Click to enlarge)

P.S. I’ve made an awesome new Letters for Kids over at The Rumpus. You can check out the first page of my four-page letter below. It’s hand-made by me, and it features my delicious recipe for Bulgogi (Korean BBQ), plus other stories and fun things I’ve experienced in Seoul. Head to The Rumpus and subscribe to Letters for Kids! It’s an exciting (and super affordable) program to join. You’ll receive two real live letters from two real live authors or illustrators each month. We’re talking real paper letters you can hold in your hand, delivered conveniently to that box your mail appears in (whatever that box is called, I can’t remember).

My letter goes out in March or April, so sign up soon!


(Click to enlarge)

And you can always check out more of my sketches, work, and ideas at darren-farrell.com.

By the way, I was so happy to read in Wild Things! that you are all big fans of the Shel Silverstein author photos. I made a vain attempt at Penguin allowing me to use this below with the subheading “My Shel Silverstein Years,” along with a regular photo that I guess read something like, “My Me Years.” Here’s the official Shel photo so you can see the side-by-side twin-ness. Uncanny, no?



 

* * * * * * *

All images here are reproduced by permission of Darren Farrell.

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23. Interview: Eric Trautmann on Designing Worlds with Greg Rucka and Making His Own

Eric Trautmann is probably currently best known in the comics industry for his collaborations with comics author and novelist Greg Rucka, originally as an editor and sometimes co-writer. Most recently, though, he has been working with the co-creator of Lazarus and Lady Sabre as a graphic designer. Trainman flaunts his impressive design skills in the pages and back matter of Image series Lazarus, as well as on the Pocket Guide bonus reward from Rucka’s Lady Sabre Kickstarter. I spoke to Eric Trautmann to learn more about the role of design in comics and the man himself.

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How did you first connect with Greg Rucka?
When I was still working at Microsoft, part of my job was creating a publishing program for the Perfect Dark franchise. I was a huge fan of WhiteoutQueen & Country and the Atticus Kodiak books that Greg had authored, and to my mind there was no one else better suited to the task of writing our near-future corporate war dystopia. So, when I was finally given the go-ahead to approach Greg about the work, I introduced myself at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, and he was definitely interested. (I wasn’t allowed to actually name Perfect Dark yet, because the title hadn’t been announced as an Xbox 360 launch title, but I hinted strongly, and he reacted with appropriate manic fervor.)

Of course, it took months for the agreement with the book publisher to be completed, and by that point, Greg assumed the project died.

At the same convention, my wife invited him as a guest signer at the comic shop she owns (Olympic Cards & Comics in Lacey, WA), so I re-introduced myself to him. By that point, the publishing contract was done, and we were off to the races.

His two Perfect Dark novels paved the way for me to con…I mean convince… my bosses I should be allowed to write a tie-in comic series, and I slotted it right between Greg’s two novels. Between my edits on his novel manuscripts and the work I did on the comic series — and the fact that we hit it off pretty well — he later asked for me to help co-write Checkmate with him at DC.

The rest, as they say, is history.

What kind of discussions did you have with him to understand the complex world of Lazarus?
I was pulled onto Lazarus fairly late in the game; issue one was basically done, and they just needed someone to handle basic book design chores—typesetting of the letter column, the indicia, the inside back cover, and so on. So, I read issue one and had a pretty good handle on the tone Greg and Michael were looking for.

But, by issue two, I didn’t have a lot of design sketches or material like that to play with as incidental art for the letter column. I came up with the idea of the timeline that ran in the margins, which in turn led to lots of face-to-face and phone meetings to decide what material would be included. As with most of my half-baked schemes, it became a rather massive undertaking. Greg and I work well together, so he’ll often call, Skype, e-mail, etc. and we’ll hash out whatever background or story concern he has. I’m sort of a part-time back-up developmental editor, on a fairly small scale.

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What are top priorities when you’re designing the fake ads for Lazarus?
First, I want them to look authentic; I’ll research ad styles in various era/cultures to try to inject if not accuracy, then at lease verisimilitude. Then, I want them to underscore something about the setting, that edge of creeping corporate hegemony. And then, I try to inject just a little bit of black humor—slogans that sound just slightly over the top with latent villainy, for example. (That typically curdles a bit when you see or read something almost exactly like it in the real world.)

For the Hock ad, for example, they’re selling a visual acuity enhancer, and the list of side effects is long and horrible. It’s good for a bit of a laugh if you’re a bleak-minded fellow like me. Except, that list 99% culled from a list of actual side effects from contemporary visual acuity enhancements already on the market today.

That’s basically my “process” for the ads.

How do you effectively incorporate your design within the sequential pages themselves?For the interior art, my contribution is limited almost exclusively to computer screens, targeting reticles, and so on (with the odd signage for Hock thrown in). I whip the designs up based on Michael’s needs and the script’s descriptions, and Michael handles the actual integration on to the finished page.

I think it’s the dream of every world builder to have a map like the one in the Lazarus hardcover. How much work, and what kind, go into mapmaking?

Oh, lord, it took forever (no pun intended).

It started on Greg’s back porch, as we drank rye whiskey and used colored pencils and crayons to divide the world up on a photocopied map. After that, I brought the sketch into Adobe Illustrator, and began manipulating an old vector art map I’d purchased a decade ago, gradually building it into the final piece. It was fiddly work on a massive file, which I’m about to have to re-do again, if you’ve read issue 16.

Pardon the sobbing.

Is it satisfying seeing your designs in print form, like in the Lazarus comics and collections and with the patch?

Absolutely. I’m primarily a writer, but I periodically get the urge to make physical things. The hardcover was a massive undertaking, and I had to learn how to do a bunch of stuff I’d never done before—the spot gloss on the cover, the endpapers, and so forth. It was a bit of white-knuckle terror; I didn’t want to make some horrible mistake and cost us thousands of dollars, but it was also a lot of fun to learn some new skills.

(The patch, I should add, is actually Michael’s design. I did all the other Family crests, but they spring from his original template, the Carlyle family insigne.)

Pocket Guide Cover

The worldbuilding and design is meant to be in service to the story. How specifically do you think your design work serves the story being told in the pages of Lazarus?
I’m probably a little too close to it to judge it fairly. I view what I do as something that should be, for the most part, as seamless and invisible as possible. My contribution should be seamless—if it looks tacked on or out of place, I probably over- or under-designed it. My job is to, in whatever way I can, serve Greg’s story and Michael’s art.

In terms of specifics, I think the best integration was in issue 10: all the Hock signage works really well with Michael’s pages, but they’re there to sell the mood, the tone, the grimness and general awfulness of living under Hock’s rule.

You also designed Edwin Windsheer’s Pocket Guide for Ruck’a Lady Sabre Kickstarter. What were the challenges of designing a book of such a compact size?
There were many. Readability was a big concern, since there was a lot of text and not a lot of space. Plus, using vintage typography has its own readability challenges. I spent a lot of time looking at scans of old British newspapers and an old Sherlock Holmes hardcover my parents gave me a long time ago; it reproduced some pages from the Strand magazine, and I took a lot of my cues from that.

What kind of research did you do to make sure the pocket guide was historically accurate?
Lots of looking at books in my personal library, lots of Google image searches, that kind of thing. As for accuracy, I wasn’t too concerned, since we’re dealing with a world where people zip around in flying boats.

Who are some of your biggest design influences, in and outside of comics?
Howard Chaykin, for sure. His page constructions are unassailably clean and clever, as is his use of type.

As for specific design influences, probably very few individuals, but I do love styles—Art Deco is a favorite of mine, as well as Art Nouveau.

Pocket Guide Back Cover

What are your thoughts on the state of design in the comics industry?
It depends on where you’re looking. Big Two design has sort of calcified into a sort of lockstep “Logo up top, corporate brand upper left, UPC code down here” kind of template. There’s areas of individual excellence, for sure, but for the really interesting moves, Image Comics and Oni Press seem to be doing really neat things. The aesthetic on Saga is very clean and pretty (and had no small influence on our own approach on Lazarus); same for Low and Drifter. And the strongly graphic look of books like Letter 44‘s and The Fuse‘s trade paperbacks is just fantastic. The Fuse‘s TPB cover is more or less an infographic, something I couldn’t imagine on a Marvel or DC book, and it doesn’t just stand out on the shelf, it sings opera at you. Bitch Planet referencing old comics and grindhouse movie posters is another title that doesn’t really look like anything else out there while simultaneously managing to be totally familiar. That’s a hell of a trick.

And then look at ODY-C. Trippy, well-designed, ambitious. As a physical artifact, without reading a word of the story, it is gloriously eye-catching.

I love that. That’s exciting.

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How would you like to improve as a graphic designer? Are there things you want to do in books like Lazarus and the Pocket Guide but don’t feel ready for?

(Laughs) I generally feel unqualified to do just about anything I’ve ever done.

I try to push a little bit past my default skill set on just about every project I do. For example, I had never done a spot varnish cover before, where varnish is applied to specific areas on the cover image to make them shiny, while leaving other parts of the image matte. When Greg and Michael mentioned, “Oh, yeah, we’re gonna do a spot varnish cover on the Lazarus hardcover,” I maybe — perhaps — panicked a little bit. But that’s part of the fun: learning how to do new stuff. I asked the Image guys a million questions, and probably drove them nuts, but I know how to do it now, and fortunately, I didn’t mess it up on that cover.

I don’t have any specifics about stuff I tried or wanted to do that didn’t make it to press. The closest was the “Family D’Souza” ad I did for Lazarus. It’s a late ’60s-early ’70s ad for a large South American meat producer/packager. I found some stock art of a steak, and digitally repainted it into a piece of stake in the shape of South America. There was a lot more manipulation of the image than I’d done before, and I was concerned that it wouldn’t play. Happily, it seemed to click with the rest of the team. But, yeah, that one was nerve-wracking.

You’re not just a designer of comics, you’re also a writer of them. What are you currently working on?
I just wrapped up some short pieces for Dynamite, contributing to their “#100″ issues for both Red Sonja and Vampirella, titles I’d done extended runs on; I’m also hard at work on a comics story with Greg Rucka, to be illustrated by Matthew Clark, but it’s probably too soon to talk much about that one.

You’ve been mainly employing your design skills in comics on Greg Rucka’s titles. Do you have any interest in using them to build your own worlds?

Most of what I’ve done thus far is work-for-hire. I did sneak some stuff into various DC projects. The “Code Zoo” in Checkmate/Final Crisis: Resist is a good example; the concept was that Checkmate, DC’s global espionage/peacekeeping organization had a repository for various rogue AIs, alien operating systems, and other harmful, aggressive code that they’d managed to scoop up over the years. To represent that, there were various icons/screens to show what was being stored—a Thanagarian navigation AI, a bit of Kryptonian “Eradicator” code, a Durlan communications program, and so on. I whipped up designs and included them with the script, and the art teams on those issues (Chris Samnee on Checkmate #17, Marco Rudy on Resist) incorporated them into the final art.

I’ve yet to tackle a creator owned series (knock wood, that’s later this year), and when I do, you can bet I’ll be handling a lot of that kind of work.

Over on ComiXology, our long-stalled digital comic, Frost: Rogue State (co-created with Brandon Jerwa and artist Giovanni Timpano) features a lot of the same kind of work I do on Lazarus: I designed the logo, lay out the covers and credits page, lay out the backmatter and so on.

The tl;dr answer is “Yes. Yes, I do have that interest.”

 

You can learn more about Eric Trautmann at his website and online portfolio, and follow him via social media on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

4 Comments on Interview: Eric Trautmann on Designing Worlds with Greg Rucka and Making His Own, last added: 3/11/2015
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24. Interview: Chip Zdarsky on Howard The Duck “I can’t think about these ducks and their pants!”

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[The most unlikely comeback of 2014 may just have been Howard the Duck’s cameo at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy. A cult character who first appeared in a 1973 issue of Man Thing, he went on to become one of Steve Gerber’s most memorable creations, fricasséeing the Marvel Universe and contemporary culture. A 1986 film produced by George Lucas became a legendary bomb however, and a successful lawsuit by Disney over copyright infringement led to Howard permanently donning pants and getting a facial makeover. (Howard was also the center of various ownership battles over the years between Gerber and Marvel.) Since then he’s popped up here and there in the Marvel U, sort of a migrating duck of offbeat humor. After his surprise Guardians appearance, and given the more wide ranging of Marvel’s universe both on pwper and on the screen, a new ongoing series seemed right. And Marvel found just the man for the job. Torontonian humorist Chip Zdarsky, the pen name of Steve Murray, is a local legend for various stunts including running for mayor, befriending Applebee’s making hilarious infographics for the National Post. But it’s as collaborator with writer Matt Fraction on Sex Criminals, Time’s 2013 Comic of the Year,  and one of Image’s best selling books, that he’s become a true social media phenom. With his finely honed, self-deprecating humor and discerning eye for a social trope, Zdarsky seems the perfect person to give the oft-misunderstood mallard another go round.

Howard the Duck #1, drawn by Joe Quinones and colored by Rico Renzi, is on sale today.] 

howard2015001-int3-01-126230MacDonald: So, Howard the Duck. Were you a fan, were you daunted? What was your first thought when, I assume,  some Marvel editor called you up and said “Chip do you want to write Howard the Duck?”

Zdarsky: It happened quickly yet slowly. I started doing cover work for Marvel after Sex Criminals started doing well. I’ve been dealing with exclusively with Wil [Moss, editor of the project] and I did a 2 page story for him for Original Sins, a gag strip. He emailed me and said “Hey I have a feeling Howard is on the up and up, do you have any ideas for a Howard series?” and so I pitched my ideas and he liked them and we talked about it and batted around these artists and then got Joe [Quinones]. And during the whole process I didn’t even I think I had the job because I hate myself and I don’t believe anything good can happen [laughter]. I even did covers and wrote a script and I didn’t even think I had the job. I think mostly because I heard stories mostly, DC things where people were going all out on projects and then finding out somebody is doing the same project.

MacDonald: That guy in the building across the way also working on this series!

Zdarsky: Yeah exactly! Until the day that they announced it…I didn’t actually let it sink in that I would be working with Howard The Duck. I was a fan as a kid…a fan of the movie—because I was a child! But then I had this weird Uncle Fred who collected Howard and old Vampirella magazines, Robert Crumb stuff. He was kind of an underground comics guy. Howard was my favorite of those and whenever I would go over, I devoured them. It was funny, two years ago when I was working on the Vampirella project, he bequeathed me his Vampirella magazines and also his Howard the Duck black and white magazines as well, which I loved. So as soon as I got email from Wil… I cycled through the old issues, the old magazine and it was amazing. I love Howard.

MacDonald: Right, well its funny because I think I tweeted about [you having the right mind set for Howard], but what you’ve said in this interview makes you the perfect writer for it! “I hate myself and I don’t believe anything good can happen.” [laughs] Do you think being a ‘pessimist about success’, is a good attitude to have for writing Howard the Duck?

howard2015001-int3-02-126231Zdarsky: I think it’s a good attitude to have for writing corporate comics because it is a job that you can be fired off pretty quickly. Whenever I explain how comics work to people who are not familiar with the comics industry, they’re like, so wait you have a job? But they can like firing you at any moment? And they do routinely? Yeah, that’s how it works in comics and then you try and get another job and it lasts for a year and you get fired and have to find another job. It’s all freelance no matter what unless you’re Brian Michael Bendis I guess or Geoff Johns. So with Howard specifically you’ve got to be a bit of a pessimist I think. Steve Gerber would go on some pretty good tears in the original run. I don’t think I have necessarily quite that world view but yeah, I predict things never going well for me, so that probably helps. So I won’t be disappointed if they fire me after 4 issues, like okay that’s 4 more than I thought I’d ever do.

MacDonald: I’m old so I read the Howard comics as a kid and they blew my mind because I was the perfect age for these comics, let’s put it that way. I haven’t really tried to read them since, so I don’t know how they hold up but this bits I’ve revisited show that Gerber is a very good writer, his technique was incredible. The character started as an absurd thing but was surprisingly well rounded. The original Howard run was about was very much the post Vietnam malaise in America, Howard ran for president in a post Watergate world. I think it was pretty universal but it was also very much the time. Do you change your thinking about the character? What is it… I saw on one of the covers instead of saying ‘Trapped in a World He Never Made’, it says something different.

Zdarsky: “Trapped In a World He’s Grown Accustomed To”.

MacDonald: Right. I loved that. Is that what’s propelling that forward now, is he complacent, what are his demons now?

howard2015001-int3-03-126232Zdarsky: Well, a lot of people were asking me if I was going to bring Beverly [Switzler, Howard’s girlfriend] back because she wasn’t in any of the preview stuff. I’ve removed her and kind of made that a bit of mystery because my idea is that Howard has actually been here for a while. So once you’ve accepted that you’re part of this world, you have to find your place in it. He always had a loneliness even when he was with Beverly throughout the original run, but I feel like at this point he wouldn’t necessarily have that. I removed Beverly because it recreates the loneliness aspect of it. It’s so weird to think about Howard the Duck and talk about Howard the Duck! I’m still not quite used to it. [MacDonald laughs.] I’m overseeing a duck! Even the comic themselves have changed a lot and but it was always satirizing popular culture Kung fu movies of the time or ‘Star Wars’…

MacDonald: The Blanderizer, that was one of my favorites.

Zdarsky: [Laughs] Exactly!

MacDonald: Doctor Bong, the Kidney Lady.

Zdarsky: Yeah… and so popular culture now is Marvel, they’re the dominant force. I’ve got this opportunity to have him within the Marvel universe playing around with that world in which he’s no longer the odd duck, so to speak. I put him in New York and I’ve got all these super heroes and stuff flying around. In New York he’s not so much of an anomaly anymore. People aren’t whispering or yelling “Oh my god there’s a duck who talks!” as much as they used to. That’s also why I gave him a job as a private investigator. I felt like I needed him to try and figure out what he wants to do here at least at the beginning. We want to go weird and strange places because of the Howard tradition.

howard2015001-int3-04-126233MacDonald: Right, I did see a couple of preview pages that came up and I see you do have Spider-Man in here and it’s pretty heavy on the MCU stuff…

Zdarsky: Especially at the beginning. There are a couple of reasons for that, one is that I want to show him in that universe, I want to firmly plant him in there because the cases he’s going to work on are going to involve a lot of these characters. It’s also because I still have that thing where I still think I’ll be fired [MacDonald laughs] and this is my one chance to write Spider-Man’s dialogue, so I’ll totally shoe horn that into issue one. And in every issue it’s, hey, can I use this character? And Marvel has to check with different offices—they must hate me by now because I’m trying to use everyone, because it could end at any moment.

MacDonald: Is there Woodgod? That’s the one everybody is going to want to know. [General laughter]

Zdarsky: So far I haven’t put in that request. I have a feeling that if I put in that request there would be no issue.

MacDonald: I don’t know, I’m telling you, listen Wood God, man. Or maybe The Vulture, you know, a lonely old man…Anyway enough from me. Who is Howard? What kind of guy is he?

Zdarsky: Obviously by appearance, he’s the anomaly, he’s trapped in the world he never made, but he’s actually the most relatable character that Marvel has. He doesn’t have any powers or anything, he’s just like an average guy who cuts through bullshit… and especially now throwing him in with all these other Marvel characters, you can have that personality shine through by calling people on their weird shit. One of the preview pages that they put out was with Spider-Man, a nod to [the original] issue #1, just to get it started off. But its also Spider-Man, you’re a weird fetish spider and you’ve got this weird fetish cat, like go kiss some criminals! People should probably call Spider-Man on that stuff. It’s great to have Howard be that character.

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MacDonald: Let’s talk about writing a little bit. This is the first comic that you’ve just written?

Zdarsky: I was writing it simultaneously with my new series for Image, Kaptara with Kagan McLeod, but otherwise, yeah its the first time I’ve written something where someone else has drawn it.

MacDonald: And also your first sustained work for the Big Two?

Zdarsky: Yeah. I did that two pager for Marvel but that’s it and it’s unbelievable. Working with Matt [Fraction] on Sex Criminals was also my first time working with a writer. I was always a little jealous of Matt having the ability to write a sentence and then I would spend like a day trying to bring a sentence to life, Working with Joe on Howard, I said it before and it sounds really cheesy but it’s like an honor, in a way, to have somebody draw your words. Whenever I get the pencils and inks and colors back I’m just wow, people are doing things because I wrote a few words. It’s a strange responsibility. I’ve never had that feeling before and I’m also apologizing in the script…

MacDonald: For making them draw things?

Zdarsky: Yeah, if I said something like a giant outer space theme park, you know there’s a note to Joe apologizing, because I know what that means because I’m doing it on Sex Criminals.

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MacDonald: But you’re lucky, Joe is such an amazing artist, he’s great.

Zdarsky: He’s unbelievable. But the only downside is that when they get the pages back, they’re different from what I envisioned but they’re better and then it makes me realize I’m not that good of an artist. [MacDonald laughs] I’m like, oh wow! When I got the job doing Howard, Wil Moss asked me to do some Howard redesign sketches. I sent them to Wil and he liked them. But then he brought Joe onboard and got Joe to do the same thing. Mine just look like hot garbage compared to Joe’s, so I’m glad he’s on the book.

MacDonald: Right, he’s a very inspired choice. You have a monkey in these preview pages. Is this an all animal book?

Zdarsky: It was like one of the only notes I got from higher up at Marvel, let’s not make this the anthropomorphized book. That’s Hei Hei, She Hulk’s monkey from Charles Soule’s She Hulk run. That’s such a good book and that’s part of the fun. I’ve set this book in She Hulk’s building—Charles approved all of that and he put Howard in a cameo in the last issue of She Hulk. It adds a weird little thrill to see creators pick up on things you’re doing and kind of going back and forth. You don’t really get that with Sex Criminals aside from making fun of The Wicked and The Divine.

MacDonald: Well let’s talk a little bit about that. Are there any adjustments you have to make? You’re also doing an Image book with Kagan, are there mental adjustments you have to make for working in somebody else’s sandbox here, the Marvel Universe home of the world’s most recognized book characters?

Zdarsky: In a lot of ways its easier because the characters are defined for you, they have the voice of Howard or the voice of Spider-man. If you’ve read those comics over the years and you’re observant enough, you can kind of pick up those voices. With Sex Criminals and Kaptara, you’re generating it and so you have to maintain a consistency with something you’ve just created, which is sometimes a little tricky. The process is so different with Image. Matt and I basically work on that book together, and its just us and so when we have a friend proofread it and we upload it to Image and then they upload it to the printer the next day, they don’t see the script, they don’t see the pencils, there’s no stages for that book, its just us back and forth. With Marvel, even the two page strip I did, there are four editors cc’d on the emails and everybody is safeguarding the characters and making sure tone and characters are consistent. Which only make sense, but you always have to have that in your mind when you’re writing these things now.

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MacDonald: On the other hand I guess its like you have more of a safety net in a way too, like you have more people checking to make sure you didn’t screw up.

Zdarsky: I receive pretty much uniformly fantastic notes and that’s not kissing ass at editors, there are things that slipping through the cracks at my end partly because I’m not that familiar with the continuity of the characters, partly because maybe I’m overworked, but yeah the editors have been fantastic. Wil spotting plot issues and [Marvel executive editor] Tom Brevoort is like an encyclopedia of Marvel, you know, they’re good people to have in your corner.

MacDonald: Well, we’re big fans of Wil Moss at Stately Beat Manor. I don’t want to stray too far into your Image work, perhaps that would be another interview at some point but I mean, Sex Criminals—good lord, this book has become a phenomenon, is that safe to say?

Zdarsky: Yeah… I don’t like labeling it, but it’s made convention experiences a totally new thing.

MacDonald: Chip, I think we first met 15 years ago, 14 years ago back in the Warren Ellis Forum which is scary. You’re one of a number of creators coming out of that scene so to speak, Kelly Sue [DeConnick] was there…

Zdarsky: Kieron [Gillen].

MacDonald: Matt Fraction, Jamie McKelvie, Andy Khouri, now an editor at DC, Bryan Lee O’Malley was on there, Alex DeCampi, Brian Wood

Zdarsky: That guy, what’s his name Warren Ellis?

MacDonald: It’s just pretty insane how many people were on there. You’ve always been known as this incredibly funny guy or the guy with the great gimmick like running for mayor or something. And now you’ve put all that to use on social media to [promote your creator-owned comics.] I think you said at New York Comic Con you guys had a meet up and people couldn’t get into the bar, there were so many people standing outside…

Zdarsky: Yeah. It’s nuts. I was giving a talk to a book festival exclusively for publishers and a lot of people were asking about social media. Like, should they get their authors to all do social media and I said “NO!” You do it because you like it. If you like telling jokes and talking to people, great. But people can smell someone selling something a mile away. Authors with a Twitter account where there’s no activity and all of a sudden it’s [Author voice] “oh what a great day to sit down and “#write.” The next tweet is an Amazon link! I just have fun. There’s no point where I’m just promoting something. It’s how I had my career at the newspaper and its how the comics thing is turning out; just doing things that I want to do.

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MacDonald: Did you sense a change? You have always been very active on social media but was there a change in how people interact with you after Sex Criminals became such a hit?

Zdarsky: Twitter is kind of the same because you follow the same people. People will respond to you. With the Howard thing I’m getting a lot of people saying “Hey I’m an old Howard fan, don’t fuck this up!” Everyone has their ideas of how a character should be and I know that’s going to change a lot after next week for me. Facebook is funny because my parents are on there and they’re lovable and they like to interact with me… and so its kind of strange now to have my mom making some sort of comment about my work and then two comments later someone trying to make a cum joke to me. My parents are fantastic and all my friends are fantastic and they all kind of roll with it but at some point… I actually had a nightmare last night. I just talked to Matt on the phone [about] this nightmare where I was at home and my girlfriend was coming in through the front door and she smiled at me and I said a joke and then somebody, a guy in a hooded sweatshirt came up behind her and started to attack her. My instinct was to run and save her no matter what. And then something clicked, oh no this person is not malicious, he’s just slow or stupid and I had to get him off her without really harming him. And so I did. I grabbed him and then woke up and then I just lay there and was like, oh my God I just had a dream about the internet! [laughter] Really I just had a nightmare of people on Facebook, interacting with people that I love and maybe inadvertently harming them but they don’t know any better.

MacDonald: I think you should put that dream in Howard the Duck.

Zdarsky: [laughs] I think maybe I am turning into Steve Gerber! There was that issue where it was almost all text and he just kind of talked about everything. Maybe I’ll hit that stage. I had therapy this morning, so perfect timing.

MacDonald: This is a question though I’m sure you’ve been asked a lot. Chip, do you wish that Howard didn’t wear any pants?

Zdarsky: [laughs] I don’t care at all! Originally he was clearly a parody of Donald Duck but he’s moved so far past that, you could put him in a gorilla suit and its fine. Its especially funny now that Disney owns Marvel. All the legal injunctions—that’s the first thing that happened after I said yes to this, I got all the original documents where they lay out how Howard has to look to be differentiated from Donald. It’s a fascinating glimpse into comics history. But…honestly I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about pants or no pants on ducks.

MacDonald: Oh Chip, you’ve really changed.

Zdarsky: I know, I really have! I’m so busy now, I can’t think about these ducks and their pants!

MacDonald: Okay on twitter this morning Kelly Sue inspired me to start asking some new questions [in a multi tweet comment, De Connick listed all the questions that men never get asked but women are asked over and over and over], and you’re the first person I’ve interviewed since then, so you’re going to be the guinea pig. What is it like to be a man in comics?

Zdarsky: [laughs] Oh my god! It’s fantastic! Its just fantastic. I loved her rant, it was amazing. But yeah, I wake up every morning and I’m just I feel blessed, I’m a white man living in a Canadian city, I’ve got a beard…

MacDonald: Chip, how do you balance work and family?

Zdarsky: [laughs] I’m very lucky in the sense that my girlfriend is also busy with her job, so we have the same hours. I wake up from anxiety every day and I start working at 8 and then I work until 11 o’clock at night and that’s usually when my girlfriend stops working and so we meet up at 11 o’clock when midnight strikes and we talk about our days and we go to sleep and have our nightmares about the internet. It’s great!

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MacDonald: Wow, you know what, you’re living the dream. Literally you’re living a dream.

Zdarsky: When I quit my newspaper job—I did Sex Criminals for almost a year while doing my newspaper job full time which was crazy and dumb.

MacDonald: Just so anyone reading this knows, you did regular comics for the National Post, the big daily paper in Toronto?

Zdarsky: My job title there was graphic columnist, which I made up because I needed one and I wrote articles, I did reporting, I did columns, I drew, I did cartoons, videos. I was kind of a jack of all trades. It was the best job I could’ve hoped for but I just hit this point where I had to focus on something, so I had to quit that job. But I forgot what a freelancer brain is like, where you’re terrified of turning anything down because it will never be offered again. So I had this weird bit for a month or two where I was saying yes to everything and then thought, oh my god. I physically can’t do it. So I know I’m leaving that phase now. I’ve got all these regular jobs, but I’m not accepting too many cover gigs anymore.

MacDonald: You know many of the top writers, a lot of them used to be cartoonists, like Brian Bendis and Brubaker and…

Zdarsky: Seth, isn’t he at Marvel now?

MacDonald: Do you like writing now? You’re just getting into it, but writing, drawing or both, what’s…?

Zdarsky: I’ll always draw something but I can only draw one book a month. I can write two at least, I recognize at some point during the course of Sex Criminals, that Matt doesn’t necessarily have the easier job but he definitely has the job where the time restrictions are easier and I want to give it a shot. With the Kaptara book I want to get Kagan drawing comics again. He’s an insanely successful illustrator here but Infinite Kung Fu came out years ago and I just wanted to show people his work, he’s so good.

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MacDonald: He is, he’s amazing. I didn’t realize that Infinite Kung Fu came out that long ago. I think we made it one of our books for the year [at Publishers weekly] actually. They say the way to success is surround yourself with the best, so good move! Just to wrap this up on a Howard note, in the first issue, we set up “Howard the Private Eye” and meeting Spidey and so on but anything else you can say about ongoing storylines that you can tantalize us with?

Zdarsky: All I can say is I feel like I’m luring people into a conventional comic book story and then I’m going to hit them with the weird stuff. I keep sending these emails to my editor saying you know, this is coming up and this is what this means and then I go ohhhhhhhhh boy. I figure if I make it past issue 5 and people stop paying attention, I can do very weird stuff.

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1 Comments on Interview: Chip Zdarsky on Howard The Duck “I can’t think about these ducks and their pants!”, last added: 3/12/2015
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25. Interview: Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi team up with First Second to further explore the world of The Dam Keeper

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By Harper Harris

In one of the most visually and emotionally striking films nominated for Best Animated Short Film at this year’s Academy Awards, The Dam Keeper has garnered a lot of well-deserved praise. The creators, Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, have worked as art directors on such films as Toy Story 3, Ratatouille, and Ice Age, but got together to create The Dam Keeper as a very personal short film, and it shows. The film, done in a gorgeous painted style with almost no words, is unique and heartbreaking despite its short running time of only 18 minutes. What’s more exciting than such a great short? Why, how about a series of graphic novels by the creators, published through First Second, that explores this world?

The Dam Keeper is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic world with anthropomorphic people living in a valley, the only safe haven from the dark and dangerous clouds that surround it. Keeping this darkness at bay is Pig, a young boy with no family who must wind the windmill every day to blow back the clouds. In the short, he meets a girl his age, Fox, and through a series of wordless interactions, they become friends. However, a misunderstanding causes a rift between the two that has drastic consequences for the entire valley, which leads to the dramatic climax. Kondo and Tsutsumi recently announced that they plan to elaborate on the world of The Dam Keeper through a series of new graphic novels. I got a chance to speak with both creators to hear about this interesting cross-media expansion on their celebrated short film. The below answers come from the team collectively.

Where did the initial idea for the short film spring from?

The Dam Keeper was our first effort to write and direct together as a team.  Initial ideas of an unsung hero in a polluted world went through different variations in discovering our creative process.  Along the way, we rediscovered a childhood folktale, The Little Dutch Boy, about a boy whose little act of sacrifice ended up saving his town.  We wondered, “What if our character held the responsibility of saving his town not just once but every day?”How did you decide on the very unique visual style for the short film?

We spent time thinking about what might distinguish us as a team.  Because we worked closely together for over seven years at Pixar and had influenced each other’s artwork, we actually could paint like each other.  This made us unique within the art department there and it felt like the unique thing we could apply to our film.  Not to mention, creating a painted look seemed a more natural route for us at the time than building a 3D CG pipeline.

With over 8,000 painted stills, it must have been a painstaking process! How long did the film take to create?

still_4The actual production and post-production ran for 9 months — a long process, but considering we all had full-time jobs during the day, it was an extremely well run production thanks to our producers Megan Bartel and Duncan Ramsay.

Part of what makes the short so interesting is how little we as an audience really know about the circumstances in this world where a dark cloud constantly threatens the valley beneath. What made you decide to explore this world more deeply?

For us, on one level, the dark cloud represents our character’s internal demon.  On another level, it also speaks to us quite literally, and so we have always imagined other cities and people living on the other side of the dam.  It feels natural for us to explore how different societies might deal with this deadly fog and how the particular inhabitants of each civilization would have their own respective social issues, just as we saw with Pig’s idyllic-seeming town in the short.

Speaking of, will the book series focus primarily on Pig’s future as he grows up, or will there be a look into the past of this world as well?

There will be elements of both, with a very emotional storyline for Pig and his friends set against the ticking time bomb of their polluted world.  But there will be a lot of laughter along the way, too.

One of the many things that makes The Dam Keeper so endearing is its lack of dialogue…do you plan to keep the companion graphic novels in the same silent style?

Dialogue will be an important addition to the story and we hope to use it while maintaining the feeling and tone of the short.

Will these companion pieces be graphic novels in a comic book style, or more along the lines of illustrated novels?

Much as we did with the short, we are exploring different ways to execute this new form of storytelling, not just in terms of format but as a team, since we haven’t done a book together before.

Why a graphic novel series to continue the stories in this whimsical world instead of, for example, an animated series?

We are concurrently pursuing an animated feature adaptation of The Dam Keeper.  Our company, Tonko House is open to telling stories in different formats.  We believe graphic novels are different than films, but are great vehicles for narrative just the same.  We are inspired by stories like Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki‘s This One Summer and Gene Luen Yang‘s American Born Chinese.

What kind of adventures can we hope to see Pig, Fox, and Hippo get into?

Pig and Fox’s adventures will be epic, wondrous, revelatory and daunting all at the same time — they will be taken out of their element and challenged as they come of age.  And they will be joined on this journey by a most unexpected ally or enemy, depending on whose point of view it is.

What inspired you to jump the story ahead to their teen years rather than continuing to explore their youth?

The early teen years are such an interesting rite of passage, when innocence challenged by one’s awareness of the world forces growth in character.  The underlying story is based upon a personal anecdote that fits well at this point in our characters’ lives as they are forced to engage with who they are and who they want to be.

While the short covers some darker territory, it maintains a childlike tone that is both charming and quite beautiful; can we expect the story to get a little more adult in tone in the continued story as the characters grow older?

still_8We believe in the balance of light and darkness, and we will strive to capture both to connect with international audiences of all ages.  We want the choices our characters make to have real consequences, whether it is neglecting your responsibility and letting the darkness in, or something new and possibly more far-reaching.  We feel that if our characters and their motivations ring true, then this journey of boys becoming men will be enjoyable by many regardless of age.

How did you come to choose First Second as the publisher for this series?

We are big fans of First Second first and foremost as readers.  As creators, since conceiving the larger story of The Dam Keeper, we have been searching for the right people to work with in both film and publishing to help protect it and take it to the highest level of work we are capable of.  When we met our editor, Mark Siegel, there was an instant connection and the kind of partnership we had sought after.  We feel we are in great hands to learn this new medium for Tonko House.

How many books do you foresee being in the series?

It’s a bit of wait and see!

Do you feel that you may hand the reins over to a different writer or artist at some point to let them explore this world, or will this always be a personal project for the two of you?

We would most likely always be involved with how the world of The Dam Keeper expands. The story we are working on now is based on our own personal life experiences, and we hope any artists or writers we work with will bring the same level of personal investment and motivation into this world.   Coming from big feature animation studios where teamwork is essential, we hope always to collaborate with and learn from other artists since those experience have proven to be extremely rewarding time and time again.

When can we expect the first book to release? Where can fans follow both of you and your work?

We’ll be working around the clock to have the books ready as early as possible.

Any news related to The Dam Keeper will be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/TheDamKeeper
http://www.simplestroke.com
https://instagram.com/robertkondo/


The first of two graphic novel sequels to The Dam Keeper will arrive in 2016 from First Second.

2 Comments on Interview: Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi team up with First Second to further explore the world of The Dam Keeper, last added: 3/12/2015
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