C.H. Greenblatt, creator of the animated series "Chowder," is back with a new series, "Harvey Beaks," that premieres this Sunday on Nickelodeon.Add a Comment
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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.Display Comments Add a Comment
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JacketFlap tags: Comics, First Second, Interviews, Publishers, Top News, angoulême, angouleme 2015, Balak, Bastien Vives, Last Man, Michael Sanlaville, Add a tag
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.:
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?
Balak: 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 translation 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?
Balak: 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.Display Comments Add a Comment
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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
Alan 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.
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.
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?
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…!
AM: 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
AM: 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.
There’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…
PÓM: 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?
AM: 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…
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.
3Bob 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.Display Comments Add a Comment
Blog: PW -The Beat (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Interviews, Webcomics, Bone, Coloring, Strangers in Paradise, Add a tag
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 RASL, Strangers 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.
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.
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.
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.
Now a question I’m sure you’ve been asked many times: what does “PLOX
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.
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.
So you find the four or less panels a page more freeing than restricting?
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.
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.Add a Comment
Blog: PW -The Beat (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Doctor Who, Interviews, Titan, Top News, 10th doctor, gabby gonzlaez, Nick Abadzis, Titan Comics, Add a tag
When 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-checking 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: 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.
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Blog: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Interviews, Picture Books, Add a tag
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.
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.
Mommy, may I take it to the daycare?'”
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It’s holey!’ Romko grew angry. …”
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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.
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?
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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.
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.
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ants moving every which way, the buttons on coats of passersby,
and even the holes in those buttons.”
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strove to count each of its particles.”
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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?
- 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.
Blog: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: 7-Imp's 7 Kicks, Interviews, Picture Books, Add a tag
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 enlarge spread)
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.
(Click each to enlarge)
(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.
(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.
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!
(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.
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!
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.
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.
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?Display Comments Add a Comment
Blog: PW -The Beat (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Breaking News, Cartoonists, Culture, First Second, Top News, Interviews, James Kochalka, The Glorkian Warrior, Add a tag
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?
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?
I 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 Boo, Dragon 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 feeling 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?
It 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 some 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.Add a Comment
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Fuse #8 TV, Interviews, Videos, author interviews, author videos, Henry Clark, Little Brown and Company, Add a tag
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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Blog: Illustration Friday Blog (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: artists, comic, illustrationfriday, Interviews, pen/brush and ink, weekly topics, All-New Ultimates, comics brewmaster, comics tavern, comics tavern interview, COPRA, interview, Michel Fiffe, Zegas, Add a tag
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
More art inspiration!
Blog: PW -The Beat (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Breaking News, Cartoonists, Cartoons, First Second, Interviews, Movies, Top News, Academy Awards, Daisuke "Dice" Tsutsumi, Robert Kondo, The Dam Keeper, Add a tag
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?
The 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?
We 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.
The first of two graphic novel sequels to The Dam Keeper will arrive in 2016 from First Second.Display Comments Add a Comment
Blog: PW -The Beat (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Interviews, Marvel, chip zdarsky, Howard the Duck, Joe Quinones, Rico Renzi, sex criminals, Wil Moss, Add a tag
[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.]
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?
Zdarsky: 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?
Zdarsky: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.Display Comments Add a Comment
Blog: PW -The Beat (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Comics, Interviews, checkmate, eric trautmann, greg rucka, lady sabre, lazarus, perfect dark, Add a tag
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.
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 Whiteout, Queen & 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.”
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Blog: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Interviews, Picture Books, Add a tag
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.
where he was still a wild haired human and before he turned into a colorful sheep.”
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– still with the pink eye”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
4. I color.
5. I shade.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.Add a Comment
Blog: PowellsBooks.BLOG (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Interviews, Amy Stewart, David Vann, Edith Nesbit, John Wyndham, Literature, Add a tag
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 [...]Add a Comment
Blog: PowellsBooks.BLOG (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Interviews, Biography, Dashiell Hammett, Emily St. John Mandel, Erik Larson, Germany, Kate Atkinson, Literature, Military, Mystery, US History, World History, Add a tag
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 [...]Add a Comment
Blog: Here in the Bonny Glen (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Art, art projects for kids, creativity, Danny Gregory, interviews, sketchbook skool, Add a tag
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. )Add a Comment
Blog: Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: AF, Book News, Interviews, Kidlitcon, Literacy, Views, Add a tag
One of the big draws of KidLitCon is getting a chance to meet your fellow bloggers, find out what their interests are, and discover where they intersect with yours. As you may know by now, here at FW our main focus is on Young Adult fiction, with an... Read the rest of this postAdd a Comment
Blog: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Intermediate, Interviews, Picture Books, Add a tag
Last week, I talked over at Kirkus with poet and author A. F. Harrold about his children’s novel, The Imaginary, released overseas last year but coming to American shelves in early March from Bloomsbury. That conversation is here. Today, I’m following up with some of Emily Gravett’s art from the book, as well as some peeks into her sketchbook for this one. (That’s an early sketch pictured above.)
I thank her for sharing. Enjoy the art.
a pair of thin, pale human legs in the middle of the room.”
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THE IMAGINARY. Text copyright © 2014 by A. F. Harrold. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Emily Gravett. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Bloomsbury, New York. Sketches reproduced by permission of Emily Gravett and Bloomsbury.Display Comments Add a Comment
Blog: Pub(lishing) Crawl (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Giveaways, Happy Hour, Interviews, TGIF, Julie Eshbaugh, Middle Grade, Patrick Jennings, Add a tag
by Julie Eshbaugh
featuring Patrick Jennings!
As readers of this blog already know, PubCrawl is excited to help spread the word about Egmont USA’s spring 2015 list, a group which has banded together under the name Egmont’s Last List. It’s my pleasure to welcome Patrick Jennings as our guest here at PubCrawl today! (And we are giving away of one of Patrick’s books! More on that below…) I’m so thrilled to interview such a prolific writer of children’s books! Patrick’s website lists 25(!) titles. If you’d like to see all their beautiful covers, you can click here. Patrick’s latest is HISSY FITZ, which came out last month from Egmont. Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:
Hissy Fitz lives with some two-legged creatures who are destined to serve him in every possible way and understand his every whim. Sadly, these creatures are sorely lacking in their skills. For one thing–they touch him when they want to touch him. Don’t they know that the two-legged are there for him to touch when he wants to–meaning when he wants food? Petting wakes him up! They speak to him–don’t they know the two-legged should be seen–so Hissy knows where to order food–and not heard?! It’s becoming intolerable. What is this irascible cat to do?
I understand that, although you generally write for middle graders, this book is for younger readers. What made you decide to move in that direction?
My publisher wondered if I’d be interested in writing a chapter book. The book fairs and clubs had been asking for them. I told my editor about my insomniac cat idea and she liked it.
I think the story dictates the reading level, the audience. When a story is right for a seven-year-old, the language often takes care of itself. In other words, if you want to engage with a kid, you should talk about something they care about, and in a voice and vocabulary that makes sense to them. That’s not talking down; that’s talking to.
When a book is submitted without illustrations, the art director looks for an artist. They have many illustrators’ portfolios on file. I work on the book with my editor while the artist is found. Usually the text is nearly finished before the illustrating begins. For Bat and Rat, a picture book, I ended up retooling my text, cutting out what was rendered visually by the amazing Matthew Cordell. I did a little tweaking for Hissy after Michael Allen Austin’s hilarious pictures came in. There were textless spreads in Bat and Rat, so, some notes were needed, but, in general, one tries to leave artistic decisions to artists.
I never had a story to tell. I’ve considered that this is due to cats not really doing much of anything. Mostly they just sit around the house. Dogs go out and play with their owners, protect their owners, rescue people, hang with their friends. Cats nap on average eighteen hours a day. It was when I struck upon the idea of an insomniac cat that I finally had a cat story.
Hissy Fitz is such a unique character – his voice really sucked me in. I know it’s difficult to pinpoint the origin of an idea, but can you say where the character of Hissy Fitz came from? What made you decide to tell this particular cat’s story?
Those twenty years with cats were spent wondering what they thought about, especially what they thought of humans. In recent years, I’ve led a young writing group at my house, and have watched the writers interact with my cats. I tried sharing with the kids all I’d learned about how to approach a cat, touch a cat, and treat a cat, but it didn’t make much of an impression. I suppose their treatment of my cats shaped my idea of how Hissy would view kids, as well as other humans.
Their enthusiasm. They love to read, and they get very excited when they meet an author of a book they’ve read. They have tons of very good questions. They’re often also interested in writing stories. The whole day is filled with excitement. I’m thoroughly exhausted afterward. It’s the best.
Spend as much time as you can with kids. Volunteer to read at the library, or in classrooms. Read to nieces and nephews, grandchildren, whomever. Talk to kids about the books they love. Listen carefully. Feel their enthusiasm.
Thank you so much, Patrick! Also, I want to offer congratulations on the news that Lerner Publishing has acquired all of Egmont USA’s frontlist and backlist titles. We look forward to reading many more of your stories!
To celebrate the publication of HISSY FITZ, we’re giving away a copy of this wonderful book! Leave a comment below and use the Rafflecopter form to enter!
About the author:
Patrick Jennings’s books for young readers have received honors from Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, Smithsonian Magazine, the PEN Center USA, the Woman’s National Book Association, and the Chicago and New York Public Libraries. The Seattle Public Library awarded his book, Guinea Dog, the Washington State Book Award of 2011. His book, Faith and the Electric Dogs, is currently being adapted for the screen. His new book, Hissy Fitz, will be published in January 2015. He currently writes full time in his home in Port Townsend, Washington.Add a Comment
Blog: Brooklyn Arden (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Behind the Book, Books I Edit, Interviews, Writing, Add a tag
(The first in a new series of brief interviews with authors of forthcoming books)
1. Tell us a little bit about your book.
Burning Nation is the second book in the Divided We Fall trilogy. It continues the story of seventeen-year-old Idaho Army National Guardsman PFC Danny Wright and his friends as they are stuck in the middle of a tense stand-off between the state of Idaho and the federal government of the United States. In the first book, Divided We Fall, Idaho has voted to nullify the Federal Identification Card Act. When Danny’s National Guard unit is sent to quell a protest/riot resulting from this nullification, he accidentally fires his rifle, which causes other people to shoot, leaving twelve dead and nine wounded. The president demands an investigation and prosecution. The governor of Idaho refuses to cooperate, saying that he gave a lawful order to the National Guardsmen under his command.
Burning Nation begins right where the first book left off, with the president sending the military to force Idaho to comply with federal law. Right from the beginning, Danny and his friends are caught up in the fight, but as the country descends into the chaos of the Second American Civil War, losses begin to take their toll. It becomes hard to understand what has been won, but easy to see what’s been lost. As the sacrifices mount and betrayals abound, Danny and his friends begin to think about the wounds they’ve suffered, inside and out.
It’s an action-packed book that continues to explore what happens when America’s current political divide widens into tomorrow’s nightmare, and it’s alarming how many real-life headlines seem to have been predicted by Divided We Fall and Burning Nation.
2. If this book had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Ten years ago, when my fellow soldiers and I were serving in Farah Province in Afghanistan, we were struck by how much the landscape resembled that featured in the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. That movie features a song by Tina Turner called "We Don’t Need Another Hero." My fellow soldiers would joke about this song, with one man saying, “We don’t need another hero” and another replying, “We don’t even know the way home.” The video is a bit dated and cheesy, but if you listen to the words, the song really fits as a commentary on the brutality and waste of war that is very appropriate for Burning Nation.
3. Please name and elaborate upon at least one thing you learned or discovered about writing in the course of creating this book.
When I began work on Burning Nation, I was under the naive assumption that writing the book would be easier because I had already finished Divided We Fall. I knew the characters, the setting, and at least the situation that led to the events in Burning Nation. I should have known that Burning Nation would be as significant if not a greater challenge than the first book. One of the challenges came from the situation the characters face. Throughout most of Burning Nation Danny and his friends must endure a federal military occupation of their small northern Idaho town. With U.S. soldiers hunting for them all the time, their movements, and thus my options for the kinds of scenes I could include, felt rather limited. I began to feel almost as claustrophobic as Danny and his fellow soldiers.
Another challenge with writing Burning Nation was that it was the second part of a story that already had its first part on the market. I was facing a situation that was new to me, that of having public feedback on characters and other aspects of the larger Divided We Fall story, while I was writing that story’s second installment. It felt like having many, sometimes too many, advisors in my office with me while I worked. Cheryl was wise, as she usually is, when she encouraged me to stop looking at reviews and reader comments as I worked on Burning Nation.
4. What is your favorite scene in the book?
I’m really quite happy with a lot of the scenes in Burning Nation, so I’m going to cheat and list two. First, since Burning Nation isn’t merely an action/war book, but is a piece which, I hope, encourages the reader to think about the terrible nature of war and its effects on those who live through it, I’d like to point out a scene that happens after Danny Wright has been through terrible physical and emotional torture. He is out of his mind from sleep deprivation and other torments, and when his one-time rival TJ bursts into his cell to rescue him, Danny isn’t sure if what is happening is even real. He’s confused and kind of cries, “Travis?” Travis Jones realizes that Danny is seriously messed up and it’s going to be harder to rescue him than he and his friends supposed. It’s a small moment, but I hope there’s a lot of emotion in that simple question, that exhausted and near-breaking-point, “Travis?”
And since I love some good action, I’m also quite happy with a hand-to-hand fight scene near the end of the book. It’s a fight between Danny and a U.S. Army major, a desperate fight to the death where Danny has to make an important decision about how deep into the war he’s willing to go, and how much of himself he wants to save. In addition to the moral question the fight raises, I just think it’s a clear scene, a tense and suspenseful fight. And the conclusion of the scene is really quite chilling.
5. What are you working on now?
I am hard at work on the third book in the Divided We Fall trilogy, entitled The Last Full Measure. The story follows America’s further final decline into a terrible civil war, and the difficult consequences this has for Danny Wright and his friends. I’m having lots of fun working on it, and it’s on schedule for a 2016 release.
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Interviews, Videos, author interviews, author videos, M.T. Anderson, Add a tag
What you learn in this life of children’s librarianship is that there is an exception to every rule. For example, normally I do not indulge in video interviews outside of my Fuse #8 TV ones. And normally I do not care diddly over squat for anything directed towards a young adult audience. But Mr. M.T. Anderson has a way of making a girl forget past restrictions. So when I was asked whether or not I would be interested in interviewing the man about his upcoming nonfiction title Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad I said, “Um . . . yes. Yes indeed.”
Thus, what follows, is a slightly herky jerky (thanks to Google Hangout) but ENTIRELY worth it interview between myself and Tobin. This is a story I’ve never heard. I am ashamed to admit that prior to this talk I had only the slightest understanding of what the Siege of Leningrad constituted. This clears much of the confusion up. And check out this cover!
As for the interview itself, here it is:
Thanks to the good folks at Candlewick Press for setting this up!Display Comments Add a Comment
Blog: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Interviews, Picture Books, Add a tag
Author-illustrator Greg Pizzoli visits 7-Imp this morning to talk about his entertaining new picture book from Viking, Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower, on shelves next week — and a book, as you’ll read below, that started its life as a zine. It tells the story of the sly and brilliant con artist Robert Miller, who later became Count Victor Lustig and who is known, as the title tells you, as the “Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower.” It’s a fascinating story with a smart closing Author’s Note from Pizzoli. (“Stay sharp” are his final words to readers.) And he created the art using pencil, ink, rubber stamps, halftone photographs, silkscreen, Zipatone, and Photoshop. Many of the photos in the book come from a Paris trip he took years ago, but then again, you can read a lot more about this below.
Greg has a couple more books coming out this year, but he may actually visit again at a later date to discuss those. Right now, it’s a Tricky Vic kind of morning. Let’s get to it. Grab your coffee and get ready to get conned. I thank him for visiting.
Oh, and by the way: Greg mentions Mac Barnett below, which makes me think of his new book, co-written with Jory John and illustrated by Kevin Cornell and which also happens to be about conning (and practical jokes and all-things-mischief). It’s called The Terrible Two, and it was released in January by Amulet Books. It is very funny. It’s selling well and was recently optioned for a film adaptation, as Travis Jonker noted here. So, you’ve probably heard of it already. If not, I highly recommend it. No joking.
Now, I welcome Greg …
Greg: Okay. So, Tricky Vic.
Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower is a nonfiction picture book about the life of one of the world’s greatest con artists [Robert Miller/”Count Victor Lustig”]. His most infamous trick, of course, was selling the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal, but he also conned Al Capone, escaped from prison by literally tying bedsheets together and climbing out a window, and repeatedly sold “money-printing boxes,” which in reality did nothing at all.
Tricky Vic started back in 2009 when I was in graduate school, studying Book Arts and Printmaking. I had heard the major points of Miller/Lustig’s life and had the idea to make a comic or a zine out of it — but never did. Then I graduated and sort of forgot about it.
Fast forward a few years of working hard at illustration, getting my first book deal (for The Watermelon Seed) and, one day, getting lunch with Mac Barnett. Actually, we went to The Rosenbach Museum and Library here in Philadelphia, which at the time housed the Sendak collection, where we saw Sendak’s pencil sketches for a proposed edition of The Lord of the Rings, among other things.
But after that, we got lunch. And we were talking about nonfiction picture books and why they often seem to fall flat. Mac was at the time working on President Taft is Stuck in the Bath, and I told him my con-artist idea from back in grad school. He told me I had to make it. I said, “I guess I could make a zine.” And he said “MAKE A ZINE!”
A few months later, I made a zine. Here it is:
The University of the Arts, where I went to grad school and where I occasionally teach, has a couple of offset presses. And once a year the Printmaking department offers a class called Book Production, where you make a book in an edition of at least 100 copies. So, the first half of the class you are making book dummies (which some people seem to call “mock-ups,” but which I will always call dummies), and you talk out ideas during critiques and try out different formats. And the second part of the semester you are printing and assembling the books. I had taken this class previously as a student, and my department head was the instructor. She graciously allowed me to audit the course so I could explore Tricky Vic.
I was going to illustrate the book in a more “usual for me” kind of way, but the limitations of only being able to print five layers of ink (two colors on one side of the paper and three on the other)—plus having basically three weeks to put the whole thing together, not to mention the approaching deadline of Not Very Scary—forced me to simplify everything. I approached each spread or illustration like it was an editorial assignment and came up with stuff that looked pretty different than my usual kidlit work.
Here are some examples:
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So, then I put a couple dozen of the zines together (they were all hand-sewn by me) and made little rubber stamps for the envelopes and sent them to kids’ book people I know — and one to my agent Steve. I sold a few on Etsy, too, I think.
I really enjoyed making it, but I had no thought that it could be a “real” picture book. It just seemed too weird, too dark, too much about-a-criminal-who-scammed-people-out-of-their-life-savings to work for kids’ books, ya know?
Well, like I said, I sent it to my agent Steve, and he just has an amazing vision for this kind of thing. And before I really even realized what was happening, I had a two-book deal with Viking.
Then came researching, re-writing, more researching, re-writing, re-writing, re-writing, and nine months or so later, I had the story at a point where I could start thinking again about pictures.
Part of my research process involved going to Paris, and since I had just proposed to my (now) wife, we left for Paris the next day. We stayed in the suburbs with some family friends, who live in a 17th-century converted farmhouse. They live a nice life.
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which appears in Tricky Vic
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We went all over Paris doing all the things two newly-engaged people do, especially when one of them is working on a picture book about a guy who sold the Eiffel Tower. I took a ton of photos, and a lot of Paris is in the book — in subtle ways sometimes. For example, this is part of the floor of the Eiffel Tower platform:
It’s also the photo I used to make all of the halftones throughout the book. The gritty texture, this stuff:
Also, this photo. This is the floor of The Louvre.
That shape is used throughout the book. And I don’t expect that anyone would recognize it or—in the case of the halftone grit—even have a chance of knowing, but to me it adds layers to everything. It makes it all more about my experience there, and it feels more (again, to me) like it has more depth than if I hadn’t included those elements.
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The original zine had a huge influence on the look of the final book, and lots of the ideas from the zine came through unscathed to the final. I’m really happy about that in one sense, but I definitely think the final book is a great improvement, largely due to my editors, art director, and friends who helped me along the way. It’s much more considered, but I hope not fussy. I had more time to work on it — the zine took three weeks, and the book took six months. At this point, the zine feels like a sketch for the book that came later. Pictures probably work better than my ramblings. Here are some side-by-side comparisons:
One of the things I did for this book’s final art is incorporate rubber stamps. I love rubber stamps. At some point I want to illustrate a whole book with custom-made rubber stamps — but I’m taking it one step at a time.
For Tricky Vic, I drew police cars, limousines, etc. and had a company I’ve been using for years, Simon’s Stamps, make wooden handle rubber stamps for me. It’s a nice way to have something that’s reproducible and quick, but—whereas copying it digitally would be maybe a little lazy and maybe look too slick—this adds some grit that I like.
Something else: On another trip—for another book I hope we talk about next year—I went to London and, at the Museum of London, found this report card from 1906. Like a criminal, I lifted the basic layout and the tone of the language for Miller’s school report card, which in the book shows that he got an “F” in Conduct but an “Excellent” in Theatre. I made those grades up.
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my art director, snuck into the report card.”
Again, I don’t necessarily expect that everyone will notice these things, but I think some kids will, and I bet we would get along. My dream for this book—besides, ya know, ten million copies sold—is that some kid who maybe is dreading yet another book report on a goody-goody President “who never told a lie” can pick up Tricky Vic and write a biography of the man who conned Al Capone. I’d love to see that.
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Another thing that might be of interest is the case cover. Like all of my books I’ve written so far, the case cover is different than the jacket. The jacket is obviously pretty close to the zine — just (I think) more sophisticated.
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The case cover, though, was a blank slate, and as publishers seem to generally let me do whatever I want on the case covers, I decided to recreate the envelope that I used when I sent out the original zines. It shows up in the book, too. I figure when the pristine uncoated paper stock of the jacket gets ripped to shreds, there will be the case cover — with this mysterious envelope that reads “OPEN IN PRIVATE.”
And, probably to the annoyance of librarians everywhere, I hid something under the back flap. Miller/Lustig is credited as writing the “Ten Commandments for Con-Artists.” And sneaking them under the back flap seemed the best solution to make sure that they weren’t spotted by concerned parents — and weren’t missed by discerning kids.
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Also, you should know: Yes, that is my thumbprint.
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TRICKY VIC. Copyright © 2015 by Greg Pizzoli. Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Greg Pizzoli. Display Comments Add a Comment
Blog: Sarah McIntyre (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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I've done an interview with Edinburgh-based Julie Stirling over on the Wee Red Writer website about my work making books, about the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, and some tips for budding illustrators. You can read it in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. And get another peek at my Scholastic UK picture book coming out in March, Dinosaur Police.
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