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Results 26 - 50 of 119
26. Exclusive: ‘The Well’ by Jake Wyatt and F. Choo is coming from First Second in 2018

It’s been thirteen years since the disappearance of the ogre that attacked the village of Aragon, where a young witch named Lizzy was raised; and thirteen years since her parents, a woodcutter and a powerful witch, set off to defeat it and were never seen again. Now, Lizzy lives with her Grams in a small […]

0 Comments on Exclusive: ‘The Well’ by Jake Wyatt and F. Choo is coming from First Second in 2018 as of 8/24/2015 4:56:00 PM
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27. SDCC ’15: Asaf Hankua & Boaz Lavie Talk Masculinity, Fatherhood, and Endless War in ‘The Divine’

The Divine is a new graphic novel published by First Second created by illustrators Asaf Hanuka (The Realist), Tomer Hanuka (Placebo Man), and writer Boaz Lavie. Asaf and Boaz reside in Tel Aviv, Israel while Tomer lives in New York City. On a hectic Thursday afternoon, I was fortunate to talk to Boaz and Asaf about their new book - unfortunately Tomer was unavailable.

1 Comments on SDCC ’15: Asaf Hankua & Boaz Lavie Talk Masculinity, Fatherhood, and Endless War in ‘The Divine’, last added: 7/28/2015
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28. SDCC ’15: What’s In A Page Panel w/Hanuka, Steinke, McCloud, & Yang Breaks Down Secrets

Photo Jul 09, 13 44 25

By Victor Van Scoit

A great comic book let’s your brain relax and enjoy as you take in each page of the story. You’re not trying to figure out which panel to read next, or be taken out of the story unexpectedly. Instead the creator has made choices in storytelling that take you smoothly through the story and subconsciously informing your mind with all the metaphors, themes, and subtext required. First Second’s What’s in a Page panel aimed to give the audience some insight into those choices from four of their creators: Asuf Hanuka (The Divine) Aron Nels Steinke (The Zoo Box), Scott McCloud (The Sculptor), Gene Luen Yang (The Shadow Hero).

The panel limited each of the creators to just one page from their graphic novels to walk the audience through. Calista Brill of First Second moderated the panel and asked each of the authors for additional insight.

It was mentioned to Steinke that when constructing a page of comics for a western audience it’s expected they will read from left to right and from top to bottom, as is true with text. Being a teacher was that something he thought about when putting together comics for kids and using ways of reinforcing easy reading?

Photo Jul 09, 13 43 52

Aron Nel Steinke – Panel from The Zoo Box

Aron Nels Steinke: “I definitely think about that. Most of my students I’ve worked from 1st-3rd grade. It’s very rare when a student doesn’t understand how to go left to right. But there are times where they do but they kind of get it after a while. If you make it so there really only is one way, then they’ll understand that really this is the next sequence.”

Hanuka had chosen a very vivid page and it was noted how the lead character is handsome, and nice and symmetrical. You’re not afraid to get really grotesque. What drove that choice?

Asuf Hanuka – Sample Panel from The Divine

Asuf Hanuka: “It’s really hard to do something beautiful without showing something ugly. I guess it’s just a way of creating contrast. We did have red lines for stuff we didn’t want to do.”

The notion of a red line, or line the creators wouldn’t cross, was a bit humorous considering the amount of violence in in the book where people have brains and spines ripped from their bodies. So it was surprising to hear there were lines the creators wouldn’t cross. The crowd laughed at McCloud’s quip regarding how that violence was portrayed.

Scott McCloud: “But tastefully”

For McCloud’s page he kind of cheated having chosen a two-page spread. This spread in particular from The Sculptor was chosen to show how he was experimenting with auditory experience of the main character.

Photo Jul 09, 13 55 05

Scott McCloud – Presenting Panel from The Sculptor

Scott McCloud: “The reason I like this spread is because it was an opportunity when I’m doing everything visually to see if I could do something auditory. Where it’s all about somebody trying to find a real person in a crowd. And so I just have voices, and voices, and voices and this is what Times Square is. I wanted you to have a sense of what it is to be like inside of his head.”

Gene began with two pages from separate the separate books of his two volume series Boxers & Saints. He joked that he immediately regretted the choice as they’re probably not comics in the McCloud definition. He picked them so he could talk about the duality of the two scenes based on the themes in the graphic novels

Photo Jul 09, 14 01 52

Gene Yang – Panel from Boxers and Saints

Gene Yang: “The reason I did two volumes [Boxers and Saints] was because I couldn’t decide who I sided with. I couldn’t decide who the protagonists are. So the protagonists in one book are the antagonists in the other. So that’s what these two panels are all about. I just wanted to visually represent that resonance between the two cultures.”

After having gone through each creators selected pages the floor was opened up to questions. The first one allowed for some interesting insight from the creators. It was asked “What informs your choices when choosing the panel layout and which panels or pages will be contained vs a full bleed?”

Yang’s response came from a narrative point of reference—

Gene Yang: “I actually had a debate in my head about whether or not to make these [the two pages selected] bleed. I think visually it would’ve been more striking. But narratively each of the larger images represents something that is happening in the heads of the characters that are at the bottom. So by containing it in something kind of a panel it’s sort of a visual representation of that.”

while Steinke’s was born from humorous practicality.

Aron Nels Steinkie: “First my answer involves the laziness on my part. When you do a bleed you’re drawing art work that won’t actually get printed. It’ll get printed and it’ll get chopped, by the chopper. Because it bleeds and goes off to the edge of the page. One of my favorite cartoonists is the cartoonist Joe Socko and he does a lot of bleeds. And I think about all the inches of artwork that we don’t get to see because it’s been chopped from the paper cutter. That’s one reason and another is I try to use it for emotional impact. So whenever I do go to the effort to make that extra effort it’s got to be for a reason.”

Hanuka’s response was more rooted in the experience of comics and it’s physical medium—

Asuf Hanuka: “I think it’s a question of taste. For me I prefer to never go to a bleed because I believe the magic of the comics language is that you’re seeing a universe through a window. And so you need the window. And if it goes all the way to the end of the page, then you’ve seen the end of the page—and it’s paper and something about the illusion disappears. But I think that in some cases you can do it. But for me it has to be really—like—if the Earth explodes. Yeah, let’s go to the edge. Save it for the important moments.”

and as to be expected McCloud’s response blended metaphor, theory, and art.

Scott McCloud: “I do use bleeds a lot. I think the most important thing for me about bleeds is that they are well named. It’s a really good name—bleed. If you think of any panel as a kind of container it’s like an organ that contains fluids. And it contains time. If you have three panels in a row—boom, boom, boom—then it has this nice staccato rhythm. It’s telling you “Here’s an instant. Here’s an instant. Here’s an instant.” Or maybe a span of time. But it’s a container. It contains your sense of the duration of the panel. That this thing is—holding, time, in— and so it has a nice feeling of containment. When you lose that edge something happens in our perception”…

“What happens when you have a panel bleed is it really almost literally bleeds time. As it goes to the edge of the page there’s a sense the duration just flows outward. If you have a bleed at the beginning of a spread for example, that instant will seem to become a lingering moment. It has an echo. It has a reverberation. And it tends to bleed throughout that spread. You can sort of feel it sinking in. That’s why they’re so good for establishing shots. You have a nice bleeding establishing shot and then that sense of place in that one little box becomes a sense of place for the whole spread. If the whole scene takes place in that place, then you have that sense of place throughout. It escapes time. Time—bleeds—out. It’s well named.”

Another audience question brought up how audiences are also reading digitally now, and how that’s increasing with, “I’m curious about what kind of impact digital is having as far as laying out the page?” At this McCloud had to leave so he could make it to the other side of the convention center to participate in another panel. It was another humorous moment for the audience considering McCloud’s many thoughts on the topic, hence his own jab at himself leaving on the digital topic.

Scott McCloud: “And also, I’ll never stop talking.”

The rest of the panel seemed to still be working that question out for themselves as they work, realizing it’s two worlds still very much sharing space from a creative endeavor.

Asuf Hanuka: “Personally I don’t read any digital comics. I only read on paper. But everything I do and create is digital. It’s on computer. Even the penciling—it’s called penciling, but it’s really a Cintiq pen on a screen. The thing I like about digital is that I know the color will look exactly like it looked on the screen. And the printing quality will be always [sic] perfect for everyone and that’s amazing. But I don’t have any specific changes that I will make in the layout design, or the storytelling, or the drawing style because it’s going to be on the screen and not on paper. For me it’s the same thing.”

Aron Nels Steinke: “My published work I’m generally thinking about turning a page in a book. That’s how I enjoy reading comics the most.” …

“I would like to see digital versions of my books or any other books done panel by panel. I really like the way my friend Zac Soto—who has a group called Study Group—a lot of times when they put their work online it’s an infinite canvas going vertically. Because that’s how you’re scrolling if it’s online.”

At this the moderator mentioned “Design for devices and print should be designed for that medium. But usually not both.”

Gene Yang: “When I am writing my own comics, and making my own comics, I almost always am just thinking about the print version. Mostly because like Aron—I love that page turn. I can’t imagine doing without it. It seems to me that most comics, even if they’re presented digitally, are still formatted for print. There’s still the concept of the page which is purely a print thing.”

In finishing his thought Yang helped the moderator sign off the panel on another laugh.

Gene Yang: I know Scott—it’s too bad he left!

Moderator: If he had stayed this would be a whole other panel.

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29. How Do Award Judges Feel About the Books They Were Unable to Honor?

Best YA and Middle-Grade novels selected by Pete Hautman. His latest book is Eden West, the story of a boy growing up in an isolated doomsday cult in Montana.

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30. Interview: Jack Baxter returns to Tel Aviv for Mike’s Place


By Cal Cleary

Jack Baxter, an American filmmaker, went to Israel in 2003 to make a documentary. When his initial subject fell through, he found a new story in the form of Mike’s Place, a Tel Aviv blues bar where people from all over could meet in peace amidst all the turmoil. There, he met Joshua Faudem, an American-Israeli filmmaker, and the two teamed up to tell the story of Mike’s Place, unaware that the bar would soon be targeted by suicide bombers. They kept the cameras rolling through the aftermath of the bombing and the bar’s rebirth, and Blues By the Beach, their documentary, came out in 2004. Baxter’s newest project finds him re-teaming with Faudem and working with cartoonist Koren Shadmi to dig deeper into both the bombing and the lives of the men and women who frequented the bar. We recently got a chance to speak with Baxter about Mike’s Place, the transition from filmmaking to making graphic novels, and much more.

You come from a history of documentary filmmaking. In addition to producing Blues By the Beach, the making of which you detail here, you also wrote, produced and directed Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X. What was it about the graphic novel format that interested you as an alternative to filmmaking or a more traditional book?

A graphic novel is essentially the same as a movie storyboard: A continuous storyline with written dialogue and description and illustrations in both mediums.

Actually, in 2006, literary agent Jerry Rudes did pitch a nonfiction book idea to major publishers that I was supposed to write. Long story, didn’t happen. I kept thinking about slogging away on my great American novel for years and years rehashing a tale of woe. I’m glad that book never happened.

Filmmaking is a hassle from day one to the finish line. But the satisfaction quotient from watching a live audience experience something you helped create makes all the work worth it. So when my co-writer and the director of Blues, Joshua Faudem, said we should write a movie screenplay I was all-in. MIKE’S PLACE was born of the screenplay.

Was it challenging to write a graphic novel script, or did the experience you had from crafting narrative out of documentary footage translate easily to the new format?

MikesPlace_combined_100-28We already had a fully realized screenplay filled with description, dialogue, locations, and a fast-paced narrative. When it served the story we used actual scenes and outtakes from Blues by the Beach. First Second provided us with their graphic novel format template, and we re-worked some scenes and dialogue where it was suggested. Once it passed the collective smell test, we were off to the races.

In terms of storytelling, did you find the graphic novel medium better than film or vice versa?

Creating a graphic novel and making a film are in the same ballpark for me. The big advantage of film is SOUND. The advantage of the graphic novel is that you ingest at your own pace so you can really focus and ruminate. No wonder to me Hollywood is snatching-up this storytelling format left and right. It’s not a giant leap from paper to film. You have built-in visuals that weary-eyed studio readers can more easily rate and recommend.

Blues By the Beach was released very soon after the suicide bombing. With Mike’s Place, you have the added perspective that comes with more than a decade’s distance. Has that changed the way you see the bar, its mission, or the bombing itself?

The mission of Mike’s Place remains the same today as every bar and live-music venue anywhere in the world – social interaction and making a buck. The terrorist conspiracy that tried to send a message to a Tel Aviv beachfront bar, next-door to the American Embassy, failed. Yes, they killed and wounded people, but they didn’t get the “last word” in Israel or here in the USA.

Mike’s Place is bigger than ever and has locations all over Israel and is soon expanding into Europe, and who knows, maybe even another Mike’s Place in a hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Do you see Blues by the Beach and Mike’s Place as companion pieces, or separate works with separate goals?

I think they both stand on their own. The big difference is, in the graphic novel, we were able to dig deeper into our characters, chart the journey and reveal the true motivation of the terrorists. It shows the historical significance of why Mike’s Place was chosen for attack after midnight on April 30, 2003.

Mike’s Place strays so thoroughly from the way we typically see this region. In a lot of ways, the bar at the center of this story wouldn’t feel out-of-place anywhere in the U.S., something you mention being important in the book. Do you think that the way the media portrays this conflict has helped desensitize or dissuade people from believing a lasting peace can be achieved?

There are lots of voices crying in the wilderness. If you don’t like Fox, MSNBC or CNN – change the channel and MikesPlace_combined_100-27check out Al Jazeera and the BBC every once in a while. Meet some Palestinians and Israelis face to face. They don’t have horns on their heads.

If Mike’s Place can serve as an example of a modern Middle East then we’re on to something. And if you go there and you don’t drink, you can always get some falafel or a cheeseburger and listen to free live music. Just make sure no matter what, that you tip the bartenders and waitresses and when the musicians pass the hat, don’t pretend your texting on your iPhone. Now that could really start a war…

What made you choose First Second as the publisher for Mike’s Place?

First Second publisher-editor Mark Siegel is a family friend of the Faudem Family from Michigan. Matter-of-fact, I met Mark’s mother and father at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival eight years before I met him. Joshua suggested I drop off our screenplay and Blues DVD to him at his office, a couple blocks from here. A year later, after Mark finished his own Sailor Twain graphic novel, he saw the film and read the screenplay.

As I see it, all these connections and stars aligning is Bashert – that’s Yiddish for Fate.

How did you meet artist Koren Shadmi?

Through Mark Siegel. He told us he’d always wanted to hire Koren and our project was perfect for him. And when we saw his work, we wanted him too.

Autobiographical and journalistic graphic novels are big right now, and getting bigger every year. Are there any that particularly inspired you?

Hands down, Zahra’s Paradise by Amir & Khalil about the 2009 Iranian elections and Arne Bellstorf’s Baby’s in Black about Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe and the Beatles in early 1960s Hamburg.

Although much of the story is shown from your perspective, there are a lot of bits that you weren’t present for. Did you go back and talk to any of the Mike’s Place family to fill in those gaps? What kind of research did you do to piece together the parts from the bombers’ perspectives?

Jack.Baxter1.credit.Gerry.LernerI went back to Israel for two months in March of 2006 for more medical treatments. I interviewed every person I could who was at Mike’s Place that night. Back then I still thought I’d write my great American novel. I compiled everything as part of my research for that prospective book. One survivor, who I was next to that night, “Sugar Shiri” Mirvis, showed me where we were and where security guard Avi Tabib had landed inside the bar.

I read everything I could about the British terrorists Asif Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif – their seemingly happy boyhood in England, their radicalization and friendship with Mohammad Sidique Khan – the future mastermind of the July 7, 2005 London Transit Attack. And I studied detailed timelines published online by Israeli and British investigators. I think we have a good handle on who they were and what they believed.



In the book, you come across as incredibly optimistic, as though all it would take for peace in the Middle East is for everyone to just listen to one another for a moment. Would you still consider yourself optimistic about the situation? Are there any hopeful signs you see for the region?

I really come off that naive?

Besides Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer is my favorite philosopher. I’ve read both volumes of his The World As Will And Representation. And Schopenhauer’s the patron saint of pessimists.

Forgive me for being a wiseass. It’s getting late here.

I do hope for a lasting peace in the Middle East. But pragmatism urges me to caution. In the present, I try and see past stereotypes. But people and situations are often typecast for good reasons. Like I said to Gal Ganzman when I first met him tending bar at Mike’s Place: “It’s not easy trying to solve the Middle East Conflict.”

As someone who is clearly familiar with this struggle, are there any books or documentaries on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that you’d recommend to readers who enjoyed Mike’s Place and want to learn more?

For books: Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the T.E. Lawrence masterpiece The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. A great movie comedic tragedy is Palestinian director Elia Suleiman’s Divine Intervention. For documentaries: the brilliant Israeli documentary filmmaker Ram Loevey’s Close, Closed, Closure. And of course, check out Blues by the Beach.

Do you have any upcoming projects, either in film or in graphic novel, planned right now?

Israeli producer Avi Bohbot, director Joshua Faudem and I want to make a documentary about a friend of mine, Imam Benjamin Bilal, who was my Islamic Consultant for Brother Minister and also helped choose the Quran verses showcased in MIKE’S PLACE. Long story short, Ben is a charismatic Muslim-American leader on the rise. He was born a Black Israelite and raised Jewish in Harlem. At thirteen he joined the Nation of Islam, eventually becoming a traditional Muslim. We want to show Ben Bilal in action at his mosque in Trenton, New Jersey, and follow him preaching around North America and Europe. We all wind up in Jerusalem where Islam, Christianity and Judaism meet.

My hope is Ben comes across incredibly optimistic.

IMAM BENJAMIN BILAL May 15, 2015: http://muslimjournal.net/?p=1720

BILAL Trailer: https://vimeo.com/98628538

Mike’s Place is on sale from First Second as of June 9th and can be purchased at your local book retailer.

Be sure to check out the trailer for Mike’s Place : http://www.mikesplacebook.com/


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31. First Second Announces Pashima, a YA Bildungsroman that Seeks to Change the Way You See India

Today, cartoonist Nidhi Chanani announced that her first graphic novel, Pashima, has been picked up by First Second to be released in 2017.  Pashima is the story of a Indian-American girl named Priyanka Das who lives in Orange County and seeks to reconnect with her mother’s Indian roots.  She finds a pashima shawl that whisks her away from America and takes her on a “fantastical journey to understand her heritage – and herself.”  Think 1001 Arabian Nights meets Persepolis.pashima001

Chanani describes her story as an attempt to undo the decades of misconceptions surrounding India.  Instead of a land filled with “poverty, hokey gurus, and the kama sutra,” Chanani wants readers to experience the India that she knows, filled with “strong family ties, deep spirituality, and beautiful landscapes.”  Unlike other graphic novels that deal with topics of “otherness” from a racial perspective like Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, Chanani’s book does not seek to cut or scathe.  She does not seek to confront a group of oppressors, but rather empower children that currently share the struggle that she once faced in her youth.  From the announcement:

My teenage understanding of India was tainted by poverty stricken, third world imagery. How wonderful would it be if a young person learned about their culture through only positive representations? That’s the root of Pashmina; opening a suitcase and traveling to a fantasy version of India where a character can learn about their heritage in a favorable light.


Chanani is a newcomer to the world of comics, but is well known as an illustrator and social activist.  She was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for Asians and Pacific Islanders and runs a portfolio and studio site called Everyday Love.  As a first generation kid myself, I think it’s great to see stories that seek to embrace the duality of the culture minorities live in in America rather than seeking to separate from one or the other.


2 Comments on First Second Announces Pashima, a YA Bildungsroman that Seeks to Change the Way You See India, last added: 6/13/2015
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32. First Second’s The Divine to Debut with Art Exhibition

These days, rarely do I look at an illustrator’s portfolio and outright gasp.  It’s not that I’m necessarily jaded– I recognize and appreciate all the great art that comics illustrators put out every week.  However, it takes a lot more than it used to to truly astound me.

Tomer Hanuka’s portfolio astounds me.

On July 17th, San Francisco’s White Walls Gallery will pay tribute to Tomer by presenting ‘The Art of The Divine,’ an exhibition centered around Hanuka’s new graphic novel collaboration with writer Boaz Lavie and his twin brother and fellow illustrator Asaf Hanuka.   The comic will be released by First Second on July 14th and will explore themes of religion and war using a low fantasy premise.  The story focuses on Mark, a military veteran who’s pulled back into the fray when his former comrade Jason comes knocking.  They end up in Quanlom, an obscure South-East Asian country that is being ripped apart by a civil war led by ten year old twins with magic powers and an army of soldiers dressed like gods.



The exhibition will feature over 30 pieces, including layouts, pencils, concept art, and finalized pages.  Chris Jalufka of Evil Tender will curate the exhibit and hopes that it will elucidate the comic book production process to attendees.



Tomer Hanuka’s use of color is outstanding.  His use of understated pastels mixed with highly saturated colors for emphasis adds an incredibly effecting element to his impressively detailed linework.  His work on The Divine elevates our sense of reality without fully removing us from it, seamlessly mixing the quotidian with the fantastic to create a stark contrast between the world we know and the one that is just beyond our field of vision.




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33. Interview: Bryan Hill in Conversation with Former Batman Editor Joseph Illidge

By Bryan Hill

I met Joseph Illidge in 2002, before I wrote my first comic book. That year was a lot of me listening to his experience as a writer, filmmaker and comic book editor — and a few arguments about which Frank Miller work was the best, who would you rather have a pint with, Moore or Morrison, and the unbearable importance of Batman.

In 2015, I’m now writing several comics, as is Joseph, and diversity is one of the preeminent issues in the business of entertainment. Joseph, through his weekly column “The Mission” for CBR, stands defiant at the forefront of some difficult, but much needed conversations. Our back and forth tweeting around these issues seemed to urge us to do a formal interview. This is what happened.

Neither one of us held much back.

Bryan Hill: Origin stories matter so what’s yours? What drew you to storytelling? Was it an acute experience or a slow developing process? When were you certain you were going to dedicate your life to it? 

Joseph Illidge: I’ve always been an avid reader, and my mother encouraged it. Between taking me to buy comic books every Friday evening when I was in the second and third grade, to buying me an Encyclopedia Britannica set when I was in the fourth grade, she made sure my young brain was not starving for content.

I was also a nerd way before it was socially acceptable by the mainstream, so fiction, at times, was a more constant companion than peers, especially peers who were cooler than me.

Seeing as how I was more attracted to team books like Uncanny X-Men and Legion of Super-Heroes from the beginning, I think the idea of teamwork and family were themes that attracted me to comic books and stories in general. The idea that great things could be accomplished by enough good people with the same ultimate goal.

The day I started working for Milestone Media, the first Black-owned mainstream comic book company to have a publishing deal with an industry giant like DC Comics, was the day I knew I wanted to tell stories for the rest of my life.

Hill: Someone once told me “Don’t be a black intellectual because they kill those first.” You’re a black man and an intellectual. You survived where many haven’t. How? 

Illidge: In addition to having a great support structure of mentors and friends to enrich my life, I realized the importance of diplomacy and communication with precision. You can throw your opinion around like gasoline and light a match, in which case you’re going for a scorched earth effect, or you can wield your thoughts like a crossbow with a set of arrows. Know your message, aim with focus, pull back the arrow, then let it go. Hopefully, your ideas will connect with the audience.

I want to provoke conversations and debates, but in a fair way that maintains mutual respect between parties. I’ve criticized Marvel Comics in various ways, but I’ve known Axel Alonso, Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-chief, for almost twenty years, and he and I are still as cool as ever.


My reputation throughout the industry is solid because people know my intentions are genuine, my message is authentic, and my efforts toward a better comic book industry and medium speak to my love for the artform of comic books and art, in general.

So because people know where I’m coming from, I think that transparency has helped me meet and become friends with like-minded people.

When we support each other in common goals, “killing” the intellectual, Black, female, or otherwise, becomes a harder proposition for the opposition, because that intellectual is not alone.

Hill: You work across disciplines. How has working in different disciplines affected your understanding of them and art in general? 

Illidge: Having a background in art from my college years at New York City’s School of Visual Arts helped make me a better editor, because I speak to illustrators in their language and vocabulary of terms.

Being an editor has helped make me a better writer, because the idea that the story is always the first and last thing, the most important thing, gives me a safe distance from my ego. I can be in love with every draft of every script I write, but understanding the editor is my ally and being prepared to jettison ideas helps me get to the better draft in a way that spares me a certain amount of agita.

My writing helps me understand the virtues of various different story forms, so when I write a comic book or graphic novel, I don’t have to strive to imitate cinema because I’m working to exploit the unique aspects of the graphic novel format for telling a story.

Hill: Before I met you, I didn’t know there were editors of color in mainstream comics, or at least that editors of color were working on “white” comics like BATMAN. I was encouraged when I met you. It showed me that we didn’t have to play negro league baseball. We could just play baseball. What’s more important, a person of color initiative like MILESTONE, or people of color getting to play in traditionally “white” sandboxes? 

Illidge: The ownership of intellectual properties and creation of companies by people of color is the more important of the two.

Granted, playing in a well-known mainstream sandbox like Marvel Comics or DC Entertainment helps give creators of color notoriety, good pay rates, and an audience, all of which can and should inform and fortify that creator’s individual, self-owned or co-owned, projects.

However, the future will require more creators of color getting together with businesspersons to create formidable companies. It’s the most direct way to become part of the architecture of innovation, product creation, and the potential rewards for profit and empowerment.

Getting to draw or write Superman is not the summit, it’s the illusion of the summit when someone is in a mental desert starving for a form of nourishment the gatekeepers told them was needed to live and thrive.

Intellectual properties owned by corporations should not be the salvation for a creator of color looking to make a long-lasting impact.

Hill: I have to ask this, and it’s gonna piss some people off. Cassandra Cain was more interesting than Barbara Gordon. Damion Scott’s work was amazing. Cassandra Cain makes much more sense as Batgirl than Barbara Gordon. Did DC just “villain” her and then bury her because she’s brown?

illidgeBatgirlIllidge: I can tell you that for myself and the other members of the Batman editorial group at the time, getting upper management to go for an Asian Batgirl was a struggle.

My guess is that while Cassandra Cain as Batgirl was making a certain amount of money, she was “tolerated”, but once that changed, they didn’t know what to do with her.

Kill off the Asian girl? That wouldn’t look good.

Making her a villain was the next best option.

Unfortunately, Cassandra Cain was a victim of the mentality that fans don’t want change, and that intellectual properties cannot withstand change.

It’s a shame, because when you look at how DC Entertainment has embraced racebending, and Marvel Comics has really pushed a non-White Ms. Marvel, Cassandra Cain as Batgirl was certainly ahead of the curve by almost fifteen years, and DC Entertainment could have owned that prescience.

At this point, “Batman” writer Scott Snyder has made it clear that major developments are in the works for Cassandra, and writer Gail Simone helped keep the character somewhat visible, but really it feels like a corporate backpedal to me, now.

That said, I look forward to seeing what they do with the great character creators Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott brought to life.

Hill: What was the best experience you had being an editor, and why was it so rewarding? 

Illidge: While working as a Batman editor for DC Comics, I received a call out of the blue from Dick Giordano. He called to compliment me on Birds of Prey #16, which had Barbara Gordon, The Oracle, face The Joker for the first time in a “Silence of the Lambs” type story by writer Chuck Dixon, illustrator Butch Guice, colorist Gloria Vasquez, and letterer Albert Deguzman. It’s still one of my favorite comics from my editorial career, and Dick was gentlemanly enough to call and tell me he considered it a great comic book.

The man, God rest his soul, was a great guy and is a legend in the business, so that’s about as good as it gets.

Hill: What was your worst experience as an editor (without naming names) and why does it have that distinction? 

Illidge: Fortunately, I’ve had very few bad experience in my editorial career thus far.

The worst experience would probably be my last day at Milestone. It was bittersweet, because I wrapped up my last book, but I said goodbye to the first company that gave me a chance, to the men that gave me an opportunity.

I lost faith, and honestly, there was a part of me that felt guilty for working at DC Comics afterwards, due to the complicated relationship between them and Milestone in those days.

The good things I did for creators and comics at DC Comics got me past that guilt, and the returns (plural) of Milestone through the years helped teach me to never lose faith in the power of positive action and impact.

Hill: What is something that creators don’t know about editors that they should? 

Illidge: Editors are subject to the trickle-down of corporate manure, and they take more bullets for creators than the public will ever know.

Hill: You explore the role of both race and racism in popular culture. When did you decide you were going to do that exploration and has your perspective changed along that journey? 

Illidge: When Jonah Weiland, the Executive Producer of Comic Book Resources, offered me the opportunity to write and manage “The Color Barrier,” my first series of columns for the site, I knew I had an opportunity and responsibility to explore both, without flinching.

My perspective has changed in the sense that I’m more aware of the progress of parallel struggles for diversity in comics, by women, LGBT persons, disabled persons, and so even though the comic book industry has miles to walk, still, to address diversity in a universal manner, I’m more hopeful every day. Setbacks and slights against people in the aforementioned groups do not affect the inertia of my hope in the slightest.


Hill: Why do you think comic book companies are very willing to create and promote characters that suffer prejudice because of their diversity, but they seem to not want diverse creators to tell stories about those characters? Is it just fear and if so, of what? 

Illidge: Creating diverse characters is easy, especially when the industry assigns most of their creation to the mostly non-POC writers pool of their companies.

Promoting them is easy because the apparatus for such is already in place, and it makes the publishers look impressively progressive.

It’s apparently more difficult because of a lack of desire to expand beyond the paths of least resistance, expand beyond the more publicized writers. That takes effort, it takes work, and people can always use looming deadlines and heavy workloads as excuses to not investigate outside of familiar territory when it comes to discovering writers of color.

Also, I suspect the publishers are afraid of being seen as caving in to public outcry, because, really, what profitable organization wants to give people the impression that their unfavorable criticisms carry weight?

Additionally, when it comes to Black writers, the general assumption that agenda comes with skill. A Black writer, given an opportunity to write The Punisher won’t automatically turn it into a polemic on violence against young Black people in America.

Interesting that a Black writer has never been given the opportunity to write a monthly X-Men series, considering how the premise of that franchise dovetails with racism.

Hill: I feel the existence of a double-standard in comics, but I can’t define it as more than that. Do you feel that way and if so, what do you think is the nature of that double standard? 

Illidge: Black people are respected as consumers, but not as writers, in general, by the major publishers. Full stop.

Hill: What do you believe is the most underserved market in the world of popular culture, comics and beyond? 

Illidge: Disabled persons.

Hill: In your CBR column, THE MISSION, you often reach the conclusion that attention to diversity is transient, a strategic reaction to social pressure, but rarely does it persist beyond a news cycle. How can that change? 

Illidge: Two ways, at the least.

People from the groups not benefitting from equality can band together in unified efforts. Join up and create companies that create formidable product. Carve out new territories and command some market share. When success is achieved without the aid of popular companies, their attention turns to you. They seek you out.

That’s when the real discussion and negotiations can begin.

In addition, we cannot let up on the gatekeepers. Remain vigilant, give credit where it’s due, and honest examination always. Consistent, intelligent discourse combined with action can chip away at walls of corporate indifference.

When cereal companies make commercials targeted at interracial couples, when DC Comics announced two female-centric lines inside of two months…these things confirm an understanding of our financial power, and our capacity to spend our money on their competitors.

Hill: I know a bit about one of your current projects, a graphic novel about the Harlem Renaissance, but I don’t know much more than that. What is it and what should readers expect?   

Illidge: The graphic novel is called The Ren, a 200-plus page story about a romance between Black teenage artists, one from Georgia and the other from Harlem, during the Harlem Renaissance years. In the midst of a crime war, the couple try to make their way, while doing a little growing up at the same time.  The story was created by myself and co-writer Shawn Martinbrough, the artist on Image Comics’ “Thief of Thieves” series, along with illustrator Grey Williamson.  I consider it a love letter to creative artists of all ages everywhere, who struggle within a world getting more complicated day by day.

The Ren will be published by First Second Books, the house behind critically-acclaimed graphic novels such as This One Summer and American-Born Chinese.


Hill: Many writers I know have rituals for working, music they choose, a place they like to work? What is your creation ritual? 

Illidge: Put on some comfortable clothes, eat some food, do something active for ten minutes, sit at the chair, choose a Pandora station, and hit the keyboard. Rinse, repeat.

Keep two Google windows open for research and fact-checking.

Stop when my thoughts take on the consistency of molasses.

Hill: Did you have mentors, and if so, can you name some of them and what you learned (and likely continue to learn) from them? 

Illidge: My mentors of past and present are Derek T. Dingle, Dwayne McDuffie, Michael Davis, and Denys Cowan, four of the five founders of Milestone Media, Inc.  Dennis O’Neil, former Batman Group Editor, co-creator of Ra’s Al Ghul, and critically-acclaimed writer of many a Batman story, Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter, The Question, and many other books by DC Comics.  Steven Barnes, novelist, martial artist, and lifestyle guru/advisor.  I have a new mentor, helping me with my global goals.

In general, what I learn from them is professionalism, patience, control of the message, and balance.


Hill: Do you think that the business synergy between comics and film, while certainly lucrative for both spheres, has negatively affected the quality of comic books? It’s not a loaded question. I honestly am not sure most of the time and I’m curious about what you think. 

Illidge: I think the quality of comic books overall has never been better, and there are certainly more opportunities for comic book creators to receive well-deserved visibility and profit due to the synergy between comic books and Hollywood.

Unfortunately, the synergy has led to greater corporate oversight, which has stifled creativity in various instances. It’s no coincidence that more high-profile creators have more creator-owned projects in monthly publication than ever. That’s the result of ennui and the exhaustion of navigating around story for reasons connected with profit.

Hill: Many people reading this are creators looking to become professional with their work. I’m sure you have a multitude of perspectives to share, but if you don’t mind boiling it down into three things all creators should keep in mind during the transition into professional work, what would those three things be? 

Illidge: Find allies and advisors who will tell you the truth, in order for you to become better at your craft.

Aspire to create work as good as the works you admire, on schedule.

Develop a mental callouses, because criticism is inevitable and you will have to make many changes on the way to good work.

Hill: Miles or Peter? And why? 

Illidge: Peter.

He lost his uncle to a criminal, his first love to a villain, his first wife to a deal with The Devil, faces pain and suffering with humor and hope, and never, ever gives up.

Bryan Hill is a comic author and screenwriter. Currently he is writing POSTAL for Top Cow/Image. He lives and works in Los Angeles. 

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34. SDCC ’15 Interview: Mariko Tamaki talks about “This One Summer”

Mariko Tamaki

Mariko Tamaki

By Nick Eskey

Mariko Tamaki is a Canadian born artist of mixed Japanese and Jewish descent. In school she studied literature and writing, later on publishing the book “Cover Me,” as well as graphic novels “Skim” and “Emiko Superstar.”  Her recent work is another graphic novel entitled “This One Summer.” Jillian Tamaki, Mariko’s cousin, did the illustrations for both this novel and for “Skim.”

“This One Summer” gives a glimpse into the life of two young girls as they spend one summer at a cottage by the beach. We get to see them learn and experience new things, as well as see the contrast between lives of adults and kids. During this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I got to sit down and talk about this book with writer Mariko Tamaki. Unfortunately, Jillian could not attend.

The First Second booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2015

The First Second booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2015

How long have you been doing comics?

The first comic I did was with Jillian. It was a mini-comic called “Skim.” I believe it was the early summer of 2008 I did the first mini-comic for a literary magazine in Canada called “Kiss Machine.” So… this woman, Emily Pulari, commissioned these mini-comics from women who never really had a lot of experience with comics. So we did a mini-comic through that. It’s kind of like a “test case.” Kind of like a low pressure to try something out. So we did the mini-comic of “Skim,” and that got purchased by “Groundwood Books.” And that was our first graphic novel together. That was my first work in comics.

ThisOneSummer2Did you ever think you’d get into comics?

I had no aspirations to work in comics. But I always really liked working on collaborations. I’ve actually done a lot of theatre, and I’ve done a lot of performance art, which for me was like a more accessible version of theatre. So I’ve done a lot of actors work, and a lot of work in sort of feminist collectives and stuff. I was really into the idea of working with another artist than I was in comics per say. But I would say now that I’ve done comics, I think that they’re just an incredible medium for telling stories. The way that stories get told in my experience in comics is that it opens opportunities to tell [them] in so many different angles.

What were some of your ideas for writing this story?

I grew up in Northern Ontario, Canada. And every summer, you went to the cottage. So it was this like solid, integral part of my childhood… When it comes to comics, especially with this one, I thought of the atmosphere. I felt the background would be a good setting for a story. And I’m also kind of obsessed with transitional moments. So for me, the idea of being these young girls, and having this chunk of their lives, and analyzing that part, and all the sort of changes that would happen, even if [those changes] were all going to be during this one summer of their lives… it was something I wanted to show.

Would you say this mirrors any of your life?

Well I use to go to the cottage, but I didn’t have any of those challenges. I used some things as a beginning point, and created something fictional from that. Obviously I was a young girl at the cottage, and I had the fat young friend there too, but the characters are not really that connected to my life. The experiences that they have are not my experiences, aside from the fact that I also did go to Saint Joseph in Huron, which is the park that they go to in the book. Actually, Jillian and I as part of our research (that’s what we call it, “research”), went to Saint Joseph in Huron, went to the cottage, and spent a week in Nova Scotia which is I think one of the best places to write a book.

I think the dialogue is very down to Earth, and very easy to relate to. Is there anything that was hard for you to talk about?

During the initial draft, it was sort of a struggle to write the character of the mother because it’s hard to write somebody who’s not talking about what’s bothering them. And I think that’s so much of what Jillian brought to that character in terms of the details. Even the t-shirts that the mom wears have all these details that kind of build up that character. And we sort of went back and re-edited [her] a lot, because who wants to read about this upset mom who’s just having a bad day? I think that’s like the archetype of the “pissed-off-mom” from like ancient times on. And we wanted to see the layers of that experience. That was a really challenging thing to write, and it ended up being one of the more intriguing stuff. For whatever reason, the writing for Wendy and Rose was for me kind of easy. Their banter was just fun and easy, and it’s hard to write for someone that’s just not pleasant… it’s hard to lovingly write that.


The kids seemed to be able to live in the moment, where the older characters were concerned with other things. How was it to show that dynamic of the two?

My archetype for stuff like that has always been the “Roseanne” show. It’s about the kids, and it’s about the adults. And the problems of the kids are not entirely linked to the adults, but their completely meshed. It’s like you have these people in this microcosm and their like push-pull on each other, where they’re struggling with the same struggles. So for me, I think it’s that kind of step forward from “Skim” to this book. That challenge of really creating a story that’s not just about the kids in this little bubble; to see these layered connections between the kids in the town, these kids in their respective homes, and all other different relationships. To me some of the most interesting scenes are the ones were something of the adults reverberate to the kids; their parents get into a fight, and that trickles down from the parents and then to the kid. And I think that sort of chain reaction is a super interesting one… It’s great to see someone on an adventure, fighting for their family or what have you, but at the same time most of our reality as teenagers is connected to our parents.

It really is interesting seeing these kids’ “bubbles” being formed and shaped by their parents.

It’s like a book about trying to be an adult, just as much for the adults as it is for the kids. These parents are trying to be adults, they’re trying to do the right thing. These teenagers are trying to be adults. And it’s all these varying groups of people that have this notion of what it means to be a grownup, and that depressing challenge of it being out of your reach.

Have you found yourself open to other avenues because of your exposure to graphic novels?

I ended up doing this short film called “Happy Sixteenth Birthday Kevin,” which is a movie about a sixteen year old Goth boy, but the cast is like me and my 30 year old friends. So I did that, because comics showed me how much I love dialogue, and I try to incorporate that as much as I can in the work that I’m doing.

“This One Summer” is available now. You can buy it online, or at your local book store.

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35. Review: The Sculptor is a page-turning meditation on life, art & love

Sculptor5 Review: The Sculptor is a page turning meditation on life, art & love

By Harper Harris

Although Scott McCloud has worked on fiction comics before, it’s been a while. He wrote and drew his fantastically unique superhero series Zot! in the mid-eighties, and since then the only major return was writing a few issues of Superman Adventures in 1996 and The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln in 1998. What he’s most famous for is his work within comics theory, in the form of the seminal Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and finally Making Comics. These are highly regarded works amongst the comics community; reading the first often marks the beginning of a true devotee to sequential storytelling, acting as a kind of benchmark in fandom. McCloud set a pretty high bar for himself with this series when he set out to return to comics fiction with his massive new graphic novel, The Sculptor, and luckily for him, it mostly holds up to the sort of scrutiny that he brought to the comics world with his analytic books.

The Sculptor revolves around the life of David Smith, a young artist who we find at his lowest: the acclaim surrounding his earlier work has faded away, he has no family left, and he’s spending his last few bucks on a cheap diner meal for his twenty sixth birthday. The inciting action of the book is a Faustian deal with death: David agrees that for the power to create great art, he will only live for 200 more days. Although his new found powers–the ability to sculpt any material with just his bare hands–grants him artistic ability, he still struggles to deal with the fickle art world and most importantly, the fact that he may have met the love of his life with just a few months to live.

 Review: The Sculptor is a page turning meditation on life, art & love

The writing is quite strong. David, while not the most likeable guy in every circumstance, is relatable and familiar, especially if you’ve ever known a fine artist. He’s frustrating but inspiring, and his struggles, both existential and tangible, hit a lot of the right emotional beats. It’s a massive graphic novel at just under 500 pages, but for the majority of the book it is a page turner; I found myself not knowing where things were going, in a very exciting way. McCloud throws in many different conflicts, from a breakdown in communication with a loved one to the inability to make art that is both crowd-pleasing and truly great. Perhaps most noteworthy is his portrayal of depression, which comes across as refreshingly true-to-life, not using it as a plot device but rather making it a crucial part of character development.

The art, too, is perhaps McCloud’s best. There’s an excellent sense of pacing that subtly draws you into the perspective of David, with things moving along quickly with smaller gutter space when he’s excited or scared. The book is two-toned, being in black and white with blue shading, and it looks fantastic. McCloud’s cartooning is pretty phenomenal, capturing the moods of each of the characters often with only a look, and particularly important to the book is his rendering of the actual sculptures, which are visually interesting and feel true to both real life abstract sculpture and David’s character. The Sculptor subtly plays with storytelling techniques that are exciting and fresh, crafted with the ambition of a young artist but the forethought of a cartooning master.

 Review: The Sculptor is a page turning meditation on life, art & love

My biggest issue with the book comes with the last act, as David’s life is winding down. Things take a narrative twist at this point, and while I wasn’t wholly against the twist, it loses a lot of the “down to earth-ness” that it had up until that point. There are moments when it truly shines–a life flashing before your eyes sequence with literally hundreds of panels over ten pages stands out–but the book loses a lot of momentum and latches onto some unfortunate narrative cliches. The ending is not a mess, but it feels rushed and a bit of a misstep compared to the rest of the book, which is plotted with a lot of care and subtlety and has a unique unpredictability.

That said, the book tackles some fascinating themes. The Sculptor captures what it is to be a frustrated artist better than most stories, and does it in a way that is visually gorgeous, especially if you’re a fan of black and white cartooning. Throughout the bulk of the book, it brings in characters, ideas, and narrative devices that are distinctive and oftentimes quite beautiful. The way in which death is portrayed and explained, for example, and how he shows David the afterlife as a terrifyingly blank page are worth a lot of rumination, and while they reference earlier works (The Seventh Seal in particular), McCloud brings his own visual language to the whole concept.

Sculptor300RGB 211x300 Review: The Sculptor is a page turning meditation on life, art & love

Although the last bit left me a bit less than 100% engaged, the majority of the book had me cancelling plans so I could continue reading. Overall, it’s a major graphic accomplishment, one that is both a compelling page-turner and a relevant meditation on life, art, and love, presented by one of the most important cartoonists of our time. It’s certain to be the start of many best of 2015 lists, and despite my issues with it, I can’t say I wouldn’t consider it among the better graphic novels in the last several years. The Sculptor‘s careful storytelling and alluring art far outweigh the narrative problems that slowly creep in towards the last part, and in the end, it’s a book I would strongly recommend with just a few qualifiers.

The Sculptor releases on February 3rd. If you act fast, you can still order signed copies through Barnes and Noble. See ScottMcCloud.com for details on the book tour.

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36. Mariko and Jillian Tamaki on This One Summer winning the Caldecott and Printz Honors


By Harper Harris

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki‘s This One Summer was one of the most highly acclaimed graphic novels of 2014, popping up on a great number of top ten lists as well as winning an Ignatz Award for Best Graphic Novel. To say it was an attention grabber for the already heralded Canadian creators is an understatement.

Just last week, this tale of two childhood friends on the cusp of adolescence was awarded with the prestigious Caldecott Honor, being the first ever graphic novel to do so, along with the Printz Honor (and joins Gene Luen Yang‘s Boxers & Saints as the only other graphic novel to notch that award as well).

Mariko and Jillian were kind enough to join me for a brief Q&A regarding the recent wins and the creative process on this landmark work.

Where were you each when you learned you won the Caldecott Honor? Who called whom?

Jillian Tamaki: I was in bed.

Mariko Tamaki: I think we eventually texted each other about it.

Is there a sense of accomplishment or “I’ve made it” for winning such a prestigious award? Jillian, how does it compare to your Eisner nominations or the Ignatz award that This One Summer also received?

JT: The feeling is one of gratitude. I’ll never felt like “I’ve made it!” until I’m like a hunched-over old person still making things.

Is it more gratifying to get recognition outside of the world of comics, which you’ve done multiple times at this point?

JT: Both are gratifying. Honours granted by librarians are special to me because it represents a knowledgeable, discerning audience that actually works with young people. Honours granted by comics people are special because it means perhaps I am creating something of value within the medium.

Were you relieved that you both got nominated for this award, rather than one or the other as in some past awards?

MT: When one of us gets nominated, I generally see it as a misconception of how graphic novels work.  So, yes.

Do awards matter to you? I hope that’s not a weirdly loaded question.

JT: Um, they are nice, yes. Especially when there is money attached, because comics are not lucrative. But I try to not let outside validation determine the micro and macro decisions I make as a creative person.

MT: I guess awards help sales.  There are many awesome comics and books out there that have not been nominated, so we’re in good company either way.

This One Summer ended up on many top ten lists for 2014…how does it feel to have one of the most critically acclaimed OGNs of the year among fans? Is it rewarding to see that fans of more mainstream comics are picking up and really enjoying works like yours?

JT: Of course!

As cousins, were you making comics as kids together? When did you decide to pursue sequential art collaboratively?

MT: We lived in distant cities as kids, so there was little comics making.  It wasn’t until we made our first mini comic of Skim back in…2006 (?) that we started working together.

How long has this idea been gestating, and how long did it take to actually script and illustrate This One Summer?

JT: It took probably 3 years in total. It took a year of solid work to do the final artwork.
MT: Roughly 6 months to script.  Plus changes.

What was your working process on This One Summer? Especially since I understand you don’t live near each other? Was there an initial script first and then an art stage, or was it done in a more section by section basis?

JT: We Skyped a lot. Mariko scripts the dialogue with occasional actions. I do a sketch version. We edit it together, a lot. Then I do the final art.

Where were your individual high and low points in the creative process of this book? Were there any parts that drove you crazy or were difficult to pull off?

JT: The most difficult part was the editing of the sketch phase. As it is with any book, I’m sure.

When I started reading This One Summer, I almost thought it was autobiographical…do either of your personal experiences play a role in the story? Were any of the designs of the characters based on real people?

MT: Nope.  There is an actual cottage area that inspired TOS, up in Georgian Bay, Ontario, which I highly recommend people visit.

What is it about the adolescent stage of life that attracts you?

MT: I think most people spend their whole lives trying to figure out how and what to be.  As I understand it, it’s not something that stops with adulthood.  I think adolescence is interesting because it’s the start of this process.  Everything is just that much more on the surface that it is when you’re an adult.

I love how you use Rose and Windy watching horror movies as a kind of metaphor for seeing the world in a more adult way…are you big classic horror movie fans, or how did that aspect of the story develop?

JT: No, I am a chicken. It was easy for me to draw the freaked-out kids.

Your capturing of the pre-teen voice and body language is wonderful…where do you pull that from? Is it based on your memories, or did you embark on any research?

JT: I am fascinated by the storytelling potential of bodies. We are very attuned to what they are communicating and I like to stretch that to effect. Sometimes I get very hung up on tiny details that I’m sure no one will see, but I think it adds up to an overall sensitivity.

MT: I am a chronic eavesdropper.  Although the other day on the subway I was pretty sure some kid called me out for doing it so, I’m going to have to learn to be a little less gleeful listening to teenagers talk.

Rose’s family is fraying apart for much of the book. Why was it important to highlight the onset of familial strife, particularly seen from the eyes of a younger character?

MT: Who doesn’t have a little familial strife in their lives these days?  It would seem kind of weird to me not to include it, whether writing about kids or adults.

This One Summer is considered to be all-ages, but there are different elements that clearly resonate with adults, which sort of mirrors how Rose is beginning to see the world as well. Who do you feel is the intended audience for the book? Or do you feel like This One Summer is fairly wide-ranging in its appeal?

JT: I only think of a few ideal readers when I work on the book. Some of those readers are real people, some are imagined. They’re usually not young kids. Some are teenagers. Most are my age.

MT: I think a books audience is self selecting.  I don’t see a 10 year old reading this book cover to cover.  Beyond that I think the idea is to write about not for.

What made First Second your choice of publisher, and why return to them after Skim, specifically?

JT: Groundwood, which published SKIM, put out TOS in Canada, and they have done a wonderful job. First Second made sense in that they had very strong ties to the American library system, in addition to the Macmillan network. But I think it has been excellent having both publishers, as Groundwood can prioritize the Canadian industry. After all, we are Canadian authors and the content is largely Canadian.

How are your next individual projects coming along? Mariko, I understand you’re working on a new YA novel, and Jillian it sounds like you’ve got some more “irons in the fire” in addition to your work on Adventure Time.

JT: My webcomic “SuperMutant Magic Academy” comes out in book form in April from D&Q. Also in April, Youth in Decline is publishing a short story of mine called SexCoven. It will be part of their “Frontier” series.

MT: My next prose YA book, Saving Montgomery Sole, will be released by Roaring Brook/Penguin Canada in Winter 2016.

This One Summer is available through First Second and on sale at your local book retailer

1 Comments on Mariko and Jillian Tamaki on This One Summer winning the Caldecott and Printz Honors, last added: 2/15/2015
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37. Sony nabs feature film rights for Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor

NEW GRID (TO SPEC)When it rains, it pours as it comes to news of comics getting gobbled up for adaptation. Following the just announced Dreadstar television series deal, THR is now reporting that Sony has picked up the film rights to Scott McCloud‘s acclaimed graphic novel The Sculptor.

The film will be produced by Academy Award winner Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Josh Bratman (Captain Phillips).

The Sculptor, McCloud first fictional comics work since 1998’s The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln, has only been out via First Second for two weeks and has been incredibly well-received by the critical community. You can read Beat contributor Harper Harris‘ review here, as well as our interview with McCloud on the process of creating the nearly 500 page graphic novel.

1 Comments on Sony nabs feature film rights for Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor, last added: 2/19/2015
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38. Interview: Andi Watson crafts up a monstrous three courses with Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula


By Harper Harris

Andi Watson is a British cartoonist whose work has spanned from projects such as Dark Horse’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer to his creator owned work like Skeleton Key. In recent years, he’s moved into more youth-oriented material like Glister and Gum Girl.

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, his newest original graphic novel from First Second, centers on the title princess, and her struggles to run the monster-filled Underworld, in the wake of her layabout father doing little else than eating and complaining. After her father fires the chef, Princess Decomposia replaces him with a vampire baking whiz named Count Spatula. Their budding relationship is told within the pages of Watson’s latest offering.

I had an opportunity to sit down with Watson about the genesis of this new work, monsters, cooking, and his creative process.

What were your biggest influences on Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula? What was its genesis for you?

My biggest drive was to create an original graphic novel front to back. After a couple of decades of making comics I had never actually made a single volume that was over sixty-odd pages or hadn’t been serialised. I felt like it was a challenge I hadn’t overcome yet, and after making a lot of comics over the years, finding something fresh is always welcome. I also wanted to tell a story that combined the relationship and romance side of my work with fun genre things to draw. I’ve kind of flipped between the two, but in this book I put them together. So it was satisfying to write and a pleasure to draw.

How would you compare the process of working on Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula with your works just previous like Gum Girl or the Glister books? 

PrincessAndCount_100-29I guess they are all stories with a beginning, middle and an end. That was good training before stepping into a hundred-and-sixty page book. I find figuring out structure and pacing beforehand really helps me. With Gum Girl it was with twenty page stories and I found that discipline really useful. Being concise is a handy skill in comics, and it helped keep me on track. What set this book and Glister apart from Gum Girl was the lack of a long gestation period. I find I do my best work by knuckling down and just getting on with a story. When I’m drawing the pages and am ‘in the zone’ I don’t want any hold ups. Delays of even a few days make it harder to get back to ‘peak fitness’ so I prefer to keep my head down and keep working. That doesn’t always fit in with the publishing process but it’s how I’m best able to concentrate and maintain focus.

Compared to Gum Girl, Princess Decomposia has a bit more of stripped down artistic style (particularly being in black and white), why that choice? 


Gum Girl interior art

Funnily enough, if you look at the Gum Girl line art, they’re quite stripped down too. That’s because it’s a colour book and I wanted to have lots of open shapes to hold the colour and little to no black. Working with colour meant spending a lot of time squinting at a computer screen and I wanted to cut that back with Princess Decomposia. I aimed to have as much of the work complete on the page as possible – including the lettering – and as it’s set in the Underworld, the black and white art is appropriate. I was also determined to work on the pace and rhythm of the pages rather than get bogged down in rendering realistic stonework. If the reader is absorbing and understanding the story without even realising it, then I’ve done a good job. The art is there to tell the story, not draw attention to itself. Having said that, the most satisfying aspect of drawing a comic is bringing a character to life, getting their body language and facial expressions right. If I do that and do it concisely, so much the better.

What was your process in writing this book? Did you have a set place you wanted to the story to end up, or did you let the characters run with the themes you determined?

Starting a new book is the hardest part of the whole process. I find it intimidating. The beginning is always made up of page after page of scribbled notes. I might have characters, but no story, or an interesting setting, but no characters. Everything has to mesh and the themes grow organically out of the material. Plot and character have to interact and shape each other. It’s a bit like pushing a very heavy bicycle up a steep hill. At a critical point I know I have enough and the story starts to come together and I can cycle down the other side of hill. I like to have a structure in place and an ending. I make sure I have room to maneuver and if new and better ideas, or a better ending occur to me, I can incorporate that into the story.

A good deal of your work centers on female protagonists, particularly in your all-ages titles, what draws your creative voice to the opposite gender so often? 

I guess it began way back when I made Skeleton Key. That was a reaction to what was on the shelves at the time: few female characters wearing fewer clothes. That’s changed quite a bit, not only are there more female characters but many more female creators. But I do enjoy drawing women and because gender stereotypes are pushed so heavily on women, I think they provide more dramatic story opportunities. Want to write a female physicist, plumber or warrior? That’s a story in itself.

Although done in an all-ages style, Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula definitely explores some grown-up problems…stress of work, delegating, the relationship with an older parent. Did you find maintaining a balance between the conflicts and the style difficult?

I think Princess Decomposia’s experience is one that kids and adults can relate to. A princess has a certain amount of privilege, but that is countered by her many responsibilities. A child understands having a parent in their life telling them what to do. An adult sees the responsibilities in their life that constrain their freedoms. The Princess is stuck between being a child and an adult and the story is about how she navigates that. I think a good story can appeal to everyone, there are different things that different age groups pick up on, stuff sitting under the surface.

You say in the back of the book that you make comics for “grown-ups and children and those somewhere in between.” What has led you down that unique path? Is it difficult to try to appeal to both children and adults?

It’s possible to make a book that appeals to both audiences, and it’d be nice to think that a parent and their child PrincessAndCount_100-30could find something to appeal to them in the same comic. It’s possible in movies and animation if you look at what Pixar have created, and I always return to Ghibli and their films as the best examples of that. As for myself, I’ve made books for kids and grown ups and enjoyed both. Breakfast After Noon was as challenging to make as Glister. They were equally fulfilling. I enjoy trying new things and although it makes career sense to find a niche and dig in, I’ve worked in different genres and looked for fresh challenges. That’s what keeps me interested in the medium, the freedom to work in different ways and tell all kinds of stories.

What were your inspirations for the designs and personalities of the characters, in particular the Princess, the Count, and the King?

The Princess arrived quite quickly in my sketchbooks. I knew I wanted iconic designs for the characters, being able to recognise them from their silhouettes. She has the distinctive bat-wing hair and puritan collar and cuffs in a nod to Wednesday Addams. The Count is a chef, so his outfit is the usual hat, jacket, necktie and checked trousers. He also has the smooth bald head and pointed ears like Nosferatu … his skin probably sparkles a bit too, like a sugar cube in sunlight. The King was tricky in that I needed him to look both old and healthy. So the shape of his face is rounded but within that he’s rather wizened. He also has the crown, so again, he’s recognisable from his outline.

Looking at your past works, you seem to have a soft spot for monsters, working on books like Buffy the Vampire SlayerHellboy, among others. Where did this love for monsters come from?

PrincessAndCount_100-31The monsters go even further back than that. There was a quilt monster, giant cat and hockey-playing Chinese hopping-vampires in Skeleton Key. The short answer is that they’re a lot of fun to come up with and a welcome change to draw. If my main characters are ‘human’ shaped then it’s a nice gear change to draw something unusual. And monsters are fun to write, even more so when they’re the protagonists, as in Princess Decomposia.

You also have done some coming of age and slice-of-life style stories…how did you decide to combine real life problems with the gothic setting of Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula?

The story and themes came naturally out of the characters. If the Princess is a dutiful daughter then I find it interesting to dig in and explore the relationships. If she has a certain kind of dynamic with her father then how will she react to Count Spatula? This spills out into the supporting characters like Clove the sous chef. If one character is overworked then Clove is the one who appears to have the balance right. It all goes into making the characters interesting and giving their actions a real-life foundation that readers can relate to.

Although a lot of the cooking in the book is fantastical in nature, did you do any research on cooking? I think what I’m really trying to ask here is…  Andi, are you fond of cooking?

I’m a lousy cook but an enthusiastic baker. Nothing super fancy, but I began when my daughter was little and we’d have fun making fairy cakes and covering the kitchen with flour. I’d recommend it as a way to get into baking, there’s no pressure, it’s enjoyable and even a slightly scorched rock cake is delicious. Time is a consideration, so I don’t have hours to spend on delicate confections, but I love making cookies, cakes, tray bakes and buns. Those recipes are hard to mess up.

What made First Second Press the best place to publish Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula? How did all of this fall into place on the publishing side?

In retrospect it was a big risk making an entire graphic novel without a publisher on board and it wasn’t until it was finished that I began to look around and get an idea of my options. Because First Second are graphic novel publishers, have a strong record with books for different age groups and have published things like Anya’s Ghost, I decided to give them a go. I thought they’d be a good fit, but publishing being the contrary beast it is, figured they’d give it a pass. I was delighted when they decided to go with it, and against expectations, things moved really quickly. I’ve really enjoyed working with the team there, it’s been a delight.

For readers of Princess Depcomposia, what are you hoping is their key takeaway from your work here?

I hope it’s a fun and entertaining read for everyone, with attractive art and a sweet story. I’d also like to think that there’s more than that under the surface for those who want to come back for seconds.

 What are your future plans after this big release?

I have a webcomic, Princess at Midnight that finishes at the end of January. It’s been years in the making, a kind of Game of Thrones for kids, about sibling rivalry in a fantasy world. I’m hoping to find a publisher for that as it’d be lovely to get it in print. I’ve also completed a graphic novel for grown ups that I hope to find a home for this year. As for new stuff, I’ve finished writing a new spooky graphic novel that I’ll start drawing soon. And if Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula finds an audience, I’d love to do more with those characters.

1 Comments on Interview: Andi Watson crafts up a monstrous three courses with Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, last added: 2/24/2015
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39. Interview: Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi team up with First Second to further explore the world of The Dam Keeper


By Harper Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many books do you foresee being in the series?

It’s a bit of wait and see!

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

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

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

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

Any news related to The Dam Keeper will be found here:

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

2 Comments on Interview: Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi team up with First Second to further explore the world of The Dam Keeper, last added: 3/12/2015
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40. Interview: James Kochalka conjures up the latest adventure of The Glorkian Warrior


By Cal Cleary and Harper Harris

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

How did you get started as a cartoonist? 

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

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

Excerpt from The Blue Drip (1976)

Excerpt from The Blue Drip (1976)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from The Blue Drip (1976)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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41. Interview: Balak, Bastien Vivès, and Michaël Sanlaville bring the award-winning Last Man to the states


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

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

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

balak 2

L to R: Sanlaville, Balak, Vivès

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Comments on Interview: Balak, Bastien Vivès, and Michaël Sanlaville bring the award-winning Last Man to the states, last added: 3/30/2015
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42. Exclusive Trailer Reveal: Jack Baxter, Joshua Faudem, and Koren Shadmi’s Mike’s Place weaves a tale of perseverance in the face of on-going conflict


Jack Baxter, an American documentarian, sought out an oasis from the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. He found it in 2003, when he discovered the Tel Aviv Ex-Pat haven known as Mike’s Place. The blues bar, which served customers of all nationalities, including Israelis, Arabs, and other travelers was a wonderful rarity: a locale where you could escape the specter of war and enjoy the good company of those from all walks of life, with nary a bullet in sight.

It was there that Baxter met Joshua Faudem, a bartender at the establishment who became Baxter’s director/co-writer on a documentary focusing on Mike’s Place.

Sadly, in those environs, even havens for peace are at risk; as on April 30th, a suicide bomber detonated explosives at the entrance of Mike’s Place, killing three patrons and injuring fifty. Baxter was among those injured, with burns and a brain contusion.

Through an unbelievable amount of resolve and determination, Mike’s Place would re-open within weeks and Baxter and Faudem’s documentary would see release not long after. Now, a decade later, Baxter and Faudem team with Israeli artist Koren Shadmi to tell the tale of this Middle Eastern gem in graphic novel form. Mike’s Place, available from First Second in June, is the story of those who came together in hopes of serenity, and then had to find their way through tragedy.

The Beat is proud to present this exclusive first look at the trailer for this one of kind graphic novel:

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43. Jay Hosler Interview: Comics are the “most powerful” medium for teaching

In Last of the Sandwalkers, Eisner nominee Jay Hosler combines his love of comics with his academic background in biological sciences and teaching.  The result is a graphic novel aimed at students, ages 10-14, that has the intellectual weight to interest a much wider audience. Tackling themes like creationism vs. evolution, space exploration, and more, Last of the Sandwalkers features a pack of beetles searching for life beyond their home. With the graphic novel releasing today, we spoke with Hosler about the inspirations for the book and the utility of the graphic novel in the classroom.

What’s your “secret origin” in the comics industry? Have you always been interested in sequential art?

Like most kids, I was drawing at a very early age. The only difference between me and most of my peers wasn’t really the quality of the work so much as the fact that I never stopped drawing as I got older.

I have early memories of reading Tintin and Charlie Brown at my Grandmother’s lake cottage in northern Indiana. Grandma wasn’t a comics fan and I don’t think my mom or her siblings were either, but for some reason she had hardback volumes of Herge’s “The Secret of the Unicorn” and Schulz’s “Peanuts Treasury.” I would read and re-read those over and over.

I can remember being fascinated by the emanata each cartoonist used; squiggly lines and stars when someone got pegged in the head or sweat droplets flying into the air when they were nervous or tired. I started to reproduce those elements in my own drawings. Suddenly, all of the dinosaurs I was obsessively drawing were blushing, sweating and staring at stars circling their noggins.

It wasn’t until I was in second grade and got my hands on Marvel Team Up #19 that I started emulating sequential art. Stegron the Dinosaur Man drew me to the comic, but Spider-Man made me stick around for more. I started trying to tell stories with multiple pictures. These tended toward humor more than adventure stories and given my love of Peanuts most of what I tried to do was comic strips.

In high school, college and graduate school I did comic strips for the school newspapers. Unfortunately, they were pretty banal stuff; this class is hard, I can’t get a date, the bookstore charges to much, bad puns, etc. In the last 30 years, I’ve managed to shake all of those themes except bad puns. By the time I was in graduate school, I was doing a daily comic strip called Spelunker for the Notre Dame newspaper as well as a weekly strip called Cow-Boy for the Comic Buyers Guide. The problem is that I was really feeling the constraints of doing a four-panel strip and I wasn’t very good as a gag-man. I wanted to try something longer.

So, along with the editorial cartoonist at the Notre Dame newspaper and a fresh-faced aspiring writer named Bill Roseman (now of Marvel fame), I decided to give comics a try. We self-published a single, 22-page issue of Wired Comix. The comic contained three stories and was as well received as one could expect for something with such limited distribution. This whetted my appetite for more.

Eventually, I would make a 72-page issue of Cow-Boy that featured seven original comic stories. I loved it, but it was still primarily goofy humor and a super hero parody wasn’t really contributing anything new to the medium. Maybe it was the scientist in me, but I wanted to make a novel contribution to comics in the same way I was trying with my research to add a little something novel to our understanding of insect physiology. It was at this point that I made the leap addressed in the next question…

At what point did you decide to bridge the gap between your love and science and cartooning?

After I had gotten my doctorate, I stayed at Notre Dame for a year and taught a few classes. After getting your degree, the next phase of a scientist’s career usually entails postdoctoral work in another lab, so I was casting about for possibilities. I managed to land a position at the Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Research Laboratory at Ohio State University (sadly, no longer there, but not because I broke it).

My graduate research had focused on how insect muscle function was affected by low temperatures, but the work at Rothenbuhler would focus on how regions of the bee brain processed floral odors. To prepare for this work, I decided I needed to bone up on my knowledge of honey bee biology, behavior and natural history. Mark Winston’s book “The Biology of the Honeybee” was a revelation. Not only was it comprehensive and interesting, but it inspired me. I remember thinking, “Someone should do a comic about bees!” It wasn’t until I was a year into my postdoc that the little light bulb went off over my head and I realized that that someone could be me.

I wrote and drew the first issue of Clan Apis and submitted it for a Xeric Grant.  Several weeks later, I got the news that it would be funded. In fact, I received that news in the same week that I received funding for a three-year grant form the National Institutes of Mental Health to fund my research and my salary. I think I was more excited about the Xeric.

You’ve crafted a number of graphic novels under your own publishing house (Active Synapse). What made you want to go that route from the outset? Did you find self-publishing came with its own challenges?

The decision to self-publish was ultimately made for me. No one was interested in publishing a biologically accurate comic book about bees in the late 1990s. I suppose if I had drawn them as buxom, gun-toting cyber bees I might have had a chance, but that wasn’t the route I wanted to go. Plus, I wanted the freedom to do the books the way I wanted. I used the Xeric Grant to get things started and then was lucky to form a partnership with my friend Daryn Guarino to form Active Synapse. This was great for my books and Daryn is an indefatigable business and distribution force. He is also a very talented man and has started writing his own books.

Self-publishing is difficult, expensive and it can consume your life and I think both of us wanted to channel our creative energies elsewhere.

How did the creative process for Last of the Sandwalkers compare to your previous offerings? Did you find that there were lessons learned that you could apply?

One of the big differences was the amount of ongoing feedback that I sought. I showed the first few chapters to a friend and his kids. These are bright, book loving kids and they weren’t sure what the heck was going on at the start of the book so their feedback stimulated me to add the short first chapter as a means of clarification.

When I had it half done, I passed the book around to a few cartoonists and comics loving friends to see if what I was doing was working. All of their feedback, along with my own glacially slow deliberations, helped me make the story better. Ten plus years is a long time to work on something without feedback. Thankfully I got some excellent advice and the book didn’t wind up a hot mess (IMHO).

I think the toughest thing for me was the fact that it wasn’t a strictly linear story like my past books. There were all of the hints of past event and flashback that I wanted to tie together with the present, but I wanted them to unfold like a mystery. This required mapping out the story, drawing connections, decided how much I could say and when I could say it. What was too subtle? What was too obvious? And how do I do all of this and make it appealing to the broadest audience possible? How do you entertain comic savvy folks and comic newbies? Kids and adults?

In terms of tone, my approach was the same with all of my other books. I emulated Looney Tunes cartoons. A Bugs Bunny cartoon had slapstick for me as a kid and word play and political commentary for my Dad. There was enough there to keep us both entertained and provide us with a shared experience. That is how I hope people respond to this book.

Did you feel as though you had a specific mission statement while working on Last of the Sandwalkers?

The science writer Matthew Ridly wrote a cover blurb for Richard Dawkin’s book The Greatest Show on Earth in which he praises Dawkins as a master of “wonderstanding.” I’m usually not a fan of cutesy words but this one has been a useful touchstone for me.

I want people to feel the sense of wonder I feel in the natural world. My goal is to share that excitement and to help provide them with more than just a surface appreciation. I want them to develop an understanding of how things works and how living things are interconnected and I want to have fun doing it. I also want them to forge an emotional connection with the natural world. Laughing and crying connects us to stories and the world in powerful ways. We come back to things that make feel. And if I can cultivate a sense of wonderstanding in my readers, then insects will become more than creepy crawling things we squish without a second thought. They will enrich our sense of who we are and our connection to the natural world.

When you’re creating a work as long as Last of the Sandwalkers, what exactly is your day to day work process?

My process was fundamentally the same for this book. I found a topic that captured my interest and started doing research, cobbling together notes and story ideas. I would write a script for a chapter, read it out-loud, edit, read it to my family, edit, start thumbnailing pages, edit, start drawing, edit, show the pages to my family, edit. Lather, rinse, repeat for each page. There were some false starts. I drew a version of the first chapter in a completely different, hyper-simple style that didn’t work.

For most of this book, there was no reliable day-to-day process. I could go an entire semester without having a chance to work on it at all. But the minute the semester ended and finals were in, I could get back to it.  On the first day after my final class I usually drew a page and triumphantly posted it to Facebook.

My goal was usually to get a chapter of two done over the summer, but there were times when even that wasn’t possible.  Last of the Sandwalkers took the back seat when paying gigs would pop up. I couldn’t pass up the chance to work with Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon on Evolution any more than I could miss the opportunity to illustrate entomologist-extraordinaire May Berenbaum’s book The Earwig’s Tale. So, the beetles got shuttled to the back burner at times, but they were always in my mind percolating.

Sandwalkers-Final_100-26 (2)

Do you script first and then move on to to the illustration stage or is there another method you find works best?

The story comes first. I need to work out the balance of science and adventure so that it isn’t too insipid or too ponderously didactic. But, as I noted earlier, once the first draft is done, there is a very dynamic feedback loop between drawing and writing.

At what point did First Second become involved? How has working for a large publishing house impacted your work?

Working with First Second was a dream. Our relationship started when I met Gina Gagliano (marketing) at SPX several years ago. I can’t remember how we started talking, but I had a draft of the first half of the book at my table and after she looked through it she said, “We’d be interested in this.” I was very flattered (and a bit surprised), but at the time I was still planning to self-publish. Of course, being self-absorbed, I tucked that compliment away in my mental files for future review. When my self-publishing circumstances changed, I put together a pdf of the first 160 pages and sent it to Gina. I don’t have an agent, so this was probably a bit brassy, but fortunately I was too dumb to know any better.

My future editor Calista Brill got back to me very quickly with a proposal and we were rolling. Calista was incredibly supportive and patient and the book is better because of her. Likewise Colleen Venable (the designer at the time) was an inspiration. She worked so long and patiently with me on the cover and in the process taught me a lot about design. Her covers are great, so I just followed her lead and we arrived at a cover that is infinitely better than the one I initially proposed.

Now, I’m working with Gina to market the book. She is so on the ball, it’s tough for me to keep up sometimes! She has lined up so many opportunities for me to promote this book and I am deeply grateful.

At every step of the way I have been treated with respect, patience and creative freedom. They’ve taught me so much and new knowledge is the greatest gift you can give an academic. I feel really lucky to be working with them.

Can you explain the relationship between The Sandwalk Adventures and Last of the Sandwalkers?

It was accidental at some level. Or perhaps serendipitous, I’m not sure. For most of the time I was working on the Last of the Sandwalkers, I was using a very different title. Once the ball got rolling at First Second, we decided that my working title might not be the most effective way to go, so we went back and forth for a long time and finally settled on Last of the Sandwalkers.

In The Sandwalk Adventures, the sandwalk was the place on Darwin’s property in Downe where he would take a noon stroll and talk to the follicle mite in his left eyebrow.  In the comic, the sandwalk is where they would have adventures (both imagined and real).

In Last of the Sandwalkers, the main character is a desert beetle, or sandwalker, named Lucy. And, as the title implies, she is the last of her kind as far as she knows. Calling Lucy a sandwalker was meant to be a shout out to the Darwin book, but it really inspired my editor Calista Brill and she eventually convinced me that this was the better title.

That said, there are some interesting parallels. Darwin walked a sandwalk, so he was a also sandwalker. Lucy is a scientist living in an island oasis that is surrounded by a sea of sand. She eventually leaves the island and makes discoveries that reshape our view of nature. Sounds to me a lot like Darwin leaving England on the voyage of the HMS Beagle. Clearly, something may have been at work in the back of my mind that I wasn’t even aware of.

Is it difficult to find the right balance between providing educational facts and creative storytelling? 

It can be, although I don’t think of the science I weave in as “facts.” My hope is that they are knowledge of natural history that the characters need to advance the plot or tell a joke.

As far as my approach to this is concerned, imagine a sci-fi show where the characters need to reverse the polarity of the tachyon beam to generate a ripple in subspace gravity field so that they can collapse a rift in the space-time continuum. When I structure a story, I just replace all that made-up sci-fi exposition with real natural history exposition.  When I can, I try to set the stories in the real world, just not the human real world. The trick is to be willing to look at a worm or an insect as a marvelous, mysterious thing. An alien underfoot. You have to see the everyday from a different perspective, but when you do it can be startling and breathtaking.

Teaching has taught me a lot about weaving storytelling and science together. For every lecture I give or lab I run, I need to see the story in what we are discussing. Throwing a slide on the screen that is packed with information is a universal guarantee of trigger the sleep response. Information in any field requires context and cohesion and these are the elements that stories provide. A worm isn’t just a worm, it is a necessity for aerating soil or the scourge of terrace rice farmers. It is a force of nature working completely out of our site, moving and transforming the ground beneath our feet.

These are the things I keep in mind as I write, but I can easily delude myself. After all, I can enjoy a good textbook as much as a novel and I know that makes me weird, so I read everything I write to my family. They’re the final arbiters of what works and what doesn’t. They will tell me when to dial back the science or give them more. They will tell me when things are too frenetic or confusing or when I need some more excitement or humor. If I can get it right for myself and for my family, then I’m usually pretty confident the story is in a good place. For a book this long and complicated, I also sent it to several colleagues and friends to get feedback as I worked.

What attracted you to do the graphic novel medium as a tool for teaching? Have you seen an increase in the use of graphic novels as an educational tool?

Our brains are wired to receive information as pictures. When I give public talks, I often throw up a slide with a block of text describing an item. The definition I use comes from the dictionary and after about thirty seconds of reading and processing a few people raise their hands to tell me what it describes. Many other are still working it out when I through up a picture of a cog and everyone in the room immediately gets it.

Our brains also appear to be wired for story. Work form cognitive scientists is starting to demonstrate the importance of storytelling for memory formation and contextualizing information.  Stories scaffold ideas for us and help us hold onto to those ideas and use them effectively.

As McCloud points out in Understanding Comics, we know this intuitively because we give kids picture books. Recognition of the power of pictures doesn’t go away when kids get to college. I pick the textbooks I use based on the quality of the illustrations and figures. But, the storytelling component is all but gone. For me, comics sit between these two extremes and I believe comics are the most powerful of all three possibilities for engaging and entertaining students and casual readers.

Of course, the medium itself is just fun and the best learning happens when we are enjoying ourselves.

The protagonists in this story are battling views very similar to creationism. Do you feel creationism is still a threat to our educational system?

Absolutely. We live in a free country and people are allowed to believe what they want to believe. You want to believe that the world was created in seven days? That’s your right. But that’s a belief that has absolutely no scientific evidence to support it.  Of course, that isn’t an issue for creationists, because faith in that belief does not require evidence.  The problem comes when believers start demanding that their faith-based beliefs be taught as a alternative to theories that are grounded in over a century’s worth of scientific evidence from paleontology, developmental biology, geochemistry, physics, anatomy, physiology, behavior, etc.

A science class is for science. Unfortunately, having the freedom to believe what you choose and pursue your beliefs without persecution doesn’t appear to be enough for some folks. They feel compelled to try to change laws and influence school boards and teachers to make their religious beliefs a part of the science curriculum.

Proponents of creationism are constantly changing their tactics looking for ways into the classroom, so we need to be vigilant. Remember Intelligent Design? It was all the rage in the 1990s. Proponents promised they would have experimental proof that never came, but in the meantime they managed to get their philosophy into several classroom.

The even bigger problem is that creationists have written the playbook for science denial. Their tactics have been modified and deployed by everyone from those denying climate change to the anti-vaccination crowd.

Is it difficult to espouse a pro-science message without creating an anti-religion tone? Or is that the point? 

Any pro-science message is going to be read by someone, somewhere as anti-religion. It is true that Lucy butts heads with a religious fundamentalist in Last of the Sandwalkers, but I’d like to believe the story is more generally about the conflict between science and the powerful individuals and organizations that oppose it. The majority of those that seek to discredit climate change scientists and their results do so for economic reasons, not because of religious objections.

As I read, I definitely got a space/sci-fi feel from the book, even though it all takes place in small corners of the Earth. Last of the Sandwalkers is about the pursuit of science and exploration – is any of it meant as a commentary on the low levels of government funding in NASA and space exploration? 

You bet. The human race has become like a comfortable older couple. We don’t going anywhere anymore! We need to dream again about the worlds beyond our comfort zone. When we are at our best when we are exploring and seeking to understand the universe better. Plus, the work done to get ourselves into outer space invariable generates technologies that make life better for us that stay on Earth..

…And lastly, we have to ask, just for fun. Any interest in the upcoming Ant-Man film?

Absolutely! The current Ant-Man comic is a hoot and it has some well drawn ants. Plus, I did do my own short Ant-Man fan film…


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44. MoCCA Debuts from BIrdcage Bottom Books to Youth in Decline

It’s time for our annual look at some of the comics coming out for this weekend’s MoCCA Festival, being held this year at Center 548, is located at 548 W. 22nd Street, just off the Westside Highway, with programming at the High Line Hotel on West 20th Street and 10th Avenue.

And here’s the books we got information on. This is just a teeny tiny smattering of the new stuff available — but scroll down for signings from Fantagraphics, NBM and more. And scroll around Tumblr for more more more, especially the MoCCA Festival tumblr.

Jeremy Nguyen:

I’m debuting a 20 page collection of my webcomic “Stranger Than Bushwick”, which is currently being serialized on Bushwick Daily. This collection explores a lot of New York by way of Brooklyn, millennial lifestyles, and hot-button issues like catcalling and gentrification.

What may also be of note is that I’ll be giving away limited “Gentrify White” crayons with purchase of the book. The crayons have been featured on Bedford and Bowery here.

 One comic, titled “You Didn’t Actually See A Celebrity in Bushwick“, has also been selected into the Society of Illustrator’s Comic and Cartoon Annual, and will be exhibiting at the SOI gallery from July 21-Aug 15.

Koyama Press


Drew Brockingtonbeacon.jpg

The epic conclusion to the serialized graphic novel by Drew Brockington.

In the fall of 1903, when the new lighthouse keeper arrives on the shores of the small New England fishing village with the promise of a better future the town grows uneasy.
Fishermen are superstitious lot, and don’t take kindly to change. The local police soon find their hands full playing mediator between the locals and the government as well as solving the mystery of an unidentified corpse found on their shores.

Drew will debut the book at Mocca 2015 at table 224B, along with plenty of back issues for those who want to start at the beginning.
The first chapter of the series can be read at www.beaconcomic.com


Jamie TannerTHE CONSUMPTIVE #1, the first issue in a new ongoing mini-comics series. A sort of throwback one-man anthology grab-bag thing. Like a smaller, cheaper, lesser Eightball or something.

Cover attached, and more info available on Kickstarter, where I’m currently raising funds to print an initial batch of copies.

Uncivilized Booksborb_book_cover-01.jpg

Borb tells the story an urban Candide who’s misfortunes pile high at an alarming rate. It stings with bits of black humor, yet challenges the reader with the day-to-day details facing the urban homeless. Calling upon the depression-era imagery of Harold Gray (Little Orphan Annie) and Frank King (Gasoline Alley), Borb follows the tradition of the comic strip slapstick vagabond, weaving a well-crafted narrative through elegant four-panel gag strips.


Incidents in the Night follows a fictional version of the author who’s obsessed with a mysterious literary journal and its occult editor. This second book entangles David B.’s previous, autobiographical work Epileptic with that of this series’ fantastical, adventurous tone. The questions posed by the first volume grow more complicated as the lines between dream and reality further blur. This edition is translated by novelist Brian Evenson (Immobility, The Wavering Knife, Fugue State) and Sarah Evenson.

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Travelogue collects the first strips from http://traveloguecomic.com. The comic follows a group of nomadic friends as they travel a fantasy world, and focuses heavily on quiet, introspective moments and world-building.

NBMOn April 11th & 12th, NBM Publishing (Tables 401, 402) once again heads to the MoCCA Arts Festival and we are happy to have attending both cartoonist Annie Goetzinger, who will be appearing to promote the debut of her luscious new book, GIRL IN DIOR and writer Julian Voloj who will be signing copies of his book, the powerful GHETTO BROTHER: WARRIOR TO PEACEMAKER along with the colorful subject of the book, Benjy Melendez.


The Girl in Dior is Clara, a freshly hired chronicler, fan of fashion and our guide in the busy corridors of the brand new house of Christian Dior. It’s February 12, 1947 and the crème de la crème of Paris Haute Couture is flocking to the momentous event of Dior’s first show. In a flurry of corolla shaped skirts, the parade of models file down the runway. The audience is mesmerized: it’s a triumph! Carmel Snow of Harper’s Bazaar cries out: “It’s quite a revolution, your dresses have such a new look!“ Dior’s career is launched and Clara’s story begins. Soon, she is picked by Dior himself to be his model…

A biography docudrama marrying fiction and the story of one of the greatest couturier in history, it is also a breathless and stunning presentation of his best designs such as Lauren Bacall wore, rendered by bestselling artist Annie Goetzinger, seen for the first time on this side of the Atlantic.


Ghetto Brother

An engrossing and counter view of one of the most dangerous elements of American urban history, this graphic novel tells the true story of Benjy Melendez, son of Puerto-Rican immigrants, who founded, at the end of the 1960s, the notorious Ghetto Brothers gang. From the seemingly bombed-out ravages of his neighborhood, wracked by drugs, poverty, and violence, he managed to extract an incredibly positive energy from this riot ridden era: his multiracial gang promoted peace rather than violence. After initiating a gang truce, the Ghetto Brothers held weekly concerts on the streets or in abandoned buildings, which fostered the emergence of hip-hop. Melendez also began to reclaim his Jewish roots after learning about his family’s dramatic crypto-Jewish background.

Signing Schedule, Tables 401, 402

Annie will be appearing on the panel, Biography: The Lives of Artists on Sunday April 12 at 12:30pm  alongside cartoonists James Romberger, Marguerite Van Cook and Barbara Stok.

Annie, Julian and Benjy will be appearing at the NBM Table throughout the weekend.


11:30 – 12:30 Annie Goetzinger
1:30 – 3:00 Julian Voloj and Benjy Melendez
3:30 – 5:00 Annie Goetzinger
5:00 – 6:00 Julian Voloj


12:00-1:00 Julian Voloj
1:30-3:00  Annie Goetzinger (immediately following her panel)
3:30-5:00 Julian Voloj and Benjy Melendez

Annie, Julian and Benjy are available for select media interviews.  So come on by, meet some cool folks and celebrate comics!


Dean Haspiel

My new Billy Dogma comic, HEART-SHAPED HOLE, published by Hang Dai Editions, debuting at MoCCA. Described as “Billy Dogma and Jane Legit punch the apocalypse right in the kisser as their eternal war of woo breaks a Trip City-wide hymen.”

28-pages. Full color. Magazine size. Only available for sale directly from me, Dean Haspiel, or from Hang Dai Editions:

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Ken Wong

Origami Comics, table 222 will be debuting “Bonetti’s Defense: I Know Something You Don’t Know About Swordplay in The Princess Bride.” Wong, a former fencer, has definitely studied his Agrippa and his analysis provides history and context of the many fencing terms and actual fencing masters referenced in The Princess Bride movie and book. Who were they? What does it all mean? And does Thibault really cancel Capo Ferro?

This is a standard, 20-page, saddle-stitched comic; this is NOT one of my folded-shape origami comics (but those will also be available for purchase at my table).


2D Cloud

Independent comics publisher 2d Cloud is debuting their Spring Collection books en force at MoCCA this weekend. All of the collection authors will be attending the festival and participating in a special signing event at Bergen Street Comics, Saturday night at 8 PM, with fellow publishers Koyama Press and Fantagraphics Books.

2dc author Blaise Larmee will also be participating in a MoCCA panel discussion, “Plagiarism as Practice,” also Saturday, at 3:30 PM in the Rusack Room at the Highline Hotel.

The Spring Collection books – 3 Books by Blaise Larmee, Qviet by Andy Burkholder, and Salz and Pfeffer by Émilie Gleason – are now available for pre-orders at 2dcloud.com/shop.

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Blaise Larmee’s 3 Books, the much anticipated follow-up to his critically-acclaimed Young Lions, and his first graphic novel in four years, intertwines three separate narratives on sex and love, revealing Larmee at his most vulnerable and his most arrogant.

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Andy Burkholder’s Qviet is the sum total of a multiyear series that focuses on the abstractions sex and of seeing, and the fluid relations between the two, available for the first time as a collected edition.


French author Émilie Gleason’s first English language graphic novel, Salz and Pfeffer, is an absurdist tale of magical kingdoms, alien abduction, and fart jail, evoking amusement and disturbed thoughts in equal measure. See more on the spring collection books at 2dcloud.com/shop. For more information


Youth in Decline

This weekend, Youth in Decline will be exhibiting  on Floor 3 at Table 319B.

At the show, we’ll be debuting the new issue of our ongoing monograph series, FRONTIER #7: JILLIAN TAMAKI.  This issue features Jillian’s new comic “SexCoven” – a 32 pg color story about IRL and online relationships, the seductive and secret world of early internet file-sharing, and life inside a commune (cult?).

Jillian will signing books on Saturday from 12-1pm, and on Sunday from 1-2pm.

In addition to the new Frontier issue, we’ll also have copies of previous Frontier issues, RAV 1ST COLLECTION by Mickey Zacchilli, Snackies by Nick Sumida, Wacky Wacko Magazine #1 by Seth Bogart, Love Songs for Monsters by Anthony Ha, and our stickers and patches!


Seth Kushner

Seth Kushner’s SECRET SAUCE Comix #! published by Hang Dai Editions, debuting at MoCCA Fest on April 11:
36-pages. Full color. Standard comic book size. For now, only available for sale directly from me, Seth Kushner, or from Hang Dai Editions: http://hangdaieditions.com/


Josh Neufeld

VAGABONDS #4, published by Hang Dai Editions (HDE), which will be debuting at this year’s MoCCA Arts Festival.

“Josh Neufeld’s The Vagabonds #4 serves up a spicy blend of journalism, social commentary, memoir, and literary fiction. This issue features Neufeld’s story of racial profiling at the U.S./Canadian border and three collaborations with Neufeld’s wife, writer Sari Wilson. Throw in a couple of light-hearted travel tips, and The Vagabonds #4 is chock-full of the thought-provoking and witty comics Neufeld is known for.”

24 pages. Full color. Only available for sale directly from me, Josh Neufeld, or from Hang Dai Editions.

It’s been wonderful to be able to revive The Vagabonds (previously published by Alternative Comics) after an eight-year “hiatus.” It’s really nice to have a place to collect assorted pieces of mine from the last few years, as well as have a venue for new work. I’ve spent the last half-decade or so in the trade books graphic novel arena (publishing A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge with Pantheon and The Influencing Machine with W.W. Norton) and pursuing comics journalism (including winning a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship). As wonderful as it was to work with those major publishers, I really missed the world of alternative comic books and indy shows. What draws me to Hang Dai is the emphasis on creator-owned publications and personal interactions with readers. There was a great quote from an interview with the HDE guys that went like this: “You’ll get the books made by hand from the hands of their creators, which puts the ‘artist’ back in ‘comic arts,’ and puts you, the reader, in a position to engage directly with creators.” I cut my teeth in this business through self-publishing, and it’s refreshing to go back to my DIY days.

I’ll be with the rest of the HDE gang at table 314, Third Floor (Yellow Zone), at the new location, Center 548, 548 W. 22nd St., NYC.


Nobrow/Flying Eye

Nobrow is thrilled to be exhibiting again, and this year’s MoCCA is extra exciting because not only will it be held at a brand new venue, but we will also be debuting three amazing titles from Flying Eye Books!

The latest from our Dahlov Ipcar collection of reprints, Black and White, will make its debut at MoCCA alongside Rilla Alexander’s inspiring Her Idea, and David Lucas’ hilarious This Is My Rock.  We’ll also be carrying some of your old favorites like Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, Society of Illustrators Gold Medal winner Bianca Bagnarelli’s Fish, our handsome line of Leporellos, and plenty, plenty more.  Don’t forget to mark your calendars, this is going to be a big weekend!  The Nobrow team will be in attendance at tables 208 – 211 on both days of MoCCA, April 11th & 12th, at its new location Center548, 548 West 22nd St. in New York City.  We can’t wait to see you there!

Birdcage Bottom Books





These will be debuting at MoCCA Fest 2015 in NYC on April 11 & 12, but are available for pre-order now.


Also in the works is the first issue of Jamie Vayda & Alan King’s “Left Empty” in which Alan relates the aftermath of losing his wife to cancer.



 The Kurdles by Robert Goodin In the spirit of Hergé’s Tintin or Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, The Kurdles is an all-ages comic spiced up with a teaspoon of strange. Sally is a teddy bear who gets separated from her owner. Desperate to find her way home, she stumbles upon Kurdleton, home to a most peculiar group of characters in the midst of their own crisis; their forest house is trying to run away! Printed in an oversized format to showcase Goodin’s stunning, hand-painted artwork, The Kurdles will capture the imagination of both parents and children. Out in Stores: late April 2015 $24.99


 Angry Youth Comix by Johnny Ryan Now, for the first time, all fourteen issues of Ryan’s career-defining comic book series Angry Youth Comix (2000-2008) are collected in one place. All the comics, the covers, and even the contentious letters pages, in one toilet-ready brick shithouse, taking full advantage of the medium’s absurdist potential for maximum laughs. Out in Stores: April 2015 $49.99


• Violent Girls by Richard Sala (FU Press) A limited edition portfolio featuring 44 action portraits lovingly inspired by the kind of dangerous females who have populated pulp fiction and B-movies throughout the history of pop culture-blazing their way through every kind of genre, potboiler, cliffhanger, and fever dream imaginable. Available exclusively at comic conventions and at the Fantagraphics online store, $35.00


 The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Tower of Babel in the “Art” World by Jonah Kinigstein (FU Press) is an 80 page oversized landscape-format softcover collecting Kinigstein’s political cartoons inveighing against the trends of abstract and modern art through the 20th century. Meticulously rendered in pen and ink in the tradition of George Townshend and James Gilray, the elaborate compositions skewer artists, curators, and critics. Out exclusively in comic stores, conventions and on our website now, $30.00


• Willard Mullin’s Casey at the Bat by Willard Mullin and Ernest Thayer In 1953, in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of the World Series, legendary cartoonist Willard Mullin created images illustrating one of America’s best-loved poems: Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat.” With a preface by Yogi Berra and an essay on the history of both “Casey” and Mullin’s images by noted baseball historian Tim Wiles, this edition of “Casey” is the most authentic ever produced. A keepsake for the ages. Available now, $9.99.
SIGNING SCHEDULE Tabling at 204-207 Second Floor (Red Zone)

First Second Books

First Second will be exhibiting at this year’s MoCCA Art Festival!  You can find us at table 404.
We’ll be there with amazing authors Box Brown (Andre the Giant), Jillian Tamaki (This One Summer), and MoCCA Art Festival Guest of Honor Scott McCloud (The Sculptor)!

Here’s our signing schedule:
12:30pm — Scott McCloud In Conversation (at the High Line Hotel)
2:00pm — Jillian Tamaki (This One Summer) signing
2:30pm — Scott McCloud (The Sculptor) signing with the CBLDF

12:00pm — Scott McCloud (The Sculptor) signing
2:00pm — Box Brown (Andre the Giant) signing


Rebus Books

Rebus will be exhibiting along with Domino Books andSpider’s Pee-Paw. They’ll have a bunch of VERY LIMITED QUANTITY of imported international books, including Yuichi Yokoyama Baby Boom (above) the first edition of Olivier Schrauwen’s My Boy and much more. Go to the above link for details, but if the names Yokoyama and Schrauwen for you excited, I’d make a beeline if I were you.

Rebus Books will also host Ilan Manouach and Gea Philes. Manouach will have with him a sample board from Shapereader, his 57-plate graphic novel for the blind and visually impaired.

Copies of books by Manouach will also be available, including his book Écologie Forcée, the détourned comic Riki Fermier, and MetaKatz, chronicling the publication of Katz. A privately owned copy of Katz will also be available for on-site viewing.

Gea Philes is a Chilean-born, multidisciplinary artist based in New York. Her work encompasses drawing, painting, illustration, comics, photography, and film, including music videos for Momus and Jeffrey Bützer. Philes’s new zines, including I Sold My Soul to the Devil, will preview her forthcoming art book from Toulouse-based publisher Timeless Editions.

Finally, submissions for The Best American Comics 2016 will be accepted at the Rebus Books table. Any new, North American work published between September 1, 2014 and August 31, 2015 is eligible for The Best American Comics 2016. If Series Editor Bill Kartalopoulos is not present at the table, material can be given to anyone working Table 226 and it will be included with BAC 2016 submissions. 


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45. Interview: Penelope Bagieu Kills With Her Graphic Novel “Exquisite Corpse”

Exquisite CorpseBy Nick Eskey

Penelope Bagieu is a French illustrator who over the last ten years has become more involved in making comics and graphic novels. Some of her works include Josephine, Not Bad, White Page, and Stars of the Stars. She also has a comic blog, My Life Is Quite Fascinating, where she portrays everyday life in a humorous light.

In honor of her debut English-language graphic novel Exquisite Corpse (published by First Second), we discussed with the artist her career and newest work.

How did you find yourself doing graphic novels?

By accident, mostly. I always wanted to make cartoons (actually, as a child, I said wanted to grow up to become Tex Avery. Great ambition). I studied animation in art college and everything. But then, one thing led to another, and I started to do commissioned illustration for magazines (mostly because I had a rent to pay), and one of these magazines offered me to do their weekly last-page comic strip, and I thought “hey, why not, it’s not that far from what I want to do, which is drawing and telling stories), and it had a little success, and it was turned into a book, and another, et ExquisiteCorpse voilà.

How are the stresses of making a living off of art?

On that aspect, I think it’s the same everywhere: very few people make a real living off of it. I’m lucky enough to be one of them, but most of the cartoonists I know also work for advertising agencies, or take commissioned anonymous jobs to make both ends meet. Comics is such a long-term business. It’s hard to be bankable when you need years to finish a book. French politic on books and arts in general is very compliant and we pay less taxes than most of the self-employed people in other domains. We also have our cherished law on the price of books, which prevent stores from giving away books on sale like it’s a TV screen. But it’s a very fragile economy.

How did you get the title “Exquisite Corpse?”

As often, my editor came up with the idea. I don’t want to reveal too much of the story, but I thought this surrealist technique of writing, in which a story alternates from the hands of one author to another, and also had some sort of macabre to it, well, it made sense.
Obviously the story takes place in France, and the main character is a woman. What kind of parallels have you pulled from your life for the book?
Well, that’s it, pretty much! Except all the inspiration on her crappy dead-end jobs and moron ex-boyfriend, that I kept in a corner of my head from my previous own career in crappy dead-end jobs and moron ex-boyfriends. I knew it would be useful one day!

What inspired you to write this story?

On one hand, it was a part of the world I come from, that is the people who never read and only know a famous name if it’s on TV, and on the other, this other world I got to know later, that is the tiny literary Parisian scene, a planet that spins by itself, without a care for anything other than prizes, critics and book reviews. I don’t judge either of these two worlds, and I don’t think any of them is better than the other. I just wondered what would happen if they happened to collide.

Not giving too much away, the main male character is an author who thrives on attention, and wilts without it. As also an author, do you feel any similarities with the situation?

Oh, the character of the author is so me. Which is why I have so much empathy for him. On the selfish aspect of creation, where nothing and no one exists but my story while I’m writing it. The world around me may fall apart, the plants die and the cat starve. It’s exactly like I’m starting a new love relationship and I’m totally devoted to it, and bore my friends to death while speaking about nothing else. I think it’s hard to be the boyfriend or the children of an author.

One of bigger themes I’ve noticed is people using each other to live, whether it’s physically or mentally, or emotionally. Do you see this cycle in your life, or life in Penelope.Bagieugeneral?

I think you tend to step up as you grow older, and don’t get fooled by people who make you believe you need them while they’re totally using you in a one-way system. But it’s not necessarily the case when you’re younger, or confused, or don’t really know where you’re going, like the character of Zoe. Because you have the feeling that these people you meet, who look so self-confident and strong, well they know. So you’re willing to follow them anywhere, and support, and help, and be used, because you think they have a plan. But in the end, they have no idea what they’re doing either and they need you just as much.

There are a few scenes in the book where breasts are exposed. With the U.S. having different censorship compared to some European countries, how do you feel that your book may either be censored, marketed to an older audience, or how it might affect who will carry it?

I found out about that while reading my first reviews! I read several times “uh-oh, not to be put in the hands of a younger audience,” and I honestly really scratched my head, mentally browsing my entire book and thinking “Wait, what? Where? Did I put any sex scene? Or a violent murder? Or a massacre? Oh, right! The image with NIPPLES!” So breasts are considered obscene here. Oh, well, we French have our weird little habits too, I guess.

The editor character seems to play an important part in Rocher’s career. Do editors really carry such an important role? How has your editor(s) affected your life and/or work?

There are two schools on this: either you consider you need to be absolutely alone to write, and you expect nothing from your editor but the publishing part, that is printing well and promoting even better. If so, you take his observations as interfering, because you know exactly where you’re going. I’m from the other school, where I need my editor to comfort me every ten pages, to be the cheerleader on the side of the road, to be able to tell me “this chapter is crap,” or “switch these two panels and it will be a lot more efficient.” Usually, I talk for hours with my editor while my story is just a tiny seed, something that is starting to itch my brain only. And we talk it over until it becomes clearer. And then, all along the writing process, I know that he knows my story just as well as I do. I always have this image of the crazy scientist in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Dr Finkelstein, who splits his own brain in two and give one half to his creation, so that they will understand each other perfectly. Well, I like that my editor has the exact same amount of information as I have on my own story. He can tell me at any time “Hey, you should read that book, it would help you on the subject,” because he knows what it’s truly about. Of course, it’s not easy finding people you trust enough, that you will blindly listen to them when they suggest you should dramatically change your story, or your images. But if you have these people around you, it is so comfortable, to know that you’re not alone, and that someone will warn you if you’re actually heading right into a wall. It’s a very lonely and insecure job, otherwise.

EsquisiteCorpseIf we were to use the character of the author Rocher as a sliding scale, where in your life do you see yourself now compared to his journey?

Haha, that’s a funny one! I suppose I’m at the point where I never really had bad-bad critics, and I still have the pressure of having had a very successful first book. I’m not famous enough to have really mean reviews, because if critics don’t like my books, they just don’t write a word about it, that’s how they show it. You must be very famous to have people finding a column in a magazine (and time, energy) to write all the horrible things they think about you. I didn’t marry my publisher, and I still have millions of ideas for my future books. But I quit reading things about my books a long time ago: I usually rather take credit for things that people tell me to my face.

What do you hope readers will take away after reading “Exquisite Corpse?”

I hope they miss their subway stop while reading because they’re too captivated by the twist, the tension and the suspense. Do you think they could do that for me?

Be sure to pick up Exquisite Corpse by First Second at your local retail store.

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46. Interview: Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre Create Sequel to Beloved Giants Beware!


By Harper W. Harris

The first book in The Chronicles of Claudette, Giants Beware! was quite well received; in fact, it earned the creators several awards, including the Cybils Award for Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels. The book, and its new follow up, Dragons Beware!, follow the courageous and battle hungry Claudette, her brother and culinary prodigy Gaston, and Marie the princess with a penchant for negotiation in their medieval adventures. The first graphic novel in the series left readers hungry for more sword slinging action, clever humor, and fun character building, and the wait is finally over! With Dragons Beware! hitting shelves today, we figured this was a great time to sit down with the series creators Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre to discuss creating the sequel, their backgrounds in animation, and the future of Claudette and her pals.

You both have backgrounds in animated TV series and films…how did you come to writing and illustrating this comic series respectively?

RAFAEL: We’ve been friends for a very long time and we always wanted to collaborate on something. I’ve been on the art side of animation and Jorge on the writing side. I had these characters bouncing around in my head and in my sketchbook, and a rough outline of a story. I brought that to Jorge, and he developed it, and thus a graphic novel series and a great collaboration was born.

Have you been fans of comics since childhood, or was it something you only came to later?

RR: I’ve been a comics fan my whole life! Starting with Disney comics, moving on to Mexican wrestler comics, and finally superhero comics, particularly Kirby. I discovered Underground and Alternative comics in the early 80s and sort of left superheroes behind.

JORGE: I loved comics as a kid. I remember writing a letter to Dick Giordano (the editor of DC comics in the 1980s), in which I asked him if I needed to be able to draw to get into the comic book industry. He wrote me back: “No.”

What inspired the stories and characters in the first book, Giants Beware?

RR: I wanted to make kids comics that told a big story and were sort of cinematic in tone. Bone was a huge inspiration, of course.

JA: When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me Greek myths during the painfully long twenty hour Spring break drive from Ohio to Florida. I think some of that mythology seeps its way into the stories we tell.

Was it a challenge to figure out what the story for this second book should be?

RR/JA: Yes and no. We always knew – even when we were working on GIANTS BEWARE, that the second book (if we were ever lucky enough to get a second book, which thanks to First Second, we were!) was going to be about facing off against a dragon to get a powerful sword made by Claudette’s father, Augustine. And we knew the evil wizard part of the equation. But it was a big challenge for us to figure out how much wizard, how much dragon, and how much sword to have in the story.

Have you had plans for where these characters would go after writing Giants Beware!, or did the story in Dragons Beware! find its inspiration later?

RR/JA: We had a rough outline of like 5 or 6 books when we worked on the original pitch of the story, which became Giants Beware!. But as we finished GB, we fell in love with Claudette, Gaston, and Marie, and it just takes more time to develop characters you love. And we found out there were other things about this world, which we had created, that we wanted to explore. If we get to tell more of these stories, eventually, everything we had in mind will get out there.

One of the best things about the series, and Dragons Beware! especially, is its rich cast of unique characters. Which of the kids do you each find yourself most identifying with?

JA: I wish I could say I identified with brave Claudette. But I probably have some of the neurotic, perfectionist, worrier characteristics of Gaston mixed with the naive, curious optimism of Marie.

RR: Same here, Gaston. For more or less the same reasons. I’m definitively not impulsive, like Claudette.

Rafael.RosadoHow did the two of you come to work on this series together?

JA: We met in college at Ohio State University. We bonded in a video making class, in which a poorly written script of mine was selected to be directed by a more experienced student, Rafael. After that, we always wanted to work together again.

RR: Jorge’s one of my best and oldest friends: he was even in my wedding! It’s a real pleasure to be able to work with him on this series.

What was your writing process on Dragons Beware? Did it change from how you worked on Giants Beware?

JA: Rafael and I work on the story together, passing ideas, paragraphs, outlines back and forth and talking a lot until we’re happy with the story. That part did not change between books. But when I was writing the script for Giants Beware, I didn’t fully realize how quickly a page of script could expand into pages and pages of artwork. Rafael and I had to make a lot of tough cuts along the way just to keep the book from exploding into twice its final size. I was better at knowing the relationship between words and art when we did the second book (though, I’m still learning). The hard part was trying to give Claudette, Gaston, and Marie new character journeys. And we tried hard not to repeat ourselves.

Are the three main characters inspired by anyone in particular, in their personalities or designs?

RR: As far as the designs go, I wanted characters whose silhouettes were clear and quickly identifiable. Claudette has the big head and crazy, spiky hair, Gaston has the cue ball head with huge ears, and Marie has the triple hair bun and puffy skirt. Hopefully they’re successful designs that way.

Jorge.Aguirre.3What made you choose the heroes’ particular talents–negotiating for Marie and cooking for Gaston in particular?

JA: Rafael originally drew Gaston as a scaredy cat. And when we were working on first book, I think I was watching a lot of TOP CHEF and so we added that to his character because it seemed like fun and interesting. As for Marie, we both liked the idea of taking the princess archetype and giving it a fresh take.

What are the challenges of writing a family book?

JA/RR: We don’t see it any more or less challenging than writing for a different age group. We’re basically writing for each other. We’re trying to entertain and make each other laugh. The only limitation, if you can even call it that, is that we don’t have our characters curse and we go easy on the blood.

Jorge, how has your writing for children’s television informed your graphic novel writing?

JA: Writing for TV probably informs the structure of our books (which is related to your next question about pacing). We think of our stories in terms of Three Acts, and we like the story the to be in a certain place in a certain act. Overall, writing for me is all related – whether I’m writing for TV or graphic novels. It’s all about structure and characters.

The pacing in Dragons Beware has a very cinematic sense of editing; do you each take inspiration in style more from animation or comic books?

RR: I’ve been working as a storyboard artist for over twenty years, so it’s inevitable that my comic book work would reflect that. That being said, there’s only so much overlap between the two forms. You’re missing that element of time, obviously, but there are effective ways to control the pacing in comics.

JA: We’re both heavily influenced by films and filmmaking so the structure of our books probably resembles a three act film. In fact, when we were plotting the first book, I was reading a screenplay writing book called Save the Cat. Reading books about writing is an excellent way to avoid ever having to write. But I’ve learned to read those books with a grain of salt. I take what’s useful to me.

I hear there are rumblings of a third book in the Chronicles of Claudette series…what can you tell us about what’s coming for our heroes?

JA/RR: Yes! The script is done and Rafael is drawing like crazy. We can tell you that there are monsters in the third book. Funny, vile, awful, silly monsters. Better beware!

Dragons Beware!, published by First Second, hits stores near you today!

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47. Interview: John Patrick Green Marks His Solo Debut With ‘Hippopotamister’

Hippopotamister Graphic 727x1028 Interview: John Patrick Green Marks His Solo Debut With HippopotamisterBy Harper Harris

John Patrick Green is a Long Island-based comics creator, best known for his collaboration with Dave Roman, Teen Boat. In an announcement made yesterday by First Second, Green is striking out on his own with the younger audience based Hippopotamister: the story of a Hippopotamus and his friend, Red Panda, who leave their home at a run-down zoo and strike out into the real world to get jobs. One by one, thanks to Red Panda, they get fired from each new vocation. Our hero then decides to return to the zoo, and use his new-found skills to return the zoo to its former glory, but can he do it without his longtime companion?

Beyond being an exceptional draftsman, Green is also an all-around renaissance man in the comics industry, having served in editorial positions and as a publisher. In honor of the big announcement, we discussed his career in-depth and the origins of Hippopotamister and what readers can expect from this 2016 release.

Why comics? Have you been a fan your whole life? What kinds of comics did you read when you first started–superheroes, all-ages, etc.?

I have been a comics fan my whole life. I was always an artist, constantly drawing as a kid. I was a very sick child and spent a lot of time indoors.  Drawing was an activity I could do that wouldn’t cause an asthma attack or expose me to allergens. My gateway into comics were the funny pages, specifically Garfield. This was shortly before Calvin and Hobbes debuted, and that strip didn’t appear in my local paper for at least a couple years after it started. But the Garfield strips and TV specials were what got me into drawing comics, and using that 3-4 panel format to tells gags and stories. My brother, who is two years older than me, brought the first actual comic books into the house (my dad’s comic books having long been thrown out by his mom). I forget what comics he’d bring home, but I remember not being totally into them until I tagged along to the neighborhood Te-Amo store, which had a spinner rack. It wasn’t the first comic book I read, but I vividly remember the first one I bought with my own money being Marvel’s The Gargoyle #2 (in a Four-Issue Limited Series.) The cover and interior art by Bill Sienkiewicz was like no other comic I’d seen before. Soon my brother and I found an actual comic shop in our area, called The Incredible Pulp (now long-closed), and it was there that I’d get hooked on superhero comics (almost exclusively Marvel, aside from some more prominent DC fare like Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen) like X-Men and Daredevil and indie books like Nexus, Badge, Usagi Yojimbo, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And while I never really read Spider-Man much, one of my all-time favorites was the parody version, Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham.

When did your career in comics start? At what point did you decide that’s what you wanted to do?

My career as an artist began in, I think, 3rd or 4th grade. I had a knack for drawing on model, so I’d draw posters of cartoon characters and sell them to other students for 25 cents. My own mother accused me of tracing an image of Yogi Bear, but she apologized after holding my drawing over the reference up to the light and seeing that the sizes were different. But it was also then that she decided to tell me about copyright law and suggested I create my own comics — which I did. So by the time I was in junior high, I’d already had self-published 9 issues (plus 2 giant-sized annuals) of my own comic book called The Footsies (mostly a parody comic of other cartoons and properties, only starring these three kids who had big feet), which I’d photocopy on my grandparents’ photocopier and sell to other students. The Incredible Pulp also sold copies on commission. Even before I started selling my art, I just knew I wanted to be an artist. My grandfather first said I could work for Disney when I was probably 5. Though I did actually want to be an astronaut most of all, but my health put the kibosh on that.

How did your career begin? What path did you take? What was your number one goal when entering the comics field?

If we ignore the self-publishing as a kid, I’d say my career began in college. In high school I’d kind of given up on comics. They got too expensive (the cover price went over a dollar!) and artistically, I was focused on things like watercolor and oil paints. I went to School of Visual Arts, but I didn’t go for comics or illustration. The school’s biggest focus when I enrolled was design, and the department had a 99% hiring rate upon graduation. I felt like the real reason to go to college was to get an actual job out of it, so I majored in graphic design. But I still *liked* comics, so I’d go to the occasional local comic convention. It was at one on Long Island where I met eventual long-time collaborator Dave Roman. He and his friends were super into comics, and this was early in the days of Image. I actually had a friend who worked at Extreme Studios, so he and I hit it off and they got me back into wanting to make comics. Starting with my sophomore year I took all the comics courses I could as electives. I was a big fan of Klaus Janson’s work, so I took his class, and during the second semester the students have to illustrate a full 24-page comic. We had the choice to draw a Daredevil or Batman script, or write one ourselves. So I teamed up with Dave, and we created the series Quicken Forbidden, which I drew as my project.  When it was done we published it ourselves and distributed it through Diamond. So, just like when I was little, my path into comics was to Just Make Comics. Other than Just Making Comics, the goal was to get paid to do it. When graduation was approaching, Dave and I had already published two issues of Quicken Forbidden, so they were in my portfolio. SVA had a job fair for the design department, and as it turned out Penthouse Magazine had a rep there who said their comics-spin off was looking for an assistant art director. So I interviewed and before even graduating I had an actual paying job in comics, even if it was really just lettering porn.

Who are your biggest influences as an artist?

This is probably the hardest question for me to answer. It’s one that evolves over time. Things that influenced me when I was younger can have had a long-lasting John.Patrick.Green byEllenB.Wright Interview: John Patrick Green Marks His Solo Debut With Hippopotamistereffect, even if I don’t currently consider them to be an influence. So, to bring it back to Garfield, Jim Davis was a huge influence on me. When I was little I sent him some strips I drew and he wrote back personally, encouraging me to do more. And while I can list off all the comic artists, as well as fine artists and illustrators like Van Gogh, Renee Magritte, Norman Rockwell, who I admire, it’s really the fact that I grew up with very supportive and understanding parents and teachers who accepted that I knew, at a young age, that THIS was what I wanted to do, and they let me do it.

At what point did licensed comics become a reality for you, with Phineas and Ferb? How did that experience affect how you worked? Did it change your working style, or were there increased challenges working on a property that wasn’t your own?

Drawing Phineas and Ferb came about mostly because I’d had a long relationship with Disney. After Penthouse Comix, I became the comics assistant at Disney Adventures Magazine. Like Penthouse, it initially mostly involved lettering. The position evolved over time and eventually I was writing and coloring Disney and Pixar comics, but the only comic I drew was a gag strip called “The Last Laugh.” Fast-forward 9 years and Disney Adventures was cancelled. But Disney was still doing magazines and comics, and my former boss contacted me about drawing Phineas and Ferb. Apparently finding someone to draw in the style of the show was difficult. There are a lot of traditional animation techniques (eg, squash and stretch) that the show doesn’t really do, and translating the feel of the show into comics was proving difficult for the studio Disney normally had handle licensed comics. But it was right up my alley, and I was only doing behind the scenes freelance work for publishers here and there, so it was great to work on something that got a little bit more of the spotlight.

How did you go about developing such a variety of skills, having done font and book design? Did you aim to do those things, or did you find yourself in a surprising place with them?

I think they all sort of came about out of necessity. As a graphic design major, I’d do book designs as assignments, but that’s mostly covers and doesn’t really help when trying to lay out a comic that you have to send off to a printer. When I was at SVA everything was still done by hand, all paste-ups and mechanicals. It was at Penthouse that I learned how to color in Photoshop, letter in Illustrator, and lay out comics in Quark. During the year I was there, Dave and I continued to do Quicken Forbidden, but now instead of printing out lettering, gluing it to my art, and mailing that to Quebecor, I transitioned to all-digital. We were just using a free comic-style font for the first few issues, which was turning up in EVERY small-press/indie/self-published comic, so I just said “I’m going to figure out how to make a font based off my own lettering.” Word just got around that I knew how to lay out comic books, design fonts, and get them distributed, and I found myself helping other people who wanted to get into it.  Then when larger book publishers, who were mostly unfamiliar with comics, wanted to start their own line, I guess they heard about me.

When did editing become the direction your career took? Did Disney lead to Penthouse, or did Penthouse lead to Disney? How did those two gigs happen, and were they back to back?

Penthouse lead to Disney, and they were indeed back to back. I had known Heidi MacDonald (full disclosure, she runs The Beat) through Friends of Lulu, an organization that was devoted to encouraging more women in comics, both as readers and creators. Yeah, it was a little weird working at Penthouse Comix and being a member of this group, but you can make the biggest changes from the inside, right? Not that it mattered, because after a year there, Penthouse Comix was getting cancelled.  At the same time Heidi, who was the comics editor at Disney Adventures, was looking for a new assistant. I think maybe a month passed between when my Penthouse job ended and I started at Disney.

Did your experience working on Phineas and Ferb make the editing job on Disney Adventures Magazine easier?

While Phineas and Ferb debuted during the last year Disney Adventures was active, there actually was no overlap. But I was familiar with the property, and had worked with Steve Behling who was editing the Phineas and Ferb comics (and taken over for Heidi after she left Disney), so the whole process was easy to slip into.

How do all your past jobs (artist, font designer, etc.) inform your work as a publisher?

I do have an extremely critical eye, especially when it comes to production, lettering, and design issues. Probably to the point that it’s detrimental.

Do you find that readers often have a misunderstanding about the work that goes into the editorial role?

It’s certainly easier to point at a page and say “this person drew that” or “that person wrote this,” than it is to point out how an editor has affected the final comic you hold in your hands. But the process of making a comic is a mystery to a lot of people. I think most readers don’t understand just how collaborative creating a comic actually can be. An editor plays an important role in any book, but comics is a unique way of telling stories. So even if a person understands what an editor traditionally does, there’s an extra layer to understanding their contribution to a comic.

As a publisher, how do you go about looking for new and interesting talents for Cryptic Press? What are the works that you’ve published that you’re most proud of?

It’s been a while since Dave and I have published other creators’ works. We had grand plans of being this indy press startup, putting out this cool underground comics, like Slave Labor and other small publishers we admired. I miss those days a bit, it was a lot of fun being a ‘businessman’ in comics, not just a writer or artist. Aside from our own book, Quicken Forbidden, the most notable books we published were the first issue of Farel Dalrymple’s Pop Gun War and an issue of Aim by Miss Lasko Gross.

What are the origins of Hippopotamister? What made you want to jump into your first solo graphic novel?

I have a thing for puns and wordplay, and while I’m sure it’s an easy name to come up with, when “Hippopotamister” popped into my head I just knew there was a story there. I really enjoy collaborating on comics with another creator, but every so often I’ve got an idea in my head that takes shape on its own.  Bringing someone else in to work on it with me would just be a step backward. So like many other ideas, this one got filed under “do it myself.” Why this idea became my first solo graphic novel was really just a matter of opportunity.

What is the premise of Hippopotamister? Why a hippopotamus?

I had the title before I had the book concept, but not by much. It started with a kid at a zoo calling a hippopotamus “hippopotamister,” like the kid is mispronouncing the word. The hippo hears this, and thinks “hippopotamister” means that he’s a person, not a hippo, so he puts on a hat and leaves the zoo. And for some reason, whatever hat the hippo wears, like a fireman’s helmet, people think that’s his job. The story evolved, and it’s now very different from that original concept, but the hippo still leaves the zoo and wears lots of different job-related hats.

As a publisher yourself, what made you want to go to First Second with Hippopotamister?

I’ve known everyone at First Second since I think before there even was a First Second. My editor Calista Brill may even remember catching me using the office photocopier to make copies of Teen Boat minicomics when we were both at Disney. I’ve been a fan of their work since the beginning, and I’ve done behind the scenes work for them for years (book layout, ad designs), and I knew they were looking to do more graphic novels for younger readers. I like their approach to comics, and have wanted to do an actual book with them.  So when they responded well to my 10-second pitch for Hippopotamister, I knew it would be a good fit.

Is the intended audience for the book all-ages, younger readers, or do you hope it will entertain readers of all ages?

Hippopotamister is definitely for younger readers, but as a creator I generally want as many people as possible to find something enjoyable out of my work.

A sizable portion of your comics work has been in collaboration with fellow Comics Bakery creators like Dave Roman…was it at all scary to break out on your own, or were you more excited about the opportunity?

I can’t say it’s scary. It really doesn’t feel like I’m breaking out on my own. For all the books I’ve done with Dave, be it Quicken Forbidden or Teen Boat (or ones most people have never seen, like Melon Head or I Just Had My Lab Test), it was just him and me. We didn’t really have editors or publishers, at least not until they came along to publish collected versions. With Hippopotamister, while Dave’s not involved, I *am* working directly with an editor and publisher. Plus, there’s Gina Gagliano, who does First Second’s marketing and PR, something Dave and I didn’t really have resources for as Cryptic Press. And I’m working with an amazing colorist, Cat Caro, on Hippopotamister. So while it’s technically a solo book, I’m certainly not alone in making the book happen, and it’s probably less scary than other projects. It is still very exciting to have the chance to make this book, though, that’s for sure.

How long was the production process on this graphic novel?

You ask that as if I’m not still in the middle of it!  Hippopotamister should be in stores in 2016.

Were there any surprises or roadblocks along the way?

Not yet, knock on wood.

What’s the underlying message of Hippopotamister that you would like your readers to take away?

Don’t be afraid to try something new. You don’t have to be good at something to be able to enjoy it. And if you don’t like what you’re doing, try something else. You might even uncover some hidden talents along the way.

Is there another graphic novel in your future that fans can look forward to after reading Hippopotamister?

There is ALWAYS another graphic novel in my future!  The question is just which one do I do next.

You can find Hippopotamister at local retailers in the Spring of 2016 from First Second

4 Comments on Interview: John Patrick Green Marks His Solo Debut With ‘Hippopotamister’, last added: 11/14/2014
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48. Jillian Tamaki wins Governor General Award for This One Summer

ths one summer Jillian Tamaki wins  Governor General Award for This One Summer
Another win for a graphic novel as Jillian Tamaki won canada’s Governor General Award : for This One Summer in the Children’s Literature Illustrations category. This is a prestigious Canadian literary award, and its the first win for a graphic novel, although cousin Mariko Tamaki was nominated for their previous collaboration, Skim, and Mariko was nominated in the Children’s Literature category this year. Jillian gets the hometown hero treatment from the Edmonton Journal (she’s a native of Calgary.)

It’s the first Governor General nomination for Jillian Tamaki but, strangely, not the first time her work has been nominated.  There was controversy back in 2008 when Skim, the first book she created with her cousin, was nominated in the text category but not for illustrations. Tamaki argues that separating illustration and story into two categories for comics does not make a lot of sense,  suggesting that it may be time for a separate category for graphic novels.

“It’s the same strange divorce of text and image for this one as well,” Tamaki says. “I think we are both creators of the book. You can’t read a comic without either component, it won’t make sense. It’s something I will always be addressing when talking about the award. But I am completely flattered by the honour and will be sharing the prize with my cousin.”

The National Book Awards ceremony is tonight where Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is a finalist. Fingers crossed!

[Via Comics Reporter]

0 Comments on Jillian Tamaki wins Governor General Award for This One Summer as of 11/20/2014 1:24:00 PM
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49. Newbery! Caldecott! Librarians Honor Graphic Novels including El Deafo and This One Summer

The American Library Association announced their 2015 youth media award winners at its Midwinter Meeting in Chicago.

Covering a diverse range of titles and readers, graphic novels were among the honorees!  First…  The big news…

9781419712173 Newbery!  Caldecott!  Librarians Honor Graphic Novels including El Deafo and This One SummerEl Deafo, Cece Bell’s memoir of her hearing loss and fitting in at grade school was selected as a Newbery Honor Book, as an outstanding contribution to children’s literature!

While already a bestseller, with long autograph lines this weekend at the conference, this honor will encourage more libraries, especially school libraries, to shelve and promote this title, a great book which just happens to be a graphic memoir!

Then there’s the Caldecott Medal, for most distinguished American picture book.  This is another “instant bestseller”, generating instant sales among libraries and bookstores.  This year’s winner was Dan Santat, for “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend”, which is a regular picture book.  But…  Santat has also written a graphic novel, titled “Sidekicks”, and his picture books are geeky and fun, so I’m claiming him!

Also… there were SIX honor books announced.  One of which was…  “This One Summer“, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki.  Yes… it’s awarded to the illustrator, but many times, the story is essential for a title rising among the many amazing books being published today.

Don’t feel sory for Mariko… she received a Printz Honor for excellence in literature written for young adults!  This is the Newberry for YA literature, with a similar explosion in sales expected!  (Graphicologists will recall that Gene Luen Yang won the award for American Born Chinese in 2007.)

What… you want more?  Okay…  How about an outstanding children’s book translated from a foreign language?

The Mildred L. Batchelder Award honored “Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust“, published by First Second.  Written in French by Loic Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano, color by Greg Salsedo, and translated by Alexis Siegel, it chronicles a young Jewish girl in 1942 Paris.  I confess… I overlooked this title last Spring. (Hey… they have an amazing list, and there’s lots of great stuff from other publishers too!)  Here’s a friendly reminder, and an enjoyable one at that!

9780525426813M Newbery!  Caldecott!  Librarians Honor Graphic Novels including El Deafo and This One SummerOne more title of note…  YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association) gave an award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.  This year’s winner:

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

If you’d like to know more about these and many other winners (many in multiple categories), visit the Youth Media Awards website! You can read our 2014 coverage here.

Me, I’m off to discover more great titles, and to help librarians use graphic novels to encourage literacy and a life-long-love of reading!

6 Comments on Newbery! Caldecott! Librarians Honor Graphic Novels including El Deafo and This One Summer, last added: 2/3/2015
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50. Interview: Scott McCloud on expectations, the creative process, and getting kicked out of a Holiday Inn for The Sculptor

Sculptor300RGB 724x1028 Interview: Scott McCloud on expectations, the creative process, and getting kicked out of a Holiday Inn for The Sculptor

By Harper Harris and Kyle Pinion

In The Sculptor, David Smith is an out of work artist, who feels as though he never quite reached the level of fame he always thought was right within his grasp. When the physical representation of Death comes offering a deal: the power to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands with the caveat that his life ends in 200 days, David cannot resist the possible benefits of such an ability. The after-effects that this bargain has on his friends, New York City, and his love-life become the center-piece of this newest graphic novel by acclaimed cartoonist Scott McCloud.

30 years in the making, McCloud’s new opus is available on February 3rd through First Second. McCloud was kind enough to sit down with us for a lengthy discussion about the new book, critical expectations, his creative process and how he balances his busy speaking schedule and the creation of a 500-plus page graphic novel.

Kyle: How is the press circuit treating you?  I know you’ve been on interviews for weeks now.  Are you exhausted? 

Scott McCloud:  No, I store energy like a cactus stores water and five years squirreled away in my hobbit hole drawing, you store up a lot of energy.  So I was definitely ready to come out into the sunlight and talk to people.  And the reception so far has been amazing.  So far it’s been really encouraging I think is what I mean to say.

Kyle: Well, that’s good to hear.  That actually pivots over to one thought that I was curious about.  Over the past 15, 20 years now, though you’ve of course published books like Zot! and you did some work with DC in the past as well on the Superman Adventures, you’ve been known as the guy that breaks down comic book storytelling via Understanding Comics and the like.  With critical response in mind, did you ever feel a certain level of pressure as someone expected to live up to that analysis with The Sculptor?

McCloud:  Oh yeah.  There was definitely a big target on my chest when I did this thing, but it was a good kind of Sculptor Ex1 208x300 Interview: Scott McCloud on expectations, the creative process, and getting kicked out of a Holiday Inn for The Sculptorpressure.  The pressure was pretty strong after Understanding Comics, that anything I did in the way of fiction afterwards would be judged with that in mind. I did one or two pieces of fiction that are best left forgotten, that didn’t do so well.  But after Making Comics, there was definitely a bulls-eye on me because I wasn’t just telling people how to read them, I was telling people how to make them. I had to put my money where my mouth was.  But in the end, I thought that was a really healthy kind of pressure because it meant that failure was not an option.  I had to really give this my all and I was lucky enough to have an editor who had the same attitude about it and gave me a little extra room, a little extra time to do so.  This was originally going to be a three year book and we allowed it to grow to five years with his blessing because he felt that we could pull off something really wonderful.  But yeah, I was trying to apply all of these ideas that I had been talking about in books like Making Comics, I’ve been trying to apply them in this work but I’ve also been trying to make sure that they’re hidden, transparent, not on the surface.  I didn’t want people thinking about panel transitions and compositions and my use of bleed while reading the thing.  I wanted them to be thinking about the story and I hope that’s the effect people will have in the reading experience.

Harper: To delve into The Sculptor itself and how you got started with it, one of the concepts in the book is just how David, an out of work sculptor, feels like he’s got this unrealized potential…he’s got all this creativity stored up and then he feels like he can be this big famous sculptor but he doesn’t have the means to do it yet.  As a writer, when you were getting started with this project, do you feel like your creative soul was restless or you had something big you had to accomplish and you just were ready to get it out?

McCloud:  I felt like that when I was in my 20s.  When I was the same age as David, I felt a lot more like David than I do now.  I’ve been lucky because I’ve actually gotten some attention and I’ve been able to get my work out there, but I have a lot of feeling for those who don’t have that, who haven’t had that luck.  Whether they’re young and just starting out or if they’ve been at it for 30 years, there are a lot of people who have trouble getting their work out into the sunlight and who rightly feared that their work might be forgotten someday, maybe even in their lifetime.  Something that happens to a lot of artists is being forgotten in your lifetime. I can easily put myself in that mindset again of imagining that and imagining that fear, the fear that comes with that.  And then the fact that David has this family that’s already gone, both in terms of their physical lives but also in terms of the memories of them, even though they were all three very creative people, his parents and his sister.  That made it a much more urgent need on his part to not be forgotten.

Kyle: Now this is a concept that you created decades ago.  I think I heard once it was about 30 years ago, is that correct?

Scott McCloud:  Yeah, it was really terrifying when I realized it was 30.  I was saying 20 and then I think it was Ivy, my wife, just reminded me “nah, it’s actually more like 30.”  That’s a long time!

Kyle: It’s a concept that’s older than Harper here actually.

McCloud:  It’s older than a lot of readers.  It may be older than most of the people who will read this book, some may be younger than the idea for the book itself.

Kyle: I wonder, how has your life experience changed the way you’re approaching the material than if you had written it back in 1980, whatever year it was that you initially thought of it?

McCloud:  Well, I think it’s a better book for having been written much later but the important thing for me was I had this young man’s idea and had had a lot of the things we associate with young ideas.  It has lots of bold, preposterously ambitious ideas in it.  It’s trying to address questions of life and art, mortality, the nature of existence and that sort of thing.  I think as we get older, we’re more likely to just address the struggles of getting your coffee in the morning and going to a job you hate or whatever.  People tend to scale down their ambitions a little.  My goal for this one was to see if maybe I could take that young man’s idea and capture the enthusiasm I had when I was a young man and channel that crazy ambition but channel it in a direction that was informed by the perspective I’d gained as an older man, nearly twice the age that I was when I first came up with it, when I started to work on this thing.  And hopefully I’ve been able to do that.  To not castrate it, not rob it of the vitality of that young idea but try to preserve the vitality while giving a perspective, direction and a more meaningful shape through what I’ve learned in the intervening years.

Harper: Being that this was an idea that gestated for such a long time and you added things and changed things as you were thinking about it, when you actually sat down to start putting pen to paper and writing it, what was your process like?  Were you coming up with a script first, or was it just a rough draft, or were you doing thumbnails?

McCloud:  The first part of the process was when I realized I really wanted to work on this book, it was just as I was starting a 50 state tour in support of that previous book, Making Comics,  2006 and 2007.  And I was so desperate to Sculptor Ex2 208x300 Interview: Scott McCloud on expectations, the creative process, and getting kicked out of a Holiday Inn for The Sculptorwork on The Sculptor but all I could really do was sit in the passenger seat while my wife drove.  I’m not allowed to drive.  I’m a terrible driver.  And just think about it for a year.  And in a way, that was actually really good.  That first part of the process was just thinking about the story and taking lots and lots and lots of notes.  Then I got to work in earnest after we had a publisher and we were ready to start active work on the thing.  I started to create the layouts and for the first year, I did nothing but create these layouts which were – my layouts are pretty tight.  They look a lot like a finished comic, just a rough version.  But all of this takes place before there’s any finished art, right?  So I make this thing, I make the whole thing.  I send it to my editor, Mark Siegel.  I also send it to my “five kibitzers” as I call them – friends who I know will be honest and tell me what parts suck, whatever parts of the story don’t work.  And then I revised it based on their input and I revised it again and I revised it again.  I did four revisions of this nearly 500 page book in layout form.  Took me two years.  This is all before I ever drew a single finished panel.  And then I started drawing the real thing and that took three years.  It took me three years to draw those near 500 pages and that was done on my Cintiq tablet in Photoshop.  It’s entirely digital even though it has that slightly rough hand-drawn quality to it, the entire thing was done digitally.  In fact, the layouts were all done digitally too.  40 pages at a time in a giant Photoshop document.

Harper: Why is sculpture was the main thrust of the book as opposed to him being a painter or something that was a little bit maybe closer to your own craft?

McCloud:  Well on the one hand, sculpture makes good visual theatre in the sense that it exists in three dimensions, it’s dynamic.  The idea of going up against that hard surface, in the case of the sort of things that David is doing, has a nice sense of explosive physical conflict to it.  But beyond that, the choice of sculpture as opposed to any other form, I have to be honest, I never even considered anything else simply because that was the starting point.  That that was this idea in its original state as it existed in that little three ring binder that I have been carrying around with me since high school where I would write down ideas.  That’s where it began, the idea of a sculptor in particular.  I don’t really know if it would be quite as effective if it were say flat visual arts like painting or drawing, although interestingly enough, a book that I really enjoyed, Dylan HorrocksSam Zabel and the Magic Pen is I think coming out around the same time and in a way, he does have that notion of the artist being given supernatural abilities of one sort or another, in his case through literally a magic pen.  So he gets to explore a slightly different side of that artistic deal with fate.

Kyle: Did you have to do any sort of background research at all?

McCloud:  I researched the art world in that area as far as just the cultural and business aspects of it and then just looked at a lot of sculpture.  But in the end, I think it’s important to note that what David makes in many ways fails.  It fails the test and he’s unable to get a wider audience for it for much of the book.  The only things that David ever makes that gain the favor of that world, we don’t actually see.  We don’t see the work he makes before the story begins that had gotten him some attention early on, we don’t see the work that he makes that his friend Ollie considers very promising.  That stuff is off panel.  What I felt I was able to draw or what I was able to imagine is the sort of work that a sculptor might not get recognition for.  And so I was able to just pour my crazy imagination into it and then knowing that I wasn’t presenting this as some kind of masterpiece that would be universally acclaimed, I was presenting his sculpture as something that would probably confound or be uninteresting to that world.  But I did research some of the experience of living in that world, talked to a couple of people who are part of it. In large part, I was just researching what it is to live in New York in 2000 something because of course this took place over several years and just try to get the city right, just try to show the physical environment of the city as well as the cultural environment.

Kyle: In order for David to gain his amazing abilities, he had to strike a bit of a Faustian pact with the embodiment of death.  Do those type of stories fascinate you?  It’s basically the fulcrum that this story into motion, at least in the beginning stages before we get to know the characters better.  Do you find yourself a fan of tales like The Devil and Daniel Webster and the like?

McCloud:  Now that you mention The Devil and Daniel Webster, I actually really enjoyed that but it’s been literally 40 years since I’ve read that one, but I remember really being into it.  I don’t know that the story was in any way commenting on those other stories, but in some way, I think the important departure here is that it is a deal with death and that the ultimate result is still oblivion, as shown in the blank pages towards the beginning of the story.  Like most Faustian bargains, the ending is not in question, right?  You know the final fate of the character.  But this time, because of that notion of oblivion rather than eternal damnation, it’s kind of the secular version of that story, isn’t it?  And I think understanding the difference between that secular, updated version and versions that are more tied to questions of morality than to questions of existential terror, that was interesting to me.  I think that was the main thing was that the way in which the echoes of religious beliefs were resonated a bit through this story, but of course it’s a profoundly non-religious story despite the supernatural element that sets it in motion.

Harper: David can be frustrating at times when he is making the wrong choice, which he does quite often. Did you find it difficult to write a protagonist that has those flaws?

McCloud:  Well interestingly enough, David was even less likeable in early drafts of the layouts.  A lot of my friends who were reading it over, and my editor, pointed out ways in which he was a difficult character to get into.  You can have a character with very negative aspects to their personality who audiences still have a passageway into.  That was my goal primarily was that even when David is being frustrating, I wanted my audience to be able to get inside his head, to see what it was like to be him from the inside.  It goes in a slightly different direction from the question of likeability.  Relatability and likeability, I’ve come to understand are two slightly different things when writing characters.  He had to be relatable first and foremost and that was one of the goals that I internalized when I was going through rewrite after rewrite, to make sure that we could understand where he was coming from, and to get a sense of what drove him forward even when he was being frustrating or stubborn. Part of that was understanding the difference between wanting to be remembered and being terrified of being forgotten.  They’re two different things.  Understanding that difference, I think, was one of my crucial procedures as I constructed and reconstructed this story.

Kyle:  I’d like to also talk a little bit about one of the other key themes that hit me while I was reading, you display clinical depression in this book with a lot of nuance and that’s not something you see done particularly very well in really many forms of media – television, film, comics, whatever we might be talking about.  How much thought and work went into giving that characteristic to that particular character – or was there personal experience at all involved there that sort of informed how that character was resolved?

McCloud:  Yeah, there was a lot of personal experience that went into that and that was crucial to being able to capture those thought processes and the kind of relationship that one might have with somebody going through that.  I think in early drafts it felt a little bit more pat, a little bit more like just a mechanical necessity of the plot and I think it gained in resolution and nuance I think with the rewrites.  That was something that we were very concerned with, that it not simply be a plot device but that it be part of the texture of the story without necessarily departing from what the story was about.  One of the things about getting increasing specific in the portrayal of something like that is that you don’t want the story to become about itself, you don’t want to lose sight of why the story exists in the first place.  And so that was the balancing act, making sure that this felt like a real emotional story but an emotional story that existed within the universe of the ideas of the story as a whole.

Kyle: This is strange to say, but it’s probably my favorite part of the book because it felt so real to life.

McCloud:  That’s really cool.  I have to say, much of what I was doing there was channeling because sometimes when you have direct real life experience, sometimes you just close your eyes and let a character speak from experiences.  You can hear the voice in your head.  You know what words come next because it’s part of the texture of your own life.  It’s not a trick you can do often because you – unless you have profound relationships with many, many people which I suppose normal people do.  Maybe that’s just me speaking as an overworked comic artist that I’m only able to slot in a few in the course of a lifetime.

Harper: Looking at taking the writing process into the art process, how much thought goes into the panel to panel storytelling, or the perspectives that you choose, or whether you’re going to have an establishing shot to set the mood first, or whether you just go back and forth between the two characters? 

McCloud:  Every single composition, every single panel choice and pacing choice was done very deliberately, but always with the goal that it wouldn’t seem deliberate.  I wanted this book to feel as if it Sculptor Ex3 208x300 Interview: Scott McCloud on expectations, the creative process, and getting kicked out of a Holiday Inn for The Sculptorhad just written itself, so transparency was the goal.  One what that I tried to do that was by being very rigorous about capturing the rhythm of ordinary conversations, right down to the silence is something that Mark Siegel encouraged me to do.   Sometimes it’s important, those pauses between speech are vitally important to capturing a credible rhythm of speech.  Something that a lot of comics feel they don’t have the time to do, especially if you’ve got a 23 page story, having a panel of somebody just in between sentences, taking a sip of coffee or something, you’re not going to see that.  And yet that’s something that we intuitively recognize as the music of humans in conversation.  And when we recognize it, they become real.  And when they become real, you stop thinking about panel transitions, you stop thinking about composition choices, you stop thinking about bleeds and you are lost in the world of the story.  The first line of offense in conquering the reader’s perception of a real illusionistic world inside that story is the way people act with other people.  You get that right and you’re more likely to be able to cast that spell and keep readers in the story.

Kyle: In looking through the panel compositions, it seems like there’s a push and pull between the opaque and the transparent and one of the things Harper pointed out to me was this really interesting use of how you show distance, utilizing either opaque figures or transparent figures, or to emphasize perspective and focus.  Was this a tool you consciously decided to use on the book as a visual theme or is this just a natural part of your storytelling tools?

McCloud:  Yeah, I think that’s something that I’ve wanted to try out for a long time but I don’t really know that I ever had the opportunity.  Nothing I’d done before would have been appropriate for that particular technique.  Part of it is the fact that we have a POV character and with a POV character, you can play with perception and emotion visualized in a way that you can’t with a third party objective: omniscient viewpoint.  It’s very manga.  Manga was interesting to me for a lot of reasons when I first got into it in the 80s and one of the reasons I liked it was that notion of emotional and perceptional participation.  That sense that you are here, you’re part of the story.  You are the protagonist.  And that was done in a number of ways, sort of sliced up aspect to aspect, pieces of perception of the world around you or moving along with the moving character rather than just watching the character move. There were also all of these emotional expressionistic techniques.  If the character was nauseous, for instance, the whole world might become a little bit wobbly around them because you were perceiving the world through their eyes.  So I tried to do that and I found with the two colors, there were lots of opportunities to do that.  As you mentioned, through transparency, opacity, by using colored contours rather than black contours.  I think 100 years of CMYK printing tends to condition us to always have a black contour, but there are plenty of reasons not to.  So I use them as depth cues and I use them as you said to indicate the perspective of the character, like when he’s focusing on one particular person at a party and everybody else is dimmed out because we’re seeing his mental map of what matters and what doesn’t.

Harper: I know a lot of your work in the past has been black and white.  Was there ever a stage that this book was going to be in color or a different style of color use than the way you used it in the book?

McCloud:  No.  There were practical considerations of cost but there was also the creative considerations that I really like to do it all myself and I’m a shitty colorist.  I’ve never had a good color sense and it looks good to me and then everybody else tells me, no Scott, that’s not good, so.  But I can choose from a Pantone swatch book, that I can do.  And two colors to me is just a little bit nicer than one because with that second color, I can use it not only for the techniques we talked about but just for the simple utilitarian task of clarifying form.  When you have that second color, you can make it more quickly obvious to the eye, even at a casual glance, what the forms are on the page, where are the faces versus the background, where the figures and silhouettes are and sense of depth.  All of these things really come into sharp, immediate focus when you have that second color.  So there were a lot of reasons to go for it.

Harper: In picking the light blue tone that permeates the book; was that a difficult choice or was that something that as you were working through the art, that was just the obvious choice?

McCloud:  Actually in May, when time had pretty much run out and it was time for Scott to pick the damn color, I was in Atlanta at the offices of a company called MailChimp.  I had given a lecture there either that day or the day before, I’ve forgotten which.  And they very kindly gave me their Pantone swatch book and an hour or two in a quiet room in the offices to just sit and select which color it would be.  And I will forever be grateful to MailChimp for saving my ass because my Pantone swatch book was locked up in an office here in California, the office I’m sitting in right now.  I had the key in Atlanta and there was nobody there who could go and retrieve it for me and those things are expensive, so thank god that MailChimp came to my rescue and gave me that Pantone swatch book and I was actually to select the magical hue 653.  I will never forget that number.

Kyle: Between Serial and Scott McCloud giving them praise, MailChimp is having a great couple of months here. I’m trying to couch my next question as carefully as possible here, because it deals with sort of the latter half of the book.

McCloud:  Sure.

Kyle: The actual production of the art towards the end, especially in a selection that is full of a lot of panels, was that a physically stressful piece to produce, especially if you were producing it multiple times in multiple drafts?  I’m referring to the very end of the book.

McCloud:  Oh yeah.  No, I know what you’re referring to and it was tremendously difficult, but it was a kind of difficulty that I had come to relish.  I really loved the hard work.  The hard work of this book was gratifying work.  I loved working hard, I loved being challenged, I loved being forced to do something that I had never been able to do before.  That was great.  What wasn’t great was the fact that I was straining the limits of my system, that it was taking forever to save these files.  It was so complex at 1,200 dots per inch – at least I think it’s 12, not 1,000.  I think the book is 12 – 1,200 dots per inch, in RGB no less, even though it was a two color book.  The thing was just enormous.  Those files were enormous.  They were like half a gigabyte each and boy, was it slow churning out these things and saving them.  That was the hard part was the waiting.  Do I save and have to stop drawing for a couple of minutes or do I wait and risk a lightning storm and a blackout or whatever.  That was hard, that was hard.  But I don’t know, generally speaking though, the hardest things about this book were also the most gratifying because that’s when I felt like I was really finally climbing the mountain.

Harper: One thing I noticed that I really enjoyed in the storytelling was how you used the gutters as far as for pacing.  So the distance between the panels in calmer, normal section of the book, there’s a little bit of distance and there are white gutters and then when there’s these parts that are a little more intense or – for example, when David discovers he has these powers and he’s running home to figure out what’s going on and to try them out, the gutters completely disappear and it’s just this thick black line in between panels. It really changed the pacing a lot and the feeling of timing.

McCloud:  As you mention it, I’m not sure that I did this much in my first comic Zot!, but there was a pretty rigorous practical set of standards for when that might happen, when I might go to a different gutter style or when I might go to a bleed, for example.  And it’s just like for any given moment in the story, the question was: does it pass the test?  Is this the kind of moment where David is overwhelmed by what’s happening, where he’s sent into just an emotional rhapsody of one sort or another, of rage or wonder.  In those cases, the borders do collapse to a single black line in between panels and it goes full bleed.  All of those are full bleed as well.  To me, it feels right.  And I guess what it is is I had seen other artists who had done that.  Sometimes artists just do that for everything.  There are a few artists who always have that single black line and full bleeds throughout an entire book. It just has this – I don’t know, it’s like in Wagner when the extra trombones come in.  It just seems to be that orchestral color that tells you that something of great weight is happening.  And this is a story where I decided to use the full orchestra, so that was one of my tools.

Kyle: I know you speak to a number of different companies professionally, you’re probably on speaker bureaus and the like…

McCloud:  Actually you know what, I’ll tell you a secret.  I do it all myself.  People just email me and I say well, here’s how much it is and I’m either free or I’m not and then we do it.

Kyle:  That’s even easier.

McCloud:  It’s incredibly informal, yeah.  It’s really weird.  I should have representation for it.  I have representation for Hollywood, I have representation for my books but when it comes to speaking, I don’t know, I just haven’t found anyone that could do it better.  It’s weird.  So yeah, I just do it all myself.  It’s kind of insane.  Although I will say for the First Second book tour and my European tour, February, March and April, a lot of that is delegated to the individual publisher.

Kyle:  Of course. How do you balance that schedule with your creative time?  Is there a lot of creative time being done in hotel rooms?  How does that work?

McCloud:  We did a lot on hotel rooms last year when we were doing the technical finishes on the book.  In fact, I particularly remember writing the entire book to  – was it a Holiday Inn in St. Louis maybe or someplace, but we were driving west and we’d stopped for the night and I actually had to unpack my Mac Pro and the Cintiq and everything and it was finally done and we were writing – we got kicked out of our room.  So I actually wheeled the Mac Pro out to where the elevators were and Ivy and I were sitting there and while all of these files are being written to a drive, copied to a drive so that we could run to FedEx and send it out.  And we looked like homeless people.  Our dog was with us and all our coats and we looked like we had camped out next to the elevator and were asking for handouts or something.  But all it was was like I had all of this equipment and all of our suitcases just waiting for a file to copy.

Kyle: I’ve never heard of Holiday Inn ever kicking anyone out of a room.

McCloud:  *laughs* They were very sweet, they were very sweet.  We just explained it and – but it was just nuts.  I mean yeah, we’ve had extreme moments like that where it was just really crazy.  But as far as the travel schedule versus the work schedule, I worked 11 hours a day, seven days a week for five years, except for the last year where it was more like 14 hours a day.  And then I would still travel but in a given month, if I do two or three lectures, that’s really only, what, six days lecturing, traveling and lecturing.  So the six days out of 30 is – is that 20%?  So 80% of the time I’m working.  Of course, Ivy always makes fun of me for this, is that I will say “oh yeah, I was working except when I was traveling.”  And she’s like “that’s working too, you know”.  It’s not like when I’m hopping on a plane to give a lecture at Google, it’s not as if that’s not work.  Of course that’s work.  So yeah, I pretty much only work.  But then when the book is done, then we have fun, then we play and that’s what we’re going to do this year.

Harper: Was the publishing deal worked out before the creative process or afterwards?  I know you had the idea obviously, but was this something that you presented to the publisher and then you went from there?  What made First Second the logical choice for that?

McCloud:  Well, we went to four publishers and they were all interested in the book to varying degrees.  And for various reasons, we went with First Second, but one of the most important reasons of all was just talking to Mark Siegel and seeing that they were willing to put a lot of resources behind it but they also had that sensibility where Mark – Mark is kind of unique.  I talked to some real world class editors but Mark has I think the rigorous demanding aesthetic sense of grand, traditional New York 20th century editor while at the same time, also having tremendous chops as an artist and a writer himself. That’s a very unusual combination to find and it turned out to be essential to this particular book, because I really don’t think anybody else could have pulled this story out of me the way that Mark did.

Kyle:  What can your fans expect when you’re on the book tour?  Will you be speaking at all or will you be displaying any excerpts at all from the book itself?

McCloud:  We’re going to be bringing along visuals but for the US tour, the 14 cities in 16 days coming up in February, which’ll probably be this month by the time this goes out.  For those where it’s going to be mostly conScott.McCloud 276x300 Interview: Scott McCloud on expectations, the creative process, and getting kicked out of a Holiday Inn for The Sculptorversation format, so I’m going to be in conversation with somebody.  But then I’ll have some visuals standing by so I can show process stuff, I can show excerpts,  I can show art from the book, things like that.  But otherwise, I had suggested that it be conversation format just so that each talk is different.  So if you see me in New York or Chicago or LA, each one of those conversations is going to be different and that way if – for the ones that wind up on the web, they’ll all be their own unique conversation which ought to be a lot of fun.  But there will still be some visuals thrown in.  And I should mention, I’m still doing the full prepared visual lecture thing.  That’ll also be happening and already we have about five more talks in the spring that are slipping in between the cracks, even though I’m also going to six countries.  It’s kind of insane.  We’re doing 14 cities in 16 days followed by England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands, all of it in February, March and April.  But I’ve also managed to slot in talks in Mississippi, Virginia, Ohio and Vermont into that same period and with a couple of others that are about to land as well. Those things that are a bit separate that I’ve arranged for separately, those are going to be the full stand up, hour long visual lecture which has hundreds of images going by very fast and that’s quite a show. These were organized separately, they’re not just a part of the promotional tour, though of course I’ll talk about The Sculptor a little.

Harper: The Sculptor is a dense book and it’s got a lot of really big ideas and themes about art and life and love and all sorts of different things. What do you hope is the key takeaway or the key message that you hope readers pull from it as they’re picking it up?

McCloud:  Well, there will be a lot of talk about the themes and the ambition of the book.  I think a lot of people already are looking at it as a bid for consideration as a big, serious book.  But, my very first goal for the book, and in a lot of ways still my most important goal, is just to create something that is an enjoyable read, that’s a page turner, that has a kind of narrative momentum that just carries you from panel to panel and page to page.  If I can pull that off first and foremost, I’ll be happy.  I want it to be something that people really get into, that’s engrossing, that they can lose themselves in.  And hopefully something that they can find as a rewarding re-read as well.  That’s a lot of stuff in there that I think will become apparent on second reading and third reading.

Kyle: Is this going to mark a trend of more fiction based writing from you or are you going to return to analysis after this?

McCloud:  Actually, my next book will be a nonfiction book and it’s going to be about visual communication and some of the common denominators across different disciplines in terms of visual education.  I feel as if there are common principles to data visualization, information graphics, educational animation, and educational comics.  People in all of these fields I think are knocking on the same door and I think it might be useful to see if I can discern some of the fundamental principles that lie behind all of those disciplines and put them in one work, so that’s the next project.  That’ll also be with First Second Books.

Kyle:  Lastly, where can people find information about the upcoming book tour?  Will that be on First Second’s website or will that be on your website?

McCloud:  It’s on First Second’s website now.  I tweeted about it just the other day and as soon as I’m done with today’s interviews, I am so finally putting up a blog post on my own front page at ScottMcCloud.com and updating my side bar, which is still telling you all about the things I did last year.  By the time people get to hear this, they’ll definitely be up.

You can pick up The Sculptor in book stores or your local comic shop starting February 3rd. 

For those who are so inclined you can also listen to the full audio of the interview below:

4 Comments on Interview: Scott McCloud on expectations, the creative process, and getting kicked out of a Holiday Inn for The Sculptor, last added: 2/3/2015
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