Saturday, May 9, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Five Questions with Kids Comics Authors

 Celebrate kids comics with Q&As with fantastic children’s cartoonists for Children’s Book Week! Join us as great authors talk about their own creative work and the graphic novel industry throughout April and May. Comics for kids are reaching a time of unprecedented acceptance in the American literary scene, and it’s now true that there are comics for everyone. All interviews are conducted by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado (Dragons Beware!).

 ~ Follow the tour HERE ~

Children’s Book Week, (May 4-10, 2015) – 96th annual celebration!
Children's Book Week is the annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading. It is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country.
In 2015, official Children’s Book Week events – including appearances by beloved children’s book authors & illustrators, children’s open mic nights, read-alouds, book-themed costume parties, and much more – will be held in all 50 states. Photos from last year here. Event attendees receive complimentary Children’s Book Week posters and tote bags. You can see how the celebrations for 2015 are shaping up here.
Children’s Book Week is administered by Every Child a Reader (ECAR) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC) is the anchor sponsor. More


RAFAEL/JORGE: Hi, Kean, thanks for answering our questions and great to cyber-meet you.

Where did the idea for Jellaby come from? He seems like a character that was somehow fully-realized from the get-go.

A: Jellaby basically came out of a series of sketches over the period of several months as I was working to come up with ideas for a graphic novel for younger readers. I knew I wanted to write a graphic novel for kids, but I had no idea where to start. So at that point, I was just having fun: just drawing things I enjoyed, like robots, monsters, that kind of stuff. 

I found that when I kept going back to my sketchbook, I would always be drawn back to one drawing of a girl hugging a hideous monster (that monster would eventually become Jellaby, but he was far more grub-like and horrible-looking in those early drawings). I started asking questions about these two: Why would these two be hugging each other? Why would they be friends? How did they meet? Out of those questions, the characters and story started taking shape, and I was off and running then. 

Can you talk a little about how Jellaby's story evolved from a web series to books?ON: 

A: The intention from the very beginning was to get Jellaby published in print, but at the time (late 2004, early 2005), there really weren't that many avenues for a comic for younger readers to be published -- Jeff Smith's Bone had only just wrapped up in its original black & white run, and we were only just starting to see manga and graphic novels trickling into actual bookstores. It was a totally different landscape back then, and only 10 years ago!

It was a great coincidence then that Hope Larson was also looking to publish her first graphic novel, Salamander Dream, and we decided to band together to start a website with a daily schedule and post the pages of our graphic novels there, with the intent of finding a publisher through this website.

Hope's book found a home almost immediately with Oni Press, while Jellaby took a little while longer, but I was eventually contacted by Calista Brill, who was then with Hyperion Books. It's kind of astonishing how bold we were, looking back on it now.

Your work-in-progress, "From Toronto to Tuscany" is an autobiographical web series/graphic novel.  There seems to be so many great autobiographical graphic novels, and we can't wait to read about the rest of your journey through Italy. Do you find that something about the medium of graphic novels lends itself well to autobiographical tales?

A: I think it's the simple fact that cartoonists draw things with their own unique style, and that immediately gives the reader a sense of how the author sees or interprets the world. It's a faster, more direct way into the author's mind, and it's something that new readers can really latch on to -- it certainly is the case for me as a reader!

What’s your working process like?  Do you write a full script, an outline?  Or are you scripting with thumbnails?

A: I generally start with a detailed outline, and I just go straight to thumbnails, working out the staging and dialogue as I go along. This usually leads to many false starts and multiple revisions of my thumbnails, but I actually tried writing a traditional script once, and as soon as I got to the thumbnails, that script went right out the window anyway as I discovered more visual jokes or other interesting story beats in the thumbnails themselves.

I actually find that my brain only works in 40-page chunks, so it's no coincidence that my chapters (and in the case of my new project, whole books) are only about 40 pages long. I work in these 40-page chunks, writing then refining each chapter to a certain point where I'm happy with them, and then I'll move on to the next 40-page chunk. The overall outline keeps me on track, so I know not to stray too far with each chapter.

My workflow is probably pretty frustrating for an editor (just ask Calista Brill, who was the editor for my two Jellaby books before she joined First Second (Hi Calista!)), but I honestly find that working this way lets me keep things loose and, most importantly, more fun, and I hope that's something that comes across in the final work. 

What are you working on now?

A: I'm putting the finishing touches on my new graphic novel series, MARCH GRAND PRIX, which is being released this summer, in August. My elevator pitch for this series: Hello Kitty meets The Fast and the Furious -- cute, anthropomorphic animals racing cars. I pulled from a lot of my childhood loves and poured it into these books, everything from those Incredible Cross-Section books to Richard Scarry to racing video games. I'm very happy with how these books turned out, and I'm excited for people to read them!

There will also be a preview comic of March Grand Prix available for Free Comic Book Day on May 2nd, so be sure to stop by your local comic book store and check it out!

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