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18 posts from September 2006

September 13, 2006

Christophe Blain files an income tax form

Haven't blogged much here lately. My doodles are often done on airplanes, so perhaps more of those when I get traveling again, a lot, starting next month. It's been fairly hectic at First Second, as we've all been busy with the Spring 07 books (and what a load of treats are in store, I promise.)

A couple things to mention: one, among the things I enjoy about this job is the odd drawing authors send along with their correspondance. Do you know the phenomenal French author Christophe Blain? He's one of my all-time favorite talents, and the creator of ISAAC THE PIRATE which was released in the U.S. by NBM.

For First Second, he's drumming up an epic western called Gus -- filled with action, love affairs, and closer in tone to Buster Keaton than to Sergio Leone. It's going to be grand.

Christophe, like other foreign authors, has had to file paperwork with the I.R.S. in order to get paid. It's taken forever, but he finally got his form W-8 BEN to us, and with it, came this little gem:


George O'Connor, Journey into Mohawk Country





When editor Mark Siegel told me that he was looking for some non-fiction graphic novels for the new Firstsecond imprint, I pitched the idea of what would eventually become Journey into Mohawk Country. Using as my only text the actual journal kept by a 17th century Dutch barber/surgeon, I would fill in the gaps of his story, as they were suggested by what he wrote. Good idea, but I had to prove that I had the chops to draw what I had suggested. This four page sequence, a selection of Harmen van den Bogaert’s journal entry for December 23rd, 1634, was part of my original proposal. It survives in a very similar, but expanded, fashion in the final book. It’s interesting to see how boring and stilted the Dutchmen look as opposed to the Mohawk characters; At this stage in the story, I had envisioned them much more as passive observers, rather than the actual characters they would eventually become. Also, how much cooler is it to draw a bunch of Mohawk warriors than some silly looking guys with bad hats? I mean, really.

September 12, 2006


Not to be missed, Bay Area readers!


Hooray the Isotope!

Here's what the fine folks there are saying about it:

China Books, First Second Books, & the Isotope Launch What Might be the Best Book of 2006 Pardon us while we gush, but if you've seen the advance reviews you'll know we're not alone in our complete and total devotion to First Second Books' American Born Chinese. Trust us, people, it really is that damn good!

So it is with the great honor that the Isotope proudly presents a launch event celebration with Gene Yang and Lark Pein for one of the single best books we've read in a long, long time...

September 11, 2006

George O'Connor, Journey into Mohawk Country


Here I am working out the bodily proportions of Harmen van den Bogaert, Journey into Mohawk Country’s author and protagonist. This is pretty much the final design, as he appears in the book. But he didn’t always look like this: I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that I drew him thousands of times before I ever got to this stage. Harmen is the narrator and focal point of the story, and it took a very long time to find the exact look he needed to be an engaging lead character: comical, yet serious, a little ridiculous and at the same time sympathetic.

September 08, 2006

George O'Connor, Journey into Mohawk Country


Early on in the development of what would become Journey into Mohawk Country I had not yet even decided what style I would be drawing the book in, let alone the appearance of the main characters. This is a sampling of the very earliest drawings of the character of Harmen van den Bogaert, the author of the actual journal that serves as Mohawk Country’s text. Harmen looks much more “realistic” here than in his final evolved stage (and more than a little comic-booky). This reveals my own initial conceptions of the book as a drier observation on the customs of the Mohawk, with the three Dutchmen regulated to largely observational roles. As I drew the characters over and over, however, personalities began to form, personalities which would help dictate the final story as it was presented in the graphic novel.

September 06, 2006

George O'Connor, Journey into Mohawk Country


When last we checked in on the evolution of the appearance of Harmen van den Bogaert, he looked more like a character from a Marvel Comic than Journey into Mohawk Country. This drawing represents something of a quantum leap in his design. His initial depictions were a bit distant and remote—this was my very conscious decision to give him some much needed personality. I obviously don’t “feel” him 100% just yet—he looks more cocky and pompous than the final version. As I worked on this book over the months my impressions of the Dutch explorers softened and changed: originally distant, then buffoonish and pompous, and finally, to some likeable guys who were in over their heads.

September 04, 2006

George O'Connor, Journey into Mohawk Country


Unlike the character of Willem Tomassen, who arrived pretty much intact from the start, Harmen’s other companion, Jeronimus de la Croix, underwent some significant changes as I worked on Journey into Mohawk Country. Here we have assembled a smattering of early concepts; some of it works, some doesn’t.

In the journal, Jeronimus comes across as somewhat accident-prone and easily worried, and as such he developed into a more comical figure than his companions in Mohawk Country. Additionally, his robust physique contrasts nicely with tall, thin Willem and short, flamboyant Harmen. There was something about this character that inspired editor Mark Siegel: he was always pushing for me to make Jeronimus “fatter, sweatier”. He did indeed undergo a bulking up from these initial sketches, but I tried to keep his sweatiness to an acceptable level. I’d like to apologize to the real Jeronimus de la Croix, who may indeed have been a very svelte and sweat-free man in life.

September 01, 2006

George O'Connor, Journey into Mohawk Country



These are some sketches of the “cover that almost was” for Journey into Mohawk Country. The three Dutchmen, dwarfing a miniature Mohawk River Valley, which was actually merely the strip of hair in some sort of giant slumbering Mohawk. Thank goodness I came up with the final cover idea at the last minute, and everyone agreed there was no contest as to which was better. As my editor later remarked “we were probably being a little too clever for our own good”.

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