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18 posts from February 2011

February 08, 2011

:01 Designer Colleen AF Venable: exclusive interview!


"The cover for FEYNMAN by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick came to me as a simple line art sketch of Richard Feynman that had so much personality even in its barest form. I won’t say how many color combinations I worked up, though I did spend weeks on variations, finally settling on an unrealistic bold palette, making Feynman look like a force of nature, an explosion of thought. I’m really proud of this one, and I might note that cover quote is the best quote I’ve ever gotten to layout (the inside flap revealed the speaker: Feynman’s Mom!)."

Colleen AF Venable gives a fascinating and funny interview about her work at First Second, and you should read it!


February 07, 2011



Jonathan Hill, who is illustrating our F11 graphic novel Americus, just sent us this.  And we always like to support good causes, so here goes!

Jonathan's organizing an art auction to support the Washington School for the Deaf.  Why's he doing this?  Plain text tends to be hard for deaf children, as they don't have the association hearing people do with the spoken word.  Things like graphic novels (with value-added pictures included!) are a great way to get them excited about reading.  Of course, state of public education in this country today, no one can afford all the classroom materials they'd like.

So let's try to help, okay?

February 04, 2011

Amazing Remarkable Limerick


There was once a man who's amazing

He's the one who everyone was praising

Then he ended up dead

You get his nephew instead

In this tale of the circus and hell-raising. 

(I fully expect Eddie Cambpell to come around and deny any and all responsibility or association with such a limerick.)

Minnesota workshops!

Minnesota, here I come! . . . For a whole bunch of workshops and lectures. Some for writers and artists, some for librarians and educators.This one is the first and is sponsored by the great Rain Taxi Review of Books, MCAD, and the inestimable Big Brain Comics, and is open to the public. Tell a friend in the Twin Cities?

The Graphic Novel Today
a talk by Mark Siegel, editor of First Second Books

Friday, February 25th, 6:30 pm
Minneapolis College of Art and Design 
2501 Stevens Avenue, Minneapolis

Come learn about the blossoming medium of graphic novels with a renowned editor, who will talk about the history of the art form, current trends, and the future of comics, which are now in their new golden age. Reception to follow!


February 02, 2011

Important Things


(photo from the George Eastman House Collection)

After my post of last week about kids and books and comics, you may be asking yourself: but what about the books that don't help kids to deal with abuse or loss and also the Holocaust?  If they are not actively demonstrating their worth in such obvious ways, perhaps they should be removed?

The answer to that is no. 

Here are three reasons by way of elaboration.

1. Reading, it turns out, has other benefits besides that educating small children about terrible things!  It also teaches them how to read -- and provides the building blocks for learning how to write.  The more kids read, the better their vocabulary gets, the better they get at reading, and the better they are at communicating in general -- which comes in handy in life outside of books.  And that's the case whether they're reading the silly Sideways Stories from Wayside School or the serious Where the Red Fern Grows or the non-fiction Evolution

2. We've done studies; it turns out that reading is fun in and of itself.  Don't believe me?  Go now and read Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs; you'll be converted to the gospel of reading for fun in no time flat.  Kids deserve that kind of fun, too!  And they can have it in books like Whales on Stilts, ABC3D, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, and Bad Kitty Gets a Bath -- even though there's not a single Holocaust amongst them. 

3. This is the crass and commercial reason, so be warned.  First Second is a publisher; the way we earn money is to publish books that people then buy and read.  Without that audience, we wouldn't exist.  (Luckily, we are doing quite well as yet -- thank you, audience.)  So we're very much in favor of kids reading things and enjoying them and growing up to be readers all their lives and continuing to buy books for themselves and also their friends and kids and friends' kids ad infinitum.  No numbers on this, but is seems a pretty obvious transitive to say that if kids enjoy reading books whilst being kids, they will be more likely to continue to enjoy reading when they are grown up -- which means that the publishing industry continues to exist, and that we get to publish interesting and important and fun books by our favorite creators, who continue to get paid. 

Everybody wins!

Also: everybody reads!  That is an excellent thing, too.

On the Making of Lewis & Clark

(from the desk of Nick Bertozzi)

STEP 1: Write a script. People will tell you this is hard to do. They are not lying to you.

STEP 2: Lay out the pages with rough drawings and roughly positioned text.


I tried using a new roughing technique for LEWIS & CLARK, putting together all of my layout using Adobe Illustrator. It's great for positioning text exactly where you want it, but drawing right onto a computer is a crazy idea. Just think, you can draw your image up to 800% magnification which means the awesome detail that you're drawing on Meriwether Lewis's epaulets will look like a muddy splotch at 100% magnification. Stay AWAY from the zoom tool is my advice here.

STEP 3: Pencil the pages onto 11" x 14" bristol board using the Roughs in Step 2 as a guide.


This is the stage in which I try to get the characters' poses and facial expressions just right. If I get the pose right, I can give an emotional resonance to the dialogue balloon that the character is speaking in order to make that character seem more real.

STEP 4: Ink over the pencils using an old-fashioned pen nib and brush with india ink.


This is the part in which I try to make the pages look good; thicken up the lines so that the pictures are easy to read, and using different inking techniques to make the background elements and props look like they're supposed to: plants are inked like plants, example. Sounds easy, but it's hard for me!

STEP 5: Scan and manipulate the image to get it to read as clearly as possible.



Even though I spend all that time on Steps 1-4, there's still lots of little things that go wrong and I don't often see them until someone points them out to me. On these pages I added black to the tops of the buildings so that the entire two-page spread appears more solid, I moved some panels around purely for design sake, and most importantly, I added more space in the word balloons so they'd be easier to read.

The whole process takes a few days -- and I haven't even mentioned the time spent researching the buildings and costumery of the era nor the hours spent trying to get better at drawing horses – not sure if I succeeded on that last one – but I think it's worth it.

Thanks for reading!

(you can find more of this book here)

February 01, 2011

First Second goes to Finland!

Hey, ma! I'm in the Helsingin Sanomat! (A big Finnish newspaper.) This was apparently published as part of an article about Finnish comics publishers at Angoulême.

Calista Brill

It's been a while, so my Finnish is pretty darn shakey. I can tell you what I'm saying, though: "I studied the Kalevala! [the Finnish folk-epic] Finnish is a great language to sing in!"

These things are both true - so thanks to the Finnish media for not misquoting me!

Walker Bean: the lego!

Ready to have your mind blown? This was made by Owen, who is 6 and lives in Boston. 

Thanks to Walker Bean author Aaron Renier for sharing this with us!

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