One of the most exciting things about being part of a comics publisher right now is that we get to watch -- and help -- while teachers and librarians make graphic novels a part of their communities.
We asked one of the programs we're working with, "Get Graphic!" to talk a little about the exciting things they're doing to make graphic novels a part of peoples lives.
(Gene Yang talks to students at a program sponsored by "Get Graphic!")
Q: How Did “Get Graphic!” get started? What was the inspiration for creation of the program?
A: The library was searching for a way to partner with other
community organizations in order to increase teen literacy. We were able to
partner with a wonderful and diverse group of institutions including:
Q: It's great that
you had so many community organizations to partner with! What was it
about the graphic novel medium that made you and they all decide to band
together and do this program?
A: We were all dedicated to finding a new way to approach the promotion of literacy with teens. We also wanted to engage teens with both educational and creative activities designed to increase literacy and lifelong learning. The graphic novel format seemed to be a natural fit for this as comics and graphic novels are wildly popular, but have not yet been accepted in the world of traditional education. Our school and library partners (Erie1Boces, Buffalo Schools, NIOGA Library System, and UB Libraries) felt strongly that graphic novels would be a valuable enhancement to traditional instruction presently offered in schools and well as a wonderful addition to contemporary library collections. Our cultural organization partners (Albright-Knox Art
Q: Have you had any interesting reactions from parents, teachers, etc., from introducing this comics-centered program?
A: We have certainly been surprised by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic
response from everyone who has heard about our program! When we began planning
for the programs, workshops, and events we were simply hoping to engage the teen
community and introduce them more fully to a format with which they may have already
been familiar. When our events began taking place the positive response from
the community was tremendous. We have had attendees ranging from 9 year olds to
senior citizens. We have attracted attention from teachers, local artists,
school administrators, school and public librarians, and organizations from
outside of the
Q: You’ve had a number of speakers, what about them have you and teens been particularly inspired by?
A: Teens and adults have been inspired by the accessibility of our guest speakers. Both Gene Yang and Art Spiegelman engaged the audience with such honesty that they created an intimate atmosphere that fostered open Q & A and unbridled eagerness to learn more about the comics format. One of our community partners, The Buffalo News NEXT Magazine, is written entirely by teens. They have shown great inspiration from our programs, going far beyond simply advertising our events. Over the 2007-2008 grant year they included a number of author interviews and informational articles about Get Graphic! in their weekly magazine.
Our Get Graphic! group has been very inspired by both our guests and the greater community as well. In our grant proposal we planned for five informational workshops for public and school librarians. We have thus far presented nine workshops to Librarians, with two additional scheduled. We have also, due solely to demand, presented six workshops to Middle and High school teachers with an additional one scheduled, and two workshops to SUNY @ Buffalo Library School Students, with an additional one scheduled. An October 2007 panel discussion “From Superman to Sandman” was so well received that we have begun planning two more panel discussions for the upcoming grant year. Perhaps the most telling of all is that the response has been so overwhelmingly positive that we are planning Get Graphic! activities to continue well past the June, 2009 grant completion date. Future plans include a Graphic Novel book fair with author presentations and/or discussion groups for all ages.
Q: The GG! program has a creative aspect, with teenagers encouraged to write and draw their own graphic stories. How is this going?
A: We began the process of teen graphic novel creation with a variety of programs during July and August 2008. The centerpiece of our Get Graphic! summer programming was an author talk and graphic novel creation workshop with Gene Yang. Both of these events, as well as our other programs, went very well and received a lot of support from both teens and adults in the community. In October we are welcoming Scott McCloud for an author talk and all day teen graphic novel creation workshop. Mr. McCloud’s visit will signal the beginning of our “big push” for the teen participatory portion of the Get Graphic! grant. The “Our World in Words and Pictures” project will allow the teens to submit 1 or 2 pages of their work to be included in a graphic novel that will be published by Hein publishing. We are also holding a cover art contest for which teens may submit their original artwork inspired by the “Our World in Words and Pictures” theme. One winner will be selected, and their artwork will appear in full color as the cover of the published teen graphic novel. The published graphic novel, along with the contributing authors and artists will be honored at a reception to be held in conjunction with the conclusion of the Get Graphic! grant in May, 2009.
Q: “Multimedia Literacy” is a term that gets bandied about a lot nowadays when talking about how people interact with television, the internet, and graphic novels. How are you seeing this come out in your program?
A: Our Get Graphic! project has generated a tremendous amount of interest from teachers and librarians. When planning the Get Graphic! grant and activities we felt certain that we were constructing a project that would assist both teachers and librarians in serving the teen community. Now that we are more than half way through the grant, we realize how much we underestimated the enthusiasm with which the educational community would respond! We feel that this enthusiasm is a direct result of the relative “newness” of graphic novels and the way in which graphic novels present information in a “multimedia” format. The combination of text and pictures presents information in a more modern way than that of traditional literature and in a more interesting way for students. In addition, it reaches reluctant readers and those that may struggle with traditional text-only materials. The Get Graphic! grant gives teachers and librarians the tools to be able to speak directly to the way teens interact with the world today. Capitalizing on the popularity of graphic novels to reinvigorate traditional instruction has allowed teachers and school librarians to reach students with a multimedia format.
Jane in California wrote to us, asking us to tell Emmanuel Guibert that she loves the Sardine books and to please hurry up and make her a movie too.
We passed on the message. And here's what Emmanuel sent back:
And Jane was thrilled:
... and when she found out Emmanuel lived in Paris she told her dad "Oh, that's why he didn't understand me!" Her father asked her what she meant. She said "well I wasn't asking for a drawing, I was asking for a movie!"
With her father's help, she even wrote the following to Guibert:
Merci pour le dessin monsieur! S'il vous plait faire un film et un D.V.D de sardine pour moi et le terre. Jane!
... which I guess Monsieur Guibert will simply have to oblige!
Lauren Wohl, who is one of First Second's publishers as well as the marketing goddess, just sent the following lovely Sardine moment:
Sitting in the Orlando airport, waiting to meet a colleague, surrounded by families carrying oversized stuffed Plutos, sporting Mickey backpacks, and wearing Minnie tee-shirts... I have half an hour, a cup of Starbucks, and two copies of SARDINE IN OUTER SPACE in my bag. A French family sits down on the well-worn (okay, fraying) chairs near me. Dad (who speaks English), Mom, 12-year-old son, and 9-year-old son. The younger boy is reading a Garfield comic book.
I take out a copy of SARDINE and start reading. Dad's eyes light up. "Joann Sfar?" he asks me.
"Oui." I nod. And then, to be sure he doesn't think I can actually speak any more French than that, " Yes. I work for the publisher of these books in the United States."
"Sfar is brilliant," Dad tells me. "Very famous.'
The yougest son is listening intently, and hasn't taken his eyes off the book in my hands. I close it and give it to him. He does not wait even a moment before he opens it.
"It's in English," I tell him
His turn to nod.
"Do you read English?"
He is already reading. But slowly. It's maybe ten minutes before he turns the page. It's another ten minutes before he looks up.
He offers me his Garfield comic. A trade. I tell him no. "Keep Sardine. A gift. No need to give me Garfield."
But he insists. I accept his terms. And leave one happy young fellow to enjoy meeting Sardine and adventuring with her as he flies home, and she keeps the world safe.
(Sardine 3 comes out Spring 07)
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:
Somehow, I don't believe these blog entries from Eddie Campbell.
I doubt he's sitting idly, either watching butterflies or twiddling thumbs, given that he's past the hundredth page of his next project with First Second -- a mighty project called THE BLACK DIAMOND DETECTIVE AGENCY.
Care to share a few glimpses of it, Eddie?
We're just days away from the first six :01 titles showing up at your favorite bookstore!
Like many of you who've been writing me, I'm thoroughly enjoying Eddie Campbell's behind-the-scenes glimpses as he counts down to his book's release. The Fate of the Artist continues to get tremendous buzz and anticipation, right around the world.
Right now I'm in the Four Seasons hotel in Houston, Texas, for the Texas Library Association and the Bluebonnet acceptance. Blogging in a nice hotel bathrobe is a treat. I should try this more often. Starting today, I'll be sprinkling in some of my own little moments, behind-the-scenes of these books we're doing.
With our first list, we launch a brilliant new series called The Lost Colony by Grady Klein. He's a newcomer in graphic novels, with some remarkable work behind him in editorial illustration and animation. Book one of The Lost Colony is The Snodgrass Conspiracy and when I first saw sample pages of it, I knew this was work of visionary brilliance. The more I work with Grady and the more I visit his weird and wonderful little island, the more that first impression is confirmed.
When I get submissions of work that's entirely digital, I mostly cringe. It tends to feel like Photoshop owns the artist, not the other way around. Not so with Grady for whom it just happens to be the right tool. In his hand, it's the pen, the brush in which we get a true author's handwriting.
There's so much in The Lost Colony world that defines why First Second was started in the first place: a personal voice, innovation, high adventure, skilled artistry and excellent writing, and throughout it all, an author wrestling with things, exploring –– and doing what he loves. I'll champion that any day.
Each episode has a clear focus but in the course of the whole series, an over-arching story is unfolding, continually revealing surprising depths and contradictions to the island's characters, and their tangled relationships. Book 2 is due out next Spring, and the ones after that each Spring to follow.
More about discovering The Lost Colony in next entries, along with some glimpses —like this one— from the second book, which is called The Red Menace. Glorious stuff. I haven't been this excited about a new series since the first seasons of the Simpsons.