« November 2008 | Main | January 2009 »

5 posts from December 2008

December 23, 2008

The Comics Reporter interviews Kim Thompson

The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon interviews the excellent Kim Thompson, he of the stellar Fantagraphics Books.

Photo by Tom Spurgeon
An excerpt that lays out a challenge and a half for 2009:

THOMPSON: The industry has changed far more radically, and for the better, than I ever could have imagined, in terms of the respect accorded to comics, the level of work being produced, comics' place in the market, the whole ball of wax. (You have to bear in mind that when we started cartoonists were literally wondering whether Americans would ever be willing to read comic books that ran beyond the length of an issue of Giant-Size Fantastic Four.)

The weird thing is that the idea of "graphic novels" and comics for adults has had so very little penetration into the general literate populace. Most regular people are, in my experience, still utterly stunned and confused at the very idea, New York Times Book Review reviews notwithstanding. There is a weird disconnect between the press's enthusiastic embrace and promotion of the medium and its effect on actual "mainstream" readers. You have millions of New York Times subscribers reading and presumably mostly enjoying the Jason serial, but how many of them would even think "Hey, I should go buy a book by this guy"? .001 percent?

It remains an uphill battle, and if I'd known how much of an uphill battle it would continue to be, even with all of these victories, I might have become an advertising copywriter circa 1979.

So what will it take to make the Graphic Novel a household item in all of North America? Because we're working at that one too, over here.

December 16, 2008

Open Letter to First Second Authors from Mark Siegel

Dear First Second creators,

One of the avowed dreams driving First Second is to create the best possible home for the graphic novel of tomorrow. With 2008 closing, we’re coming a few steps closer to it.

I find these times intense, turbulent and trying, but also full of huge promise and fresh potential. As we all know, these are rough days for the world’s economy, and the book business isn’t being spared. Perhaps you’ve heard these past weeks about the many layoffs in just about every publishing house, as everyone is bracing for a wholly unknown 2009. It seems like a good moment to let you know that in spite of all that, First Second is steady, sturdy and growing stronger with every passing month. We’re ploughing on. 

Today a press release [Download Macmillan Press Release ] is coming out from Macmillan, about some major restructuring company-wide. Roaring Brook (our parent company) will now be part of the Macmillan Childrens Group, and from what I’ve gathered so far, it’s all very good for First Second and may well add to our marketing and publicity muscle. 

We got off-and-running.

We’ve continued and continue to stay true.

Now we’re coming into the time to broadcast First Second in bigger ways. 

First Second made an exceptional showing, critically and financially, this year. We continue to win new ground in bookstores, comics stores, online and in libraries. Adding to the early successes we enjoyed with our titles for children and teens, we’re now breaking through with our adult list—and establishing what was always core to the First Second vision: a collection that truly spans all ages.

A few random highlights from this year:

ALAN’S WAR was named a PW Best Book of the Year, a National Public Radio Best Graphic Novel of the Year, and next week will receive a full review in the New York Times Book Review.  THE AMAZING REMARKABLE MONSIEUR LEOTARD was an Amazon.com best Book of the Year. LAIKA won its Eisner. We’ve had a number of star reviews from Kirkus, PW, Booklist including two for PRINCE OF PERSIA. SLOW STORM was New York Magazine’s number four Best Graphic Novel of the Year. First Second books continue to sell in translations all over the world, including in Czech, Chinese, Polish, and over a dozen other languages. Several projects are in development Hollywood-side, and you’ve probably heard that Paul Pope’s BATTLING BOY is signed and on a fast track with Paramount and Brad Pitt’s Plan B studio, even as the book’s pages are appearing weekly. There really is lots more, but off the top of my head, these are a few nice moments that come to mind.

Counting how many new projects we’ve signed this year quickly turns dizzying: 

. . . Including new projects with some existing First Second authors like Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, George O’Connor, Sara Varon, Nick Abadzis, Gabe Soria, Nick Bertozzi, Derek Kirk Kim, Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, Alex Puvilland, Danica Novgorodoff, Paul Pope, Thien Pham, Glenn Eichler, Joseph Bruchac, A.B. Sina, Lewis Trondheim, Emmanuel Guibert, Adam Rapp, and Christophe Blain.

. . . But also new names to add to a prodigious stable of talent: Vera Brosgol, Jen Wang, Faith Hicks, Maris Wicks, Jorge Aguirre, Rafael Rosado, Aaron Renier, Lark Pien, Farel Dalrymple, Stan Nicholls, St.John Frizell, Simon Fraser, Kim Dong Hwa, Dr.Kevin McKay, Tiffanie DiBartolo, Joe Flood, Joe Infurnari, Sungyoon Choi, Ben Hatke, Humayoun Ibrahim, Sonny Liew, Zack Giallongo and Arthur Yorinks. 

This year First Second’s crewmates—our in-house staff—grew to include Calista Brill, whose outstanding editorial eye many of you have already come to trust; Colleen Venable, :01’s inspired new designer; and Jill Freshney, our managing editor who has already transformed the whole operation for the crisper. 

As usual, please keep an eye out for fellow talents we should know about. And please keep sending short videos of your home movies, especially short takes of your own drawing-table magic (speaking of which, as of this morning, Guibert’s YouTube video had over 382,000 views... ) 

Thank you, each and every one of you, for the remarkable work you’re turning in, the heart and soul of First Second’s highly distinctive collection—which now gathers a following all around the world. Do you realize we’re making history? I hope you feel as proud as I do.

With warm wishes,


Mark Siegel
Editorial Director

175 Fifth Avenue • New York, NY 10010

December 09, 2008

Slow Storm a NY Magazine Best Graphic Novel of 2008



December 05, 2008

Alan's War an NPR Best Graphic Novel of 2008

Alans War_rgb

"Alan's War beautifully evokes how a mix of camaraderie, violence and the surrealism of a civilization coming apart turned many rank innocents into silent, restless dreamers."

Congratulations also to Josh Cotter and Skyscrapers of the Midwest (best jet-pack kittens ever!), Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly and Local (if you haven't seen it yet, the new hardcover collected edition is gorgeous), Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Goodbye (which presents a unique view of Japan for American readers), and Paul Pope and Heavy Liquid (one of his most fun psychedelic narratives yet). 

[read the whole piece]

December 04, 2008

Gene Yang's fascinating presentation for YALSA in Nashville

Last month Gene Yang was the keynote speaker at YALSA. The excellent Jennifer Brown at Shelf Awareness has the most complete report on what sounds like a fascinating presentation by the author of American Born Chinese, and the upcoming The Eternal Smile, with Derek Kirk Kim...

YALSA Institute: Gene Luen Yang on How America Reads Graphic Novels

Gene Luen Yang set the tone for the inaugural YALSA Institute, held in Nashville, Tenn., last month, with the probing questions he raised in his keynote speech on Friday, November 7. From his perch in the center of the comics/graphic novel world (his book American Born Chinese was a National Book Award finalist and won the 2007 Printz Award) and also as one who still teaches (computer science) in the classroom, Yang offered a perspective that caught fire, with themes that surfaced in other programs throughout the weekend.


In a series of images (naturally) along with his commentary, Yang suggested that two invasions involving comics are occurring: "Invasion #1: Comics as a MEDIUM is invading America!" He showed a broad variety of images, both two-dimensional (e.g., Spiderman superhero comics and Sendak's In the Night Kitchen) and three-dimensional (such as a relief of the Stations of the Cross and the FDR memorial in Washington, D.C.), and cited several "definitions" of comics by the likes of Will Eisner, Scott McCloud and David Kunzle. Yang then offered his own "Statement About Comics . . . 'Comics is a convergence of pictures and words,'" and demonstrated how "Pictures are Invading Words!" with M.T. Anderson's series that launched with Whales on Stilts!, Brian Selznick's Caldecott-winning  The Invention of Hugo Cabret and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, plus a quotidian example, USA Today. To show how "Words are Invading Pictures," he again pointed to Selznick's Hugo Cabret, but also to CNN. with its breaking news running across the bottom of the screen like a tickertape, and the Colbert Report's "The Word" feature (in this case, highlighting "truthiness").


Yang thus set up the ways in which words and pictures today poach territories that were once exclusive to one or the other. "Words are 'sequential access,'" he posited, showing a page from To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee, while "Pictures are 'Random Access,'" highlighting George Seurat's painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte as an example. But, he continues, in "Gene's Other Statement About Comics . . . Comics is a convergence of 'sequential access' and 'random access.'" Comics join these two ideas. "In comics, we have . . . Sequential Access Pictures!" in the form of books such as Shaun Tan'sThe Arrival, and "Random Access Words!" with examples such as Phoenix by Osamu Tezuka (featuring an urban scene of several parallel overcrowded escalators with people speaking in unrelated thought balloons). Yang cited everyday instances of the "Convergence of Sequential and Random Access" in Wikipedia and CNN.
"So what's the fall-out of this invasion?" Yang asked. "America is ready for and expects sophisticated interplay between visual and text-based media." He also observed "Invasion #2: Comics as a CULTURE is invading America!" He touched on fan input in comics and in other media, citing American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, how attendees at Comic Con dress like the characters they read about and come to see at the convention (adults dressing as superheroes, yes, but also teens dressed as Harry Potter characters). "So what's the fall-out of this invasion?" he asks. "America expects audience participation." He then takes it a step further and says, "America expects audience ownership!"
"What to Do?! OR: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comics" appeared next on a slide showing the famous shot of the smiling cowboy doffing his 10-gallon hat as he rides the missile in Dr. Strangelove. Yang's answer was a series of suggestions on how to embrace graphic novels and use comics to inspire reading: The Iron Man comics for those who've seen the movie; the graphic novel ofPrince of Persia for those who've played the video game; pairing his own American Born Chinese withMonkey: A Journey to the West, retold by David Kherdian. He also suggested encouraging students to create their own comics (with Scott McCloud's Understanding ComicsReinventing Comics and Making Comics; Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential ArtGraphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative andExpressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative; as well as Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden).
Yang offered a strong model set out by the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library's "Get Graphic" program with these suggestions and notes (their Web site, listed below, also contains tips for making them a reality in bookstores, libraries, and classrooms):

    • Promote graphic novel of the month
    • Offer cartooning classes
    • Publish an anthology of comics created by students
    • Host author visits
    • Create graphic novel classroom kits

Learn more at getgraphic.org.--Jennifer M. Brown

My Other Accounts

Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 05/2005