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5 posts from January 2010

January 29, 2010

Who Reads First Second?

First Second Books - slips inside Joyce easily.

January 28, 2010



I was going through my files this morning and I found the following quote from the most excellent Jhonen Vasquez, who apparently sent it to us a few years ago. 

"The book is brilliant!  It's the kind of book that I used to love finding as a kid, something that I'd go back to again and again because it never fully answered my questions (which only made the experience better).  Something that makes you think while it makes you sick.  Lovely."

For anyone who knows Jhonen Vasquez's work (which includes the Invader Zim series, I Feel Sick, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and many more delightfully weird and twisted books), the fact that A.L.I.E.E.E.N. is his kind of book should speak for itself. 

For the rest of you, well.

The book starts out like this. 

Alien panel

In the next panel, eyes start getting gouged out.

Read it.  Seriously. 

January 27, 2010

Editor tells all! Inside the Submissions Process at First Second, Part I

"Submissions." It's a word that sends a thrill up -- and a chill down -- an editor's spine.

The thrill up: that query email or manilla envelope might be a project you've been dreaming of. It might be a graphic novel that breaks boundaries and says something the world needs to hear. It might be a bestseller, or a dearly loved underground jewel. It might be from someone with a ton of raw potential, who can be encouraged and directed until they're ready to be published. It might be from someone who will become a new friend, a new valued colleague. It might be, in short, awesome.

The chill down: But submissions can also be a bit overwhelming for an editor. There's little time in the day, after dealing with all the books you already signed up, to evaluate the projects you *might* want to sign up. That's what late nights at the office are for. That's what the subway is for. And your couch. And your breakfast table. And your vacation getaway. After all, it doesn't do to keep an agent waiting. (Of course, as I type this there are at least four agents I'm keeping waiting by dint of writing this blog post instead of looking at their submissions. Um! Sorry!)


And then there's the steady stream of unagented submissions, which tend to be a bit more hit-or-miss. Many are worth consideration, many (I'll state plainly) are not. But you won't *know* until you look at them. Sometimes I'm actually sort of perversely grateful when I open an envelope or an email and find a picture book from someone who thinks First Second is a picture book publisher, or a graphic novel that's clearly the ravings of a madman. Those are the easy ones. They don’t require any thinking.

The tough ones are the 200-page scripts where you have to read at least 150 pages (or the whole thing, twice) before you can even decide if it's worth considering or not. Or the projects you read three times and still just can't decide if you should pursue them or not, and weeks go by while they prey on your conscience. (And that's to say nothing of the poor writers and cartoonists who sent them.)

Yes, yes, my life is so hard. I know.

But it's heavy business, people! I'm not sitting on that "maybe yes maybe no" project for six weeks out of spite. I'm sitting on it because it's a decision that carries weight and consequences both for First Second and for the artist or writer who submitted it. And a decision that big takes a little thinking. And ten to forty decisions that big per week, well, let's just say we sleep in our thinking caps around here.

Because as easy as it is to turn down a submission because it's "the ravings of a madman," or (a big step up!) "not right for the First Second list," the inescapable fact is there's a *person* on the other side of every single submission. And a big part of First Second's mandate is enriching and supporting the world of comics in general -- not just our little corner of it. We feel some responsibility to every single cartoonist who sends us their work. Which is why, when I can, I try to include some constructive criticism -- and honest praise -- for the projects I turn down, even if they come from an inmate in a supermax penitentiary in Alaska.

Maybe especially if they come from an inmate in a supermax penitentiary in Alaska.

Tune in soon for "Inside the Submissions Process at First Second, Part II: Three Categories of Submissions, or What Do We Do With An Unsolicited Submission (So Ear-ly in the Mornin')?"

January 21, 2010



Two years ago, First Second published a graphic novel by Nick Abadzis about the first dog ever to travel to outer space. 

It's amazing.  And sad.  And gorgeous.  And wonderful. 

You should check it out. 

(You should also check out Nick's Laika site, where he shows exactly how much research you have to do to make historical comics.  Drawing things historically accurate apparently takes lots of research!  Who knew?)

January 05, 2010

Concerning Charles Gehring

"There is surely no one who loves Dutch Americana more than Charles T. Gehring," says the New York Times

Gehring has been translating Dutch-American journals, letters, and deeds for the New Netherland Project for three and a half decades now. 

He's recently been featured in the New York Times.

His name might sound familiar to some of you who've been paying especially close attention to First Second's collection -- he was the original translator of the diary that formed the backbone of Journey Into Mohawk Country.

You should read about him!  (And as a bonus, the NYT piece talks about Journey, too.

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