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10 posts from August 2010

August 30, 2010

Reading Comics in Public

Saturday was Read Comics in Public Day, created by the lovely and talented Brian Heater and Sarah Morean.

In honor of this, picture!*


*We're cheating: this picture was not actually taken on Saturday.  But I feel that  of everything in our archive, it best captures the spirit of public reading. 

August 27, 2010

The Professor's Daughter

It's Friday, so at this point, what I have the energy for falls into the category of 'things that are pretty.'  The Professor's Daughter is definitely one of those things.  



This is also my favorite 'hijinks ensue' stories that we've published.  (Hijinks ensue plots tend to be easily recognizable by the fact that something strange and bizarre happens in the first third of the book, after which point the characters embark upon delightfully madcap frolics.) 

Here's the plot, in short: Egyptologist's daughter Lillian and Mummy Imhotep IV (featured above) meet and fall in love.  But both their parents disapprove, and they decide to take steps to stop their children from any kind of happily-ever-after ending.  

An Incomplete List of Included Hijinks: an inspection of all the mummies in London, the (accidental) poisoning of a police officer, and Queen Victoria getting thrown into the Thames.  

It is an excellent Friday sort of book.  And very pretty (as mentioned earlier)!

August 25, 2010

Walker Bean, Window Displays

Aaron Renier called us the other week to say that he was putting up a window display at Quimby's.  This was excellent on many fronts, because Quimby's!  Window displays!  (For those of you without the implicit knowledge to understand the excitement of those exclamation marks, they can by translated as [esteemed and popular comics store]! [exciting marketing tool that is also gorgeous, fun, and immediately reaches a large number of people]!)

I think window displays are just awesome.  (This is my current favorite.)  So when Aaron said he was making one of his own, I was super-excited. 

Now it's officially up!  And there are pictures (courtesy of Nate Beaty). 


("What do we have here?," says the casual passerbyer.  "Is that a pirate ship in the window?")


(It is.)


(Extra bonus boints for the glowing, light-up merwitch eyes!)


(the artist at work)

For even more pictures, go here

(Aaron's first book with us, The Unsinkable Walker Bean, has just come out, and the window display is based on it.  The book is lovely, and you should consider purchasing a copy.)

August 23, 2010

on Characters and Backstory

This post comes to us from the desk of Alec Longstreth, who did the coloring on The Unsinkable Walker Bean.  He works up at the Center for Cartoon Studies, so that's a very exciting place to have a desk!

There are a lot of characters in Walker Bean, and every one of them has a backstory.  Before I started coloring the book, Aaron sent me a massive email with the names of all the pirates on the Jacklight, their jobs on the ship, and where they lived originally, before they set to sea.  It's quite a diverse crew!  On just one ship there are sailors from Japan, Africa, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Mongolia, Hawaii, and India, to name a few.  Aaron also included dozens of reference photos for me to work from, so that I could create a unique color scheme for each character.  The following character sheet helped me keep the characters' colors consistent throughout the 200 plus pages of the book:

When you read Walker Bean, most of these characters are never mentioned by name, but if you keep an eye on them in the background, they are always attending to their duties for the Jacklight.  For example, let's look at the ship's blacksmith, Tibca.  When the ship pulls in to Spithead to get some supplies, Tibca heads straight to a blacksmith's shop to pick up some new tools.


Then, later, when the Jacklight hits some trouble, Tibca jumps right in and lends her skills to the rebuilding effort.

Every panel of Walker Bean is packed with this level of detail.  You can read this book over and over again, and each time you will notice something new.  I colored every square inch of every page, so I'm confident that I've seen everything there is to see in the book, and all I can say is that I'm excited to see what comes next!


See more from Alec:

illustration: http://aleclongstreth.com/ blog & comics: http://alec-longstreth.com/

August 20, 2010

Quote of the Day

"In these pages, the author has endeavored to paint that species of noisy, frolicsome, mischievous children which is now almost extinct, wishing to preserve a sort of fabulous remembrance of days long past, when young people were like wild horses on the prairies; rather than like well-broken hacks on the road; and when, amid many faults and many eccentricities there was still some individuality of character and feeling allowed to remain." -- Catherine Sinclair, from the foreword to Holiday House

The more things change, the more they remain the same!  That was written in 1839.  With all the hullabaloo about kids today not being as independent-minded and individualistic as they had the opportunity to be in the past, it's interesting to think that even in 1839, this was something people were worried about.

What fantastic things the children of the early 1800s must've gotten up to!

(To provide historical perspective: public schools in the US only really started to be an organized, existing-everywhere thing in the 1840s.)

(this quote was happened upon in Roger Green's introductory essay to Only Connect: Readings on Children's Literature)

August 19, 2010

We're Just Having an Author Self-Portrait Week

Zombies are just one of my least favorite supernatural creatures ever -- I know that they're supposed to represent the triumph of the id and also the otherness that people feel to the vast enormity of the world/culture today, but give me a nice, evil, intelligent, strategically thinking (non-sparkly, please) vampire or fallen angel who's got a brain and supernatural powers to augment it any day.

That said!  We have a book that came out a week and a half ago called Brain Camp, and it takes the other side of this fear-of-zombies thing.  It's not so much about avoiding the not-very-swift-running zombies as it is the fear of zombieism, that what makes you yourself will be taken away by powers/circumstances beyond your control.

Also there is summer camp, which is just terrifying in and of itself.

The art is done by the most excellent Faith Erin Hicks, who's just sent along official (read: zombie-esque) portraits of herself and Brain Camp's co-authors, Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan. 


Don't you want to have them come visit your schools and/or library?  They will promise to keep their eating-of-brains to a minimum. 

Do you really need all those students?

August 18, 2010

Why You Should Go To MIX This Weekend (Reason 1 of 1)

So you're in, around, or near Minneapolis and you've got nothing to do this Saturday.  Clearly the best option is MIX, the Minneapolis Indie Xpo, even if they do believe in spelling expo without an e!

How do you know for sure this is the best option?

Take a look at this poster (created by our favorite Aaron Renier).


If hula-hooping Vikings do not sway you, we are not really sure why you are reading this blog.  Perhaps you came here looking for something other than awesome?     

August 16, 2010

Even More Author Self-Potraits

(because we heart them)

Do you know Lark Pien?  If your answer is no, then you are missing out!  You can tell just how much by the level of cute you find this author self-portrait.  

Lark just made this picture book called Mr. Elephanter; it is adorable and well worth your time and energy, even if you don't have elephants of your own.  

(and for those of you craving another picture book about elephants that came out this year, here is one for you.)

August 12, 2010

More Author Self-Portraits

One of the things about this job that I am frequently entertained by is author self-portraits!  We ask authors to do self-portraits so that we can have them around in case anyone wants to do a story about them; then the aforementioned story can be framed by an opening shot of The Author. 


I just got in this self-portrait of Leland Myrick, who did a book for us called Missouri Boy back in 2006.  (He's doing another book for us that's coming out next summer; it's about Richard Feynman, and it's going to be very awesome.)  The self-portrait is pretty excellent -- whenever I look at this, I think about the Lovecraftian version of Sherlock Holmes from Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald

(Leland mostly looks like this in person, really.)


While you're waiting for Leland's next book to come out, please enjoy the miscellaneous page below from Missouri Boy, chosen especially for your viewing because though it looks like that soaking would be extremely hard on a motorcycle jacket, it would be so refreshing, especially now that it is blisteringly hot in the summer all the time. 


(If you want more of Leland's art but can't wait until next summer because it is very lovely, check out the latest volume of Flight!  In it there are many soldiers that he has drawn.)

August 02, 2010

Americus (The Serialization)

In which there is a new project from First Second on the internet, various library-related things are discussed, and all is well that ends well (as it ever is).  Also, reference is made to Portland, OR.

I don't know if you've ever heard of Tugboat Press?  They are an excellent small press based in Portland (where there are many wonders and delights of the world of comics; you should go experience them yourself, gentle reader!) that publishes many lovely small comics and also the anthology PapercutterPapercutter features a number of people of whom First Second is officially Very Fond, including the esteemed Aaron Renier (book forthcoming from :01 in just three weeks now!) and the inestimable Nate Powell (book forthcoming from :01 in, um, quite some time in the future). 

So when we saw that Papercutter #7 (still actually available from Tugboat: you should check it out) featured the stylings of MK Reed and Jonathan Hill, we were all in.  And it turns out their story was a tale of censorship and librarians and fantasticalness!  Now it is ours to publish, and the rest is history-in-the-making.  

So!  Now you can read the story that that very Papercutter #7 has transformed into, three times a week on the internet!  It is called Americus, and you can find it here.  Also there is a helpful button at the top of the blog.  We are excited to hear your thoughts!  (Mostly you can tell them to MK and Jonathan, but if you would like to tell them to us, that is okay too.) 


(slightly more serious meditation follows, you may want to skip this bit if you are only in it for the giggles)

One of the reasons I'm so excited about this book is that it's about a kid and a town and a librarian who all have to deal with an attempt to ban a book from their local library.  That's something that happens more often than it should, and in a number of subtle and insidious ways -- supervisors or library directors can just order books removed from the shelves (bypassing the library procedures); offended readers can check out books from the library and never return them.  

It's not just that no one gets to read these vanished books.  It's that most people don't even notice that they're gone.  Have you checked your local library lately?  It may be that there's a whole slice of life missing from it.  And you might know how to use amazon and the inter-library-loan system, but maybe that eight year-old over there is going to grow up without ever knowing he's missing The Giver, and this fourteen year-old over here is going to not know she's missing Annie On My Mind.  If kids are using books to create pictures in their heads of what the world is like, they could be missing major pieces and don't even know it. 

This whole situtation is especially problematic for comics.

It's those dratted images -- if there's someone having sex or doing drugs or behaving violently, it's right on the page there in front of you!  You can't miss it, hiding in black-on-white blocks of text.  That makes it easy for people who have problems with certain types of behavior to recognize them in comics and take steps to remove those comics from the shelves. 

One of the most bizarre versions of this occurred just a few weeks ago in Crestview, Florida, where a woman is demanding that the manga Gantz be removed from the shelf after her son stole a copy and took it home.  "My son lost his mind when he found this," she said.  "Now he's in a home for extensive therapy."  [read more about this, it's super-weird]

There are a lot of excellent librarians who spend a lot of time and energy making sure that things of this sort do not happen.  In fact, the American Library Association has a whole Banned Book Week!  You should check it out -- there are a lot of opportunties for anyone interested to get involved. 

And while you're clicking links, take a look at Wikipedia's List of Most Commonly Challenged Books in the US -- you never know!  Captain Underpants may be threatening the sanity of your children at this very moment!

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