INTERVIEW: Mariko and Jillian Tamaki on ‘This One Summer’

As Summer 2014 starts to break onto the horizon, one of the first big launches of the year sees Mariko and Jillian Tamaki working together for a new graphic novel, This One Summer, published this week through First Second.

A story of two girls, Rose and Windy, This One Summer is a tale of growing maturity, of dealing with the oncoming threat (or pride) of adulthood. It’s also a gorgeous, lush piece of work, with the creative team completely in-sync as they go about creating a memorable, surprising holiday experience for the two characters.

To find out more about the book – which I’m purposely not explaining to you in too much detail because I don’t want to spoil anything – I spoke to Mariko, who writes, and Jillian, who pencils; about the book what it’s like to work together, and how This One Summer came about.

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Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor is coming in 2015

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The NY Times has the first official look (aside from iPad sightings over the years) of Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor, his first sustained fiction in quite some time. First Second, the publisher, also sent along some into including the pub date, February 3, 2015.

The story concerns an sculptor in his 20s named David Smith who makes a deal with the devil, or Death in this case, to be able to sculpt anything with his hands. Unfortunately, Death gives David only 200 days to do something with this power, and there in lies a tale of romance and discovery.

“I’ve wanted to tell the story of The Sculptor since before writing Understanding Comics, and the book’s creation has turned into an incredible learning experience for me and, I hope, an exciting READING experience for comics-lovers. It took me five years to write and draw, and I promise I used every single minute to make it the best book I can,” said McCloud. in a statement.

I know Scott has been working very very hard on this books for years—and it’s also why he’s been in virtual internet silence for at least the last year. I wasn’t kidding about the iPad sightings either. And I know he worked very closely with First Second’s Mark Siegel, who wrote of the project “To work with Scott McCloud on any project of his choosing was a long held hope of mine. But to join him as he sheds the theorist and embraces ambitious, adult fiction—that’s a dream come true. Scott is one of the hardest working authors I know, and he has tasked himself with a very tall order on The Sculptor. The result soars beyond my shamelessly high expectations.”

Guess that’s the first book of 2015 to look forward to, eh.

Danica Novgorodoff on The Undertaking of Lily Chen: “I Had to Go On Quite a Journey” [Interview]

Out today from First Second is the latest project from writer/artist Danica Novgorodoff, whose previous works included Slow Storm and Late Freeze. A slight departure from her prior stories, The Undertaking of Lily Chen follows two young characters, Deshi Li and Lily Chen, as they head away from their separate families and out into the World.

A sweeping story which retains a keen focus on the two central characters, this is a book filled with ideas of tradition and family, independence and romance. Set in China, the book begins with Deshi, who leaves home when his older brother dies, tasked by his family to find a ‘ghost bride’ for his departed brother to head into the afterlife with. This is based on a long-standing Chinese tradition called a “ghost marriage” – and to find out more, I spoke to Danica about the story, the research that went into it, and her creative process as writer/artist.

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First Second makes its Fall line-up official with Pope, Doctorow, Dalrymple, etc.

First Second just sent out a reminder of its Winter Fall books and here they are, all in one place for your perusal. Everything looks good but our personal favorite is the Doctorow/Wang book, Just because it deals with such a terrific subject: a young woman who becomes a gold farmer for an online game.

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The Wrenchies, by Farel Dalrymple – In the post-apocalyptic world of the Wrenchies, you’re safe when you’re a kid – but when you grow up, the zombies will suck out your brains. This book is like The Maze Runner meets Battle Royale.

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In Real Life, by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang – Cory Doctorow writes a graphic novel! With girls and gaming! And with amazing art by Jen Wang!

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Above the Dreamless Dead – Poetry from soldiers in the trenches of WWI, adapted into comics form by twenty-three fantastic cartoonists for the war’s centennial.

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Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, by Ben Hatke – A picture book comic for young readers by the ‘Zita the Spacegirl’ author. If you liked Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’ Blueberry Girl, you’ll love this book, too.

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The Zoo Box, by Ariel Cohn and Aron Steinke When Erika and Patrick’s parents leave them home alone for the night, they open a mysterious box and out comes a zoo! A delightful comic for young readers.

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The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth, by Ian Lendler and Zack Giallongo – Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy has never been so funny as when presented by the animals of Stratford Zoo.

Olympians Boxed Set , by George O’Connor. The first six New York Times Best-Selling Olympians graphic novels (Zeus through Aphrodite) now come in a lovely boxed set! With a poster! Best Christmas gift ever!

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The Rise of Aurora West, by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin – The companion to Battling Boy, but in this B&W manga-sized graphic novel, Aurora West takes center stage for some kick-ass girl science adventures. [Read more…]

FIRST LOOK: Ben Hatke’s New First Second Book ‘Little Robot’

With the final part of his ‘Zita the Spacegirl’ trilogy hitting stores in May, you might have been wondering what Ben Hatke’s next project would be. Well wonder no more! Because First Second have given The Beat a first look at his new story ‘Little Robot’, which’ll see publication in Autumn (Fal) 2015.

[Read more…]

First Second on their picture books program

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First Second is well known for their graphic novels—many of them aimed at young readers— but in an email from markting manager Gina Gagliano, the compay laid out its plan for actual picture books, in a iece that kind of backs up what we were just saying about Reading with Pictures:

Picture books are close relatives of graphic novels. Both combine words and pictures, and as far as you can look back, there have always been some that blur the boundaries between them, from In the Night Kitchen to Knuffle Bunny. Some of First Second’s titles for young readers over the years have been shelved variously among comics, graphic novels and picture books—so it’s no surprise we’d venture over that fence.
 
In the past decade, all around the country, educators and librarians have confirmed beyond all doubt that the classic comics elements of panels, sequential narrative, and word balloons are not only helpful transitional reading tools for budding readers, but also even more: they can be the medium of denser, richer reading content. Far from supplanting prose literacy, the visual literacy of comics is turning out to nourish and foster lifelong, voracious readers. That’s what we’ll be providing in our picture books – books that combine the traditional picture book format with a comics aesthetic and language tools.
 
“Some of our most beloved creators—Sara Varon, LeUyen Pham, and George O’Connor, to name a few—are esteemed talents in the picture book sphere who are already incorporating comics into their work. So it seems fitting that we broaden our list with picture book projects under the First Second banner, with works that include comics elements as well as showcasing great art and great story from great voices,” says First Second’s Editorial Director, Mark Siegel.
 
Upcoming picture book titles from First Second in 2014 and 2015 include Sleep Tight, Anna Banana!, the first in a series by a mother and son team where Anna Banana’s colorful stuffed animals are all the company she needs. In Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, Ben Hatke tells a charmingly fantastical story in the tradition of Hayao Miyazaki and Charles Vess; Ariel Cohn and Aron Steinke’s Zoo Box protagonists accidentally open a box in their attic and let out a zoo.  And James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost provide a companion for younger readers to their award-winning Adventures in Cartooning series with a new set of picture books featuring the knight and Edward the horse, the first of which is Sleepless Knight.

First Second Announce Graphic Novel from Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

First Second have today announced that one of their next big projects will come from the creative team of Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks, who’ll be working on an as-yet-unnamed graphic novel together. On top of this, the company have also signed Rowell for a two-book deal, meaning she’ll also have a second project coming out in future.

[Read more…]

Webcomic alert: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

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The Shadow Hero is a graphic novel due later this year from the team of Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew that reimagines the actual comic book hero The Green Turtle—one of the first American comics to have an Asian-American creator. But before they completed the graphic novel, Yang and Liew created a short origin story for the Turtle that was printed in the Shattered Anthology. Tor.Com was just reprinted it in full color for your enjoyment.

Farel Dalrymple’s The Wrenchies is coming this fall

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The beautiful, complex art of Farel Dalrymple has been missing from the shelves in a major way for a while. His Popgun War was exquisite, and his adaptation of Omega the Unknown with Jonathan Lethem would be a comics classic if it were kept in print.

Luckily, the Dalrymple Drought is about to end with the release of The Wrenchies this fall from First Second. IT’s set in a grim world where children must fight and kill demons, even while they know if they grow up they’ll turn into demons, too.

The LA Times has debuted the cover, and has a priview of a few pages and an interview with Dalrymple.

The idea for “The Wrenchies” came from a 15-page story I did for the “Meathaus S.O.S.” anthology about two brothers who go into an evil elf cave. Using that as a springboard and a bunch of other notes and ideas and drawings from my sketchbook I put a few pages of plot together. Then I did a bunch of color character and concept drawings for what I had in mind. I gathered inspiration from a variety of sources: “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk, “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “Akira” by Otomo Katsuhiro, “Nausicaa” (the manga and movie) by Hayao Miyazaki, movies such as “Over the Edge” (1979), and movie directors like David Lynch, Werner Herzog and Wes Anderson, “The Prisoner” television program, Moebius’ “Airtight Garage” stuff, and old Heavy Metal magazines, Marvel comics from the 1980s, the cartooning work of Tom Herpich, Brandon Graham, Mike Mignola, Taiyo Matsumoto, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, Dave Cooper, Paul Pope, and a whole bunch of other guys.

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Editorial: Original Graphic Novels Are Good Business

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by Gina Gagliano

[Last week we ran a piece asking for comic shop retailers to weigh in on the relative merits of periodical comics vs original graphic novels. Although the serial nature and rolling monetization model of periodicals was praised, we still live in a world where there are a lot of doe-in-one graphic novels. With the vewpoint no that, here’s OGN publisher First Second’s Associate Marketing and Publicity Manager, Gina Gagliano.]

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the original graphic novel format recently – people have been talking about whether doing a preliminary serial or going straight to a graphic novel is better for comics.
 
Since First Second specializes in publishing graphic novels (we’ve published one pamphlet comic ever), it’s pretty clear what our opinion on this is – we’re big fans of the original graphic novel, and we think that graphic novels are a great way to be publishing comics – and reading them!
 
I personally am a huge fan of books (whether they’re prose or comics or some combination of the two) where you can read them front to back and be done with the story.  Partially that’s for convenience – it can be a pain in the neck trying to track down all the volumes in a series or a whole set of pamphlets if you aren’t reading them as they come out.  But I also really just enjoy stories that have a narrative arc where in the beginning they are like, ‘problem!’ and then by the end they are like, ‘we have solved this problem; there is no need for the return of the great white whale ever.’  I find it most satisfying to read a story arc all in one sitting, and hey – graphic novels make it easy to do that. 
 
OGNs and pamphlets are also different structurally.  We know firsthand from our :01 TBC online serial project that it’s a big challenge (and sometimes an impossible one) to take a project designed for one form and fit it into another.  A lot of our graphic novels just don’t work well on a page-by-page break out – you always end up cutting off the action or the dialogue when you break them up that way.  And just like a season of television isn’t the same as one long movie, pamphlet comics and original graphic novels have different pacing and plot arcs.  It’d be pretty difficult to turn a lot of our books (eighty-page early reader Odd Duck, anyone? Or our Nursery Rhyme Comics or Fairy Tale Comics anthologies where the works range from one to eight pages?) into something that would actually read well in the pamphlet format.  When the end goal is to create a graphic novel (and that’s always our end goal here at First Second), the creation process for that doesn’t necessarily generate a finished piece that can easily break down into chunks that are precisely the 22 or 36 pages that would work successfully for a pamphlet comic.
 

201312170409.jpgThe graphic novel format reaches multiple distribution channels – schools and libraries and bookstores.  And it also reaches the readers associated with them (who can be different from the readers associated with comics stores).  This is not true of pamphlet comics, most of which are distributed directly to comics stores.  Many of the outlets that have come to accept graphic novels just don’t have the capacity to shelve or store pamphlet comics, and pamphlets just aren’t durable enough for the use and re-use that schools and libraries put books through.  As a publisher who publishes books for adults in categories like literary fiction, biography, historical fiction, and two-thirds of our list for readers under eighteen – ie, kids and teenagers – does it really make sense for us to be constructing an entire publishing program of serial pamphlets aimed at a market where the majority of stores are not designed to support those genres or age categories?
 
Original graphic novels may not be the main revenue stream for comics stores, but we hope they can be one successful revenue stream.  Obviously, comics stores don’t carry just pamphlet comics – depending on the store, they carry trade paperbacks and original graphic novels and comics-themed clothing and statuary and merchandise; they carry manga; they carry large round stuffed animals; they carry bubble gum and other candy; they carry original art; they curate special collections for schools and libraries; they carry store-branded merchandise like mugs, clothing, and tote bags; they carry posters – and the list goes on and on. 

And bookstores are similar – many of them carry things like stationary, pens and pencils, magnets, bookends, and other literary merchandise.  With all of that going on, we think it’s great that comics stores are finding space in their stores for graphic novels, and, from the response to Heidi’s initial article, that they can make some of their graphic novels a success.  The thesis here doesn’t have to be ‘pamphlets OR graphic novels – two will enter; one will win!’ – we think that they can both be part of what a comics store offers.
 
First Second is also in a bit of a unique position in the comics industry (accompanied by Scholastic Graphix and Abrams ComicsArts) in that we’re part of a larger company that’s dedicated to publishing books.  So here at First Second we’ve got a full-time staff of four people and the four of us are all dedicated to publishing comics, but we exist within a larger infrastructure of production, subsidiary rights, accounting, sales, warehousing, and shipping that is set up to manage books that come in with a spine rather than in pamphlet format.  And I can tell you that from our experience publishing Paul Pope’s ‘The Death of Haggard West,’ it would be a logistical nightmare for all of these people if we started publishing our books as serial pamphlets. 
 
We’ve also found that OGNs are a great opportunity to break authors out in the marketplace.  We find that the best way to raise an author’s profile is to have as many people talking about her as possible.  That means not just comics stores – it means bookstores and educators and librarians, too.  And it means the comics media and the literary media and (depending on the project) the pop culture media or the music media or the Jewish media or the Asian-American media or the romance media.  And it means submitting the book for any awards it’s eligible for.  To hit all of these outlets, you have to have a graphic novel – the National Book Award isn’t interested in pamphlet comics, for example.  With a lot of awards and publicity, it’s a problem if your book was previously serialized.  With media, that means you’ve lost a big moment because nothing in your book is new – with awards, they frequently won’t accept books that don’t have at least 50% new content.  
 
Here at First Second, we sincerely believe in the original graphic novel format.  In our eight years publishing graphic novels, we’ve found that people we’d never expected to read comics are starting to accept graphic novels as part of the standard literary landscape.  Graphic novels have changed what people think comics are for, and what they should be about – things that comics stores already knew.  We’re so glad that because of the continual championing of the comics medium from the comics stores, now more people than ever are getting the chance to enjoy comics – whether as pamphlets or graphic novels or webcomics or even in the daily newspapers.
 

Andre the Giant has a graphic novel — and now a cover

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Box Brown’s Andre the Giant: Life and Legend GN bio promises to be a sympathetic look at one of the greatest sports entertainment personalities of all times, and the cover has just been released over on Grantland, which also interviews Brown:

In many ways, we all have extraordinary circumstances thrust upon us in life and it’s up to us to do the best with them. That’s what I get out of Andre’s story. I empathized with him. We all have a ticking clock above our heads, but Andre’s clock ticked much faster and more precisely. But there’s definitely a delicate line you have to walk in telling someone else’s story that’s not quite as delicate in telling your own story. I think when I’m working on a personal story there’s less pressure to try to get it exactly right. When working on Andre’s story I was really trying to be careful. I tried to put myself in Andre’s shoes, which is difficult given the extraordinary nature of his life.


Brown promises to look at both sides of wrestling–the kayfabe and the constructed reality in his bio.

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend comes out next spring from First Second.

Gene Luen Yang is a National Book Award Finalist again for Boxers and Saints

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It’s a double dip for Gene Luen Yang today, as his two volume Boxers and Saints—an intertwined graphic novel telling the story of the China’s Boxer Rebellion from the POVs of two different teenagers—has made the list of finalists for the National Book Awards, which will be presented on November 20. Yang was nominated—as he was for American Born Chinese—in the Young People’s Literature category. Here are the finalists:

Young People’s Literature
Kathi Appelt, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
Cynthia Kadohata, The Thing About Luck
Tom McNeal, Far Far Away
Meg Rosoff, Picture Me Gone 
Gene Luen Yang, Boxers & Saints


The entire list of nominees is here.
American Born CHinese wa sthe first ever graphic novel to get a NAB nomination. Yang is now two-for-two.

Although the description of the book—a history of the Boxer Rebellion—sounds like a typical kids book, Boxers and Saints is anything BUT. (Here’s a review from Sunday’s NY Times.) from It follows two young Chinese teenagers, Little Bao, who avenges cruelties against his village by joining a gang of martial arts-uses rebels, who seem to use magic. Where reality begins and ends is part of the framework of Yang’s story, especially with the story of Four Girl, another neglected kid who turns to Christianity to save her from a drab existence. It’s a stunning interconnected narrative that has no easy answers.

Earlier in the day we talked about Yang’s NEXT book, The Shadow Hero, which will be drawn by Sonny Liew.

The nominees were announced on Morning Joe, if you’re into that kind of thing.

THE SHADOW HERO by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew reveals a revamped Green Turtle

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Gene Luen Yang is riding high right now with his excellent two-volume BOXERS & SAINTS getting great reviews and a shortlist for the National Book Award. And of course once one book comes out, everyone wants to know what’s next. In Yang’s Case it’s THE SHADOW HERO, which will be drawn by Sonny Liew. So you’ll be wanting a copy, then.

Boing Boing just unveiled the cover and explained the premise, which like most of Yang’s work, is a multi-leveled look at stereotypes and Asian cultural history.

In the U.S. comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comic book characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity… The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The Green Turtle comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but the acclaimed author of American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang, has finally revived this character in a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for this forgotten character. Hank just wants to enjoy his quiet life running the family grocery store with his father, but his mother has other ideas for him… she wants him to become a superhero, and to clean up their Chinatown neighborhood!


Yang and Liew previously looked at the Green Turtle in a story in Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology.

Now in case you are wondering if this is a little Seth/It’s a Good Life if you Don’t Weaken/Dick Berger/Sentry crazy made up comic book hero, NO.

The Green Turtle is a REAL comic book character who appeared in five issue of Blazing Combat in 1944. He was created by Chu Hing, one of the first Asian-American comics artists, who wanted the hero to be Asian. Since he wasn’t allowed to do this, he always drew him masked or with his face turned away, so you could imagine he was Asian. You can read one of the original Green Turtle stories here.

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The real story is obscure and poetic, and should be ample material for Yang and Liew.

First Second announces Winter 2014 line-up

First Second released some news about their Winter 2013-14 titles, including paperback editions for Sailor Twain and Baby’s in Black, and some new books as well, including a new book by the very Talented Danica Novgorodoff, whom we haven’t heard from in a while. Here’s the line-up:

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The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza
, by James Kochalka.  Will intergalactic adventurer The Glorkian Warrior be able to successfully deliver a pizza?  Probably not!  Check out the cover reveal for this book over at tor.com

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The Undertaking of Lily Chen, by Danica Novgorodoff.  The problem with Chinese ghost marriages: what do you do when the only bride you can find for your dead brother is still alive?  “It’s great!” says USA Today
Hidden, by Loic Dauvillier and Marc Lizano.  We guarantee tears when you read this story of a very young Jewish girl dealing with the Holocaust. 

 
Aphrodite, by George O’Connor.  The last two Olympians books have both been New York Times Best-Sellers.  Will Aphrodite live up to that high bar?  Also, we’re publishing this in time for Valentine’s Day. 
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First Second announces second Delilah Dirk book

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Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, a stylish romp by Tony Cliff was just released this week. The graphic novel, published by First Second, follows Delilah Dirk a 19th century swordmaster with a larcenous streak on her delicious adventures—it was first an Eisner-nominated webcomic then a printed book. A little Flashman, a little Adele Blanc Sec, a little Indiana Jones. You can view the website here, and buy the book here orhere.

The story has been well-received in all formats, and First Second tells us they’ll be publishing the sequel, which has the working title Delilah Dirk and the Blades of England. Here’s the logline:

Delilah Dirk and the Blades of England lands Delilah and Selim right in the middle of yet more crazy adventures. When Delilah is framed as a spy by an English army officer, her passion for revenge threatens to sever her friendship with Selim. Is she willing to lose the companionship of her only good friend in order to reclaim her reputation? Selim finally gets to see the England he has only imagined, but how will he feel when the combined strains of social conventions and Delilah’s thirst for revenge overwhelm his experience?


 Cliff has released a rough sketch for the sequel, which you can see above. Once again, more is on Cliff’s website, where he’s also been posting some “travel posters.”

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Paul Pope’s Battling Boy trailer debuts

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Battling Boy is one of the year’s major releases, a long brewing hero’s journey accompanied by some of the most spectacular work of Paul Pope’s career. Boing Boing jus debuted the trailer and a 10 page preview. While book trailers are often shorter motion comics, BB work’s pretty well for the limited animation style.

Battling Boy concerns a young hero who must rescue the city of Arcopolis—as boys his age do where he comes from. It’s a story that mixes archetypes from superheroes and mythology, Kirby and Moebius. It’s about time!

Battling Boy comes out from First Second this October.