The American Library Association offered an impressive schedule of graphic novel panels at their annual conference in Orlando, and the most impressive was undoubtedly Margaret Atwood!

Known for her prose writing, she has a lifelong relationship with comics, having taught herself to read the “funny papers” of the Golden Age. (“Orphan Annie freaked me out. Dick Tracy was gory.” She and her brother drew comics as kids, and she remembers fondly Little Lulu, Plastic Man, and the horror comics of the 1950s.

She has ran a silk-screen poster business, and also designed the covers for her books!

In 1970, she even drew a comic strip! “Kanadian Kulture Komics”, written by “Bart Gerrard”, featured a heroine, Woman Woman, who couldn’t fly, but she had snowshoes!  Ms. Atwood continues to cartoon to this day, via her “Book Comix” page on her blog.

The inspiration for Angel Catbird was her interest in bird conservation. She stated that the three main threats to bird populations were “windows, rats, and cats”. Via parable, she created this hero. Modernizing the origin trope, she has her hero (part bird, part cat, part human) genesis via “a cat, an owl, a car, and a flask of super gene splicer”! (Volume 1 goes on sale in September, and she’s working on Volume Three.)

When asked about the challenges of writing a graphic novel, Ms. Atwood compared it to the television and movie screenplays she had written, describing the collaborative effort with Johnnie Christmas. Of particular note was the question: Should Angel Catbird have pants? So, the pants have an origin as well! (Readers can see the preliminary sketches in the back of the published volume.)

Ms. Atwood finished the panel with the following news:

  • She contributed comics to The Secret Lives of Geek Girls, which will be released in October.
  • Renee Nault is currently working on an graphic novel adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, possibly scheduled for 2017.
  • She submitted her new work, Scribbler Moon, to the Future Library Project, where her book will not be published until 2116!



  1. She also spoke (as a super-secret special guest) at the Will and Ann Eisner Foundation Grant Reception at ALA, where her superb deadpan delivery hit all the beats perfectly and had the audience in stitches. She’s such an amazing speaker as well as a fantastic writer.

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