Faith Erin Hicks
Even at this advanced point in the decades-long flowering of the graphic novel, both in public esteem and in mainstream publishers’ plans, David Nytra’s The Secret of the Stone Frog stands out as a remarkable book, one that accomplishes something I don’t remember seeing any other similar work manage.
It’s from Toon Books, editor Francoise Mouly’s imprint of Candlewick Press, which for years now has been producing superior, hardcover kids’ comics for readers of various ages. And at 77 pages, it’s the first to be explicitly labeled a graphic novel.
The story is a traditional one of two children, brother and sister, the latter of whom is on the cusp of adolescence — their parents think Leah is now old enough to get her own room, rather than sharing one with her younger brother Alan — and one night when they go to sleep, they awake in a world that’s similar to the one they know, but with familiar aspects exploded in fantastical directions. The setting, or settings, suggest Victorian England, and Nytra’s artwork suggests classic children’s literature from in and around the same period.
His elaborate and detailed black-and-white art, drawn with a crowquill pen and india ink, resembles that of John Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Pauline Baynes’ for C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series; although the fine line work and classic-looking subject matter may also suggest to you E.H. Shepard’s illustrations for A.A. Milne’s Pooh books, or Beatrix Potter’s drawings for her many animal tales, or the full-page illustrations that appear in the various Andrew Lang colored fairy books.
The newest graphic novel from First Second Books is Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, adapted by Faith Erin Hicks from a novel by Prudence Shen. As they did with Americus and Hicks’ earlier graphic novel Friends With Boys, First Second will serialize the entire story online before releasing it in print. The webcomic launches with the entire first chapter, which sets up the conflict nicely: The science club must battle for funds with the cheerleaders; will the money go for robot parts or “hoochie outfits”? Shen and Hicks also manage to introduce a decent-sized cast of characters and sketch out their personalities a bit with a minimum of boring expository dialogue. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes!
J. Torres explains his newest project:
A number of my Canadian comic book pals and I grew up reading Alpha Flight, Captain Canuck, or Wolverine comics and we’ve always thought that there should be more Canadian superheroes out there. Over the years, we’d periodically get together and inevitably talk about the Canadian superheroes we’ve created (sometimes dating back to childhood) and always wanting to do “something” with them.
Well, we’re finally about to do something — something pretty big, and pretty cool. Kinda like Canada itself, eh?
That something is True Patriot, an anthology of short stories featuring homegrown Canadian superheroes, and Torres has announced a stellar roster that includes Scott Chantler (Two Generals), Ramon Perez (A Tale of Sand), Andy Belanger (Kill Shakespeare), Faith Erin Hicks (Friends With Boys, The Adventures of Superhero Girl) and the team of Jack Briglio and Ron Salas. The anthology will be 100 pages, full color (or “colour,” as they say north of the border), and available in both hardcover and digital formats. Watch for the campaign to go live on IndieGoGo on Oct. 1, but in the meantime, check out Torres’ blog for some cool character designs.
This is actually an answer I like to give to writers when they ask me the question of how they can attract an artist, “Have you considered drawing your comic yourself?” I get that not everyone draws, or has the capacity and patience (and time and momentum) to learn drawing, but take it from me, drawing is a skill, and it is something many people can learn. So why not give it a try?
Last week we broke the news that Dark Horse will publish a print edition of Faith Erin Hicks’s The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Hicks has always been a very articulate commentator on comics and comics creation, so it seemed like a good opportunity to ask her a few questions about the book and how it evolved.
Robot 6: Tell us a bit about the genesis of Superhero Girl. When did you start drawing it, and what did you have in mind for it at the beginning?
Faith Erin Hicks: I started drawing Superhero Girl at the beginning of 2010. I remember because I was in the midst of moving apartments and trying to scrape out the first comic on a deadline while unpacking all my stuff … I don’t think I even had my drawing desk set up. I’d had the idea of doing a comic about a not terribly successful Superhero Girl for a while, and wanted to do it as a webcomic, but I’d originally imagined it as a story-based comic, as that was what I was used to doing. I’m very attracted to the idea of superheroes, of having powers and ability beyond the usual, and I’d noticed that there weren’t many superhero comics made with me as a reader in mind. I like the idea of Supergirl and Wonder Woman, but I can’t say I’ve enjoyed their comics much. So I decided to make a superhero comic for me.
… that actually seems to be how all my comics get started.
It started with a doodle: One day, Faith Erin Hicks scribbled a silly little cartoon about a superhero girl, and that got her to thinking that maybe a story about a superhero dealing with the hassles of everyday life could be kind of interesting. That morphed into The Adventures of Superhero Girl, which she drew as a comic strip for the weekly paper The Coast in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she lives. Last year, she compiled some of the comics into a print book, Just the Usual Superpowers, which she self-published and sold at the Toronto Comics Art Festival.
And now, Dark Horse is giving Superhero Girl the full treatment, publishing the comics in February as a hardcover volume priced at $16.99. The originals were in black and white, but Cris Peter is adding the extra dimension of color.
Hicks has made a name for herself over the past few years as the creator of Friends With Boys and the illustrator of Brain Camp, both for First Second. At the same time, she has emerged as a clear-headed chronicler of the financial and practical realities of the creator’s life. She has more books in the works, but this clever little comic is a very nice addition to her oeuvre, and it’s nice to see it get the deluxe treatment.
Passings | Douglas Phillips, who drew many stories over the years for the rough-and-tumble British boys’ comics The Rover and The Victor, has died at the age of 85. [Blimey!]
Creators | Green Lantern writer (and DC chief creative officer) Geoff Johns is returning to his hometown, Detroit, to appear at a comics shop and the Arab American National Museum, promoting Baz, the first Arab-American Green Lantern. Johns himself is of Lebanese descent. [Detroit Free Press]
On her blog, Faith Erin Hicks shared some Supergirl drawings that she describes as being for a project that never got off the ground. She was never told the fate of the comic/cartoon/pajamas/whatever-it-was, but guesses it’s not happening because “generally when you don’t hear back about something for a year and a half, the project’s probably dead.”
I’m guessing that the New 52 is what got in the way, but regardless, it’s too bad. Whatever it was, I would have wanted it.
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our guest today is writer and artist Jimmy Palmiotti, who you know from All-Star Western, Monolith, Phantom Lady, Unknown Soldier, Creator-Owned Heroes, Queen Crab and countless more.
To see what Jimmy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Legal | Danny Bradbury takes a look at the financial and copyright aspects of online comics in an insightful article spurred by the recent dust-up between The Oatmeal and FunnyJunk. Among other things, he parses out how The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman makes $500,000 a year from his comic, why Inman and other creators object to their work being published elsewhere without attribution (and why they sometimes don’t care), the legal protections they can use (and how they sometimes fail), and how sites like Pinterest avoid the problem. There’s also an explanation of why FunnyJunk attorney Charles Carreon is suing Inman et al. on his own behalf, rather than FunnyJunk’s: “Carreon has now effectively abandoned the threat of a FunnyJunk lawsuit, stating that he was misinformed by his client. His letter claimed that all the comics had been removed from FunnyJunk, but Inman pointed out dozens that were still there.” [The Guardian]
This is a drawing that someone drew and was like, “Yeah! That’s a good enough drawing!”
Man, I don’t even care if that drawing is official or whatever, I can’t believe someone drew it and thought it was okay to show people. People can see that drawing! PEOPLE WITH EYES. Why do I even fight so hard to make my art look good when someone else drew that. As a person with eyes, I am a little offended.
– Faith Erin Hicks, not losing her funny while expressing offense about Guillem March’s cover to Catwoman #0.
Comics | When 4-year-old Anthony Smith didn’t want to wear his hearing aid because superheroes don’t wear them, his mother emailed Marvel to ask if they had any pictures of superheroes wearing a hearing aid. Not only did Marvel editor Bill Rosemann respond with an image of the cover of 1984′s West Coast Avengers #1, which featured Hawkeye wearing a hearing aid, he also had artist Nelson Ribeiro transform Anthony into a superhero, Blue Ear. [Concord Monitor]
Publishing | Former Marvel editor Jody LeHeup, who was let go by the publisher in October during a round of layoffs, has joined Valiant Entertainment as associate editor. [press release]
Conventions | Rich Lopez has a gallery of photos from last weekend’s Dallas Comic Con. [The Dallas Voice]
“When I first started doing webcomics back in the dark ages of the early ’00s, word of mouth was how people found your stuff, but it was on a much smaller scale, and much slower. You’d have to get your comic passed around via e-mail, or posted in forums or linked to by other big artists. The whole crazy gag/meme/weird fandom social media comics thing didn’t really exist back then, so maybe people were doing more original stuff, but that’s just from what I remember and might not be true. I’ve never been a big fandom person. I feel like online comics nowadays are perhaps more mainstream, whatever that word means. Like everyone’s making comics and everyone’s passing comics around and comics are just this one part of the Internet, like cat pictures or whatever, rather than this specialized section, which was how it felt when I first started making them. Comics back then felt… I guess kind of niche. Now they’re part of the rainbow of fun that is the Internet. It feels like a good thing to me, but I’m sure there’s a downside to it. I guess people could complain that the craft of online comics is slipping, like, ‘Oh, this stupid gag comic about He-Man gets a million tumblr notes, but this impassioned comic about one’s state of being only gets 400.’ But I don’t even really see that, because it seems to me that the good stuff is always rising to the top. Sure, stupid He-Man comics will always get popular play, but whatever, that’s the Internet.”
– Faith Erin Hicks, in a thoroughly entertaining interview with Tom Spurgeon about how she got started in comics, her latest project Friends with Boys and much more. Maybe what we need is an impassioned comic about He-Man’s state of being.
Comics | With the success of The Avengers film, Kendall Whitehouse discusses the narrative techniques comics have “explored and exploited,” including “multi-issue story arcs, crossovers, team-ups, reboots and multiple title tie-ins,” noting they not only help sell more comics but also have blazed the trail for complex stories: “The story has now become a world unto its own that allows the reader to explore whichever dimensions are of the greatest interest. Follow the events from the perspective of Iron Man or Thor. Or just peruse the core series and ignore the supplementary story elements. The series presents a nearly unbounded narrative universe for the reader to experience. It is easy to interpret this with a cynical eye as nothing more than a series of cheap marketing tactics designed to pump sales. And yet, when well executed, something larger emerges.” [Knowledge@Wharton Today]
Retailing | Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day also served as the grand opening for Aw Yeah Comics, a store in Skokie, Illinois, owned (as the name suggests) by Tiny Titans creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani and retail veteran Marc Hammond. [Skokie Review, Time Out Chicago]