Today, I have the privilege and honor of being a stop on the Kids Comics Q&A blog tour. The tour is sponsored by First Second Books and cosponsored by the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Talk about good company!
This year, Free Comic Book Day officially kicked off Children’s Book Week (May 4-10, 2015), and even though that’s past tense at this point, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring and celebrating all the joy that children’s books provide. So, please, click through to some of those links above and check out all the great stuff that’s available at each.
The Kids Comics Q&A blog tour is meant to celebrate the many fantastic creators who are writing and drawing some downright incredible “comics for kids.” Among the many brilliant participants are several friends of The Roarbots, including Kazu Kibuishi, Jeffrey Brown, Frank Cammuso, Gene Luen Yang, Mike Maihack, Andy Runton, and Ben Hatke!
Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado, the writer and artist of Giants Beware! and the brand-new Dragons Beware!, are the lucky duo interviewing all of these amazing creators. For their stop here at The Roarbots, Aguirre and Rosado chat with Maris Wicks.
Wicks was the artist on the phenomenal Primates, which was a graphic retelling of the lives of the three most well-known primatologists: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. Inspired by their teacher, Louis Leakey, each of these remarkable women embarked on brilliant careers to discover various aspects of primate behavior, which would not only add to our knowledge of the animal kingdom but also inform our knowledge of human evolution.
Wicks’s newest book is Human Body Theater, a zany (yet fascinating) look at all of the different biological systems that compose the human body.
RAFAEL/JORGE: Hi, Maris! Rafael and I have admired your work for some time so it’s really nice to cyber-meet you. Thanks for fielding some of our questions.
Hi Rafael and Jorge! Nice to meet you as well and thank you for the kind words about my work!
QUESTION: What can you tell us about Human Body Theater in terms of what are the challenges of making science-based comics?
Ha! Fitting everything in! When I started writing Human Body Theater, I asked my editor Calista, “Okay, how long can this book be?” 240 pages was the cap, so I had to work within that limit. With science-based comics, all the info is already out there; it’s trying to figure out what to include, and then the best way to present the material.
QUESTION: We both love Primates. And we learned a lot from it. It has a lot of information, character development, dialogue, and journal entries — a lot of text. And yet, every page or so you’ll punctuate the visuals of the story with a single wordless panel/drawing/expression. Were those pauses planned or intuitive on your part when you were drawing? Are they meant to give the reader a moment to absorb things?
Those pauses, and the pacing of Primates, was all Jim Ottaviani (the writer). I think he was very aware of creating breathing room for the reader and also giving silence to the parts of “wow” in the book (e.g., Goodall up on The Peak, Fossey seeing gorillas for the first time, Galdikas observing an orangutan walking). Those wordless panels were right there in the script for me. (Thanks, Jim!)
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about how the script to Human Body Theater, which you wrote, was different from the script for Primates, which you didn’t write? In each case, what did you have in front of you when you sat down to draw?
For Human Body Theater, I began with a summary, then rough outline, then a more in-depth outline, and then a script-outline hybrid. At that point, I started drawing thumbnails. Once the content is organized the way I want, I write the script and draw the thumbnails simultaneously. That’s just what felt most natural to me. The thumbnails essentially get lettered (by me) and become the first draft to get edited. Once I start the pencils, I can actually grab the text from the thumbnails, make edits, and put it on pencils (same for the final colored version).
QUESTION: Much of your work seems to be nonfiction. In your spare time (if you have any) what do you read? Fiction? Nonfiction? Novels? Graphic novels? All the above? None of the above?
For the past five years, I was reading almost exclusively nonfiction, and usually books that were related to the projects that I was working on. I was also reading a fair amount of comics (both fiction and non). I recently started reading a lot more fiction, primarily sci-fi. I realized that I needed to see reading as not just a means to research but as a relaxing activity. Recent/current books include Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Tintin by Hergé, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.
QUESTION: What are you working on next?
Another science-based comic for First Second! This time, it’s about coral reefs. I’ve worked part-time at the New England Aquarium for the past seven years, so I really got to flex my ocean-knowledge muscles for this book.
Please be sure to check out each and every one of the stops on this Kids Comics Q&A blog tour. The tour features a ton of great authors and artists, and it visits a whole host of great bogs. The complete list is here.