Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

Ben Hatke is something of a celebrity at Roarbots HQ. His Zita the Spacegirl trilogy is pure magic, and his other books (Little RobotJulia’s House for Lost Creatures, and Nobody Likes a Goblin) are just downright enchanting.

We look forward to each new book as a major event, and the arrival of Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (the sequel to the phenomenally awesome Mighty Jack for First Second Books) set off all kinds of squee alarms around here.

If you’re familiar with our Questions from a Kid series of interviews and you haven’t seen Ben’s installment, you really should do yourself a favor and go check that out. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

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Spill Zone

  • Spill Zone
  • written by Scott Westerfeld
  • illustrated by Alex Puvilland
  • published by First Second Books (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Spill Zone does something I don’t think I’ve seen before. It tells a totally dark, creepy, twisted story with a striking color palette saturated with vibrancy. Flipping through the book, you’d be excused for assuming the story is a lot more uplifting than it really is.

The book also pulls you in and compels you to keep turning pages, desperate to find some meaning to the madness that Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland create.

Addison and her little sister, Lexa, live just outside Poughkeepsie, NY, which is now completely off-limits and known as the Spill Zone. Po’Town is no more. A mysterious “event” occurred that basically destroyed the town, turned all of the people into floating zombies, and created a psychedelic version of Stranger Things’ Upside Down.

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Mighty Jack

  • Mighty Jack
  • written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
  • published by First Second Books (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Ben Hatke is a favorite in my house. His Zita the Spacegirl trilogy is pure magic, and his other books (Little Robot, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, and Nobody Likes a Goblin) are just downright enchanting.

We look forward to each new book as a major event. So it was with much excitement that we dug into his current major undertaking: Mighty Jack for First Second Books. The first book in the series came out a few months ago, and Book 2 – Mighty Jack and the Goblin King – is set to release this fall.

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Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath

I’ll admit it: the Beowulf legend has never been my jam. I read it in high school (don’t remember the translation) and read it again when that critically adored translation by Seamus Heaney came out years ago.

I just couldn’t get into it. I appreciated the story, and – yes – I understood it, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it like I could with other myths and legends. King Arthur? Sure. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Yep. Edith Wharton’s Mythology? Why not? But Beowulf? Just didn’t do it for me.

So when Kid Beowulf appeared on my radar, I’d be lying if I said it immediately rose to the top of my reading pile. I liked the twist of making the story accessible to young readers, but…well, it was still Beowulf.

But I’m here to tell you I wish I had read this a lot sooner.

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The King of Kazoo

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  • The King of Kazoo
  • written and illustrated by Norm Feuti
  • published by Graphix/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

I’ll admit it: I was unfamiliar with Norm Feuti before The King of Kazoo arrived at my door. But fewer than 10 pages in and I was a fan. With this book, Feuti has created something that is both familiar and fresh.

King Cornelius (the titular king of the land of Kazoo) is a bit of an idiot. He came into his position and inherited a country at peace, and he hasn’t yet had a chance to earn an epithet (like those that came before him, such as Founder of the City, Defender of the Realm, or Simplifier of the Taxes).

Cornelius spends his days “thinking kingly thoughts” and suggesting inane solutions to non-problems. In short, he’s pretty much a joke.

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Questions from a Kid: Raina Telgemeier

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions from a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with best-selling graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier.

Raina burst onto the scene with 2010’s Smile and then followed that up with Sisters, Drama, and this year’s Ghosts. All four books have dominated the best-seller lists and have won nearly every award for which they’re eligible. And in the process, Raina has become a superstar talent in the industry.

Just how big has she become? At this year’s National Book Festival, she was one of six presenters to take the main stage. The others? Stephen King, Bob Woodward, Shonda Rhimes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Salman Rushdie. Not too shabby.

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Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts

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  • Ghosts
  • written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
  • published by Graphix/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Raina Telgemeier is back with her fourth original graphic novel, and we’re all the richer for it. This week marks the release of Ghosts, and in it she explores the nature of family and friendship against a backdrop of self-discovery and the Mexican Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday.

It’s easy to forget that Raina’s first original book, Smile, came out as recently as 2010. That’s because the effect she’s had makes it hard to remember what graphic novels were like beforehand. Really, it’s hard to recall what the publishing industry in general was like.

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What Is It?

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  • What Is It?
  • written by Nicole Hoang
  • illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
  • published by Boom! Studios/KaBOOM! (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

(This post originally appeared on GeekDad.)

There is – admittedly – sometimes a fine line between what constitutes a picture book and a graphic novel. They often have a lot in common, and it’s not surprising to find that many illustrators straddle that line and work in both media.

Traditional publishers long ago embraced the graphic novel format, and companies such as Scholastic (through their Graphix imprint) led the way. Comic publishers have been a bit slower to move in the opposite direction and put out picture books or novels. It’s not unheard of, though. First Second Books recently published their first children’s picture book (Ben Hatke’s Julia’s House for Lost Creatures) to near universal acclaim.

Now BOOM! Studios is following suit. Their all-ages imprint KaBOOM!, which has been home to some absolutely amazing monthly titles, is leading the charge with Nicole Hoang and Dustin Nguyen’s What Is It?

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Thank You, Paul Dini – You’re an Inspiration and We’re Lucky to Have You

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad.)

This year at San Diego Comic-Con, I was fortunate enough to have several amazing opportunities and experiences. A few (such as having drinks with Neil deGrasse Tyson and sitting front row center for the Star Trek press conference with William Shatner, Scott Bakula, Bryan Fuller, and so many more) stand out above the rest. But if pressed to name a highlight, my answer might be surprising: shaking Paul Dini’s hand and telling him, personally, what an inspiration he’s been.

Though I don’t write creatively for film and television, I do make a living (out in the real world and – to a much lesser extent – here online) wrangling words together, so most of my creative idols are writers. And Paul Dini is pretty darn near the top of that list.

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Dream Jumper #1: Nightmare Escape

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  • Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape
  • written by Greg Grunberg & Lucas Turnbloom
  • illustrated by Lucas Turnbloom
  • colored by Guy Major
  • published by Scholastic/Graphix (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Scholastic’s Graphix imprint has long been home to some of the best “all-ages” graphic novels put out by a traditional book publisher. Graphix actually hit the ground running and got its start with the color editions of Jeff Smith’s groundbreaking Bone series, and they haven’t looked back.

They’ve since become a wellspring of fantastic, kid-friendly graphic novels, publishing books such as Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space series, all of Raina Telgemeier’s books, and so many more. Seriously, I challenge you to find a Graphix book that isn’t stunning.

Dream Jumper is one of their newest titles, and it’s definitely off to a promising start with the first book in the planned series, Nightmare Escape.

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GBBP 59: Roger Langridge

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The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, Episode 59: Roger Langridge

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This week, we’re thrilled to have Roger Langridge – the all-ages comics genius – on the show. Yes, he’s awesome. And yes, I just made up that “all-ages comics genius” moniker…but it’s totally appropriate.

Roger rose to prominence in the comics industry for his work on Judge Dredd, the Fin Fang Four (of all things), and his own creation Fred the Clown. He then worked (as both writer and illustrator) on Boom! Studios’ relaunched The Muppet Show series, and that’s where his style truly had a chance to shine.

From there, all bets were off. He worked on a series of Muppets book for Boom!, John Carter of Mars (Marvel), Snarked! (Boom!), Popeye (IDW), and The Rocketeer (IDW). And then, in my opinion, came the great stuff: his adaptation of Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow and the marvelous Abigail and the Snowman, both for Boom! Studios.

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The Suspended Castle: A Philémon Adventure

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The Suspended Castle is the third book in the Philémon series, and it’s also (obviously) the third release in Toon Books’ English-language versions. If you’ve been reading along with the first two books, then you should already have some idea of what to expect here, in terms of tone and content.

I mean, one look at the cover is enough to tell you that you won’t be disappointed…if, that is, you came for absurd visuals and unforeseen plot twists. In short, it’s still totally insane. And an insanely good time.

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The Wild Piano: A Philémon Adventure

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I can’t believe I let this one sit for so long. I included The Wild Piano in this roundup of new titles from Toon Books, but it’s well past time for it to appear here, especially now that the third Philémon book is out.

Philémon is a French character who’s been around since 1965. His stories, however, have never been published in English before now. Therefore, in the pantheon of French-language comics, he’s mostly been relegated to Tintin’s and Asterix’s shadows. Toon Books recently published his first adventure, Cast Away on the Letter A, and it was such a success that they expedited the release of this second book. (See here for my review of that first book.)

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Windmill Dragons (A Leah and Alan Adventure)

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Toon Books continues to kill it. Their entire library is breathtaking, and the latest offering from David Nytra is no exception. Following on the success of his 2012 debut, The Secret of the Stone Frog, Windmill Dragons again focuses on siblings Leah and Alan for another adventure.

Although the reader is left to interpret their adventure in the first book as a dream (or was it?), Windmill Dragons sets up its fantastic events in the first few pages as a story Leah reads aloud. The siblings then dive into the pages and appear as the protagonists of that story.

Welcome to a land where the elemental forces are under the control of three magnificent beasts: the Ziz (sky), the Behemoth (land), and the Leviathan (sea). When they exist in harmony with one another, peace prevails. However, when Leah and Alan arrive, all is most definitely not peaceful, and the duo are charged with saving the land from the windmills – which have come alive and are attacking the citizens.

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Teen Boat! The Race for Boatlantis

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Just when I thought every original idea had already been taken, used, recycled, and rebooted to death, along comes Teen Boat! – perhaps the most original concept I’ve read all year.

I somehow missed the first book in the series, which came out 2012, but it’s not necessarily required reading before tackling the sequel: The Race for Boatlantis.

In a nutshell, our protagonist is Teen Boat, an ordinary high school teenager that happens to be able to transform himself into a boat. Yep. And there’s no secret identify nonsense. His entire school knows he can turn into a boat, and it’s apparently no big deal.

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Blog Tour: Human Body Theater

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Today, we’re taking part in another wonderful blog tour to benefit one of the excellent new titles from First Second Books. On tap is Maris Wicks’s Human Body Theater, a spellbinding nonfiction graphic novel that takes readers on a tour of the human body.

Follow your master of ceremonies through Human Body Theater, where you’ll get a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body. Starting out as a skeleton, our tour guide puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each “act.” By turns goofy and intensely informative, Human Body Theater is incredibly entertaining.

We last caught up with Maris Wicks (and this book) during a previous blog tour in which she was interviewed by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado for Children’s Book Week. If you’ve got a few minutes, go take a look. It sheds some light on her background and motivation and how the book came to be.

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Questions from a Kid: Jennifer Holm

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with author Jennifer Holm.

Zoey first became aware of Jennifer through Sunny Side Up, a recent graphic novel from Scholastic/Graphix that tells the story of Sunny Lewin, a young girl who spends the summer of 1976 with her grandfather in Florida. Jennifer worked on the book with her younger brother, Matthew Holm, who did the art.

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Blog Tour: Kids Comics Q&A with Maris Wicks

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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.

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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!

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Fight to the Last Man — Interview With the Creative Team Behind ‘The Stranger’

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Maybe I’ve just started noticing it for some reason, but it seems like there’s been an uptick in the number (and popularity) of graphic novels by French creators making their way States-side recently.

Toon Books has begun publishing the first English-language translations of the Philémon series, Snowpiercer made quite a splash thanks to its big-screen adaptation with Chris Evans, and now First Second Books is publishing English-language versions of the massively popular Last Man series.

The first book in the series, The Stranger, released in March, and First Second is planning to release Books 2 and 3 later this year. Books 4–6 will hopefully follow in 2016, which will bring us more or less in line with the French releases. There are a total of 12 volumes planned for the entire story.

The Stranger focuses on a gladiatorial contest–the Games–in what seems to be a medieval world in which magic is not only possible but also the very soul of the Games. Teams compete and wield elemental powers against one another in the ring (think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Ultimate Fighting).

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Magic, Myths, and Monsters: Interview with Jim Zub and Steve Cummings of ‘Wayward’

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(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

When it comes to comics, it’s not often that I’m immediately taken in and captivated by an ongoing series. It usually takes a few issues for the creative team to find its groove and for me to find something worth latching on to.

Wayward – from writer Jim Zub, artist Steve Cummings, and Image Comics – burst onto the scene last year, and from the very first issue, I was hooked. The story, often described as “Buffy in Japan,” was smart and intriguing. The art was phenomenal. And the series wasted no time in becoming fantastic. From page 1, Zub and Cummings felt completely at home in the world they were creating.

That comfort and confidence was evident on every page – every panel – and Wayward quickly became one of my favorite series.

The story follows half-Irish, half-Japanese teenager Rori Lane as she adjusts to her new life in Tokyo with her mother. Things don’t exactly go according to plan, though. Almost immediately, she’s attacked by mythical monsters no one else can see, discovers she suddenly has a superpower, and falls in with a small band of teenage “misfits” who possess other incredible powers.

This is an original superhero story without the spandex, a coming-of-age story that blends ancient Japanese mythology with modern Tokyo, and a good ol’ fashioned monster tale.

It’s also an epic in the making, and I highly recommend it.

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