The graphic novel is coming into its own, and the trend goes far beyond comics about superheroes. Illustrated books now encompass nearly all literary genres and artistic mediums, offering stories for all ages and often appealing to more than one demographic. They do it with a mix of dialogue and images that can prove a powerful combination for storytelling. We explore the increasingly popular field and talk with artist-cum-authors who are finding new ways to tell stories.

Guests

  • Andres Vera Martinez artist and co-author "Little White Duck: A Childhood in China"
  • Eleanor Davis artist and author, "Stinky" and "The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook"
  • Mark Siegel author, "Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson"; Editorial Director, :01 First Second Books

Graphic Novel Reading List


Sailor Twain“Sailor Twain: The Mermaid in the Hudson” by Mark Siegel

Buy the book


Sailor Twain“Stinky” by Eleanor Davis

Buy the book


Sailor Twain“The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook” by Eleanor Davis

Buy the book


Sailor Twain“Little White Duck: A Childhood in China ” by Andres Vera Martinez

Buy the book

Transcript

  • 13:22:19

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIDrawings and paintings provoke strong emotions, prompt questions and tell stories in ways words cannot. D'Vinici's "Mona Lisa" with her ambiguous smile has puzzled, for centuries. Van Gogh's "Starry Night" puts us in a vivid eerie world. Norman Rockwell's "The Problem We All Live With" brings us along on Ruby Bridge's brave walk to school capturing an era in one little girl's resolve.

  • 13:22:43

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd when an artist and author appears powerful, playful and immersive images with words, they're able to tell stories in new ways, breaking old rules to create richly detailed worlds, shape narratives and engage their audience. Which is precisely what the three graphic novelists joining us today are doing. Here to help us explore the growing genre is Eleanor Davis. She is an illustrator and author of the books "Stinky" a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book and "The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook." Eleanor Davis, thank you very much for joining us.

  • 13:23:21

    MS. ELEANOR DAVISThank you so much for having me.

  • 13:23:22

    NNAMDIJoining us from studios in New York is Mark Siegel. He is an illustrator and author of numerous books including "Sailor Twain: Or The Mermaid in the Hudson." Mark is also the editorial director of First Second Books, an imprint of McMillan Publishers that focuses on graphic novels for all ages. Mark Siegel, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:23:44

    MR. MARK SIEGELThank you for having me, Kojo.

  • 13:23:46

    NNAMDIAnd Andres Vera Martinez is an illustrator whose work has appeared in the New York Times and CBS, among other outlets. He's the co-author of several books, including "Little White Duck: A Childhood in China." Andres Vera Martinez, thank you for joining us. He joins us from studios in New York.

  • 13:24:01

    MR. ANDRES VERA MARTINEZThank you, thank you, Kojo. Thanks for having us.

  • 13:24:05

    NNAMDIYou too can join this conversation. Give us a call, 800-433-8850 or send email to kojo@wamu.org. Are you an avid reader of graphic novels? What draws you to them, 800-433-8850? Eleanor, first things first, let's define our term. Just what is a graphic novel in your view, and how does it differ from, oh, a comic book?

  • 13:24:31

    DAVISI think that graphic novels are mostly just a term that was coined by cartoonists that were tired of people assuming that their work was funny and, you know, kind of childish. I think that when you're a cartoonist a lot of people say, oh like Garfield, and I love the Sunday comic strips. And I think out of frustration they thought maybe, well if we call it graphic novels that sounds cooler and maybe more serious. And it didn't really work.

  • 13:25:14

    NNAMDIIt doesn't make much of a difference to you?

  • 13:25:16

    DAVISNo, not really.

  • 13:25:18

    NNAMDISame question to you, Mark Siegel.

  • 13:25:21

    SIEGELYeah, I think there's different things at play. There's -- you know, as Eleanor said, the term was coined I think to make a distinction and also to define a publishing category, which that has stuck, you know. And I think in a way they're all misnomers because calling something comics doesn't always apply. It might be tragic, it might be long, it might be personal, it might be commercial. It's just a broad range. But the graphic novel is now a publishing category. It's established in libraries and bookstores so it's stuck. And that kind of means a book -- a comic book with a spine in a way.

  • 13:25:58

    NNAMDIAndres, what's your view?

  • 13:26:00

    MARTINEZI have similar views. I just also think that just because of the term and the way it's developed in the last few years it's also becoming a longer form of making comics. So it is more of a traditional book with covers and a spine, like Mark said, as opposed to the floppies that come out of the super hero publishing houses that are usually just 22 pages.

  • 13:26:22

    NNAMDIMark Siegel, over the past three decades there have been a number of sort of turning points for this genre. Can you point to a few highlights and give us a sense of how it became so popular?

  • 13:26:34

    SIEGELYeah, I mean, in a way there have been many different ages of comics in America in particular. But where we're talking about this graphic novel as a kind of a literary approach to comics, you know, it doesn't mean serious necessarily but author-driven as opposed to like property or super hero type things. So a big moment happened in 1986. That was a very big turning point when "Maus" won the Pulitzer. And that was a major event and it was -- you had to recognize there was some very, very heavy literary worth to that book.

  • 13:27:13

    SIEGELIt was also -- you know, those two -- the two volumes combined had taken Art Spiegelman about 13 years to make. It was not a slight thing and it was not pulp. It was not throw-away. It was going to become part of really the great works of American literature. But it was a comic book. So that was a big moment. Then what happened is that many years went by -- there were other things around that time. "Watchmen" was that same year, interestingly enough, a very different vein.

  • 13:27:45

    SIEGELAnd there Alan Moore was taking the super hero trope, if you like, and he was subverting it in a very deep way, very interesting way. And there again you had to recognize, this is a true author. This is not just, you know, your Richie Rich -- and sorry for the fans of Richie Rich, you know, but it was in a different class, different league altogether. And then many years went by when the hopes of the comics community in America were that at last comics were going to be recognized here like they are in Europe and many parts of Asia.

  • 13:28:21

    SIEGELBut that time didn't quite come just yet. It took a while. The Indie comic scene grew and grew. A lot of very talented people were working, but mainstream America was not really jumping into it until things started really changing in the 2000s. The first thing that happened was the manga explosion. So the Japanese invasion of comics did a number of interesting things all at once, one of which was changed the balance of gender in the comics readers and that certainly...

  • 13:28:54

    NNAMDIThat's when the women came.

  • 13:28:56

    SIEGELYes. Suddenly 60 percent female readers were into comics. And that changed the picture. Then all the big publishing houses got in on the act and joined the Indy comics people. And another big milestone was in 2006 Jean Yang -- Gene Luen Yang put out "American Born Chinese" which was the first time a national book award nomination went to a comic book. And the first time the librarians award the Printz, which is the great Teen Librarians Award, was ever given to a comic. And that was another watershed moment.

  • 13:29:34

    SIEGELSo -- and since then what you see is the kind of recognition, the kind of cultural cache, the prestige of comics has gone way, way, way up in America. It continues to, you know. And here we are on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" talking comics, you know. And that's more and more prevalent now. Serious reviewers, serious TV and radio.

  • 13:30:01

    NNAMDIWell, Eleanor, as the market has grown and changed, do you have the sense that people who might never have picked up a graphic novel a decade ago are now seeking them out?

  • 13:30:11

    DAVISOh yeah, definitely. I meet people all the time who have, you know, always associated comics with super heroes. A lot of women I think just feel like it's not for them. It's a lot of, you know, tights and capes or they just think that, oh yeah, I do enjoy, you know, Calvin and Hobbs and some of the classic newspaper strips. But then they start seeing -- there's just been a lot more access to books that are just a lot more in depth and really more literary. And aren't limited to one group or one genre.

  • 13:30:56

    NNAMDIAre there still people, though, who still have a hard time enjoying graphic novels?

  • 13:31:01

    DAVISI think so. I've noticed that there's definitely -- I think there's an issue of comics literacy that if someone has never read comics and didn't grow up reading comics that sometimes they have a difficult time kind of interpreting them. The combination of words and pictures seems kind of confusing. It's never a problem for children. They can always figure out what's going on. But I've noticed that older people, if they didn't have that experience in their childhood, can get a little confused.

  • 13:31:42

    NNAMDINevertheless and in spite of, Andres, there seems to be more and different types of age groups and different people reading graphic novels today.

  • 13:31:52

    MARTINEZYeah, that's true. One of the things that I've noticed is the graphic novel section in public libraries, which I think is wonderful. And I think librarians and teachers really recognize it. Younger kids it's like a gateway to just get them to open a book. And I think librarians and teachers are really grabbing onto that idea. And using more graphic novels into their libraries at school and libraries all around the country.

  • 13:32:17

    MARTINEZAnd possibly, yes, the parents don't really quite understand -- some parents -- how to read a comic in which way, the balloons and whatnot. But I think they're seeing their children pick up books and reading all kinds of genres within comics. And I think they're happy to see that.

  • 13:32:33

    NNAMDIIf you've never read a graphic novel, tell us what has kept you away, 800-433-8850. Do you have a child or teen who's become an avid reader of graphic works. 800-433-8850 is the number. You can also send us a Tweet at kojoshow. Mark, you spent much of your childhood in Europe. What did you find you missed from comics and graphic novels when you got back here to the U.S.?

  • 13:32:58

    SIEGELYeah, well, I did actually. I missed a certain kind of comic that I had a hard time finding in America. There was this burgeoning comic scene at the Indy comic scene but it was really not widely available. I was missing authors. I think that's what it was was I was missing -- you know, must like you have your favorite pros authors and you have people that write, that speak to you and you connect to them. And they're -- you know, the fruits of their inner landscape become part of your own inner landscape.

  • 13:33:35

    SIEGELAnd I had that -- in France I had that with a number of comics authors. And what's interesting in comics, it's not always about pretty pictures because the artwork becomes a kind of visual handwriting. So it is the voice of an author that's coming through both the writing, the story, the dialogue but also the lines and the pictures and the visual flow. And so that's what we're seeing now is -- now there's this explosion in America. It's beyond the renaissance, I would say, for comics. There's just this incredible field of many, many, many, many, many talented people working in the comics medium.

  • 13:34:16

    NNAMDIWell, let's talk about...

  • 13:34:16

    SIEGELI don't miss it anymore.

  • 13:34:18

    NNAMDIWell, let's talk about one person for a second, you. In additional to writing and illustrating your own work, you're the editorial director for First Second Books. What are you seeking out in the work that you publish?

  • 13:34:29

    SIEGELJust that, voices -- unique voices. People with a sincerity and a passion that adds to the human heritage in some way. And so, you know, there's an element of that level of passion. I tend to stay away from people with a very calculated marketing-driven approach to their projects, you know. And I tend to go for people with that crazy fire burning in their eye.

  • 13:35:01

    NNAMDIEleanor, one group that seems to have wholeheartedly embraced the genre is librarians, especially those who work with kids and teens. What would you say to any parents or teachers who are not yet sold on this idea?

  • 13:35:15

    DAVISI would ask them why not. I don't want to -- I have a -- I feel like -- I have a suspicion that parents and teachers who don't want their kids to read comics don't like the idea of their kids having fun and don't like the idea of their kids enjoying reading. Because reading can be such an incredible pleasure and just life enriching and something that's -- you know, for me as a kid and for so many kids that I know it's just the most entertaining, joyful thing. And I think that there's a -- you know, not most teachers and not most parents, but there's a certain sort of grownup who thinks that maybe if something's fun it's not good for you.

  • 13:36:07

    NNAMDIWell, it's funny because when I was a teenager we had one particular friend in our group who was really struggling with English because he just didn't like reading. And it finally occurred to us to start lending him comic books. And all of a sudden he started, like, just eating them up. And that's what got him more interested in reading.

  • 13:36:27

    DAVISYeah, yeah, I think so very much. That was the case with -- you know, my parents are both teachers. And they've had many students that just -- they've been struggling and struggling. And their parents are like, well they just won't -- they won't read, you know, Dick and Jane. And they say they don't care about Spot, you know, or whatever. But then if you give them a Donald Duck comic, suddenly they want to know, you know, what's going on.

  • 13:36:53

    DAVISThey can tell -- and that's the great thing about comics is that a kid who can't read very well yet can look at the images and they have a whole lot of clues about what's going on. So they can follow along with the story and then sort of start to parse out what the words are saying as well.

  • 13:37:09

    NNAMDIYour own sister started to learn to read at about three...

  • 13:37:12

    DAVISUm-hum, yeah.

  • 13:37:13

    NNAMDI...reading comics.

  • 13:37:14

    DAVISYep, me and my sister both read -- learned to read at a really, really young age. And it was because my parents are huge comics fans. And we had lots and lots of comics all over the house. And once of the -- our favorite comics was a comic called Little Lulu. And it's for very young children.

  • 13:37:33

    NNAMDII remember Little Lulu.

  • 13:37:34

    DAVISIt's a wonderful comic. And it's not only -- it's a great comic just because it's fun and, you know, as a woman it's a very -- it was put out in the '50s but it's a very feminist copy which is strange for a comic done at that time. But it's just about this really...

  • 13:37:50

    NNAMDIFifties was when I was growing up, so that's why I was reading Little Lulu.

  • 13:37:53

    DAVISOh, that's wonderful, about the same time as my mom was reading it.

  • 13:37:55

    NNAMDIExactly right.

  • 13:37:56

    DAVISThat's amazing. So it's a great girl -- you know, strong and powerful girl character. And the first words that my sister ever read -- you know, because she would like to look at the pictures before she could read -- we saw her sitting with a Little Lulu comic reading, ha, ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho, ho, because she could see the pictures of the children laughing and see the words coming out of their mouths. And she could figure it out. She figured out, oh well, they're laughing and those are the sounds that they're making. They must be saying ha, ha, ha.

  • 13:38:28

    NNAMDIAndres, you have also noted that teachers in the last, I guess, five, seven years in public school have -- and librarians are beginning to notice how kids will tend to gravitate towards reading graphic novels.

  • 13:38:43

    MARTINEZThat's true. Recently I think that graphic novelists have been included in school visits. You know, maybe in the last ten, fifteen years is traditionally children's book authors coming into elementary schools or middle schools, giving presentations, doing readings for kids at their libraries or within their classrooms. I think in the last five years a lot of graphic novelists that I've heard here in New York have been doing a lot of school visits, even tours. So that shows that we're being included into the system.

  • 13:39:16

    NNAMDIAnd, Mark, for a long time there was this lingering idea among parents that they wanted their kids to read real books.

  • 13:39:26

    SIEGELRight. Yeah, it's a funny thing in America. You know, what Eleanor was speaking of is this lingering stigma about comics. And the truth is -- I mean, to echo what both Eleanor and Andres were saying is the kids who love to read graphic novels love to read, as it turns out, you know. And they're veracious readers of everything by the time they become teens. And that is borne out by every study that's ever been done. So the merits of comics in terms of, like, being part of the literary experience and the reading experience, there's no question.

  • 13:40:03

    SIEGELThe other argument that I make, you know, is that if you look at any medium, if you look at movies, you look at novels, you look at music, it's 90 percent crap, right?

  • 13:40:15

    DAVISMm-hmm.

  • 13:40:16

    SIEGELPardon my French. But, it is. It's -- there's 10 percent of it which is the gems, which become part of the treasures, mankind's treasures. And with comics, the same applies but there's more and more and more of that 10 percent. There's actually so much good stuff now in every age category, for the youngest children to everybody else, that if you're a well-rounded reader, you'd have to include some of that in your reading diet.

  • 13:40:48

    NNAMDIHere's somebody from everybody else. Carol in Chevy Chase, Md. Carol, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:40:54

    CAROLHi. I have read, you know, "Hugo Cabret," and I don't know if you would consider that a graphic novel, but what I'm wondering is what would you suggest if I wanted to introduce my women's book club to a graphic novel?

  • 13:41:12

    NNAMDIYou want them to tout their own works, or would you prefer to have me do it? No. I just got through reading "Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson." I would certainly recommend that by Mark Siegel, but I don't know...

  • 13:41:23

    SIEGELThank you, Kojo.

  • 13:41:25

    NNAMDI...Eleanor and Andres may have other recommendations of their own. Eleanor?

  • 13:41:29

    DAVISI mean, there are so many. One of my favorite graphic novels recently is called -- and I know that since it's a women's book club it's not just, you know, women's books, but there's a book called "Skim"...

  • 13:41:45

    SIEGELYeah.

  • 13:41:46

    DAVIS...by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, and that's a beautiful book and very multi-layered, and it's about a teenage girl in Canada, and, you know, all the terribly confusing things involved with being a teenage girl. So that's one that I highly recommend.

  • 13:42:12

    NNAMDIAnd Andres, we've seen young adult fiction take off with older readers, and the same is often true of graphic novels. Why do you think that is, and how do you think of the audience for your own books, and feel free to make a recommendation to Carol, by the way.

  • 13:42:27

    MARTINEZI would go with "Persepolis." I think it'd be perfect for a women's reading group. It's about a young woman, you know, growing up in Iran during a really tremulous time, and I think it's a great book.

  • 13:42:42

    NNAMDIBy Marjane Satrapi, "Persepolis," Carol.

  • 13:42:46

    MARTINEZThat's right. And as far as the why contingent of the audience for graphic novels, is that -- was that the question?

  • 13:42:53

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 13:42:56

    MARTINEZI think I've heard it's a growing segment of the audience in graphic novels, and I think they're just hungry for it. They -- that age group is picking up anything they can read and they're just gobbling up graphic novels as well. I don't think they're making distinctions between prose and graphic novels at that point. If they hear about it, if it becomes popular, they want to read it.

  • 13:43:20

    DAVISMm-hmm.

  • 13:43:21

    MARTINEZSo we've just got to supply the demand at this point.

  • 13:43:27

    NNAMDICarol, thank you very much for your call. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation on graphic novels. If you have already called, stay on the line. We will get to your call. If you find the lines are busy, you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, or send us a tweet @kojoshow, or email to kojo@wamu.org. Do you think that this genre needs a new or perhaps additional name? What would you suggest? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:45:43

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about graphic novels with Eleanor Davis. She is an illustrator and author of the book, "Stinky," a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, and "The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook." Mark Siegel is an illustrator and author of numerous books, including "Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson." Mark is also the editorial director of First Second Books, an imprint of McMillan Publishers that focuses on graphic novels for all ages.

  • 13:46:10

    NNAMDIAnd Andres Vera Martinez is an illustrator whose work has appeared in the New York Times and CBS among other outlets. He is the co-author of several books including "Little White Duck: A Childhood in China." Mark, I read that the idea for "Sailor Twain" first came to life for you with doodles drawn along your commute, and took you nearly a decade to complete. How did this project in a way end up taking on a life of its own?

  • 13:46:37

    SIEGELIt did. It started -- it really was journal entries, and I think there's times in life when, you know, you're beset with turbulence. And for me, the way of dealing with turbulence tends to take the form of doodles in a journal. And so what came out was this captain on the deck -- on the prow of what looked like an old steamboat talking to a mermaid in the water. And I was going, as you mentioned, it was in my train rides down to Manhattan from where I live up the Hudson River.

  • 13:47:14

    SIEGELSo I was going up and down this river, and, you know, I could see -- I could see the gilded age in 1880s New York, and these, you know, there were hundreds of these steamboats plying the Hudson up to Albany and back to Manhattan, and so the setting itself was appealing to me. But what happened is that the story at first wasn't a story. It was just a bit of personal therapy. And then the characters started appearing one by one, and there was a moment, I remember, when the captain asked the mermaid to promise not to sing, and I thought, okay. This starts to have the aroma of a story.

  • 13:47:52

    SIEGELAnd then it started escaping the kind of personal therapy level, and it became a story to fashion and to tease out, and then a lot of historical research was needed along the way.

  • 13:48:03

    NNAMDIYeah. I could see that.

  • 13:48:05

    SIEGELMm-hmm.

  • 13:48:06

    NNAMDIEleanor, any author will tell you that editing is incredibly important. As an author and illustrator, how do you find the right balance between words and images?

  • 13:48:20

    DAVISThat's a really tricky one. I personally try with comics not to have too many words because I think that it can -- an overreliance on words can sort of, you know, deaden the artwork a little bit trying to, you know, just like with writing you have that phrase, show, don't tell. And I think that with comics it's that literally, whereas if you can communicate something through the pictures, then probably trying to do that is a good idea. But -- and so I try to keep it around -- just to get technical, under -- around a hundred words a page at most.

  • 13:49:05

    NNAMDIYou try to create work that can exist only in this form, the graphic novel.

  • 13:49:09

    DAVISMm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

  • 13:49:11

    NNAMDIThere's some graphic novels you can easily imagine it being animated, and there's nothing wrong with that, but you seem to think it's fun to do work that couldn't be anything but a comic.

  • 13:49:20

    DAVISYeah. I think that that's -- just figuring out with whatever media you're working in, figuring out what that media can do best, and really taking the most advantage of that seems really exciting to me. And something that I like a lot about comics is that with a movie, for example, the images just flow past you, and you can't spend more time with any given image unless you like, you know, pause it, which, you know, nobody does. It would ruin the movie if you kept pausing.

  • 13:49:52

    DAVISBut with comics, you can. You can pour over every image and really live in it and reread it and go back and spend more time with your favorite images. And for me, when I was a kid especially, that was one of my favorite things, was looking at these books for children like Richard Scarry, or "Eloise," or even something like the Waldo books that had a whole lot of detail and a lot to discover, and felt really rewarding to spend time with these books and to look at all the images and to figure out new things.

  • 13:50:30

    NNAMDIHere is Sam in Cheverly, Md. Sam, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:50:34

    SAMHello. Thank you for having me. I just wanted to briefly say that I did actually have a chance to meet Andres in Brooklyn when he illustrated the history of Brooklyn" through a graphic novel for a contemporary art gallery that I was working for at the time, so I'm very familiar with his work, and I just wanted to say I'm a huge fan. And I also...

  • 13:50:57

    MARTINEZThank you.

  • 13:50:58

    SAM...had a question. I am a visual artist, and I was actually first introduced to classic novels through the movie "Persepolis," rather than the actual graphic novel. Do you have any suggestions for visual artists who, you know, maybe want to make that entry into getting into graphic novels, but maybe just have been introduced this sort of medium through other forms?

  • 13:51:31

    NNAMDIEleanor?

  • 13:51:32

    DAVISAre you talking about suggestions for books to read, or that you want to make comics yourself?

  • 13:51:39

    SAMKind of both.

  • 13:51:40

    DAVISOh, okay. Gosh. There's -- the thing that's -- one of the -- I mean, I could talk about all the things that I love about comics all day long. There's 20 million things. But one of the many, many things that I love about comics is that it's -- anybody can make comics at all. You just need some typing paper and a ballpoint pen, and there's a really receptive community of kind of independent cartoonists, and people who make mini-comics that that's the sort of work that they value most is this very, you know, raw, personal stuff.

  • 13:52:23

    DAVISSo anybody can kind of just jump in and make comics and there are different comic festivals, and people who just Xerox mini-comics at Kinkos or whatever, and staple them together, and just trade them or sell them for a buck or two, and so it's just the easiest thing in the world. And once you've really found your own voice, and you're making a lot of work that you love, you're just going to start reaching an audience, and then if you feel interested in moving on to maybe doing published work, the community is small enough and supportive enough that it's very easy to meet.

  • 13:53:06

    NNAMDIAndres, anything you'd like to add to that?

  • 13:53:09

    MARTINEZYeah. From an academic point of view, I mean, there's a couple of books out there that I can think of, like there's Scott McCloud, Nuts and Bolts of Making Comics, I think is a pretty good start. And Jessica Able and Matt Madden did a book together, both cartoonists, making comics -- I can't remember the...

  • 13:53:27

    SIEGEL"Drawing Words and Writing Pictures."

  • 13:53:28

    MARTINEZ"Drawing Words and Writing Pictures."

  • 13:53:29

    SIEGEL"Mastering Comics" is the second volume.

  • 13:53:31

    MARTINEZRight. Very good starting points for figuring out comics and how to go about making them. So, you know, as far as that, I'd look to those books. I actually use them for reference points. I teach Into to Comics at School of Visual Arts and also at Queens College, so sometimes I use those for lessons, myself in my own class.

  • 13:53:53

    NNAMDIHow about you, Mark?

  • 13:53:54

    SIEGELYeah. I was going to say the same ones. The Scott McCloud, "Understanding Comics" is the first of his three kind of comics theory books. They're very fun to read as well, and then those manuals.

  • 13:54:06

    NNAMDIThat's...

  • 13:54:06

    SIEGELAnd -- but you don't need to bog down in a theory. I think it's just to get enough of the mechanics of it. But a lot of people, a lot of novelists, a lot of screen writers, a lot of playwrights are now jumping into graphic novels.

  • 13:54:19

    NNAMDISam, thank you very much for your call. Andres, you've collaborated with individuals and organizations on your book projects so far. What's the advantage to that, and are there any downsides, maybe especially when it comes to working with one's spouse?

  • 13:54:34

    MARTINEZWell, I mean, Mark talked about his process of, you know, traveling and doodling, and it takes a while to have a spark, you know, to get that spark and get that idea. So I think playing off of other people's histories and stories is, you know, automatically the spark is there. You can almost like pick and choose what you like, and I love to hear other people's stories. So that kind of got me into history and whatnot, making commentary through comics that way.

  • 13:55:05

    MARTINEZI adapted a Dutch journal from the 1600s and then my wife had always told me her childhood stories from mainland China from the late '70s, and I knew that was something unique that most Americans hadn't heard of, so I kind of wanted to delve into that and make stories out of it. So….

  • 13:55:24

    NNAMDIWell, you pitched it to your publisher, it's my understanding, and your publisher took a long look at you and said, don't think you can do this by yourself.

  • 13:55:34

    MARTINEZThat's true. That's true. You know, I was looking at more of biography about my wife's time in China, but then I just realized that, you know, if I was standing there alone at singings, "A Childhood in China," wouldn't work too well with people staring at me back in my face. So unfortunately my wife can't actually make a lot of the signings, so I think that the book has gotten enough word of mouth and press that it's just been -- gotten to the point where it's become our book, but I'm the face of the book at this point.

  • 13:56:05

    NNAMDIHere now is Rachel in Bethesda, Md. Rachel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:56:13

    RACHELHi. I wanted to circle back a little bit. As a parent of girls, one of whom is in middle school, and another is younger, they're not your stereotypical comic audience, and I was a good English major and was horrified when one of these graphic novels came home. And then I picked it up, and I think that here's some arguments that you could make for the reluctant parent who thinks that this isn't quote unquote "real." There's so much really bad YA pulp -- you called it crap, I call it dreck. I think it's all the same thing.

  • 13:56:54

    RACHELAs a good English major, right? I think it would do us all -- it would serve everyone well to remember if you take your kids to the museum because you appreciate and value visual art, this is a visual art medium.

  • 13:57:11

    SIEGELRight.

  • 13:57:11

    DAVISMm-hmm.

  • 13:57:11

    RACHELI mean, you guys have talked about that a lot. But if you want to appeal on an emotional level to themselves, remind them, so what was the first thing that you looked at in the newspaper when you were a kid, and we all got the newspaper home delivered. For me, it was Calvin & Hobbes.

  • 13:57:28

    DAVISMm-hmm.

  • 13:57:28

    RACHELAnd I still read Calvin & Hobbes. So it's not that far from it. And then a particular title, and it's killing me that I can't remember the name of it, is….

  • 13:57:39

    NNAMDIYou're going to have to hurry because we only have about 30 seconds left.

  • 13:57:43

    RACHEL...middle grade comic book about a girl who has a horrible accident and ends up with braces.

  • 13:57:50

    SIEGEL"Smile."

  • 13:57:50

    DAVIS"Smile."

  • 13:57:51

    NNAMDI"Smile." That's the name of it, and that's all the time we have. And while we're smiling, allow me to tell you that our guests are Eleanor Davis, illustrator and author of the book, "Stinky," a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, and "The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook." Mark Siegel is an illustrator and author of numerous books, including "Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson." He's also the editorial director of First Second Books. And Andres Vera Martinez is an illustrator whose work has appeared in the New York Times and CBS among other outlets. He is the co-author of several books including "Little White Duck: A Childhood in China." Eleanor, Mark, Andres, thank you all for joining us. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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