The best place to go after you have a meltdown is under your bed.
I have a treat for you guys today! AND we’re having another giveaway! Fellow First Second cartoonist Dave Roman agreed to let me ask him silly questions (and maybe one serious one) about his comic making, and we also get a sneak peek at the sequel to Dave’s graphic novel Astronaut Academy.
So click the link to read Dave’s interview, as well as information about how you can get a free copy of Astronaut Academy (yes, I’m going to make you work for it)!
1) First off, I wanted to mention how fun Astronaut Academy is. It’s like you made the ultimate Awesome Kid Comic. Astronaut Academy is about being away at a magical space boarding school where the students get to drive dinosaurs, compete in super dangerous science fiction sports, and are taught by these teachers who look kinda like certain favourite Saturday Morning cartoon characters. I have to ask the inspiration question: where did Astronaut Academy come from?
I started off wanting to do a funny homage to Japanese culture, specifically anime and all the cute stuff I’d find in Sanrio stores and NYC bodegas. But I also wanted to play around with something that channeled the newspaper comic strips that I grew up reading and copying, when I was learning to draw as a kid. So it just became this mashup of influences and things that make me happy. Some of it is totally on the surface, like the videogame and 80s cartoon references, but there’s also an attempt to re-create the feeling I had as a kid when I first discovered the random humor and whimsical wordplay of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. As the diverse cast of kids in Astronaut Academy started taking shape, I wanted them to have fleshed-out lives, balancing serious emotions amongst all the wacky outer space hijinks.
2) At Astronaut Academy you can take classes in Anti-Gravity Gymnastics, Fire Throwing, Advanced Heart Studies and my favourite, Dinosaur Driving (I have wanted to drive a dinosaur ever since I read Dinotopia). What classes at Astronaut Academy do you think you’d excel in?
Dinosaur Driving definitely works off the kid logic. It’s the type of thing you’d draw on loose leaf paper, without worrying about any logistics beyond: it would be cool if dinosaurs also had tank wheels. Even though the curriculum at Astronaut Academy is mostly wish-fulfillment classes, and I’m the one who gets to make them up, I still don’t think I’d excel as an astronaut. I just don’t have the right stuff! But I would like to have multiple hearts like the kids at Astronaut Academy, so I could survive whirlwind blast-attacks from enemies.
3) I’m a little sad that the only robot in Astronaut Academy was a vicious killing machine, because I like robots. Will there be nice robots in the second book? (I am fishing for plot hints here, so if you can tell us a bit about the second book, that’d be nifty.)
To be fair, Cybert never would’ve tried to kill anyone if he hadn’t been programmed to do so. He would much rather play Monchichimon card games and quote Tori Amos lyrics. While writing Astronaut Academy Book 2, there were several scenes where it would have been useful to have robots that clean up and do specific tasks (like the ones in Wall-E). But in Book 1, The Principal says that robots don’t go to school because they are “too easily impressionable.” So, I wrote myself into a corner…but I’m okay with it, because the off-kilter logic of it makes me laugh. Having fewer robots in the world of Astronaut Academy makes Cybert’s creation a bigger deal. And there are other villains out there like Team Feety Pajamas (MWAHAHAA!) who would love to get their hands on that kind of technology for their own nefarious schemes.
4) Okay, serious question: A little while back I posted about my comic making process on the website. I’m really interested in how other cartoonists produce their comics, especially those that both write and draw. Can you tell us a little about your process? Is there any part of it you like best/dislike? (I hate doing thumbnails. Also, scanning. )
I write in thumbnails/rough drawings, which has always been easier for me than typing up detailed descriptions for each panel. These drawings used to be very loose and messy, but I’ve had to tighten up since I’m working with editors who have to decode the story based on my early scribbles. The less guesswork the better! Luckily, the folks at First Second also allow for some wiggle room, so I can still make improvements along the way and improvise new bits of business when drawing the actual penciled pages (which are drawn on 11×14” Bristol board). I ink the pages using watercolor brushes and India ink. This is probably my favorite part because it’s fun to see my indecisive pencils commit to a single shape. Plus, inking is a lot less stressful on my wrists than penciling. Eventually it’s all scanned into the computer so I can make corrections and add graytones in Photoshop. Then I make last minute changes, and a few more LAST-last minute changes, and send everything off to the publisher!
5) Not serious question: The X-men (Wolverine, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman) vs. the Avatar: The Last Airbender kids (Aang, Katara, Toph, Sokka). Who would win and how quickly would the fight be over?
Even if Toph could metalbendadamantium, I would place my money on the X-Men. Sokka’s charms would be no match for Jean Grey’s telepathic mindbending. Katara and Iceman would be on equal footing and cancel each other out. Aang, as the master of all elements, would be able to hold his own, but I think a few blasts of Cyclops’ eye beams would knock him out of the sky, permanently.
Dave Roman is the creator of Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity and Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery. He has contributed stories to the FLIGHT series, and is the co-creator of Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden and the upcoming Teen Boat!, which will be released as a full-color graphic novel in May 2012.
(Faith here: I politely disagree and think the Avatar: TLA kids would triumph!!!!!!111 But since Dave is the one who’s actually written those characters in an official capacity, I bow to his superior knowledge. Anyway, visit Dave’s website here. Thanks so much for the interview, Dave!
AND we are going to have a giveaway! I have 5 copies of Astronaut Academy to give away, but again, I’m going to make you guys work for it. Tell me what class (real or imaginary) you think you’d be best at if you went to space school, and my 5 favourites get a free book. Yay!