Graphic Novels

Supermen of Comics

Art Baltazar and Franco have created many award-winning, all-ages comics. Their latest creation, Superman of Smallville, shows readers what it was like for Clark Kent in Smallville Middle School. He struggles to keep his identity secret in the face of bullies, first crushes, and an alien threat. The Mixed-Up Files sat down with these two super men of comics and asked them what it was like to create this origin story for the Man of Steel as well as creating great comics for kids and adults.

MUF: Superman deals with a bully when he gets to Smallville Middle School. Why did you decide to include the theme of bullying, and why does Clark deal with the bully in the way that he does?

Art: Clark knows he is not a threat. Just a little annoyance. I think Clark sees the good in people and tries to find a peaceful solution to getting bullied by Brad. I think it worked. I learned that if I made the bully laugh, they would usually leave me alone. Ha.

Franco: There are things in life that everyone has to deal with. There are obstacles and barriers to all things that we do. Some of those are easy to overcome and others are not. Bullying happens in everyone’s life at one point or another and learning how to deal with these obstacles is a part of life. It’s important to know that anywhere along the mythos of Superman, it’s all he does is stand up to bullies in all shapes and forms. In doing so he gives all of us the confidence to do the same!

MUF: The Kryptonian language in the book was a fun addition. Did you make it up? If so, how did you come up with it?

Art: Ha. Its actual Kryptonian Language in the DC Comics cannon. Its real as all real gets! We just get to use it. The bonus thing is…now I am fluent in Kryptonian.

Franco: Nope. Not made up. It’s the official Kryptonian.

MUF: Which scene in the story was the most fun to write? Which scene was the most fun to illustrate? Why?

Art: I love the scene when Clark discovers the ship underneath the barn. How the floor was glowing and how he tried to hurry up Lana. Classic secret identity stuff. I love that the ship talks to him. I don’t think that’s ever been done before in the history of Superman. I think.

Franco: Best was crafting the story to – well, I can’t really answer that or you get the biggest spoiler for the end of the book and we wouldn’t want to do that, now would we?

MUF: Superman often uses his super-powers to finish his chores quickly, even when he’s not supposed to. Why do his parents not want him to use his powers even when he’s home and no one can see him? And which chore would you use superpowers to speed through if you could?

Art: His parents want him to learn an honest day’s work. They want him to avoid the short cuts and do things the correct way. Just because you have powers doesn’t mean you should use them for every little thing. Blood, sweat and tears…even though Clark doesn’t break a sweat. Well, metaphorically. True story.

Franco: Doing things fast is not always the right way. The easy way is not always the right answer. We’re both parents and we still to instill this in our kids because we’ve been through scenarios in life where the easy way, just because you can, does not necessarily mean it’s the right way. Which super power would I use? Flight! Those gutters on my house get filled with leaves in the fall and they are really high up there.

MUF: You both have several great comics out for middle-grade readers. What are some of the best things about creating comics for this age group? What are some of the challenges? How did you decide to start writing/illustrating for a middle-grade audience?

Art: I always made comics the way I make them. Its very cartoony and very natural. Cartooning is in my soul. Its my life. It who I am. Famous Cartoonist. I don’t try to make comics deliberately for certain age groups. I make comics that I think are funny and fun. The term ALL AGES really does apply here. We don’t make comics specifically for kids, we make comics that kids can read. Which also almost makes us as creators just as awesome as our comics.

Franco: It’s just what comes out of my brain! Making comics is awesome!!!

MUF: Any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

Art: Next for DC Comics, we are working on ArkhaManiacs! It’s a book about young Bruce Wayne and all the residents of Arkham Apartments. You guessed it…The Joker, Harley, Clayface, Penguin…those guys. Also, I have lots of creator owned projects coming out soon like Drew and Jot from BOOM, and Gillbert from Papercutz. Also Powers in Action and Big Alien Moon Crush from Action Lab. Whew. I’ve been busy.

Franco: Arkhamaniacs! It’s gonna be a fun ride taking all those Batman villains in funny directions!Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

MUF: You both have drawn/written several DC superheroes and villains already? Are there any that you haven’t yet that you’d like to? Which superhero or villain is your favorite and why?

Art: I’ve worked on tons of different DC characters….and their pets! I would love to do a SUPER PETS comic book series. And, of course…I am always ready for more SUPERMAN!

Franco: I’m not sure if there are any that we haven’t written yet. My answer is: Let’s do them all again!

MUF: Please do! We’d love to see a SUPER PETS comic book series. Last question. Any advice for young writers and artists?

Art: Yes! Carry a sketchbook and/or notebook everywhere you go everyday! Write all the time and draw all the time. Make your sketchbook part of your life. Just like your phone and your keys. Never leave home without it. That’s what I do.

Franco: Just do it!

 

Superman of Smallville is out now from DC Zoom, but you have an opportunity to win a copy from us. Enter below before September 27th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

STEM Tuesday– Getting Your Comic-on with Great Science Graphic Novels– Interview with Author Illustrator Don Brown

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Don Brown, the author and illustrator of OLDER THAN DIRT: A Wild but True History of Earth. This fun, graphics illustrated whirlwind tour of the origin and workings of our home planet is guided by a geology-savvy groundhog. School Library Journal has called Brown “a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.”

 

Mary Kay Carson: Do the words or illustrated characters come first in a book like this? 

Don Brown: The words always come first…otherwise it’s like the tail wagging the dog!

We wanted the book to accessible and funny while still offering solid information. I can’t remember exactly how we hit upon the ground hog and earthworm dynamic…perhaps it’s an exaggerated reflection of my and Perf’s relationship in which I ask (clueless) questions and he (patiently) answers them. (Also: the Groundhog was originally an Aardvark until we realized Ground-hog had the more appropriate name.)

We had a lot of fun with the characters and came to see them as Abbot and Costello meets the Socratic Method.

MKC: How did you end up collaborating with Dr. Mike Perfit?

Don: Dr. Perfit – “Perf” – and I have been friends since the world was young. We met in college where he dragged me over the finish line in freshman calculus. (Of which, I remember nearly nothing.) His passion for geology is infectious and I had for a long time noodled around with collaborative ideas. Finally, we struck on Older Than Dirt and went to work. Partnering with Perf is a joy; he is generous, smart, and funny. I’m trying to figure out how we might collaborate again.

Don Brown is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies. He has been widely praised for his resonant storytelling and his delicate watercolor paintings that evoke the excitement, humor, pain, and joy of lives lived with passion. He lives in New York with his family. www.booksbybrown.com Instagram: @donsart

MKC: Do you have a STEM background? Are STEM subjects difficult to illustrate?

Don: Illustrating a book about geology was not difficult. Many geologic processes are wildly dramatic: Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, cosmic collisions, lava floods…they’re great fun to illustrate!

Older Than Dirt is my only STEM book to date. I had a brief connection to STEM in college when I studied engineering. After one semester of physics and calculus, I discovered I had no aptitude for math or science and became a history major.

A scientist I am not, yet I’m still drawn to science history, especially the human stories connected to it. And I’ve learned that if I bear down, I can understand the STEM details within science history. For example, I have finished making a book about the 1918 Spanish Influenza and along the way explored the ins and out of infectious disease, RNA, and microbiology…it was fascinating!

MKC: What’s next for you?

Don: My Spanish Flu book – Fever Year – will be published next Fall. Also publishing next year is my Rocket to the Moon, a history of rockets and the first manned moon-landing in 1969. Both books touch on STEM subjects.

Win a FREE copy of Older Than Dirt!

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host this week is woodchuck fan Mary Kay Carson, author of Mission to Pluto and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday– Getting Your Comic-on with Great Science Graphic Novels– Writing Tips & Resources

STEM Tuesday’s Gone Graphic

Comics? We don’t need any of that nonsense in STEM.

What was that? No, I did not see the STEM Tuesday “Great Science Graphic Novel” book list for this month.

Bah-humbug! We didn’t have STEM books like that when I was a kid. Textbooks were perfectly fine for us.

No, my name is not STEMbeneezer Scrooge. Now, get off my lawn and leave me be. It’s time for my nap.

Who’s there? I thought I told you to skedaddle.

Aye! It’s a spirit.

Leave me be! I’m just an old STEM guy stuck in my ways. I’m going back to sleep before Wheel of Fortune comes on.

“STEMbeneezer, log on and follow me!”

What in the world? Another STEM spirit!

Smooth, Ghost of STEM Present. Real smooth. But I’m not going to get on the internet to scour bookstores.

Haven’t you heard of online identity theft and spyware?

Jeez, leave me be, I’m going back to sleep. And where do you come up with these “original” names, anyway?

What are you? You must be the Spirit of STEM Future.

Aack! Don’t beam me up, Scotty!  I don’t want to go!

NOOOooo!!!

A hint? For what?

Help meeeeeeee!

Holy bad dreams. What happened? How long have I been asleep?

I know that answer!

Come, on! The answer’s easy.

Graphic storytelling is a great format for STEM books.

I’m a changed man. Textbooks have their place but the graphic novel format really does work well with STEM storytelling.

Graphic storytelling + STEM = Natural match

Using graphics to define a STEM concept has been a natural partnership for ages.  I present the evidence.

DaVinci designs are a graphical how-to manual

DaVinci’s water lifting device proposal

A canon design

Galileo’s graphic notes on his observations of Jupiter’s moons

Sir Issac Newton’s Graphic Notes

Illustrated concept from NEWTON’S PRINCIPIA

From Newton’s Notes on Alchemy

A young Isaac Newton’s graphical code listing his sins committed

Chemistry

If you have the reagents, you could probably make your own Vitamin A from this graphical reaction.

Maps of biological pathways

The Krebs Cycle, aka The “I wish I had a dollar for every time I memorized & forgot this pathway in my school days” Cycle.

 

TNF pathway from one of our lab’s publications. It tells the visual story of an E. Coli effector subverting the TNF inflammatory pathway.

Let the evidence show using graphics has worked in STEM since the STEM fields were born.

It’s only natural they work in the field of STEM storytelling, right?

Visual Storytelling

A picture is worth a thousand words.

 

UNDERSTANDiNG COMICS: THE INVISIBLE ART by Scott McCloud

This a book you must read whether you are interested in straight graphic storytelling or storytelling in general. It doesn’t matter if the storytelling is fiction or nonfiction, graphic storytelling can be a powerful option for a writer.

Sketchnotes

Sketchnoting is a great way to take notes for the visual-minded individuals. I follow Eva-Lotta Lamm and her work with sketchnotes. She offers a free, downloadable Mini Visual Starter Kit at her website to help you get started with sketchnotes.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you are now convinced that images and STEM go together. The graphic novel format for nonfiction and STEM books not only works, but it fits. Just as architects and engineers use a blueprint drawing to relay information to the contractor and specialists, STEM writers can use graphic storytelling to relay information to the reader.

Still not a believer? Go to the STEM Tuesday book list and give those titles a try. It’s a much less harrowing path than visits from a trio of STEM spirits.

Take it from me. STEM graphic novels and comics are the real deal!

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

The O.O.L.F. Files this month emphasizes the power of visual storytelling in STEM and to celebrate the season, a few links to STEM activities for the holidays. Enjoy!

Superheroes & STEM

Comic Einstein!

More Sketchnoting

Holiday STEM