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.
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.
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