Posts Tagged Superheroes

Interview with Ridley Pearson, Author of Super Sons

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit and check out Ridley Pearson's The Foxglove Mission.Hey Mixed-Up Filers, we’ve got a super interview for you. Ridley Pearson, author of the Lock & Key, Kingdom Keepers, and most recently Super Sons series is sitting down with us today to discuss the latest book in the Super Sons series, The Foxglove Mission.

This is your second book in the Super Sons series. Can you tell us a little bit about the series and about DC’s middle grade graphic novels?

The most interesting character in suspense is, ironically, the villain. The trilogy of Super Sons books works off three “evils.” Book 1: gangs. Book 2: corporate corruption. Book 3: governments. Sometimes these evils are on the page; sometimes implied.

In The Foxglove Mission, our newest character, Candace, is in search of her lineage, her larger family, and her purpose as a human being. She is surrounded by friends who care about her: Ian Wayne and Jon Kent, the Super Sons. She goes off on a dangerous quest. Jon and Ian follow, trying to help her. The boys have their own missions: to find a way to heal Jon’s ailing mother, and to stop a chemical firm from making others sick. It’s high stakes, high action, and teamwork.  

You’ve worked with characters before that, like the Super Sons, have an already established canon, in projects like Lock & Key, Kingdom Keepers, and Never Land. What was it like working on a story with characters that have so much history attached to them? 

It’s a great question, and that was my question to DC when we discussed my writing these graphic novels. Thankfully, my editors said, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” (i.e., the past of these young superheroes). They allowed me to reinvent them, and hopefully they are likeable, strong characters with much to figure out. That’s how I felt as a kid.

Why Damian Wayne and Jon Kent? Were the Super Sons chosen before the story or did the story choose them?

Page from The Foxglove Mission

Art by Ile Gonzalez

These are the characters DC asked me to write about. I was intimidated. The son of Batman? The son of Superman? But I grew up with both Batman and Superman, so I eagerly jumped in!

You’ve created some amazing original characters in Candace, Tilly, and Avyrc. I was really happy to see Candace’s story expanding in The Foxglove Mission, and even Tilly having an expanded role. Can you tell us a little bit about these characters? For example, how did you choose Candace’s superpower? Why is Tilly’s superhero alter-ego Puppet Girl? And what makes Avyrc such a great villain for our team to go up against?

My wife and I have two daughters (grown now). I’m comfortable with such characters; I’ve witnessed so much success, drama, heartache, and redemption. We also have an adopted son from Kenya, and I’ve written about Kenya on my adult side of publishing, so when DC and I discussed Jon and Ian, I wanted to add a female character, and that became Candace. She has “elemental” powers of controlling weather, and working with birds. She is my Earth woman.

 You’ve written a lot of cool tech, such as the DHI and a lot of Batkid’s gadgets? What piece of tech from your books do you wish you could use?

I wouldn’t mind having a hovercraft!

Similarly, you’ve written a lot of cool supernatural powers? If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

The power to eliminate all poverty and prejudice. I’ve looked on Walmart shelves, but it isn’t there. Yet.

I’ve read that you’re more of a plotter than a pantser. Can you tell us a bit more about what your writing process is like?

Stories are shaped in many ways. Two of the most common are: start with a situation; or outline. I fall into the outline group. I like to work with the puzzle pieces first, see where they fit and how to fit them together. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

What was your writing journey like? You’ve written for all ages. How did you get started writing for middle-graders?

My writing journey would take up a long dinner! Basically, it has come down to understanding it’s hard work; that stories aren’t written, they are rewritten; that stories are about character; and all the plotting in world won’t replace one terrific character. 

Peabody Headshot. Found on the press section of Ridley Pearson's website.


 What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received, and what writing advice would you give to someone just getting started?

My writing advice: Read. Then read some more. When you do try writing, dedicate some small piece of each day (for me it’s 6-8 hours) to sitting in the chair and putting words onto pages. Don’t worry if they are perfect—there’s time to fix that.

What are you working on next?

I have a new Kingdom Keepers series publishing September of 2020. Working title: Kingdom Keepers 2.0. I’m halfway through a new graphic novel trilogy for DC called The Indestructibles. It’s an original series that I’m incredibly excited about. I think the first book publishes in 2020 as well.

 How can people follow you on social media?

Very carefully. (Twitter. Insta. Facebook. I’m not great at it; something I’m working on.)

Dear Michael Northrop, An Author Interview and Giveaway

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgDoes Superman ever make mistakes? What was Wonder Woman’s eleventh birthday like? These are just a few of the questions that eager fans ask DC superheros in Michael Northrop’s Dear Justice League. At the Mixed-Up Files, we had some questions of our own for Mr. Northrop, and just like the Justice League, he was super to answer them.

MUF: Dear Justice League is your first graphic novel. Have you always wanted to write graphic novels?

MN: As a kid with dyslexia, I wasn’t much of a reader or a writer. Comic books were huge for me because I was hesitant about reading, and comic books were the first thing that I could read both for fun and socially. As each issue came out, I could read them and participate in the discussion. So, writing Dear Justice League was like coming full circle. There’s a visual storytelling to graphic novels that was already there for me because comics were so formative for me.

MUF: Wow, from a reluctant reader, to an author. You started out at Sports Illustrated Kids. What was that journey like?

MN: I chose the most perilous of paths. I became an English major, and jot just English, but poetry. Poetry is also great for dyslexia or struggling readers because it’s something that is read and written slowly and carefully. I became the poetry editor for the literary magazine in college. My editor recommended me for a job with the sports section at World Almanac, which is how I got into journalism and Sports Illustrated Kids, which really helped me to develop the middle-grade/YA voice.

MUF: Was there anything from your time at Sports Illustrated Kids that informed or inspired Dear Justice League?

MN: The interaction with the athletes, and how they responded to questions from young fans as opposed to questions from me. There was just a direct connection between the kids and these larger than life figures.

Michael Northrop is the New York Times bestselling author of Scholastic’s new multi-platform series, TombQuest. His first young adult novel, Gentlemen, earned him a Publishers Weekly Flying Start citation, and his second, Trapped, was an Indie Next List selection. His first middle-grade novel, Plunked, was named one of the best children’s books of the year by the New York Public Library and was selected for NPR’s Backseat Book Club. He is originally from Salisbury, Connecticut, a small town in the foothills of the Berkshire mountains, where he mastered the arts of BB gun shooting, tree climbing, and field goal kicking with only moderate injuries. After graduating from NYU, he worked at Sports Illustrated Kids magazine for 12 years, the last five of those as baseball editor.

MUF: Since you mentioned that comics helped you overcome your dyslexia, is that something that you thought about while writing Dear Justice League? Helping struggling readers build their skills?

MN: I did write with readers like myself in mind. I wanted to write for a lot of different levels, and to make Dear Justice League as accessible as possible. That’s why the story is broken up into a different chapter for each hero. It gives the reader more ways into the book. So, if someone only wanted to read about Wonder Woman, they could read that chapter, and get into the story that way. It’s also why I chose to start the story with Superman. He’s one of the biggest stars, and that chapter is also wordless with a lot of physical comedy. It’s like the first rung on the ladder, making it easy for reluctant readers to get into.

MUF: Speaking of heroes, who are your favorite heroes? Who were your favorite heroes growing up?

MN: Growing up, it was teams that really captivated me, particularly the Legion of Superheroes. The comics had a kind of soap opera feel to them, but in space. They had a dazzling array of heroes, like Lightning Lad, whose power I loved, and Mon-el, who felt like my own personal Superman because he had all the powers of Superman but not as many people knew of him. But what I really loved about the teams was the variety.

MUF: Now, I feel like I need to read some Legion of Superheroes. But if you had to choose one hero. All-time favorite?

MN: Superman. He made a huge impression on me. He’s the perfect superhero in that he’s not perfect. He’s a complicated character with great stories about doing what’s right and being responsible with power.

MUF: How did you come up with the questions that your young fans ask their favorite superheroes?

MN: The fun part was the mix. Finding a mix of serious and funny questions that would get into who the hero really was and bring out those relatable human qualities.

MUF: Hawkgirl was one of my favorite chapters because it was just funny and caught me completely off-guard.

MN: Hawkgirl was a choice. I mean, I had to include the founding members of the Justice League, like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, but I got to choose some of the other members, and Hawkgirl brings a young teen kind of energy to the group, and she really carries the through line of the story. She was a super fun character and super fun to write.

MUF: Speaking of fun characters, the Flash is a pretty fun character, and he’s the only hero in Dear Justice League that deals with bullies. Did you always want bullies to be in the story? And why is he the hero that you chose to address bullying?

MN: I knew that bullying was a topic that I wanted to deal with because it’s something that a lot of kids deal with, and initially, I had a really serious bullying situation in the story, but I didn’t want it to be heavy-handed. So, I gave the most serious topic to the most free-spirited character.

MUF: Last question. I’m sure that you have a lot of young readers writing to you, much like the fans do in Dear Justice League. Do you have any advice for young readers and writers out there?

MN: For young readers, there are so many kinds of stories. There are no wrong answers. For me, comics came first. Then, it was rule books for Dungeons and Dragons, which led to fantasy novels because I felt like I was already inside the story. Any kind of storytelling is valid. Find the stories that work for you. For writers, it’s similar. Everyone has their own way of doing things. There’s really no wrong answer. The only thing that’s really important is to finish something because it’s in revision that you learn how to become a better storyteller.

MUF: Thanks, Michael! This was a lot of fun.

Dear Justice League is out now, and one lucky reader will win a Dear Justice League prize pack, enter here! A winner will be chosen randomly on August 15th.

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Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities Giveaway! – An Interview with Author (and Ukelele Player) Mike Jung

Ok, how awesome is this cover?

Mike Jung is a funny, funny man with a ukelele. ‘A ukelele?’ You ask. Yes, a ukelele, trust me, he’s like the John Mayer of ukelele playing. Or maybe the Jason Mraz. Whatever, he’s really good is my point. (I don’t have a clip of him playing, but check out the fantastic photo below of him serenading editor Arthur A. Levine and author/illustrator Dan Santat)

‘But this is not a blog about ukelele players!’ You argue. ‘This is a blog about middle grade writers’. Which brings me to the point I was trying to make all along — Mike Jung is a funny, funny man with a ukelele who is also a fantastic writer. His debut novel, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic Books, 2012) is hilarious, heartfelt, rip-roaring adventure chock full of middle grade goodness! And not only that, he’s a one-time blogger at Mixed Up Files, who has come back to let us help celebrate his book launch!

So fasten your seatbelts, middle grade readers! Here is one stupendous interview with the man who made superhero Captain Stupendous famous:

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on “From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors,” Mike! It’s nice to have you, as a former blogger here, return “home” to celebrate the launch of your fabulous debut novel, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities.

Superheroes, Robots, Aliens, and Dastardly Supervillains your novel has them all. Yet, Geeks get top billing in your title and in your line-up of protagonists. Whats up with that? Are geeks the new superhero?

Geeks and superheroes both have perennial relevance, if you ask me! I knew all along that while the heroes, villains, battle scenes, and sound effects were important for making the book fun to write and read (I hope, anyway), the real heart of the story lay with the emotional arc of the characters. One of the many benchmarks of Arthur Levine’s genius is his ability to cut through all the trappings of a story and see its essence. He helped me see that GEEKS is really the story of how Vincent Wu, who sees himself as dismissed, berated, and unlovable, but eventually realizes that he’s acknowledged, celebrated, and genuinely loved. Vincent is very much the eponymous geek.


So onto the second part of your title, Girls. There are three boy protagonists in your adventure the three stalwart members of the Captain Stupendous Fan Club– and one girl. Did you think about things like gender balance when writing?

Thinking about gender issues is something I always try to do – it’s a big deal, you know? I want my daughter to grow up in a world that doesn’t devalue or dismiss her because of her gender, and I think our personal sensibilities and values do infuse our work to at least some degree.

That said, I wasn’t thinking specifically about maintaining mathematical balance between the boy and girl characters. In early drafts Polly actually was the narrator of the story, and the most important secondary character was her best friend, who was also a girl. And after two years of working on the manuscript I hit a wall, because it just wasn’t working as well as I thought it could – I couldn’t find the story arc, the characters weren’t developing fully, and most importantly in my mind, the voice felt off.

I scrapped the manuscript, strip-mined it for recyclable bits and pieces, and started over. I didn’t make the story autobiographical, but the friendship of the boys in the Captain Stupendous Fan Club was loosely inspired by my own boyhood and teenage friendships, which were NOT gender balanced. And the manuscript suddenly came alive.

Now, does that indicate something about my own level of unconscious gender bias? Probably, although I’m not sure that’s a question anyone can honestly or accurately answer with regard to themselves. In terms of sheer “this many boys” and “this many girls” numbers, the story ended up resembling my own middle-grade life experience with a fair degree of accuracy, so it is, at the very least, grounded in the childhood Mike Jung’s subjective perception of reality.


Mike Jung: Superhero self or secret identity?

Alright, now that were on a roll with this title thing Secret Identities. Tell our loyal readers, Mike. Do you have one? If you did, what would it be?

My mind is actually making an interesting connection between this question and my new identity as an author! I’m a very, very, very introverted person, and I also deal with quite a high degree of social anxiety. As a result, I have a deep, rich inner life, as I imagine all writers do. I often think that if I’d tried doing this 20 years ago, when in-person networking was the only game in town, I’d have utterly failed to gain a toehold in the publishing world. Now, however, we have the Internet, which allows raving Walter Mitty types like myself to get online and express our inner lives with ease, speed, and potentially wide distribution.

It’s made all the difference for me – online watering holes like Verla Kay’s Blueboards, Facebook, Twitter, and group blogging communities (including the Mixed-Up Files!) are where I’ve established the overwhelming majority of my writerly relationships. They’re also where the louder, brassier, goofier facets of my persona have taken flight. People who’ve only interacted with me online actually mistake me for an extrovert, whereas those who’ve met me in corporeal space know that while I have some very extroverted moments, I usually behave in a much more reserved manner.

That’s not to say the loud, brassy, goofy things I say and do in service of my writerly identity aren’t genuine expressions of who I am – those qualities do exist in me, they’ve just spent a lot of time below the surface. I think I just needed to find the right context, tools, and community of people, at which point it’d feel natural and easy for them to emerge. So here I am, and here those qualities are, emerging like a house on fire.

I guess that means “public persona” is my superhero identity, and my “private persona” is my secret identity, huh?


One among many things I love about your books is that you take the trope of small town protected by beloved superhero and put it in the context of a multicultural America of today, without ever making race an issue to be addressed. Can you talk a little about ethnicity in your novel?

I’m a great admirer of Lisa Yee’s work, and among the many reasons why is the fact that she writes about Asian and mixed-race kids, but doesn’t write about them being Asian or mixed-race. The first time I saw Millicent Min, Girl Genius was in my local public library, which had it and Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time in a display of California authors. I was delighted to see an Asian kid right there on the cover, and I was even more delighted to read a story about a child of immigrants who the author wrote about as if her ethnicity and family circumstance were completely, utterly normal. Which, of course, they are.

I wanted to write my book the same way, not because I dismiss the importance of discussing ethnic identity, immigration experiences, cultural assimilation, or racism (how could any thoughtful, rational, intelligent person dismiss those things?), but because I strongly believe that kids with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds shouldn’t have to subsist solely on a diet of books about what it means to be kids with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They need stories in which the characters look like them and have families like theirs, but also have fun, go on adventures, make stupid jokes, engage in immature stunts, and take on the occasional giant robot.

My kids are growing up in a spectacularly diverse community, and there are plenty of days in which the complexities of that diversity aren’t problems or issues – they’re simply part of their experience of the world.


Another issue weve talked about at this blog and in other kidlit communities is what Leila Sales called the Ol Dead Dad Syndrome in a PW article last year. So there are no dead parents in your novel! And parents actually play a major role! How did you balance this with the need to let your kid protagonists take on the active role in driving the plot?

A little secret: there actually was a dead parent in the manuscript when it was acquired! So initially I had the syndrome, but we worked through it during the editorial process. Broken record time – another measure of Arthur’s genius is his insight into the emotional core of a book, and one of the first things he told me was that the manuscript simply wouldn’t support the psychological weight of a dead parent, and fixing it would require turning it into an entirely different book. So I converted the dead dad into an example of that other parental trope, the emotionally absent workaholic, which worked much, much better.

Vincent’s parents were present in the story from the first time I wrote him, but Arthur really worked with me to give all of the characters more depth and nuance. That process resulted in a whole bunch of new relationships between different characters, and that’s how Vincent’s parents ended up playing such pivotal roles in the plot.


Ok, Ive been softballing you this far. Onto the hard questions but I like you, so Ill make em multiple choice:

Mike ukelele-serenading his book and his editor, while author/illustrator Dan Santat is so moved, he begins to dance

Solo superhero, one loyal ward/sidekick, or fan club/support team?

Fan club/support team, of course.

Genetic mutants, alien from another planet, or self-made depressed millionaire with gadgets?

Alien from another planet. Cultural diversity, you know. 😉

Evil Robot or Mad Scientist?

Why not both?

Superhuman strength or Telekinesis?

Telekinesis. It’s more subtle.

Tights or a mask and cape?

Mask and cape, PLEASE. The world will thank you for not giving me a pair of tights.


There are a lot of comic book style capitalized words with big letters like BOOM and WHAP in your novel. What were/are some of your favorite comics? (And in follow up – what were/are some of your favorite capitalized action words?)

My favorite superhero growing up was probably Spider-Man – angsty teenage kid who’s a social outsider and a bookworm? Yeah, I related. The Silver Surfer wasn’t far behind, though – he had a different kind of angst, but it was still one of his defining characteristics. Plus he was a guy with an indestructible silver skin riding on a cosmic surfboard, working for an interstellar entity that ate entire planets at a gulp. How can you lose?

I think of the capitalized action words in somewhat archetypical terms, so I don’t have too many examples that are truly ripped from the pages of a Silver Age Marvel or DC comic. But Nightcrawler’s teleportation-induced “BAMF!” is a classic, as is the “THWIP!” of Spidey’s web-shooters. In the realm of declarative statements, “HULK SMASH!” stands the test of time, “IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME” is an eternal winner, and of course there’ll always be “SHAZAM!”

Thank you so much for your time and for your hilarious, romp of book!

Thanks so much for having me! I’ve always been proud of the tiny role I played in helping launch the Mixed-Up Files, so this feels very much like a homecoming.


If you would like to qualify to **WIN** a copy of Mike’s book please leave a comment below telling us about YOUR favorite superhero within the next 24 hours! A winner will be announced tomorrow October 4 at noon! Don’t be late, because unlike that other caped crusader who shall remain nameless, Captain Stupendous can’t turn back time for you!


Sayantani DasGupta is both a geek and a girl, and she’s working on her secret identity. As a kid, she preferred Supergirl to Wonder Woman, although she did covet that invisible plane and the awesome wrist cuffs. When she’s not working on her MG and YA novels based on Indian folktales and myths, she’s hanging out with her own 8 and 10year old superheroes.