Welcome to the final stop on the Kids Comics Q&A blog tour! Check out the full tour schedule here. What is the Kids Comics Q&A blog tour? Here’s the description from the tour page:
Celebrate kids comics with Q&As with fantastic children’s cartoonists for Children’s Book Week! Join us as great authors talk about their own creative work and the graphic novel industry throughout April and May. Comics for kids are reaching a time of unprecedented acceptance in the American literary scene, and it’s now true that there are comics for everyone. All interviews are conducted by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado (Dragons Beware!).
I am so pleased to be closing out the tour with 5 Questions with Ben Hatke. My students love Zita the Space Girl!
RAFAEL/JORGE: Hi Ben we think you know already that we’re big fans of your work. And so is Claudette! Thanks for answering our questions.
BEN: You are 100% welcome. I love your work too!
QUESTION: Now that you’ve entered the world of picture books, do you find a big difference in how you develop a story, how you pace it, visualize it?
I have discovered that I love making picture books. It’s a challenge because they are such a condensed form of storytelling, but creating the art is SO MUCH FUN. Once I have a functional dummy book, I get to put on loud music and paint nice, full-page ink-and-watercolor illustrations. It’s refreshing not to be constrained by the many little panels of the comics page.
On the other hand, COMICS. You have a different kind of space in comics: space to draw out potent moments, to meander into small tangents and rollicking action scenes, space for emotions to play out on a character’s face over several panels.
But in the end, story is story. And I like picture books quite a lot. I’m happy to stay with picture books for as long as picture books will have me.
QUESTION: Are you always working on different projects at the same time? What’s a typical day like for you?
I am definitely always working on different projects at the same time. I usually have a front-burner project, a couple of back burner “developing” projects and a lark or two. (A “lark” would be something like my recent “Wolverine in the Wrong Costume” series).
For me a typical day usually starts when I wake up to the shocking realization that, yes, I live and work in a shambley farmhouse with five daughters. And we homeschool. After about 3/4 of a pot of espresso this seems less daunting.
When I’m not traveling, my mornings are usually spent in business-y pursuits, emails and dreams and lists. My afternoons are devoted to writing and drawing whatever project is on the front burner. Currently the front burner project is a graphic novel called Mighty Jack.
I still tend to pull a couple late shifts each week, where I work in the evenings after the kids go to bed.
I listen to a lot of music while I work, because with such a full house, headphones help me tune out all the activity. I treat Twitter as my water cooler, where I visit with people, post sketches and desk shots, and make small talk. (on Twitter I am @BenHatke).
QUESTION (FROM RAFAEL): As a father of daughters (like myself), do they provide inspiration for your stories and characters?
They really do! Having kids of various ages on had is also helpful because I can always grab one of them for a pose. For my last picture book I had my 7-year-old Julia stand in for a goblin character. In the scene the goblin was hiding under a mattress and a pile of blankets. Julia was very patient as I piled all these things on her.
QUESTION: What are you working on next?
Right now I’m working on a new graphic novel called Mighty Jack. It’s a story that I started drafting way back in 2006 or 2007 but stayed on the back burner for a long time. It’s a story about responsibility and summer love and adventures with magical produce. I had to grow as a storyteller before I was ready to tackle this one. That time has finally come.
After that I will be writing a prose novel.
QUESTION: What’s on your nightstand?
I just finished Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking and now I’m reading Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to be Free (required reading for the creative class in the internet age!), plus a couple of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. I’m going through a nonfiction phase. Sometimes I think nonfiction is the best fuel for writing fiction.
Ben Hatke’s first graphic novel was Zita the Spacegirl. He has published comics stories in the Flight series as well as Flight Explorer. In addition to writing and drawing comics, he also paints in the naturalist tradition and, occasionally, performs one-man fire shows. Hatke lives and works in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and their boisterous pack of daughters.
When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it’s all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day! #1 New York Times Bestselling author Ben Hatke brings his signature sweetness to a simple, moving story about friendship and overcoming fears that will appeal to readers of all ages.