Advertisement. Click on the ad for more information.
Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | comics

Telling a Story the Hard Way

Space Dumplinsby Vicki Palmquist

I’ve just finished reading the graphic novel Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson, with color by Dave Stewart (Graphix, 2015). I am overwhelmed by the work that went into this book. First off, it’s an engrossing, turn-the-page story with an appealing cast of characters. As readers, we care about what will happen. That’s a good start.

Now, imagine that you are sitting down with a pencil to sketch one of the spreads in this book. Perhaps you’ve picked the pages where Violet, our heroine, first gets a look at SHELL-TAR, the interior of the space station. You start by drawing the intricacies of the gleaming steampunk time clock and then you draw all of the activity going on inside the transparent transport tubes, large enough to accommodate personal spaceships. Next you fill in the many habitats, the globular trees, the people at the beach. Then you insert our cast of characters into the scene along with the robotic Chaperdrone (a babysitter). Whew. That’s a lot of drawing for two pages.

Of course, you’re providing this as a backdrop for the fast-paced story of three new friends, quick-witted, learning to work as a team, doing their best to save the people they love and their corner of the universe. You’ve already written the story, the script, and worked through the surprises that will delight your readers, making it a tight and believable hero’s journey set in the Mucky Way.

Violet, Zacchaeus, and Eliot are unlikely heroes except that Violet has a welcoming heart, a brave outlook on adventure, and an optimism as big as outer space. She can see qualities in her new friends that they can’t see themselves. Eliot, the chicken, is studious, introverted, widely read, and somewhat psychic. Zacchaeus, the last of the Lumpkins (well, almost the last, because space whales ate his planet) is chaotic, impulsive, and ready for a fight. All three of the friends are good at problem-solving, especially when they work together. The military can’t defeat the space whales: they can only clean up after them. It’s these three who figure out the true heart of the problem.

Craig Thompson Space Dumplins ballpoint

from Craig Thompson’s website, copyright Craig Thompson

Once you’ve sketched all of this, applied ballpoint pen, then brushed ink, you ask someone else to color everything in.  Together, you’re creating a book full of these story-telling images, richly colored, highly detailed, and ultimately believable as a look at life that’s really happening somewhere “out there.”

The rest of the main cast of characters include Violet’s parents, the reformed felon Gar and the fashion designer Cera, Gar’s fishing buddies Mr. Tinder and crew, Cera’s boss at the Fashion Factory, Master Adam Arnold, and the most inventive space vehicles I’ve ever seen. Every being (they’re not all human) in this book has a unique look. No cookie-cutter, repetitive characters to save on drawing time.

It’s a movie set on paper, except that you’ve had to conceive of, write, draw, and color every bit of it. There are no cameras and crew to bring your vision to life. Exhausted yet?

Even the endpapers are attention-riveting. The constellations fill the skies of Space Dumplins and they often make an appearance, reminding us that we share the same space even though the setting feels alien and wondrous.

early concept

early concept of spaceship, copyright Craig Thompson

You know those kids who are constantly doodling in class? They’ll love this book. And the kids who stay up long past their bedtimes trying to finish a chapter? They’ll love this book. And the kids who don’t know what to read next but they don’t want it to be boring? Yup, they’re gonna love it. Space Dumplins reads like a TV series, a movie, a video game, and a solid, exciting story all between book covers. Brilliant.

Asides:

Be sure to notice the homage to a number of cultural icons in this book. H.A. Rey’s The Constellations? Strange Brew? Spaceballs? And the real Trike (it exists!).

Be sure to read Craig Thompson’s answers to Five Questions on The Book Rat‘s blog. You’ll find out how long it took him to create Space Dumplins.

For a look at what Craig Thompson is working on and where he’s appearing, visit his website.

Read more...

Bookstorm: The Shadow Hero

Bookstorm-Shadow-Hero-Diagram-655px

In this Bookstorm™:

Shadow HeroShadow Hero

written by Gene Luen Yang
illustrated by Sonny Liew
First Second, 2014

As we become a culture adapted to screens, visuals, and moving pictures, we grow more accustomed to the storytelling form of the graphic novel. For some, their comfort with this combination of visuals and text telling a story satisfies a craving to “see” the story while they’re reading. For others, the lack of descriptive detail and measured, linear momentum through the story feels like a barrier to understanding. With the variety of graphic novels available and the inventive ways in which they’re assembled, we encourage you to keep trying. Find a story that intrigues you and persevere … we believe you’ll grow accustomed to this form. In time, you’ll add graphic novels to the depth of offerings you eagerly recommend to students, patrons, and friends.

We selected Shadow Hero for our featured book this month because the superhero has been present in comics since the early 1900s and current films and television have reawakened an interest among children that we believe can easily transport them into reading. Yang and Liew have given a back story to a superhero, The Green Turtle, originally created by talented comic book artist (and fine artist) Chu Fook Hing in the 1940s. There’s plenty of action, humor, mystery, and suspense in this new book … all the right ingredients for the best reading.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Shadow Hero, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes, interests, and reading abilities. Shadow Hero will be comfortably read by ages 10 through adult. We’ve included picture books, novels, and nonfiction for the plethora of purposes you might have.

Graphic Novels About Superheroes. With the popularity of The Avengers and X-Men, Iron Man and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there are a number of graphic novels about superheroes available for different ages. Some have mature content. Many are accessible for younger readers. Whether or not they’re wearing capes, superheroes are appealing because of the possibilities.

Graphic Novels About Mythology. The Green Turtle is a part of Chinese mythology. We hear a lot about Greek and Roman mythology, but there are compelling myths around the world. Graphic novels make those traditions and stories available to readers who might have trouble with straight text.

Fiction about Superheroes. Longer texts, without illustrations, often hold as much attraction for comic book readers if the stories are engaging. And there are picture books that are just right for the readers who are too young for graphic novels but have the interest.

Comic Books, Nonfiction. Whether it’s learning how two boys came to invent Superman, the superhero from Krypton, or examining infographics and statistics, or listening to a podcast with Gene Luen Yang on public radio about his inspiration, The Green Turtle, there’s a lot of research and learning to be done with superheroes.

Drawing. For those kinetic and visual learners, telling a story through drawing, populating a page with characterization and setting and voice is a way to use comic book art for developing writing skills.

Chinese History. There are many, many books, some of them quite scholarly, about Chinese history. We’ve selected just two, both of which are also visual histories.

Chinese Art. China is such a large country, with a civilization that is thousands of years old, that these books organize the information in order to present the diversity of arts in a way that makes sense.

Chinese Immigration. There are fine books about the immigration of Chinese and Asian Pacific people to America, the Golden Mountain. We’ve selected a few, from picture books to novels to memoir. 

Chinese Food. Readers learn a great deal about different cultures from the food they eat, their traditions for preparing food, and the ways they share it with their community. We’ve found cookbooks for both learning and eating, for adults and for children.

Chinese Geography. It always helps to have a good map to reinforce the visual knowledge of a country. You’ll find suggestions for maps, downloads, photos, and facts about this large country in Asia.

Techniques for using each book:

Downloadables

Read more...
Return of Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Ben Hatke can’t conceive of, write, and draw these stories fast enough for me—and a host of other fans. Just released, this book follows Zita the Spacegirl (2010) and Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (2012). Doing the math, I know I won’t be reading the next installment until 2016. Whahhh. I’ve read so many stories […]

Read more...