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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.

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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

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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 […]

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