Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers (aka Metaphrog) have been creating graphic novels like THE RED SHOES and THE LITTLE MERMAID for over two decades. They recently penned an overview of their lengthy career on their own blog and they were kind enough to give us permission to reprint that article here. It’s a fascinating look at the development of two truly unique artists.
20 Years Since Our First Comic!
Unbelievably, this month sees the 20th anniversary of our very first comic. When we met in 1994 we started working on comics together almost right away and, after creating several short comic stories, eventually collected them in our first comic Strange Weather Lately – Martin Nitram #1 in December 1996. We brought this out with limited edition lino prints in silver and the tagline: “Stories from the surreal yet unnervingly real world of Martin Nitram”. We jumped up and down a bit when Diamond Comic Distributors agreed to distribute it through their Previews catalogue.
Thus began our career in comics. At the time we were told our comic was the wrong size (we’d had it printed A4). But we didn’t really care – we hadn’t even thought at the time about comic shops and their coffins or boxes for storing American comic sized titles. Indeed we knew very little about the workings of the comic market. The comic quickly sold out. (There doesn’t even seem to be any copies on ebay now!).
We followed this up with The Maze and then with a longer and more intricate Strange Weather Lately story arc published as bimonthly comics and gathered them all in our first graphic novels in 1998 and 1999. At the time, the Scotsman newspaper ran a “Who to Watch” feature on us and we were interview on the radio for The Brian Morton Show.
Our first comic,
Strange Weather Lately
Extract from Strange
Weather Lately #1
Strange Weather Lately
Between 1999 and 2011 we worked on the Louis series of graphic novels. Louis – Red Letter Day was originally intended to be a one off but we realised how much we loved the character and working with the Louis world that five more books followed. Much to our amazement we received nominations for the Eisner Awards and also the Ignatz Awards and international acclaim. We were delighted to receive coverage in mainstream media as many places didn’t really review comics or graphic novels in the early 2000s. Our Louis books, perhaps because they were so different and a bit strange, found their way into publications like i-D (where Kodwo Eshun described Louis – Red Letter Day as “a seriously spaced enigma”), The Guardian (with a column on our work by Julie Burchill), SFX, Art Review, New Internationalist, The Herald, Creative Review among many others. Our comic/music/animation project with hey and mum and the Fat Cat record label, Louis – Dreams Never Die, was featured on the late, great John Peel’s radio show along with his beloved The Fall and even received a lengthy write-up in Liberation in France.
The Guardian – Julie Burchill – 2003
The Scotsman 1999
The Herald 2004
In 2002 Louis – The Clown’s Last Words was the first graphic novel ever to receive funding from the Scottish Arts Council. The Scottish Arts Council became Creative Scotland and they have continued to be very supportive of our work.
The Louis graphic novels (2000-2011)
Looking back now it is truly hard to believe that it’s been 20 years already! Since then we’ve devoted all our waking hours to making graphic novels and comics. Naturally, there have been ups and down, disappointments, rejections and moments of elation. When we started we were both determined to make a living from our work, from being a writer and artist, but had absolutely no idea if this was even possible or indeed how we’d go about it. Comics weren’t even respected back then, and many people thought they were just for kids, or just trash. Initially in the UK and US, we kept on being told that our work was too European, while in Europe, and in France particularly (even though Sandra is French) we were told that our comics were too Scottish. This is possibly because we were feeding them potato scones. Now things have changed and more people see comic and graphic novels as art.
This year saw us win the Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards 2016 for Best Visual Artist. It felt like a real achievement and a great way to celebrate the anniversary of our first publication. And we still don’t take anything for granted.
We’re delighted to be creating new work with support from Creative Scotland and are working with Papercutz, who published The Red Shoes and Other Tales in late 2015, and who will be publishing our graphic novel adaptation of The Little Mermaid in April 2017.
BARBIE:”Puppy Party” writer Danica Davidson drew inspiration from her own life for her first Papercutz graphic novel. Are you ready to meet her dog, Porthos?
Puppies and comic books are two things I really love, so that made it a blast for me to write BARBIE:”Puppy Party”. When I was trying to come up with an idea that would involve Barbie, her sisters and their new puppies Honey, DJ, Taffy and Rookie, I got inspiration from my own dog and his story.
Meet my beagle Porthos. He’s named after the beagle on Star Trek: Enterprise, who’s named after the Musketeer Porthos in The Three Musketeers. (He is a very literary dog, though he doesn’t know it.) I adopted Porthos from my local shelter about three years ago, when he was one. Before that, he’d been a stray.
Now he’s a very happy dog who likes to sniff everything and he sleeps by my feet while I write. (He’s sleeping there right now as I type this. What do you think he’s dreaming?) I thought maybe Barbie and her sisters could help shelter dogs find forever homes. I like to help animals, so I thought Barbie and her sisters would enjoy it, too!
So in “Puppy Party”, Barbie finds a lost dog and then learns about the dogs and cats needing homes in the shelter. She puts together a big puppy party to find them all homes and to help the lost dog find his owner. Adopting a dog makes a big difference in their life. Not everyone is able to adopt a pet, but there are also other ways to help out, as Barbie and her sisters find out. You know what else I love besides puppies and comic books? Happy endings, especially for our furry friends.
San Diego Comic Con aka ComicCon International is now just three weeks away! If you’re one of the lucky few (thousand) who will be at San Diego this year, don’t pass up the chance to stop by our booth, #1720! Papercutz is taking advantage of the opportunities provided with SDCC to make a couple of exciting announcements about upcoming projects, and to do one of the things we do best: give you free stuff! The centerpiece of our promotional items will be SLICEZ, a free 96 page sampler featuring bite-size chunks of all your favorite Papercutz graphic novels. We’ll also be handing out other goodies like TROLLS movie posters, LUNCH WITCH lunch bags filled with all sorts of creepy concoctions and even some items related to our brand new imprint that launches in 2017 (details are hush hush until the show)!
While we love the freebies, we also want to make sure that fans have a chance to do something that’s become harder and harder at the show in recent years – read great comics! So we’ve set up a special “Reading Nook” in our booth featuring comfy chairs and bookshelves stacked with all your favorite Papercutz graphic novels. When the press of the convention floor becomes too much or you just want to lose yourself in a great graphic novel, come by booth #1720 and remind yourself what being a comics fan is all about!
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm – Chris Savino and Jordan Rosato (signing exclusive THE LOUD HOUSE mini-comics)
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm – Eric Esquivel & Sam Spina
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm – Stuart Moore
Want even more Nickelodeon goodness? A bunch of your favorite creators will also be signing at the Nickelodeon booth on Sunday. Here are the details:
Current Series Signing ft. Chris Savino (Loud House), C.H. Greenblatt (Harvey Beaks), Johnny Ryan, Dave Cooper and David Sacks (Pig Goat Banana Cricket):Sunday, 7/24 from 10:30a-12:00p at the Nickelodeon Booth
Make sure you stay tuned to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for even more announcements and updates as we get closer to the show.
Acclaimed Web Publisher Emet Comics YA/Fantasy Graphic Novel to be New Super Genius Title
You’re 16-years old and recovering from a tragic car accident. Everyone tells you that your brother is dead but you keep seeing visions of him being carried in to the clouds by a mysterious flying boy. And the visions don’t stop there. You see shadowy figures, pirates, other worlds. Are you going crazy? Even your therapist isn’t sure. That’s why she wants you to draw your visions in a journal. That’s why she wants you to start THE WENDY PROJECT.
In Spring 2016 Papercutz scored a major hit with their publication of David Gallaher and Steve Ellis’ THE ONLY LIVING BOY, a title that began life as a web comic. So it’s no surprise that the company would be on the lookout for other digital properties that could successfully transition to the print graphic novel format. Enter McDuffie award nominees Emet Comics and their online sensation THE WENDY PROJECT. After the company’s agent, Dara Hyde, sent materials to Papercutz publisher Terry Nantier; the two companies quickly agreed that THE WENDY PROJECT should be the latest title in Papercutz’s Super Genius imprint.
Created by Melissa Jane Osborne (Campus Crush) and featuring stunning artwork by Veronica Fish (now the lead artist on Archie), THE WENDY PROJECT is a new take on the Peter Pan story and a coming of age tale with just the right amount of magic. Readers will be drawn to the compelling story and will empathize with Wendy as she seeks to answer the all-important question – is her journal just the imaginings of a troubled teen … or is it a portal to another world?
Papercutz is rapidly gaining a reputation for one of the most diverse lists in graphic novel publishing, and Emet CEO Maytal Gilboa believes that THE WENDY PROJECT is a natural addition to their line. “It’s been exciting to see the emergence of both female creators and diverse characters in the graphic novel category,” observed Gilboa. “And Papercutz has been at the forefront of this trend with titles like Deb Lucke’s THE LUNCH WITCH and Jessica Abel’s (upcoming) graphic novel TRISH TRASH. At Emet, our motto is ‘Comics by women, for everyone’ and Papercutz shares that sensibility. That’s why we chose to go with them for our first print project”
Papercutz Editor-in Chief Jim Salicrup admits he was sold as soon as he saw Veronica Fish’s beautiful artwork. “I’ve been a fan of Veronica’s since I first came across PIRATES OF MARS. But I think she’s taken her work to a new level with THE WENDY PROJECT. Her use of color reminded me of classic films like Powell & Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death, and I was hooked immediately. Reading Melissa’s moving story sealed the deal. I knew this was something we had to publish.”
PAPERCUTZ Publisher Terry Nantier feels Papercutz’s acquisition of THE WENDY PROJECT reflects a natural progression in both the company’s publishing and the interests of its readers. “As the longtime publisher of the DISNEY FAIRIES’ graphic novels, I know how involved kids can get with the world of Peter Pan,” he explained. “We created Super Genius to provide options for those readers of those books and other kids’ graphic novels as they got older. But we also wanted Super Genius titles to appeal to adult graphic novel readers as well. I can’t imagine a more perfect fit for this imprint than THE WENDY PROJECT.”
Papercutz will publish THE WENDY PROJECT as a stand-alone graphic novel in Spring 2017, and both Gilboa and Nantier are committed to creating a final product that highlights the beauty of its source material. “We’re talking about all sorts of different options that will really make this an ‘object of desire’,” explained Gilboa. “We want to create a book that will thrill existing fans and prove irresistible to new readers as well.” Added Nantier, “From Melissa and Veronica to the entire editorial and production team, everyone working on this book is going out of their way to create something truly special.”
Leading Comics Publisher to Develop Series of New Graphic Novels Based on #1 Fashion Doll
Global toy leader Mattel (NASDAQ: MAT) today announced a new partnership with Papercutz, “the #1 Kids’ Graphic Novel Publisher”. The agreement gives Papercutz rights to create comics based on the company’s BARBIE character, the best-selling fashion doll that has become a cultural icon.
The new partnership will let Papercutz create new material based on the hit BARBIE media properties and on the core franchise. The goal is to provide a range of graphic novels that complement the many ways that children interact with Barbie—from animated movies to interactive media to traditional toys—and to reflect the modern sensibilities and focus on diversity that Mattel has brought to the franchise.
The first three titles slated for launch as graphic novels are an eponymous BARBIE series and individual volumes based on the BARBIE STARLIGHT and BARBIE PUPPY ADVENTURE DVD movies. BARBIE and BARBIE: PUPPY PARTY will launch in September 2016, with BARBIE STARLIGHT following in October. All three series will be available in both paperback and hardcover. These three properties are just the start of the ambitious Mattel/Papercutz publishing program. Plans call for more series to debut in the first half of 2017, with new installments and new series appearing each season.
“BARBIE is one of the great kids’ properties, and I couldn’t imagine a better addition to our publishing lineup,” explained Papercutz Publisher Terry Nantier. “There’s never been a more exciting time to be a BARBIE fan, and we can’t wait to be a part of her new adventures. As Mattel guides the character in to new situations and life experiences, these new graphic novels will play a pivotal role in telling her story. Together, we’re going to create a series of publications that will delight and thrill a whole new generation of BARBIE fans.”
BARBIE VOL. 1 and BARBIE: PUPPY PARTY VOL. 1 will be on sale at comicbook stores, online retailers and bookstores everywhere on September 13th.
Brattleboro illustrator hits home run with “Fuzzy Baseball”
By Michelle Stephens
Special to the Reformer
POSTED: 04/17/2016 05:23:08 PM EDT | UPDATED: 10 DAYS AGO
BRATTLEBORO >> Fourteen years ago, Brattleboro author and illustrator John Steven Gurney first shared a 32-page concept for a children’s book to his writer’s group. Fourteen years ago he expanded this concept to a 48-age reader and submitted it to a publishing company. Fourteen years ago, he got his first rejection for what would become “Fuzzy Baseball.”
Not one to quit, Gurney made some changes to his reader after a handful of rejections. He turned his early chapter book into a graphic novel and started his research. He submitted to agents and editors who focused on graphic novels.
The rejections kept coming.
“I felt like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football. Like every time they go, this is it, this is the perfect spot! Then, you know …” Gurney chuckles as he makes falling motions with his arms.
Growing up in Bucks County, Penn., Gurney always knew he wanted to be an illustrator. Becoming an author came as a product of that dream. “It is kind of like Woody Allen says, ‘I want to write the movies I want to see.’ So, I want to write the stories I want to illustrate.”
After a few more rejections (these a bit more encouraging), he decided to expand his 48 page graphic novel to 56 pages. Hoping that this new, longer book would be better received he submitted again.
During this time Gurney had other projects he was working on. In 2002 he had a children’s book, Dinosaur Train, published. That process had gone smoothly and he was picked up rather quickly. He had assumed that “Fuzzy Baseball” would follow a similar course. When it didn’t, he decided to shelve it for a while.
Not one to give up, Gurney decided to revisit his graphic novel. “As an illustrator, your ultimate goal is to create your own content,” he explains. So, he kept pushing for this book.
His 56-page graphic novel was reworked and condensed into a 32 page picture book he titled “Full Count.” It was also rejected.
Meanwhile, Gurney was traveling to schools, giving presentations about his works as an illustrator and author. He would be in libraries and notice the growing graphic novel section. He felt like his book would fit. “It seemed like a matter of time before I got it in front of the right person,” he said, not deterred by the growing pile of rejection letters.
Going back to the graphic novel format, Gurney was on the verge of publishing “Fuzzy Baseball” himself. He knew kids would love it. He spent many years reading baseball picture books to his own children. He knew that, while they were entertaining, they lacked the details his included. They didn’t have real rules or strategies that young ball players could relate to.
The main character of “Fuzzy Baseball” is a young female possum who is the Fernwood Valley Fuzzies baseball team’s super fan. They aren’t doing so well so she decides to train and join the team, bringing them to victory. It is a funny tale of perennial losers and perpetually optimistic fans and never giving up hope despite the long odds that Gurney hoped would appeal to children of all ages but especially third graders.
Gurney and his perpetual optimism and fortitude for his book submitted one more time. This time to a small publishing company that specialized in graphic novels, Papercutz. Almost immediately they responded with an enthusiastic yes.
After nearly 20 rejection letters, “Fuzzy Baseball” had finally hit a home run.
“Fuzzy Baseball” had a publish date set for May 3, 2016. Now through May 31, Gurney’s art from the graphic novel can be seen on display outside the Children’s Library at Brooks Memorial Library, on the third floor.
At 6 p.m. on June 17, 2016 Gurney will be doing a book signing at Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro.
Artist Steve Ellis Explains How His Experiences as a Father Shape the World of THE ONLY LIVING BOY
Like his co-creator David Gallaher, artist Steve Ellis has penned a meaningful essay on how parenthood has shaped his approach to his art. This article originally appeared on the ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY website and we thank them for allowing us to reprint it here.
Back in 2009, when David Gallaher and I first started collaborating on what would later become a series of graphic novels called The Only Living Boy, we envisioned our story in the vein of ‘I Am Legend,’ as the story of a young boy, alone in a big city, fighting zombies. We created a two-page proof of concept strip, brought it to San Diego Comic Con International, and circulated it around the internet. Not much came of it.
After letting it breathe for a few years, we revisited the idea and added in more of ourselves, letting the idea evolve. Rather than telling the story of a survivor in a grim, unrelenting zombie apocalypse, we focused on telling the story of an explorer discovering a wonderful and mysterious new world. As an added wrinkle, we stripped our new hero of his memory, removing any skills, knowledge, and cynicism he might have. As Erik Farrell, our 12 year old adventurer, discovered the world, he’d discover more about himself as well. It is a world filled with monsters, mad science, and mayhem.
Alone on patchwork planet, Erik is an alien in a world that has been moving on without him, who rightly or wrongly becomes an agent of change. Despite the challenges he faces, Erik isn’t prone to violence. As the parent of both a boy and a girl, that’s something I find really inspirational about the character. We live in a world of violence and conflict. It fills our newsfeeds and our entertainment. David and I wanted to create a character who had to negotiate his surroundings, think his way out of challenges, and forge new bonds across all walks of life. He stands up for what is right and what is just without jumping into battle at a moment’s notice.
Male characters in comics are often depicted as tough. They are muscular, one-dimensional characters whose fists speak for them. These portrayals in the media left me wondering why there were so few characters that were modeled after what it is like to be a ‘whole’ person. As jaded, cynical thinking made its way into characters like Superman — who would rather kill an enemy than look for a solution to a problem — what other heroes were out there for my son to admire?
Raising our children in Ithaca, my wife and I found ourselves involved in the Adventure Playground movement. In the early 1940s, an enlightened approach to play was developed in Lancashire, England. Traditional swings, slides, and see-saws were replaced by asymmetrical wooden structures, discarded buses, and abandoned train cars. These ‘junk playgrounds’ became a crucial factor in producing a more imaginative and exciting approach to children’s play.
One of the only Adventure Playgrounds in America — The Anarchy Zone — is figuratively in our own backyard. With giant ponds of mud to splash in, massive trees to climb on, and giant tires to swing on, it’s become a place that I’ve come to care about a lot. When my kids would come home covered in dirt and mud, I could tell that they had a great time. That sense of adventure and danger has helped my children understand their place in the natural world. They’ve learned self-reliance, independence, conflict resolution skills and gained a broader understanding of their place in the ecosystem.
We’re telling a similar, fictional, story in The Only Living Boy. Without skills or memories to call upon, Erik often relies on his wits and his developing code of ethical behavior. As he learns from the world around him, he is able to understand the cultures, traditions, and beliefs of others. He doesn’t let racial and societal prejudices influence his growth. He’s a thoughtful kid whose first response to adversity isn’t “punch first, ask questions later.”
It might seem naive to believe that a kind character, like Erik, could be a powerful one. Erik’s predecessors — Harry Potter and Captain America — show that kindness isn’t a weakness; it’s a virtue. I think it’s even more heroic when someone with no natural advantages still stands up and fights for what he believes in. Erik is that sort of character.
Erik may be the only living boy — but he is not alone. Joining him on his quest are Morgan and Thea, two female characters who are as vital to the story as Erik is. Strong, emotionally complex, and filed with their own share of insecurities, they compliment Erik, providing the resources and skills he lacks. Morgan, a valiant and arrogant mermaid warrior, has put herself in harm’s way to protect a tribe that doesn’t believe in her. Thea — the noble insect princess — lives in shame and fear of the monster she will one day become. They, like Erik, are trying to find their own place in the world.
And the world they inhabit — Chimerika — is an amalgam of thousands of alien worlds forged together into a single patchwork planet. Ruled by the Dreaded Lord Baalikar, the mysterious Doctor Once, and the Consortium, thousands of creatures have found themselves fighting for their very survival in this dangerous new landscape. This trinity of villains feels profoundly threatened by Erik and his friends. Each driven by their own agenda, they seek to stop him by any means necessary. As with our heroes, we’ve created a set of villains who will grow and develop over time. We can’t wait to share their backstories and their secret origins with our readers.
The Only Living Boy offers adventure, excitement, and inspiration unlike anything else being published today. We don’t shy away from pain, struggle and adversity. David and I are working together to create something for readers that will build psychological resilience, challenge their preconceptions, and encourage them to courageously follow their own paths. We want this generation of readers to be versatile, malleable and able to find strength in problem solving. We want our readers to go out into the world and challenge themselves — find new things, get hurt, make mistakes, pick themselves up and try again.
These are the lessons I teach my children… and the lessons David and I are teaching our characters. As Erik grows into the character I want my kids to admire, my children are growing into the adults other children will admire.
David Gallaher and Steve Ellis’ ongoing scifi webcomic The Only Living Boy follows Erik Farrell, a 12-year-old lost on a strange alien world after he runs away from home. Writing for io9, Gallaher reveals the personal tragedy that inspired Erik’s story—and how being diagnosed with epilepsy transformed the way he wrote comics.
My Winter Beard had gone from “sexy lumberjack” to “backwoods survivalist” in a manner of days. When I used to work a steady office job, my beard was like a giant sweater, it would protect my delicate face from the savage city winds and arctic temperatures. These days, I work from home and have no need for such robust facial follicle-ry. But since the Groundhog predicted an early Spring, I opted to go to the barbershop to rid myself of the beard before it ventured into “sea captain” territory.
The shop I go to is a very traditional, family-owned place that serves a glass of bourbon with every hot towel shave. I walk in, say my hellos, and take a seat. “Shave the beard,” I tell the guy before he even asks. I pause to take off my hat. “And shave everything up top too,” I tell him, pointing to my head. The barber stands silent for a minute. “This scar? How did you get it?”
I hate it.
What do I say about a scar that runs the entire width of my skull? Do I lie? Say something adventurous and clever? Parachute accident? CIA experimenting gone wrong? Do I say nothing? Try and ignore it? Casually, people have come up to me assuming it was a cancer wound.
“My brother has a scar like that, from a landmine,” he confesses.
“Skull surgery,” I relent as I let him take a straight razor to my face.
It wasn’t just a simple skull surgery. Doctors call it “craniosynostosis.” It’s a birth defect that left my head malformed. I had life-saving corrective surgery, but it left me with lifelong scars, developmental delays, and brain damage. It also left me with a seizure disorder—temporal lobe epilepsy—that colors and informs so many of the stories I tell for a living.
Before my epilepsy was diagnosed, I did my best to keep the symptoms secret from other people. My inattentiveness was blamed on daydreaming or ADHD. My nausea was blamed on a spastic colon or food allergies. I’d have to pack spare underwear in my book bag because I never knew when I would accidentally crap my pants or pee myself. To avoid the mocking and the name-calling, I’d do my best to try and cover things up. I was too ashamed to admit that I had no control over my body. I let the shame alienate me from forming any lasting friendships.
As I grew up, I learned how to better bluff my way through blackouts, accidents, or unexplained behavior. I’d stumble my way through schoolwork, get frustrated at my teachers, and get angry at myself for forgetting assignments or spacing out on a test. Administrators would threaten my parents with placing me in Special Ed classes or trying to get me place somewhere else entirely.
But, everybody has a tough time in high school, right? Puberty does strange things to all of us. I did my best to rationalize my inconsistent behavior, but never felt comfortable talking about how it made me feel on the inside.
As an undergraduate, I majored in neurology and education. I became fascinated by authors like Oliver Sacks, who helped put a face on neurological disorders with books like An Anthologist on Mars and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. I took upper-level classes on biopsychology, psychopharmacology, behavior modification, and abnormal psychology. I learned a lot about how the brain worked and even got to cut a few of them open to study the effects of tardive dyskinesia. Classes in education lead me to teach Special Education classes to children with autism, childhood schizophrenia, and disintegrative psychosis. I spent five years teaching before deciding to follow another passion of mine—writing.
“Write what you know,” is the clichéd piece of advice first-time writers get. The truth was I never felt like I knew or understood myself. And I was certainly in no place to write about it. My stomach pains and cramps worsened. Doctors suspected Crohn’s Disease, ulcers, and food allergies. I had intestinal surgery to treat the suspected problem. I had hallucinations, visions, and impulse control problems that I’d attribute to having too much coffee. There’s this mythology that writers are supposed to be a little peculiar or eccentric, but it was all a little too much for me, but I kept on keeping on.
One night, after a date, I passed out. My head smashed up against the window of the Gramercy Dinner. I woke up several days later at NYU Medical Center. Doctors and nurses shaved my head, wired me up to a machine, plugged me into a bunch of monitors, strapped me to a bed, and placed me in the Epilepsy Ward, where I was monitored for over a week for abnormal brain activity. Because of HIPAA laws and hospital regulations, my family, my roommate, and my friends had no idea where I was or what had become of me. I was declared a missing person.
Inside my hospital room, I felt like a missing person. As the Manchurian Candidate played on public television, I found myself filled with delusions and crippling anxiety. What was happening to my body? What was happening to my mind?
When the nurses moved me from the Epilepsy Ward to the Cardiac Ward, I was able to reconnect with my family and friends. Thankfully, most of the wires and straps were gone, but the anxiety was still there. My experiences left me changed.
For the next two weeks, I wrote from my hospital bed. I scribbled down the overwhelming sense of isolation and paranoia I felt. I wrote about the uncertainty. I wrote about the horrible food. The rapid weight-loss. The silent nurses that would parade around my bed during twilight hours. And about the time I flatlined in my room. Those experiences became the foundation of BOX 13—the neo-noir thriller that Steve Ellis and I developed for comiXology.
I entered the hospital on August 1st, 2004; I was released 25 days later. I entered weighing 200 pounds. I left weighing 130 pounds. I came in wearing the clothes on my back, I left with a backpack full of narcotics and pharmaceuticals and a copy of Ender’s Game that was given to me as a gift. I was banned from swimming, video games, driving, alcohol, and coffee. I was given a diagnosis sheet that was 17 pages long. I would have felt broken if it wasn’t for one man, Oliver Sacks, who came to speak with me a few days before I was discharged. I don’t even remember what all we talked about, but he said something nice that stuck with me, “I think you’ll do great things.” Maybe he said that to every patient. Maybe I’m misremembering. All I know is that it made me smile.
Two weeks after I was discharged, I was back in the hospital. Two days after that I was in the hospital. Four days after that I was in the hospital. From August of 2004 to September of 2005, I spent a total 155 days in the hospital. When my epilepsy was at its worst, I was having up to nine seizures a day. I wasn’t expected to see my 30th birthday. Things got very bad for me.
My recovery didn’t happen overnight. It happened over the course of several years. Physical therapy helped with the pain management from the damage the seizures did to my body. Cognitive therapy helped improve my judgment and executive functions. Counseling helped me deal with the emotional challenges I would face trying to adapt to my condition.
The side-effect of multiple traumatic brain injuries was a loss of long-term memories, including nearly all of my childhood memories. While I could remember certain names and landmarks, I had difficulty recalling events surrounding those people and those places.
When it came to continuing my writing career, I found myself making more mistakes, typing slower, and often miscommunicating. I found it difficult to hold multiple ideas in my head at once. I became depressed and heartbroken at how my life had become so disrupted. I wrestled with tremendous physical, emotional, and mental setbacks, some comical… others not so much. It was hard to find any meaning or purpose in life.
Journaling my progress became the beacon to my recovery. I started capturing, through words, the moments when I was memory-less. Without the burden of memories, I found myself enjoying life a little more. My recovery stopped being a slog and became more like a video game, where I’d spend every day leveling up.
A month after a major hospital stint, I found myself well enough to rejoin the working world. I took a position at an advertising firm, where the day-to-day structure facilitated my recovery. As my health recovered, I found myself working hand-in-hand with the New York City Police Department. On my way from the NYPD focus group, I found myself wondering through the film set of I Am Legend. I found myself lost trying to piece together my memories of the story. Was it related to the Vincent Price movie or the Charlton Heston films? As I tried to make sense of my environment, Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” popped up on my iPod.
The song triggered something profound in me. I found myself lost in my imagination, in a world that was equal parts Jungle Book, TheIsland of Doctor Moreau, and Flash Gordon. A fantastical landscape littered with monsters, exotic locales, and esoteric alien races. And the hero? The Only Living Boy left in the world.
When thinking about Erik Farrell—the protagonist of the series—Steve Ellis and I went back and forth on his age. After a series of conversations, we settled on 12, which we felt would be the right age developmentally for many of the story challenges we had in store for our hero. Being a pre-teen is tough — you’re constantly filled with anxiety about growing up and feel torn between being mature and still being a kid. And when a child experiences something traumatic at this age? It can pull their whole world apart.
Getting deeper into The Only Living Boy we recognized the importance of having a villain, who was riddled with scars of his own. Doctor Once became that character—a medical monstrosity who transforms others into tormented monsters. He’s gnarly in appearance, and plays into our fear of doctors and the scars they leave behind.
When people ask me about my own scar, I try to not dwell. I try not to feel broken. I try not to feel like a monster. People don’t want to hear unpleasant things. So, I deflect, downplay, laugh or squirm my way out of talking about it when I can. I avoid talking about the depression, the frustration, and the anger I have over my own medical condition. When I don’t talk about my scar, these are the things I don’t talk about.
Critically acclaimed creator Jessica Abel’s answers the question in her latest graphic novel Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars
The settings of Jessica Abel’s work have run the gamut from the streets of Mexico City to the neighborhoods of Los Angeles to behind the scenes at NPR. But this fall she’s breaking new ground. And that ground happens to be on another planet.
Abel’s latest graphic novel, Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars is the powerful, positive, and politically aware story of a seven-and-a-half year old girl on Mars (that’s 15 in Earth years). Like most Martys, she and her family struggle to survive. The Mars colony where she lives has become a company town, where the omnipresent Arex corporation keeps humans indentured through a combination of debt and water rationing. Her aunt is struggling to eke out a living as a moisture farmer and her parents went missing on an anthropological mission over a year ago. Trish dreams of escaping her dreary existence by becoming a hover derby star with the local Boreale Bombers. But even if she could make the team, she’s too young to get a contract, and her family is going broke faster than her escape velocity.
So when a half-dead native Martian shows up on her doorstep, that seems like the last thing Trish needs. But choosing to nurse her back to health rather than call the MarsGuard turns out to have all kinds of world-altering after effects. And truly becoming Rollergirl of Mars takes on new urgency, in ways Trish could never predict.
Part science fiction, part rollicking adventure story, Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars is also a compelling character study of a young girl who feels trapped by the circumstances of her birth and economic situation. The series also tackles issues of diversity and prejudice head on. In addition to featuring a multi-racial lead character, it also explores issues of prejudice and social injustice through the relationship between the humans and the native Martians who appear in the book. Its universal themes will resonate with tweens, teens and older readers in a way that only the best young adult fiction does. It’s a unique graphic novel and Abel was very selective in picking an English language publishing partner.
Abel explains, “I felt the story of Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars had the potential to reach a wide audience and I knew I wanted to work with a publisher who had strong relationships with the librarians and booksellers who could really generate word of mouth for the series. I’ve long admired the work that Terry Nantier and the Papercutz team have done establishing graphic novels in libraries, schools and other channels where they can reach a wide range of readers. So when I was looking for a partner for this series, they seemed like a natural fit.”
Papercutz Publisher Terry Nantier feels Papercutz’s acquisition of Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars reflects a natural progression in the company’s evolution. “Trish’s story is exactly the type of book I had in mind when we created the Super Genius imprint for Papercutz,” Nantier explained. “While its content and themes are more sophisticated than our traditional Papercutz fare, it’s got a strong appeal for the tween+ audience. Jessica has a unique voice and point of view and we’re proud to add her to our roster of creators. The same readers who eagerly consumed the humorous adventures of THE LUNCH WITCH and the gorgeous imagery of Metaphrog’s THE RED SHOES AND OTHER TALES will snap this up. And young readers who’ve read our more adventure-driven fare like NANCY DREW and SCARLETT will gravitate to this next stage in their reading development.”
Papercutz plans to release the first volume in this three-volume series as an oversized graphic novel in November 2016. But since Abel has been working on the book for a number of years, she’s already created some compelling material to accompany the book’s original publication in France. As a result, eager readers can get a number of cool “sneak previews” of what to expect from her latest offering. Abel has established Tumblr and Facebook pages dedicated to the series and she publishes a Trish Trash newsletter. Fans can also read a 10-page excerpt from the first volume (in English) on the author’s website (http://jessicaabel.com/books/trish-trash-rollergirl-of-mars/). Even more bonus material is being planned for the book’s publication this fall.
“I’m in conversations with the Papercutz marketing team about all sorts of new goodies”, enthused Abel. “We plan to dive a lot deeper into the roller derby culture and create some cool stuff that focuses on that. And, of course, I’m all about the mechanics of storytelling. So I’m sure there will be a lot more “behind the scenes” material for fans to dive into. I really want to make reading Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars an immersive experience.”
“We’ve got a terrific mix of great characters, great content and great creators here”, noted Papercutz publisher Terry Nantier. “I’m looking forward to sharing Jessica’s latest work with her fans and sharing Trish’s story with a whole new audience of graphic novel readers.”
Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars Vol. 1 will be available in bookstores and comic book stores across the United States and Canada on November 15th, 2016. To find a comic shop near you go to http://www.comicshoplocator.com/ or dial 1-888-COMIC BOOK.
THE RED SHOES: Educator’s Guide is now available! One of our best reviewed graphic novels of last year was Metaphrog’s wonderful THE RED SHOES AND OTHER TALES. We’ve heard from numerous teachers and other educators who want to use the book in their classrooms. That’s why we’re so happy to announce that we’ve just posted a new educator’s guide to the book on our Resources page. If you’re interested in incorporating the book in to your lesson plan or even assigning it to individual students, this new booklet will be a great resource. Download your copy today!
We’re just weeks away from the release of the first Papercutz volume of THE ONLY LIVING BOY. To celebrate creators David Gallaher and Steve Ellis are hitting the road so they can meet with fans, sign some books, draw some sketches and provide some insights in to how comics are made. They’ve got a packed schedule that includes store signings, convention appearances and a couple of other unique events. Make sure to stop by and say hi if they’re in your area (and, of course, pick up your very own copy of THE ONLY LIVING BOY VOL. 1: “Prisoners of the Patchwork Planet”). Here are the details of their tour schedule:
ONLY LIVING BOY VOL. 1 is coming in March but comic book store owners will be placing their orders in the next couple of weeks. If you want to make sure that your store orders you a copy use this handy form.
Hey ho, let’s go! To an awesome metal concert. In the latest issue of NICKELODEON MAGAZINE (on sale December 28th), Nickelodeon cartoon stars head to a rockin’ music spectacular. The Tuff Skulls finally get their big break, opening for the world famous Mega Maidenz. But when S & C enter an air guitar contest at the show, they shred so hard they literally blow the roof off the joint! What happens next? You’ll have to pick up the issue to find out.
Of course, if you’re going to capture that true rock and roll spirit, it helps to work with artists who are as much a part of the scene as the music themselves. That’s why Papercutz reached out John Holmstrom, cover artist for the legendary Ramones’ albums “Rocket to Russia” and “Road to Ruin” and a co-founder of the groundbreaking PUNK Magazine.
“My old friend (Papercutz Editor-in-Chief) Jim Salicrup reached out to me because he thought I’d get a kick out of this story. When I read it, I was reminded me of my own early experiences with rock and roll,” noted Holmstrom, “So I was happy to contribute a piece that helped convey the fun and excitement of being in a band. And for the record, I think Sanjay and Craig are pretty punk! “
Holmstrom is no stranger to comics , having created Bosko “America’s least favorite cartoon character” and contributed comic stripo material to numerous publications including SPIN and HEAVY METAL.
“John is an art and music legend,” exclaimed Papercutz Editor-in-Chief Jim Salicrup, “and we’re proud to feature his first national magazine cover. There’s no doubt in my mind that when the Tuff Skulls finally get signed to major label, they’ll be tapping John for some album cover art. Or iTunes art. Or whatever way kids will be interacting with art and music in the near future. No matter what the medium, John’s talent will let them know, this stuff rocks!”
NICKELODEON MAGAZINE #7, featuring Holmstrom’s cover and the Sanjay and Craig story “Guitarmed and Dangerous” is on sale December 28th at newsstands and bookstores everywhere.
Are you a teacher or librarian looking for resources to help you use graphic novels in your school? Are you a parent who’s looking to find new and exciting ways to get your kids to learn? Are you a kid who wishes he could read comics in the classroom? Are you a fan of seeing terrible things happen to School Principals?
If you answered yes to any of the above then our latest educator’s guide is for you! THE LUNCH WITCH TEACHER’S GUIDE is chock full of helpful information and suggestions for anyone looking to use the book in an educational environment. This handy booklet contains suggestions for reading activities, after-reading discussion, Common Core tie-ins and more. In short, everything you need to create a fun and engaging reading experience for your students.
SANJAY AND CRAIG/HARVEY BEAKS FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2016 EDITION
(W) Eric M Esquivel, Stefan Petrucha (A) Sam Spina, Andreas Schuster (CA) James Kaminski
The hottest new stars on Nickelodeon – Sanjay and Craig and Harvey Beaks – co-star in this comic collecting complete stories from Nickelodeon Magazine and from the Papercutz graphic novels. In “Lord of the Pipes”, everyone’s favorite talking snake, Craig, literally goes down the drain on an epic quest to fetch Sanjay’s father’s wedding ring… and has some close encounters with the strange beings he meets there. Then “Fight the Future with Flavor” dramatically depicts the shocking connection between Sanjay eating a seemingly harmless samosa and the total annihilation of the entire world by Martians! Also, Harvey Beaks proves he’s a “First Class Finder” when his mad Hide-and-Seek skills lead him to finding a big scary monster!
Item Code: JAN160041
In Shops: 4/13/2016
If you’re a retailer, make sure to order plenty of copies so you can take full advantage of the growing interest in Nickelodeon’s original animated properties. And if you’re a reader, make sure and let your retailer know that this one of the books you’re looking forward to picking up on Free Comic Book Day!
So you know your kids loves graphic novels. And you want to get them something that’s fun but also suitable for their age and reading ability. But you’re pressed for time and you can’t necessarily get to a physical bookstore to get a staff recommendation or look through the books yourself. Sites like GoodReads can be really helpful but when it comes to graphic novels, seeing the visuals is super important. With publishers only offering up limited previews online, how do you choose from the thousands of graphic novels that are out there?
The best bet is to go where your kids go – YouTube. Numerous comics and graphic novel publishers offer up trailers for their titles on the popular video sharing site. Many of the more traditional superhero comics publishers use trailers as “teasers”, purposefully revealing little about their upcoming storylines. But modern graphic novel publishers treat trailers differently. They use video as a way to provide a real representative sample of the books they’re looking to promote. For parents, this is great news as it allows you to get a quick sense of the type of books your kids want to read, including artwork, text sophistication and story themes. While no video will ever replace the expert opinion of a teacher or librarian, these videos can provide a helpful check to make sure that your kids are consuming the type of content you want them to be exposed too. They can also be a lot of fun!
So if you’re pressed for time, looking for the next great read for your kids, or simply want to share a couple of fun minutes online with your son or daughter, why not type “kid’s graphic novels” in to the You Tube search box. You just might find your next favorite book!
Here are some of our favorites…
Kid’s Graphic Novel Trailers on You Tube:
Of course, here at Papercutz, we also get excited about making trailers for our own original kid’s graphic novels. Check out our trailer for:
The BREADWINNERS have arrived! Their tricked out, flying bread delivery truck comes straight from Pondgea and onto the shelves in their first graphic novel -based on the Nickelodeon cartoon created by Gary “Doodles” DiRaffaele and Steve Borst!
BREADWINNERS #1 “Journey to the Bottom of the Seats” features four stories- a great deal for your dough! Written by Stefan Petrucha with art by Allison Strejlau and Mike Kazaleh, and each story is a wild ride with duck protagonists SwaySway (blue hat) and Buhdeuce (red hat) .
BREADWINNERS can be seen as a love letter to video games. The characters “level up” and have their own “signature moves” and often times the stories get totally qwazy . Their holiday tribute “A Crustmas Story” airs on Nickelodeon Friday, December 11 at 8pm.
For more BREADWINNERS, see their adventures in NICKELODEON MAGAZINE or check out the special preview of the first BREADWINNERS graphic novel right here!.
Papercutz is searching for interns for the winter! Marketing, digital media, and motion graphics interns start in January. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Papercutz Graphic Novels is looking for a winter marketing intern. Candidates should have an interest in media (specifically publishing) with a strong background in writing, analytics and digital marketing. Duties include market research, creating content for company website and social media, analyzing website and social media performance and improving SEO,creation and production of promotional materials as well as working with the VP of Marketing to develop and execute title specific marketing campaigns.
This internship is unpaid. Preference will be given to applicants that can receive college or graduate school credit but credit is not required.
Must be available 10 hours a week (2 days) to come into the Papercutz office in Manhattan. 10 week internship starting in January.
Able to show experience in writing and digital tools like Google Analytics, WordPress and basic social media.
A strong interest in media, specifically in marketing and publicity.
Must be able to bring your own laptop with Internet and Word Processing abilities for use in the office
Preferred applicants will at least basic experience with digital marketing
Papercutz Graphic Novels is looking for a winter digital media intern to provide assistance to the Marketing department. Candidates should have an interest in comic book publishing with a strong background in graphic design and digital marketing. Duties and projects for the term will include creating digital previews of Papercutz titles, creating graphics for marketing use, assistance with social media campaigns and building and maintenance of Papercutz websites.
This internship is unpaid. Preference will be given to applicants that can receive college or graduate school credit but credit is not required.
Must be available 10 hours a week (2 days) to come into the Papercutz office in Manhattan. 10 week internship starting in January
Must have experience in graphic design and the Adobe Creative Suite.
A strong interest in publishing and marketing, specifically in comics
Must be able to bring your own laptop with Internet, Adobe Creative Suite and Word Processing abilities for use in the office.
Preferred applicants will have experience with online programs such as WordPress, Mailchimp, and various social media platforms.
Experience using Acrobat Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and with HTML and CSS.
Papercutz Graphic Novels is looking for a winter motion graphics/ digital video intern. Intern would work closely with producers to increase the program offerings of the Papercutz video channels (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.), assist Papercutz’s Interactive producers on location, and coordinate the editing and encoding of Papercutz video content, creating original video and motion graphics content using Papercutz art/publications as source material. The selected intern will learn about the video editing/encoding/metadata process and develop skills to create imagery and write descriptions for Papercutz’s online video channels. The internship offers hands on experience in public media online with a focus on online video as well as the opportunity to assist with the strategy, promotion, and partnerships for Papercutz content online.
This internship is unpaid. Preference will be given to applicants that can receive college or graduate school credit but credit is not required.
Must be available 10 hours a week (2 days) to come into the Papercutz office in Manhattan. 10 week internship starting in January
Must be able to bring your own laptop with Internet and Word Processing abilities for use in the office
Experience in online video, and web development.
Demonstrate strong computer skills, including proficiency with MAC software (AfterEffects, Adove Premiere, Photoshop, Final Cut, FTP, CMS Tools etc) to support online video publishing, editorial strategy, and partnerships for a graphic novel publishing company.
Strong interest in online video, social media, and graphic novels/comic books preferred.
The internship is unpaid. Candidate must have completed one year of college and must be currently enrolled in school (undergraduate or graduate) or have completed a degree within the past twelve months.
Web Development, Communications and Interactive Media majors preferred.
Starting this afternoon, we’ll be in Columbus, OH attending AASL- The American Association of School Librarians National Conference and Exhibition! We can’t wait to interact with all the librarians! We will have some of our newest books for sale including SCARLETT, THE RED SHOES AND OTHER TALES, BREADWINNERS and SANJAY AND CRAIG.
We will also have plenty of freebies too! We imagine you might need a bookmark or two for all the reading you will be doing following the conference, we have your free SCARLETT and RED SHOES bookmarks! Or, relive the days of Sunday Funnies with our DENNIS THE MENACE newsprint!
We will be giving away 100 copies of our new Advance Review Copies of THE ONLY LIVING BOY! First come, first serve. THE ONLY LIVING BOY will be available everywhere in March. We will also have copies of our Super Genius New York Comic-Con exclusive MR. HERO comicbook! Pick up your copy at our booth: #110!
Also, if you have an official AASL coupon book- take a look for our Papercutz coupon! Be one of the first 25 to visit our booth and present the coupon, and you will win a set of all three of our 10th anniversary prints! Again, first come, first serve! So, take a look at your map and make a beeline to our booth!
For more information about the conference, visit the official website.
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