Smash Pages Q&A: Ally Shwed

The cartoonist behind World Citizen Comics’ ‘Fault Lines in the Constitution’ discusses illustrating abstract concepts, her publishing company Little Red Bird Press and more.

Ally Shwed is the writer and artist behind Fault Lines in the Constitution, the second book in the World Citizen Comics publishing line at First Second Books. Originally a text book written by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson, the book takes a look at how the United States Constitution was drafted, the debates behind its writing, and how those arguments and decisions continue to reverberate today.

People might know Shwed for her work on The Nib, where she’s written and drawn a number of excellent pieces, or for her work as one half of Little Red Bird Press where she’s edited two anthologies, Blocked and the recent Votes for Women. We spoke recently about illustrating abstract concepts, the struggle to craft a style that looks easy and what we can learn from what the suffrage movement did during a pandemic.

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Comics Lowdown: Archie goes day-and-date on ComiXology Unlimited

Covid, ComiXology, and ‘Contradictions.’

Big news from Archie Comics, which this week began releasing all its comics on the ComiXology Unlimited service the day they come out. This is the first time a publisher, other than ComiXology itself, has put its comics on the all-you-can-read platform on the publication date. The Beat has a good piece putting this move into perspective, noting that Archie has been publishing fewer single-issue comics of late, and that these comics are also available day-and-date on the free (to the user) library service Hoopla.

IDW Entertainment has set up a new initiative within its Kids, Family, and YA division that will focus on developing original material for young readers. Erika Turner has been named senior editor of original content at IDW Publishing; she comes to IDW from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where she was senior editor of their Versify imprint. On the IDW Entertainment side, Jeff Brustrom is the new vice president of kids, family, and animation, and Daniel Kendrick is the director of animation; both will work on developing animated properties.

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Smash Pages Q&A: George O’Connor

The creator of the ‘Olympians’ series discusses his work on ‘Unrig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy,’ the first book released under First Second’s World Citizen Comics publishing line.

George O’Connor is the acclaimed cartoonist behind the Olympians series of graphic novels retelling the Greek myths. Readers may know him for his earlier comics like Journey into Mohawk Country and Ball Peen Hammer, but his new book, Unrig, is something of a departure for him. 

Unrig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy is the first volume of a new publishing line at First Second Books called World Citizen Comics. O’Connor worked with Daniel Newman, the president and co-founder of Maplight, a nonprofit that reveals the influence of money on politics. The book looks at how money has influenced American politics, how people and organizations with money have changed the system, and how individuals and local organizations have been fighting back. It’s an important book for many reasons, and I reached out to talk with George about the challenges of the project and what he learned from working on the book.

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L.A. Times announces 2020 Book Prize nominees

Works by Eleanor Davis, Michael DeForge, Jaime Hernandez, Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell received nominations.

The Los Angeles Times has announced the nominees for their annual Book Prize awards, which includes a graphic novel category. Three Drawn and Quarterly releases received nominations, along with one each from Fantagraphics and First Second.

The L.A. Times has given an award in the graphic novel category since 2009, when Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli won the award. Other previous winners include The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez, Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines and Beverly by Nick Drnaso. Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeamwon the award last year.

The nominees in the “Graphic Novel/Comics” category are:

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‘New Kid’ wins the Newbery Medal

Several graphic novels were honored at the American Library Association’s annual Youth Media Awards.

The American Library Association recognized several graphic novels this past weekend as part of the 2020 Youth Media Awards at their Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. These included the prestigious Newbery Medal, which has been given out since 1922 to “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children;” the Coretta Scott King Book Award; and many others.

The winner of this year’s Newbery Medal was New Kid, the graphic novel by Jerry Craft that was published by HarperCollins Children’s Books. It also won the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award. It’s interesting to note that these aren’t in a “graphic novel” category or anything like that; The Newbery Medal is the highest honor the ALA gives out every year, and this is the first time a graphic novel has won it outright.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Bryan Caplan

The writer and professor who “say things that a lot of people think are crazy” discusses his latest project, the graphic novel “Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration.”

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University and the author of books like The Myth of the Rational Voter, Selfish Reasons to Have Kids and The Case Against Education. He’s a blogger at EconLog, has contributed to Freakonomics and is affiliated with the Mercatus Center and the Cato Institute.

Caplan is also the author with Zach Weinersmith of the book Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration. Simply stating that it’s a book promoting the idea of open borders will be shocking (or offensive) to many people, but through a series of reports, analyses and thought experiments, the book looks at multiple moral, legal and logistical questions around immigration. Caplan admitted that he writes books that “say things that a lot of people think are crazy” and this book manages to make this argument through a deft use of the comics medium, which will leave readers saying, “Maybe this isn’t such a crazy idea.”

It’s a startling and thoughtful book that I couldn’t stop thinking about after reading it, and Caplan was kind enough to answer a few questions about comics, economics and why the late Milton Friedman was wrong.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Mariko Tamaki

The award-winning author discusses her latest graphic novel from First Second, ‘Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me.’

Mariko Tamaki is the award-winning author of the graphic novels This One Summer and Skim, both of which she made with her cousin, the artist and writer Jillian Tamaki. Mariko has written a number of comics series including Tomb Raider, She Hulk, Supergirland X-23. She’s written graphic novels like Emiko Superstar and the upcoming Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, in addition to writing a trilogy of Lumberjanes novels and various other works of fiction and nonfiction.

Her new book, with artist Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, is Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, which is just out from First Second Books. Frederica Riley is dating Laura Dean, the most popular girl in school, who is amazing — and a horrible girlfriend. While Freddy is writing to an advice columnist about what she should do, her friends are dealing with their own problems and trying to be delicate, and inanimate objects around Freddy are offering their own ignored Greek chorus in the background. It is a brilliant work that manages to balance comedy and drama, and capture something truly essential about relationships and teenage life.

Tamaki is a featured guest at this weekend’s Queers and Comics Conference in New York, and we spoke recently about the book.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Chris Schweizer

The ‘Mars Attacks’ and ‘Crogan Adventures’ creator discusses his latest book from First Second on how to fix your car.

Chris Schweizer has been making comics for years and remains best known to some for his series The Crogan Adventures, which was not just three graphic novels but six radio plays as well. He’s made a number of other comics and illustrations over the years including the art book 555 Character Drawings, he made the graphic novel The Creeps, and has worked on other comics projects including the recent Mars Attacks. He’s regularly posting illustrations and short comics on social media and his Patreon. His new book is Maker Comics: Fix a Car.

Part of the new Maker series from First Second books, it’s a departure for Schweizer, which we talked about. Not just an instructional manual, the book is the story of Ms. Gritt who is running a Car Club and teaching a cast of teenagers about car maintenance and repair, about how various parts of cars and trucks operate and offering valuable information. Schweizer is masterful at integrating both these elements together, crafting an ensemble story with large blocks of information, and I was thrilled to get to talk with him about the book, how he works and his many projects.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Falynn Koch

The cartoonist and illustrator discusses her latest work from First Second, ‘Maker Comics: Bake Like a Pro!’

Falynn Koch is a cartoonist and illustrator who graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design and has been focused on making nonfiction comics. Her first two books were part of the Science Comics series from First Second Books, Bats: Learning to Fly and Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield.

Her new book is Maker Comics: Bake Like a Pro! Part of a new line of instructional comics from First Second, Koch is perhaps a perfect person to make the book, being a cartoonist who also attended culinary school. As an amateur baker, I was glad to have the chance to talk with Koch recently about the book and her process.

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