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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Smash Pages Q&A: Cathy G. Johnson

The creator of ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘Jeremiah’ discusses her new book, ‘The Breakaways.’

Cathy G. Johnson is the cartoonist behind books like Gorgeous and Jeremiah. Her new book, coming out this week from First Second Books, is The Breakaways.

It’s larger than Johnson’s previous books in many regards. The book has an ensemble cast, and it manages to find ways to reveal how each girl is much more complex than they initially seem or than they try to present. It is a beautifully made and thoughtful book that avoids a lot of the cliches around sports stories. They don’t win. They are bad at soccer. But that’s not what’s important. And the ways that this is shown in small, relatable ways, eschewing a melodramatic or sentimental approach, is what makes the book resonate in so many ways.

Johnson is a teacher and podcaster who is one half of Drawing a Dialogue with e jackson, and she was kind enough to talk about the book and her work.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Sara Varon puts on ‘New Shoes’

Sara Varon is a cartoonist who can be hard to pin down. Since her debut Sweaterweather she’s made a series of award-winning graphic novels like Robot Dreams and Bake Sale, and picture books like Chicken and Cat and President Squid. Her stories feature animals and other characters, the art is playful, with stylistic influences ranging from animation to ligne claire. Her stories manage to tackle complex issues in thoughtful nuanced ways. It’s easy to describe her work as designed for young readers, but they’re layered stories with stories and themes that aren’t inappropriate for young readers. Robot Dreams for example might appeal to children because of the style and some elements of the story, but I think it remains a story best appreciated and ultimately understood by adults.

Her new book New Shoes is very much a part of this tradition. Set in Guyana – or at least a Guyana in a world with anthropomorphic animals – it tells the story of Francis the donkey, a shoemaker who is forced to leave his village for the first time. It’s a story about friendship and work, problem solving and crises. It also features Varon drawing capybaras and sloths, manatees and anteaters, among many other creatures. It’s a funny and beautifully drawn book about work and life, and it is the work of a great cartoonist at the height of her powers.

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First Second announces new ‘Maker Comics’ series

Robyn Chapman will edit the line that taps into “DIY energy.”

Graphic novel publisher First Second announced today a new series of “DIY”-type books called Maker Comics.

“Comics is THE medium for visual instruction—there is no better way to offer step-by-step directions for complex tasks,” their Tumbler post reads. “For perfect examples, look no farther than the safety brochure on your next flight or the instructions that come with your IKEA furniture. With Maker Comics, we pair visual instruction with narrative. Each volume has its own characters and story. And seamlessly woven into that story are instructions for five to ten fun projects that readers can complete themselves.”

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First Second to publish Walden’s ‘On a Sunbeam’

Eisner Award-nominated comic comes to print in 2018.

Tillie Walden’s Spinning, released last month, has been racking up good reviews lately, so it’s no surprise that First Second would want to publish more of her work. And lucky for them Walden already has a completed story ready to go — her excellent “On a Sunbeam” webcomic.

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Comics Lowdown: All is revealed!

DC announces their Writers Workshop participants, First Second unveils their Spring 2018 books, Viz licenses some new media, and Mimi Pond talks about her new book—and getting dropped from ‘The Simpsons’ because she was a woman

The Big Reveal: DC announced the names of the six writers who will take part in this year’s DC Writers Workshop: Magdalene Visaggio (Kim & Kim, Quantum Teens Are Go), Sanya Anwar (1001), Joey Esposito (Pawn Shop, Captain Ultimate), Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Last Sons of America, Warlords of Appalachia), Robert Jeffrey (Route 3, Radio Free Amerika) and Ryan Cady (Big Moose). Batman writer Scott Snyder will lead the workshop.

“It’s 13 weeks, and we meet for two, two-and-a-half hours online in a Brady Bunch-style box of windows. I teach it in such a way that it’s all superhero writing for DC. I try and make each week a lesson about a particular technique,” Snyder told Heat Vision. “My job is not to teach you how to write by formula for DC. It’s for you to come in and write the stuff you’re passionate about in your own way. I don’t care if that’s funny political, light-hearted, dark, whatever. Your job is to come in and have something to say. My job is to help you fit it into the rubric of superhero calculus and to help you maximize that story: look at where you should beef things up, slow it down, be aware of pacing. You need to come here and have something to say.”

At the end of the workshop, DC works with the writers to place them in writing slots for DC comics.

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Comics Lowdown: Manga pirates can’t go legit

Plus: ‘Check Please’ goes to First Second, ‘Infini-T’ Force goes to Udon, Jill Thompson, Red Planet and more.

A Pirate’s Life… Ain’t what it used to be. Cecilia D’Anastasio talks to several former scanlators (including NJT, who set up MangaHelpers back in the day) about their struggles to go legit, and she also talks to some legitimate translators about what they do. While scanlators defend what they do as providing a service by fans, for fans—no ugly profit involved—it’s also true that publishers may not want to license a series that is already being widely read on bootleg sites. Also, they are finding that publishers don’t want to hire them, and the pay isn’t enough to let them quit their day jobs. Because, as Kodansha Comics’ Ben Applegate observed, “Whenever there’s a large group of people giving away their labor for free, it’s going to depress pay for those who are trying to do things legitimately.”

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