The writer, artist and professor discusses his role as director of Megascope, the new publishing imprint at Abrams Books dedicated to publishing comics by and about people of color.
It’s hard to sum up John Jennings’ career. He’s a writer and artist who’s made comics like Blue Hand Mojo and collaborated on books like the recent graphic novel adaptations of Kindred and Parable of the Sower. He’s a fine artist and part of the art collective known as Black Kirby. He’s a Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. He’s co-editor of The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Blackness in Comics and Sequential Art, curated exhibitions across the country, and co-founded the Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center in Harlem, and SOL-CON. Jennings also edits the back matter of the Eisner Award-winning comic series Bitter Root.
As if straddling academia and public scholarship, fine arts and comics making wasn’t enough, Jennings is also the director of Megascope. The new publishing imprint at Abrams Books launched this year with After the Rain, an adaptation of a short story by the great Nnedi Okorafor from Jennings and David Brame.
We spoke recently about his work, the imprint and what it means. He also dropped some news and announced another Megascope title in our conversation, an adaptation of Charles Johnson’s National Book Award-winning novel The Middle Passage.
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The cartoonist and illustrator discusses her work on ‘Guantanamo Voices,’ her family’s escape from Cuba, her work process and more.
Alexandra Beguez is a cartoonist and illustrator whose work has appeared in The Believer, The Nib, Ink Brick, Adventure Time Comics and Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream. Her technical skill as an artist is apparent, but she manages to move from heavily researched nonfiction to inventive fantasy to her breadth of illustration work with seeming ease.
Guantanamo Voices was published earlier this fall by Abrams Books and the book, written and edited by Sarah Mirk, is one of the year’s most important titles. Beguez drew the book’s third chapter about whistleblower Matthew Diaz.
We spoke recently about the project, inking and her relationship to Cuba.
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The writer, editor and journalist discusses her two most recent projects — ‘Year of Zines’ and ‘Guantanamo Voices.’
Sarah Mirk is mostly known as a writer and editor for her work at Bitch Media, and for her books like You Do You and Sex From Scratch. She’s also written comics for The Nib and Symbolia, and has done cartoons for The New Yorker.
This year, though, she has two major projects coming out that show the breadth and depth of her work and her talent. Year of Zines is out now. The book collects 100 of the comics that Mirk made in 2019 where she made literally a zine a day. In the fall, Abrams is publishing Guantanamo Voices, which Mirk wrote and edited, telling the stories of veterans, prisoners, lawyers and government officials, with a number of artists.
Taken together, the books show off the inventiveness, skill and roving mind of a creator who is clearly just getting started. More recently, Mirk has been covering the protests in Portland in work that can be seen on her Twitter and Instagram. Mirk was kind enough to chat about her work.
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Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson will write the adaptation of their prequel novel set in Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune” universe.
The prequel to Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune will be adapted into a comic book by BOOM! Studios. The team who wrote Dune: House Atreides, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, will also write the adaptation.
“Dune: House Atreides holds a special place in my heart,” said Brian Herbert. “It was the first novel Kevin and I wrote in my father’s fantastic Dune universe, and it is our first collaborative novel to be adapted for comics. In 1999, our novel was a surprise New York Times bestseller, and we have equally high expectations for this special BOOM! Studios adaptation.”
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The creator of ‘Commute’ discusses her latest project for “The Believer,” her nontraditional approach to page design, the long-lasting effects of trauma and more.
In the February/March issue of The Believer magazine, Erin Williams has a new short comic “Dust and Doubt” which builds on the ideas and concerns of her acclaimed debut book Commute. One of the best books published last year, Commute was a look at Williams’ day but also at her life, at the male gaze, at taking up space in the world, about alcoholism and trauma, and how we dissociate in order to survive. It’s about what it means to live in a culture that tries to monetize this trauma, promising a “cure” for the trauma the society causes.
Reading Williams’ work, one sees echoes of other creators who have used the medium in nontraditional ways to try to convey these physical understandings of how being in our bodies, the complicated interactions of mental and physical pain of the aftermath of trauma and finding not just new ways to consider this but depict and convey that experience. In both this short comic and her book, it’s clear that Williams doesn’t think in terms of a comics page or that formatted structure of paneled designs, instead using the openness of the page to explore how the words and the images can interact. We spoke recently over email about her work.
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The children’s author discusses his first book aimed at adults, which is about the daily battles that undocumented worker face.
Duncan Tonatiuh has been writing and drawing picture books for children for many years, but his new book Undocumented is something very different. The book for adults is designed in an accordion format, in a way that calls to mind Mixtec codex. Throughout his career, Tonatiuh has been influenced by pre-Columbian art. His children’s books have looked at the lives of Diego Rivera and Amalia Hernandez, re-imagined legends, and looked at how Sylvia Mendez and her family helped to end segregated schools in California.
Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight is about the daily battle that so many workers in the country face and is both an inspirational story of people coming together to create change and improve their lives, and a guide to how people can organize. It’s more important and timely than ever, and one of the year’s most important books. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work.
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Plus: “Olivia Jaimes” speaks, Bill Maher doubles down on his comic book comments, a comic convention apologizes for giving ‘Saga’ to kids, and much more!
Abrams has abandoned plans to publish A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library by Jack Gantos and Dave McKean following online criticism and controversy. The book is about a young boy who plans to blow up a library, but he changes his mind when he sees how captivated the people inside are with their reading.
An open letter to Abrams from the Asian Author Alliance, signed by more than 1,000 writers, teachers and readers, reads: “The simple fact is that today, the biggest terrorist threat in the United States is white supremacy. In publishing A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library, Abrams is willfully fear-mongering and spreading harmful stereotypes in a failed attempt to show the power of story.”
McKean responded to some of the controversy on Twitter: “The premise of the book is that a boy uses his mind and faith to decide for himself that violence is not the right course or action.” The book was due to be published next May.
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Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell are immensely talented and acclaimed creators. Niffenegger is the author of the novels The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, and graphic novels like The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Night Bookmobile, among many other works. Campbell is the writer and artist of many comics. He drew From Hell and A Disease of Language, two collaborations with Alan Moore, in addition to writing and drawing Alec and Bacchus, all of which are among the best comics ever made. He has also written a new book about comics and comics history, The Goat Getters: Jack Johnson, The Fight of the Century, and How a Bunch of Raucous Cartoonists Reinvented Comics, which comes out this spring.
The two are also married and have been collaborating on a number of short projects for the past few years. This week Abrams is publishing Bizarre Romance, a collection of short comics and illustrated stories that they made together. It should be no surprise to anyone who knows their work that it is a broad-ranging collection of styles and approaches. These stories are sweet and funny, touching and strange, inventive and a lot of fun. They were kind enough to talk about their working relationship and the book.
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