Smash Pages Q&A: Kasia Babis on ‘Re: Constitutions’

The political cartoonist discusses her work with Beka Feathers on the latest title from First Second’s World Citizen Comics imprint.

Kasia Babis has been making comics for many years, but she gained a new international audience when she began contributing to The Nib about a wide range of topics. In particular, her comics about Polish politics offer an outsider’s take on events within the United States.

Babis has drawn the new book, Re: Constitutions, part of the World Citizen Comics imprint. Written by Beka Feathers, an expert in political development and post-conflict institution building who has worked in more than a dozen countries to help draft constitutions and design political transition, the book is about constitutions, but it’s also about what it means to be a citizen, our political landscape, the rights of individuals and what binds us together. It is a complex topic, and Babis’ art and designs help to masterfully juggle many ideas and complex topics in striking ways.

We spoke recently about her work and making the book while being an engaged citizen in a period of protest, as many basic rights are being eroded by an increasingly authoritarian government.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Kiara Brinkman and Sean Chiki

The husband and wife creative team of ‘Lucy in the Sky’ discuss how they collaborated, The Beatles and much more.

Lucy in the Sky is a new graphic novel from Kiara Brinkman and Sean Chiki, and as one might guess form the title and the cover, the book involves The Beatles – a little known British rock band – but not necessarily in the way one might think.

Centered around Lucy Sutcliffe, the book explores middle school and what it means to grow up and grow apart from people, as she deals with her divorced parents and her sick grandmother. And in the background of all this is music and the way our relationship to it changes over time in different ways. All of which is told with lovely ligne claire artwork. It’s charming and heartfelt, and doesn’t shy away from exploring the loneliness and pathos in a way that’s striking. 

This is Brinkman’s first graphic novel, but she is the author of the acclaimed book Up High in the Trees, and it’s her first collaboration with her husband, Chiki, who is best known for his own series Wunderkammer. I had the chance to speak with them about collaboration, music and working together while married with children.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Dave Roman on ‘Astronaut Academy: Splashdown’ and more

Creator and editor Dave Roman discusses the long-awaited third volume of his kids’ graphic novel series ‘Astronaut Academy,’ as well as his work editing First Second’s line of science and history comics.

Dave Roman’s Astronaut Academy has had a long history, but after the second book was published in 2013 by First Second Books, he thought he was done with the series. Neither went out of print, though, and the book kept selling and Roman kept doing school appearances where kids would ask, “When is the third book coming out?”

Well kids, the long wait is over, and the first two books have been re-released in full-color editions alongside a third volume titled Astronaut Academy: Splashdown

Besides his work as a cartoonist, Roman has also long been an editor, working at Nickelodeon Magazine for many years and currently working at First Second Books, where he oversees the History Comics and Science Comics series. We spoke recently about comics, editing, life and more.

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Mail Call | Scout Comics combines trading cards + digital comics with Comic Tags

Check out news and announcements from Marvel, Image, First Second, Dark Horse and more.

Mail Call is a roundup of the announcements we’ve received from comics publishers in our mailboxes recently that we haven’t already covered. Hit the links for more information.

Scout Comics has announced a new digital publishing initiative called Comic Tags, which they describe as “a  way to both distribute and collect digital comic books that addresses some of the biggest problems that comic publishers and comic collectors face.”

These comic/trading card hybrids are limited edition collectible cards, but the kicker is that each of them comes with a scratch-off code to download a PDF copy of the graphic novel featured on the card.

“They’re attached to hangable backers that open, close, and look like a mini-comic book,” the press release reads. “These backers have interiors that are pulled right from the comic, giving you a glimpse at what you’re getting and a fun art piece to hang on to along with the collectible card.”

Don Handfield, a member of the Scout Comics board of directors, said, “I always felt like digital sales for comics were not near the numbers they should be. Digital comics should be for comic publishers what the CD was for the music labels or DVDs were for film studios. But digital comic sales account for less than 8-9% of overall sales industry wide. I think this is because collectors want something they can touch and feel. Collectors want to collect.”

You can find more information on them at the Comic Tags website. Scout Comics is selling several of them for $6.99 each, for titles like Mindbender, The Source, Solar Flare and more.

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Star Wars, Blade Runner, InvestiGators among the 2021 Free Comic Book Day gold sponsor comics

This year’s Free Comic Book Day on Aug. 14 will include titles from Marvel, IDW, Dark Horse, Titan and more.

Diamond Comics Distributors has announced the 12 gold sponsor titles that retailers will offer on Free Comic Book Day this year. This year’s event will take place Aug. 14.

“This year’s lineup of titles has something for every kind of comic fan,” said Ashton Greenwood, Free Comic Book Day spokesperson. “We can’t wait to once again share the FCBD experience with fans, especially on our landmark 20th anniversary! We hope fans will safely visit their local comic shops to celebrate and to pick up a few of the great titles available this year.”

Missing from the list is DC Comics, who no longer use Diamond to distribute comics to U.S. retailers. DC has indicated their plans to participate, however.

The titles were curated by more than 20 comic shop retailers who make up the FCBD Selection Committee. The Gold Sponsor titles come from Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, Archie Comics, BOOM! Studios, Macmillan/First Second Books, Penguin Workshop, AfterShock Comics, Titan Comics, TOKYOPOP and VIZ Media.

This year’s gold sponsor books are:

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Smash Pages Q&A: Tim Foley on adapting Dan Rather’s ‘What Unites Us’ into comics

The accomplished illustrator discusses working on his first graphic novel for First Second’s World Citizen Comics imprint.

Tim Foley has had a long, accomplished career as an illustrator for a wide range of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and in books like the Who Was and What Was book series for Penguin Young Readers. But this year brings his first graphic novel.

For First Second Book’s World Citizen Comics imprint, Foley adapted the book What Unites Us by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner. The book of essays explored what Rather saw as what it means to love this country, the values that shaped it and the role of citizens. Foley is far from a beginning artist, but to make a long-form comic like this is a unique challenge, one that he makes look easy. He was kind enough to take the time to talk about What Unites Us, how he worked and wanting to make more comics.

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Comics Lowdown | TCAF is back

Plus: Angoulême comics awards, Adam Ellis accuses filmmakers of plagiarism, and a look at the world of back-issue collectors and dealers

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic, will return in May as a virtual event. The past year has been a difficult one; in June, TCAF co-founder and artistic director Christopher Butcher stepped down for both professional and personal reasons. This year’s festival will be online only, and it’s being run in partnership with the zine festival Canzine and the Toronto Hand Eye Society.

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Smash Pages Q&A: First Second’s Mark Siegel discusses World Citizen Comics

The editorial and creative director of First Second Books discusses the origins of the new line of nonfiction graphic novels.

Mark Siegel is the artist and author of books like Sailor Twain and Moving House and the co-writer of the 5 Worlds series. He is also the editorial and creative director of First Second Books, where one of his major recent projects has been the release of World Citizen Comics. The series released its first two books this year, Unrig: How To Fix Our Broken Democracy by Daniel G. Newman and George O’Connor, and Fault Lines in The Constitution by Cynthia Levinson, Sanford Levinson,and Ally Shwed. 

The books attempt to provide civics education, media literacy and historical context to current events, which are all too lacking today, but that damns the books with faint praise. They are also inventive, entertaining and informative, and artistically dynamic. Each stands in the very best tradition of nonfiction comics.

Today is Election Day in the United States, but that’s far from the only notable thing happening around the world. The people of Chile overwhelmingly voted to draft a new constitution to replace the one written when the country was ruled by a military junta. Poland has been rocked by days of mass protests, the largest since the fall of communism in 1989. Tanzania’s presidential elections were held last week, featuring an incumbent using government power to undermine the press and his political opposition. Protests continue in Belarus, Nigeria, Thailand and elsewhere.

We live in a moment of a great change and possibility, and Siegel was kind enough to mark the occasion with us by answering a few questions about why he launched the series, being global citizens and his ambitions for the project.

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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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