Smash Pages Q&A | Mike Dawson

The creator of ‘Troop 142,’ ‘Angie Bongiolatti’ and more discusses the second book in his ‘The Fifth Quarter’ series.

Mike Dawson is the Ignatz Award-winning cartoonist of books including Freddie & Me, Troop 142 and Angie Bongiolatti. He’s a comics essayist whose work has been in Slate, The Nib and many other publications, some of which were collected into his 2016 book Rules for Dating My Daughter. Dawson also contributed a comic to the Rutgers University Press anthology New Jersey Fan Club.

Recently he’s been making The Fifth Quarter, a series of middle grade graphic novels about basketball – something which he admits came as a shock to him, having hated sports when he was younger, but having come to appreciate the game when his daughter started playing. The second book in the series, Hard Court, is out now from First Second Books, and I spoke with Dawson about the series, what it has in common with his earlier books, and finding a way to make personal work.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Faith Erin Hicks

The creator of ‘Friends with Boys,’ ‘The Nameless City’ trilogy and more discusses her latest graphic novel from First Second, ‘Ride On.’

Faith Erin Hicks is the Eisner Award-winning writer and artist of a long string of comics and graphic novels. From books like Friends with Boys and The War at Ellsmere, to her webcomics like The Adventures of Superhero Girl, to her collaborations like Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong and Brain Camp, Hicks is masterful at telling stories that are about small moments, subtle changes in relationships, the ways that life often plays out in ways that are funny and relatable. She has a touch for dialogue, but it’s in depicting those small moments that become important that she’s masterful.

More recently, Hicks spent years writing and drawing the epic fantasy trilogy The Nameless City. In the years since, Hicks wrote a novel (Comics Will Break Your Heart), drew a graphic novel written by Rainbow Rowell (Pumpkinheads) and has written a series of Avatar: The Last Airbender comics. Her new book, which she wrote and drew, is Ride On. Out this week from First Second Books, it’s a book about horses and horse girls, but it’s also about growing up, about how we change, and how it can be a difficult and sometimes painful process. Funny and relatable, Ride On is one of Hicks’ best works, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Beka Feathers and Ally Shwed

‘When you get right down to it, democracy is only possible if you have people with different experiences and perspectives who are willing to talk to each other and work together.’

Why The People, the new book from First Second Books’ acclaimed World Citizen Comics series, looks at democracy and other forms of government, but it manages to be less a textbook and more a conversation about what people need, how government can be responsive to people and what it can enable. At a time when the democratic consensus in the United States is fraying, books like this, which are aimed at younger readers, are more important than ever.

Beka Feathers and Ally Shwed have both previously made books for the series. Feathers is a legal advisor who has worked in more than a dozen countries helping to draft constitutions and design transitional governments in addition to writing the book Re:Constitutions. Shwed is a cartoonist and editor best known for her adaptation of the book Fault Lines in the Constitution

The book is in stores now, and the two were kind enough to answer a few questions about making an easily readable book about a very difficult and timely topic.

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LA Times Graphic Novel Shortlist

Works by Michael DeForge, Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu, R. Kikuo Johnson, and Lee Lai made the shortlist.

The Los Angeles Times has announced the shortlists for its annual book prizes, and the finalists in the Graphic Novel category are

  • Heaven No Hell, by Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • The Waiting, by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, translated by Janet Hong (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Shadow Life, by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu (First Second)
  • No One Else, by R. Kikuo Johnson (Fantagraphics)
  • Stone Fruit, by Lee Lai (Fantagraphics)

All these titles will likely be familiar to Smash Pages readers. Stone Fruit won two Ignatz Awards last year, as did DeForge’s Birds of Maine, and Gendry-Kim’s earlier graphic novel, Grass, made the 2020 LA Times shortlist, as did DeForge’s Leaving Richard’s Valley.

The judges for the Graphic Novel section were Sloane Leong, Joel Christian Gill, and Cathy G. Johnson.

Smash Pages Q&A | Sarah Winifred Searle on ‘The Greatest Thing’

The creator of ‘Sincerely, Harriet’ discusses her latest graphic novel, mental health management, making zines and more.

Sarah Winifred Searle’s new book The Greatest Thing is a thoughtful and raw book about teenagers that, like all her work, is brutally honest but not unkind, looking at mental health and the possibilities of art. It is a quiet story about high school outsiders who are creative and rebellious in their own ways, struggling with their own issues as much as they push against their small town and expectations.

Searle is the cartoonist behind Sincerely, Harriet, which I talked with her about when it was published, and many other books and short comics. I was thrilled to talk about her new book, which is her best work to date.

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Smash Pages Q&A | Mike Cavallaro talks ‘Free Speech Handbook’

The creator of ‘Nico Bravo,’ ‘Parade (with Fireworks)’ and more discusses his work in adapting Ian Rosenberg’s ‘The Fight for Free Speech’ into a graphic novel, his ‘comics graffiti’ approach to the art and more.

For the next 12 days, we’ll be looking back at the 2021 that was in the world of comics, with interviews, commentary and more. Check back often!

Mike Cavallaro is the artist behind the new title from First Second Books’ World Citizen Comics, Free Speech Handbook: A Practical Framework for Understanding Our Free Speech Protections. For people who know Cavallaro as the creator behind the acclaimed Nico Bravo graphic novel series, it seems like an odd project, but Cavallaro’s entire career has been marked by the way he moves from one project to another, adjusting his style and approach for each.

Cavallaro has drawn a number of graphic novels including a pair of fantasy stories with Jane Yolen (Foiled! and Curses! Foiled Again!), a dark science fiction tale with Adam Rapp (Decelerate Blue). Cavallaro made two different projects with J.M. DeMatteis (Impossible, Incorporated and The Life and Times of Savior 28). That’s in addition to his own work, which includes the Eisner nominated Parade (with Fireworks) and his work as a member of Act-i-vate.

Free Speech Handbook is based on Ian Rosenberg’s book The Fight for Free Speech, which looks at ten landmark court cases that defined the First Amendment and relates them to contemporary controversies and cases. Like all of the World Citizen Comics books, it tackles a complicated topic in a way that tries to give people an understanding of not just what it means, but of the history behind it and the people who took up the fight for freedom. Cavallaro was kind enough to talk about making nonfiction, what makes Mark Siegel such a great editor and how Frank Frazetta inspired his style for this book.

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Mail Call | DC announces ‘Milestones in History’ anthology

Check out news, announcements and previews from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, Z2 and more.

Mail Call is a roundup of cool things we’ve received in our mailboxes recently from comics creators, publishers and more. Hit the links for more information.

DC Comics and Milestone Media revealed more details about the anthology they plan to release this coming February during Black History Month, which was initially announced during DC FanDome last month.

Milestones in History will feature Hardware, Icon, Static and more narrating stories “Black trailblazers from across human history,” including Hannibal, the Queen of Sheba, Alexandre Dumas and more.

The 96-page prestige one-shot will cost $9.99 and arrives Feb. 15.

Here’s the full solicitation:

Celebrate Black History Month the Milestone way, as the superpowered citizens of Dakota (including Static, Icon, Rocket, Hardware, and more) narrate the true stories of Black trailblazers from across human history! Witness the military campaigns of Hannibal and the Queen of Sheba, the literary accomplishments of Alexandre Dumas, the World War One dogfights of Eugene Bullard against the legendary Red Baron, and many, many more, all written and drawn by a who’s who of comics and literary talent! On sale February 15th, this 96 page anthology honors Black History from around the world in a beautiful, prestige format book.

Written by REGINALD HUDLIN, ALICE RANDALL, TOURÉ, MICHAEL HARRIOT, and more
Art by VARIOUS
Cover by CHRISCROSS
Variant cover by DOUG BRAITHWAITE
$9.99 US | 96 pages | Prestige Format | One-shot

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Smash Pages Q&A: Harmony Becker on ‘Himawari House’

The artist of George Takei’s award-winning graphic memoir ‘They Called Us Enemy’ discusses her new graphic novel from First Second.

Harmony Becker is a recognizable name to many comics readers as the artist behind George Takei’s award-winning graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy. Becker’s new book is Himawari House, which she wrote and drew.

The story began as a webcomic on Tapas called Himawari Share and tells the story of a group of language students in Japan. The book explores what led the characters there and details their adjustment to the country. The book is also striking for how Becker depicts language and language learning in a striking way that echoes trying to learn a new language and being surrounded by conversation one struggles to understand.

It’s a beautiful and thoughtful book that manages to be as funny as it is profound, and Becker was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book.

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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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