Plus: News on Popeye’s new artist, Free Comic Book Day and more.
Passings | Fantasy artist Ken Kelly, whose art appeared on rock albums, book covers, magazines, video games and comics, passed away June 3 at the age of 76. Kelly was heavily in demand as a painter in the 1970s and painted the covers of two albums by the band KISS — Destroyer and Love Gun. Comic fans in the 1970s would know his work on covers for The Spirit, Vampirella and Creepy, and in the 1990s for some of the Star Wars titles when Dark Horse held the license. A cause of death has not been reported.
Plus: Penguin Classics to publish Marvel classics, Joe Ollmann’s ‘Fictional Father’ nominated for Governor General’s award, and more!
School administrators in Katy, Texas, have returned Jerry Craft’s New Kid to library shelves and rescheduled a video visit from the creator, according to NBC News. The district pulled the book and canceled the visit after a parent started a petition claiming that New Kid espoused critical race theory. The district told NBC that it had “determined the appropriateness” of the book, which was the first graphic novel to be awarded the Newbery Medal. In a statement last week, Craft said his intention was simply to portray children of color in a realistic setting: “Books aimed at kids like me seemed to deal only with history or misery. That’s why it has always been important to me to show kids of color as just regular kids, and to create iconic African American characters like Jordan Banks from ‘New Kid.’ I hope that readers of all ages will see the kindness and understanding that my characters exhibit and emulate those feelings in their day-to-day lives.” However, parent Bonnie Anderson, who started the petition, disagreed, saying, “The books don’t come out and say we want white children to feel like oppressors, but that is absolutely what they will do.”
It’s almost TOO on the nose that three book challenges involving graphic novels came up during Banned Books Week, but that’s exactly what has happened.
Katy, Texas: The Katy school board has canceled a virtual appearance by Jerry Craft, after an online petition claimed that his middle-grade graphic novels New Kid and Class Act promote Critical Race Theory. TV news station Click2Houston has a good overview of what happened: After a parent complained, the school district put the Zoom visit on hold and pulled the books from the library for review, per their policy; they will review the books within 15 days and are trying to reschedule the visit outside of the instructional day. Kara Yorio at School Library Journal has more details on the backstory: The petition (since removed) urged the school board to cancel Craft’s appearance, claiming that “these books … are wrought with critical race theory in the form of teaching children that their white privilege inherently comes with microaggressions which must be kept in check.” New Kid has won numerous awards and was the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal; both books are best-sellers.
On Blackout Tuesday, take a look at eight graphic novels that explore the issues of police brutality, the experiences of Black people and working toward change.
It’s Blackout Tuesday, and we’re centering Black creators with a short list of comics and graphic novels that explore issues of police brutality, the experiences of Black people, and how to work toward structural change. To find more Black creators, follow the #drawingwhileblack hashtag on Twitter and check out Sheena Howard’s Encyclopedia of Black Comics (full disclosure: I was a contributor).
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.
The creator of ‘Mama’s Boyz’ talks about his new graphic novel, which just arrived in stores this month.
Jerry Craft has been working as a cartoonist for decades and is best known for his long running comic strip Mama’s Boyz, which he ended late last year. He co-wrote and illustrated the middle grade novel The Offenders, and illustrated numerous books including The Zero Degree Zombie Zone and Khalil’s Way. Craft is also a co-founder of the Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center, which held its fifth annual show last month. His new book is New Kid, which was just released by Harper Collins.
The semi-autobiographical book tells the story of Jordan, who is the new kid attending an elite private school. The book has a lot of dramatic moments, and as I spoke with Craft I mentioned how many moments resonated with me, but the book is also an incredibly funny and visually inventive story. The way that Craft is able to make the story dramatic and comedic and visually inventive is not surprising to anyone who had read Mama’s Boyz, but the way that the story of Jordan and his friends and family come together make this arguably his best work to date.
We spoke recently while he was in an airport to talk about the book.