Nilah Magruder is a writer and illustrator of children’s books and comics. From her beginnings in the woods of Maryland she developed an eternal love for three things: nature, books, and animation. She is the author of HOW TO FIND A FOX (First Second Books) and M.F.K. (Insight Comics) among other works.
It all began, or a lot of things started to fall into place, with the M.F.K. webcomic. That’s a significant work in Nilah Magruder’s career which includes both the comics and the animation industry. It was a story she had to tell and embarked upon back in 2012. The underlying theme to Magruder’s work is giving voice to those who have not been heard in the past. As she puts it, her stories come back to what she would have wanted to read as a child. “I’m writing the stories that I wish I would have read as a young black girl growing up in a predominantly white community.”
Nilah Magruder’s postapocalyptic story about a deaf girl crossing the desert to release the ashes of her grandmother would go on to be the first recipient of the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics. In the summer of 2017, Insight Comics would publish the first installment of M.F.K. as its first original graphic novel.
HOW TO FIND A FOX
Magruder is as busy as ever. Among her work, she is the first African American woman to write a story for Marvel Comics. She has just completed storyboard work for the Disney “Tangled” animated television series. She is just as adept at creating children’s books as demonstrated by the adorable HOW TO FIND A FOX. Well, the list goes on. This week, for instance, a new anthology of queer teen stories, including a story by Magruder was released by Harlequin Teen, “All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages.” And looking out to Spring 2019, there is “Creeky Acres,” from Penguin Books, a graphic novel by Magruder and First Second editor Calista Brill.
Take a closer look at her professional journey and it follows an arc of determination to excel. “Comics and animation are highly competitive. It has to be a perfect storm of having the right skills and being at the right place at the right time. You have to have stamina. Success in this business is being the last person standing. What really drives you is the passion.”
It was my pleasure to get a chance to chat with Nilah Magruder and get a sense of her multi-faceted work. I hope you enjoy this video interview!
Be sure to visit Nilah Magruder at her website right here. And, if you’re in Seattle and heading out to Emerald City Comicon, be sure to stop by and visit with her in person! You will find her in Artist Alley at Booth P11 and on some very fun and interesting panels!
Nilah Magruder and ECCC
Nilah Magruder will be at Booth P11 in Artist Alley.
As cannabis steadily moves from counterculture to mainstream, the time is perfect for 420TV, the new hub for cannabis news and entertainment, set to launch in early 2018. One of the new shows on 420TV will be a first-run animated series from long-time director of “The Simpsons,” David Silverman. Created for mature audiences, “SUPER SLACKERS” is a comedy about a group of lazy friends unwittingly thrust into the life of superheroes.
Another distinctive feature of this show is that it will be voiced by a a veritable “who’s who” of social influencers whose combined following tops 35 million. “SUPER SLACKERS” features hip-hop artist/actor Jerry Purpdrank; video/music producer & infamous slap-cammer Max Jr.; martial artist, dancer & comedian Dan Nampaikid; professional soccer player-turned-actor, director & content creator, Jon Paul Piques; Smosh YouTube star Olivia Sui; stand-up comedian/writer Arantza Fahnbulleh; and traditional actor/comedian Mickey Gooch, who was recently featured in the hit movie “How to Be Single,” and the indie comedies “Clapper” and “Deported.”
The animated series’ six-episode first season follows a group of friends who discover they have superpowers after their weed is switched with a new strain being used in a government experiment. When a Professor Xavier-type shows up to train them, they have no interest in saving the world. They agree to move into a rent-free government compound, but all they want to do is watch TV and play video games. The Professor is convinced he can turn them into the heroes that the world needs — but can he do it before their infectious laziness spreads to the rest of the agents?
“SUPER SLACKERS” is created and directed by David Silverman (“The Simpsons”), written by Joelle Sellner (“Sonic Boom”) and animated by Mike Blum (Pipsqueak). Executive Producers are Mickey Gooch (Skit Bags Entertainment), Warren Zide (“American Pie”), digital entertainment manager/attorney Ash Venkatram and entrepreneur Ranajit Chaudhury. Usman Shaikh is Co-Executive Producer. The series was introduced to 420TV by talent manager Leanne Perice.
SUPER SLACKERS on 420TV
“‘SUPER SLACKERS’ is the first original animated series from a director in the traditional space that leverages the talents and audience of household digital stars,” said Ash Venkatram. “By choosing a racially diverse cast and throwing them into the culture of cannabis, we hope to give viewers a refreshing change from the vanilla content they normally consume on linear television.”
“420TV is thrilled to be offering the latest animated comedy created by David Silverman, a wonderfully gifted animator who has a long history of producing tremendously successful shows. His new, first-run series, which will make its global premiere on 420TV, is equal parts funny, twisted and cool. ‘SUPER SLACKERS’ is also a perfect complement to our lineup, as we look to create and secure cannabis-friendly content for both the converted and the curious,” said Alex Nahai, a partner in 420TV.
Added David Silverman: “I couldn’t imagine a more fitting home for ‘SUPER SLACKERS’ than 420TV, with its appeal to a very open-minded, socially connected audience.”
Debuting in early 2018, and initially available through 420TV.com and its mobile applications, 420TV is a premium 4K video-on-demand network devoted to all things cannabis. It will deliver original programming produced exclusively for the multi-platform channel, in addition to acquired long and short-form entertainment. Content categories in development include news, information, food, fashion, comedy, music and animation, as well as acquired feature films, documentaries, music and live streaming events. 420TV was developed by 420 Entertainment Group, comprised of OWNZONES Media Network, Genesis Media and Alex Nahai Enterprises. For more information, follow www.420TV.com.
The Simpsons celebrates 30 years on television. If you count the original one-minute shorts aired during “The Tracey Ullman Show,” The Simpsons began in 1987. The actual show began on December 17th, 1989. Frame Your TV has produced a series of visual assets to celebrate 30 years of the iconic show.
More Proof That The Simpsons Live in Portland, Oregon!
Just click onto any of these assets to enlarge them and learn a variety of fun facts about The Simpsons.
Top Ten Episodes!
The visual assets take you through some of the best episodes in the show’s history, a selection of the quotes from the show that we still use in everyday life, and includes some facts about the show that you may not be familiar with.
Great Quotes to Live By!
Did you know that Krusty the Clown was originally supposed to be revealed as Homer? The Simpsons family looked so different when the show was first broadcast and it was hard to imagine the impact they would have on popular culture and the television landscape.
More Fun Facts!
May The Simpsons enjoy another 30-year reign!
Accept the Impact of The Simpsons!
In the future, there will only be The Simpsons to entertain us!
“The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime,” by Toshio Ban, published by Stone Bridge Press, is a work in manga fit for one of the greatest manga artists ever, Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989). Manga is a very particular experience and much can get lost in translation. One key trait to manga is that time constraints often go out the window, the format embraces extended scenes. I like this approach and find it can be quite effective in setting a mood. Like any other technique, it can be overdone. I thought this to myself as I began to undertake this behemoth of book clocking in at 928 pages. Could it have benefited from some restraint? Well, yes and no. Overall, I highly recommend it on many levels. It provides much needed context and general information. And, in the end, there is an enthusiastic spark throughout that lifts the reader.
Manga is inextricably linked to a different world view, as opposed to most Western comics. We Americans, even the most seasoned readers among us, have been conditioned to more tightly edited work. You just need to come into reading this biography with the same spirit you would approach a gloriously sprawling foreign film. Yes, expect to find many detailed scenes with the little boy Osamu. And, yes, expect various detailed scenes of Osamu, the man, at his drafting table.
Osamu Tezuka in his prime.
Who exactly was Osamu Tezuka? you may ask. In the United States, Osamu Tezuka is not as well known as he could be. But, in Japan, he ranks as high as, say, Charles M. Schulz does in America. There is every reason to believe that Tezuka could become as beloved an artist as Schulz. And that adds to the importance of this biography. In America, a certain number of enthusiasts know Tezuka for his landmark Buddha series. In Japan, Tezuka is also celebrated for Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Black Jack. Also covered in this book is Tezuka’s trailblazing work in animation. It is no exaggeration to say that Japan’s manga and anime owes greatly to the work of Osamu Tezuka.
Working for Osamu Tezuka proves challenging.
Among the memorable detailed accounts: Tezuka, up to his ears in work, is literally fleeing anxious editors from various publications hounding him to meet his deadlines. The King of Manga, hiding out in hotel rooms from publishers, with the press not far behind, became a veritable cause célèbre. At the height of so many conflicting deadlines piling up on him, Tezuka had to devise various systems to cut down the time-consuming process of creating manga. This included hiring a team of assistants. The poor devils were left to do various bits of piece work without a clue as to what would ultimately go where. This would be just a taste of what it would be like once Tezuka began to work in his own anime studio.
You are in for a treat. Yes, here you are dealing with a mammoth book. Take it bit by bit and you will be rewarded. Frederik L. Schodt’s translation works smoothly with Toshio Ban’s original script and artwork which greatly emulates Tezuka’s own artwork. This is indeed a treasure trove. The original work was published in 1992, three years after Tezuka’s death. It originally came out as three books: Osamu to Osamushi (1928-1945), Dreams of Manga (1945-1959), and Dreams of Anime (1960-1989). With that in mind, it is more reasonable to see how we ended up with such a big book. I think a graphic novel should be as long as it needs to be. Some 300-pagers could easily be half as long. But, in this case, here is a story that is well justified in spreading out as much as it needed to.
“The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime,” by Toshio Ban
THE OSAMU TEZUKA STORY is a 928-page trade paperback, published by Stone Bridge Press. Visit them right here. You can also find it at Amazon right here.
“Over the Garden Wall,” is a new comics series from Boom! Studios imprint, KaBOOM! But it already has established a history over at Cartoon Network as a crazy popular show. It has the distinction of being Cartoon Network’s first-ever original animated miniseries. That said, this issue assumes some prior knowledge of the goings-on but it’s also totally newbie-friendly. The gist of it is that this is all set in a fantasy-type world. The characters are always on the lookout for the Beast and the land of the Unknown is not a good place to be. Alright, that’s plenty to work with already!
Well, let’s just to be clear and give credit where credit is due. The whole shebang originates with “Tome of the Unknown” a fantastic animated short by Pat McHale ((Adventure Time, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack). That’s what led to the ongoing animated series on Cartoon Network. Things just rolled from there. For instance, check out Pat’s limited series comic.
Okay, getting back to this new ongoing series, what grabbed me right away was the zippy quality to the panel-to-panel reading experience. There is an uncanny timing to things like when you have a frog belch, “Rorop!” That’s because the original team from the new ongoing animated series is working on this comic. Jim Campbell returns to join forces with fellow show writer Amalia Levari. Along with that talent, there is also writer Danielle Burgos; and, art-wise, you have Jim Campbell and Cara McGee. Well, it all adds up to some magical storytelling. No prior knowledge, indeed! All you need to do is observe, with a certain amount of glee, little boy Greg as he returns to Dreamland traipsing about, all Little Nemo-style.
Midway through, we make an abrupt switch in setting after Greg has had his adventure. We go back in the backstory to the land of the Unknown and follow the struggles of young Anna, the daughter of the Woodsman, as she must learn to survive in the woods on her own. Greg’s story, followed by Anna’s story, all makes for a nice mix of light and dark. This is a very engaging comic that will be worthwhile for any age.
Also included is a preview of a new Adventure Time title simply going by the name, “Adventure Time Comics.” This is a special opportunity to spread one’s wings and mix things up with brand-new “off-model” stories, as they say in the comics biz. That accounts for the story here involving the Pastry Princess and the Queen of Breakfast. These are most definitely not your regular characters from Adventure Time. I guess whenever I see some such character, like say, The Hamburger Prince, I should yell out, “Off-model!” Either that or I should make my way to my nearest fast food drive thru. Well, getting back to the story at hand, it is very cute and funny. Turns out that pastries are indeed a part of breakfast. Wonderful art and story by Katie Cook! You can expect to find the first issue of “Adventure Time Comics” to arrive this July.
“Over the Garden Wall #1” is available as of April 27th. For more details, visit Boom! Studios right here.
Olivia Olson has much to celebrate and share with fans. She is in the unique position of getting to do a lot of cool and creative stuff with her dad, comedy writer Martin Olson. For starters, both are voice talent on the animated series “Adventure Time” on Cartoon Network. This is one of the most creative, quirky, and strangest shows on television. If you know the show, all I need to say is: Marceline the Vampire Queen and, her dad, the Lord of Evil, Hunson Abadeer! It was Adventure Time’s very own creator, Pendleton Ward, who recruited Olivia Olson, and later on Martin Olson, to become part of the show and the rest is history.
Marceline Vampire Queen and, her dad, Hunson Abadeer stealing her french fries
As Olivia describes in this interview, it was just a natural progression that led her to follow in her father’s footsteps into show business. Sure, it can be a harsh business but, with the right guidance, special things can result.
In the case of this father and daughter, it has led to not only performing together but also writing together. The first Adventure Time book was “The Adventure Time Encyclopedia,” written by Martin Olson. And that sparked an interest in Olivia to join in.
Olivia Olson and Marceline the Vampire Queen
Now comes a new book that goes even further, “Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” You can read my review here. This one is a collaboration between the two. Martin Olson focuses on the Enchiridion. And Olivia Olson focuses on Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook. But there’s more to it than that and we cover it in the interview.
One thing that Olivia wanted to point out is that this book is not only two books in one. When you think about it, it’s actually four books in one! You see, the Enchiridion covers two separate books: one for Heroes; and one for Wizards. And Marcy’s Scrapbook is actually two books: a journal by Simon Petrikov, aka The Ice King, the man who raised Marceline; and a journal by Marceline.
The full interview with Olivia Olson follows and includes the podcast at the end.
Henry Chamberlain: I read that the idea for this book began on a subway ride in New York City with you, your dad, and editor Eric Klopfer. Would you tell us about that, what you were anticipating doing on the book?
Olivia Olson: It’s a funny story since originally I wasn’t going to be part of the writing process. I helped a little bit for our first book, the encyclopedia for Adventure Time. That was mostly my dad writing it and I had so many notes to give him because, at the time, he didn’t know too much about the show. He said, “How about if I keep the wrong information and you keep correcting me throughout the book.” That was my first little snippet of writing. We were at New York Comic Con, with the first book being so well received, and we just thought we needed to do another book. The first book had been successful. And we knew how much my dad wanted to tackle writing the Enchiridion.
At the time, we didn’t know how we were going to fuse the Enchiridion with Marcy’s Scrapbook. That came about way later. We sort of tricked our publisher, Abrams, into having me be a co-author on the book. I wrote my segments and submitted them and then, after they provided feedback, we revealed that the writing was mine.
HC: There’s such a literary quality to Adventure Time stemming from the original creators, your dad. And now you, part of the next generation. Would you describe to us growing up in that world, being exposed to all that creativity, getting to write with your dad.
OO: It’s so funny because, when I was a little girl, I always wanted to act and sing, all that kind of stuff. My dad, being in the business, did not want me to have anything to do with it since, you know, it’s hard on children being part of that. So, he frowned upon it. But here I was growing up among all these comedians and writers and actors so it was kind of impossible for him not to expose me to the world.
Not in a million years would I have thought that I’d be performing and writing right alongside him. It is such a funny coincidence as I grew up in animation. I grew up with all these people who worked in cartoons. But I never really thought that was to be my path. I always thought it would be more like Beyonce or Mariah Carey. It’s just so weird. People like Tom Kenny and his wife used to babysit me and my brother. Now I get to play a character with Tom Kenny. And I get to write with my dad.
HC: From what I observe, it looks like it’s all coming together naturally. For instance, your dad never considered himself an actor, even though he has that performing background.
OO: We joke about it. We’ve been doing this all our lives and now we have a job where we’re getting paid for it. Adventure Time has provided all these amazing outlets. I started off as an actor. My dad started off as a writer. Now, five years later, he’s an actor on the show and I’m a writer. It’s really amazing that Pen Ward, the creator of Adventure Time, gave us these opportunities to not only work as father and daughter but explore the range of our talents.
HC: You have a very distinctive voice and style for Marceline the Vampire Queen. And you bring her to life so well in this book. This is quite a unique two-books-in-one. Could you describe your take on your writing process–and how your songwriting background comes into play. I can think of some lyrics that you include in the book.
OO: There’s definitely a lot of poetry and lyrics spread throughout the Scrapbook part. It’s funny that we pitch it as a two part book because, if you really delve into it, you see that it’s a four part book. The Enchiridion side has two parts, one for Heroes and one for Wizards. And the Scrapbook has a journal by Simon Petrikov followed by a journal by Marceline.
The Scrapbook was originally going to be something completely different. I wrote summaries for every episode I’d ever done. I was following along with each episode and wrote a diary entry for what Marceline might write on that particular day. That’s what we originally submitted and then we end up scrapping all of that. We wanted to dive deeper into the backstory since Marceline is such a mysterious character. We really wanted to cover the Mushroom War and how tragic her story really is.
It was when I added the poetry that it kicked in. I had never written a work like this before. It was something new. I definitely started off by writing a lot of poetry for it. And that made me feel more connected to my character.
Marceline in “Stakes” from Adventure Time on Cartoon Network
HC: What do you hope readers will get out of the Scrapbook? I am thinking that, for young readers, they will get a fuller appreciation of how a character is depicted in a different medium. You see Marceline one way in an animated format and you see her in a different way in a literary format. Can you speak to how the character can do different things in different media?
OO: I think all the work outside of the actual series, and that includes the video games, comics, anything like that, is technically not canon to the show. We worked extremely hard with everyone involved to have our contributions match as closely to what is happening on the show. And that was a huge help in having us align with “Stakes,” the new mini-series that’s just come out. It gave us a platform to jumpstart where Marceline was going next and learn more about her.
I was so excited about this since Adventure Time fans really get down and dirty with everything. That’s what is so great about the show. It sparks the imagination. Fans have all these theories about what’s going on in the show. We went through so many drafts to stay true and do justice to the show. I was really impressed with what we ended up with, being able to go deeper into the characters, taking a different approach from the random humor the show is known for. When the show began to dig deeper into the characters, we wanted to do the same.
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
HC: What are you reading now or what sort of books do you like?
OO: Right now, I’m reading a zombie apocalypse book. It’s called, “The Girl with All the Gifts.” It’s 20 years after a zombie outbreak. You start with all these children at a playground. You don’t know why they’re being treated so poorly. They’re half-human and half-zombie. They’re hybrids. I was drawn to it since Marceline is a demon hybrid.
I like all kinds of books. I’m definitely not someone who judges a book by its cover. I’ll be at the airport and give anything a try.
HC: What sort of music are you currently listening to?
OO: Well, I like how Apple iTunes organizes your music and makes suggestions. It has me now listening to Justin Bieber. My boyfriend wasn’t a fan but now he is. I’m also enjoying the oldies, like The Doors.
HC: Any new writing projects brewing?
OO: I don’t want to jinx it but we’re in talks with my publisher, Abrams, about a new book. And I’m working on new music. I’d say, right now, I’m not reaching a quarter-life crisis but more of a quarter-life reprocessing of what path I want to take. I’ve been so fortunate to be so successful at such a young age. So, if there are any young listeners out there, don’t worry about having to know what you’re doing since I don’t always feel that I do.
HC: I think you’re on a great path. I foresee more of the same with new discoveries along the way.
OO: Yeah, I’ve been extremely fortunate. I’m a lucky girl but I always want to top myself and find what’s new.
HC: Well, great. Thanks so much, Olivia.
OO: Thank you, Henry. This has been a great chat. Really great questions.
The podcast is below:
“Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” is published by Abrams. Visit them right here. And be sure to catch Marceline the Vampire Queen on Cartoon Network right here.
I love good stuff that is for all ages because you can easily share it with family and friends and it’s hitting universal chords. That brings me to a book you will want to get for yourself and anyone you know looking for something odd and compelling: “Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” Yes, that’s a mouthful but for very good reason. I am guessing that you’re familiar with the celebrated animated series, Adventure Time, on Cartoon Network. Am I right? If not, think of it as offbeat humor of a rare kind like such classics as Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bugs Bunny.
The world of Adventure Time invovles some very funny misadventures along with a very colorful cast of characters. Lots of magic. Lots of weird humor. And a heck of a lot of style and whipsmart goings-on. Set in a post-apolalyptic world, there is nary a zombie to be found here but loads of other curious creatures. The authors of this two-books-in-one are, among other things, voice talent on the show. Olivia Olson is Marceline the Vampire Queen and Martin Olson is her father, Hunson Abadeer.
Okay, this is what happened. The creator of Adventure Time, Pendleton Ward, was so impressed with the work of Martin Olson that he brought him on board to write about Adventure Time. Now, fast forward to this year, Martin Olson is taking things further and has enlisted his daughter, Olivia Olson, to help make this latest Adventure Time book a reality. And, yes, you read correctly, this is literally two books in one! You get the fabled Enchiridion, the infamous book found in the animated series. Plus, you get an in depth look into the inner world of Marceline The Vampire Queen, one of the most intriguing characters on the show.
From Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!! by Olivia Olson
Allow me one digression: there actually is another Enchiridion! It is a book filled with advice for gentleman originally published in 125 AD. It was written by Arrian, a 2nd-century disciple of the Greek philosopher Epictetus. And it offers bits of wisdom that you can boil down to one main theme: recognize what you’re in control of and you’ll lead a happy life. Ah, there is beauty in the spinning of universal truth. It sounds like something that Jake, the philosopher/party animal magical dog on the show would say. Some things never change.
The universal truth of the matter is that both Martin Olson and Olivia Olson offer you quite a special treat with this book. It is remarkable how well it all lives up to its ambition. It is the equivalent of handing to a fan of the show something snatched right off the screen that actually lives and breathes. Martin Olson turns in a virtuoso work of humor. And Olivia Olson proves to be an insightful and heartfelt author as well.
“Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!” is a 224-page hardcover in full color, published by Abrams, with illustrations by some of the leading cartoonists working today.
I’ve always found this to be a very comforting way to settle into the holiday season. It was during this program that I found out about the upcoming animated feature movie, THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS, a comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day.
This one is a keeper. I think when you take the talent behind DESPICABLE ME and apply that to pets, you are definitely onto something. Based on the trailer and the all-around good buzz for this feature, I’m really looking forward to this when it comes out next summer. THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS is the fifth fully-animated feature-film collaboration between Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures. The official release date is July 8, 2016 (USA).
Steve Jobs, we feel we know him and yet he is something of a mystery and there is an enormous amount to cover. Jessie Hartland has created an illustrated work, a “graphic biography,” that brings the public figure down to a human scale: “Steve Jobs: Insanely Great,” published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Read my review here.
Jessie Hartland is the author of the highly acclaimed graphic biography, “Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child,” described by the New York Times as “bursting with exuberant urban-naif gouache paintings and a hand-lettered text that somehow manages to recount every second of Child’s life.”
For her book on Steve Jobs, Ms. Hartland provides us with an engaging and comprehensive look at one of the great technology trailblazers of our time. “Steve Jobs: Insanely Great” is another wonderful example of an all-ages book providing a significant amount of information in a concise and entertaining way. While Jobs is a problematic role model at best, he remains a most intriguing individual.
The full interview with Jessie Hartland follows and includes the podcast at the end.
Henry Chamberlain: Do you believe that your book has brought Steve Jobs down to a human scale and made him accessible to readers? What would you say is your purpose in bringing this book out?
Jessie Hartland: I think more people are reading my book than would normally sit down with a 600-page biography. So, more people are learning about him. He’s such a fascinating guy. I had just turned in the book on Julia Child, which was also a graphic biography, this one was in color. And I was searching for who to write about next. I was considering a scientist or an artist. And then Steve Jobs dies. He seemed like just the right person to write about. It had begun as a picture book, more like the Julia Child book I’d done, for younger kids. The more I read about him, the more I wanted to write about his whole life. My editors had originally envisioned the book ending with the Apple I computer. Only 200 of those computers were sold and that’s not what he’s known for. So, I went back to my editors and said I really wanted to cover his whole life, I want to do it in black and white, and just run with it. I didn’t want to limit the page count and I wanted it to be more for middle grade or teenagers.
HC: What was your thinking with going with black and white? Was that to instantly signal the reader that this is more serious content?
JH: I think a lot of the graphic novels out there are black and white. I like the stark quality of black and white. I like Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis.” I could have used color. It wasn’t really discussed. I think I wanted it to be more about the drawings, the lines, and the words rather than these gauche paintings. If I had done gauche paintings for this one, I probably would still be working on it.
HC: This must be quite pleasing to have these two major films coming out coinciding with your book. That didn’t turn out that way with your book on Julia Child.
JH: Yes, that’s a funny story. I came up with the idea for the Julia Child book years ago, probably two or three years before the film, “Julie and Julia.” I had different editors then and they were saying that no one cared about Julia Child anymore. And so the book ended up without a home. Only later, with my editors at Random House, did the book find a home. The 100th anniversary of Julia Child birth was coming up and there would be press for that. But, had we moved forward earlier, my book would have coincided with the film.
HC: But now you’ve got two major films. The new Alex Gibney documentary, “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” comes out this week, September 4th.
JH: Oh, really?
HC: And then you have what I can only imagine will be a very important film, with an Aaron Sorkin screenplay, simply entitled, “Steve Jobs,” coming out next month, October 9th. There have been all the books, these two major films. I can’t think, in recent memory, of so much notable work springing forth from one public figure.
JH: He’s such an interesting character. Here’s this guy, this rebel, this iconoclast. He dropped out of college after only one semester. And then he takes a calligraphy class. He starts a little company in his parent’s garage with Woz and it grew to become the world’s most powerful company. It’s just amazing. Who wouldn’t want to know more about him?
HC: We’re at a very interesting turning point with graphic novels. More and more people are understanding that they aren’t just for kids, if they ever were, really.
JH: Yes, that’s right.
HC: You create a perfect all-ages book with issues that can be discussed between a parent and child. You bring in the issue of his experimenting with drugs. You bring in the issue of his not ready to be a dad the first time around. These are big issues but kids can appreciate the realities of life and these are things that are fair game to include.
JH: I didn’t want to leave out the low points in his life. His denying the paternity to his first child with his high school girlfriend. And, of course, the drug use. He said so much about how important that was. He really liked these psychedelic drugs and they gave him a different viewpoint of the world. For him, it was like looking down from another planet and seeing the big picture. It helped him with his intuition and imagining what kind of products people would want in the future before they knew what they wanted. He didn’t like to do market research. He liked to quote Henry Ford, another great businessman. Ford would say that, if he left it up to the public to decide what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.
HC: I wanted to ask you about your process. You do a variation on storyboarding. I imagine that you work larger than print size and then reduce your pages to fit inside your binder where you can then shuffle them around as you need.
JH: Yeah, I work a little bit bigger than print but not by too much. Those binders are really important. This book took up two of them since it was so long. The pages let me shift things around. It’s really important to organizing the material. It took two years to siphon through that quantity of material, to winnow it down, and get everything in order. It took a while to wrap my mind around the fact that iTunes came around before the iPod. And then the events involved with Pixar were complicated to sort out.
HC: Where did his catch phrase, “Insanely Great,” originate from?
JH: Oh, I think that goes way back to when he was a teenager. Yes, I love using that in the book. Woz had the idea for a home computer and his employer, Hewlett Packard, wasn’t interested in developing it at that point. And then Woz showed the circuit board to Steve and Steve says, “Insanely great! Let’s start a company!” Jobs was the great salesman with the big picture. Woz was this engineering genius.
HC: Steve Jobs was at the right place and at the right time in so many ways.
JH: Yes, he grew up in and spent his whole life in Silicon Valley. It used to be known simply as Santa Clara Valley. His father was a machinist. He was adopted. His biological parents were graduate students at the time. One of the parents objected to the marriage on religious grounds. Steve was adopted, grew up in the suburbs of Santa Clara. His father worked in the tech industry. He didn’t go to college but he was a tinkerer and he and Steve would go to the local junkyard, fill up the truck with things, and do projects together. They’d put things together. There were tools all around. And the neighborhood was just swarming with engineers. Steve got to know a lot of the neighbors and how things work and what was going on. It was a very exciting time in what was to be known as Silicon Valley.
HC: Steve could just pick up the phone and start talking to the founder of Hewlett Packard.
JH: Yes! That’s right. He needed some parts for his frequency counter, a device that measure the pulses per second in an electronic signal. He had some of the pieces he needed but he was missing some. He knew that the head of Hewlett Packard lived nearby. So, he looked up Bill Hewlett in the phone book and called him up. Bill was so impressed with the young Steve Jobs that he offered him a summer job.
HC: I am looking at a page from your binders. And I was thinking last night, what if Steve Jobs was standing beside you and looking at your process. He might say to you that he had an “insanely great” way to speed up your work flow. However, I am not sure that I would classify your system so much as “low tech” as “hands on.” I don’t believe that there would be a satisfactory alternative for how you work.
JH: I like having little bits of paper around. I like sketching in a cafe and then slip that work into a binder. It is so hands on. And I love painting, working in gouache. This whole book was done in pen and ink. I went through six bottle of India ink and 24 Prismacolor pencils. It’s all hand-drawn. And people will snicker that I didn’t use a computer. But I did. With the gray tones, I had an assistant help me prepare all those files.
HC: Thanks so much for this chat. I know you want to pursue more graphic biographies. You have the one about pioneering computer programmer Ada Lovelace.
JH: That one, the Ada Lovelace book, is written by someone else and will be a picture book for younger readers. Currently, I am working on some art for a local show here on Long Island. The art will resemble totem poles. These will be called, “floatem poles.” They’re made from the flotsam and jetsam that washes up on the beach. And I’m working on some other books. I’m working with an entomologist on a book about insects. And I’m working on a book that features Tartufo, a truffle hound and that will be set in either Italy or France. I am going to Europe in a week to research that.
HC: I wish you a great trip. And thank you for your time.
JH: Thank you.
The podcast is below:
You can find “Steve Jobs: Insanely Great” at Amazon right here. You can visit Jessie Hartland right here.
Whether you are an artist, or would like to be, being able to draw without a model, but from memory, can be a challenge. With David H. Ross, you are definitely learning from the best. Mr. Ross has worked with all the major North American comic book publishers including Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Dark Horse Comics. I can tell you, as an artist myself, that he knows numerous techniques that do indeed make it possible to work from memory. Look no further than his new book, “Freehand Figure Drawing For Illustrators: Mastering the Art of Drawing from Memory,” published by Watson-Guptill Publications, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
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“Freehand Figure Drawing” is a 208-page trade paperback, published by Watson-Guptill, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available as of July 28th. For more details, visit our friends at Penguin Random House right here.