For the last day of the Thalia Kids’ Book Club Camp, we had a visit from Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier, two cartoonists who not only collaborate on projects together but are also married! Raina is the author of the upcoming graphic novel Smile, which comes out in February 2010. Both Raina and Dave, however, have been artists and collaborators for many different cartoons and graphic novels, and shared their experiences and artistic expertise with us today.
Dave and Raina explained that they both have artistic backgrounds, as Dave majored in cartooning in college, and Raina studied illustration. Among the things they share in common is, of course, the love for comics, not to mention their talent for drawing! Dave and Raina told us that they first started making graphic novels after going to comic conventions and asking their favorite artists and authors questions about making books. Since then, they’ve worked with many different artists, as well as each other, to create a range of graphic novels, like X-Men: Misfits, the Flight anthology, and Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery.
Raina then talked to us about her book Smile, a graphic novel based on her own experience of having her front teeth knocked out when she was eleven years old, and the long journey – through braces and headgear – towards getting her smile back. The special treat for our campers this week was to receive advance galley copies of Smile, and to be the first to see and read the book! Raina told us about her drawing and writing process when she creates stories, which first involves drawing quick thumbnails of all of the panels of the comic, in order to get an idea of the general layout of each page. These thumbnails can then be edited and refined before creating final copies, which Raina creates with waterproof ink, and scanning them into a program to be digitally perfected.
Before Smile became a novel, Raina explained, it was a mini-comic, which are shorter stories that are simply created on plain white paper and are photocopied into small booklets, but are not sold in regular bookstores. In fact, as Dave pointed out, mini-comics is how many cartoonists get their start, before moving on to graphic novels. As we looked at some sample mini-comics that Dave and Raina brought in, Dave continued to tell us that mini-comics are primarily distributed at comic conventions, but that some comic stores, like Rocketship in Brooklyn and Jim Hanley’s Universe in Manhattan, will buy and sell mini-comics.
Walking us through the process of developing characters and a story, Dave and Raina told us about turn-arounds, or drawings of what a character looks like from every angle, which are helpful in getting the full idea of what a particular character looks like. These character sketches are also important because they help differentiate individuals from other characters in the story and pick out details that are unique to each one.
Then, they had us try out the process: we created a character using their character development sheet; made a list of events the character would experience; and drew a page of “panels”, (what each square on a comic book page is called,) illustrating our story. The results were terrific.
As a bonus, Raina and Dave gave us some tips on drawing by drawing faces expressing different emotions right there in front of our eyes! Even campers who don’t consider themselves comic book aficionados found this session fascinating.
Week Two of camp ended today with a performance in the Thalia of the campers’ poetry, stories and “possible disasters” read by the wonderful actors Matt Cody and Bernadette Quigley. Family and friends in the audience enjoyed the readings as much as the campers did.
So, sadly but filled with great memories of books, authors, interviews, trips, friendships and fun, we said goodbye to one another and to the Thalia Kids’ Book Club Camp 2009.