SDCC Panel: Graphic Novels for Kids

July 30, 2009 @ 7:34 pm | Filed under:

(Note: this is one of those uberlinky posts that takes forever to write. I’m going to eschew linking for now, for the most part, and add them later when I have time.)

There were two Graphic Novels for Kids panels on Sunday at San Diego Comic-Con 2009. I attended the first panel in its entirety, but I had to leave about 15 minutes into the afternoon session. The baby was feeling chatty again.

Both panels—the parts I attended—were excellent. Terrific lineups of writers and artists. I must have added a dozen new titles to my TBR pile, at least. I took scribbly notes while attempting to keep the pen out of the baby’s grasp—note-taking is tricky when you’re standing in the back of the room, bouncing an infant in a sling to keep him happy, trying not to poke the tip of your pen through the folded paper you’re balancing on your hand because you decided at the last minute that your beloved notebook was one object too many for a shoulder already overtaxed with convention survival supplies and a 21-pound six-month-old.

You’ll have to forgive, then, the sketchiness of my notes in some instances. I think my best bet here is to list the panelists and their books along with any remarks I happened to jot down, rather than making any attempt to chronicle the Q and A in order. Fair enough? Of the books I’m about to list, I have only read Jennifer Holm’s Babymouse series and David Petersen’s Mouse Guard: Fall 1152. I wholeheartedly recommend the former for young readers and the latter for all ages. And I’d venture to say that even non-fantasy-fans and non-comics-fans will be blown away by Petersen’s gorgeous full-color artwork. (Edited to add: David Petersen was on the second panel, which I’ll talk about in a subsequent post.)

All righty, then. My notes:

Comics and Graphic Novels for Kids Panel #1, SDCC 2009

First: a hearty note of appreciation for the work of the moderator, Robin Brenner of and author of Understanding Manga and Anime. Her questions were insightful and her handout was packed with information. (I’d love to see it online!) Fabulous resource and it’s clear Brenner knows the topic well.

The panelists:

Gene Yang, author and illustrator of American Born Chinese (winner of Eisner and Printz Awards—the Eisner is the most prestigious award in comics, says the proud wife of an Eisner nominee) and writer of The Eternal Smile, illustrated by Derek Kirk Kim, who was also on the panel. (Many of my readers may also recognize Gene as the creator of The Rosary Comic Book, published by Pauline Books and Media, about which Gene wrote: “I’ve always struggled with how to incorporate my faith into my comics in an authentic way. One Lent, I decided to do a comic adaptation of the Rosary Prayer, rather than giving up chocolate or soda. The Rosary Comic Book is the result.)


—Is a teacher, has young children, started writing comics because of dearth of kid-appropriate comic books in stores. Mentioned reading a Batman comic (years ago) in which the villain disguised himself with the skin of a victim’s face, found that image terribly disturbing, it lingered, was not at all appropriate for children.

—During discussion of the responsibility of writing for kids, told funny story (at Derek Kirk Kim’s urging) about a reader who tracked him down by calling the school where he works & left scolding message about a grammatical error in one of his books, and actually asked him to call back to discuss the matter. He didn’t return the call, of course.

Derek Kirk Kim, author and illustrator of Same Difference and Other Stories (won Eisner and Harvey), a graphic novel (not for kids). As mentioned above, he illustrated The Eternal Smile, a collection of fantastical stories (fantastical, not necessarily fantasy).

Jennifer Holm, author of the Babymouse books (illustrated by her brother, Matthew Holm), and Newbery Honor-winning author of Our Only May Amelia.

—Grew up the only girl with four brothers, comics were everywhere, but she didn’t connect with Wonder Woman and other female superheroes who seemed nothing like her. Babymouse springs from her desire to create a comic book character other young girls can relate to. (It tickled me to see Jenni up there on the panel, the only female surrounded by half a dozen men, talking about growing up with a pack of brothers.)

—Went with traditional children’s book publisher rather than comics publisher for Babymouse because the book publishers know how to get books into schools and libraries. Comic book shops are not places frequented by mothers of small children (as she knows from experience, as the mother of small children).

—Fun connection: during conversation before the panel began, we discovered a mutual affection for Ginee Seo, who was Jenni’s editor at one point, and my boss for a short while years earlier. (“For a short while” because then Jane was born!)

genejenniGene Yang and Jennifer Holm.

Eric Wright, author and illustrator of Frankie Pickle (illustrated chapter book series for young kids), My Dead Girlfriend (teen graphic novel), and Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (comic book adaptation). Former animator at Disney, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network.

—Eric spoke earnestly about the need for kid-appropriate comics and graphic novels. (A drum I’ve been pounding for years.) Described becoming a father, having to shield his child’s eyes in the comic shops.

—Told a great story about a library(?) signing for very young children. One child in the autograph line seemed a good bit older than the rest, turned out to be a first-grader who’d skipped school for the event. The boy’s mother told Eric, “Meeting you was more important to him than going to school.”

panelsmilesJennifer Holm, Jarrett K. Krosoczka, Eric Wright, and Chris Schweitzer.

Lewis Trondheim, French comics superstar. Spoke about differences in France, where all ages read comics and prose with equal enthusiasm. Funny, wry; I wish I’d taken better notes about his contributions to the discussion. Blame my infant son.

Jarrett K. Krosoczka, prolific children’s book writer and illustrator (Punk Farm, Bubble Bath Pirates, Annie Was Warned, and many others) and writer/illustrator of a graphic novel series called Lunch Lady, which I am eager to check out.

Chris Schweizer, author and illustrator of The Crogan Adventures, teen graphic novels about “an honest sailor who, through unfortunate circumstance, finds himself thrust into a life of piracy” (description taken from the author’s website). You pretty much always have me at “finds himself thrust into a life of piracy,” so I can’t wait to take a look at Crogan.

panelmenJarrett K. Krosoczka, Eric Wright, Chris Schweitzer, and Derek Kirk Kim.

I’ll have to write about the second panel in another post—this one is bursting at the seams as it is. But there are a lot of promising prospects for the TBR pile here. If you check any of them out, or your kids do, I would love to hear what you and they think!

panelGroup photo with moderator Robin Brenner. That’s Lewis Trondheim on the left. I loved that Gene and Jennifer had their families with them, and I absolutely adore this photo of Jennifer with her two beautiful children making a rush for mommy during the photo shoot. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have found myself in exactly the same position, with one child clinging to my neck and the another on my back threatening to topple all three of us over. Just fills your heart with warmth, doesn’t it?

Post #2 on this subject is here—more graphic novel authors and titles.

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12 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Faith says:

    Thank you for this! I’m taking notes too as we seem to be moving in the direction of lots of graphic novels in my household!

  2. Sara says:

    I’m so not into graphic novels. I don’t really get the attraction. The only one I’ve read is “Bone” which is huge. My teen says it’s the greatest ever written, and I did enjoy it, but it didn’t occur to me that there might be other good ones out there. Nevermind the huge graphic novel section of B&N. That obviously wasn’t enough to clue me in!

    I might have to look some of these up.

  3. Penny in VT says:

    I am so excited to introduce graphic novels to my girls. Thank you so much for all the great info and rec’s – Babymouse and Mouse Guard are on there way now, and I’ll be checking out the others as soon as I can!

    Ever thought of writing one yourself….???

  4. Hannah says:

    Please keep pounding that drum, Lissa. My now-9 y.o. son can be difficult to choose books for, but he loved Rapunzel’s Revenge, Mouse Guard, the Asterix books, and browsing in our local comics shop (although there is only a small section that I deem appropriate for him). I do wish there were more options; I feel iffy about those Hardy Boys graphic novels he gravitates toward. Any recommendations you come up, keep sending our way!

  5. Melissa Wiley says:

    A graphic novel series I haven’t read yet, but KEEP MEANING TO, because my husband and three oldest children are wild about it, is the PS238 series by Aaron Williams. I guess I haven’t mentioned them here before because Aaron is writing a (decidedly not for kids) series for Scott at WildStorm, and it’s sometimes tricky to know where the nepotism line is, you know? But in this case, I think I’m on the safe side of the line because it was Aaron’s PS238 books (not pub’d by WildStorm) that brought him to Scott’s attention:

    “I was at the [2008] San Diego Comic-Con. I was checking out the various booths when I spied my old pal Rob Simpson, a former Marvel editor, former DC editor who was then working at Dark Horse. He introduced me to the couple he was talking to, a friendly pair named Aaron and Cristi Williams. I was under the impression that they were old friends with my old friend but later learned it wasn’t true—they were just friends with pretty much everyone they met. Cristi offered me copies of Aaron’s books and not wanting to be impolite (I will now pause as Kristy Quinn collects herself) and because I’m a huge fan of free swag, I oh so kindly accepted.

    Rob and I caught up and then I had to run for a meeting with another old pal, Eddie Berganza, to discuss the DC/WildStorm crossover DREAMWAR. Unusually for me, I was actually a few minutes early. As is not unusual for SDCC, Eddie got caught in the crush of people trying to leave the con, and called to say he’d be a few minutes late. As all I had to read were these new Aaron Williams books I’d been handed, I opened the first one…and was instantly sucked into the world of PS238.

    I immediately discovered that Aaron had created a world populated with classic comic book characters, all of whom had been tweaked and tilted and turned just enough to be both completely, instantly recognizable and yet utterly new. They were old pals you’d never met before. And then Aaron grabbed ’em and put ’em through their paces, crafting stories that were clear and accessible and never went where you thought they were going and yet managed to be completely satisfying. Not to mention funny, which they were in spades. Great characterization, great pacing, great dialogue. The series was the real deal. By the time Eddie arrived I had a new favorite (non-WildStorm) comic book series.”

    (from Scott’s post on the company blog about the birth of North 40)

    PS238 is a school for children with superpowers. Some are the offspring of superheroes and supervillains; some have “normal” parents. You had me at hello, right? 🙂

  6. Melissa Wiley says:

    Sara, my kids love the Bone books too. Jeff Smith was on the second kids’ graphic novels panel, which I hope to write a little about over the weekend. I had to leave that panel fairly early on but I can at least share the author/illustrator/book title info and we’ll all have a new stack of titles to explore.

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Penny, re “ever thought of writing one yourself?”—absolutely! I have two concepts in particular that I’ve been working up these past two years, but as with all my works-in-progress, time is the hindering factor. It’s just not a season of intense fiction writing right now (unlike 1998-2004 when I delivered 8 novels and 4 babies!) but I’m working steadily and slowly. Have a prose novel to finish first, and then the hard decision comes. Which of two long-backburnered middle-grade novels, a YA novel, and two graphic novel concepts to tackle first?

  8. Penny in VT says:

    Lissa – re: all your writing projects – oboy! oboy! oboy!

  9. Jenny in Ca says:

    I was so interested to read this post, my younger 3 kids are very into graphic books..I struggled with worrying that they are not “real” books, but then decided that if they get and keep them reading, and we avoid the adult titles, then they are a good thing by now. Our first ones were on beowulf and Troy, which made me very happy as we were covering ancient History. My boys love, love spiderman..I wish they would draw the girls a little bit more modestly..sigh.

    I am really glad to hear that the market for children’s graphic books is getting some attention!

  10. Sarah N. says:

    Thanks for all this info. I’m definitely going to get Mouse Guard for my daughter. She’s been enjoying Rapunzel’s Revenge and the graphic novel version of Kiki’s Delivery Service.