Happy 4th of July

First Second, MacMillan

Over the 4th of July holiday, Dan Rather posted the first chapter from his book “What Unites Us” (with a timely story from his childhood). Hop on over to his “Steady” page for the rest of the posting. Myself, I spent the 4th up at an annual Campout Jamboree (cancelled last year of course), with many dear friends, playing music all day and night. Batteries recharged, and now back to work.

Quietly Sketching Away

First Second, MacMillan, Penguin

Been a long time between posts. After a period of quiet, this past week I’ve been caught up with sketches for an upcoming ‘Who Was’ project. My favorite part of these books is the portraits, and here’s a few rough sketch versions of some of the cast of characters from this project. I’ll also be finally starting work on another book project for MacMillan (which got sidelined during the whole pandemic of 2020), and with one more ‘Who Was’ project waiting in the wings, it should be a pretty busy spring.

In the meantime, the ‘What Unites Us’ graphic novel has been making the rounds, and there was a very nice review for it on Multiversity Comics.

What Unites Us Again

First Second

On Friday, shortly after posting my previous blog entry, a carton of books arrived on my doorstep. I’ve been very nervous about how I would react to the finished product. I’m generally very critical of my own work, and with a full year passing between the last time I had actually worked on any of the art for this book, I was sure I would be disappointed in some way or another. I’m happy to report that I was quite pleased with the final result, and am very excited about seeing it hit the bookshelves for others to experience. Below is another sample, from the opening page of the book (without the text). If this isn’t the high point of my entire career, it’ll do until another high point comes along.

Thanks to the entire crew at First Second for turning out a beautiful product, you did a fantastic job: Mark Siegel, Robyn Chapman, Kirk Benshoff, Sunny Lee, Sara Rosenbaum, and to the authors Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner for writing such an inspiring book. It was a pleasure and an honor to be associated with this project.

What Unites Us

comics, First Second
‘What Unites Us’, 2021

Back in the spring of 2018, I was contacted by the Art Director of First Second Books (a division of MacMillan), about the possibility of my illustrating a graphic novel adaptation of a book by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner called ‘What Unites Us’. I hadn’t worked for this publisher before, but apparently they had seen some of my previous work and thought I’d be a good fit for this project. I had very little experience with graphic novels or comics, but I had worked on a short Babe Ruth non-fiction comic (‘The Bambino’) for Capstone, and I’d done a few comics adaptations of memoirs for a friend’s website (‘Freaks of Nurture’), and samples from both are attached below.

What Unites Us, 2021

I drew a few sample pages that summer in a style I thought might work. Early on, I had the idea of doing the entire book in red, white and blue (commenting on the current climate of divisiveness, with ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’, and the way the colors combine to form our flag), and the original sample pages reflected that concept. The sample pages went through an editing phase and were revised, and by the end of the year, I was offered a contract and advance to complete the project.

‘The Bambino’, Capstone Press, 2011

It was a daunting task. The original book that I was adapting was over 300 pages, and I’d never done anything of this scope before in my career. I was given a copy of the book, and then a highlighted pdf with vague suggestions of where the editors thought I might make cuts and simplify, but other than that, I dove into the pagination and thumbnail sketches the spring and summer of 2019 with a feeling not unlike terror. A few months after the editors received a copy of the layout I had created, I was given the go-ahead to start work on the finished product. I started work on the finished pages in June of 2019, and was done by November (with a month long break to hike the John Muir Trail in August).

Freaks of Nurture, 2009
‘What Unites Us’, 2021

The edits and revisions took place mostly in the early months of 2020, but then the pandemic hit, and the publication date was pushed back. I’m happy to announce that the book will finally be hitting the shelves and available for purchase on March 9 of this year, in only a few weeks’ time. Here’s a link to a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and also a preview link at the ComicsBeat website. Also, here’s a link to where you can purchase it on Amazon.