Mark Siegel Promotes Comics in Minneapolis

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I’ve known for awhile that First Second’s Editorial Director Mark Siegel would come to Minneapolis this winter. Until he arrived, I didn’t understand why.

Minneapolis, I now know, was the second stop on his “goodwill tour” (my words). Siegel is meeting with booksellers, organizers, librarians and students in an effort to promote comics readership and by extension First Second Books.

He’s reaching out to the people who matter in the comics world who we rarely talk about — the connectors.  People who are positioned to take comics seriously and bring new readers to the medium.  His travels have taken him to Seattle and Minneapolis so far.

Siegel’s tour may lead to other cities, I didn’t get his full itinerary, but I know he spent nearly a week in Minneapolis:

I attended a Thursday dinner where representatives from local bookstores, reading groups, writing centers and universities were present.  I see that he’s really reaching out; hopefully making a big impression on our local literary scene and reigniting excitement and interest in the graphic novel.

On Friday his time was spent largely with the folks at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design (MCAD), talking with seniors during the day and at night giving a presentation on graphic novels to a packed house.  The talk was sponsored by Rain Taxi (a literary magazine that also reviews comics and runs the Rain Taxi Festival of Books), MCAD and Big Brain Comics.

Saturday he delivered a talk on graphic novels to the Children’s Literature Network, an event that targeted librarians and educators and discussed comic editing and publishing at the Loft Literary Center.

Monday he stopped by comic shops around town, including Dreamhaven (closed, unfortunately) and The Source Comics & Games, and ran a workshop on creating graphic novels through the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

Tuesday he met with a group of public librarians through the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), a library group that includes the majority of the metro area’s public libraries — including Hennepin County Library, one of the top library systems in the nation.

I was able to attend his talk at MCAD and have transcribed parts of it below.

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Interview: Gene Yang Pt. 2 [of 2]

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In this second part of our interview with Gene Yang, we speak in more detail about his latest book, The Eternal Smile, a collaboration with fellow Bay Area-based cartoonist Derek Kirk Kim, which collects two brand new stories and an old, largely forgotten fantasy tale, which saw a small run on Image Comics in the late-90s.

Yang discusses his collaboration, the impact of its predecessor’s success, and the difficulties of tackling ethnicity in comic book form.

[Part One]

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Interview: Gene Yang Pt. 1 [of 2]

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It was 2006’s American Born Chinese that put Gene Yang on the sequential art map. The book, an exploration of Asian-American identity situated at the cross section of cultural struggles, stereotypes and fantasy, was nominated for a National Book Award—the first graphic novel to receive that prestigious honor.

Yang’s follow up to that much lauded project is this year’s The Eternal Smile. The book—the artist’s sophomore work for First Second Books—teams him up with fellow Bay Area comics veteran Derek Kirk Kim on three short stories that explore the sometimes thin lines between fantasy and reality.

In this first part of our interview with Yang, we discuss his day job as a high school teacher, the roles he sees technology playing in the creation and consumption of comics, and how his collaboration with Kim first came about.

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The Eternal Smile by Gene Yang and Derek Kim

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The Eternal Smile
By Gene Yang and Derek Kim
First Second

yangkimtheeternalsmilecoverIt’s a testament, of course, to Derek Kirk Kim’s abilities as an artist that, upon first glance, there are no immediately discernable similarities between the three short stories that make up The Eternal Smile. The artist adopts a vastly different aesthetic for each of the three pieces—three styles which might easily be mistaken for the work of three different artists. It’s a testament to Gene Yang’s ability as a writer, however, that despite the works’ clear differences, its the unified nature of the three pieces that ultimately stays with the reader.

On their face, the three works could hardly be more different. Duncan’s Kingdom is a fantasy story, set upon the backdrop of a medieval kingdom under siege by an army of glowing-eyed frogmen. A hero is tasked with the destruction of said army, so that he might win the hand of a fair maiden. Kim adopts a quasi-fantasy style for the piece, at times taking cues from artists like Mike Mignola.

The artist’s style shifts abruptly for the next story. Opening with a cover page paying a less than subtle homage to Carl Barks’s Uncle Scrooge, the second story, which lends its title to the book, uses aesthetics borrowed from American and Japanese funny animal comics to tell of a covetous frog who will stop at nothing in pursuit of fame and fortune.

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Interview: Farel Dalrymple

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“We’re sold out of Pop Gun War,” the comics retailer told me. “They’re teaching it at Portland State University.” 

“Teaching it?” 

 “They’re using it in a graphic novel class.” 

I went to the fourth floor of Neuberger Hall and stepped into the English department office. The guy at the desk and a middle-aged woman were laughing about Moby Dick. My presence must have signaled back-to-work because she stepped out and the guy looked up brightly and supplied all the information about contacting Michael Ward, the teacher who had chosen Farel Dalrymple’s book, Pop Gun War

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