Comics for Young Readers at Stumptown 2010: mini-report

So I moderated a panel yesterday about Comics for Young Readers at Stumptown 2010. (I didn’t take any pictures, but pictures were definitely taken — if I can turn some up I will add them. ETA: here is a photo!)

EATA (edited again to add): Alexis Fajardo recorded the panel in its entirety! It’s part of Episode 85 of the Tall Tale Features podcast, which also includes some additional conversation with Alexis, and Jonathan Lemon extolling the virtues of Zippy the Pinhead.

I had a good feeling about it as soon as I saw that there were a solid number of actual young readers in the audience. Serendipity was on our side as well — I spotted Matt Holm in the audience of the previous session and persuaded him to join the panel along with Alexis Fajardo, Raina Telgemeier and Hope Larson. Thanks to Matt for agreeing to be empaneled and to the other panelists for rolling with the last-minute addition!

Some highlights (anyone who was there and remembers more, comment away!):

On the challenges of doing comics for younger readers:

— Actually reaching the audience, since they don’t typically have a lot of spending money, and they’re often dependent on parents, guardians, teachers & librarians to get introduced to your work. And you have to sell your work to adult gatekeepers before it gets to the kids. All the panelists agreed that school and library visits make a big difference.

— If you’re doing comics online, it can be hard for kids to find you. If your comic is hosted on a webcomics portal, those sites often also include a lot of adult material, so you don’t necessarily want to send kids there. A few folks like Jeff Kinney have done a great job of making their own sites kid-friendly destinations.

— Though this is changing, sometimes parents still want kids to read “real” books as opposed to comics.

On adaptation:

— Hope will be doing the graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. She’s working closely with L’Engle’s estate, and the project has been approved by L’Engle’s granddaughter. It’s intimidating to adapt a book that is so loved, but she’s a huge fan of the book herself and really wants to honor the material.

— Raina has adapted four Babysitters Club titles into graphic novels. The books were such a part of her own memories that the approach she took didn’t feel all that different from her other autobiographical material. Was thrilling to work directly with Ann Martin.

— Alexis adapts & transforms epic poems such as Beowulf. Using source material that’s hundreds of years old provides a lot of freedom — no worries about what the original author will think! His goal is to make the stories accessible.

— Matt hasn’t done the same sort of adaptation as the other panelists, but Babymouse incorporates a lot of parodies & fractured fairy tales. He wouldn’t mind doing another version of Star Wars.

On what young people interested in making comics should do:

Draw! Write! And don’t worry if you’re more inclined one way or the other — Raina recommends that if you’re more interested in telling stories, find friends who can draw, and if you’re more interested in drawing, find friends who can write. (The other advantage to that is when you collaborate, you can hand off the story to your collaborator when you’ve worked on it so long that you can’t stand to look at it any more.) Matt once had a whole group of boys present him with a comic that they’d made collectively; one drew, one wrote, one was kinda like the publisher, and the other…well, he couldn’t remember what the other one did. I suggested that perhaps he managed their online presence.

Okay, now back to, you know, the reason I’m not tabling at Stumptown this year: actually writing the graphic novel.

Coming soon(ish): more tips for comics writers!