GUYS! I CANNOT believe that Leo Geo and the Cosmic Crisis is coming out in a WEEK! A WEEK?! This book is really a big part of my life, and I can't WAIT to share it with you! To celebrate its release, I'm holding a party!
Join cartoonist and CCS Faculty member Jon Chad at 7pm on Tuesday, November 5th for the release of his new book Leo Geo and the Cosmic Crisis. Original pages will be on exhibit, and at 6:30pm, Jon will give a talk about the creation of the book, its design, and do a reading. Jon will be selling books, and snacks will be in attendance, too! Who knows, we might even DANCE!
Tuesday, Nov 5, 6-8pm
CCS Post Office Classroom,
46 S. Main St, White River Junction, VT 05001
Intrepid explorer Leo Geo is working in his lab at the Fizzmont institute when he learns that a comet is on a collision course with his brother Matt Data's space station. Without a moment to lose, he grabs his trusty computer, leaps into a rocket, and launches into space. Astronomer Matt Data is working in his lab at the space station when he learns that his brother Leo Geo's computer is about to suffer a malfunction and turn evil. Determined to save his brother, Leo, Matt leaps into a space ship with his trusty sidekick, Maff, the smartest dog in the galaxy.
Matt and Leo are in for a fantastic adventure filled with space facts in his clever flip-over comic that incorporates an unusual look-and-find component: background characters from one side of the book find themselves pulled through space and time to appear on the other side. See if you can follow their stories from beginning to end!
I got a beyond-charming phone call the other month from my fellow illustrating buddy Katherine Roy asking me if I would like to take part in a “blog tour”. I admitted ignorance and she explained that it was a series of blog posts on different illustrators’ blogs where they answer questions from each other. Katherine has finished work on her SHARK book right now, believe you me, it's A-MAZE-ING! I’ve known her for years now, but I really enjoyed reading her answers to various questions! I was pumped to take a stab at them as well!
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Leo Geo and the Cosmic Crisis. This is the follow-up to my 2012 book Leo Geo and his Miraculous Journey Through the Center ofthe Earth. I’ll pause here to note that I’ll simply be referring to the two books as “Cosmic Crisis” and “Leo Geo” respectively for the remainder of this post, otherwise we’d be here all day : )
Here’s the real kicker, Cosmic Crisis is a “flip over book”! That means that you can read the book from two directions, and it, correspondingly, has two titles. The other side of the book bears the title Matt Data and the Cosmic Crisis. It’s still one book, though!
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Even though Leo Geo’s name insinuates an affinity for the earth, I had always thought of different places that I could take him; underwater, jungles, space etc. Space won out for two reasons. First, space was as far removed from terra firma as you could get. I was enamored by the idea of taking Leo Geo out of his comfort zone. Secondly, unlike the first book, which had Leo moving on a constant y-axis with an orientation based on gravity, space would not be subject to these rules. Suddenly, movement on the x,y, and z axis all became viable. I decided that because of this, the book wouldn’t benefit from the same, unique 14”x4.5” inch trim size that Leo Geo had. I opted, instead, for a 7”x10” trim size.
The idea of making it a flip-over book was directly tied to my idea of introducing a new character and letting them (Matt and his dog Maff) have their own adventure.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Ooooooo, this is a tough one! The story and setting itself are fictional, but facts are most assuredly, 100% true! It’s an odd combination of science fiction and non-fiction. This combination has really appealed to me since I was young. I remember watching the Fantastic Four movie when I was a kid, and there’s this one part in particular that always stood out to me. Dr. Doom (clearly the villain) has put Mr. Fantastic (who has stretchy rubber-like powers) on ice. Dr. Doom twists Mr. Fantastic’s finger, which clearly causes him great pain. Dr. Doom says something, like, “see what happens to super-cooled rubber.” I will always remember that little science tidbit, and I didn’t get it from a textbook, I got it from the Fantastic Four movie. This sort of Trojan-horsing of knowledge is what I’m striving for.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh man, this is a really well-timed question! I watched Pacific Rim (the new Del Toro giant robot movie. WATCH IT!) this summer, and loved every second of it. There are these two scientists in it that are hanging out together the whole movie; one was hip and such a fan-boy of science that is was cute, and the other was more methodical. It was too perfect! Leo Geo is an immeasurably enthusiastic nerd for science, where Matt Data is definitely more down to earth. The hip scientist was Charlie Day, and the methodical one was played by Burn Gorman.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Leo Geo and Matt Data rush from opposite ends of the galaxy to help the other one out, only to encounter pirates, supernovas, aliens, and a lot of facts about space.
6) Who is publishing your book?
Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan, is publishing my book. They did Leo Geo, and I’m jazzed to be working with them again.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Hmmmm. I’m not entirely sure. I remember working on it back in October and November 2011. I’m pretty sure that we started revisiting the script and the sketches in April of 2012. The entire thing was drawn during June, July, and August of the same year. It was a whirlwind; so much so that I don’t really remember the writing process.
8) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My constant art inspiration continues to be book artist Julie Chen. She is an unbelievable bookmaker that stresses the importance to consider every surface of a book; from the binding to the page turns. Making a book where the construction (the flip-over concept) directly tied into the narrative was a huge goal. In the same vein, there is a board came called Rescue from Planet Zero where you move a marble around a vacuu-formed board exploring different environments, answering math questions, and recovering pieces of your ship. I know that this might sound silly, but that idea of exploration and non-linear movement is something I always wanted to recapture.
As far as drawing goes, Tokusatsu constantly inspires me, which is the Japanese genre of giant monster, robot, and special effects movies. Although on first glance the whole ordeal can seem silly, I’m so enamored by the combination of passion, detail, and creativity. Although this isn’t a 2D form, I still try to relay these ideals in my worlds.
9) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I love to draw monsters, aliens, robots, etc. and I’ve taken good measure to litter them throughout the book! I want it to be a literal cornucopia of characters and gags for kids to look through. Additionally, I’ve tried really hard to make this book reward multiple reads. Because of the dual nature of it being a flip-over book, there are storylines and characters that cross over onto the other half of the book. Each side has it’s own satisfying narrative conclusion, but it’s also fun to look and find what just happens to the boot that gets sucked through the wormhole, or the baseball that is hit onto the other side of the galaxy, etc.
10) Were those questions too easy for you?
No, that wasn’t too bad. The inspiration question was tough because I had to make a distinction between where I get inspiration for the structure, and inspiration for the drawing. Once I separated those two things, it was easy : ) Keep ‘em coming!
11) Is there a link to video games in your work?
Undoubtedly! The first book is extremely influenced by the linear movement that you find in early video games. Leo Geo (the character) is drawn very simply for two reasons. First, it was easier for him to stand out against the background, and second, he was supposed to look like character from an early video game where it was hard to distinguish detail due to the simplicity of pixel art.
Whereas Leo Geo is homage to Mario and Zelda 2-type side-scrollers, Cosmic Crisis is my take on starship shooting games like R-Type, and Gradius. In these games you are constantly moving through a seamless environment. The difference, though, is that if you look at the margin of the screen that you are able to movie around on in a Mario game, even with the jumping, it’s pretty limited. Space shooting games give you a lot more access to the entire screen. I wanted to emulate that feeling.
12) At what age did you start drawing pictures & telling stories?
I have always been drawing as early as I could remember, but the writing came a bit later. It wasn’t until high school that I started to combine the two. The one exception is that in first grade I wrote a couple books about the “Ninja Lizards”. They rode around in a monster truck and were totally rad. Obviously this was a thinly veiled rendition of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but hey, write what you know, RIGHT!?
13) When did you start making “drawing pictures and telling stories” your job? Was there a “game changing moment” which made that possible?
It was undoubtedly when I got an email out of the blue form my now-editor Deirdre Langeland from Roaring Brook. She had gotten Leo Geo passed to her from someone who got from someone I gave it to. She explained who she was and what sort of things Roaring Brook published. She admitted that Leo Geo “wasn’t 100% there, but was so, so close.” This willing-ness to reach out, communicate, and ultimately take a chance on a book with an unconventional structure has meant the world to me, and really paved the way for the work I do now.
14) If you could hug one illustrated book, picture book, and/or graphic novel and ask it to be your bride… which book would it be?
Ha ha ha! Man oh man, don’t let my girlfriend Tess find out, but right now I would probably choose to marry Jeff Zwierk’s Burning Building Comix. Jeff self-published it himself, and it’s been getting some well-deserved traction lately! The form is absolutely perfect for the narrative, and so beautifully drawn. Check it out!
15) If you didn’t make books with pictures, what other artistic medium would you be drawn to? Sculpture? Animation? Electric Cello?
If I was a cheater, I’d say, “book arts”, but that’s too close to what I do now. I’d really want to get into printmaking and papermaking. I got the chance to visit a paper maker in Lebanon, NH, and it was a really eye-opening experience. Before I started working at The Center for CartoonStudies, I printed t-shirts. I loved it, and would welcome the chance to do it again.
16) Imagine a kid just read your next/newest book. What’s the biggest compliment they could give it?
Oh man, get out your tissues dear readers. This is my favorite reaction ever: Last May I was at a show with the galley for Cosmic Crisis. A kid came up and was really into Leo Geo. I asked him if he wanted to read the new one. He eagerly agreed and read the book through in one go, silently, standing right there in front of the table. It was his silence that was the biggest compliment, his complete immersion into the story and the world.
17) What’s the biggest challenge in being an author/illustrator?
For me, right now, it’s the time. With my teaching and staffing obligations at The Center for Cartoon Studies, I don’t have nearly enough time to tackle the projects I’d like to. Delegating my time and working late hours is an unfortunate reality for me right now.
18) What’s the best part about being an author/illustrator?
This is easy, it’s the variety of jobs that come down the pipeline, and the chances I’ve had to work for publishers and companies that I really admire. I’ve worked for Stern Pinball (I LOVE PINBALL), Adventure Time, Regular Show, and even the FBI. If I was working on one solitary project, I’d get twitchy. Also, and this might seem like a stock answer, but the chance to transport someone, even for one second to a world of my creation is a truly special interaction that I’d never give up.
19) What advice, if any, would you give to the thousands of humans with drawings & stories trapped inside their heads who want your cool job too?
I’m going to reissue a piece of advice that was given to me years ago that has held true ever since: If you love something, work hard, and contribute positively to it, you can be a part of it. Do you love books? Stories? Start writing! All it takes is a few hours, some paper, pencils, and a photocopier, and you can make you own books! That’s how I started! The first copies of Leo Geo were self-published and assembled on my dinner table. I used to use a sock drawer as my “darkroom” for burning screens for screen printing, and the shower to wash them off. Also, take the time to reach out to people or artists that have really inspired you and (sanely) thank them. The dialogue that will develop will really empower you!
20) Is Katherine Roy your favorite person?
This isn’t fair, Katherine! This is bear-bating! Katherine’s creativity is nearly boundless, and her work ethic is something we can all look up to. She’s a real inspiration to me!
Katherine Roy is the reel deal, folks (you guys catch that!) and she’s totally rad! THANKS KATHERINE : ) Next up is Xeric-award winner Laura Terry and the b-e-a-utiful things flowing out of her studio!
To celebrate the release of Leo Geo and the Cosmic Crisis, I have put together a bundle of free goodies for those that preorder the book. If you live in the US, can send me proof that you've preordered the book (either forward me your amazon.com email, or similar email from another online vendor, or take a screenshot of the preorder) and send me your address, I will send you this little bundle of goodies for FREE! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Included in this package are three Leo Geo stickers, a copy of the minicomic that gave me the inspiration to write the first Leo Geo, Leo Geo and the Long Snake (where Leo traverses the inside of a snake and finds much more than he bargained for), and a copy of the star map from Leo Geo and the Cosmic Crisis that was CUT from book. See the map that I loved so dearly! The whole thing comes in a screen-printed envelope.