Kids and Teen Blog
The adventures of Delilah Dirk drawn by Vancouver-based animator and illustrator Tony Cliff first started life as an online comic. But this week finally sees the release of the English-language graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant published by First Second.
A rollicking historical adventure story starring the eponymous English adventuress Delilah Dirk and her reluctant sidekick/straight-man, a Turkish soldier called Selim, it has sparky dialogue, easy off-beat humour and a disarming charm. To put it simply, it's just one of the most straight-up fun comics I've read in ages. That it also looks beautiful doesn't hurt either! With the book hitting the shelves, I had to take the opportunity to ask Tony a few questions:
When did you start drawing comics?
Oh, I don’t even know. I’ve been reading them as long as I can remember, and probably drawing them just as long.
I did have a series of teachers through elementary and high school who were very supportive in terms of creativity in general and comics specifically. In elementary school, I had one teacher for three years in a row, and for each of the “units” that we’d study, we were tasked with making illustrated books to complete our assignments in. We weren’t simply filling out photocopied quiz sheets, everything took the form of a drawing, or an essay, and they were all glued into an exercise book, so that by the end of the unit you had this colourful little volume full of your learning on, say, medieval England, or the Pyramids, or whatever. Maybe that’s why, to this day, I prefer to hold an actual book instead of reading things online.
In high school, I started off with an art teacher who had a strong love of comics. We even had an elective art class specifically devoted to the craft of comic-making, and he ran an after-school club to take student’s comics and bind them into zine-like comic anthologies, full of short comics and pin-ups. Both he and my subsequent art teachers emphasized strong drawing fundamentals such as observation, perspective, anatomy, and composition. It wasn’t until I’d spent time in post-secondary schools that I discovered how fortunate I had been to have encountered so many excellent and supportive teachers.
What was the inspiration for the character of Delilah Dirk?
There are a lot of streams that feed into the Delilah Dirk watershed, but I’ve done a poor job mapping them, so it’s tough for me to recall what they look like. I think a lot of it came from a contrary desire to make something different from what I’d seen, while at the same time recapturing a feel that I hadn’t seen in a while. I was seeing a lot of male protagonists and female supportive characters who were dour and serious and not a whole lot of fun, so I made the opposite. Since Indiana Jones, I haven’t encountered many movies, books, or games that felt the same way, so I tried to make something that would have a similar quality—I wish I could put my finger on it, but it’s a mix of tone and presentation that I haven’t seen anyone reproduce since Last Crusade.
I think I may have been inspired by some friends who were making similar characters, too. Kazu Kibuishi (of Amulet fame) was making drawings of Daisy Kutter and posting them on a message board that we were both frequenting. It wasn’t even a conscious thing, but several months into working on my first Delilah Dirk comic, I had to hit up Kazu and say, “oh dude, I think Delilah is a copy of Daisy Kutter.” He was kind and (probably) honest when he assured me that while they might have some similar qualities, there are so many differences and so many quirks that will get introduced as artifacts of our individual approaches that it’s silly to worry about it.
Though, I don’t really think of Delilah as the star of the story. I think there’s an element of her conception which was simply, “I need a fun character to allow me to explore different locales and different adventures.” Her character sprung from a desire simply to travel, drawing-wise, through different settings. I don’t think of her individually, I think of her as part of a puzzle with the other characters and the setting of the story.
Were you particularly interested in that place and time?
Not initially. If you had approached me several years ago and said, “make a comic set in Turkey of 1807,” I would have probably dismissed the suggestion.
I started out with an interest in Europe of the Napoleonic Wars, fuelled by reading a lot of Hornblower and Sharpe novels. I started researching the histories of the Venus de Milo and the Elgin Marbles, the major drama of which seems to have occurred at a relatively similar time (1810s-1830s, if I recall correctly). I think reading up on those things led me to western travel illustrations from what was at the time considered “the orient.” I think that led to a couple of drawings, just exploring some ideas, and next thing you know I was writing a comic set in 19th-century Istanbul.
Did you have to do extensive research to draw the costumes and locations?
I didn’t have to, but I did try to be as accurate and respectful as possible. Sometimes I feel compelled by the requirements of one scene or another to go out and look for a specific costume or bit of architecture, and sometimes I try to take note of particularly appealing settings that I encounter during research and use those where I can. I have a genuine personal interest in a lot of the things that surround Delilah Dirk and her setting, so I’m always ingesting things from the library or on the internet and making notes when something seems important.
I find it’s easy for me to get stuck thinking that I need to accomplish a specific bit of research before I continue with a specific story element, but sometimes the work’s just gotta get done, and in the end the readers are there for the story of the characters. Sometimes the historical details just aren’t as important as they might feel. For me, as long as I’m not making any gross cultural faux pas, I feel pretty comfortable. But then, I also have a flying sailboat in there, so maybe that calibrates the reader to a different level of expectation.
The comic looks amazing, but the back-and-forth between Delilah and Selim is also a joy. Was it fun to write?
Absolutely. It’s one of my favourite parts of the process, and for me, bad dialogue is absolutely a deal-breaker. If the dialogue isn’t believable, it really ruins my enjoyment of a book/movie etc. This is why my enthusiasm for video games has been waning lately, I think. All that powerful technology and they still can’t write a line of dialogue.
Some people (ahem, Robert McKee) downplay the importance of dialogue, and I get their point. If a writer gets distracted by the nitty gritty of the dialogue, he or she can potentially lose track of what’s important—the development of the story. So the recommendation is that you write your story without writing dialogue, so you can focus on the motivations within your characters and how it makes the story flow. Fair enough.
On the other hand, assuming that same writer is willing to be diligent about critiquing and editing their story, why not go have some fun with the dialogue? Anything that gets you excited about moving forward in your writing—anything that keeps you typing away at the keys and keeps things moving forward—that’s a good thing. Maybe you’ll have to excise that really clever line of dialogue later, because it doesn’t necessarily help the story. But maybe it also adds levity or drama, texture and colour to a scene, and that has its own value. Discipline and efficiency are good, but sometimes you just have to have fun with it. Whether it works to help the end product or not, well, that’s why you need trustworthy test readers.
Delilah Dirk started as a webcomic. Was it important to you to see it in print as a graphic novel?
The Turkish Lieutenant was, indeed, first unleashed upon the public in the form of an online comic. I had always intended the book to be read as a book, though. That was my first priority—putting it online was just a way for me to gauge a public reaction to it. I needed to know whether I was doing something that might have wide appeal or whether I was working on something that was truly a vanity project. Considering how long a graphic novel takes to make, this would be an important factor when considering if I’d like to work on a second DD book.
How is drawing for the web different?
If I were designing the comic specifically for the web, I would like to take advantage of some of the medium’s strengths, like the infinite scroll, animated features, or interactive things. For better or worse, though, I like real, actual books too much to commit to making a comics exclusively for the web. Maybe someday, but for DD my preference will always be for paper, so I will continue to design it that way.
Who are some of cartooning heroes?
I grew up reading Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes almost religiously. He’s had a huge influence on me in many ways, not the least of which is my taste and values when it comes to comics.
I’m also a strong fan of Travis Charest. His draughtsmanship is superb. Not only that, but when I was sixteen years old and I took some of my (admittedly poor) comic pages to a local comic show so that I could get his opinion and advice, he was very polite and encouraging. He made it very clear that I had a lot of work to do, but he did it in a way that made me want to do that work, which is the best effect that advice can have, I think.
What comics are you reading now?
There are a few books from First Second that I have an unbiased love for - Dave Roman’s Astronaut Academy series and most recently Lucy Knisely’s Relish. It’s fun to see how far you can make it through Relish without having to get up to get something to eat. Do not read it on an empty stomach.
I also picked up Luke Pearson’s Hilda and the Bird Parade, and it’s spectacular. It’s charming, it has elegant, amusing dialogue, its story is a nice shape, and it delivers a theme effectively without being too heavy-handed about it. It is a very inviting book.
Is there a thriving community of cartoonists in Vancouver?
Ha ha, there is definitely a community of cartoonists. Whether it’s thriving or not, well, I’m not the best person to ask. I do know that Ed Brisson’s monthly comic jam is usually very busy. The folks involved with Cloudscape Comics are also doing some really excellent things. They run regular events which are good for comic-makers of all experience levels.
Vancouver also has a strong animation industry, and there’s a lot of overlap between animation folks and comic folks. After all, a lot of the skills are very similar, and comics present a good opportunity for someone who wants to be creatively involved in a narrative format to just be able to do the whole thing themselves. Animation, whether 2D or 3D, really relies on having a whole team to complete the work. With comics, an enterprising individual can present an entire story all by themselves, from start to finish. Novels allow that, too, but an animator tends to be more visually-focused, so comics end up being a better fit.
Who else is doing interesting work right now?
Everyone is! It just depends what you’re interested in.
I like Brandon Graham’s work a lot. Not only does he make good things, but it seems like there are few people in the industry who actually love comics as much as he does. He breathes comics. This has the not-entirely-incidental effect of making him a really good person to consult about what sort of cool new stuff is out there.
Also, not enough North Americans read French comics. Okay, yes, some of that is because they’re in French, and few ever get translated. It’s a real chicken-egg issue. Nevertheless, even if you can’t read French, some of them are just gorgeous to look at. Recently, I’ve been enjoying Fabien Mense’s work on Agito Cosmos; Nicolas Sure’s work in general but specifically on Neverland; basically anything illustrated by Alessandro Barbucci, especially Chosp; and Bastien Vivés work on Polina and Last Man.
When can we expect the next Delilah Dirk adventure?
I’m working hard on a second full-length, full-colour graphic novel. I don’t know what year it’ll land, or what month, but I can say it will probably be a Tuesday. If anyone wants to stay abreast of developments, I’ll be posting regular progress updates in a subsection of my Tumblr, or on my personal or Delilah Dirk-dedicated Twitter feeds.
Tony Cliff will be signing copies of Delilah Dirk and The Turkish Lieutenant on Friday August 30, 7:00pm-10:00pm at Hot Art Wet City Gallery (2206 Main St, Vancouver BC).
To celebrate the outstanding success of the Lunar Chronicles in Canada (and the imminent arrival of the much anticipated, Cress) our incredible in-house artist Lynne Fahnestalk created a Cinder Robot (which we Raincoasters have affectionately termed the “CinderBot”) to surprise author Marissa Meyer.
For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to read Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles, Raincoast YA enthusiast Megan Radford summarizes it best:
Girl meets boy. Girl is cyborg, boy is prince of New Beijing, and, oh yeah, the world is being threatened by both a deadly plague and a race of eerie moon people who seem bent on intergalactic domination.
Cinder is a cyborg, a second-class citizen with a mysterious past who is both reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her sister’s illness. After becoming intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai, Cinder becomes caught in an intergalactic struggle. Cinder must uncover secrets about her own past in order to protect the future of the world.
Inspired by Cinder’s own mish-mash of bionic parts, Lynne used mostly upcycled metals to create the CinderBot. The body is a former desk lamp. The arms are a spoon, fork, and clockwork parts. Chainlink creates the illusion of Cinder’s spunky ponytail.
Congratulations to Marissa Meyer on the continued success of the Lunar Chronicles, and a big thanks to Lynne for her artistic vision!
The next book in the Lunar Chronicles series is Cress, set for release February 2014. You can read the first chapter of Cress here. To find out more about the Lunar Chronicles and Marissa Meyer, visit her website.
Lynne Fahnestalk is a two-time recipient of the Canadian Aurora Award for Artistic Achievement. To see more of her robot creations or to commission your own robot, visit http://www.smilingdragonflystudio.com/
Get into the holiday spirit by joining us to celebrate the launch of darling new holiday puppet board book, My Little Stocking, by Sara Gillingham.
Sunday, December 4th from 4-5 at Dilly Dally Kids – 1161 Commercial Drive(at William) in Vancouver.
Sara Gillingham will give a presentation of the book and then help the little ones make a "My Little Ornament" take home keepsake.
For more information contact Dilly Dally Kids at 604-252-9727.
On November 1st I had the great pleasure of spending the day with author extraordinaire, Annie Barrows. Annie is the author of the hilarious Ivy and Bean Series.
Annie and I got into all kinds of mischief together, including riding a giant teacup at Chapters Robson and taking a well deserved break on the Raincoast boardroom table after signing a few hundred copies of Ivy and Bean No News Is Good News. (See photographic evidence.)
Annie is such a blast to hang out with. One of my favorite things about her is the way she interacts with the kids who come out to her events.
My good friend Hanna, who writes the blog The Famished Foodies, was at the event with her 8 year old daughter Sophie. I decided that instead of me telling you about my day with Annie it would be more interesting to hear about one of Annie's events through the eyes of a child. Sophie, an aspiring illustrator and writer was happy to oblige. Take it away Sophie!
Let's run! I was pulling along my mom to see Annie Barrows. It was a chilly night and it was already dark after our warm sushi dinner. We were forty minutes early and I got what I wanted. Front row seats!
Annie Barrows is a famous writer of my favourite books. She wrote all of the Ivy and Bean books and also The Magic Half. And she uses tons of juicy words. My teacher likes those juicy words. I love Ivy because she reads a lot and so do I. And I like Bean a lot because she's goofy. I am the goofiest! All of Annie Barrows' stories are funny, realistic and wonderful. One time, in What's the Big Idea?, Ivy and Bean made a million and seven science potions in their house. This got messy. This is something I do. (But I haven't done a million and seven.) Yet.
Sitting in the front row with my new hardcover, No News is Good News, I saw my friend, Emma, from school and invited her to squeeze in next
to me. I was really excited and I had to talk and talk and we laughed and laughed until it was time to listen. And then there was Annie Barrows. She read four chapters of this great new book and it was very funny. She was funny too! She even brought a cheeseball covered with red wax just like in the story.
After her reading, she answered questions like which book was the easiest and which was the hardest to write. By the way, the hardest book was Doomed to Dance and the easiest was Ivy and Bean, the first one. Then she signed books and wrote "Say cheeeeese!" in mine. See? She's funny.
At home that night I only read two chapters but I finished the book the next evening. I'm really excited to wait for the next book but while I wait, I'll be reading the series over again from the beginning. When I grow up I will definitely be an illustrator and now I think I may be a writer too!
By Sophie France Ahn, age 8!
A special thanks to Kidsbooks for hosting two fabulous Ivy and Bean events, to Hanna Ahn (Zuzu Photography) for her beautiful photographs (last two in this post) and for having such a talented daughter, to Annie Barrows for another fabulous day together in Vancouver and to Sophie for her incredible blog post.
Two fabulous events to choose from.
In North Vancouver:
Tuesday November 1st at 4 pm at North Van District Library, Lynn Valley Branch, Community Meeting Room
1277 Lynn Valley Road, North Vancouver
For more information, call Kidsbooks in the Village at 604-986-6190
Tuesday November 1st at 7 pm
West Point Grey United Church Sanctuary
4595 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver
For more information, call Kidsbooks at 604-738-5335
Don't delay! Call and reserve your tickets early in order to avoid disappointment.
Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone had a great long weekend. It was Canadian Thanksgiving and I definitely got my fill of stuffing and mashed potatoes (I'm a vegetarian so no turkey for me). I got to thinking about things I'm grateful for, this internship definitely being one of them, and it's always the small things that make a place great.
The Little Things:
Who doesn't love office supplies? From the feel of a fresh new pen on a brand new Moleskine to colourful sticky notes and pink paperclips? I cleaned up my desk today with stackable trays and that definitely brings a smile to my face!
I'm not much of a coffee drinker but I can definitely finish off three cups or more of tea. Any kind: I love earl greys, greens, whites and blacks! A hot steaming cup, sometimes sweetened, sometimes with milk or cream - no matter how it's prepared it's always a warm and uplifting drink. Perfect for those rainy Vancouver days. (Crystal is tea lover as well!)
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ~C.S. Lewis
A good book:
One of the perks of being an intern at a book distributor is access to advanced copies! Tempest is a hot new young adult book from St. Martin's press and has already been slated for a movie by Summit Entertainment (Twilight). Julie Cross debuts with this fast and action packed time jumping novel. The narrator is a teenaged boy, rare in the world of YA books, but don't let that scare you, when this comes out (January 2012) I suggest you pick it up!
Romance and young love, secrets and government spies and time travelling! What more could you ask for in a good weekend book?
What are you thankful for? I’d love to hear in the comments or let me know by email.
I'll leave off with a lovely comic about reading (I think we can all relate):
Imagine an office space: keyboards clicking away, the quiet humming of the air conditioner and the comfort of an ergonomic office chair. This isn't any office though, there are books everywhere. There's a staff library, there's an advanced reading copy library, there are books being shipped out and in and a huge warehouse filled and filled with books! Not to mention the many I have on my desk.
This is the Raincoast office and I am Janet, the new publicity intern and I've just survived my first week!
First off I have my own desk! This is pretty exciting to have your own workspace:
I remember asking myself when I was lucky enough to grab this opportunity, "What is a publicist?" I had no idea what kind of work I'd be doing, I just knew I wanted to be a part of the publishing and book world. I did a quick Google search but there wasn't too much other than the vague "generate publicity" answer, I guess I'd have to wait until my first day to see!
My tasks so far have included creating Press Releases and mailing out books. A publicist will create a Press Release (pictured to the right) to build up hype. This document will detail a book's synopsis, rave reviews and an 'about the author' paired with the book's cover. Then we send these to media outlets!
I also mailed out books to reviewers today; we're crossing our fingers that they will promote them with good reviews. Today I mailed out two childrens'’ books to various magazine and newspaper reviewers.
One of the books was A Dog is a Dog by Stephen Shaskan. This picture book is a great and fun story filled with vivid illustrations; I was smiling at every turn of the page! I know my little sister and brother would laugh out loud at each hilarious revelation. Definitely recommended!
The other book we mailed out was The Crown on Your Head by Nancy Tillman. It reads like a dream, the pages are filled with gorgeous landscapes and ethereal children and animals. This is a beautiful book filled with love and self-esteem boosters. One of my favourite quotes with how Tillman describes our crowns:
"It was made up of glittering, sparkling things
Like moonlight, and fireflies, and dragon wings."
Well Thursday is almost over and I will be back next week for some more Intern insights. Happy Thanksgiving!
November 11th is Ivy + Bean Day! If you aren't familiar with Ivy and Bean you are sorely missing out. Ivy and Bean are the lovable characters in the bestselling series by Annie Barrows. Two young girls who are sure that they won't like each other, but become best friends anyways. Their favorite activities? Bugging Bean's older sister, causing mischief and of course, spending time together. "A little bit bad and a whole lot funny", Ivy and Bean bring me right back to my childhood reading Beverly Cleary's Ramona books.
What Ivy + Bean day mean's for you:
If you are a school, library or bookseller head over to the Ivy + Bean Day website, download and request materials to help you celebrate! But do it fast! Supplies are limited.
If you are an Ivy + Bean fan contact your local bookstore, library or school and ask them to throw an Ivy + Bean celebration. Direct them to this page for all the info they will need to throw and Ivy + Bean party.
Make sure to "like" Ivy + Bean on Facebook!
One of the weirdest things about the publishing world is how far in advance you work on books. Our national accounts manager and sales manager were at Chronicle Books a month ago learning about books being published Spring 2012 already, books that I am sure have been in the works for awhile.
Here in Publicity Land we are right in the thick of fall and getting ready for winter. Every day more and more of the fall books are arriving in our warehouse (see below) and landing on our publicity mailout tables.
The person who delivers our books tells us how bad he feels for us, saying that it feels like we can never make a dent in the books piling up on our table. Other collegues just make comments, saying things like "We have guests coming into the building this week, you really should clean your tables off." Oh, little do they know the life of a publicist. LOL. Our work tables are a constant rotation of new, fascinating titles. So I thought I would give you a little tour of what is down their right now.
Down The Mysterly River. Not only is there a copy of this on my mailout table, there is also a copy on my nightstand. Yes, this is the book that I am currently reading. Just a few chapters in and I know this book will be one that I talk about for months to come. It is about a boyscout who wakes up in the woods with no inkling of where he is or how he got there. He sets out on a journey to try to solve the mystery and soon finds that he can understand what the animals in the forest are saying. Is he dreaming? Is he dead? Heck if I know. Hopefully I'll have time to really delve into this book this weekend. The book in this photo is the last sample I have here at work. I did a huge mailout earlier this week. I always try to keep one around in case there is someone who I missed. This is also the first book that I have worked on with the folks from Tor (who are really fantastic.)
The Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure Mars and The Worst-Case Scenario Survive-o-pedia. One of my favorite series of books as a kid were the Choose Your Own Adventure series. I read them over and over trying to get new storylines each time I read. Worst-Case Scenario has taken that concept and created their Ultimate Adventure Series (which started out with Ultimate Adventure Everest this summer). Worst-Case Scenario is always pushing the boundries and creating new concepts. They also have their new Survive-o-pedia format coming out this fall, it is so much fun and you will learn new things every time you read (and re-read) it.
It's A Little Book. I am prone to squealing, and there was definitely some squealing happening this afternoon when I went downstairs and saw that the fabulous Lane Smith's new book, It's A Little Book, had arrived. So cute and the perfect companion to Lane's previous picture book It's A Book. Make sure you check out the trailer's for Lane's two Fall 2011 books that I posted on the blog a few weeks ago.
Darker Still and Cinder. These were the last two novels that I read (I'm on a bit of a YA kick right now). Both are the first books in new fiction series for teens. Darker Still is about a mute teenager living in New York in 1882. Her father works for the museum and one day she discovers that their is life within one of the paintings. Cinder is a futuristic Cinderella story in which Cinderella is a cyborg living in New Beijing. I have a feeling that this series will be the next "big thing". Both were so good and impossible to put down. I can't wait for the next books in the series.
One Love. Last but not least. Last week I told you all about Cedella Marley's fabulous book One Love and now the finished books have arrived! Such a feel good story based on an equally feel good song. Make sure to check out the trailer in last week's blog post.
That's it for now! What have you all been reading this summer?
Growing up my Dad had an incredible collection of vinyl records. My memories of childhood include waking up Sunday mornings to the smell of blueberry pancakes cooking and the sounds of Bob Marley, Crosby Still and Nash, Paul Simon, Bill Withers, Van Morrison and other great artists playing on the record player.
I was one of the lucky few to attend the Fall 2011 Launch at Chronicle Books in January. My buddy Pete who attended with me can attest that I squealed a little bit when One Love by Cedella Marley was announced.
The presenters played a video that Cedella had created for us telling her story of growing up with Bob Marley as a father. She said as a child she and her brother's and sisters didn't realize that their father was famous. They thought that their dad wrote the music for them and they each had their own songs that their dad sang to them. One of Cedella's songs was One Love. It wasn't until she got a bit older that she realized that her father was a famous musician.
One Love is Cedella's adaptation of her father's song of love. Here is a sneek peak. I hope that you are excited about it as I am!