Unboxing A Package from DC Comics

January 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

When I first heard about unboxing videos I thought they sounded so stupid. I checked one out anyway. Forty unboxing videos later, I must admit that I understand the appeal.

Decided to make one of my own!

So this crazy thing happened…

January 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

On January 4, the Library of Congress, Every Child A Reader, and the Children’s Book Council appointed me the fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. My wife and I flew out to Washington D.C. for a fancy inauguration ceremony. I wore a fancy suit and got a fancy medal. I gave a speech to a class of local elementary school kids.

Librarian of Congress David Mao and me.  (He's the good-looking one.)

Librarian of Congress David Mao and me. (He’s the good-looking one.)

We hung out with David Mao, the Acting Librarian of Congress; John Cole, the Librarian of Congress Emeritus; and Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie) and Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales), both of whom are former ambassadors.

Kate DiCamillo, Jon Scieszka, and me.  For some reason, Jon's medal is waaay heavier than Kate's and mine.

Kate DiCamillo, Jon Scieszka, and me. For some reason, Jon’s medal is waaay heavier than Kate’s and mine.

It was a pretty amazing day. If you’re interested, you can find my speech here.

The post of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was created in 2008, and the whole point is to get more kids reading and kids reading more. Every ambassador has a platform. For example, Ms. DiCamillo, my immediate predecessor, chose the platform Stories Connect Us. She spoke about how books can bring communities together.

My platform is Reading Without Walls. I want kids to explore the world through books, to read outside of their comfort zones. Specifically, I want them – and you – to do one of three things:

1. Read a book with someone on the cover who doesn’t look like you or live like you. Books are a great way to get to know people who are different from us. By reading other people’s stories, we can develop insight and compassion.

2. Read a book about a topic that you find intimating. My pet project in this area is promoting books about science, technology, engineering, and math. Often, people think of stories and science as completely separate, but they’re not. Stories are a great way to learn science.

3. Read a book in a format that you’ve never tried before. If you only read books with words, give a graphic novel a try. If you only read graphic novels, try a prose novel, a novel in verse, or a hybrid (half graphic, half prose) novel.

I can’t tell you how excited and honored I am about my appointment. I can’t wait to connect with readers of all ages around the country.

The Children’s Book Council and I are also talking about how to use technology to engage readers. Nothing concrete yet. More to come, so stay tuned!

 

Superman #44 Giveaway Winners!

November 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

Congratulations to Dan of Pasadena, CA; Lucia of San Jose, CA; and Timothy of Murfreesboro, TN! They each won a signed copy of Superman #44!

Periodically, I run giveaways for the folks on my mailing list.  Interested in the next one?  Sign up for my mailing list below.  I’ll even give you a free digital comic!

Sakura Pen Set Giveaway Winners!

September 28, 2015 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

Sakura

About a month ago, I spoke at the San Jose Public Library’s Graphic Novel Contest awards ceremony.  Sakura was a sponsor and one of their representatives was there.  We got to talking, I told him about my mailing list giveaways, and he graciously offered to donate three pen sets for my September giveaway.

Sakura pens are the industry standard.  I use them on my own comics, and pretty much every cartoonist I know uses them.  A great product.

Congratulations to Jamie of Freehold, NJ; Robyn of San Jose, CA; and Tammy of Galt, CA for winning my September giveaway!  Each of them will receive a pen set from Sakura!

Periodically, I run giveaways for the folks on my mailing list.  Interested in the next one?  Sign up for my mailing list below.  I’ll even give you a free digital comic!

JUNE GIVEAWAY WINNERS!

July 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

Congratulations to Leila of Washington, Dawn of Wisconsin, and Elizabeth of Alberta for winning my June giveaway!  Each of them will receive a signed copy of all three of my Free Comic Book Day 2015 books: Dark Horse’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, DC Comics’ Divergence, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund book.

photo

Periodically, I run giveaways for the folks on my mailing list.  Interested in the next one?  Sign up for my mailing list below.  I’ll even give you a free digital comic!

The Art of Superman

June 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

Superman #41, my debut issue, comes out Wednesday, June 24!

I’m only handling the script. This art team they’ve got me working with? Dude.

Let me show you our process.  It’ll give me an excuse to tell you about the artist behind each phase.

 

script

1. SCRIPT. This is me. For my first script, I followed the Dark Horse Script Format Guideline, a habit I developed writing Avatar: The Last Airbender comics for the last few years. The formats of my Superman scripts have been evolving ever since.

 

pencils

2. PENCILS. These are done by the legendary John Romita Jr. He doesn’t like it when I use the word “legendary,” but that’s what you get for producing consistently amazing work for over two decades.

John spent most of his career at Marvel. You know that Daredevil show on Netflix everyone’s freaking out over (including me)? Chunks of it are lifted straight out of Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, a classic miniseries by John and writer Frank Miller.  That awesome black costume he wears for most of Season 1?  That’s John.

When I was a college kid, my favorite of John’s works was a graphic novella called Hearts of Darkness, starring the most nineties superteam ever assembled: Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and the Punisher.

 

inks

3. INKS. We’ve got Klaus Janson on inks. Klaus is most well-known as a co-conspirator on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the Frank Miller graphic novel that changed the face of superhero comics forever.  But Klaus has done many, many comics besides that. Klaus’s stuff is just a joy to look at: clean and strong and true.

He does a lot of inking — A LOT — but he’s also handled pencils and inks. He and John have worked together for a while now. Hearts of Darkness, that nineties fever dream I mentioned earlier, was his.

 

colors

4. COLORS. Dean White is doing the colors. I first encountered Dean’s work in Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick Ass, a graphic novel my prudish self found uncomfortable and compelling all at once. Appropriate, too, because Dean kicks ass. He truly does. He can wring things out of color — emotion, action, danger — that you didn’t know were there.

Let me tell you, I am astounded by the finished product. I’m proud of my story, don’t get me wrong, but THAT ART! You need to get Superman #41 just to see three masters of comics do their thing.  Your jaw will drop, guaranteed.

Superman #41, available at comics shops everywhere on  Wednesday, June 24, 2015!

The Man of Tomorrow

June 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

Superman_41

There’s a reason why folks call Superman the Man of Tomorrow.

When he was created in the late 1930′s, he really did embody that era’s ideas about the future. Back then, progress was seen in largely physical terms: our technology would make us stronger, faster, more invulnerable. And that’s what Superman was: the world’s strongest, fastest, most invulnerable person.

But in the decades since, our imagined future has changed. Nowadays, when we think of tomorrow’s technology, we don’t necessary think about physical power — we think about information. We think about knowledge. Our dreams of the future are as much about bits as they are about atoms. Maybe more.

So how does Superman, a character whose “tomorrow-ness” dates back to the 1930′s, deal with the “tomorrow-ness” of today?

That’s a major thread in “Before Truth,” the first Superman story arc I’m doing with the inimitable John Romita Jr. The Man of Tomorrow goes up against an enemy who wields information like a weapon, who’s as comfortable in bits as he is in atoms.

Superman’s secret identity has always been a cornerstone of who he is. But the very notion of a hidden second life represents information that’s been contained, that’s under control. In the era of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks and doxxing, is a secret identity even viable any more?

And more importantly, will Superman’s most timeless character traits — his selflessness, his grit, his compassion for the underdog — survive such a drastic change to his status quo?

For a superhero geek like me, writing the world’s first superhero has been the thrill of a lifetime. Being part of a team that includes John and inker Klaus Janson and colorist Dean White is icing on the cake. If you had told fourteen-year-old me that this project would be in my tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I would’ve leaped a tall building in a single bound.

It all goes down in Superman #41, available Wednesday June 24, 2015!

Hope you’ll join us!  And if you want to know what life is like for Superman after “Before Truth,” check out Action Comics #41, Batman/Superman #21, and Superman/Wonder Woman #18!

S.T.E.M. Comics

December 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

9781596438651

Folks are sometimes surprised when I tell them that I’m both a cartoonist and a high school computer science teacher, and I think it’s because our society puts up a wall between activities it deems “left brain” and those it deems “right brain.” Math and science inhabit one world, art and story (and comics) another.

But this division is artificial. Take a look at Leonardo Da Vinci, M.C. Escher, Scott McCloud. We have an entire genre — Science Fiction — that blends science with story.

For me, making comics and computer coding are intimately linked. Both disciplines require you to break large ideas into small, discrete pieces. You have to take relatively simple elements and arrange them in a way that achieves complex results. And in both, the possibilities are infinite.

These days, there’s a lot of talk about S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Teachers and parents worry that American students are falling behind in these areas. I haven’t looked at the data myself, so I’m not entirely sure that’s true.

But if it is, let me tell you: Comics can help.

Here’s a list of great S.T.E.M. comics, broken up by topic:

SCIENCE

Primates
by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Ever wonder why Jane Goodall is such a big deal? Read this book. It’s highly accessible and Maris Wicks’ illustrations are just beautiful. Also, if you’re looking for a big list of science comics, just Google Jim Ottaviani. That’s his thing. And honestly, he’s really good at his thing.

Clan Apis
by Jay Hosler
Jay is both a Biology Professor at Juniata College and an incredibly talented cartoonist. Clan Apis follows the adventures of a bee named Nyuki. Readers will be completely charmed by Nyuki while learning about her life cycle and natural environment.

TECHNOLOGY

Super Scratch Programming Adventure
by Mitch Resnick and the Lead Project
Mitch Resnick is a Computer Science professor at MIT. This book isn’t just a graphic novel, it’s also an instruction manual on Scratch, a beginner’s programming language. Lots of fun projects here, plus a cute cartoon cat!

Secret Coders
by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
(I’m about to self-promote. Consider yourself warned.) Cartoonist Mike Holmes and I are doing a middle grade graphic novel series all about the magic of coding. Here’s how we’re pitching it: Secret Coders is kind of like Harry Potter. A bunch of tweens find a secret school. However, instead of teaching magic, the secret school teaches coding. We’re hoping that as our protagonists become coders, our readers will too. First volume will be available September 2015!

ENGINEERING

Howtoons
by Saul Griffith and Nick Dragotta
Wanna be impressed? Go read Saul Griffith’s Wikipedia page. The dude is seriously smart. Illustrator Nick Dragotta isn’t to shabby, either. He’s probably best known for his work on East of West with Jonathan Hickman. Their book Howtoons is probably my 11-year-old’s current favorite book. This book will teach you how to build marshmallow guns, plastic finger extensions, and toy submarines out of common household items. Become a mini-MacGyver.

Lego Instructions
This isn’t a book, so don’t go looking for it at your local bookstore. Instead, find a Lego set and take a look at the instructions. Juxtaposed images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information. That’s right! Lego’s one of the world’s most prolific publishers of comics, and it probably doesn’t even know it.

MATH

Meanwhile
by Jason Shiga
Jason Shiga is a math genius. If a comic book and a maze were to have a baby, the baby would look like Meanwhile. This is a choose-your-own adventure graphic novel with 3856 story possibilities! Only one happy(ish) ending, though. Along the way, the reader learns all about statistics and probability.

Fleep
by Jason Shiga
Jimmy gets stuck in a phone booth buried beneath several tons of concrete! Armed with nothing but his wits and a knack for math, he must find a way out! This is arguably the best phone booth story ever told, way better than that Colin Farrell movie, but it’s definitely for older kids.

Congratulations to November’s Email List Giveaway Winners!

November 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

I had a couple extra copies of this year’s Avatar: The Last Airbender Free Comic Book Day comic, so I ran a giveaway for folks on my email list!

Congratulations to Alex K. of San Diego, CA and Mari Ann G. of El Paso, TX!

I’m planning to do giveaways about once a month.  I have some original art to give away for December.  If you’re interested in entering, sign up for my email list below!

Not only will it give you the opportunity to win giveaways, but you’ll also get updates on my books, events, and other projects.  You’ll also get a free digital comic about how I got my start in comics!

 

Raina Telgemeier and Wonder Woman

November 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Gene's Blog

Sisters-Raina-Telgemeier1

A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter (a second grader) bought Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters from her school’s book fair. She instantly became a Raina devotee. I’d already read Smile with her, but something about Sisters flipped a switch – maybe because my daughter has to deal with sibling drama of her own at home.

Raina’s a friend of mine. I knew from Facebook that she was doing a signing near us, so I told my daughter we’d go see her. On the morning of the signing, my daughter woke up chanting Raina’s name.

The signing was freaking amazing. I’ve never been to a comics signing like it, not even with the Image Comics founders when they were at the height of their fame in the 90’s. Raina did a joint event with the inimitable Kazu Kibuishi, and the entire store was packed with parents and kids holding stacks of Smile and Drama and Sisters and Amulet.

The crowd was so big that the store had to give out little tickets to tell you what signing group you were in. Group #1 got to see Raina and Kazu first, then Group #2, and so on. We were Group #7. Twenty minutes in, I said to my daughter, “I know Raina and her husband Dave. We see each other at least a couple times a year at different book events. We can get her to sign it later, at Comic-Con or something.”

My daughter looked me straight in the eye and pointed to her ragged copy of Sisters. “Daddy, we came to get this book signed.”

So we waited over an hour, almost two. Raina and Kazu were (of course) lovely, and my daughter went home with a signed book and a happy heart.

And that’s why articles like the one Janelle Asselin wrote for Comics Alliance don’t particularly worry me:

http://comicsalliance.com/sidekicked-how-superhero-publishers-are-failing-kids/

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great article and I totally agree with her. But even if superhero publishers are failing kids, comics as a medium is not. Kids are reading lots and lots and lots of comics these days. They’re just not reading the same kinds of comics that their nerd parents did. Raina’s books, Kazu’s books, Jeff Smith’s Bone, Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile, the Ninjago graphic novels, Paul Pope’s Battling Boy, the Holm siblings’ BabyMouse, Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl – they’ve all made appearances on the New York Times Bestsellers List. Try finding a copy of any one of those at your local library. Mostly likely you can’t because it’s checked out. If you do, it will look like it’s been through a washing machine because so many kids have read it.

My daughter’s been a Wonder Woman devotee for much longer than she’s been a Raina Telgemeier devotee. She’s loved Wonder Woman for years, since before she could properly pronounce “Wonder Woman.” My daughter watches the Wonder Woman-centric episodes of the Justice League cartoon over and over. She dressed up as Wonder Woman for Halloween last year. She built a little Wonder Woman figure out of a paper cup and googly eyes.

I offered to buy her a WW action figure (I swear I'm not that cheap!) but she wanted to make one herself

I offered to buy her a WW action figure (I swear I’m not that cheap!) but she wanted to make one herself

I have to tell you – as Asselin details in her article – it is hard to find age-appropriate Wonder Woman comics for a second grader. There’s the Justice League Adventures series from a few years back, and those reprints of the Super Friends comic from the late 70’s and early 80’s. There are also books that are “comics-ish”: Ralph Cosentino’s gorgeous picture book and the Capstone early readers.  But that’s about it. Not a lot, and most of it is old, made before my daughter was born.

Ralph Cosentino’s awesome picture book

There’s nothing for the future, no Wonder Woman kids’ comic for my daughter to look forward to. But that’s fine, because I know for a fact that Raina’s working on her next book.

Wonder Woman may not be there for my daughter, but Raina Telgemeier certainly will.

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