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MF GALAXY

MF GALAXY is a weekly podcast powered by four mighty engines: * Writers on writing: the craft and the business * Pop culture including TV, movies, graphic novels, and more * Progressive politics, activism, and social enterprise * Africentric change-makers, histories, cultures, art, and more! Mixing brand-new interviews with classic conversations (from my archive of 23 years in broadcasting) with famous and dynamic figures in the arts, Hollywood, and politics, MF GALAXY will take you to places you've never been before, and deliver fresh insights on the places you've been.
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Now displaying: Category: writer-artist - graphic novelist
Jun 1, 2016

Vancouver-based comics artist and writer Faith Erin Hicks has been publishing graphic novels since 2007, and her best known books include Brain Camp, Friends with Boys, and The Last of Us. She’s just released the historical adventure work The Nameless City, set in medieval China. Her work features girls and boys in contemporary, realist, and horror scenarios, and is funny, heartfelt, and exciting. Part of the energy and character in Hicks’s drafting comes from her animation training, which also emphasised the importance of what animators call “acting” in pictures. In 2011, she won the prestigious Eisner Award for The Adventures of Superhero Girl.

Hicks’s latest work is The Nameless City, published by First Second. It’s the first volume of a trilogy set in Mongol-occupied China. It’s about a street girl named Rat and a military brat named Kai who learn from each other about how much bigger life is than their own deprived worlds, and how they run head-first into a plot to assassinate their city’s ruler.

In spring 2016, Hicks was touring North America to support The Nameless City, and in April she came to Edmonton as the guest of Happy Harbor Comics, through which she conducted workshops around the city and in St. Albert.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Faith Erin Hicks discusses:

  • The intended audiences of The Nameless City trilogy
  • The remarkable speed at which she created the thumbnails—or prototype comic pages—for The Nameless City
  • Her switch from contemporary realist and horror to historical fantasy adventure
  • Reactions from East Asian readers and creators to the book’s Chinese context, and
  • The significant difference between the “girl stories” that female and male graphic novelists are creating

 

Hicks spoke with me by Skype on April 29, 2016. She began by discussing the superstars of animation and graphic novels who’ve raved about The Nameless City.

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Jan 19, 2015

Gene Luen Yang is the celebrated graphic novelist behind the recent LA Times Book Prize-winner Boxers & Saints and the award-winning American Born Chinese.He’s the first comic creator to be nominated for the US National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. He’s also the writer of the graphic novel sequels to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Somehow while he’s changing the face of American comics, Yang finds the time to teach high school computer science and graduate-level creative writing.

In part two of our conversation, Yang discusses:

  • how and why he joined three previously unrelated stories together to create his career-defining graphic novel American Born Chinese
  • how story and structure drove each other in American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints
  • the anti-colonial movement featured in Boxers & Saints, a militia of traditional Chinese fighters called the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists that the British occupiers blandly described as the “Boxer Rebellion,” since they didn’t know the terms wushu or kung-fu
  • why the Saints volume is so much larger than the Boxers volume, and why his publisher scuttled his plans to publish the Saints volume on deliberately inferior production materials
  • how he created the Saints protagonist Four-Girl, cruelly rejected by her own family and one of Yang’s few female protagonists, who is in fact partly based on one of his own relatives
  • the difference between being auteur on his own properties and the writer who has to explain everything for an artist, including the Japanese female art team Gurihiru that illustrates his Avatar scripts
  • how difficult it is to earn a living through comics, and why he hasn’t yet crowdfunded his work, and
  • his favourite Asian, African, and Indigenous American graphic novelists and writers
Jan 12, 2015

Gene Luen Yang is the celebrated graphic novelist behind the recent Boxers & Saints and the award-winning American Born Chinese, and a remarkable force in the world of American comics. While thoroughly enthralled by the artistic traditions and lore of US superheroes, Yang is equally engaged by other artistic traditions such as Chinese opera, which is full of super-powered heroes and villains in primary-coloured costumes, and massive backstories with centuries of continuity behind them.

Although Yang laboured for years at making comics and losing money, he eventually struck adamantium with American Born Chinese. The 2006 graphic novel features a contemporary Chinese-American boy, an outrageously offensive fictionalised sitcom character named Chin-Kee, and the Monkey King from classical Chinese literature. The book is Yang’s fascinating fusion of three stories exploring alienation, racial self-hatred, and transformation of social consciousness and personal self-concept.

The graphic novel established Yang as one of the most important graphic novelists in the United States. It won the Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, and became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a US National Book Award, and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. His 2013 two-volume Boxers & Saints explores the Chinese anti-colonial struggle that also pitted traditionalist Chinese against Chinese Christian converts, and by taking sides with neither, the book humanises both. It received a nomination for a US National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize.

In addition to having written and drawn many other works, Yang currently writes the sequel graphic novels to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, where he ceded art-creation duties to the Japanese duo Gurihiru. He’s also taught high school computer science for almost twenty years and creative writing through Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Gene Luen Yang spoke with me via Skype on December 10, 2014, from his home office in Oakland, California. In our conversation, Yang explains:

  • What keeps him from migrating to an all-digital workflow in comics creation
  • Why he regards his own art style as simple
  • Why he doesn’t illustrate the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels that he writes
  • His surprising opinions of Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning Persepolis,
  • How dramatic, personal comics demand an inverted Kirbyist style, and
  • What links Roman Catholicism, computer science, and comic books.
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