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:
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.
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:
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: