Monday, November 21, 2011

Interview with Artist Matthew Forsythe

Kids Can Press has a new book out this Fall that explores the power in names, and we have an interview with its artist.

Comics in the Classroom: Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions about your new book, My Name is Elizabeth!
This is your first Picture Book, but this is not your first published work. Could you give us a brief rundown of your career?

Matthew Forsythe: I have a graphic novel with Drawn & Quarterly called ojingogo (2008). i’m just wrapping up my second comic/graphic novel with them called jinchalo (2012).

Comics in the Classroom: What made you decide to branch out into children’s books?

Matthew Forsythe: I’ve always wanted to do kids’ books. They’ve had a huge influence on me - not just as a kid, but throughout my life. Mercer Mayer and Maurice Sendak, Eric Carle and Dr Seuss. And there are so many modern authors and artists that are inspiring. And I just love the purity of the medium. Ideally the books aren’t targeted at any age or demographic. I think that creates problems. When adults try to imagine what kids should be reading. To me they should just be beautiful, provocative books that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Comics in the Classroom: My wife teaches grade one and she brought the book to read to her class – they loved it. After reading it the class talked for a long time about their names and how they can be shortened and changed (which would make this a great book for supply teachers to have in their bag of tricks). Have you had the chance to meet with kids about the book – readings, signings, etc?

Matthew Forsythe: I haven’t! But I am doing a signing at a big book fair in Montreal this month. So hopefully the kids will be nice to me.

Comics in the Classroom: My wife commented that your art in this book feels “familiar”. Something about it feels familiar without actually being a copy of anything - a picture book or birthday card from the 50s and 60s. What are we seeing in your art that gets this reaction? You employ some exciting choices throughout the book – you don’t simply copy an older style. Where did you draw inspiration for the look of your art in Elizabeth?

Matthew Forsythe: I wanted to do something that felt silkscreened. I would love to do a properly screen-printed kids book some day. I love restricted palettes. The colours for this book I think at least partially came from the looking at the screenprinted work of Blex Bolex.

Comics in the Classroom: [Note: you can see sample of the work of Blex Bolex here] The grades 1 and 2 kids my wife and read the book to got a kick out of the way you “grow” Elizabeth when she yells. Is this a visual trick that you worry your readers won’t understand right away or do you worry about things like that?

Matthew Forsythe: Yeah, I think my visual storytelling is weak but improving. And maybe she is willing the town to be small? I like the ambiguity.

Comics in the Classroom: It reminded me of Christoph Niemann’s The Police Cloud.

My Name Is Elizabeth! Is very much a comic or graphic novel for young readers. Was this the intent of the writer, was it something the publisher had in mind when it hired you, or was it a vision you came up with on your own? I would think that with your comic background the publisher would expect something that approached a comic form.

Matthew Forsythe: That came from the editor and perhaps the writer. They wanted it to have a comic book feel so I think that’s why they approached me. I would love to do more comics for kids.

Comics in the Classroom: My understanding is that artists and writers of children’s books have little, if any, contact with each other and the writer controls the visuals very little – the text of the story is all the control they have. On the other hand, with comics, mainstream comics at least, the writer can control a page down to very small details through the script. How did this work between you and the writer, Annika Dunklee?

Matthew Forsythe: No, I didn’t even speak with the author until after the book was published. Annika wrote the words you see on the page and the rest was my responsibility. You’re right, it’s very different than comics.

Comics in the Classroom: Being your first picture book, how did you approach the process differently than you would one of your own comics?

Matthew Forsythe: It was a more collaborative process. Between myself and the editor and the art director.

Comics in the Classroom: This is very much an Autumn book. The leaves and the clothing are obviously signs of Fall, but the colours you chose complement the season perfectly. The burnt orange and pale blue give the book a warm feel. Was this meant to be an seasonal book? Was this what the author had in mind, did it come from the publisher or was it a choice you made?

Matthew Forsythe: I think this was Yvette, the editor’s choice. The leaves and the orange and the back-to-school-ness all fit really well together.

Comics in the Classroom: What’s next for you?

Matthew Forsythe: Right now I’m finishing the final pages of my book for Drawn & Quarterly called jinchalo. It’s about 122 pages and was a crazy amount of work. But that’s comics! When this is finished I would like to go outside and see my friends.

Comics in the Classroom: Thank you very much for your time. Good luck with My Name is Elizabeth!

Thank you!

My Name is Elizabeth!

ISBN: 978-1-55453-560-6

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Garfield Comics: Two books, Three Pictures and A Few Words

Article by Scott Tingley

Papercutz was nice enough to send me their first two Garfield & Co. hardcover comics/graphic novels to review, but I let my kids have them for the drive home from the post-office and I've barely been able to get at them since. I was finally allowed to read one of them as a bed time story, but then they were taken back so that each of my two kids could read them as they fell asleep.

In the limited time I was allowed to have them in my hands I saw that they were pretty good adaptations of the new Garfield cartoon, the one with the computer animation. My kids like t
he cartoon fine, but they really liked the comics. Each book had three stories which were just wordy enough to tell the story with little unnecessary fluff to bump the word-count (needlessly wordy comics get removed from the bedtime reading rotation - I'm looking at you, JUGHEAD).

I was pleased with the reaction and I won't mind reading the Garfield & Co. comics as a bedtime story again sometime soon.

Both are available this May. See more HERE.

GARFIELD & Co #1 Fish to Fry: 6 1/2 x 9, 32pp., full-color hardcover: $7.99 ISBN 978-1-59707-266-3

GARFIELD & Co #2 "The Curse of the Cat People"" 6 1/2 x 9, 32pp., full-color hardcover: $7.99 ISBN 978-1-59707-267-0

Please check out my other sites:

Comment below or contact me at: comicsintheclassroom at

Friday, May 6, 2011

Free Comic Book Day is Here at Last! PART 2

Article by Scott Tingley, May 05, 2011

Since not many stores let you take one of everything, I will now justify getting most of the books a week early by briefly talking about a lot of them. BTW, thanks Gamezilla!

In no particular order (I’ll just take them from the stack), here are the comics:

Star Wars / Avatar: The Last Air Bender

I only flipped through this one, so far, but i like the look of it. This is Dark Horse Comics’ YOUNGER READERS comic for this year. The Star Wars looks aimed at fans of the cartoon (even though it is not in the same art style). There is an alien slug thing killed by a Sith, but that kind of thing happens in Star Wars.

The Avatar: The Last Air Bender (think the cartoon, not the Air Bender movie out last year) is very nicely illustrated and appealing to younger readers.

This is a win. Flip through it for yourself – if it doesn’t appeal to you or your kids then pass, but I think you will like it if you like this sort of thing at all (a bit non committal, I know, but I’m dealing with a broad crowd on this piece).

Crimminal Macabre / Baltimore

This is Dark Horse Comics’ BOOK FOR OLDER READERS and I enjoyed it a lot. C.M. is an occult detective series and I found it funny and well illustrated. It is written by the author of the 30 Days of Night series, Steve Niles. Baltimore is by HellBoy series creator, Mike Mignola (he drew the cover for this story as well).

One thing I’m going to do tomorrow at my comic shop is to look for a Baltimore book to buy. I really enjoyed this little tale. I’m not much for “supernatural horror”, but good is good.

Pick it up.

Green Lantern FCBD Special Edition.

Did you know that there is a big-budget Green Lantern movie coming out this summer? Did you know there was a superhero named Green Lantern? Did you know you could get a GL primer comic on Saturday? Great writer, great artist = a win. I would pick this up, but if you aren’t interested in superhero stuff then this likely won’t win you over (Not like ATOMIC ROBO!!!!)

Rated For Everyone: Power Lunch and Sketch Monsters

Two very nice tales for the younger readers here. This is a nice surprise. The Top Shelf comic, OWLY usually wins for Best FCBD for young readers (in my mind), but its got some stiff competition in this book (I don’t have the Owly book yet, but I WILL. Pick it up – it is bound to be good, as always).

Sketch Monsters: A little girl draws monsters and they come to life, hilarity ensues.

Power Lunch: If Joey eats anything but white coloured food he gets super powers, hilarity ensues.

Pick it up, it’s good.

Super Dinosaur Origin Special

Super Dinosaur fights Mad Scientists. There is nothing more to say.

This isn’t aimed specifically at younger readers and I think the whole family can get into this (One arm is tastefully bitten off..seriously).

Young Justice / Batman Brave and the Bold Sampler

If you or your kids like these two cartoons then you will likely enjoy this comic. Even if you don’t like the cartoon I think you will like it. Good superhero actiony fun. It’s no Atomic Robo, but it’s good.

Richie Rich and Kung Fu Panda

I liked it, but if you only have two kid-picks, go with the others on this list.

See all the comics HERE.

Please check out my other sites:

Comment below or contact me at: comicsintheclassroom at

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Free Comic Book Day is Here at Last!

Article by Scott Tingley, May 05, 2011

Since not many stores let you take one of everything, I will now justify getting most of the books a week early by briefly talking about a lot of them. BTW, thanks Gamezilla!

In no particular order (I’ll just take them from the stack), here are the comics:


The Amazing Spider-Man

Written by Dan Slott and Drawn by Humberto Ramos = a win. A two page run-down of the Spidey origin and a rip-snortin’, no-holds-barred slug-fest between Spider-Woman (who is being controlled by The Mandrill...a super-villain talking monkey.

I have to stop there because I’ve reached my quota for awesomeness and hyphens. Great for teens and up, and not too bad if a younger kids gets his/her hands on it.


The Tick

The story is a mostly an ad for various Tick collections now available. Although I have not enjoyed the newer Tick material I LOVE the original stories (Tick: The Complete Edlund) and the Man-Eating Cow series (Man-Eating Cow & The Chainsaw Vigilante, The Complete Works), so this being an advertisement for those books and more isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I wouldn’t spend a pick on it. I would, however, walk over to the counter with it and order a couple of the collections from it.

Bongo Comics Free-for All

AKA: The Simpsons Comic

If you like the Simpsons this is the book for you. If you don’t, it isn’t.

The FCBD Simpsons books are always well done, so worth a pick if you like the series.

Pep Comics Featuring Betty and Veronica

The Archie FCBD comic.

Just like with the Simpsons book, if you like the Archie gang you will likely want to pick this up. Once again Dan Parent wrote and drew the comic – to me he is reminiscent of the old-school Archie artists and the best the company has at the moment.



Captain America and Thor: The Mighty Avengers

An all ages, well written and illustrated comic perfect for a summer featuring big-budget movies for both these characters. In my opinion this would be a good pick for younger or older readers. If you like superhero adventures this is a done-in-one comic you might want to spend a pick on.

Mouse Guard / Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal (flip book)

I’m not a huge Fantasy fan, but The Dark Crystal is beautiful looking, likely worth a pick on its own if you are a fan of the genre.

The Mouse Guard portion of the comic makes it the biggest pick for my FCBD and I haven’t even read it yet. I love the Mouse Guard books too much to rush through it - I am going to wait, but you shouldn’t.
Go line up now for it. Beautiful painted artwork, great storytelling and mice with swords. Win! If you like adventure stories and epic battles you should like this.

Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures / Top 10 Deadliest Sharks

Brought to you by The Discovery Channel...that’s what I said - The Discovery Channel!

Who knew?

The dinosaur story is beautiful and monsterific. The Shark side of the book tells the tale of one of the worst non-fatal great white attacks. Lots of blood and other cool stuff. I think the ten year old me would have absolutely loved this comic. Vicious and educational. Perfect!

Atomic Robo

THERE'S AN ATOMIC ROBO COMIC!!!  If you only have one pick - make this it....This or Mouse Guard...or this.

I don't have it yet  - but I MUST!

More selections coming tomorrow.  See all the comics HERE.

Please check out my other sites:

Comment below or contact me at: comicsintheclassroom at

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Riverside Consolidated School Fundraising Comic Book Available NOW

Instead of making a give-away comic for this year's Free Comic Book Day the Riverside Consolidated School Comic Book Club has created a fundraising comic that is now for sale.  For $2.50 you can help support those people that go out of their way to help us.

To get your own copy of the RCS Volunteer Fire Department (for Alma, Riverside-Albert and Hillsborough detachments) and IWK Children's Hospital fundraising comic you can visit the three comic stores in Moncton as well as FolioBooks (next to "Why Are You Cooking?" on St.George, Moncton) and Cover to Cover Books (in Riverview). As of Wednesday afternoon they will be in most of the stores in Hillsborough and they will be available in Riverside-Albert and Alma as well.

To order a copy you can email me at or call the school at 882-3002.

Cover illustrations by Eric Dyck.

Scott Tingley

Please check out my other sites:

Comment below or contact me at: comicsintheclassroom at or ChessComic at

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Comic Hunter nominated for a Joe Shuster Award

Article by Scott Tingley, March 19, 2011

I thought it would be a good idea to mention an honour that has been given to one of my  local comic shops.  The Comic Hunter (Moncton) has been nominated for a Joe Schuster Award: The Harry Kremer Award for Outstanding Comic Book Retailer.

From the Joe Schuster Award website:

Named after the late Harry Kremer, original owner of Now & Then Books (in Kitchener, Ontario). Shops are recommended by the general public and a separate Retailer Award Committee reviews all materials received and select a short list of stores that has shown merit in a variety of categories such as: (1) Support of a wide variety of innovative material, (2) Overall appeal of the store and usage of space, (3) Knowledge, (4) Community activity, and (5) Adherence to standard ethical business practices.

§                     AMAZING FANTASY (Red Deer, AB)
§                     AMAZING STORIES (Saskatoon, SK)
§                     ANOTHER DIMENSION COMICS(Calgary, AB)
§                     COMIC BOOK ADDICTION (Whitby, ON)
§                     THE COMIC HUNTER (Moncton, NB)
§                     COMIC READERS (Downtown Regina, SK)
§                     GOLDEN AGE COLLECTIBLES (Vancouver, BC)
§                     HILL CITY COMICS & GAMES (Thunder Bay, ON)
§                     L’IMAGINAIRE (Quebec City, QC)
§                     PLAN√ąTE BD (Montreal, QC)

I have frequented all three of the comic shops in Moncton, but what I have appreciated about The Comic Hunter is how Remi LeClair (owner) makes his shop work.  He regularly updates his “want list” page which means he is actively looking for books his customers want AND he is giving an opportunity for collectors to trade in some of their collection for store credit giving them an affordable means of getting more stuff. 

Stereotypically, comic shops are not necessarily comfortable places for newcomers to comics and I have personally been in the store to witness Remi and his staff interact with newbies of all sorts and been impressed with their attitudes. 

My kids enjoy browsing their selection of more all-ages comics and the material that is (in my opinion) not appropriate for them is, while not hidden away, is not usually at their eye level.  The store caters to people interested in gaming, comics and just about every sort of “genre’ interest.

I think that an award for one Moncton store can be beneficial for all of the comic shops in the town.  Increased awareness for one shop can bring attention to others.  So, way to go Comic Hunter.

Also, check out my other sites:

Comment below or contact me at: comicsintheclassroom at

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Your Life in Comics: 100 Things for Guys to Write and Draw - a review

Review by Scott Tingley, March 12, 2011

Many of the activities in this book let you fill in talk and thought balloons to complete comics. You’ll also have the chance to draw comics of your own.

If you don’t think you can create the kind of detailed drawings you might see in some comic books, don’t worry. Creating comics is all about finding the style that’s right for you. You can make really complex drawings to tell your stories if you want, but simple illustrations are okay, too.

That is the great advice that Bill Zimmerman begins his new book Your Life in Comics: 100 Things for Guys to Write and Draw. Advice I wish I had heard as a teen creating comics.

Speaking of advice for teens (see what I did there?), Zimmerman has created an “explore the stuff going on in your life” handbook that could be used to get teen boys thinking about the good and bad stuff that makes up their lives. To me though that is a nice side benefit to what I really got out of the book.

I teach grade three in a rural Canadian community, but throughout North America, elementary and, I assume, middle and high schools are using the Traits of Writing to help guide students to better writing. These traits (like organization, conventions, sentence fluency) are packaged by different publishers with some different bells and whistles and they can be very useful. From this vantage point I see Your Life in Comics as a companion to the very first trait, IDEAS. The whole book is a celebration of all the things in your life, both real (an embarrassing moment) and imaginary (when aliens landed on earth). Practically every page in the book could be expanded and turned into a larger piece of writing, either for a comic project or traditional text assignment. The pages are incomplete, some encouraging writing, other drawing and others encourage both.

Tyler Page provided the illustrations for Your Life in Comics and he does a very nice job. He gives a professional look to the book without being too showy and out of reach for the boys using the book. I was halfway through it when I noticed how diverse the teens are. There is every nationality and body shape present, but not in a “hey, we need a ____ kid here” kid of way. It felt more natural than that to me.

Finally, I like the blank pages with the various panel layouts that readers can use to create their own comics. There are a LOT of pages available for downloading on Zimmerman’s website but there is only one of the blank panel pages. It would be nice for there to be more. Do note that Your Life in Comics is not a comic creating manual (there are a lot of great and not so great books out there for that: see Drawing Words and Writing Pictures as an example of a great one).

IDEAS. You can’t fool kids into learning – kids actually really like learning things (something that is sometimes forgotten in our cynicism), but they do want to learn in a way that they enjoy and value (who doesn’t?). Your Life in Comics: 100 Things for Guys to Write and Draw presents the trait of IDEAS in an interesting way which means that I highly recommend this book for upper elementary and beyond. Do me a favour. If you are an upper elementary or middle/high school teacher, look at that sample pages HERE and let me know if you think they appear useful to you. Thanks.


Also, check out my other sites:

Comment below or contact me at: comicsintheclassroom at