Bestselling creator Jeffrey Brown (Jedi Academy, Lucy and Andy Neanderthal) shares what readers can expect in his latest adventure–Once Upon A Space-Time!
Can you tell us what inspired this new story?
For a long time I had the idea of a funny adventure story about a spaceship full of humans, aliens, and robots exploring the galaxy – more along the lines of Star Trek than Star Wars. I came up with a version that actually became part of the Threadless Comics-On-Tees collection. The breakthrough was when I needed a rest from Lucy & Andy Neanderthal in the Stone Age, and realized I could make all the characters be kids. I realized an intergalactic space mission with minimal adult supervision would be more interesting for me to write, and a lot of fun.
Creators across mediums often say that comedy is harder to write than drama or action–Can you share with us the challenges or perhaps joy you find in writing/drawing humor?
I’ve always found humor easier! Every time I try to make something serious, people try to put their finger on what’s missing, until they realize it’s the jokes. I use humor to deal with drama in real life anyway, so it’s natural to put it everywhere in my stories. The challenge is coming up with new jokes. I should count how many jokes are in my books – I try to have two or three jokes on every page, so for a 250 page book…that’s an awful lot of jokes!
Space stories are so fascinating–and there are a lot of kids who especially find it fascinating, maybe even want to be an astronaut one day. What is it about space stories that you find exciting to tell? and why do you think kids love it so much?
For me, the ideas in science fiction are so interesting – whether it’s astronomical phenomenon or strange new technology, or what alien biology might possibly be like. So it’s the perfect mix of imagination and science, where something that might otherwise seem impossible suddenly becomes just a step or two away from reality. Also, weird creatures and robots are so much fun to draw and look at, of course.
For aspiring creators, can you share a little bit about your process–where you begin, how you lay out the story, what kind of tools you use?
Each book takes a year or more to make. It starts with a collection of rough ideas – characters and the basic story. From there, I work up an outline that gets more and more detailed, until I have a script that covers what will happen generally on each page. From that outline, I work up a first rough draft, which is mostly stick figures and more like a thumbnail script. After getting notes from my editor, I make a second rough draft that’s drawn the size I’ll make the final art, with more detail and text that is fairly close to what the final words will be. After another round of notes from my editor, I draw the final art using that second draft and a lightbox as my guide. The final art is drawn on Bristol, and I use Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens to draw – the superfine nib for line art, and the gray brush pens for shading. Then the copyeditors go to work and I get one last round of notes from my editor. A lot of the corrections at this stage are just text, which I can fix in photoshop, though once in a while I have to re-draw a panel or even a whole page. After that, it’s on to the next book!
Finally–can you share 3 graphic novels you recommend for kids and teens?
Where to start?! I’ll assume everyone is already reading everything from Raina Telgemeier and Dav Pilkey, so I’ll skip them (but if you haven’t read them, you shouldn’t skip!). One I read with my son recently was Laura Knetzger’s Bug Boys, which is a lot of fun. I also got a sneak peak at the next Rickety Stitch book, another fun series. And because I’m way behind on my to-read list, I’d also recommend Jessi Zabarsky’s YA fantasy book Witchlight – I got to hear her talk about it earlier this year, and I’m still looking forward to digging into it.
Once Upon A Space-Time! is available now! Grab your copy today.