IN AN OPEN, free Super Session hosted by The Washington Post’s “Comic Riffs” columnist/cartoonist Michael Cavna, such headlining graphic novelists as Jeff Smith and Bryan Lee O’Malley will talk about their art as part of the National Book Festival’s first-ever Graphic Novel Night — at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30, at the Washington Convention Center. Check out who will be part of the event — as well as other graphic novelists appearing Saturday — and read about their work in their own words:
The author of the self-published “Bone”, the epic fantasy-adventure comic series embraced by millions of young readers, told Cavna about its status as one of the most banned books in school libraries.
“A school in Minnesota wanted to ban it. It was because [it depicts] cigars and beer…when it takes place in a medieval town. And my main characters…don’t even partake.”
Smith is also the author of the sci-fi noir thriller “RASL” and the adventure webcomic “Tuki.”
Bryan Lee O’Malley
The “Scott Pilgrim” cartoonist/songwriter/musician is the creator of “Seconds,” a new graphic novel about a 29-year-old female chef who takes a magic mushroom to try to rid her life of some bad things.
His first graphic novel was “Lost at Sea”, about a shy 18-year-old who believes his soul has been stolen by a cat. His award-winning comic epic “Scott Pilgrim” was adapted into a dazzling feature film. He also created the cover art of the video game Fez.
Vivek Tiwary and Kyle Baker
Writer Vivek Tiwary and artist Kyle Baker are the authors of “The Fifth Beatle,” a novel based on the life of Brian Epstein, the manager who discovered The Beatles and who is said to have been the driving force of their global success.
“The Fifth Beatle” won an Eisner award for reality-based work at last month’s Comic-Con.
Congressman John Lewis
“March: Book One,” the graphic memoir by Rep. John Lewis – who worked with award-winning cartoonist Nate Powell and staffer Andrew Aydin – traces his path toward becoming a civil-rights pioneer, from marching with Dr. King to the day of a Selma march when he was almost killed by troopers.
For the congressman, the comic book is important to tell new generations what was achieved in the past. “I’m lucky and very blessed to still be here,” he tells Cavna, “and to see the changes and progress made as a nation. I tell young people: The ‘black’ and ‘white’ signs that I saw, they’re gone.”
When Cavna interviewed Raina Telgemeier, he said he was impressed by her storytelling skills and by her ability to connect with young readers through her best-selling graphic novels such as “Smile” and “Drama.”
Her memoir “Sisters” is about a road trip she took with her sibling, as she mined childhood memories to create her narrative. Her writing is “from a place of truth,” Cavna said, and depends on Telgemeier’s great attention to detail.
“I’m always writing my life in my head as it’s happening,” the author told Cavna. “That means paying attention, and focusing on the distinctive moments — especially visual details — that might be useful later. I also spend a lot of time listening to people talk, and much like a mimic, I love being able to capture a particular voice in written dialogue. I can spy a tin ear on a writer from a mile away, but that makes me appreciate good dialogue writing even more.”
The artist and humorist, who has authored 15 books, is a staple of The New Yorker since selling her first cartoon to the magazine in 1979. She is also a 2014 Thurber Prize finalist for her latest cartoon book, “Women on Men.”
Last year, Donnelly hosted the Small Press Expo’s Ignatz Awards at which she promoted women cartoonists.
At the time, she told Comic Riffs that the awards ceremony was a chance for her to prove that there are indeed many women out there in the industry: “I was given the opportunity ahead of time to select the presenters for each award to be given and I decided to choose all cartoonists who are women. More and more of us are now in the business, unlike previous years, and I wanted to celebrate that fact by bringing attention to it. Many cartoonists came up to me afterwards — men and women — to thank me for doing that, it was great.”
Gene Luen Yang
Yang is the first author to have a graphic novel be honored as a National Book Award finalist. That occurred with his 2006 book, “American Born Chinese”, and he repeated the feat last week with his twin-volume epic about the boxer rebellion, “Boxers & Saints.”
Yang’s new graphic novel – illustrated by Sonny Liew – is “The Shadow Hero,” which creates a backstory for what is perhaps the world’s first Asian American superhero, The Green Turtle.
Cavna recently interviewed Yang, who is also an educator, about graphic novels in schools: