So I don’t normally do interviews, but you guys know how much I loved TOON Books’ recent release, Stinky by Eleanor Davis, so when I heard she was willing to do interviews, I was like, “Sign me up!” Here’s a picture of Eleanor to get us started:
Don’t you love it?
You should also check out her website.
And if you haven’t read Stinky yet, please do.
So with a big THANK YOU to Eleanor for visiting, I give you…
What paths in life have led you to a career as a comic book artist (Comic book author? Author/illustrator? Goddess of story? What job title do you prefer?)
Eleanor: (I just go with Cartoonist, it’s easiest!) My parents were always very into comics, from the old undergrounds of the 60s, to Manga, to classic newspaper comics and kids comics like Little Lulu and Carl Barks’ Donald Duck. We had a lot of comic books around the house and I grew up reading them, and occasionally drawing some of my own. Then when I was in high school a friend introduced me to the Zine/Mini-Comics movement, especially the work of John Porcellino. I was blown away by all the people out there that were making really outstanding work and expressing themselves through comics. I started making my own minis, went to Savannah College of Art and Design to study sequential art, and here I am!
What kind of work have you been doing, aside from Stinky?
Eleanor: I do both comics for kids, and also comics for adults. I take both of them equally seriously, although my kids stuff is always upbeat and fun (because that’s what I liked as a kid) and my adult work is more ambiguous. My adult work is published in the Fantagraphics comics anthology MOME. I’m also working a big project with my boyfriend, Drew Weing—a kid’s graphic novel called The Secret Science Alliance. It’s an adventure story about awesome kid inventors, and it’s coming out from Bloomsbury Books in 2010. It’s going to be really fun!
Had you been thinking about doing books for children for a long time before Stinky, or was this a relatively new idea? Have you done work for children before?
Eleanor: I started working on The Secret Science Alliance before I even started thinking about Stinky, and they’ve been my two big projects for kids. I didn’t think much about doing comics for kids before I started The Secret Science Alliance, but kids’ stuff is easier to pitch to publishers, so I figured I’d give it a shot. As soon as I started working on a kids’ book, I got really into it. I’ve always been a big fan of children’s literature, and my boyfriend and I take kids’ books really, really seriously. So it’s been a fun challenge to myself to grow in that direction.
Where did you get the idea for Stinky?
Eleanor: Well, as I said, I was already working on The Secret Science Alliance, which involved a lot of thinking about and drawing inventions and machines, which, it turns out, is really difficult. So I decided to draw a comic set entirely in a swamp. Also I love drawing monsters, because they are impossible to mess up. As long as they look cool, anything goes!
One of the things I like best about the book is that Stinky *talks* about how much he hates kids, but when Nick comes into the swamp, we can see from Stinky’s facial expressions that he’s really feeling things like worry and fear and confusion. It’s nice to see a book with a message that’s subtle. How intentional was that on your part?
Eleanor: I’m glad you liked it! That was definitely something I was going for, and I’m glad it read clearly. I tried to keep it pretty subtle; it’s a book with a pretty clear message but I didn’t want it to come off too preachy. I really hated preachy stuff when I was a kid!
What were the books/comics you most loved as a kid? What do you most love today? (I know that’s a hard question to answer. When someone asks me what my favorite books are, I think, “Everything!”)
Eleanor: Hmm, let’s see. As a little kid I loved the Eloise books, anything by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Little Lulu and Donald Duck (of course), the My Father’s Dragon books, Harriet the Spy, The Kid-Der-Kids (a comic from the turn of the century by Lyonel Feininger)—and the list goes on and on and on. These days as far as prose I’m reading a lot of Virgina Woolf and Penelope Fitzgerald, and some truly wonderful anthropology books by Peter and Iona Opie about children’s games. In the comic book line I’ve been loving Gipi, Joann Sfar, Dan Zettwoch, and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, to name but a criminal few. A list of favorites would be impossible!