Friend to Drawn! Naseem Hrab, who works at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, has graciously shared an interview she and Jellaby author Kean Soo conducted with illustrator Shaun Tan during his tour for Tales From Outer Suburbia, which is released in the US on February 1st. Here’s Naseem:
After attending two presentations, two signings and one interview with Shaun Tan in less than 24 hours, I can officially say that I will never tire of him or his work. Shaun is behind some of the most brilliant and fascinating picture books of recent years (The Lost Thing and The Red Tree), as well as the critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Arrival. Heâ€™s even worked as a concept artist for the films Horton Hears a Who and Pixar’s WALL-E. And heâ€™s one of the nicest, most humble and thoughtful people youâ€™ll ever meet. His newest book, a beautifully illustrated collection of 15 short stories titled Tales from Outer Suburbia, is a departure from his usual work that upholds his incredibly inventive style.
Kean Soo and I got to chat with Shaun while he was on the Toronto leg of his Canadian book tour. In our hour long interview we talked about what it was like to create Tales from Outer Suburbia, his work habits, life with parakeets, and of course, what he’s working on next.
NH: Iâ€™d like to start off by asking you about Tales from Outer Suburbia. Whatâ€™s the history of the project? How long did it take you to create it?
ST: There are some pieces in Tales from Outer Suburbia that are quite old. The story â€œMake Your Own Petâ€ is actually from 2000, so itâ€™s about eight years old. A lot of the other ones were all produced in the space of about 2 to 3 years. It was quite a protracted period. I would dip into the storiesâ€”have them in the drawer, so to speakâ€”and review them, and then maybe spend a bit of time with them and then come out again. I was working on The Arrival mostly, so The Arrival was my main occupation for a while. It was a very rigorous book to do. At times the crafting of it was a little bit painstaking and almost dull, because you know youâ€™ve already conceived the ideas needed and you just have to physically realize them, and thatâ€™s hard. And the conceptual, playful part of my work was taking a back seat, so I kept sneaking away to write a little more for Tales from Outer Suburbia because it was so much fun. And then Iâ€™d go back to The Arrival, so it was about 2 to 3 years of doing that.
One story I wrote in a car because I had an appointment to see an accountant, and I got the time mixed up, so I showed up 2 hours early and had nothing else to do. Strangely, it was a pretty good draft! But thatâ€™s unusual. And other stories were like a year or two of revisiting and rewriting. I kept writing and re-writing â€œGrandpaâ€™s Storyâ€ in different forms again and again because it wasnâ€™t quite right. It was quite difficult.
Studiotunes is a new series of essays by illustrators and comic book artists who tell us what they listen to while they draw and how the music influences their work.
We’re kicking off the series with an essay by Kean Soo, whose first full-length graphic novel, Jellaby, was released last month. Jellaby is a Calvin-and-Hobbesian comic about a girl and her pet monster.
Without further ado, here’s Kean Soo’s Studiotunes essay:
I tend to have music running almost constantly in the background as I work — when drawing, I listen to just about anything, but when I’m writing I have to stick to songs without lyrics otherwise I’ll get completely distracted.
This usually means I’ll be listening to classical (I can still point out quite a few scenes in Jellaby that I’ve written to Beethoven’s piano sonata cycle), or something along the lines of progressive trance (Hybrid has always been a favourite of mine), but for this particular Jellaby mix, I decided to stick to the more traditional pop songs that might accompany scenes or the reading of the graphic novel.
So. Here we go:
Nada Surf – Imaginary Friends (YouTube)
Wilco – Just a Kid
Here we are with two songs to really kick the mix off with a bang. From Nada Surf’s opening lines of “Hey! Calling all imaginary friends!” to the chorus of singing kids in Wilco’s “Just a Kid,” these two songs are pretty much indicative of the mood and tone of the book: Fun! The songs also touch on recurring themes that seem to keep cropping up in Jellaby: friendship and the occasional difficulties of just being, well, a kid.
This kick-ass cover by Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley is one of two covers (the other is by The New Frontier‘s Darwyn Cooke) for Comics Festival 2007, one of the offerings available in finer comic shops everywhere for Free Comic Book Day on May 5. (See larger versions of both covers here)
Chris Butcher hooks us up with the full lineup of creators who are featured in the book. Included is new full-colour work by R. Stevens (Diesel Sweeties), Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics), Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Kean Soo (Jellaby), Hope Larson, myself, and many others.
I just saw a proof of the finished book, and it’s a beauty. It’s a darn near perfect group of artists to get new readers excited about comics, and it’s FREE! I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
Make sure your local comics shop is going to carry the book on May 5 if you want to get your greasy paws on it. Let them know the order code is FEB070041 – COMICS FESTIVAL 2007 FCBD ED – FREE!
BREAKING NEWS: Dinosaurs are set to stomp and maul the campus of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Online comics creators, Kean Soo and Ryan North are scheduled to hold a discussion about on-line comics tomorrow, Monday 7 November 2005, at the Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning (MDCL) building in room 1309.
The Jurassic event starts at 7pm.
According to North: “We will talk about comics and answer questions and give out high fives ON DEMAND.”
(Incidentally, McMaster is my alma mater… so please take it easy on them, guys).