So here's Hippopotamister author John Patrick Green, interviewing Maris Wicks, author and illustrator most recently of Science Comics: Coral Reefs
How did you get into comics? What were some of your favorite books or influences as a child?
As a kid, I always liked the funny pages in the newspaper (Gary Larson’s Farside, Garfield, Peanuts) as well as animated cartoons (Masters of the Universe, Batman: The Animated Series, anything Nickelodeon/Disney from the early 90’s). I loved illustrated children’s books too; my mom is a huge fan of Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak, and Shel Silverstein, so those were influences as well. I think the first comic book that got me hooked on comics was Milk & Cheese by Evan Dorkin (which is faaaaar from kid-friendly); I picked it up from a comic store in Vermont when I was in 8th grade. From there, I discovered many other independent comics. By the time I was in college, I was reading any comics I could get my hands on - anything from superheroes to historical comics (my college library had a great selection).
• From Primates, to Human Body Theater, to Coral Reefs, science seems to be a recurring theme in your work. What's the next scientific topic you're going to tackle? Are there any non-science-related topics, or perhaps even a fictional story you'd like to turn into a graphic novel? Perhaps even something science-fictional?
I’m glad that it’s obvious that I love science! Science had been one of my favorite subjects in school. When I decided to go to college for art, I felt like I was abandoning science. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Science and scientific themes were present in most of my projects in college, and that continued into my professional work. My next big book project is a guide to general science: physics, chemistry, biology, math, engineering…all in comics form! There are a few “back-burner” projects that I’ve had in mind that aren’t science-themed (like an autobiographical comic, and some ideas for illustrated kids books). When I read for fun, I tend to read science fiction. I would like to write/draw something sci-fi someday, or even adapt a book/story that already exists into comics form.
• What's your favorite part about comics, both as a reader and a creator?
The comic book format is just how I see the world. I’ve always had an overactive imagination…and thinking of the world in a more cartoony way helps to keep me positive and not too serious. For me, it just makes sense as a way for me to tell (and read) stories.
• What is your process like? With the added requirement of scientific accuracy, how much research goes into it?
When I start a new book, I like to bury myself in research. And not just book research! Any experience that can help me to tell the story is fair game: I trained as an EMT 10 years before I started writing Human Body Theater came, I got scuba-certified to see coral reefs in real life for Coral Reefs! For Primates, the closest I could get to seeing any non-human primates was the zoo, so I went and drew gorillas! I’ve always learned best when I can have a real hands-on experience.
• For many people, drawing is considered a hobby. Is being an artist still a hobby for you, or is it like a job? If drawing is your job, what then are your hobbies?
For me, drawing is both a job and a hobby. I see my comic book and illustration work as my “job” (even though it is fun), and I keep a sketchbook for my more personal drawings (they’re usually silly, but they are just for me; it’s nice to draw just for myself). My other hobbies include hiking, baking, swimming, photography, and reading.
• What's currently on your nightstand?
Oh boy. I have a lot of books waiting to be read. I’ve been reading Randall Munroe’s “Thing Explainer” in bits and pieces; it’s pretty amazing (and inspiring me for my next project)! In addition to that, I’ve got Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” on my nightstand. I’ve never read either of them, and I think that it’s about time!
Thank you both for the great interview! Here are the other stops in the Children's Book Week Comics Tour:
Monday, May 2nd – Forever YA featuring Gene Luen Yang
Monday, May 2nd – Read Write Love featuring Lucas Turnbloom
Monday, May 2nd – Kid Lit Frenzy featuring Kory Merritt
Tuesday, May 3rd – Sharp Read featuring Ryan North
Tuesday, May 3rd – Teen Lit Rocks featuring MK Reed
Wednesday, May 4th – Love is Not a Triangle featuring Chris Schweizer
Wednesday, May 4th – SLJ Good Comics for Kids featuring Victoria Jamieson
Thursday, May 5th – The Book Wars featuring Judd Winick
Thursday, May 5th – SLJ Fuse #8 featuring Eric Colossal
Friday, May 6th – SLJ Scope Notes featuring Nathan Hale
Friday, May 6th – The Book Rat featuring Faith Erin Hicks
Saturday, May 7th – YA Bibliophile featuring Mike Maihack
Saturday, May 7th – Supernatural Snark featuring Sam Bosma
Sunday, May 8th – Charlotte’s Library featuring Maris Wicks
Sunday, May 8th – The Roarbots featuring Raina Telgemeier