Jules: You know we like to mix things up here at 7-Imp. Last week, we featured contemporary paintings and photography, and today we switch gears big-time and welcome author and cartoonist Ray Friesen (the cartoon version of Ray greets us here), who draws a series of humor/adventure graphic novels for young children. Pictured above is one of the many characters he’s created, the timid superhero Captain Cautious, whom I chose randomly from Ray’s site, since I’d like to have the superpower of creating a vortex into the ice cream dimension, which Captain Cautious can do.
Ray’s first title, A Cheese-Related Mishap, was one of the American Library Association’s Top Ten Graphic Novels of the Year for Kids. “I love writing and drawing cartoons,” Ray told me. “Coming up with bizarre characters and crazy stories to put them in is my favorite thing in the world. I love just illustration, and just writing stories all by themselves, but I think I work best combining the two together…”
Ray—whose literary inspirations are Douglas Adams, Walt Kelly, Carl Barks, E.C. Segar (best-known as the creator of Popeye), Terry Pratchett, Hergé, Albert Uderzo, and Matt Groening—has a brand-new title, Cupcakes of Doom! (published by Don’t Eat Any Bugs!, to be released in February, and officially aimed at the 9-to-12 age range). This one takes the “piratey villains,” as Ray refers to them, of one of his previous titles, Yarg!, and “magically turns them into the heroes somehow (or at least stars… Pirates are such loveable rogues, they can easily be heroes or villains depending on their mood) — basically, I like to pick a theme, and just have alot of fun exploring all the silly jokes it has to offer. There’s a story, sure, a whopping fun adventure, but mostly as a loose framework for me to have fun, and make people laugh.
We could all use a good laugh, right? This here’s the lighter side of doom.”
Basically, as Ray put it, there are sword fights aplenty, parrots, penguins, sea serpents, a treasure hunt or two, and all sorts of other piratey shenanigans. Here’s a two-page sequence from Cupcakes of Doom! I know it might be a wee bit challenging to read in spots, but I made the images as big as I could.
Ray, I believe, is in his early twenties, but don’t quote me on that. I do know that in School Library Journal’s review of A Cheese-Related Mishap, they stated that he started his cartoon career at age twelve and was seventeen when he wrote and illustrated the book. So, he’s a young ‘un, and I bet we’ll see lots more from him. Ray showcases a daily webcomic at his site, where there are also more samples of his titles for those children in your life (or your very own spastic inner child) who are fans of such wacky-fun graphel novel adventures. Many thanks to Ray for stopping by!
For anyone new, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is our weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. Absolutely anyone, of course, is welcome to list kicks — even if, or especially if, you’ve never done so before.
1* How fun that we’re featuring a comic artist this week. I want a little “double take” sign to carry around and hold over my head at appropriate moments.
2* That little exhibit I was co-curating is up! Mostly up, anyway, and mostly on time. It was quite a rush there at the end, but everyone who has seen what we’ve put up has loved it. (For those who missed it last week, it’s stuff from our Political Americana collections on an inauguration theme.) But I can’t take credit for that, because the RMC has awesome stuff. We have Obama and McCain condoms, people! And thanks to me pointing them out, we’re going to get the Palin ones too. I LOVE MY JOB.
3* Speaking of inaugurations… I am really, really excited about this coming week. It’s such a relief. I just hope everything goes safely and smoothly.
5* I also got a tantalizing little card from Jarrett J. Krosoczka announcing his new book series about a heroic Lunch Lady. It looks like a lot of fun. And HEL-LO, how do I join the League of Librarians? Are they good? Or evil? I don’t particularly care, just want to know how to word my cover letter.
6* I’ve discovered and/or been discovered by lots of old friends and dear relatives on Facebook this week, including a girl I haven’t seen since 6th grade and a guy I remember roller-skating with in 8th grade. Dude, we are all so old. But it’s so amazing to see how everyone’s turned out.
7* Best of all… I was contacted by someone I haven’t spoken to since we were juniors in high school. She was one of my best friends from around 7th-9th grade, then we had a falling out (mostly me, if I remember right) and didn’t speak for about a year, then were best friends again for a while, but then (me again - I was very volatile back then) stopped speaking for good. I’ve felt terrible about it for so long, and now I’m so glad she found me and was brave enough to start a conversation. She’s turned out great, and has two beautiful kids. Maybe someday we can actually meet up in person.
BONUS: This is not exactly a kick, because I just found out that Andrew Wyeth died. But I am so very grateful for the body of work he produced in 91 years. He was a true genius at capturing the beauty in the flawed, the poetry in the spare, the holiness in the human. Rest in peace.
Jules: I echo what Eisha said about Andrew Wyeth. I was very saddened to hear the news this week. Anyone who’s been to my home knows I’m also a hugely huge fan: Many Wyeth prints adorn our home from various and sundry Wyeth-fan road trips I’ve taken to see his art, and I’ve read up on his family so much that I feel like, I dunno, I know them. The entire Wyeth clan is brilliant — not just N.C. and his son and not just in the arts (did you know that Nat Wyeth developed the prototype for the plastic soda bottle?). I have so many personal, emotional connections in my life to his art, and I’m sad he’s no longer on this earth.
This huge painting above hangs over my bed (the print, of course — not the actual painting). It’s called End of Olsons’. Wyeth painted it after the death of Alvaro Olson and his sister, Christina (the subject of many of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings, including the ever-so iconic one). Alvaro and Christina lived together in this house in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, which I once had the pleasure of seeing, and Wyeth painted there a lot. When Christina died in her sleep, shortly after Alvaro died, the doctor who attended her said that she had died from a broken heart. This painting was done when Andrew Wyeth visited the home after both of them were gone. The story goes that he tacked several drawings for this tempera on the wall of their home and came back the next morning to find them gone. Two swallows had also stayed at the house long after others had flown south, and then suddenly one day both of them were also gone. I don’t know if you can see them in this image of the painting here. I just really love that story.
Sorry. This could be its own post. I’d have a lot more to say. I’ll wrap it up with my other favorite painting of his, which is really important to me for many reasons, Wind From the Sea. It’s like a ghost story, this painting.
1). I got to visit with my uncle this week, in town from way up in Maine.
1½). Doughnuts. Inspired by Calef Brown. Long story.
2). I asked my oldest daughter a simple question this week and got what was not unlike a full-fledged, two-minute musical for an answer. A complete song and dance number, the lyrics comprised entirely of the word “yes.” Four-year-olds. They kill me. Most of the time, all I can do is stand back and watch in baffled amazement. She’s also made up a new language. Did you know that the word “elephant” in this language is “compeesho”? I can’t tell you the name of the language. It changes every five minutes. But it’s one heavy on consonants. Lots of glottal plosives.
3). Reading a whole mixed bag of fables and old folk and fairy tales with my girls one day this week and then listening to them tell stories at the felt board. They had every essential element from a variety of old tales, and they were mixing up all the felt board characters from various stories I created once upon a time as a school librarian, and so it went a little bit like this, as you can see here: The very poor girl walked into the forest because she had just run away from her mean stepmother and the stars rained down and became money and there was a magic mirror in the tree and a princess trip-trapping over the troll’s bridge… Their obsession with dinosaurs creeped in, too, so there are some triceratops in the house that Jack built. I’m posting a pic of the felt board, since more than one person asked me to. Forever ago. I’m just really slow sometimes.
4). Having friends over for brunch yesterday and serving chocolate chip waffles with, OF COURSE, really strong coffee. Mmm.
5). The bottle of Cabernet that Eisha gave my husband for Christmas, produced and bottled by a wine cellar near where she lives. Yum. It’s good.
I also got the same treats from Leslie Evans and Jarrett J. Krosoczka that Eisha got, and I thank them muchly. Lastly, I had a fabulous conversation this week with Laurie Keller, whose interview I’ll be posting soon, about “Waiting for Guffman,” and I just love her, as I love anyone who loves that movie as much as I. We just kept emailing each other lines from the movie, back and forth. I’m tellin’ ya, she is one of my people, I think. I just want to hang out with her.
7). The notion of “defying the languid movement” and the Robert Francis poem here and the Richard Blanco poem here and the Walt Whitman poem here (”Why, who makes much of a miracle? / As to me I know of nothing else but miracles…”)
BONUS, especially for the children of the ’80s:
What are your kicks this week?