A few weeks ago, Ryan in Year 6 read and reviewed James Turner’s Graphic Novel Super Animal Adventure Squad. Ryan’s part of a growing team of graphic novel and comic readers and reviewers at the school I work at. And it was a great review, showing just how much Ryan had enjoyed the book, and just how well he could write about it.
Well, we thought it would be nice to see if Ryan wanted to expand his repertoire from reviewer to interviewer and set him the task of coming up with some questions to ask James Turner.
We think he did a great job. Thanks very much to Ryan for coming up with some great questions, thanks to Lauren at Random House for setting up the interview and of course, thanks to James Turner for taking the time to answer the questions!
(The assembled characters of Super Animal Adventure Squad by James Turner)
Ryan: Any plans for any more SAAS?
James: When the DFC ended I was halfway through writing the next SAAS story – it was going to be about the queen being turned into a jar of pickled gherkins, and a quest for the legendary magic jar opener in the supermarket at the end of the world. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to draw it one day!
Ryan: Where did you get the names for the characters from – and are they based on anyone you know?
James: I think you can probably guess where the names for Bear-Bot and Beesley came from, and the ‘K’ in ‘Agent K’ stands for kitty (though that is top secret information, so don’t tell anyone!). I thought Rex sounded like a good lizardy sort of name (probably because of a certain dinosaur), and strangely enough Irwin is named after Steve Irwin, the late wildlife expert. I have no idea why I named him after Steve Irwin though – maybe he was just on TV when I was drawing the character…
I think all the characters are probably based on different sides of myself – Rex is my silly side, Irwin is my selfish side, Bear-Bot is my sensible side, and Beesley is my, um, mustachioed bee side? Ok, I am not really sure what Beesley is based on.
(Captain Green Beard, bad guy or merely misunderstood?)
Ryan: Did you base the storylines on something you once read – for example did you really like Treasure Island as a child – inspiration for Green Beard perhaps?
James: I don’t think that there are any specific stories that inspired Super Animal Adventure Squad, but it’s really important to read as much as you can if you want to be a writer – everything you read fills you up with little ideas which can join together to form a big idea. So really, SAAS is inspired a little bit by every book I’ve ever read!
Ryan: How did you get into making comics and graphic novels?
James: As a child I always made comics (even before I could write I would make little books of pictures telling a story), but when I grew up I didn’t have so much time for it. Then I realised one day that I couldn’t draw at all any more, so I promised myself I would draw a comic every week to teach myself to draw again. I put the comics on the internet and people seemed to like them so I kept doing it. One day a friend who knew my comics said I should send a strip to the DFC, so I sent them two pages of the Super Animal Adventure Squad and the rest is history!
Ryan: How long does it take to come up with the story from first getting it in your head to finished pages?
James: Once I have an idea I have to write the script which can either be very quick or very slow, depending on how easily the ideas come – sometimes the jokes just flow out without any work and sometimes I will be stuck for days and days.
Once I have the script there are a lot of stages to finishing the final page – first I have to roughly lay it out so that all the words and pictures can fit in each panel, then I pencil in the details, ink over the pencils, scan it into my computer and colour it in. All in all it probably takes me about 4 hours per page.
(Cover to The Phoenix Comic Issue Zero, featuring Star Cat by James Turner)
Ryan: Can you tell us a little more about what plans you have for the future – I’ve just seen the Phoenix issue zero and Star Cat looks great!
James: I am currently working hard on the first ten weeks worth of Star Cat for the phoenix comic – it’s going to be a strip about a flying cat/spaceship and the adventures of its crew. I’m also working on the scripts for a new book about some japanese characters called the Mameshiba (half bean/half dog creatures that love to tell facts), which should be out next year, and if I get the time I also have an idea for a comic called Dan Tastic, about a hero with a pig for a sidekick.
(Star Cat by James Turner – from The Phoenix Comic)
Ryan: Were you a good artist at school? I’m not that good and was wondering if there’s hope for me yet! What would you recommend I do to make my art better?
James: I liked to draw comics when I was at school, but I was never really good at art – all I wanted to do was draw little cartoons, which the teachers weren’t so impressed with as I got older! My advice for getting better at art is this: Draw, draw and draw some more! The more you practice the better you will get – every time I draw a comic I feel like I am improving just a little more.
Thank you again to all involved, especially James and Ryan. You can buy Super Animal Adventure Squad at the FPI Webstore and good comic and book shops. The Phoenix Comic starts in January, and subscriptions are available from the Phoenix website.