Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest Post: How Graphic Novels are Made

As promised we have Neil Numberman and Aaron Reynolds with us today for a special guest blog post, talking about their newest book (to come out on the 23rd!!!), the graphic novel, Big Hairy Drama (Joey Fly, Private Eye, Book 2).

Welcome guys! I'm glad you could make it out to my blog today!

Aaron and Neil will be hanging around in the comments to answer any questions you have for them. ALSO...there is a contest!! So, hang around, read the post and make a comment and a random winner will be picked for every TEN comments. There will be several winners depending on the number of commenters, and the winners will receive their very own Bug Caricature by Neil. (Check out the caricatures Neil did of himself and Aaron at the end of this post.) Also, please leave your email address so I can email you if you win. Winners will be announced on Monday, Nov. 22nd.

So, without further ado, here we go on a bug adventure!!!


by Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman

(Interior. Aaron Reynolds, a writer of children’s books and graphic novels, is sitting at his writing desk. He’s typing, but suddenly stops when a shadow falls over his screen. It’s a kid, about ten or eleven.)

Aaron: (looking up) Hey.

Kid: Hey. Whatcha doin’?

Aaron: Um…writing. Who are you? What are you doing in my writing room?

Kid: I’m just some random kid.

Aaron: Ah. A random kid in my writing room. Okay.

Kid: Yeah. Act like I’m not here. (pause…Aaron starts to get back to work, but is interrupted) Aren’t you an author?

Aaron: (turning back around) Ignore you, huh? That’s gonna be tricky. Yeah. I write kid’s books and graphic novels.

Kid: Graphic novels? Like comic books?

Aaron: Kinda.

Kid: Whatcha writing now?

Aaron: An article about how a graphic novel gets made, but I wanted to write it LIKE a graphic novel, so that’s what I’m doing.

Kid: But…there’s no pictures. A graphic novel has lots of pictures.

Aaron: Not at first. Not mine anyway.

Kid: What?

Aaron: Seriously. I don’t draw.

Kid: I must have the wrong house then. I thought the dude that lives here makes graphic novels.

Aaron: I do. But I don’t draw them….I write them.

(Kid pauses while he thinks about this, then…)

Kid: That’s messed up.

Aaron: No, it’s not.

Kid: You can’t make a graphic novel without being able to draw.

Aaron: Well, I do. Like my new graphic novel…it’s called Joey Fly, Private Eye…

Kid: Way to work that in there. Nice plug. Smooth.

Aaron: Yeah, thanks. Well, Joey Fly starts out like this. A script, just like this one.

Kid: Just the stuff people say?

Aaron: Mostly. I also write in what I see happening in each scene.

(Kid flops into a big cushy chair and puts his feet on Aaron’s writing desk, makes himself at home. He looks at Aaron like he’s lost his mind.)

Aaron: See? Like that. It’s called “stage directions”.

Kid: Oh cool! Like actions and stuff!

Aaron: Yeah, exactly.

Kid: Do it again.

(Kid gets up, kind of excited now. He’s putting it all together in his head, but then he notices a fresh sandwich on Aaron’s desk. Goes over, lifts the bread…he’s kinda hungry…but decides he doesn’t like tuna. Flops back down in the chair.)

Kid: Hey, that’s awesome how you made me do all that stuff! And I do hate tuna.

Aaron: It’s a script. In the graphic novel, I write the story. I come up with the characters. In Joey Fly, Private Eye, I create what happens, what characters are in it, all that stuff. Then I put it into a story…a script like this.

Kid: But it’s not a graphic novel. No pictures.

Aaron: Not yet. It will be soon. But first, I break it into panels.

Kid: Panels?


Aaron: Like this. Chunks. How I imagine it will get broken into boxes in the finished graphic novel. This helps me figure out the flow and pacing of the story, helps me cut extra junk that’s not needed, and helps the illustrator figure out how he’s gonna lay out the pictures on the page.


Kid: Cool. I notice you use lots of words like “gonna” and “whatcha” and stuff. My Language Arts teacher would go nuts on you for that.


Aaron: Yeah, well… I try to write how people really talk. I think that’s important, especially for a graphic novel. It all depends on the character. Like, Joey Fly says some gonnas, but he also uses lots of detective-y phrases…


Joey: Life in the bug city. It ain’t easy. Crime sticks to this city like a one-winged fly on a fifty-cent swatter.


Aaron: Like that. That’s his opening line in the book.

Kid: Okay, that’s pretty funny.


Aaron: Well, I try.


Kid: But it’s still not a graphic novel.


Aaron: Man, for a random kid who shows up in my writing room, you’re seriously pushy.


Kid: Do you know many eleven-year-olds? We’re all like this.

Aaron: That’s right. Not being one, I forget sometimes.


Aaron: Well, now that it’s all broken into panels, I give it to my publisher. And once she’s happy with it, she sends it off to the illustrator and he starts drawing.


Kid: You tell him what to draw?

Aaron: No.


Kid: You tell him what the characters should look like?

Aaron: No.


Kid: What do you tell him?

Aaron: Nothing. Most of the time, we never even meet.


(pause…the kid’s mouth is hanging open.)


Kid: That is seriously messed up.


Aaron: That’s how it works. Unless you are the writer and the illustrator (which I’m not…I don’t draw, remember?), that’s how it works.


Kid: So what happens then?

Aaron: The illustrator looks at it and begins to sketch out what he thinks the characters look like.


Aaron: Like, for Joey Fly, Private Eye, the illustrator is a guy named Neil Numberman.


Neil: Hey kid. What’s up? Hey Aaron.


Aaron: Hey Neil. So, Neil might decide after reading this script that you look like this:


Kid: That’s me?

Neil: Yep.


Kid: You made me a bug!

Neil: Well, we’re talking about Joey Fly, Private Eye, so I’m thinking in bugs. It’s my job to use my imagination, to come up with my ideas of what Aaron’s characters and story look like.


Kid: Cool.


Neil: And as I start drawing and figuring out what it all looks like, Aaron’s story moves away from being a script and I start creating real characters…

Neil: …and pretty soon, I take Aaron’s written words and begin to put them into the mouths of the characters I’ve created.


Aaron Reynolds is a human, not a bug, but he often writes about bugs. He is the author of Chicks and Salsa, Superhero School, Snowbots, and, of course, the Joey Fly, Private Eye graphic novels. Visit him at his website at

Neil Numberman is a termite currently residing in New York City. Joey Fly, Private Eye his first graphic novel series, but he is also the author/illustrator of the picture book Do NOT Build a Frankenstein. Stop by his website at

So, there you have it. And just for kicks I'm going to post the book trailer for book 2 for y'all to watch again 'cause it's just so darn cool!!


Thanks again to Neil and Aaron for being here today! And to all of you who came out! I will be in the comments off and on throughout the day. Hope you all enjoyed this as much as I did and can't wait to see who won the contest! Stay tuned!


Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Just doing a test run to make sure the comment moderation is, indeed, off. =)

Regina Pearson said...

Ha Ha! That's great, what a good idea!

I didn't know how graphic novels were made, I learned something new today. My little girl is fascinated by books, reading, and unfortunately... bugs. ;) I bet she would love this :D

The Spanglers said...

Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed your writing style as well. We will have to keep an eye out for your books at the library.

Aaron Reynolds said...

Thanks Regina and the Spanglers! Graphic novels are a blast to write, so I'm pretty jazzed that I get to do it.

And thanks to Kathryn for hosting us today! :)

~Aaron Reynolds

Anonymous said...

Aaron - How/Why did you decide to write about bugs? What was your inspiration?

Neal - How did you decide what the characters would look like? Does the publisher ever have a say, or do you come up with it alone?

Thanks! I think you guys are awesome!

neilnumberman said...

That's a great question Mr. or Ms. Anonymous. The character design is one of my most favoritest parts! First, I gather all the reference of the particular bug together. For this book, I needed plenty of Stinkbug, South American Tarantula, Bedbug and Gypsy moth pictures. Then I do a drawing that matches the personality of the character from Aaron's writing. Usually, whether it's conscious or subconscious, it's based off of someone I've known. Harry the Tarantula is based on a great boss I once had when I worked at a theatre.
The publishers have some say in what the character eventually looks like. They do want the drawing to be scientifically accurate. They wouldn't want Harry to have too few limbs, for instance, or not give a mosquito wings. But other than that, I have a lot of leeway.
Thanks again for a great question Mr. or Ms. A. Keep 'em comin folks!
--Neil Numberman

Aaron Reynolds said...

Hey Anon,

I love bugs...I think they make fantastic characters, because there are so many different types, each with their own cultural details and physical characteristics. I love them so much, I've used them as characters in numerous books I've written. I have three picture books featuring bug characters and another graphic novel series called "Tiger Moth, Insect Ninja". You never run out of unique types of character in the insect world!

~Aaron Reynolds