Monday, September 8, 2014

Julia's House Bonus Art

Now that the Julia's House Blog tour has wound down, I thought I'd post the whole little creature collection online in one place, right here. I was thinking of making these into a little collection of prints.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Julia's House is Here Today

Today is the official release day for Julia's House for Lost Creatures. If you've pre-ordered the book there is a good chance it will show up at you door today. If you were planning to pick it up from a local bookstore today is the day they will have it in stock. If you were going to pick it up from your local library then I commend you! ...and it should be on the shelves there as well. (If you weren't planning on reading this one and you just visit this blog for the art and comics, well we are definitely still friends. And I'm sorry I haven't been posting comics lately).

Here are some pictures of some copies of Julia's House that were on my desk recently (they are now signed, doodled in, and en route to Turnrow Books):

In other news, I am quite exhausted. I'm just back from a really nice weekend visit to Indiana where I joined my parents and my sisters and my nieces and nephews in breaking in the beautiful brick oven that my dad spent his summer designing and building. It looks like this:

And it makes the most wonderful pizzas.

I also played paintball for the first time this weekend and I discovered that I'm not terribly good at it. Or, rather, I'm particularly good at the part where you get ambushed and pelleted by 12 and 13 year olds.

And so I spent last night driving from Indiana back to Virginia with my two oldest girls, arriving back at House Hatke at about 9 am. Hence the exhaustion.

I plan to celebrate this book release day with a nap.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Julia's House Travel Schedule and Blog Tour

Friends! Julia's House for Lost Creatures will be released in less than one week! Somehow, even though I thought I was "Mr. Organized" this still managed to sneak up on me.

People have been saying some nice things about the book so far, and that's been encouraging (if you're into reading reviews you can find some here, here, here and here).

I was a little nervous about Julia's House at first. After all, picture books are a less forgiving format for storytelling than are graphic novels. A picture book is shorter, for one thing, and so every moment, every beat, has to count all the more. But I think the book will find its readers.

To help Julia's House on its way, I have put together a series of bonus illustrations for the book and the good people at Macmillan have helped to arrange a sort of online traveling bestiary. The idea is that between Sunday August 31st and Saturday September 6th you can visit the sites on the list, take a look at some of the bonus art, and read some of my thoughts about dragons and mermaids and goblins and the rest. Click on the banner below for links to the various sites:

I will also be attending several events in September, October and November. Here is a list, with links, of the places where you will be able to find me signing, drawing, speaking or high-fiving in the coming months:

* September 6th: Baltimore Comic-Con
* September 14th: Small Press Expo
* September 20th: Princeton Book Festival
* September 21st: Brooklyn Book Festival
* September 27th: Baltimore Book Festival. Speaking at 2:00 pm
* October 9th: Children's Book World
* October 11th: Odyssey Kids Books, 2:00pm event
* October 11th, McNally Jackson Books
* October 12th: New York Comic-Con!
* October 26th: Over the Moon, 3:00pm (I believe this one's a costume party).
* November 21st-23rd: Miami Book Fair

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Top o' the Summer

Summer is winding down now, isn't it? I'm always sad when summer starts to fade. Even though Autumn touches my soul with its beauty, I think its Summer that I was born for and where I am most at home.

It's been a quietish summer this year at House Hatke, and we've tried to be more like Ants than Grasshoppers for a change. Still, the summer has had its moments. The video below shows one of my favorite moments of this summer: spinning fire poi at Cristina's Cafe 6th anniversary party:

20140819 213333 from Ben Hatke on Vimeo.

Here's to summer!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Ball and the Cross (or: GKC and Me)

There is a new edition of G.K. Chesterton's crazy odd-couple fantasy novel The Ball and the Cross, illustrated by me! It looks like this:

You can find the book online here.

In a 2004 speech, Neil Gaiman gives a wonderful account of his first discoveries, when he was still quite young, of the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton. Of Chesterton he says:

I was always aware, reading Chesterton, that there was someone writing this who rejoiced in words, who deployed them on the page as an artist deploys his paints upon his palette. Behind every Chesterton sentence there was someone painting with words, and it seemed to me that at the end of any particularly good sentence or any perfectly-put paradox, you could hear the author, somewhere behind the scenes, giggling with delight.

I didn't discover G.K. Chesterton, his wit and his works and his larger-than-life figure, until I was in college, but I had much the same reaction as Gaiman. Probably because, as Gaiman points out, Chesterton is an artist's writer.

I found my first Chesterton novel in the quiet basement of the college library. The book was The Man Who Was Thursday and I didn't even take it to a table; I just sat there on the floor in the aisle and read this weird nightmare story about anarchists and spies. I returned to the same spot over the course of a couple days to finish the book. I was hooked.

And so last year when my friends over at Chesterton Press approached me about drawing a set of illustrations for The Ball and the Cross, well, I wasn't too hard to convince. The book, thanks in no small part to the wonderful friendship that develops between the two main characters, remains my favorite of Chesterton's novels.

In fact, I already had character designs, dating back to 2006, for the two leads (the humorless Catholic-born Evan MacIan and the scrappy, lovable atheist Turnbull). At that time I had briefly held the opinion that this book would make a good graphic novel. I was wrong about that. But as a novel-with-pictures I think it works!

The book also features a fair number of sword fights, and a lot of fat Victorian police running around with helmets and billy clubs. Both of those things are fun to draw.

So without further preamble, here's a look at a few of my favorite interior illustrations from this edition of The Ball and the Cross:

Oh and did I mention there's a flying ship?

And as I said at the top of the post, you can find the book here:

Finally, here's a goofy picture of me dancing with Chesterton (it's a cover illustration for an upcoming issue of Gilbert Magazine):

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Little Robot Flies Away

Little Robot, the book I started working on last year, is off to the publisher. There are still odds and ends to take care of, but the bulk of production is done and I'm getting that "book-has-flown-off-my-desk-and-into-the-wide-world" feeling. If this had been a construction project I would be clapping the dust off my hands and pouring myself a cold one. (as it is, I'm preparing to head into a construction project, but that's a different story).

It's a weird, gentle little book and I think I'm happy with it.

And so... my best guess is that Little Robot will be a Fall 2015 release. So now begins the great wait between the time a book is turned in and the moment it starts to land in the hands of the readers. (Why so long? Here's a little article about the publishing timeline).

Oh, and big shout of thanks goes out to Louis Decrevel, my friend on the far side of the world, for sailing in at the 11th hour and helping me with some coloring! Louis does some great work, and you can see it right here.

So to help us pass the time, here are a few interesting pictures:

I did not make it out for San Diego Comic Con this year, but I know there were at least two Zita the Spacegirl cosplayers in attendance.

This Zita means business!

And this awesome family had a Robot One floating around with them. This made me want to break out the ol' paper mache myself.

And finally, to bring things back to Little Robot, there's this picture that was sent to me recently:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Green Turtle

Fan art for Gene Yang and Sonny Liew's Green Turtle:

One of the things I've been meaning to do around here is put together a list of recommended graphic novels. Considering the backlog of things I'd like to post about, it will probably be some time before I get to that, but if I did manage to put together a list of some of the great long-form comics that have been coming out, Gene Yang and Sonny Liew's rebooted Golden Age superhero tale, The Shadow Hero, would certainly make the cut.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Julia's House Winners (and a very silly comic)

Okay! It's finally time to announce the winners of our Julia's House for Lost Creatures giveaway! I had hoped to post this earlier in the day but someone here at House Hatke forgot to pay the internet bill.

And, for this announcement, I present unto you a very silly comic:

And there you have it! Winners, contact me by email using the address on my side bar. Send me a mailing address and I will send you your book as promptly as I can.

And now... I am back to coloring Little Robot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Julia's House Contest Closed of Entries

How did a week pass so quickly?

The Jolly Julia Giveaway is now closed, but I think this has been the contest with the most entries so far. Thanks, everyone, for enjoying my work and for all the nice comments.

I will be drawing and posting the winning names tomorrow!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jolly Raffle Giveaway Contest: Julia's House for Lost Creatures!

One of the coolest things about writing and drawing books is the part where a box of shiny new author copies shows up at your door. And yesterday was the day that copies of Julia's House for Lost Creatures arrived here at House Hatke.

I know I've said it before, but I'm really happy with how this book turned out.

The official release date (September 2nd) is still over a month off, but I'm going to give away two copies now, along with a bit of original art!

Regular readers of this blog, you know the drill. But for the sake of the newcomers, HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:

To enter the drawing all you need to do is leave a comment in the comments section of this post. Remember to leave your name, or some internet handle that I can announce. You can increase your chance of winning by helping me spread the word about this new book (Julia's House is, after all, only one little book in a great sea of literature). Mentioning the book, linking to, or otherwise spreading the word via social media (twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Google+, blogs, tumblers or any of the other myriad of options) this is worth TWO EXTRA ENTRIES. Feel free to tag me on twitter where I am @BenHatke.

And that's it!

The FIRST person whose name I draw will receive a signed copy of Julia's House along with a little piece of concept art from the making of the book.

The SECOND person whose name I draw will also receive a signed copy of Julia's House, along with a little original sketch or bit of art.

The contest closes ONE WEEK FROM TODAY. And we're off to the races!

PS: Look at my desk. It's atrocious:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Home Stretching It (or "How I Spent My Summer Vacation")

I am, right now, on the home stretch of my current graphic novel project. Today and tomorrow I will be drawing and inking the last few pages of Little Robot. After that comes scanning, some editing, and a whole lot of coloring. Not to mention the cover illustration and some watercolor decorations.

So there's still a hefty amount of work to do, but the end is in sight and that's a good feeling.

Unfortunately, all this intense work has caused me to fall behind in the ol' blogging and that's a shame because I'm building up a hefty backlog of posts. I've got book news! Journal comics! More D&D art! Green Turtle fan art! Reflections on the studio of my dreams!

So stay tuned. Little Robot will soon be Morping and Jonking his way to the publisher and I'll be posting more stuff around here.


Monday, June 30, 2014

A Jolly Wizard (and art supplies)

If you've been reading this blog for awhile you might remember this short series of D&D-style adventurers that I started posting last summer. Well I never meant for Nip, Tuck and Groff to be a mere party of three in their dungeon crawling quests for fortune and glory. They needed someone who could really sling some spells. And so now a real honest-to-Baccob wizard has finally stepped up to join them:

Bugsby is a wizard that just can't manage to stay retired. He's tried gardening. He's tried opening a little Potions Shop. He's even tried attending the Silvered Singles Socials in the local village. But no matter what he does the call of the open road eventually catches hold of him and soon enough Bugsby finds himself in the local tavern, where adventurers, rogues and ne'r-do-wells all gather, reminiscing about battle magic, goblin hordes, and treasures won.

And so, when Nip and Tuck and Groff the Fighter pass through the village, Wizard Bugsby fairly jumps at the chance to join them.

Bugsby is a more conservative than daring old adventurer, with his focus on healing potions, his helping handystaff and his trail marking hat bat (not to mention his excellent cooking). No one can decide if the jolly little wizard is a very small human or a very burly gnome or something in between, but one thing is certain: beneath that easygoing exterior is a battle-hardened adventurer that has seen it all.

Is the Wizard Bugsby past his prime? Only one more adventure can say for certain...



I hardly ever recommend specific art supplies, but the sketch above was made in a Strathmore 400 series, warm tan toned sketchbook. It's a great sketchbook. I used black microns for the drawing and white gouache for the highlights and a "light sand" colored Tombow brush pen for the tones. It seems like a really good combination for sketching.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Joy of References

I've been hard at work, these past few weeks, on my latest graphic novel (hence the blog silence). The book is called Little Robot and it stars our Robot Friend from these comics.

One of the things I've enjoyed most about writing and drawing this book is that the setting for the story is, essentially, the area where I'm living, and so I've taken a lot of inspiration from the mountains and trees and the river nearby. Not only that, but a lot of the action takes place in a junkyard, so I've become an almost compulsive photographer of rusted-out machinery.

When I speak to young creators, one of the things I focus on is tethering your stories to your life and the world around you, both artistically and thematically. I've been trying to go the extra mile to do that in this book by using reference photos and by drawing on location when possible.

Here are a few examples!

Drawing a railroad bridge on location. I posted this picture on my Twitter:

Here is an old Jeep that I also drew from life. I wish I could have brought this guy home:

A couple months ago I was driving with Anna when I saw this car near the side of the road. I pulled over and ran to it with the camera, leaving Anna somewhat perplexed. But impulsive photography paid of in this case because this little gem disappeared pretty soon after:

Having kids of different sizes/ages has always been a help in my work. My Julia, who is 6, posed a bit for the little girl in this book and it's been very helpful! Thanks Julia!:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Home Again and the NYT List

So I'm home from my travels, and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl has, for this week at least, hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. (keep in mind, the list is broken down into sections so Zita is number 1 in "paperback graphic books" and is not competing against, say, 50 Divergent Shades of Game of Thrones. Still, it's not every day that an 11-year-old spacegirl bumps Batman out of her way).

Also, here's a link to a pretty lengthy interview I did in Toronto over a plate of poutine. It's funny to see a transcript of an interview that I did in person, and when I read this I thought "do i really pinball around from subject to subject like that?"

Still, we were eating french fries smothered in brown gravy and cheese curds, so you can't blame me for being a little excited...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tail End of Touring

A Tired Author checks in:

Yesterday I arrived in New York for the last few stops here at the tail end of my First-Ever-Book-Tour. And, as is my habit when I come to this crazy magical city, the first thing I did was wander up to the Flatiron building to see my friends at First Second. There was something waiting there for me...

It was my first it's-a-real-book copy of Julia's House! I was very happy with how it looked all printed n' bound (like jumping up and down happy). Here's a little peek:

Now I'm sitting in a friends house in Brooklyn, in one of those rare quiet moments, and I'm thinking about how I've never traveled to so many places in so short a time as I have in this passing month of May. 

I'm struggling to come up with something to say that can tie the whole experience together -the bookstores, the libraries, the meals and evening conversations with friends in different cities. The airports, the hotels, the taxis, the subways...  

Maybe it's the idea that the most interesting and romantic parts of our lives also tend to be the most exhausting. After all, "adventures aren't all pony rides in May sunshine."

But I'll be headed home shortly, and I have a shady little farmhouse porch waiting for me:

(image from Anna's Instagram).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tremendous Trio

A quick check-in:

Last night, thanks to the wonder of Skype, I was able to virtually join a bookstore in Moscow, Idaho for their Zita the Spacegirl costume contest. These three kids, dressed as Mouse, Zita and Strong Strong, made me really happy:

I'm packing now for Chicago, where I will be visiting 57th Street Books and a couple local schools before returning to the East Coast for the Gaithersburg Book Festival. From there I will be flying to Portland Main for MeCAF.

I wish I was better at packing...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl: Publication Day

This is it! Today is the publication day of The Return of Zita the Spacegirl!

I'm celebrating by being home from Toronto and spending a restful day with my favorite people in all the world. It's a brief pause in my hectic rambles.

The Toronto Comics Art Festival (TCAF) was fantastic. People have been encouraging me to attend the event for years and it definitely lived up to the hype. Lots of great art and friendly artists and little comics gems on every table. But the best part of all, for me, was the friends.

You see, something changed for me at TCAF.

While some of my friends have been selling mini comics at conventions since they were in high school, my journey into comics began on the internet, posting webcomics and sharing advice and critiques on the old Flight message boards. I wasn't going to many conventions. So, for a long time, my comics friends were online friends.

When Zita the Spacegirl was first published in 2010-11, all that began to change. I started going to more conventions and book festivals and library events. And bit by bit my online friends have become my in-the-flesh friends.

And so, on Sunday evening after the show, I arrived back a the hotel lobby to meet what I thought was going to be a smallish group for dinner. What I found instead was a largish group of old friends, and a few new faces, all laughing and talking (and maybe waiting for me because I was late). These were people I had shared dinners and high fives with in a dozen cities. It was like a reunion.

And I thought, hey, I'm not the new guy anymore.

Okay enough sap. Here are some pictures (mostly swiped from twitter):

The floor of the Toronto Public Library, crowded with comics (and people):

A live reading with the help of some fans during a joint presentation with my friend Dave Roman.

A young fan:

Poutine during and interview!

Whew! and that's all for now. Hopefully I'll be able to check in again soon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

In Which I Post the Same Information Again, Only Better

Okay, so my very-well-organized friends over at First Second put together a more, shall we say, accurate compendium of book tour information, all in a single image (that you can feel free to repost!). I managed to get at least one date wrong in the last post, so if you're looking to catch up with me this month read the information from this post. It's 300% more correct!

And concurrently with my travels, there is a "blog tour" going on all this month wherein some of my favorite artist, writers and book bloggers post a thing or two about the Zita books. Click the banner below for more about that:

Great big thanks to the good people at Bedrock City Comics Company for bringing me to Houston for Free Comic Book Day! I signed a lot of books, drew a lot of pictures and met many young fans. The event was packed. There was plenty to see there besides me and my books, but I had a steady stream of people at my table right up to the minute I had to rush out for my flight, and that is always an encouraging thing to see.

Thanks also to Christina, Houston's heroic children's librarian, who brought me to this place:

Yes The Hobbit Cafe, where I had Gollum's Precious Fish Tacos. That's not what they were called on the menu, but it's what they are called in my heart. Forever. HssSSss....

Next up is TCAF, a show I've been hearing about for years and have been encouraged by many to attend (it's supposed to be especially great for families). If you want to find me in Toronto I will be signing at the First Second table at 3:00pm on Saturday, May 10th, and again at 3:00pm on Sunday, May 11th. I will also be giving a presentation / live reading with my friend Dave Roman at 12:30pm on Saturday, and giving a little presentation/workshop about gesture on Sunday at 2:00pm. I hope to see you there!