Monday, April 7, 2014

Jolly Winners and Troublesome Robots

It's been busy around here. Super busy. The Hatke House has been caught up in all kinds of organizational, bureaucratic grown-uppy stuff that's left me with very little time for making all the fun extra stuff, the journal comics, the short stories, the paintings and sketches of the people I love. The other day I realized that it's been over a year since I picked up my oil painting brushes.

It's a small tragedy because all that extra stuff, the art that comes out when I just mess around, that's mostly where the best work originates. The book I'm working on now, Little Robot, began life as a series of comics that were nearly stream-of-consciousness. Just me fooling around with some ideas in the spare moments. Now it's one of my favorite projects I've ever worked on.

All of this is a long preamble to saying that when I sat down to work today I thought "maybe I should announce the raffle winners with a comic." Then I thought "no I can't take the time." Then I stopped thinking and just got out some paper and pens.

I'm glad I did...

Congratulations to our winners!

Just send an email my way (address is on the sidebar), send me a mailing address and sit back and watch your mailbox for books and art!


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Contest Update

Okay, our raffle is closed for entries! Thanks to everyone who left comments and spread the word about the Return of Zita. I will tally up the entries and post the names of our winners on Monday or Tuesday, so check back here toward the beginning of the week! 

I've enjoyed running these raffles in the past, but I have to say that this time around I'm mostly disappointed that I can't just mail all of you copies of the book. Maybe one of these days...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Jolly Raffle Giveaway Contest: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl!

It is that time again, my friends!

Longtime readers of this blog will remember that in 2010 and again in 2012 I raffled off advanced copies of Zita and Legends of Zita respectively. Now we’re going to do it a third time and that makes it a TRADITION.

So here we go:

The LUCKY AND SUPER COOL FIRST PLACE WINER will receive a hardcover copy of The Return of Zita the Spacegirl, signed, and with a little original watercolor lovingly tucked into the front cover.

Our SUAVE SECOND PLACE WINNER will find in their mailbox a paperback copy of The Return of Zita the Spacegirl along with a small ink sketch or piece of concept art.

To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment in the comments section of this post. BUT BE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR NAME, or some name that I can announce. “Anonymous” can’t win. Unless your legal name is Anonymous (in which case please explain that in the comment).

HERE’S HOW YOU INCREASE YOUR CHANCES (and where I trick you into helping me spread the word about this book): 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) is worth TWO EXTRA ENTRIES. (three is the maximum). Feel free to tag me on twitter (@BenHatke) but also let me know in the comments so I can keep it all straight.

The contest closes ONE WEEK FROM TODAY. The entries will go into a randomizer and soon after I will post the name of the winners!

Okay? Then...



PS: If you still need some motivation, here is the Zita 3 trailer again:

Monday, March 17, 2014

My House and Julia's House

This weekend I slipped outside with my notebook and made a little drawing of my house. Here's a photo of the drawing, followed by a scan with a few small corrections made in photoshop (you can get larger versions of both by clicking):

Working on this little sketch reminded me how fun it can be to just go outside and draw the place where you live. It's easy to forget about outside drawing when you've been hibernating, and here on this suddenly snowy Saint Patrick's Day it's a little hard to believe that I was sitting in a sunny field with my sketchbook just the other day.

And to continue this house-themed post: I noticed recently that Julia's House for Lost Creatures is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Here's another look at the cover of the book (it showed up on Geek Dad back in January, but I don't think I've yet posted it here):

(You can compare it with my original cover sketch).

Finally, since winter seems particularly reluctant to leave us in peace this year, I have for you a little desktop wallpaper made by my friend Niall, combining my peacock-in-a-scarf with an appropriate Steinbeck quote (click for the large version):

Oh! and for those of you who like Goodreads, I've added links to my books on the sidebar. Goodreads is great for reviews and recommendations and has links to different online purchase options. Not just Amazon.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Smudge Photos and Twitter Sketches

The Smudge Expo was a lovely event! It had a great indie vibe and was very family friendly -two things that don't always go hand-in-hand. Northern VA comics and art aficionados should definitely plan to attend next year. Anna accompanied me this time and it made me wonder how I ever do these events without her. We met some wonderful people, sold a lot of books and even met some adorable Zita cosplayers. Here are a few more pictures from the event (all pictures are copyright and credited to Bruce Guthrie, who's website is here):

And now Twitter. It's not for everybody, I know, but I've been posting a lot of casual sketches and things there and, if you like that kind of thing, it might be worth a follow. Here's some of the recent stuff, including an aged-up Zita and a couple sketches of The Dying Gaul which is currently on display in the National Gallery:

You can follow me on twitter here.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Wow, I meant to post a reminder about this earlier in the week. But, better late than never I guess (right?):

Tomorrow, Saturday March 8th, I will be at the Smudge Comics Expo in Arlington! Plenty more information can be found here, and here. I will be doing a special presentation about comics at 3pm.

Also, here is a recent email interview I did in anticipation of the event. It's for a website called Cool Progeny which focuses on fostering creativity for kids in the Baltimore/DC area.

And finally, because this is the internet after all, here are some pictures of cats:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Robot Comic #30

Okay, Robot Comic Number 30 is special. It's made up entirely of animated gifs AND I APOLOGIZE FOR THAT. I promise I won't make a habit of this.

But you see, Robot Comic Number 30 is also a special announcement...

Thanks right! Our Little Robot is getting his very own book! If you want the whole scoop, head on over to The Beat and read all about it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Friend Giuseppe

I'm very sad to be posting a second memorial here in such a short time, but I learned that another of the great characters in my life has left the stage. Giuseppe Costa, our neighbor in Gravagna and my good friend, has passed away. He left me with some amazing, hilarious and wonderful memories, but the memories... they don't seem anything like enough to cover his absence.

Giuseppe and I were separated by many years. We first met when I was in my 20s and he was in his 70s, but he was jumping around and singing and doing handstands and I remember thinking "that's the kind of old man I want to be." He was my elder, sort of, but he wasn't my teacher or colleague or a family member. He was my friend.

I can go back to Gravagna, but I'll never again look up from my work on a slow summer afternoon and hear him singing in his garden across the way.

I wanted to set down some of my memories of Giuseppe ... but if I start down that road we'll either be here all day, or I'll sell the man short. Because even though he couldn't have been even five and a half feet tall Giuseppe was larger than life. He was the kind of guy who told stories that couldn't possibly be true, except they usually would turn out to be true. So instead, here's a short comic from around the last time I saw him:

And here's a very, very short snippet of video from a little neighborhood dinner. Giuseppe is singing, as usual. As always.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Peacock in a Scarf

Yesterday morning Julia (age 5) brought me this charming little drawing of a peacock wearing a scarf:

I love this picture. And so, when I sat down to do my own little warmup sketch for the day, I decided to try my hand at my own Peacock in a Scarf. It kind of moved out of "warm up sketch" territory and into "I'm spending too much time on this when I should be drawing pages of my book" territory, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

Even if it doesn't have as much character as Julia's version.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine 2014 (with robots!)

Happy Valentines day, my friends! I made a Valentine for you. You can click on the image below to get a larger version which you can feel free to print, share, modify or whatever!

Here's hoping that we finally work out the difference between "like" and, you know, "like like."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Angoulême Comics

As promised, here are a few small moments from my trip to France, rendered into comics. I've been scribbling away at these over the past week. They are just a few little observances really, since the most important things, the friends, the conversations, the great art, are all just too elusive to catch.

So. Make of these what you will:

Friday, February 7, 2014

C'est Acheve

One of the Legendary Figures in my life has passed on from our sad old world.

Mr. Bob Butz, Leo Robertus, the Roaring Lion: he was one of my greatest teachers and someone who was a shining example of what an artist can and should be.  He taught Latin and he taught a class in Etymology that woke me up to the fascinating power of words, and the stories of where those words come from.

He was builder and a mason -a barrel-chested man who was as strong as the stone he worked.  I spent a summer working with him, building stone walls and steps, and I will never forget the day he grabbed a sledgehammer from me and showed me how you really use it.  It was terrifying.

He wise and he was jolly and gruff by turns.  And he had a voice -a voice that rumbled like oncoming thunder and will reverberate in my memory for as long as I live.  It was the voice of Oz the Great and Powerful, and it was the voice that rang out the Christmas proclamation every year at midnight on Christmas Eve.  It was the voice of God.

And he had hands -strong calloused, gnarled hands that created wonders (though he was quick to tell me that art was not in the hands but in the eye "because you can train your hands to do anything").  Mr. Butz was a sculptor, a painter, a set designer and a draftsman.

Mr. Butz was the first person to encourage me to draw and then tell me my drawing was terrible and that I could do better.  And he was right.  He pushed me gently, but seriously forward.  He taught me when I was very young but he always treated me as if the only difference between us was experience.

And he had faith.  When I was in high school he still traveled every year to Lourdes to spend a week carrying the very sick in and out of the waters there.  He did this even after having both of his own knees replaced.

When I graduated from high school he gave me a mounted photo of a wood carving he had made. It's a somber Face of Christ carved from a block of walnut.  The photo has looked over almost every drawing table I've worked from since:

The letter on the back reads:


I've enjoyed working with you in grade school, Jr. Hi and High School.  We've been exchanging our work for some time now, so you can add this to your Butz Collection as a memento of all the good times we've shared.

The carving is in walnut (finished and rough-cut) and rests in the Bureau Medical in Lourdes.  The inscription in French means "Consummatum Est" from our Latin Class.

Have a full and bright future!

B. Butz

The Roaring Lion lived a life that was intellectually and artistically rich and he made a gift of that life.

You know, like you're supposed to.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Home from Angouléme!

So I'm home from France, and what can I say about my first time at Angouléme?

One of the particularities of my life right now is that my work seesaws crazily between long periods of quiet steady work at home (my girls all get out of the house more than I do) punctuated by these very intense trips -they are adventures in cities around the world, filled with new friends and old friends, feasts and chance encounters, long conversations, late night parties, surprises and magic.

Angouléme in particular is already starting to feel like a dream -but the kind of dream where you wake up with some small token in your hand that makes you think that maybe, just maybe, it all really happened (in this case the token is a great handful of business cards and a pile of some Very Wonderful Books).

I'm working on a few journal comics to tell a story or two but, just like any dream, it's difficult to catch once it's gone...


Okay, I suppose I do have a few pictures and words...

The stone cat below is (I'm told) Angouléme's little mascot and the reason for the little cartoon cat in all the festival posters and literature. He perches with more gravitas than Batman on the corner of their ...I guess you'd say city hall? at the end of a row of gargoyles. And I'm pretty sure he quietly defends the town from all kinds of unseen dangers:

Here's a picture of my First Second editor, Calista. We didn't get to spend nearly enough time together, but it was a very busy week for both of us. The little Angouléme cat is visible here too -can you find it?

Pulling back even further, here is the Main Street of Angouléme. It's a town of a little over 40,000 residents and the festival draws over 200,000 visitors. Where do they put everybody?

Well in my case it was in an amazing old fortified tower-turned-house. Here's the gate to the garden.

On the floor above mine I found a room that made me catch my breath. It was a fantastic painting studio. I asked if I could stay in that room forever. (the answer was no):

But of course there was no time for painting. I was in town to work. Here I am at the signing table.

And here is my view of the festival floor:

And the Rue de Sevres booth:

Oh! and one of my signing buddies was the famous Mo Willems! It was nice to get to know him a bit and also super helpful because he speaks fluent french. I have a picture of Mo and I together but... well you know how sometimes you see a picture of yourself and you look like you're making some kind of noise like "hork! hork! hork!"? Well, I'm not going to post that picture. Instead here is a picture of the empty signing booth with Mo and I drawn in:

Of course it wasn't all interviews and book signings. The evenings were filled with lovely dinners and then late night gatherings at the Mercure hotel which is nightly packed to the gills with comics professionals (who are all packed to the gills with champagne). One of the professionals I had my eye out for but failed to meet was Boulet. The problem was that I didn't really know what he looked like until later when I read Jen Vaughn's Angouleme Report.

(here's a picture of Jen and I that I swiped from her report):

So anyway, on the plane ride home I found this picture on my camera roll:

I had thought I was taking a picture of a random group of dudes hanging out under a Zita poster... It turns out that it was a picture of Boulet himself hanging out under a Zita poster. Better luck next time Ben Hatke.

And finally the amazing and hard working Rue de Sèvres team! These ladies arranged every single part of my visit and made me feel completely welcome. They were truly the best hosts in the world and I could never say enough good things about them. Rue de Sèvres is a new publisher and this was their first Angouleme as well. But they hit the ground running they have some fantastic books coming up, and I think they made a big impression on the whole festival:

And books! I came home with a big pile of excellent comic albums and picture books, many of which had beautiful inscriptions and art from the authors:

Angouleme 2014!