Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Everything I Need

Hello Gravagna Montale. I'd forgotten how much I loved you.

The picture above is my little studio space for the summer. It's a simple space that has everything I need for the project at hand and very little more.

There is a door, for coming in and going back out. There is a window that looks out onto a courtyard and the mountains beyond. The window is for daydreaming, but it also doubles as a light table for tracing (I've been doing more tracing and less dreaming lately). I have one big table full of pens and pencils and paper and sketchbooks. I have a computer, and a scanner and an internet connection that allows me to send the words and pictures from my table out into the wide world (or at least to my editor). I have a pair of quality headphones which, when the need arises, I use to tune out the distractions of my boisterous family.

I have a very specific task this summer. I'm working on a graphic novel called Mighty Jack. The book is completely written and I have a complete draft drawn out in thumbnail sketches -I had that part all finished before I came here. My job this summer is to turn those 200 pages of rough sketches into 200 pages of finished art. I'm fine tuning the story in small ways as I go, but mostly it's steady, quiet work.

Mighty Jack is the story of three young people and a magic garden. Here's some early concept art:

The style and characters have developed a bit and look a little more like this now:

I said I had everything I need here for the job I'm doing but there is one thing I'm missing. I used my own house as a model for Jack's house. I took plenty of reference photos before I came here, but it would have been nice to draw a scene or two from life like I did with Little Robot.

Anyway, here are a few more pictures from the past couple weeks:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hidden Away

The No-Longer-So-Little Hatke Family has arrived in the magical village of Gravagna Montale, where we will be hiding away for the summer. And I am just now fully back online after a brief (and cleansing) hiatus.

It's good to be hidden up in the mountains for a little while. For the next few months I will be drawing comics pages like they are gong out of style (which I hope they never do) and the girls will be hunting lizards, eating gelato and jumping in mountain streams.

As promised here is a first batch of pictures, these from our journey from Virginia to New York and from New York to Gravagna. For more I suggest following Anna Bertolini's Instagram feed.

And finally, in book-news, here's a link to a short video from Book Con, where I answer some questions about my next-to-be-available graphic novel Little Robot:


And here is another video where I am playing host in a conversation with Jeff Smith, Raina Telgemeier and Jenni Holm:


More to come!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Summer Changes

As I write this the Little Hatke House is full of the chaos and bustle of bags being packed and last minute arrangements being made. We are returning to Italy. We are, my heart tells me, returning home, to our little village of Gravagna Montale, after three long years away. 

We are leaving tomorrow.

We'll be staying in Gravagna for June, July and August and if you're interested in keeping an eye on us, I'm planning (well, hoping) to post a photo a day on Twitter and Facebook. I'll collect the pictures into weekly batches here on the blog. 

And while the girls are exploring mountain paths and hunting lizards in the rocks I will be drawing, drawing, drawing the pages of my next graphic novel, Mighty Jack. This book has put me up against one of the most challenging deadlines I've ever faced, but I'll be working in the same place where I drew most of the 3rd Zita book, so I'm hopeful...

And so we're off down the road again! I hope you'll follow along.

Monday, May 18, 2015


I'm just popping in to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who bought art from my etsy shop over the past months. I have now officially arranged to have our little outbuilding turned into a new studio space. This was made possible, in no small part, because of all of you.

Over the weekend I began clearing out the space for transformation. I removed all the junk we've been storing in there, pulled down the broken shelving, and swept out at least the first layer of filth. As you can see, I haven't yet had the heart to take down my punching bag.

I'm also getting professional help with this project, which seems like the most luxurious thing in the world.

And so, if all goes according to plan, I should be able to move in by Fall. So, once again, THANK YOU.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Swords and Arrows and Fire

Spring is drifting toward Summer here in Hatkeland, and I've been having some fun adventures.

A couple weeks ago I helped my friends at Mirandum Pictures with a shoot that involved a sword fight. I'm honestly not much of a swordsman, but it was pretty simple stuff. And what's more fun than dressing up an clashing blades in a fancy garden? As a bonus I think we're going to use the picture below as the author photo for Nobody Likes a Goblin.

Another thing that comes with spring is arrows. Back in my SCA days my dad would take my sisters and me out to my grandpa's farm where we'd practice archery using some stacked straw bales as a target. Now I have some straw bales of my own and I'm teaching my girls how to handle a bow. Here's Zita and Angelica:

And here's Julia:

I've also been doing some of my own Arrow-speriments. Including:

Punching Ball Arrow:

and Exploding Arrow:

And finally, this past weekend I was able to fulfill a long-time dream of mine: fire breathing at the top of Buzzard Rock. The Rock is a mountain ridge in the George Washington National Forest that comes to a rocky, blade-like point. I've climbed up there many times, searching for wisdom or just a nice view, but I've always wanted to be up there after the sun set, spitting fire into the twilight. Now, thanks to some very patient friends, I can cross that off my list (photo by Colin Mason):

That said, the hike was rough. Three grown men and not a one of us remembered to bring water. We started late and so had to book through the whole hike to catch the very last gasps of daylight. We hiked down with a single flashlight to save us from being utterly lost in the pitch black woods. At least we didn't run across any bears.

Welcome back Summer. I missed you.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Little Robot and Children's Book Week

It's Children's Book Week, and I am all over the internet!

First off, it's always an exciting day when I receive my first real, physical copy of one of my books and that happened last week when Little Robot arrived in the mail! I was so excited opening the envelope that my hands were shaking. This is the first book I've had produced at this trim size and I've very happy with it. Here are some pictures:

There are more pictures of the book over on the First Second website RIGHT HERE.

And speaking of Little Robot, I made a new Little Robot strip for the Washington Post to celebrate Free Comic Book Day (which was on Saturday). Here's the comic:

(click to embiggerize).

It ran in the Post with a nice little interview in which I talked about the art and influences for the book. You can read all that over by CLICKING HERE.

On Sunday Boing Boing ran a short article I wrote about kids comics. I don't know if I said anything groundbreaking about comics for kids, but I did post a list of comics that I think are great for summer reading. Check out the Boing Boing piece by CLICKING IT UP HERE.

And finally (for now), there is a short piece over at Sharp Read about my next picture book. This book is about a Goblin. You can see some concept art read a little bit about where that book came from HERE. I'm sure I'll be posting more about this one in the coming months.

And there's more to come. I have a couple more book announcements coming up this week as well as a look into my Little Robot sketchbooks. So much is happening! Stay tuned.

And as always, to everyone reading, thanks for following my work.

Monday, March 30, 2015

March of the Wolverines

Last week, for reasons that are a bit of a mystery even to me, I drew a whole series of pictures of the Marvel mutant hero Wolverine dressed in a series of other characters clothes. Wolverine has never been the worst dressed character in comics (there are many contenders for that title), but ol' Logan has never had the best luck with clothes either.

Case in point: when I was a very young Ben Hatke I collected X-Men comics. I recently came across this article on io9.com that was a look back on an issue where the X-Men spend most of their time lounging around the pool at Professor Xavier's mansion. I remembered that I OWNED this comic. For most of the issue Wolverine (as drawn by Jim Lee) is sporting very short cutoff jean shorts.

That comic made Very Young Ben Hatke think, briefly, that it would be cool to roll his own jeans shorts way, way up. Very Young Ben Hatke was SO, SO WRONG about this.

And so maybe my reasons for putting Wolverine in a series of wrong costumes aren't all that mysterious after all. Maybe it's just a little payback.

Here's the whole series, beginning with °Weepy Wolvie° in his classic 90's duds:

And the last one, of course:

No hard feelings, bub.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dreams of Spring

I want to extend my thanks to everyone who purchased art from my Etsy shop yesterday. I did not expect to sell so many pieces in so short a time. And what touched me the most was how many of you included such kind notes with your purchases. You have all made my week. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

I had intended to announce the reopening of the shop here on this blog first, but posting on twitter and facebook seems to have done the trick of getting the word out. I will list a few more pieces, but pretty soon I am going to have about as many orders as I can handle.

I want to share with you one of the reasons for the art sale.

As many of you know, the Hatke Clan lives in a rambly old farmhouse, and rambly old farmhouses tend to need a lot of care and work. There is an outbuilding on our property that we call "The Shed" though it's a little bigger than what you'd commonly call a shed (it has its own chimney). The Shed looks like this:

The inside is very unfinished. We use it mostly for storage of outdoor tools and for the deep freezer. My Spring Dream is to turn The Shed into a finished workshop. I want to create not just a drawing studio but a real Maker Space, with good lighting and a workbench and tools for creating three dimensional art. The Shed is a small space, but it has more floorspace than my current upstairs office.

So if you've bought art from me then you've brought me a step closer to making this workspace a reality and I thank you.