Comics at Gaithersburg Book Festival 2017

Ru Xu, Alexis Frederick-Frost and Gareth Hinds at Gaithersburg Book Festival

The Gaithersburg Book Festival always does well by comics. This year, I was happy to see all the comics-related programming was scheduled back-to-back (although I imagine that made it less convenient for people who wanted their books signed) so I could attend all of it.

Penelope Bagieu discussed her latest book, California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (2017, First Second), with Michael Cavna from the Washington Post. She said the book was “not a documentary” and that “I’m here to write a story” being clear that it was her version of Cass. Referencing her upcoming Brazen (out in English from First Second in 2018), she said “you never have enough books about strong women doing what they want to do.”

The second panel discussed the process of creating comics. It featured Ru Xu (Newsprints, Scholastic Graphix, 2017), Alexis Frederick-Frost (the Adventures in Cartooning series, First Second) with guidance and moderation by Gareth Hinds (the upcoming Poe: Stories and Poems, Candlewick Press, 2017). Each discussed their own approach to creating comics, showing there was no one way to make a comic or graphic novel. They each attempted to demonstrate of how they worked, which was mostly successful (to be fair, they were all using Hinds’ computer and weren’t the most familiar with it).

The final comics-related panel of the day was about First Second’s Science Comics imprint, edited by Dave Roman (although, as he pointed out, he didn’t edit the two books featured here). It featured Alison Wilgus and Molly Brooks, creators of Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared (First Second, 2017) and Falynn Koch, creator of Bats: Learning to Fly (First Second, 2017).

After a brief discussion about how much they liked science — Brooks said she was more excited about the idea of science and Wilgus said she was really interested in space — they all talked about how much they had to learn for their books. Brooks said she took the job very seriously because she was “terrified of lying to children on accident.” Koch joked about making bats cuter because there were a lot of “uggo bats” out there. She also has the upcoming Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield and talked about the challenges of making plagues cute.

They then called up a young cat expert as a volunteer and created a four-panel comic using the information she provided. Wilgus was the writer, Roman was the editor and Brooks and Koch handled drawing duties. It was fast-paced and fun.

Below is a gallery of photos from the event.

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