Interview: Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham
On July 22nd through 24th, while attending San Diego International Comic-Con, I ran around to as many of my favorite kids comics creators as I could and asked them all the exact same questions. Keep in mind, exhibit halls are crazy loud and crazy busy, so there is a lot of background noise. Let me know in the comments if you have trouble hearing anything and I’ll translate for you.
I’m really lucky. I live in a part of the country where a lot of very talented people also live. Which means I occasionally run in to some of these very talented people. I first met Gene Yang at a party First Second threw at a restaurant featuring belly dancers. He doesn’t remember this, probably because I was all the way on the other side of the room, too nervous to go over and talk to him. (This was back in the early days of my involvement with ALA. For the most part I was too nervous to talk to anyone.) Or because the room was very, very dark and we were all busy watching belly dancers. One of the two.*
The first time I met Thien Pham we talked for quite a while. We were at SDCC, he was manning Lark Pien‘s table, and we were both running on adrenaline. We jabbered for quite a while before I bought one of Lark‘s paintings and got out of the way so other customers could have their chance to talk with Thien. And he remembered everyone who came by. He’s magic in his ability to remember people.
Since then I’ve run into Gene at various local workshops and comic cons and into Thienat random zine shows and coffee shops, and all along I’ve been hearing about this book they were working on. Thien would complain about Gene’s sloppy art and how slow he is. Then Gene would laugh and tell Thien that he’s a dork. (You’ll see what I mean when you watch the video below.) So, I was really excited when they gave me a copy of the book Level Up, and even more excited when I saw how well received the book was by critics.
Most recently Gene has been working on Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Promise, published by Dark Horse and due in comic shops next week. Thien has an new book coming from First Second in December called Sumo, a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for a long time.
(This video ran long, so I had to edit out the introductions. Imagine I’ve just asked Thien how he got started working in comics and then hit play.)
Books mentioned in this video:
- Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch (see Barry’s interview here)
- Usagi Yojimbo series, by Stan Sakai (see Stan’s interview here)
- Black Hole, by Charles Burns (NOT for kids)
- Oishinbo series, by Tetsu Kariya and Hanasaki Akira
- Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Patterson
*I actually first met Gene at a Reading the World conference in (I think) 2006. But he doesn’t remember that, either. Heh.
Filed under: Interviews
About Eva Volin
Eva Volin is the Supervising Children's Librarian for the Alameda Free Library in California. She has written about graphic novels for such publications as Booklist, Library Journal, ICv2, Graphic Novel Reporter, and Children & Libraries. She has served on several awards committees including the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. She served on YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee for three years and is currently serving on ALSC's Notable Books for Children committee.
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