Interview: Chris Giarrusso on ‘G-Man’
I feel like the three volumes of G-Man comics and the illustrated diary format recently published just snuck up on me. Has Chris Giarrusso really been writing that long and that much? Having read snippets of his work at conferences, I always wanted to read more, and this summer I finally got the chance. After reading his work, I asked Chris if he would sit down for an interview and he generously agreed.
I remember seeing your work at various conferences during the early days of my career. They would often be giving away single issue G-Man Comics. So seeing 3 full compilations published was pretty impressive. Tell us the history of how G-Man came about and how Image Comics came to publish these 3 volumes.
The first G-Man comics were short single-page comic strips. They appeared as backup material at the end of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon comic book, which is published by Image Comics. Erik, one of the Image Comics partners, encouraged me to expand G-Man into longer stories and gave me the opportunity to do that with Image.
What is your inspiration for G-Man? Are Mikey and his brother reminiscent of anyone from your own life?
G-Man is my chance to turn myself into a superhero, so his brother and his family are also directly inspired by my brother and my family.
Technically I graduated with an art degree, but my college didn’t offer the stuff I was really interested in like cartooning or comic book classes. Perhaps I should have gone to a different school. I did the bare minimum in terms of fulfilling studio art requirements and managed to escape college. But before that escape, I worked a summer internship at Marvel comics, and that’s where I got my real comic book education, learning the nuts and bolts of the processes involved in making comics.
Are there any moments you created in the G-Man series that you are partial to? A particular panel or event that unfolded in a certain way?
I think I’m partial to anything involving G-Man’s older brother Great Man. He’s so mean to G-Man, and it’s borderline infuriating, but I feel like you can always get where he’s coming from. Great Man steals the show every time. I like the final chapters in Cape Crisis and Coming Home where G-Man and Great Man have to cooperate.
Initially I was just writing comics for me. I grew up reading Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes and every comic strip in the daily newspaper, and I wanted to combine that comic strip humor with superhero comics. My teachers and parents and grandparents read newspaper comic strips, so I thought that kind of material was generally intended for everyone. I was naturally geared to write that kind of material. I didn’t think I had set out to make comics specifically for kids, but I soon discovered that everyone regarded my work as comics for kids, and that suits me fine.
You now have an illustrated G-Man Novel, G-Man Superjournal: Awesome Origins, that is published by AMP Kids. Tell us how that project came about and what was it like transitioning from the comic format to the novel format. How was the process different?
Andrea Colvin from AMP was a fan of my G-Man comics and she asked if I’d be interested in trying G-Man in the popular Wimpy Kid format. I loved the idea and dove in. I can’t say it was any harder or easier than the comics, just different. It’s still telling a story with words and pictures, but with a greater emphasis on prose text driving the story, there’s a slightly different rhythm to putting it together.
What were your expectations and biggest fears when delving into this new format?
I didn’t know what to expect. I was just hoping readers would like it. My biggest fear was being instantly rejected for being a Wimpy Kid rip-off.
There are a lot of graphic novels out there. What do you think makes G-Man stand out?
There aren’t many superhero comics primarily aimed at kids. The standard mainstream superheroes that everyone knows from the movies have so thoroughly matured over the last 30 years of comics that they primarily target adult readers. You can find a version of Batman that’s for kids, but that’s not the REAL Batman comic. You can read an adaptation of an Avengers cartoon for kids, but that’s a version of a version, not the REAL avengers. G-Man is the only version of G-Man there is, and G-Man belongs to a new generation of superhero readers getting in on the ground floor.
I’m working on the second G-MAN Super Journal right now. And I’ve enjoyed writing through G-Man’s voice so much, I started G-Man Webcomic, a weekly webcomic “written and drawn” by G-Man himself at chrisgcomics.com. For now it’s all G-Man, all the time!
What’s on your comics/graphic novels reading shelf right now?
Pix: One Weirdest Weekend, by Gregg Schigiel, about a super-powered teenager who may or may not be a real fairy princess.
The Mighty Skullboy Army, by Jacob Chabot, about a skull-faced boy who runs an evil corporation with the aid of a monkey and a robot.
Astronaught Academy: Re-Entry by Dave Roman, about students in the ultimate space station school of the future!
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About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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