Photo Credit: Rose Turner
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About the Author
Ben Hatke is the author and illustrator of the New York Times–bestselling Zita the Spacegirl trilogy, the picture books Julia's House for Lost Creatures and Nobody Likes a Goblin, and the graphic novels Little Robot and Mighty Jack. He lives and works in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and their boisterous pack of daughters.
A Conversation With the Author
1. Do you tend to think of yourself more as a writer or as an artist?
In my case, I think the two are pretty inseparable. I work a lot on the structure of my stories and I get a lot of joy out of that, but my art is not just in the service of the story, it's very much a part of the storytelling. I find things like characters' body language to be a wonderful storytelling tool. I've also lately been interested in projects that separate words and pictures -- illustrated novels on the one hand and wordless comics on the other.
2. The Zita books feature some pretty strange creatures. You must've had a strange childhood!
I've always been drawn to weird creatures. Some of my early drawings are vast underground scenes full of creatures that aren't that far removed from some of the species in the Zita books. I was lucky in that my parents exposed me to a lot of different influences -- all kinds of books and movies. And we spent days spent exploring rivers. We were even active members of the Society for Creative Anachronisms!
3. Out of all that, what kinds of things influenced you the most?
When I was a very small child my older cousin took me to see The Dark Crystal at the theater. We had to leave about halfway through the film because I was crying. The grownups all said it must have been too scary. I've seen The Dark Crystal since, but I also remember very clearly seeing those creatures on the screen for the first time. All these years later I wonder if maybe I wasn't just frightened, but overloaded by the the intense creativity. I still think that they did more with those puppets than we do with CGI today.
4. How does Legends of Zita differ from Zita the Spacegirl?
I feel like this volume lives up to the title a little better in that there are scenes that take place in SPACE. I'm finally putting some "space" in "spacegirl.
5. Can you tell us about one of your favorite scenes or moments in this new story?
There's a chase through the back alleys of a domed space city that culminates with the dramatic entrance of a new character. I'm proud of that part. There's another moment toward the end of the book, a moment of danger for Zita, that I decided to make into a single image spread across two pages with no dialogue. That's the joy of comics: you can show any given moment a hundred different ways but when it works it's a lot of fun.