Marvel

191/19/24

Enjoy the Spring Semester with Spidey and Stitch!

Recently, I wrote a Spidey and His Amazing Friends board book titled Search for the Missing Teddy Bear. And I wrote a Lilo & Stitch activity book called Scratch and Sketch with Stitch! Both books are out NOW from Scholastic, just in time for the spring 2024 semester!

(Of school. The spring 2024 semester…of school. Because these are books for very young children. Who are in school. Just wanted to clarify that, in case you thought that these books were for college students or something, as colleges have semesters too. But the fact that one of these books is a board book probably tells you that it’s not for college-age people, right? Hmm. I think I’m doing that thing I sometimes do, where I overexplain stuff way too much. Like, WAYYYY too much. Moving on…)

Here’s Scholastic’s official description of Search for the Missing Teddy Bear:

Missing teddy? Never fear! Team Spidey is here to save the day! In this fun board book, Spidey’s head is a tactile, slow-rise squishy built into the back cover and pops through die cuts on every page! Swing through various locations with Spidey to find the missing teddy!

I just want to emphasize something the above ad copy mentioned: In this book, Spidey’s head is a tactile, slow-rise squishy! Isn’t that adorable? (Yes. Yes, it is.)

And here’s the official publisher description of Scratch and Sketch with Stitch:

Scratch to reveal cosmic colors and supercool patterns as you go on adventures with Stitch, the little blue alien with a big heart!

BTW, many of the aforementioned “adventures” in this Stitch book are games, puzzles, and activities. And one of the activities involves candy hearts, the kind you give and receive on Valentine’s Day. Which of course is quite fitting, since Valentine’s Day is just a few short weeks away!

And just in case you’re interested, the back cover copy for Scratch and Sketch with Stitch tells you a little more about what you can expect from that book:

This Stitch-tastic activity book is brimming with intergalactic illustrations! Scratch away to reveal what outfit Stitch wears on an outer space trip, complete a maze to help him get through a space nebula, draw a new musical instrument for him, and a whole lot more!

The book includes a wooden stylus (for the whole “scratch away” part), 20 scratch-off pages, and 20 notebook pages. Pretty cool, eh?

I should also mention that both of these books are only available for distribution through the school market. In other words, they’re exclusively available through Scholastic Reading Events, so you won’t be able to find them on Amazon.

Last but definitely not least, if you’d like to see some of the other books I’ve written for Scholastic over the years, you can click HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

 

318/31/23

Back to School, Spidey-Style!

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I wrote a Lilo & Stitch activity book called The Adventures of YOU & Stitch!

It will be available from Scholastic starting tomorrow, September 1st, 2023, just in time for the 2023-2024 school year.

But I also wrote two other Scholastic books that will be available starting tomorrow.

One is a Spidey and His Amazing Friends board book titled The Great Food Truck Caper, which was illustrated by Shane Clester. *

And the other one is The Spider-Man Comictivity Book, which I co-wrote. That book is a sort of a hybrid. It’s part comic book and part activity book. Steve Foxe wrote the “comic book” sections, and I wrote the “activity book” sections. And the “comic book” sections were illustrated by Claudio Sciarrone (pencils) and Valentina Taddeo (colors).

All three of these books will only be available for distribution through the school market. In other words, they’ll be exclusively available through Scholastic Reading Events, so you won’t be able to find them on Amazon.

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* NOTE: Previously, Shane and I collaborated on an Avengers Little Golden Book called The Threat of Thanos (which I wrote and Shane illustrated). That book was published by Penguin Random House in 2018.

 

164/16/23

Fold Back So That “A” Meets “B”

As you’ve probably heard, legendary cartoonist Al Jaffee passed away on Monday April 10th, 2023, just a few weeks after his 102nd birthday.

Al was a virtuoso artist who left behind an astounding body of work. But as anyone who knew him could tell you, he was also one of the kindest, most gracious people in the comic book industry. And he was a good friend.

In a previous blog post, I talked about Al – his career in general, his work for MAD Magazine in particular, and what he meant to me personally.

But I think it’s also important to mention that, even though he was 102 years old when he passed away, it still felt like he was gone too soon. I think I’d convinced myself that if he made it to 102 years old, there was no reason he couldn’t make it to 103 years old. Or 104. Or 120. I’m not kidding. If anyone could beat the odds, it was Al.

Unfortunately, though, he turned out to be a mere mortal.

Last year, when I called Al on his 101st birthday, he said, “When you live a long time, you outlive a lot of your friends. It’s so nice to hear from one of them that’s still alive.”

I’m sorry, what was that? “It’s so nice to hear from one of them that’s still alive”? That’s a solid joke. There he was at age 101, still making quips. He still had it.

As a cartoonist for MAD, Al showed the world just how hilarious and inventive a cartoon could be. He could draw funny – I mean really funny – which is not an easy thing to do. He had a genuinely unique comedic voice. He inspired generations of cartoonists, comedians, and comedy writers. He gave us the MAD Fold-In, Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, Hawks and Doves (a Vietnam-era comic strip that ran in MAD during the early 1970s), and countless MAD inventions.

And as if that wasn’t enough, he also co-created Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal. (Google it.)

It’s a cliché to say that someone made the world a richer place with their presence. But just because it’s a cliché, that doesn’t make it any less true. And in Al’s case, it certainly was true.

I feel lucky and privileged to have known him.

Let me tell you a story about how Al Jaffee changed my life. One day, when I was a kid – maybe 9 or 10 years old – my parents were visiting some friends who had a son about my age. I don’t remember the son’s name. Let’s just call him “Son X.” My parents’ friends told me to wait for Son X in his room, because he’d be home soon and I should say hello to him. I went up to Son X’s room and I saw these massive long boxes full of comic books. I took the lid off of one long box, and inside there were all of these back issues of MAD Magazine. Looking through one of them, I found a humor piece, written and illustrated by Al Jaffee, called “If Kids Designed Their Own Xmas Toys.” Looking at that humor piece melted my brain.

That’s not hyperbole. (Well, okay, it is. But you know what I mean.) See, I was a kid who was constantly drawing cartoons. And in those days, I was always thinking about the fact that when you’re a young child, you have no real grasp of concepts like composition, anatomy, perspective, or foreshortening, and so all of your drawings look…uh, well, they look like a kid drew them. I spent a massive amount of time trying to break out of that “draw like a kid” phase and finally draw like an adult. In “If Kids Designed Their Own Xmas Toys,” Al plays with that very premise, that very thing I’d been thinking about. “If Kids Designed…” shows what a doll would look like if it was designed by a 5 year old (stick figure arms and legs, googly eyes, springs for hair, a shapeless, awkward-looking dress). And he shows what a rocket would look like if it were designed by a 9 year old (the rocket looks flat and asymmetrical, the fins jut out at odd angles, the nosecone is crooked). It was like Al had reached into my brain, found out what I was obsessed with, and made a MAD humor piece about it.

But here’s the thing: Al actually built models of these “Xmas toys” that were supposedly designed by kids. Then he took photos of the toys, and those photos appear in “If Kids Designed Their Own Xmas Toys.” He really wanted to sell the idea that actual kids designed these toys!

When I first saw “If Kids Designed…,” it awakened something in me. It was the first time I thought, “Hey, I think I might want to write or draw something for MAD Magazine someday.” After all, I was an aspiring cartoonist and comedy writer. MAD seemed like a humor magazine that was tailor made for me specifically. And it was all because I happened upon an Al Jaffee humor piece that spoke to me on a gut level.

Years later, when I started writing humor pieces for MAD, I tried to write as many of them as possible that required actual models to be built, just like the models I saw in that “If Kids Designed…” article.

And on one particular day, a few years into my career at MAD, I was talking to Al in his studio and getting ready to interview him for my award-winning nonfiction book, From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books. I told him about “If Kids Designed Their Own Xmas Toys,” and what it meant to me. And he said, “Well, I’ve got the models of those ‘toys’ up on the top of that shelf, if you want to see them.” And he pointed to the very top of a bookshelf. There they were: the doll with the googly eyes, the lopsided rocket, all of them. He took the doll down and handed it to me so that I could hold it.

So there I was, holding the doll which made me want to be a MAD writer in the first place. It was quite a moment. (For me, anyway. Probably not for Al.) 

My point is, that’s the kind of person Al was: He inspired people. He changed their lives. And most importantly, he let you hold the doll with the googly eyes.

 

 

 

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