Interview: Jim Ottaviani

[Note: The following interview was conducted in July 2009, but has not previously been published.]

Since the 1997 release of his first graphic novel, Two-Fisted Science, writer, librarian, and one-time nuclear engineer Jim Ottaviani, has been telling compelling stories about the lives and work of scientists.  He’s written about everything from J. Robert Oppenheimer’s work on the atomic bomb (Fallout, 2001), to Hedy Lamarr’s invention of an early “frequency hopping” communication sytem (Dignifying Science, 2003), to  Harry Harlow’s investigations into the necessity of love (Wire Mothers, 2007).  Along the way, he’s worked with more than two dozen artists, including Donna Barr, Roberta Gregory, Roger Langridge, Steve Lieber, Dylan Meconis, Linda Medley, and many others.

His eighth and most recent book, T-Minus: The Race to the Moon, illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon, relates the dual stories of the US and Soviet space programs through the late 1950s and 1960s, as they competed to be first to the lunar surface.  But true to form, Ottaviani’s telling of the story focuses less on the astronauts who made the journey than on the engineers and rocket scientists who made the journey possible.

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The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks

 Secret Identity Crisis

Today I'm reviewing two new books from Scholastic Publishing.  It's a new series called The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks and the first two books are Secret Identity Crisis and Freezer Burned. These book aren't really comics — they are actually text books, although each has a "comic book" insert in the middle — a separate "comic book" that exists within the larger text stories.  Since each book includes at least some comics I suppose we don't have to change the name of the site to write about them.

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Comix Talk for March 16, 2010

Longbox Digital

iWebcomics: The Beat had an interview this past weekend with the CEO of Longbox, the comics application on the launch of the public beta for the applicationUPDATE: Bleeding Cool has an early review of the Beta.

MILESTONES: 1000 White Ninjas can't be wrong.  Wait that didn't come out quite right…  how about 1000 White Ninjas and Runnin' or maybe "I'd walk a thousand miles… if I could just see a White Ninja.. Tonight."  Eh.. I got nothing…

REVIEWS: El Santo reviews Xylia Tales.

BUSINESS: The Daily Cross Hatch blog talks to Box Brown about his Kickstarter fundraiser.

THEORY: Dr. Visual Linguist, Neil Cohn, is running a survey  — help him out by filling it out. (h/t FLEEN)

TOOLS: Comic Space 2.0 Beta invitations still available.

PLUG:  Zip and L’il Bit by Trade Loeffler returns with a new story, The Captain’s Quest. (h/t Art Patient)

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Comix Talk for Friday, February 12, 2010

Zombies Calling by Faith Erin HicksWe're finally digging out of the snow here in Washington DC — apparently the volume of frosted flakes falling felled a record.  Anyhow – wanted to let everyone know that new user registrations are back online at Comix Talk.  You don't need to register with Comix Talk to comment on anything BUT registering gives you the ability to have a user blog and post to Comix Talk news and hype if you so desire.  New registrations are not automatically approved, however, so it may take up to a day for me to check them.

All Ages: El Santo had an interesting overview of what makes comics good for kids.  A good source for what's new with all ages comics is the Good Comics for Kids blog.  I've certainly had more interest in these comics again as my kids have gotten into comics.

No Good Deed Goes Unpublished: Coyote Trax has an article about webcomic creators involvement in charity and other good deeds.  El Santo had a recent post about the comic Snowflakes participation in Heart Health Month.


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Copper by Kazu Kibuishi

Copper by Kazu Kibuishi

Copper is a beautiful comic.  Kazu Kibuishi takes such care in rendering landscapes both natural and fantastic, that one can't help but be drawn into the page to fully appreciate the environment of Copper. In particular, I think Kibuishi must love drawing moving water because it is almost a constant presence in the book (The comic "Waterfall" is both a great bit of illustration but also an insightful commentary on it).

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Comix Talk for January 29, 2010

Whew, made it to Friday.  Sometime next week a new version of ComixTalk at the new server will emerge — it won't be perfect but mostly what I need this year.  And it should mean the end of me starting posts writing about Drupal and CSS…

I got a fever, and the only prescription… is more AXE COP! You've all read Axe Cop, haven't you?  If I didn't know it was for real I might have thought Kris Straub was behind it…  Coupling really funny and well-done art with scripts from his 5 year old brother Malachai, artist Ethan Nicolle has created something that is a gimmick but I swear I laughed the whole time I was reading it. 

iWEBCOMICS: Paperless Comics has a nice round up of webcomic commenting on the iPad announcement.  I'm not going to think too hard about it until the damn thing is actually in the store, but even though it's not perfect I'm kind of leaning towards getting an iPad right now.  (I wonder if I can write it off as a business expense for this site?)

INTERVIEW: A really nice interview with Kean Soo, creator of the all ages comic Jellaby (and before that his journal comic at

REVIEWS: Tom Spurgeon has a glowing review of Kazu Kibuishi's book, Copper.  Copper has long been one of my favorite comics and I really do want to get a copy of the paper version at some point.  Missed it but earlier this month, Sean Kleefeld reviewed another all ages title — the prose/comics hybrid book Malice.


Seth Godin read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and thought it was… about marketing?

Over at Panel & Pixel forums, there's some information and discussion of how intellectual property rights in the U.S. work when a writer and artist collaborate. And another Panel & Pixel post covers creating model sheets for characters for your comic.

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Comix Talk for Thursday, January 28, 2010

Heropotamus by Josh Alves

I'm on the twitters sometimes if you're interested in smaller, faster updates (also to be honest, I don't always remember to post here what I've tweeted). 

iWebcomics: iPad? While it doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well as the Jesus Tablet, it'll do.  My quick reaction?  I think this should be an excellent consumer device for consuming media; I don't love the content-type control Apple has asserted over it's app store and I think any potential reasons for such control are much less defensible for a device such as this.  I also don't like Apple's failure to support Flash – this device should be open to complementary programs to the traditional browser environment.  I'll grant you that version 2 in another year will probably be a better deal but I think this product meets my imaginary expectations for a webcomics tablet.  Not sure still about the pricing but at least it's better than the pre-announcement rumors.  As far as comic apps for the iPad, it looks like Comixology got the first press release out the door.

Code: Brad Hawkins posts some details on what will be in version 2.5 of stripShow, which is a add-on to WordPress to run webcomics.  I can't remember exactly now, but the birth of the first version of stripShow either predates or is pretty close in time to ComicPress and has also continued to evolve – can't wait to see the new version. 

Act-I-Vation Nation: Paul DeBenedetto interviewed comics/webcomic auteur Dean Haspiel last year at the Baltimore Comicon; he just posted the video though:

Around the World in 80 Blogs

A lot of Zuda news at Robot6: an interview with Josh Alves, creator of the webcomic Araknid Kid (started at Zuda, finished at Sugary Serials) and the new webcomic, Heropotamus; and interviews with all of the creators in the January edition of Zuda (aka Webcomic Powerball).

Check out Growly Beast – a blog with a growing collection of interviews with comics creators including  Diana Stoneman of Sweet and Sour Grapes; and Kory Bing of Skin Deep.

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Comix Talk for Monday, January 25, 2010

For what it's worth, I've got a fresh install of DRUPAL on the dev server at home, working up a streamlined version of ComixTALK.  Laid out the basic theme (moving to a 2 column layout) and now tackling cleaning up the horror that the tag and category system at ComixTALK has mutated into….  Right now I'm debating whether to port ComixTALK as is to the new server or wait until I get the redo… done.

One story that caught my eye this morning was this rant by blogger-czar Jason Calacanis about comScore.  Worth reading to think about.  Another interesting story from Tom Spurgeon, who has an essay up at the Comics Reporter which I think one could summarize as "wow, there are a lot more good comics than when I was younger…"  I guess I would add, "wow, there are a lot more good webcomics than 10 years ago…"  And if you need a recap of recent webcomic news, Delos has a whole bunch of interesting links covering last week at Art Patient.

NEW BOOK: John Allison posted the cover art from the forthcoming 8th book collection of Scary Go Round: "Recklessly Yours." 

Cory Likes Corndogs: Goats scores a favorable review from Boing Boing Blogger Cory Doctorow for the second book in the new series: The Corndog Imperative.

ZUDA IDOL SCANDAL? Digital Strips reports on the departure of one of the ten finalists from this month's Zuda popularity contest. Apparently The  Thunderchickens had a good shot of winning it too, so the undisclosed reasons for its departure must be something non-trivial.

POLLS: Over at the Washington Post's comics blog, Schlock Mercenary is leading their Best Webcomic of the Decade poll, followed by Girl Genius.

INTERVIEW: Inkstuds has an (audio) interview with Bryan Lee O'Malley.

Non-ZUDA CONTESTS: El Santo reports that John Lustig of Last Kiss is having a contest — write the best dialogue for a comic captioned by Orson Scott Card.

ALL AGES: Comics For Kids has a list of recommended comics for the classroom.

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Solving The Kung Fu Puzzle

Now that I have two book-devouring kids, I find myself much more engaged with books and comics for the 10 and under age bracket (I guess you'd call that pre-tween?).  My kids read comics along with text books without much distinction at this point which is probably due to the pretty decent selection of comics in the children's section of our local library.  (The Sardine in Outer Space series was a recent favorite.)

So I was pretty interested in getting an opportunity to review the latest installment in the Manga Math Mysteries series.   Number four is titled The Kung Fu Puzzle: A Mystery with Time and Temperature.  I think any book, comic or otherwise, should be engaging on its own merits.  Educational value shouldn't be an excuse for a boring book.  Kung Fu Puzzle passed that test with flying colors with both of my kids (I thought it was pretty good too).  In fact I think my youngest daughter's biggest complaint is actually nice praise for the  book — she was quite annoyed at its somewhat open-ended finish.  I think she was hoping that the story went on longer.

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