Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A BCC Interview with John Patrick Green

by Mike Rhode

For years now, John Patrick Green (as he now styles himself to avoid confusion with the young adult writer John Green) has been a regular at the Small Press Expo, usually accompanied by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier. This year, I caught up with him at Baltimore Comic Con where he agreed to answer a few questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I'm the writer/artist of HIPPOPOTAMISTER and the upcoming KITTEN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY early-reader graphic novels, both from First Second Books, and also the artist of the TEEN BOAT! and JAX EPOCH series' with writer Dave Roman. I also do a lot of freelance graphic novel and type design for other publishers like Scholastic Graphix.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I do a combination of traditional and digital. I still like to draw by hand onto actual paper, and then scan the work into the computer for colors. For inking often what I'll do is sketch out my pencils, scan and compose them into proper layouts in Photoshop, print the pencils as "blue lines" onto bristol, then ink over the printout. Then I'll scan those back into the computer for coloring, and the leftover blue lines can just be turned off, without having to erase graphite from the page like with classic inking over pencils. Depending on the project I'll do my balloons, captions, and letters by hand or in computer.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I grew up an '80s kid on Long Island, NY.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I went to School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan for graphic design, but I took a number of comic book-related electives. I pretty much grew up making comics, starting around 4th grade or so, and was always taking as many art classes as I could in school. I'd say I'm mostly self-taught, but my college experience was invaluable.

Who are your influences?

My earliest influences would be newspaper strips, like Garfield and later Calvin & Hobbes. Favorite painters would be Van Gogh, René Magritte, and Norman Rockwell. As for comics, my biggest influence as far as my own sensibilities go is probably the original Spider-Ham series (yes, I said "ham.") I was definitely more of a Marvel kid than a D.C. kid, but I was also inspired by a lot of indy books like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Usagi Yojimbo, especially. And being an '80s kid, of course Star Wars was a big part of my youth.
If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I wouldn't say I have any regrets, but possibly the one thing I'd do differently is stay at Disney Publishing. I worked for Disney Adventures Magazine for almost 10 years, and I loved working for Disney, but I'd gone freelance before Disney bought out Marvel and Lucasfilm. So being huge fan of those things as a kid, I occasionally wonder if I'd stayed at Disney just a little longer, would I have a hand in those properties now?

What work are you best-known for?

Probably TEEN BOAT! It's the only graphic novel about a boy who can transform into a small yacht. It features the angst of being a teen and the thrill of being a boat!

What work are you most proud of?

That's tough! I don't know if I'm necessarily more proud of any one project of mine over another. I guess I'd probably go with HIPPOPOTAMISTER because it's gotten a lot of positive responses from librarians and kids, and the recognition certainly feels good. But that doesn't make me like any of my other books less. I am proud of my KITTEN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY book, but that doesn't come out for awhile, so I'd say I'm more nervous about how people will respond to it.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

So many things that it's hard to narrow it down! I'd love to finally finish NEARLY DEPARTED, this video game I've been designing for years, but technology moves so fast that every time I get around to working on it, most of my effort goes to rebuilding it for modern systems. That's more of a hobby project, but it'd be nice to put it to bed. Same for getting the final volume of JAX EPOCH published, as that's been completed for a few years and hasn't been released. As for my next book (after finishing the ones already in my queue), usually the thing I'd "like" to work on is whatever a publisher gives me the green light for! When there are half a dozen book ideas I want to do, but can't do all at once, it can be a big help to have someone else say "do this one!"

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

There isn't really one specific thing I do. It could be anything, really. Sometimes I'll just zone out. Sometimes I'll pace around. Usually I'll just preoccupy myself with another project, or watch some TV, or play a video game, or cook some food, or do some chores, like wash dishes or something. So my strategy is basically "do something else and come back later." I guess that's also known as procrastination.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

The future is now! There are already a lot of things going on in comics and the book industry that I'd call futuristic. Digital versions with sound effects and motion graphics, things like that. Having a social media presence be so much a part of an author's profile. The Kickstarters and Patreons and the like being new or alternative funding and distribution models. But as much as things change, I think there's still a place for people who just want to write or draw. It certainly helps to keep up with the changes in the industry, but the basics aren't going to completely go away. Until the robots come for us, that is.

How was your BCC experience? How often have you attended it?

This was my first time at BCC and it was great. I've exhibited at big shows like San Diego Comic-Con before, and this show is in a similar vein. Lots of wonderful fans and the convention was well-run. And I got to see a lot of other creators that I haven't crossed paths with in awhile. I look forward to doing it again in the future. I haven't spent much time in Baltimore, but it seemed like a great city, so I hope to be back soon.

Do you have a website or blog?

My website is, but I am absolutely terrible at keeping it up-to-date. Probably the best way to be informed of my projects and appearances is to follow me on twitter: @johngreenart

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