In Real Life: Jen Wang

The artist adapts Cory Doctorow’s “Anda’s Game” as a graphic novel

In Real Life: Jen Wang

Consider this a parallax view of sorts?

Because the author Cory Doctorow is going to be in Austin for the Texas Teen Book Festival this Saturday, so of course we spoke with him about this new book In Real Life that was recently released from First Second Books. But there was no way we weren’t going to grab a brief interview with his collaborator on the project, too, a few minutes with the acclaimed artist of Koko Be Good and other books, Jen Wang:

Austin Chronicle: Jen, how’d you get involved in this project?

Jen Wang: My publishers First Second approached me, because they were working with Cory and they were looking for an artist. And I’d just finished a book and was kind of in between projects, so they asked if I’d be interested. And they sent my Cory’s short story “Anda’s Game,” which is what In Real Life is based on. And I read it, and I was like, “Oh yeah, I’ll totally do this book.”

AC: How did you figure out how to break it down, to adapt it ~ because there’s quite a few differences between “Anda’s Game” and In Real Life, right?

JW: This was my first time adapting somebody else’s writing – and that’s another reason I wanted to do it, because it’d be a new experience. And Cory was also a live author, so he was somebody that I would be able to ask questions of and bounce ideas off of. So we went through a couple different drafts, and the first draft was very similar to the original story. But things needed to be updated, because Cory’d written it in maybe 1999 or 2000? And a lot of things had changed in video games and gold farming, so we just kept pushing it. I’d write a draft and send it to Cory, and he’d give notes and suggestions … and so it changed to update the story, but also to make it fit the medium of comics, to make it a little more active.

AC: Had you read other works by Cory before you started this project?

JW: No, I was familiar with him as a blogger with Boing Boing, of course, and of his role as an activist. And I knew that he’d written some Young Adult novels, but – I actually heard an interview with him, about his novel Little Brother, but I’d never read any of his fiction until “Anda’s Game.”

AC: The Lambiek site mentions that your style is a cross between manga and Disney animation. Do you think that’s a fair assessment, and anyway what are your major artistic influences?

JW: I would say that’s pretty accurate. I started drawing comics in high school, and at the time I was reading a lot of manga and I grew up watching cartoons, obviously – so those are the two big influencers of my drawing style. I haven’t read manga in a really long time, but I’d say that the first book I read in high school was Rurouni Kenshin. And I also really liked Revolutionary Girl Utena. Those are still things that I can find influences of in my work … and I guess I’d have to say, especially if we’re going back to early influences? The Little Mermaid. I think that was the first movie I saw, like when I was six or so, and that inspired me to draw. Because I realized somebody was drawing it and bringing the whole movie to life, and that kind of motivated me to be a cartoonist.

AC: Now that In Real Life is published, what new projects are you working on?

JW: I have a couple projects that I’m not sure I can talk about yet, but I’m working on something with Hope Larson – she did the recent adaptation of Wrinkle in Time? And I’m co-organizing a comics convention in December, in Los Angeles, called Comic Arts L.A. And it’ll be the first – well, not the first, but the first for a long time – indie comics festival in Los Angeles. And I’m really excited about that.

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Jen Wang, In Real Life, First Second Books, Comic Arts L.A., Koko Be Good, graphic novels

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