The Team Behind Rapunzel's Revenge
When the Rapunzel of Rapunzel’s Revenge lets down her hair, it’s not to let a prince climb up it—it’s usually to whip a gun out of a bad guy’s hand, lasso something, or bridle and bronco-bust a rampaging beast of some sort. With her weaponized twenty-foot tresses and partner Jack, Rapunzel adventures through an Old West setting to liberate it from her wicked witch stepmother in this new all-ages graphic novel.The book is the work of three neophytes in the world of creating comics, but no strangers to storytelling in general. It’s written by Shannon Hale, the young adult author of Newberrry Award-winning Princess Academy and The Book of a Thousand Days, plus the Bayern series that kicked off with The Goose Girl, among other works. She partnered with her husband Dean Hale, a lifelong comics reader, to tell the tale. The art came courtesy of children’s book author and illustrator Nathan Hale (no relation), whose credits include Yellowbelly and Plum Go To School and The Devil You Know.
We rounded up the whole Rapunzel’s Revenge rodeo to ask them about their first graphic novel, and their already-in progress sequel. Newsarama: I was wondering if you guys could tell us a little about your interest in and relationship with comics prior to writing a graphic novel: Did you guys grow up with them, or get turned on to graphic novels later? Shannon Hale: I grew up unaware of comics except as a boy thing. As a teenager, I stumbled across a friend's brother's collection of X-Men and devoured them, but didn't know how to get anymore. Eventually I became a comics fan by marriage and now read about three to four graphic novels or trades a month. Dean Hale: I'm a longtime addict—I think comics were like 35-cents when I started. I distinctly remember convincing myself the switch to 50-cents was okay because the math involved in figuring out how much three to six books would cost was easier. I mostly buy trades now, though. Nathan Hale: You're going to laugh at this, but the first comic I ever purchased was ACME Novelty Library #1 by Chris Ware… I didn't grow up reading comics… NRAMA: Shannon, you’ve certainly had quite a bit of success with prose fiction. Why did you decide to do a graphic novel at this point in your career? SH: A few reasons—First, I wanted to collaborate with my husband Dean, who has always been a part of my writing behind the scenes (acting as an in-house editor, brainstorming with me during outlining phases, et cetera). As he's a life long comics fan, doing a book in this medium seemed the obvious choice. Second, as I traveled around doing book events, I kept meeting those kids who weren't readers. Their sister would eat books for breakfast, but a 300-page tome of words was too intimidating or uninteresting to capture their interest. I longed to have a book I could give those readers, one they could get hooked into quickly, feel their confidence as a reader swell, and go on to keep reading. Graphic novels are so good at that. We've ignored the needs of visual learners too long. It makes me very happy to see more graphic novels for young readers out there. Third, I get bored easily. I like to challenge myself as a writer to try new genres and storytelling styles. I was intimidated and terrified of writing a graphic novel, and that was the only reason I allowed myself to try. NRAMA: Shannon, I was wondering if there was something that lent this character or this story toward the comics medium versus prose in your mind; could this have been another novel, or did it need to be a comic? SH: I never want to write a comic that could have been a novel (or vice versa). It's so much more fun to see Rapunzel whip those braids and lasso those bad guys than to describe it. And I think the setting deserved to be visual. NRAMA And Nathan, can you tell us a little bit about moving from children's books to a
graphic novel?I loved having so many pages to deal with in Rapunzel. I've never done a picture book over 32 pages. Storytelling real estate gets really tight in a picture book. You do get a bigger area to work on, and you can focus more on the illustrations in a picture book—really work them over. But I don't mind switching back and forth between picture books and comics. When you get tired of one, the other is a lot of fun. NRAMA: Shannon, Dean, I understand that you guys had originally thought about doing a graphic novel with either DC or Marvel, and had even selected a young DC heroine to work up and submit a proposal for? SH: When we first wanted to collaborate, traditional children’s book publishers weren't doing graphic novels, so we looked to Marvel or DC. This was where Dean's massive knowledge of comics came in handy. Tell it, baby. DH: First I wanted to reboot Power Pack, making that horsey guy that gives them their powers turn out to be a skrull. And then, yes, they were going to turn out to be skrulls. Or half-skrull. It never went that far. It all seemed too complicated in terms of continuity (as we can see now in Secret Invasion), so we went with Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. It seemed more clearly to piggy-back on Shannon's rep with girly stuff, anyway. I had most of the original 12 issues from the 80s in my boxes, so we re-read them, wrote a pitch for a new six-issue series and a script for the first. We had an artist we knew sketch the first couple pages, and then sent it all into Oblivion at 1700 Broadway. Needless to say, nothing came of it. NRAMA: What can you tell us about the sequel, Calamity Jack? SH: It’s an urban story, and more caper than Western. And it just might be bigger, badder and more fun than Rapunzel. We've seen a few scans of Nate's art and it's amazing. I'm so excited about it. NH: Okay, here's the main thing about the sequel. I drew Rapunzel at 100% finished size. Those panels are 1/1. I didn't know that most comics were drawn at a much larger size than the final print. With Calamity Jack I'm working at 200% which is making an enormous difference in drawing quality. So Jack’s going to look way better than Rapunzel—I'm kicking myself for drawing Rapunzel at such a tiny, hand-cramping size. I'm having a lot of fun doing all of the cityscape/industrial scenery. It'll have a very different look from Rapunzel's sandstone world. NRAMA: Shannon, I take it the fact that you’re doing another one means you enjoyed doing a graphic novel. In the future, where do you see your writing going? SH: I loved writing these graphic novels and would definitely do another, if we thought of the right story. I don't want to force it. And I don't think I want to do it alone. I have a lot of respect for this medium and I don't feel well read enough to jump in solo. Dean keeps me honest. Right now I'm writing a young adult fantasy (the fourth in my Bayern series) and another book for adults ala Austenland. Next up is a science fiction trilogy. There's that whole easily-bored thing I battle... NRAMA: And you, Nathan? Do you see yourself splitting time between picture books and graphic novels? NH: Yes. The picture book market has been in a huge slump for the last decade, really dragging along. Graphic novels, on the other hand are totally swallowing kid lit whole right now. That said, I've always loved picture books, I'm contracted to do two when Jack's finished (hopefully in December.) And I'm going to watch those two books closely—if they don't do well, I'm going to give picture books a little break and focus entirely on graphic novels. I've got four graphic novel manuscripts in various stages of completion, ready to launch at publishers as soon as Jack is finished. Again, hopefully in December. Tick tick tick...