The mouse reporter Geronimo Stilton returns to comics this month with a new OGN following his investigating something the smell of something rotten in New Mouse City.
Artist Tom Angleberger takes the lead with Geronimo Stilton - Graphic Novel #1: The Sewer Rat Stink, adapting the creator Elisabetta Dami's 2003 prose novel The Strange Case of the Pantegana Puzzona which had never been translated to English. In this new OGN coming out May from Scholastic's Graphix imprint, Geronimo and his best friend Hercule, the private detective, head underground into the sewer world of Mouse Island to investigate. Can they save the city from the stench?
Angleberger spoke with Newsarama ahead of The Sewer Rat Stink's release, discussing the franchise's success, why graphic novels are a greal place for the mouse, and the bigger picture behind this launch of a Gerinomo Stilton graphic novel series by the artist.
Newsarama: Tom, for people who don’t know the story, what is Geronimo Stilton about?
Tom Angleberger: Geronimo Stilton is a fantastic character, but very different than a lot of other kids’ book characters. Yes, he’s a talking animal, but he’s an adult talking animal with a job and responsibilities and a very nice suit.
If he could, he’d spend all his time running his newspaper or working on his novel. Unluckily for him, but luckily for us, he almost never gets that chance because one of his wacky friends is always dragging him into some over-the-top madcap adventure.
In this book, it’s his friend, Hercule Poirat, the famous detective who insists they explore the sewers underneath New Mouse City looking for the source of a terrible odor. Spoiler alert: they find it and then some.
Nrama: Did you approach Scholastic with this idea or did they approach you?
Angleberger: I actually approached Scholastic a few years ago because I wanted to write a Geronimo Stilton adventure. It’s hard to resist the urge to make up your own madcap adventure for him! At the time, they said no because he writes his own material.
But then they said that there were stories that had never been translated and published in English and asked me to adapt it into a graphic novel! What a dream come true.
Nrama: What was the process of adapting Geronimo Stilton into a graphic novel?
Angleberger: First of all, it was a LOT of fun!
I was working with a translation of a manuscript originally written in Italian. It was full of absolutely bonkers stuff like singing rats, a prize-winning cockroach and Geronimo waterskiing through the sewer. So, I started drawing!
Then my black and white drawings were colored by Corey Barba and lettered by Shivana Sookdeo. They really are the ones that turned all this crazy business into a real graphic novel!
Nrama: How did you approach the style for this book?
Angleberger: While I’ve been drawing comics since I was a kid, I always thought I just wasn’t good enough to make a graphic novel.
Then Dog Man came along and proved that an artist doesn’t need to be the next Jack Kirby. Kids are devouring those books! And because the style is accessible – and there are even drawing instruction in the books – they’re getting inspired to make their own comics. Well… I was, too!
Nrama: So, I take it you’re a longtime fan of Geronimo Stilton. How did you get into the franchise? Why do you feel so connected to it?
Angleberger: It may have all started at my local library when I found an audiobook with several Geronimo adventures read by Edward Hermann. Once I heard him read Paws Off Cheddarface, I was hooked.
Since then I’ve read the books aloud myself, both to my own kids and to kids at their school. They are a ton of fun to read out loud – cheesy puns, wacky voices and Geronimo’s mounting anxiety about the messes he gets into.
Nrama: Why do you think kids love this world?
Angleberger: I think kids actually love to read about adults, especially when those adults make mistakes or get into awkward situations. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to love reading War and Peace.
But if you make the adult into a mouse and give him a big, cheesy world to make his mistakes in, then you’ve got something.
Nrama: Why do you think graphic novels are an important medium for kids to get into?
Angleberger: Oh boy, don’t get me started. I can go on about this all day. To try to sum it up: to me it’s all about the joy of reading and experiencing a story. While I sometimes appreciate a long trek through a big, complex text, there is a lot to be said for the wild visual, verbal joyride you can get from a graphic novel.
Nrama: To close out, I see you're already working on a second volume for next year, Slime for Dinner. Are you excited about doing more?
Angleberger: Like, I said, it is so much fun.
I’m currently working on my second Geronimo Stilton graphic novel adaptation: Slime for Dinner, a mystery set in Creepella’s creepy castle. Of course, this means appearances by her creepy relatives, her creepy friends and her adorable pet bat, Bitewing! Also, a lot of slime.