Jane Yolen, Faith Erin Hicks, and other female creators share their favorite panels for the 10th anniversary of First Second Books.
Over its ten years, the graphic novel imprint has published award-wining works from dozens of writers and artists. Jane Yolen, Sara Varon, Faith Erin Hicks, Vera Brosgol and other acclaimed creators share their favorite panels from their work at First Second here.
‘Foiled’ by Jane Yolen
I expect most people who read Foiled and Foiled Again would expect me to mention the wild fight scenes or the underground troll scenes or the panels with Baba Yaga (my culture hero!), or the panels in the latter part of the second book in which we see the array of monsters lounging about the fencing school.
But actually my favorite piece is the double page spread in the middle of Foiled, the first book, where Aliera goes to Grand Central Station in New York to meet the new boy in school (who turns out to be a troll) on her first-ever date. She has comes directly from fencing school which is why she has her foil with her. In this spread she is looking about the station. First and foremost it’s a an elegant drawing. It has both movement and stillness. But the reason it’s my favorite is because that is where the whole idea of the book began for me.
You see, I have a clear memory of having lost my fencing foil on a date in Grand Central Station. I’ve no memory of who the boy was or why we were meeting there, or even why I had my foil with me. But when I was telling this story to my young granddaughter Maddison, who was an elementary school fencer, about my time as a collegiate fencer, the idea of Foiled as a graphic novel came to me with Grand Central as the beating heart of the book.
‘Something New’ by Lucy Knisley
This panel is actually a whole page from my latest book, Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride. This panel is a favorite for a few reasons. The first is that I LOVE drawing intricate crowd scenes like this. I know, it’s crazy, but I love getting lost in a big illustration like this, and including subtle details that you don’t notice at first. The illustration includes many of my closest friends and family, as it took place during our wedding, so that was fun, too; Picking poses and clothes and remembering moments with them during the party. Obviously, this was an important and meaningful day for me, so it’s nice to get to see a big scene like this that was such an important event in my life.
Lastly, this was the very last page I finished drawing for this 300 page book. I left this one for last, as it would take such a long time, and finishing it was a huge deal, after months of working on the book. I’ll always remember this night, and I’ll always remember drawing this page to honor that night and to finish the whole book!
‘The Undertaking of Lily Chen’ by Danica Novgorodoff
This is one of my favorite panels in The Undertaking of Lily Chen because we are seeing, from the character Deshi’s point of view, the ghost of his brother. Lily, sitting at the campfire, is oblivious to the specter rising from the smoke, and so we are seeing two worlds in one image — Lily’s “real” world (a cold night next to a campfire) and a second, mystical world. The ghost, hovering over Lily, is voicelessly telling Deshi that he wants Lily to be his wife in the afterlife, and Deshi, terrified and possessed by this apparition, is incited to try to harm her — to send her to the afterlife, to his brother — in the following pages.
‘Anya’s Ghost’ by Vera Brosgol
This is one of my favorite pages in the book. It was really fun to draw, and does a pretty good job of illustrating what my head feels like a lot of the time: a cacophony of unproductive thoughts, distracting me from what’s really important. Like not falling in a giant hole.
‘Bake Sale’ by Sara Varon
In these two pages, I wanted to show how terrible Cupcake was feeling and how it affected his bakery. He has written on his ‘Specials’ board: ‘Nothing is special today.’ I included that board early in the story without thinking much about it, and then I realized that it was the perfect tool for adding that line (which I happened to think was pretty funny).
I love when I need to get an idea across, and I discover that I’ve inadvertently set it up perfectly. On an aside, on page 112, there was originally a cockroach in Grapefruit’s tea, but I was told it was too upsetting, so it was downgraded to a fly. (Still gross and bad for business.)
‘California Dreamin” by Penelope Bagieu
There is much of Cass’s background in this panel: the young and chubby Ellen, who already dreams of being a star, even though it goes against all odds. She knows she can sing. She knows a lot of things will come across her path, and she believes very strongly in herself. Above all — another reason to her strength and faith — we see the kindness of her family, the safe cocoon of her siblings, and the unconditional love of her dad.
‘The Nameless City’ by Faith Erin Hicks
I like this sequence because it underscores the relationship between the two main characters, Rat and Kai, in the book. They’re friends, but they also live in this complicated environment, a City where there is often strife and inequality. Kai is a member of the ruling elite, and Rat is someone who has suffered under the rule of Kai’s people. So despite the fact that they’re having fun at this party, they can’t escape the reality of their situation.
Rat is being kind of passive aggressive, trying to make Kai admit that he came to her home with certain intentions, but his reasons are more complicated than what she’s expecting. I particularly like the third panel on page 149, where the kids are just standing, facing each other while the other dancers in the scene carry on as if nothing is wrong. The visual contrast is a lot of fun.