On July 22nd through 24th, while attending San Diego International Comic-Con, I ran around to as many of my favorite kids comics creators as I could and asked them all the exact same questions. Keep in mind, exhibit halls are crazy loud and crazy busy, so there is a lot of background noise. Let me know in the comments if you have trouble hearing anything and I’ll translate for you.
Ted Naifeh is the creator of two of my favorite female characters: Courtney Crumrin and Polly Pringle. Courtney is grumpy, sarcastic, and not afraid to get her hands dirty when it comes to protecting the things she loves. Polly is prissy, law-abiding, but not afraid to seek adventure if there’s treasure to be found. Together they’re two of my favorite heroines of the kicking-ass-and-taking-names variety.
All of his work, including the illustrations he did for Gloomcookie, Death Jr., and The Good Neighbors, have dark elements, but they also have heart. I appreciate that Naifeh doesn’t shy away from big themes like love, loss, abandonment, or death. He presents the material with respect, assuming the reader will understand and draw his or her own conclusions, rather than watering things down or informing the reader how he or she should feel at the end of the story. I know many kids who appreciate this, too. The humor, and there is plenty of humor, tempers the stories, gentling the scary bits without diffusing them.
I’ve been lucky enough to be on panels with Ted Naifeh twice now. The first time he was one of a group of artists, editors, and publishers of comics for kids. The second time I acted as moderator to a conversation he had with Jennifer Holm. During both of these discussions I was struck by Ted’s ability to articulate why he writes for kids and why it’s important not to write down to them. You get a taste of that here in this 5-question interview, but only a taste, so if you ever have the opportunity to hear Ted speak, I encourage you to attend. He’ll leave you with lots to think about.
Books mentioned in this video:
- Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller
- Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Peterson
- Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Hadden
- Dashiell Hammett: Complete Novel
Wondering what Ted was working on while we were talking? It was this: