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First Second Announcement: ‘Pelé: The King of Soccer’

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We’re delighted to bring you the news today of First Second’s latest graphic novel announcement: They will publish Pelé: The King of Soccer, written by Eddy Simon and illustrated by Vincent Brascaglia, in October 2017.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known to his schoolmates as Pelé, grew up in poverty in the Sao Paulo region of Brazil. He was too poor to afford a real soccer ball, so he played with a ball of newspaper tied together with string. Yet he dominated the youth leagues and signed his first professional soccer contract at the age of 15. Within two years he was celebrated internationally, when he led Brazil to victory at the world cup. Known by his fans as “O Rei” (The King), Pelé is  widely regarded as the greatest soccer player of all time. But he’s more than just an athlete: he also traveled the world as goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. Pelé is the living symbol of a sport he dubbed “the beautiful game”—a game that brings people together regardless of race or nationality. Pele : The King of Soccer tells his story.

Already the most popular sport in the rest of the world, soccer’s popularity continues to grow in America, where some of the sport’s greatest advocates are children.

And here’s a sample page, followed by an interview with both creators.

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First of all, why Pelé? Most young readers have never heard of him, so can you briefly explain why you found him interesting?

Eddy Simon: Pelé is surely the biggest soccer player in the world. His story is incredible, beautiful, and unique. He comes from a poor Brazilian family and became the best player of all the time. For kids, it’s an example to aspire to. With passion, we can climb mountains and reach the top. It’s true, Pelé has a special gift for football. If Pelé is a great athlete, he is also invested in several humanitarian causes. His prestige, his renown, serves poor children’s causes.

Vincent Brascaglia: Pelé is the first soccer superstar ever, and he’ll always be. During the creation of this book, I gave some drawing classes to children, and I was amazed how many boys knew who Pelé was. With this story I also could do something dynamic, adding a little “manga touch,” and have of lot of fun drawing Pelé’s tricks and amazing goals.

Did you find it difficult to do a bio-comic about someone who is still alive? Did he know about the project, and if so, did he cooperate in any way?

Eddy Simon: No; it’s an interesting written exercise. Pelé didn’t know this project and now I don’t know if he knows this comic. I would like it if he did!

Vincent Brascaglia: Personally, Pelé still being alive didn’t matter. Eddy and I are working on a second biography about someone dead, so the important thing for me is to have fun drawing the story.

What sort of research did you have to do? Were there parts of his life that weren’t well documented?

Eddy Simon: I read a lot of about him—books, interviews, articles. I also watched a lot of documentaries about his career like the one by Paul Crowder and John Dower about the New York Cosmos. Pelé talked a lot about himself, his career, and his life. He is so popular that it’s it’s difficult for him to hide aspects of his existence. I had a lot of stories to choose from!

Vincent Brascaglia: I had to do some research on everything, from cities to clothes, to match with the story. I really felt that the more I was working on the book, the easier it was to find the documentation. Towards the end, I could look at some videos on YouTube, whereas for the first chapters I couldn’t even find pictures.

Doing any sort of biography means picking and choosing which facts and anecdotes to include and which to leave out. Did you have to make any tough choices? Were there any stories you wish you could have included?

Eddy Simon: With Vincent Brascaglia and our editor, we would like to show positives aspects of Pelé’s life. But also we wanted to explain political and social Brazilian context, and talk about soccer at that time. Then, we had to create it all to make it exciting to read.The reader must have the sensation of understanding Pelé as an athlete and a human when he or she finishes the comic.

Vincent Brascaglia: For the story in itself, I totally let Eddy choose what to keep or not. The only modifications I made were adding or deleting some panels, to enhance the storytelling.

Regarding the visual aspects, how did you capture the look of the different places and eras of Pelé’s life? Did you do research for that?

Eddy Simon: We did lot of photographic research. Vincent, who is passionate about soccer, found some rare documents.

Vincent Brascaglia: In this book we tried to be the most accurate we could. For example, I found the exact soccer uniforms for each team for each world cup! But thanks to the internet, you can find everything you need pretty easily, especially with soccer, because it’s the world’s most popular sport.

Your book was originally published in French. Americans have a different outlook on soccer. Did you make any changes for this new audience?

Eddy Simon: We, first of all, speak about an athlete who has universal values. Regardless if the reader is French or American, he or she will understand the story. Expect for a few vocabulary details, the French and the American versions are the same.

Vincent Brascaglia: The only difference between the French and the American editions is three panels. We did not adapt the book for a specific country; we tried to please the fans of this sport before everything else.

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Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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