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Exclusive: BOOM! to Publish Felipe Nunes’ ‘Dodo’

Dodo SC Cover

We have some exclusive news for you this morning: BOOM! Studios will publish the all ages graphic novel Dodo, by Felipe Nunes, in May 2018 in its KaBOOM imprint. Dodo was first published in Brazil, where Nunes lives and works; he is a protégé of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, the award-winning comics creators.

Here’s a quick summary:

When Laila’s parents split up, she doesn’t understand why her life has changed, and why her dad never comes by anymore. Lonely and confused, Laila ends up befriending a strange bird that lives in the park by her house. Her friendship with this bird, a dodo named Ralph, takes Laila on a journey she never expected and shows her things about her own world she’d never noticed before.

We talked to Nunes about the development of Dodo, and BOOM! Studios shared a preview with us as well, which you will find after the interview.

This book is about a girl in a difficult situation. What motivated you to tell this sort of story, as opposed to the usual light-hearted children’s book?

When I started thinking about the story, it was to be a conventional children’s book—a fable about a girl’s adventure and a bird. But when I started to develop the plot and build the universe that surrounds the character, I found it interesting to portray how much our time alone when we’re children says a lot about our reality. I wanted to tell a story where the reader always follows the girl from her point of view, listening to what she hears, feeling what she feels, and limiting a narrative to the critical eye of a needy child who spends a good deal of time mirroring her experiences in the activities that she does.

Did you have a particular age group in mind?

I wanted to create a book that could be read by everyone. The reader always has their eyes on only one part of the tale, and some emotional representations and more mature treatment symbols are implicit in the plot. I tried to build something that could be a fun adventure for a child or teenager, and a family drama for an adult. Unintentionally, I see it as the fruit of the huge success of the same kind of narrative that got popularized when I was growing up, like in the ones that Pixar and Ghibli developed.

Were you drawing on personal experiences, or observations of other people?

A lot of the story ends up being autobiographical. I am, like other millennials, the son of a generation who “popularized” divorce and was raised by separated parents. Like Laila, I, too spent my childhood time playing and creating adventures and words alone. I felt that writing about something I know would help me to build a sort of sincerity in Dodo’s panels.

How did you come up with the image of a dodo bird? Was there a particular visual inspiration for that? And why a dodo?

During the planning process, I thought the character should be a dinosaur. Searching for visual references, I found that a dodo would be more charismatic, had a good sound for a title, and could be better employed in the plot, since both would play the same role (an extinct being). For its design, I was involuntarily influenced by Kevin in the movie Up.

In this story, we never see the parents’ actual breakup, and most of what we know about the relationship is a one-sided conversation, what Laila overhears when her mother is talking on the phone. Why did you choose to tell the story this way?

I really don’t like stories with didactic explanations. I always try to avoid them as much as possible in my scripts because I believe in a form of information and problems by the edges, by people’s perceptions, like Chuck Palahniuk, David Lynch, or Satoshi Kon does so well, for example. I think most of the time [when you] explain facts for the reader it’s an artifice [that makes it] too easy.

According the relationship of the characters in the book—father, mother, and Laila—I find it plausible the parents have not yet built a dialogue with their daughter about the separation and the future of the family, in a pedagogical way. The book is about this turbulent period of assimilation of the facts not only by Laila, but by her parents and their way of dealing with a child.

Can you talk about your choice of a color palette for the story? Why did you choose these particular colors? Also, there is a lot of darkness and shadow—even during the day, parts of the house are dark, or Laila and the dodo are seen against a black background. Did you have a specific purpose in mind for your use of black?

So, this is curious, hahaha. Here in Brazil, the book was originally published in black and white. At that time, my work was in a style that was heavily influenced by creators like Jeff Smith, Andrew MacLean, and [cartoonist] Jason, and I thought it was enough that I managed to build all the climatic relationships of the scenes on just two-tone values (black and white). I think, just like old movies, it is good to synthesize emotions into very simple channels. Dodo, for me, is very serious and melancholy, so I thought it would be nice to build scenes with a lot of black and localized contrasts.

With invitations from Portugal and Poland to publish it there, I found it appropriate to color the book and, for it, I thought the colors should show the sensations of the scenes, exposing differences between melancholy and happiness, day and night, etc. At some points I was able to use the colors to highlight the focus in a panel or in a sequence; for me, this made the final product better.

Finally, I’d like to hear a bit about the ending of the story. Do you feel this is a happy or at least a hopeful ending? Why did you choose to end it at that particular moment?

I think just as some delicate clippings of our life don’t have a closed or happy ending, our perceptions regarding those moments will come with time. Only after we are distant from it can we see a season that has ended, or calmed down, or evolved. We can never fully control the facts as they happen. Thinking about it, I guess the end is the result of the plot, where the girl goes through a turbulent journey of understanding of what happens in her house and how she will face it in the future.

Like the reader, Laila also needs time to think about what will really happen next, and what life can offer her. I wanted to create that post-divorce experience, and [show] how, under these conditions, some simple things are extremely complex and some of the denser moments are taken more naturally.

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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 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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