In the November 9 issue of the UK newspaper The Jewish Telegram, they had a nice article about me and my work. You can see it as it appeared on the page in pdf form here, or read the text of the article below. Many thanks to writer Mike Cohen!
11-year-old Mirka is a big draw for cartoonist Barry
BATMAN, Superman, Spider-Man move over, there’s a new superhero in town — an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl!
Portland-based author Barry Deutsch has created Mirka who has starred in two Hereville comic books.
Barry introduced the world to Mirka in How Mirka Got Her Sword and has followed it with second book, How Mirka Met a Meteorite.
But he revealed that his hero originally began life as a male character.
“Mirka started with the idea of a medieval fairytale hero, who was having trouble with his dragon fighting because, in his country, Jews weren’t allowed to carry swords,” the 44-year-old explained.
“As usually happens to ideas, time produces radical changes, and by the time the girl-friendly comics site Girlamatic asked me to submit something, the idea of an 11-year-old Orthodox girl’s quest for a sword was right there.”
But why did Barry make his heroine Orthodox?
“I’ve always enjoyed comics that use culturally specific settings — Usagi Yojimno and Love and Rockets are two of my favourites,” he said.
“I think comics are an especially good medium for that, because instead of having to explain, comics can simply embed the reader in a new culture.
“It’s not a lecture, it’s not ‘educational’, it’s just there, inseparable from the characters’ lives.
“So I was eager to try that out, and setting Hereville in an Orthodox Jewish community gave me a reason to research my own Jewish heritage.”
Barry describes the Orthodoxy as a “little important to the storyline” adding that “it is mainly important to the setting and to the main character. It’s an irremovable part of who Mirka is”.
And the Hereville books are aimed at a unique audience — Barry.
“I write and draw the comics that I want to read,” he laughed.
“But I certainly intend Hereville to be read by a general readership. Anyone who enjoys a good adventure story with an unusual protagonist can enjoy
Barry is unmarried, but lives in a semi-communal house, which he co-owns with his partners Sarah and Charles, who he has lived with since the late 1980s.
“There are nine of us altogether, including two lovely smart girls, aged seven and nine, who are two of my best friends.
“We watch Doctor Who together and discuss escape plans should the Weeping Angels suddenly attack.
“They have definitely been an influence on Mirka.”
Barry is working on the third Mirka book and has at least another two planned after that.
He said: “I love the character and the setting, and as long as I have stories that seem fresh and worth telling, and as long as the market keeps on irrationally supporting me rather than making me acquire a real job, there will be more Hereville books.”
Barry didn’t have high hopes for the Hereville series.
“Weird concept, weird colour scheme, unknown creator — I was expecting it to flop like a fish, frankly,” he told me.
Barry describes himself as “Jewish and secular”, adding:
“My parents raised me a reform Jew; we went to synagogue only on big holidays, and I barely attended at all after my barmitzvah.
“My parents became much more religious after I had moved out. I’m still extremely secular in my life, and I identify as a Jewish atheist.
“One of the benefits of working on Hereville is that it gives me a way to connect to Judaism in my everyday life that I’d probably lack otherwise.”
Barry became a comic book fans before he could actually read.
He said: “My parents had the original art to a Sunday page of Walt Kelly’s ‘Pogo’ on their wall, and I’d stare at this one page, rereading it hundreds of times.
“Professionally, I had been doing political cartoons for many years without making much money at it.
“I did Hereville as a webcomic for fun and, when I had about 60 pages done, I self-published a booklet of it and sold it at a local convention in Portland, Oregon.
“Next to me at the convention was Scott McCloud, who is a pretty famous cartoonist. His agent came by his table and picked up a copy of Hereville.
“A week later I had an agent and three months after that, a book deal. It was head-spinning.”
Barry, who cites Faith Erin Hicks’ Superhero Girl as one of his recent favourites, says his home town is “great for Jews”. He said: “It’s not like the northeast of America, where you can’t go anywhere without bumping into a bunch of other Jews, but there are a group of us here and there are thriving synagogues and schools.
“I haven’t encountered any open antisemitism here at all.”
Barry had never planned on making a career out of comic books. He said he was “committed to becoming a vet until age 12 or so, when I took my first
biology class that asked me to dissect something.
“It turns out that being an animal doctor is actually fairly disgusting — which you think I would have picked up from reading James Herriot.
“Ever since that traumatic event I’ve wanted to be a cartoonist.”
Barry is working on the third Hereville story — which, he revealed, involves a magic fish.
He has also contributed a short story to an anthology of feminist comics. Barry’s story in The Big Feminist But is called How To Make A Man Out Of Tin Foil and is set in a Jewish summer camp.
You can read previews of both Hereville books here, and buy copies here.
From the Jewish Journal’s article on “Books that make perfect Chanukah gifts“:
Those looking for a gift for kids who like comics and adventure stories can’t go wrong with “Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite” (Amulet) by author/illustrator Barry Deutsch. This highly anticipated sequel to the 2010 Sydney Taylor Award-winning graphic novel has nothing to do with the holiday of Chanukah, but it would certainly make a fabulous gift. [...]
Kids will love the zany plot and the brilliance of the art that proves superior at conveying typical childhood emotions with great empathy. What a treat to have Mirka back! Parents and relatives of 9- to 12-year-olds of any denomination who like comics, reading or action surely won’t go wrong by picking up the first two volumes of this witty and popular new series for middle-grade readers.
Thank you, Lisa Silverman!
Although I always find it a bit odd that Hereville is said to be for “9- to 12-year-olds,” since I’m trying to create an adventure comic book that I’d enjoy were I the reader. Apparently I’m very immature for someone in his forties. (Not exactly news).
You can find information about buying both Hereville books here.
Hey, folks. What with Chanukah and that other holiday coming up soon, I wanted to let you know that I’m selling copies of Hereville. Go here for all the details, or if you’d rather not see the details, you can go directly to my Big Cartel page.
Of course, you can also buy unsigned copies from all the usual booksellers.
(Warning: This post contains some content raged “PG,” and maybe even “PG-13,” including mentioning b**bs and a couple of uses of the F word. Also, in case any readers don’t know this word, “cosplay” means, basically, going to a convention dressed up as a character, usually a character from genre fiction. “Cosplayers” are those who “cosplay.”)
1) You’re embarrassing us, Tony.
Just for the record, as a professional comic book creator, a lifelong comics fan, and someone who attends comic book conventions, I am happy to be sharing a subculture with cosplayers. Cosplayers don’t have to prove they are “true nerds.” They don’t need admission to the club, because they’re already in it.
I’m also not embarrassed to be sharing my subculture with what Tony Harris calls “a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls. Some Virgins, ALL unconfident when it comes to girls…” I don’t agree they’re the norm, but yeah, there are some guys like that at cons. They’ve got problems to overcome, but who doesn’t? Many of them are really nice, albeit socially clumsy.
But do you know who I AM embarrassed to share my subculture with? Tony Harris. Because he wrote this.
Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY PATHETIC. But we are onto you. Some of us are aware that you are ever so average on an everyday basis. But you have a couple of things going your way. You are willing to become almost completely Naked in public, and yer either skinny( Well, some or most of you, THINK you are ) or you have Big Boobies. Notice I didnt say GREAT Boobies? You are what I refer to as “CON-HOT”.
It is humiliating for me to read that and realize that I’m sharing a profession and a nerd culture with the author.
And unfortunately, Tony Harris doesn’t stand alone.
2) Which comic book culture do you want to be part of?
There’s the comic book culture in which women (and especially female cosplayers) are objects of suspicion. “What the hell are you doing here? Are you a real nerd or just pretending? Here, let me quiz you on Star Trek.” There’s the comic book culture in which a major artist posts in his public Facebook area that he finds most female cosplayers to be “quasi-Pretty-NOT-hot” and to have less than “great” “boobies,” and makes it clear that as a “rule” he considers most female cosplayers to be intruders in his space.
Or there’s the comic book culture in which we react to someone of either sex dressing up by saying “wow! You look really neat!” A culture that welcomes new people and assumes they belong there.
We can hang up a sign that says “Private, boys only, keep out!” A culture in which only the hardiest women will show their faces, because being treated like a suspicious outsider simply isn’t fun.
Or we can hang up a sign that says “We love our toys, and maybe you will too! Come in and share them!” A culture in which cosplayers keep on attending cons and making them more colorful and interesting for everyone. A culture in which everyone who loves nerd culture – even if they don’t love it in the exact way Tony Harris believes is the One Correct Way – can feel welcome.
Why would any thinking person want to live in the former culture, when the latter culture is an option?
3) A bit of fisking.
In a follow up comment, Tony Harris wrote:
So I am a Misogynist? Why?
Oh, has this not been made clear? Well, then, let me explain.
I’m not going to say you’re a misogynist, because I don’t know you, and I’m sure there are sides to you other than the ugly side you showed us yesterday. But I will say that your rant was very misogynistic.
Your rant was misogynistic because of the over-the-top display of bitter fury towards women you disapprove of; because of the sneering at women’s bodies and breasts that you deem insufficiently “GREAT” for your refined tastes; and because it was yet another attempt by a male nerd to play gatekeeper and declare which women are and aren’t True Nerds.
Because I frown upon Posers who are sad, needy fakers who use up all my air at Cons?
They’re not “sad, needy fakes.” They’re people having a good time while at a comic book convention, and for some reason that makes you furious.
And the air? Not yours. Everyone gets a share. (Jesus Christ, Tony, get a fucking grip.)
Sorry, while you Cos”Play” Im actually at work. Thats my office. Fuck you.
Hey, Tony, that’s my office too. So, speaking as an officemate, can I beg you to knock it the fuck off? Those people you’re sneering at are customers. Without them, neither of us will make a living.
Sure, most of the cosplayers aren’t there to buy my comics (or yours). But most of everyone at a con isn’t there to buy my comic (or yours). There are approximately a billion zillion comics available to buy at a con, and most fans aren’t going to buy more than a handful. We set up “office” for the chance to sift through thousands of fans to find the tiny percent who are looking for our stuff.
By the way, cosplay is one of the very few things at comic book cons that little kids can enjoy. That’s my future customer base, officemate, so please don’t dis something that’s actually making comic book conventions fun for them.
I actually dont hate women, I dont fear them either. Nor do I mistrust them. I do not portray or Objectify half naked women in my work. I never have. I have always been VERY vocal about my dislike of that practice, and that my view is and has been that T&A in comics is a Pox.
I don’t think I agree that T&A is a pox, but I think the way that T&A predominates in comics is a pox. So we’re not far apart on that.
More importantly, it’s great that you’re working to avoid misogyny in your comics. Really, it is. (I work at the same thing in my comics). I also think it’s great that you love and respect your mom, your wife, and your daughters, as I saw you mention in another Facebook comment. However, you seem to think that these things are inoculations – that because you’ve created some non-misogynistic comics, and you love the women in your life, that means that you’re immune from ever saying anything misogynistic, and anyone criticizing your words for sexism must be wrong.
That’s not how it works, dude.
If you write a post saying that five times five is ten, then that’s wrong. And if a dozen people point out to you that “5×5=10″ is wrong, it makes no sense to defend it by saying “but look at all these other times when I’ve done the math correctly!” Yes, it’s great that you did the math correctly all those other times. But that doesn’t magically mean that you didn’t mess up this time.
It would be better if you worked on understanding why everyone’s saying you screwed up, and learning not to screw up that way again, rather than just going on and on about how it’s completely unfair of us to say that “5×5=10″ is wrong, don’t we even remember that time you said four times six is twenty-four?
Just saw this comic drawn by sailorswayze on tumblr, and couldn’t resist including it here:
UPDATE 2: John Scalzi has an explanation for this bizarre phenomenon.
What: Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite book premiere.
When: Thursday, November 15, 7:30pm.
Where: Powell’s on Hawthorne, Portland, Oregon
For those of you in or near Portland, Oregon, please come join me at Powell’s on Hawthorne, 7:30pm on Thursday.
I’ll be there to sign books, answer questions, and show a slideshow (including a super-cool animated film of my drawing process). There will be a reading from one of the Hereville books. For the first time ever at a Hereville event, long-suffering Hereville colorist Jake Richmond will on hand to answer questions and sign books.
About Hereville: How Mirka Met A Meteorite
Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite is a sequel to Barry Deutsch’s cult hit kid’s graphic novel (is there such a thing as a cult kid’s graphic novel) about “yet another monster-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish Girl.” It’s published by Abrams Books, through its Amulet imprint, and features writing and art by Barry Deutsch and colors by Jake Richmond.
Story: Mirka thinks she’s ready to be a sword-fighting hero – but she’s totally unprepared for having to save the town from a meteorite strike! But things get even more complex when the meteorite is turned into an exact duplicate of Mirka – except “stronger, faster and prettier,” as the Meteorite would be the first to say. Action and adventure gets mixed with an identity crisis turned to flesh, and Mirka must not only be brave but also make a leap into empathy to make things come out right.
Kirkus (starred review):
Watching Mirka fight the seemingly perfect version of herself is riveting. Deutsch has created a wonderful world in Mirka’s insulated Orthodox village and continues to capture it adroitly—though he has left himself enough room to blast Mirka out to space without readers batting an eye. Mirka is unflinchingly likable because she is so tempestuous and inexact, and really, who can’t relate to that?
This truly clever series is lots of fun.
School Library Journal (starred review):
The endlessly creative panel and perspective work adds visual interest and gives experienced graphic-novel readers plenty to savor. A well-crafted addition to a truly distinctive series.
Deutsch again melds fantasy, realism, and a whopping dose of imagination, incorporating both the particularities of traditional Judaism and the universal foibles of a girl who dreams big but forgets to plan ahead.
Comics Worth Reading:
Deutsch has become even more accomplished in his story construction, clearly and cleverly setting up later plot points through small, funny scenes early on. His facility with expression continues to be a high point, with Mirka’s reactions, and those around her, entertaining and involving.
Deutsch continues his delightful and unique series featuring a modern Orthodox Jewish girl who is often bolder and braver than most 11-year-olds (boy or girl) might be…. Deutsch is a masterful storyteller.
…Magical, scary, funny and deeply emotional. Here is a book that is asking your children ‘what sort of person do you want to be?’ In a culture so caught up with cheap reality television and tabloid sensation, this is a little reassuring voice in the crowd. Its central message is all about being the better version of yourself, and perhaps not in the way we expect.
If you have a young daughter into which you’d like to instill a deep and profound love of graphic novels you could do worse than slipping How Mirka Met a Meteorite into their stocking this Christmas.
About the Author
Cartoonist Barry Deutsch lives in Portland, Oregon, in a bright blue house with bubble-gum pink trim. His 2010 graphic novel Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword was the first graphic novel ever to win the prestigious Sydney Taylor Award, and was also nominated for Eisner, Harvey, Ignatz, and Nebula awards. Deutsch won the national Charles M. Schulz Award for best college cartoonist in 2000 and was nominated for Comic-Con’s Russ Manning Award for Promising Newcomer in 2008. He is currently working on a third Hereville graphic novel.
Barry speaks at a previous Powells event.
Portland Opera has a delightful habit of inviting a bunch of Portland-area cartoonists, including me, to come watch dress rehearsals and post drawings of what we see. So on Monday (which was my birthday, so that worked out nicely), I got to see their imported-from-NYC production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. This was a modernist production, which meant 1930s costumes, minimalist sets, a gray and black and white color scheme, and lots of surprisingly explicit gropes during the sexy bits.
So here’s what I drew. You can click on any of these pictures to see them embiggified.
First, some stuff I drew in my sketchbook while I was watching the dress rehearsal:
Second, the cast of Peanuts perform Don Giovanni:
And finally, an illustration I did. Since the costumes for this production mostly seemed to be from the 1930s, I tried to draw this in the style of a cartoonist from the 1930s.
If you want to see what other cartoonists did, the best bet is to follow the #pdxgiovanni hashtag on Twitter. But here are some links (in no particular order):
Becky Hawkins (who drew me, by the way! Also herself and Lucy Bellwood.)
Joelle Jones  
That’s the ones I could find as of this moment, but I’m sure there will be more at that #pdxgiovanni hashtag.
Oh, I nearly forgot! If you’re in Portland and want to see the show, “Don Giovanni” will be playing Nov. 2, 4, 8 and 10 at the Keller Auditorium. You can get half-price tickets for the Thursday, Nov. 8 performance at this link if you use the password MOZART.
And finally, in case you want to check ‘em out, links to my past Portland Opera posts: Candide | L’heure espagnole and L’enfant et les sortilèges | Turandot | Hansel and Gretel
I’ve been asked by poet and my “Alas” co-blogger Richard Jeffrey Newman to participate in a Blog Hop in order to introduce new authors to new readers. If you’ve come here from the link posted on Richard’s blog, welcome! If you’re a regular reader of mine or came upon my blog by chance, this is an opportunity for you to get know something about my new graphic novel, and to check out some writers and cartoonists who might be new to you by following the links at the end of the post. They are all fine creators whose work I would highly recommend. Again, special thanks to Richard Newman, from whom I swiped most of the text in this intro paragraph.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Great Read
Q: What is the
working title of your book?
A: Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite. It’s a new book just hitting stores (including online stores like Amazon) this week.
Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: This is a sequel to my earlier book, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. So I already knew most of the characters and the setting before I began work on this book. The books are about Mirka, who I describe as “yet another monster-fighting Orthodox Jewish 11-year-old girl.” For this book’s story, I did a variation on the old “evil twin” storyline, although in this case the twin isn’t evil so much as self-centered. The idea was to confront Mirka with someone who is in many ways her idealized version of herself – strong, fast, not worrying about what others think of her — and to let the story grow from there.
Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: All-ages fantasy. Also, I should mention that it’s a “graphic novel,” aka a comic book.
Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
A: Geez. You know, I’ve never tried to answer this question before. If I could use a time machine, so I could hire kid actors who have since grown up, I might cast Abigail Breslin as Mirka, or maybe Chloe Moretz. Or the 11-year-old Kirsten Dunst. I have no idea if any of these kid actors are Jewish, though. To play the grown-ups, my fantasy cast might be Jennifer Jason Leigh or maybe Dianne Wiest to play the Witch, Stephen Fry or John Lithgow to play the Troll, and Allison Janney to play Fruma.
Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A: Eleven-year-old wanna-be hero Mirka saves her town from a meteorite, but finds herself stuck with an identical twin who’s better at everything than she is.
Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: This book is published by Abrams. My agent is Judy Hanson.
Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: Writing the script for the comic took me three months, or eight months, depending on if you count I spent writing stories that ultimately were not used. Then it took me nine or ten months to draw it.
Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: In their review of this book, Horn Book compared it to Raina Telgemeier’s books Smile and Drama and Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost. I am very happy to be listed in company like that!
Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
A: All the Hereville books are, in part, heavily disguised autobiographies. The first Hereville book was about wanting to be a cartoonist but not knowing how to get started. This book, the second one, is about starting to realize your ambitions but realizing that it’s never as simple or satisfying as you’ve imagined.
Q: What else about your book might piqué the reader’s interest?
A: I think a lot of people are initially tickled by the concept of a fantasy-adventure novel in which the main character is an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl being raised in an Orthodox community. But what makes it worth reading, I hope, is that the Judaism in the books isn’t a gimmick or exoticized; it’s the setting in which the characters’ live their lives. I try and present the cultural aspects in as non-exotic and matter-of-fact a way as I can, and I think readers appreciate that.
Also, there are some exciting action sequences. Or I hope they’re exciting, anyway.
Here are the writers and cartoonists whose work you can check out next:
Watch out for their “Blog Hop” interviews on November 7th.
Yesterday (October 20) was 24 Hour Comics Day!
What’s a 24 Hour Comic, you ask? It’s an invention of Scott McCloud’s:
To create a complete 24 page comic book in 24 continuous hours.
That means everything: Story, finished art, lettering, color (if applicable), paste-up, everything. Once pen hits paper, the clock starts ticking. 24 hours later, the pen lifts off the paper, never to descend again. Even proofreading has to occur in the 24 hour period. (Computer-generated comics are fine of course, same principles apply).
Although one can do a 24-hour comic any day of the year, it’s more fun to do it in tandem, hence 24 Hour Comics Day. Yesterday, at the studio where I work, myself, Jake Richmond, Ben Lehman, and Alan Ward all did 24 hour comics.
So here’s mine. It’s silly and not enormously well written or drawn, but perhaps you’ll enjoy it anyway. And it not, at least it won’t take more than a few minutes to read.
Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite’s release date is November 1, but it seems that some copies are showing up early… I heard on twitter yesterday that someone had bought one at a store. Very neat!
But in the meantime, I got this nice email early this month:
My name is Ellen Gustafson, and I am currently a student working towards a master’s degree in School Library Media at the University of Michigan. For a class assignment, I have been asked to create a video book trailer for a book of middle school or young adult fiction–I would love to create a book trailer for Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword.
I could not say “YES” loudly enough! So here is Ellen Gustafson’s very cool trailer for the first Hereville book. Thanks, Ellen!