Results tagged “primates”

It's been a while since I've talked about Primates, but the folks at Barnes & Noble Store #2107 and Gina at First Second have fixed that! So, if you're in the neighborhood, you can take a break from the Art Fair(s), skip the corn dogs and elephant ears, and come hear me enthuse about great apes.

The event is part of a nation-wide "Get Pop-Cultured Preview Weekend" held in anticipation of the San Diego Comicon. While I'm not the most pop-culture-y guy in the world, when it comes to being cool and heroic and stuff, you can't beat Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas.

I'll be working without a net (as in, no A/V) so this will be an interesting experiment in talking about comics with no pictures projected on a screen behind me! There are things to say and books to sign and fun to have. And B&N#2107 is a really nice store to hang out in. See you there?
First Second and I have created new teacher's guides for Feynman and Primates. They look great (that's because of First Second's fabulous designers) and are full of useful information about the books (I can take some credit for that part). 

We think teachers...and casual readers too...will find them useful. You can find them at the links above. 

And, thanks for reading these, and all my other stories. As Banned Books Week approaches I'm inclined to paraphrase the oft-banned George Orwell and say that all readers are equal, but some readers are more equal than others. Those are the ones who head towards the bibliographies I include in my books and then read even more about these scientists!

PRIMATES coverI've never been to the Decatur Book Festival but have heard it's great. So, time to go! 

I'll be talking about Primates (and other books too, if you ask me about them) on Sunday, September 1st, at 4pm on the Teen Stage. If you're in the neighborhood -- which is in the neighborhood of Atlanta -- I hope to see you there in a few days! 

For myself, I'm looking forward to talks by Virgina Morrell, Adam Rex, Caleb Scharf, and Brian Switek, and am sad that I won't be there for Sen. John Lewis' keynote and presentations by a bunch of other great authors. (I'll probably miss Frans de Waal's talk as well...but that's because my signing happens at the same time. So if nobody shows up I'll get to hear him, but I'll be sad for a different reason!)
I've received some notes from readers of Primates, wondering how much of what they read is really what our heroes said, and whether they did what we showed them doing.

So, here's an example of how we adapted dialogue from two letters written by Jane Goodall to her family, from the camp she called Chimpland, and how we wove parts of them into the story. You can find the originals and many more in Africa in My Blood, one of the books we recommend at the end of Primates.

Let's start with a paragraph from a letter dated (probably? Dale Peterson, Africa in My Blood's editor, isn't certain) September 19, 1960. The underlined text is in the original...the italics highlight what we used:

"It's quite cold up on the mountains at dawn, now. An icy wind sweeps over the peaks, & one longs for the clouds to be swept away from the sun. Then, at 12 when the sun is hottest, the wind stops altogether & one nearly dies of heat! I am rapidly becoming like a piece of tough brown leather. Even when I slip down a few yards of shale, I find the skin on hands, elbows, legs, etc. is not broken! It's rather a hoot! Today is my day for doing paper work -- the 1st for 2 weeks when I have not been out. It feels very strange to be staying in camp all day but there is such a lot to do."

Now, have a look at the dialogue on page 15 of Primates...

Primates 15, panels 1-3

Page 15, panel 1: I am rapidly becoming like a piece of tough brown leather.

Page 15, panel 2: Even when I slip down a few yards of shale, I find the skin on my  hands, elbows, legs, etc. is unbroken.

Page 15, panel 3: It's rather a hoot!

Why the changes? First, I broke sentences up and spread them across different panels to try and create a rhythm and an interplay between the words and the pictures that Maris would soon draw. We don't want her slipping in more than one panel, and we can't jam all those words into a single panel, either. And because space is always at a premium in comics, minor changes like going from "is not broken" (13 characters) to "is unbroken" (11 characters) get made. Over the course of a whole book, those extra characters add up!

Now, from another letter, this one dated September 25, 1960:

"Another part of my job is messing around in dung, under their nests, to see what they've been eating! What a life, eh! Sometimes it suddenly comes over me how strange it all is, really. Here I am, an ordinary person, with my staff of 3, a camp, unlimited funds, and doing what I have always wanted to do. Not stuck away in some horrid office, out of the sunlight, but out in the open, sleeping under the stars, climbing the mountains, watching the animals. Is it possible? Can it really be me? Or is it some strange hallucination? The only sad part is that it's so far away from all of you."

I broke that apart so it became...

Page 15, panel 5: Not stuck in some horrid office, but out in the open.

Page 15, panel 6: Climbing mountains...

Page 16: Watching animals.

Page 22, panel 3: Is it possible? Can it really be me, here, now?

Page 22, panel 4: Or is it some strange hallucination? ...No. It's me.

Primates 15, panels 4-6
Primates 16
Again, pacing is important here, because I know page 16 will be a full page illustration -- what comics creators call a "splash" -- and we want to use the fewest possible words with the greatest possible impact there.

(Notice that on page 16 Jane doesn't actually see any animals, but you, the reader, do see one: a human! All of a sudden you're in Jane's shoes; we hope that helped make you feel what she was feeling.)

On pages 17-21 we see her make her groundbreaking discovery, let her come back down off The Peak, and do some late-night writing in Chimpland. And you probably noticed that instead of removing words, I added some on page 22: "here, now?" and "...No, it's me." I did this to heighten the immediacy of what she's writing. No question that it's artistic license, but I hope you agree that it's in the right voice, and it highlights what she's feeling as she writes that letter.

Primates 21, bottom panels
What about those pesky pages 17-21, though? Did her discovery happen between the 19th and 25th of September? No. George Schaller visited the next month, in October, and she first recorded observing tool use in her journal on November 4 of that year. So I clearly shifted things around by a couple of months.

So, is the result non-fiction? Your answer will depend on how worried you are about the late-September to early-November 1960 chronology being in exactly the right order. But I would say yes...or at least it's 96% non-fiction (see page 24!), because it's what happened and what she said...edited for clarity and impact.

I could go on, but you get the idea...repeat this process scene after scene for two more scientists and 133 pages and you end up with Primates!

p.s. Because you probably wondered about this too, walking the path without clothes and carrying them in a plastic ("polyethylene") bag comes from letters postmarked February 6, 1961 and April 25, 1963.

p.p.s. An alert reader caught a very silly (and embarrassing) error on page 11, where we have Louis place the Gombe Preserve in Nigeria instead of Tanzania. Now even though there is in fact a Gombe in Nigeria, the chances of Leakey making this mistake are small. As for me, I didn't do it to save space, because that would just be dumb...and the mistake is plenty dumb enough! We'll try to get that fixed in a future edition.

p.p.p.s. (added September 24, 2013) Enough folks have asked "What did Biruté sit on?!" that, even though it's in the visuals, I now think I probably should have punctuated the scene with a caption to bring it home: This comes from pages 93 and 102 of Dr. Galdikas's book Reflections of Eden, where a forestry official (Mr. Yusuran) warns her against sitting on any log, since they burn. Biruté G. thinks he's making a confused reference to the biblical story of the burning bush, He was being literal about the effects of the sap, and she pays for the error with "a large, black area on my behind [that] looked as though it had been burnt to a crisp, like the skin of an overtoasted marshmallow."


Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas is out, and Maris and I would like to know what you think. So...please add your comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!
Hey, wow. Good to see you! It's been what, four years, hasn't it? Yes, yes it has. And you haven't changed a bit, Heroes Convention. No, really, I mean it. Your guest list is still fantastic, your organizers still friendly and professional, and you're still in Charlotte, which is a pretty nifty town.

So yeah, I'll be there. You can find me at table AA-907, right next to Maris Wicks (@mariswicks) as we reprise our historic meet-up just before she started drawing Primates. (We ate lots of brunch, and talked a lot about gorillas and chimps and orangutans.) And now...well, now that book is not only drawn and colored and edited, but it's printed as well. How about we debut it at the show? 

Yes, let's!

I hope you'll come by and pick up a copy. We'll both have other books too, just in case you want a little more science and fun in your life.
PRIMATES coverPrimates. It's a book, it's coming out soon, and we're excited about it.

We = Maris and me, and we're two people who can't wait to talk about this thing we made together. And we may even do some of that talking together, at least once.

So...see below for dates and places so you can plan your social calendar accordingly. (All dates are 2013, in case you wondered.) Event times to be determined, so check back here or at the various locations where we're scheduled to appear for updates. We hope to see you soon!

Charlotte, NC
June 7-9, pretty much all day/all days!

Heroes Con

The book's official release date is June 11, but this is the launch event and debutante ball for the book, all rolled into one. Maris will be in chiffon, I'll be sporting a powder blue tux. Or maybe she'll be wearing a t-shirt and jeans and I will too. (Different shirts, different jeans, I promise.) You'll have to come to the show and find out.

Ann Arbor, MI
June 12, 6-7:30pm

Jim, teaching a workshop at the fabulous Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair. This is for 9-18 year olds, and you can sign up at the link. We'll talk about Primates, of course, but mostly we'll talk about making comics.

Brookline, MA
June 13, 7pm

Brookline Booksmith

Maris, being awesome at a local bookstore.

Ann Arbor, MI
June 15, 7pm
Vault of Midnight

Jim, trying to be as awesome as Maris. Maybe we'll play Bananagrams. The Vault is cool that way.

Somerville, MA
June 15, 11am-3pm
Hub Comics

Maris, still awesome, still local.

Lansing, MI
June 18, 7pm
Schuler's Books and Music's Café Scientifique

Jim, and maybe a guest primatologist! (Probably not Dr. Goodall or Dr. Galdikas, though.)

Ann Arbor, MI
June 22, 10am-6pm
Kids Read Comics

Come to the library! Meet comic artists and writers! Again, this won't be 100% about Primates, or even 10% about me. But it will be fun!

Ann Arbor, MI
June 25, 7pm
Nicola's Books

Jim again, talking more about Primates. I'll make sure it's different from what we'll do (have done!) at the Vault, so you can attend both without fear of being bored. Unless people really liked playing Bananagrams, in which case maybe we can do that again...

Decatur, GA
September 1, 4pm
Decatur Book Festival

Primates! In Georgia. So many other great authors too -- I'm excited to hear Virginia Morrell and Brian Switek talk, among others... You should come!

New York, NY
October 13, noon
New York Comic Con

The World Science Festival is sponsoring this one, and wow, what a line-up: Dominic Walliman (@DominicWalliman) and Charles Soule (@CharlesSoule) and me, moderated by Jonathan Coulton (@jonathancoulton). Did I say wow already? If!

Ann Arbor, MI
November 13, 5:30pm
Institute for the Humanities

Jim again, but this time with John Mitani, who's the real thing: a primatologist. Looking forward to this because I know I'll learn a lot.

You probably didn't know that you need to go to Maris' blog right now and see some great sketches (am I wearing argyle socks there?!) and read her story about signing on to do Primates.

Like I said, you probably didn't know. But now you do. So, all set? Great. Thanks. That's it for today.

Primates, for reals!

The book really, really exists, and you can verify it via show and tell at the First Second blog, thanks to Gina G! My favorite quote:

Can you believe that one of the people at our parent company had never heard of the Barrel of Monkeys toys that our designer, Colleen AF Venable, was modeling these on? We had to explain.
She's referring to the back cover, which is So Very Fine. Click that link and you'll agree!

Primates page proofs (smaller)
In case you wondered, here's how I spent last weekend. Primates, with art by Maris Wicks. Coming in 2013. It's real! I'm excited. (And now, many errors, many of them mine, will not appear in the book. Thank you Jill, Adin, and Calista!)


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