Last Wednesday saw the release of Dragons Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado, a sequel to their first book, Giants Beware! from back in 2012. The story follows the ongoing adventures of the bravest little girl in all the land, Claudette, as she seeks to avenge her father and slay the dragon that gobbled-up his legs (and sword) many years ago. It's a great all-ages read, packed with action and epic fantasy. Aguirre and Rosado were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to answer a few of my questions via e-mail.
Cameron Hatheway: How did you two first meet and start collaborating with each other in the medium of comics?
Rafael Rosado & Jorge Aguirre: We met at the Ohio State University in the Photography and Cinema department. We collaborated on some short films, then after about twenty years of being close friends, Rafael brought Jorge the idea for Giants Beware!, and Jorge developed it.
CH: Giants Beware! first came out in 2012, with the sequel Dragons Beware! coming out in May. What did you both learn from the first volume that you applied to the second?
JA: I learned about the relationship between script and art. With the first book, I would write a few lines of action and then realize that it would mean pages and pages of art. With the second book, I was a little more selective on the writing side of things. I think I'm thinking a little more art-panel centric when I write now.
RR: There was a relatively long gap between book 1 and book 2, as far as the actual work goes, and I don't do comics all the time (I'm a freelance storyboard artist). So whatever I learned, I kinda forgot. It takes a while to get back into it, but once I'm back in that mental space, the process is fairly easy for me. By the way, I'm working on book 3 right now, and the experience was the same.
CH: Jorge, Claudette is still full of vim and vigor going into Dragons, wanting to let her sword do the talking instead of non-violent tactics. How will Marie and Gaston help keep her head level this time around?
JA: In book 2, I would say Marie is more of a foil for Claudette's violent ways. And I think Claudette and Marie sort of meet in the middle. Gaston is sort of on a different path in this book. He wants to be more like Claudette, but that's not who he is really.
CH: Rafael, your art style brings the epic fantasy-action feel to the book, while simultaneously keeping the tone all-ages friendly. What's your process like approaching each page? It must be quite the balancing act.
RR: As I read the script I'm constantly doodling on the margins. Descriptions will conjure up images or a joke, and I put those down on paper quickly, since I find that those first ideas are usually the best. When I layout a page I just try to tell the story in the clearest way possible-that doesn't mean it has to be static and boring, but that the reader knows where the characters are, what they're feeling,etc. I guess it goes back to my training as a storyboard artist.
CH: Jorge, you planted some ingenious seeds back in Giants that are now being touched on in Dragons in a big way. Were two books always planned, or will this be a trilogy someday? What magical creature or monster should beware next?
JA: Rafael and I sort of mapped out 5 or 6 books, but we weren't sure if we'd even get to do a second book while we worked on Giants Beware! We're thrilled that we did get the opportunity to tell a second story. And, yes there will be a third book, and it will answer some questions, but it will leave some other questions still unanswered. There will be multiple villains in the third book. We can't say much more than that yet.
CH: Rafael, what monsters would you like to illustrate that we haven't seen yet? After giants, dragons, warlocks and gargoyles, what else is left?
RR: Well, we might see some sea monsters in the future. The truth is I'm usually more excited about designing the human characters in the books. I spend a lot of time researching and sketching medieval costumes before each book, trying to match the outfit to particular characters.
CH: Was there a scene or sequence in particular in Dragons that you really enjoyed illustrating?
RR: The big battle sequence at the end was the hardest, but probably my favorite to draw. It took a long time to figure out the choreography of the sequence, the individual set-pieces within it. I made sure that each character got its moment to shine, and that it all really built up to that giant, bombastic finale. That being said, I like the quiet, heartfelt moments with the kids just as much.
JA: Shoot that's such a great question. We don't live in a world where we're fighting dragons, but there are these moments, when you stick up for someone, or say something to a room of people in which you know everyone thinks you're wrong or crazy and you say what you believe anyway. Those moments are all small, but I've tried to be brave then.
RR: I think back to the day my wife and I brought our newborn daughter home, how terrifying that car ride back from the hospital was, knowing that this little person's life was in our hands now. Realizing that I would do anything in my power to protect and take care of her from that point on…I guess that's a form of bravery.
CH: Can you ever see your books adapted for animated films or video games? I can definitely see it being a big hit in both mediums.
RR & JA: We would love to see Claudette's world get animated and her story told in TV or films. Video games would be great too.
CH: What's been the biggest compliment you've received so far in regards to the series?
JA: At San Diego Comic-Con 2012, the incredible Scott McCloud came to the First Second booth. I'd never met him before, but I was in awe of the guy. I still am. He started paging through the book, admiring the art and then he said, "…And it's not over-written." Around the same time, my sister-in-law told me that her friend's son couldn't stop reading Giants Beware! in the car. And he threw up from car sickness. So, I really wanted to change the book's cover reviews to: "Not overwritten!" "So great it will make you throw up!"
RR: I got the chance to meet the great French cartoonist Christophe Blain at the Toronto Comic and Arts Festival last year, he's probably my favorite contemporary cartoonist. I gave him a copy of Giants Beware!, and as he flipped through the pages I could see how delighted he was by it, he kept doing these fist pumps like he was really digging it…that completely made my day/month/year! The other thing is that I've heard from many, many parents of young reluctant readers how Giants Beware! was the one book that got their kids to sit down and read for pleasure, how it helped them break through that reading barrier. That means a lot!
Dragons Beware! is now available. Special thanks to Aguirre and Rosado for taking time out of their busy schedules and Gina Gagliano for helping put this together.