The Ins And Outs Of The Graphic Novel: Calista Brill, Judy Hansen and Andrew Arnold in Conversation About Graphic Novels, From Concept to Published Book

by K. Marcus

Judy Hansen of the Hansen Literary Management, LLC, a literary agent specializing in graphic novels, strongly recommends that “if you want to learn how to create graphic novels and comics, both known as ‘sequential art’, the best resources to begin with are:”

Understanding Comics by Scott Mcloud

Making Comics by Scott Mcloud

Comics and Sequential Art by Wil Eisner

Then move on to “cutting edge” graphic novels and focus on their lettering and ballooning:

Amelia Rules! (series) and The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley to look at paneling, ballooning & lettering and Hereville (series) by Barry Deutsch to see paneling & ballooning. And continue to read, read, read. Calista Brill, senior editor at First Second Books, added, “Sometimes people think of comics as ‘books light’ but they are very sophisticated and kids who read comics learn to pick up on these flourishes.”

Andrew Arnold, designer at Roaring Brook Press/FSG and a comics/graphic novel author/illustrator has “learned to never underestimate how smart kids are.”

Judy Hansen went on to say that “kids comics have commercial viability and have a great possibility for ancillary rights development.”

But graphic novels aren’t only for children. There is a market for adults as well. In both age groups, Calista Brill said, “the text and art should combine to make something greater than itself.” “A panel in a comic book doesn’t want to be perfect, something should be missing so it then directs you to the next panel.” The author/illustrator needs to think about text placement and how that leads the reader through the story.

Before submitting, be sure to have the whole manuscript written first. The process of creating a manuscript seems to be as varied as the authors/illustrators themselves. Andrew Arnold suggests, “have patience and a character you really care about.”   Layout your manuscript first in thumbnail sketches and only after editing, create the final art. The colorist can be found by the publisher, the author/illustrator or the author/illustrator may do it themselves.

It is very important to find an agent that is experienced and understands graphic novels. Most publishers will not take unsolicited manuscripts though non-traditional or indie publishers may.

Judy Hansen would like to see, “really good adventure stories with real character development and contemporary stories with a strong voice.”

And Calista Brill wants “work that feels personal and communicates with the reader in an authentic way.”

For your reading and research pleasure:

Nursery Rhyme Comics by Various Authors and Chris Duffy

The Zoo Box Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke

Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion by Dominique Roques and Alexis Dormal


By James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, Alexis Frederick-Frost

Advenures in Cartooning (series)

Adventures in Cartooning – Characters in Action


The Glorkian Warrior by James Kochalka

The Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Sculptor by Scott McLoud


By Raina Telgemeier





Relish by Lucy Knisley

Amulet (series) by Kazu Kibuishi

El Deafo by Cece Bell


Annie Sullivan and the trials of Hellen Keller by Joseph Lambert

Feynman by Ottaviani & Myrick

Thoreau at Walden by Jon Porcellino

Stitches by David Small

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Also books by:

Gene Yang

Emily Carroll


Kimberly Marcus is a children’s author currently working on a picture book about a super squirrel.

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