John Jennings—Hugo Award winner, New York Times bestselling author, curator, scholar, and Artist—is keenly aware that in adapting novels for the graphic format, his decisions turn what has only been imagined into facts drawn on the page. In this conversation with critic, translator, and teacher of a creative course on the art of making comics, Jean-Christophe Cloutier, Jennings explores how he makes those decisions that range from the design of endpapers to selecting a character’s skin tone with the ultimate aim of championing Black culture and Black comics. Given that Jennings has just entered the Marvel Universe with the debut of Silver Surfer: Ghost Light, the timing is right to reflect on the pressures and pleasures of adapting beloved stories for a contemporary audience. Jennings is both teacher and student of comics’ powerful lessons, and lucky for listeners, his course comes with an illustrated syllabus, aka illabus. In the podcast’s first-ever episode about graphic novels, Jennings and Cloutier talk comic book history, the power of collaboration, and the importance of long showers.
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View a transcript of the episode here.
Mentioned by in this Episode
By John Jennings:
- Black Kirby: In Search of the MotherBoxx Connection, John Jennings and Stacey Robinson (2015)
- The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art, edited by Frances Gateward and John Jennings (2016)
- Kindred, Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings (2018)
- Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings (2021)
- After the Rain, Nnedi Okorafor, adapted by John Jennings and David Brame (2021)
- Box of Bones: Book One, Ayize Jama Everett and John Jennings (2021)
- Silver Surfer: Ghost Light, John Jennings and Valentine De Landro (2023)
- Megascope, curated by John Jennings
- Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Scott McCloud (1993)
- Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art, Roger Sabin (1996)
- Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists, Hillary L. Chute (2014)
Maus, Art Spiegelman (1980-1991; complete version 1996)
- Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination, The Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture (2015-2016)
- Barry Lyndon, dir. Stanley Kubrick (1975)
- The Silver Surfer: And Who Shall Mourn for Him? Stan Lee, Howard Purcell, et al. (1969)
- Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, Chris Claremont and Al Milgrom (1984-1985)
- The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay (2011)
- “Red Dirt Witch,” in How Long ’til Black Future Month? N.K. Jemisen (2018)
To learn more about the comic artists Jennings discusses, including Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Winsor McCay, Frank Miller, and Charles Schulz, see Jeremy Dauber’s American Comics: A History (2021) and Thierry Smolderen’s The Origins of Comics (2014).