When I first heard that Random House, one of the big five publishers, was launching a children’s graphic novel imprint, I was overjoyed. I LOVE children’s graphic novels and the artistry and creativity that goes into producing them. Some of my favorite graphic novels are categorized as children’s—Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen, Hildafolk by Luke Pearson, Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez, and Sanity and Tallulah by Molly Brooks. I knew that anything that Random House Graphic could publish would be incredible and taking a look at the variety of their launch titles confirms it. Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger is one of their inaugural titles, and it is truly fabulous, a perfect book for all ages. Read on for an interview with Laura and be sure to get a copy at your local bookstore or library.
BUG BOYS is one of the launch titles of the new graphic novel imprint, Random House Graphic. Can you talk about that experience?
This was my first time working with a publisher of this size, and being a launch title was a fun bonus. The biggest change from working with a smaller press is my book has a “team” of editor, designer, and marketer, rather than just one small press publisher doing it all. This means a lot more care can be taken at each step of production, and when the book comes out, it has the resources and machinery of a big publisher to help get the book into the hands of readers. This isn’t to say small press is bad, there are so many smaller presses making fantastic books. If you love the graphic novel section of your bookstore, try to visit your local zine fair or small press comics show! You will find so many fun and strange books.
I have to admit, I’m not the biggest bug person but I adored reading about our two main beetles. What made you decide to write about bugs?
Bugs own. I designed the Bug Boys as a challenge to myself—could I make something as un-cute as beetles into cute cartoon characters. Now that I had these characters designed, what kind of stories could I tell with them? What would being a bug really be like? All our ecosystems depend on insects and humans couldn’t live on earth without them. To feel disgust or fear of bugs is like fearing the earth itself.
The art style is so unique—both fun and cute. Did you always know how you wanted to portray Rhino-B, Stag-B, and their other bug friends?
I think you can see from issue to issue I experiment a bit with how to draw the characters. Sometimes one character will have a certain detail, sometimes they won’t. I allow myself to tinker with the character designs as my drawing style changes over time. I want Bug Boys to be a project that I allow to evolve, both so I can experiment as an artist and so the comic doesn’t get stale.
The graphic novel is broken up into vignettes about Rhino-B and Stag-B’s adventures. Why did you choose to tell the story in small bits rather than one major arc?
I originally self-published Bug Boys as a series of zines. The length of the stories was determined by how complicated a story I wanted to draw, as well as my ability to physically compile all the books myself. The more pages a zine has, the more complicated and expensive it is to produce. Drawing a story longer than 60 pages would either mean switching distribution methods or finding a publisher. I wanted to start small and work my way up to more complicated stories.
There are a lot of wonderfully unexpected moments in this book, such as finding out that bugs are envoys of literature and that they translate ‘giant’ books for bug reading. How do you think these moments might help endear bugs to readers?
I always want to surprise readers a little bit. We all know how a kid’s book is supposed to feel—cozy and sweet— but what can I do to hit a slightly different note? What would a bug say here? It’s my hope that humanizing bugs and making them cute and fun will make readers love bugs. But really, I don’t think an animal should have to resemble a human to be lovable. As Bug Boys evolves, I hope to include more the weird and strange and well as the cute and cozy.
Laura Knetzger graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2012. She has worked as a storyboard artist for Adventure Time. She lives in Seattle and makes comics about feelings. You can find her online at lauraknetzger.com or @LauraKnetzger.