Review Fix chats with Jeffrey Ebbeler about his ‘A Giant Mess’ comic, detailing its creative process and so much more.
About A Giant Mess (I Like to Read® Comics): Molly doesn’t want to clean her room; she wants to play. Before Molly can argue with her mom, they hear BOOM! BOOM! A giant toddler is on the loose and wants to play . . . with the whole town! In this easy reader comic, Jeffrey Ebbeler has created an entertaining tale about cleaning up after yourself. The I Like to Read® Comics series will continue this fall with Jeffrey Ebbeler’s Kraken Me Up.
Review Fix: How did you know a career in comics/graphic novels was for you?
Jeffrey Ebbeler: Comics were the first art that inspired me as a kid. Whether it was strips like Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbs or books like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. I have been making my own comic characters since I was little. When I was in college some of my favorite comic illustrators including Jon J Muth and Dave McKean began illustrating children’s picture books. Their work introduced me to the variety of amazing illustrators making picture book and inspired me to pursue a career as a children’s book illustrator.
I have been illustrating picture books for about 15 years now, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to be a writer until a few years ago. My first chance to write came when I was hired to do a monthly comic series called Nestor’s Dock for Ask which is a kids science and nature magazine. It has been a great exercise in creative writing to come up with funny comics about sometimes dry subjects, and it gave me the confidence to write my own books.
Review Fix: Who inspires you creatively?
Ebbeler: All of my books are based on things that I see my kids doing or things that I remember from my childhood. I try to take those moments of real life and use them as the seeds for fantasy stories. My current book, Kraken Me Up, is based on my memories of growing up on a farm and taking my animals to the county fair for judging. I wondered what it would be like if one of the kids brought her pet kraken to the fair.
I wanted to think of a way to have the kraken communicate without talking. I thought back to when I was a shy little kid and how I drew funny cartoons to make my friends laugh. Even though the kraken is big and scary, he is also shy and nervous. After he is frightened by the panicking crowd and sprays them with squid ink. He uses the ink to draw funny pictures to make them all laugh.
I am big fan of comics and picture books and I have ever growing collection. I like so many different styles but some of my favorite comic artists are Chris Ware, Kent Williams, Jeff Smith, and Rafael Rosado. Some of my favorite picture book illustrators are Dan Santat, Chris Van Dusen, Adam Rex, and Tony DiTerlizzi.
Review Fix: How are your comics/graphic novels different or special?
Ebbeler: My first comic book A Giant Mess came out earlier this year. My kids had the most ridiculous reactions when I asked them clean their room, dramatically acting like it was such hard work, and eventually trying to shove everything under their bed. I remember coming in their room and saying, “This is a giant mess!” and thinking I need to make a story about a giant who plays with the people and cars in a town like my kids play with their toys. The way the giant toddler Jack destroys the town, and then makes a fuss having to clean it up, helps the little girl character Molly see how she needs to try harder cleaner her room.
I liked the way I could use the giant’s behavior to mirror the kids behavior, and I tried to think if there were other stories I could tell with different monsters. I also liked how the title was a play on words, so I come with a long list similar of title ideas. It’s been a whole new way of writing for me, starting with a title and building a story around it. My next 2 books are Kraken Me Up which comes out in September and I’m Ogre It which I’m working on right now.
Review Fix: Who do you think will dig it the most?
Ebbeler: My books are part of a series called I like to Read Comics by Holiday House publishers. They are for kids who are just learning to read, so all the words are simple, sight words. When my daughter was younger, she struggled a lot with learning to read and we turned to comic early readers like Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggy books and Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man books. They gave her confidence, and she is now an excellent reader.
I am hoping that my books can do the same thing for other kids. I try to pair the simple text with lots of action and humor in the illustrations.
Review Fix: How do you want your books to be remembered?
Ebbeler: I hope I can draw kids into reading with funny stories and some weird, unexpected twists. Even though the text is simple I try to fill the illustrations with enough action packed, dynamic imagery to bring kids back for return visits.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Ebbeler: I have a long list of ideas for this series. I hope I get the opportunity to keep making more.
Review Fix: Where can people find out more?
Ebbeler: I do a series of story time videos with lots of music, animation and drawing demos. You can check out the video for A Giant Mess at:
My books are available at bookstores and online.