G Is for G-Man: Chris Giarrusso on His Kid Superhero
G-Man, Chris Giarrusso’s awesome all-ages superhero series, is one of the most fun and exciting new properties to come down the pike in ages. Here, Chris opens up about his inspiration for the character and how he uses G-Man as a way to reach kids and why comics make you smarter.
Congratulations on the great success of G-Man! Where did you get the idea for the character?
The characters in G-Man are based on me, my family, and my friends when I was a kid. I'm basically reimagining my childhood with superpowers.
How would you describe Mikey, G-Man’s alter ego? Is he an inspiration?
My take on Mikey is that he's basically me—an average kid, even with his superpowers. In G-Man's world, superpowers are not actually all that uncommon, but it's still a lot of fun to have them.
What kinds of adventures does G-Man get up to in your new book, Cape Crisis?
G-Man's powers come from his magic cape. Once word of this spreads, the other kids all want a piece of G-Man's cape, quite literally. Extra pieces of fabric from G-Man's cape wind up getting used by a lot of the other kids who want superpowers, but this ends up fragmenting and destabilizing the cape's magic, threatening to destroy G-Man's powers forever. So with the
help of his friends, G-Man needs to locate and recover the missing fragments of his cape before it's too late!
What’s your favorite thing about creating comics?
I like when I "figure out" my story, when things finally fall into place after the prolonged agony of brainstorming and rewriting.
Do you get to interact with G-Man’s fans much?
I get to meet fans at conventions and store signings, and the reactions I get are very positive and encouraging. The real trick is getting people to give G-Man a try that first time.
What were your favorite comics growing up? What were the books and who were the creators who inspired you?
I grew up reading the comic strips in the daily newspaper, and by far the biggest impact was Charles Schulz's Peanuts comic strip. I eventually graduated from humor strips to reading superhero comic books. Today, my approach to comics is what I would call a hybrid of the classic newspaper strip combined with the classic superhero comic.
How long would you like to keep this series going?
I am working on my third G-Man book right now. In an ideal world, I'll keep the G-Man series going for the rest of my life.
Working on graphic novels for children, how do you ensure that your books reach the audience in the way you want? That is, do you think of reading levels, word choices, etc. in order to achieve the age-appropriateness you want?
All I worry about when I'm writing is making sure the subject matter is not inappropriate for kids. I'm actually writing at an adult's reading level, and I'm often told my writing is "smarter" and "more clever" than expected. But I'm also told "kids learn to read" with my books. So I simply do not worry about reading levels or word choices at all. Kids are not afraid of big words—they'll look them up or learn them instantly through story context. I've never heard of a kid getting halfway through any comic and giving up because they got stuck on a word. They tend to keep reading because they want to know what happens. Adults are afraid of big words. I don't think kids are stupid, and I'm trying to write stories I think everyone could enjoy, which is why I'd categorize these books as "all ages" rather than strictly "for kids."
Do you see your books being used in schools or as educational tools?
I have been told by many teachers and librarians that they do indeed use my books in school, and that my books are often "the thing" that gets reluctant readers hooked on reading. Some educators have become aware of, and witnessed firsthand, how powerful comics are as a reading tool. You shouldn't expect to learn a specific math or history lesson with my books or to be hit over the head with any morals or lessons, but reading is reading, and studies continue to reveal that kids who read comics tend to read at a higher reading level than their peers who do not read comics. Comics make you smarter.
Is there an opportunity for comics creators to work with teachers and librarians to reach kids and help them develop a love for reading? Is that kind of outreach already going on—and does there need to be more of it?
As I mentioned previously, many teachers and librarians are already making strong use of comics in the classroom. So it seems that there is some outreach happening already. Teachers and librarians are the most important link in the chain of outreach, first by introducing the material to new readers, and second by inviting authors for school or library visits to give presentations or workshops. Assuming schools and libraries are not abolished completely in the near future, I hope and expect for this sort of outreach to grow.
What’s next for G-Man?
Plenty more good, clean superhero fun and adventure!