Gene Luen Yang is the creator of the award-winning graphic novel American Born Chinese. His other works include Prime Baby, Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order, Animal Crackers, The Eternal Smile, (with Derek Kirk Kim) and Level Up (with Thien Pham).
In Part 1 of our interview, Gene shared a bit about himself, his inspiration, and his thoughts on comic books.
Read on for Part 2, where we discuss libraries, advice for becoming a comic book professional, and more!
Do You Have a Personal Library? What Are the Prized Items In Your Collection?
“I guess so -- I don't know if I'd called it a library. I have a couple of full shelves. I have a signed copy of Maus. I also have a couple of Golden Age comics. Those are probably as close to ‘prized’ as anything in my collection gets.”
Please Share Any Experiences You Have Had Working With Librarians.
“I got a lot of help from librarians at Cal State East Bay when I was working on my final project for my Masters.
For my current project, a historical fiction graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion, I've gotten assistance from both my school librarian and a librarian at a Jesuit archive in France.
Our school librarian showed me around the ‘Invisible Web.’ With her help, I was [able] to find documents that I never even knew existed. If you know what questions to ask, Google can be very helpful. But if you just have the vaguest notion of a direction you'd like to go, no technology can replace a good librarian.”
(NOTE: The term Invisible Web refers to online content that search engines do not have access to. Just because a search on Google comes up empty does not necessarily mean that the content you want is unavailable or nonexistent. So ask a librarian for help whenever you get stuck--it’ll make our day!)
What Do Libraries Mean to You?
“I spent much of my childhood in a library. Like a lot of nerds, I have a deep, emotional attachment to libraries. It's where we first encountered all sorts of worlds that we're currently obsessed with.”
Do You Think Printed Books Will Still Be Around In the Future, Even With the Popularity of the Internet and the Emergence of E-books?
“Yes, I think printed books will always be around, but our relationship to them will change. I do think that book arts may point the way to the future. Physical books have to offer something you just can't get digitally. The physicality of the object has to be a part of the storytelling."
What Are You Reading Now?
“I'm in the middle of the Gary Schmidt book [The Wednesday Wars]. I just finished Red Skull Incarnate by Greg Pak and Mirko Colak. That was great. I'm also following Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman monthly from DC Comics. I never liked Wonder Woman (what kind of superhero has stars on their underwear?) but this series is amazing.”
Do You Have Any Advice for Aspiring Comic Book Creators?
“Start making comics! Come up with something short and get started! Today! Right now!”
(NOTE: If you want to practice writing comics but are too scared to draw at first, check out Toonlet!)
As a Successful Solo Comic Book Creator, What Is It Like Collaborating With Others?
“It's a lot of fun. Each of my collaborations has been really different from the others. Much of it depends on the personality of the artist I'm working with. The final product almost always ends up being much more than I could have imagined.”
How Do You Come Up With the Ideas for Your Stories?
“I pull from my own life. Often, I'm inspired by things that annoy me. For instance, Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, the very first comic I created as an adult, is about a young man who gets a spaceship stuck in his nose. It was inspired by my own lifelong struggle with sinus problems.”
The End...But Not Quite
You can follow Gene Luen Yang on Twitter under @geneluenyang.
Intern Anthony Andora once got a spaceship stuck in his nose as a young boy. (Not really, but that seashell felt just as big.)