photo © Anne Hall
Françoise Mouly's influence on U.S. comics looms large.
After studying architecture at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Beaux-Arts, Mouly
moved at age 19 from her native France to the U.S.A. where she met her future husband,
Art Spiegelman. Together, they founded and co-edited RAW
Magazine from 1980 until its
last volume in 1991. In 1993, Mouly joined The New Yorker
as Art Editor, a position she
holds today. Mouly's editorial vision, her willingness to take risks, her artistic flair,
her love of wit, and her passion for great books as art objects have become her trademarks.
In 2000, Mouly sought to do for children's comics what she and her husband
had achieved for adult readers.1
The pair created Little Lit
, a new line of oversized,
hardbound comic albums for children ages four and up, published by Joanna Cotler Books
(an imprint of HarperCollins). Each volume is a collection of short stories in comics form,
written and drawn by an international group of today's most established writers, cartoonists,
and children's books illustrators. Little Lit's
third volume, published in 2003, was
recently nominated for four "Will Eisner Comics Industry" awards. The following interview
reveals the origin, the challenges, the hardships and joys — and the value —
of producing Little Lit
(Françoise Mouly was in her office at the
Christian Hill was in his home in Los Angeles. This interview took place October 15, 2003.
Concerning the origins of Little Lit
, I was wondering how you came up with the idea of doing comic albums for children.
It actually dates back about four or five years ago, I would say. It seemed a logical stop in a trajectory that started with RAW
Magazine. The first issue came out in 1980 and it continued into 1991-92. So for ten or twelve years, we had published a magazine whose avowed goal was to deliver good comics and graphics to an audience, to show that comics could be a legitimate medium. In RAW
, we published Maus
in chapter form. We published artists who had no venues anywhere else, such as Charles Burns, Gary Panter, Sue Coe, and a lot of the Europeans, Jacques Tardi, Joost Swarte, Ever Meulen, Mariscal, Lorenzo Mattotti, for the first time in the U.S. Suddenly, the publication of Maus
as a book, together with the enormous critical praised that it received, the Pulitzer Prize, the success that Maus
had turned the situation around in such a way that you could, with a straight face, say that you were a cartoonist, and people wouldn't laugh at you. You could do something worthwhile and valid. So we felt, twelve to fifteen years later, that we had accomplished the goal we had set for ourselves with RAW
But meanwhile, we had become parents. Our daughter was born in '87 and our son was born in '91. As we were going through the stages, as parents, of reading books to our kids and seeing them learn to read, we were discovering that there actually was very little material that we could read with our kids. We certainly could do it with a lot of the French comics. That's one thing I share with my kids... I only speak French to them. So comics were the one thing that made them eager to read with their mom, to the point that now it's still difficult for them to read real books in French. They can read French comics — no problem! — but reading works by Maupassant, which my son had to do for school, is a whole other order of reality! But they both became fluent readers at different rhythms, at their own pace and in different ways. It was almost, nearly instant and miraculously easy for our daughter. It was a project for our son. He loved books and he loved comics, but it took a whole year for him to learn to read. So we had to spend a lot of time together trying to decipher books, and certainly the comics were very helpful. They were the books that he liked, that he wanted to spend time with. And a lot of this process was done with Art's collection of comics such as the Walt Kelly's Fairy Tale Parade
, the Dell comics of the forties, or Carl Barks. There was nothing new being published at the time. There was some republishing of the Disney comics, but there was no republishing of the Dell comics. We had to sacrifice a whole collection of old comics.
It was the cost of wanting our kids to share in our love, most broadly, in our love of books, the gateway being comics. Art has said "comics were a gateway drug for literacy!" And once we emerged on the other side of this, we felt like, "Gee! Our kids are so privileged."
It's clear that they would have learned to read one way or another in that they're surrounded by books. And they both became avid readers, marvelous people, and good storywriters. But, literacy is a very complex endeavor. It's an insane process if you have a kid that grows up in front of the television from the day he's born, with parents who don't have books or printed matter around the house. And there is no preschool education in the U.S. So, if at the age of six, you put a kid down and you say, "now, learn to read," it's an impossible task! You read the statistics, and you hear about the fact that a quarter of the people in the U.S. are functionally illiterate, meaning that they can't read a magazine article, they can't read the newspaper. They may be able to read and write their names, but they basically cannot function. It's flabbergasting. It's really scary. This isn't a minor handicap. This is actually a death sentence for anyone wanting to function in society, wanting to be able to accomplish anything and to think things through.
There must also be some non-literate way of thinking because there were great past civilizations that flourished before writing and reading were invented. Certainly, during the Middle Ages, literacy was the province of a few monks. But I think that the unbridled capitalism of the late 20th and early 21st century has managed to recreate a caste system, and it's willfully not educating the underclass to retain an underclass. The ruling class is reserving reading, writing, education, thinking for one's self and for one's own very privileged children. So it became imperative to publish comics for kids, so that our kids wouldn't grow up in a world where they were so privileged. The pleasure of books and of comics is something that has to be available, that has to be shared by all.
There is, in my mind, a connection between books, literacy, and a kind of economy of thought. You read all those articles praising video games and blockbuster movies and whatever. I think none of the other media are as direct a communication medium as books. When you read, you actually partake in one's person's way of conceiving the world. If you read a book by Henry James, it's a specific worldview, expressed through his stories, his vocabulary, his way of constructing sentences. Every other medium, if you play a video game, is much more synthesized, the result of many people's contributions, in other words, artificial. There's something unique and incredibly exciting to me about getting a glimpse of an other human being's thought process. And I think that it's made manifest in comics, especially when it's someone who writes and draws at the same time, and makes his own stories.
The whole reading process is such a highly abstracted one that comics are a step into reading, because kids have an easier time deciphering the symbolic pictures inside comics, the ideograms. They don't need too many explanations.
Kids can learn a million different things while reading comics. They can learn left to right, top to bottom. They can learn linear storytelling, they can learn sequencing. They can learn beginning, middle, and end. They can learn characters. They can learn emotions. They can learn settings. They can learn time passing. There's so much to understanding stories, there are so many different components. They're all present in comics, made concrete on paper.
So, that was the impulse. Originally, I wanted to do it more didactically, like publishing primers. In discussing it with Art, he said, "but there's no reason why we can't get great artists to do comics for kids." And it certainly was a plus. So we appealed to some of the artists that we had published in RAW
and who since had been publishing at the New Yorker
, to some of the kid's book artists that I was in touch with at the New Yorker
— because when I'm looking for artists for New Yorker
covers, it's restricted to narrative artists, people who have something to say. And children's book artists are among the few artists left that have a narrative approach in their thinking. And Europeans as well as Americans. And as we organized each book, we followed the same thinking as we had with RAW
, which is that, if life were obscenely long, it would be great to publish a whole library of books, and make the point that way. We could publish fifty books a year! But it doesn't work that way! We had to function in terms of the means at our disposal. With RAW
, it was a matter of, "Well, if we do a magazine, we'll have 15-20 artists and we'll be able to show the range of what's possible." It was the same thing with Little Lit
. In a way, it's more like an issue of RAW
in terms of having so many different artists.
With regards to doing the first volume in specific, what did you learn from it in terms of switching gears, in doing work for children, and in working with trained artists who had either been illustrators and not
comic artists, or comic artists who had mostly done adult material?
Well, it's an interesting question.
Did you have big surprises?
Yes, in a way. A big surprise? Not so big. One thing that's been consistent throughout all three Little Lits
that was done over the past four years... We ended up skipping right after September 11th, we weren't able to do a volume that year. Although it reinforced us in the notion that this was the right thing to do, that life was shortened. It was urgent to do something useful in the world. But everybody we ever approached was always incredibly responsive. And that's been very gratifying. In the first Little Lit
, we did ask some children's book illustrators, such as David Macaulay, who did How Things Work
, to do a comic strip, and he was very interested by the challenge because he had never done anything like it. And this man who has done books that detail how to build a cathedral, stone by stone
, said that he had never done anything so hard as to do a comic strip!
So that was rather interesting, in going back and forth on the breakdowns of his story. He teaches at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], and he actually said that he would not let any of his students graduate without having done a comic strip because you learn so much about storytelling and narrative through this exercise of telling a story in comic strip form. So, in a way, bringing incredibly talented artists who had not done comic strips and asking them to do comics showed us how hugely complex this task is and it reminded us of it. And part of it is because in comics and
in working for children, there is no room for errors, because children are the most demanding readers. They spend hours with a page when they get into a book. And the kind of attention that they bring to their reading is unparalleled by adults. Adults are sloppy compared to kids. So you have to be really, really good. You have to be very precise and very clear. In a way, you can fake it less than you can with adults. With adults, you can make common assumptions, and they'll fill in the blanks for you. With kids, you have to make sure that everything is held in place and precise. And if there is a mistake, kids will notice it.
The other thing that was interesting was asking some of the artists that we had published in RAW
who were cartoonists, but who hadn't done work for kids. That's where we encountered the most friction, because when we turned to Dan Clowes or when we turned to Chris Ware or to Charles Burns, just to name two or three that are on the first Little Lit
, we had to counter with Charles Burns or Dan Clowes a predisposition, a possible attitude of "Ah, like, I have to be ironic to make it clear to the reader that this is for kids, but it's not really for kids." And there, this was definitely not
our intention. Some of the reviews actually characterized Little Lit
as fractured fairy tales, or ironic or post-modern fairy tales, which is grossly unfair, because we didn't want to do the MAD Magazine
version or the parody version of the fairy tales. Even though, I think, the people who perceived the book that way were themselves prejudiced just because I am the Art Editor of the New Yorker
and Art has won a Pulitzer Prize for Maus
. So they decided, "Oh, they can't possibly
want to do a children's book!" I'm sorry, but that's exactly what we wanted to do! And we wanted to do traditional stories, such as folklore and fairy tales, stories that have had resonance for millennia, for generation upon generation of kids, presented in comic strips form. We didn't want to do an ironic version of the Little Red Riding Hood.
You didn't want to subvert the text itself.
That's right. We wanted to present
the text itself because, for one thing, the subversion of the text can only happen once the child has already received the text. We're entering an age where children now will see parody references in Hollywood movies to things that they've never even read to start with. So that wasn't our intention to subvert, deconstruct, parody traditional stories as much as to present either traditional fairy tales or folklore from various countries. David Mazzucchelli, for example, did probably one of the most well known tales in Japan — the Japanese equivalent of the "Little Red Riding Hood."
When we worked with someone like Chris Ware, he had difficulty keeping it as simple as it needs to be for a young child. We wanted this book to be read by kids who can already read, and also read by parents who will take kids on their laps — which is a no-no in the children's book business because they tell you, "You can't do a book for all ages." Either it has to be a picture book, and that's like three to four years old; or it has to be a book that the kid can read by himself, or eight, nine or ten years old. Few reviewers have accepted that the Little Lit
books are for all ages.
Yeah, yeah. Which, again, is their
prejudice. We've been vindicated by people who have come to see us. They've said, "My four year old loves your book. I read it to her every single night and she wants to hear the same story," which is exactly what we've been hoping for. And then, we've had kids come to us, eight or ten years old, saying, "I love your book, I know it by heart!" It's read by kids of different degrees of literacy.
So, when Chris Ware did a game for the first Little Lit
— and there also, we wanted each volume to have something special because that was something we had done in RAW
, and that was interesting to us to make a production that was tactile, that could make the kid want to...
Toy with the book?
Yes, play with the book! Exactly. Which was greatly anticipated with a great amount of anxiety by the publisher because librarians hate a book where you must punch out all the pieces and whatever! It's again a complete no-no! But here, Chris Ware did a board game. And we wanted to make use of every part and page of the book. And since it was going to be a hard cover. "Hey, why not do a board game?" He did a marvelously complex, involuted board game with various explanations and pieces, a game that you play with a dice, but you also get to build sentences, which gives you a taste of a "you make your own story." It's a little similar to the last page of the third Little Lit
, "It's a Dark and Silly Night" which has a mad-lib-like piece by R. Sikoryak. It was the same structure, in a way, for the reader to find words, to fill in the blanks and make his or her own story.
Again we are very interested in how artists come up with stories, and we try to make that manifest in the book. One of the ways we did this in the latest Little Lit
, "It was a Dark and Silly Night," was make every artist and writer take the same point of departure, which was "it was a dark and silly night..." and have them complete the story from that same beginning sentence. And it shows the reader... Again, it's not a lesson, but it's something that you realize as you read the book, even when you're four years old, that each author, each contributor has a different vision, a different answer to the same premise. And it leads you to think, "Oh, I too can make up a story!"
It's the obvious implication. You understand that stories are not just plucked from nature. It's not like a flower that you pick. This is something that you can train your mind to do. And I think that kids can't stop themselves. If you listen to young children, they have this ongoing narrative. "And here I am taking the doll, and I'm putting it right here. Would you like... And I'm gonna..." It's this ongoing narrative, which for a long, long time is said aloud, and eventually is internalized. But I think everyone perceives their lives in stories. And when you are given good narratives — it doesn't work with any kind of book, or any kind of comic. If it's a formula-ridden, formulaic story, one more superhero with the same exact structure, which happens over and over again, I don't think that it does much to you as a reader in terms of forming and structuring your thought processes. But I think when you're given original, creative, well-written stories, it lays a foundation for a creative mind, a well-structured mind. So to go back to Chris Ware, we were in this funny position where Chris had two or three pages of explanations for his board game, which he was writing in 6-point type! "My God! We're coming out with a comic book for children and if we put this in, then nobody is ever going to believe that they should be reading this to their four year old!" So the simple explanation, the one in three sentences is provided for the parents. And for the children, we have the thesis, the master thesis of an explanation. But we were a little bit taken aback by how far from our original intention this took us. Not because this is inaccessible to a child — we played the game with kids, and as a dice game, it's very easy to play. You have to count and so on. And again, all of those words operate on enough levels that they can be on a superficial level, that is, simple and easy to understand. And then, if you spend more time, there are deeper layers that one can dig into. At least the point of entry is still broad and accessible.
When you're working with this mix of artists, since you have such a clear vision of what you want to do, are you pretty active in their creative process?
Usually, no. It depends on the artist. It's really that.
For example, in the second Little Lit
, "Strange Stories for Strange Kids," one of the contributions is written by David Sedaris and drawn by Ian Falconer. Ian has done many New Yorker
covers, and since then, has become the author of one of the best-selling children's books, most appreciated children's books, Olivia
. I had met Sedaris with Ian, actually years ago, when Sedaris wanted to meet somebody at the New Yorker
, he was a friend of Falconer. And then, here we were years later, and they each had become very famous in their own rights. When I ask Ian if he wanted to do something for Little Lit
, he was interested in working with David. So I sat down with David Sedaris and said, "Listen, I know that this isn't the most common request you get, but how about a story for kids that would be told in comic strips, a scenario for a comic strip." And he, I must say, understood exactly what we meant. We showed him the first Little Lit
, and he came up with a story that was a perfect little fable story. And there was none of this, "Ooh, this is too edgy! This is too this, this is too that!" It was specifically meant to be drawn. So it was very gratifying because we had very little to do, except midwifing this one. There was no close correcting. Obviously, I worked both of them on the breakdowns and what page would turn when, and so on, because that's important. But we all worked toward the same goal.
Sometimes, there's a lot more. For example, we've just published a story by Lemony Snicket and Richard Sala. There was some back-and-forth with Lemony Snicket on choosing the artist for the strip. And eventually, when we all sat down with Sala, he was very happy with that. Once we did that, he sent the script, and he again... You know, this is amazing, when you have people of this caliber who are actually very humble vis-à-vis the assignment, and are working hard at it. You have to write something different if you're writing for a comic strip than if you're writing for a published work. And Lemony Snicket did write a script specifically to be a comic. But we did have to go back and forth. We did some breakdowns together, and it went two or three times between Sala and I. I sent it back to Lemony Snicket and we had to find the right balance of what gets shown in the panel versus what is said in the words. It was really like a fascinating act of high wire balancing. If you look at the story by Lemony Snicket, actually a lot of it is told entirely in caption on the first page alone, which is unusual.
But then we had to find some way there to actually give the visuals a role and bring something else to them. And a lot of the story is about things not being what they seem to be. So there's some part of the script that was written with that in mind, like when Lucretia thought she saw the Yeti, but it was a rock. Obviously, when he's writing this, he's thinking in terms of what will be shown in the panel. But there are a number of other instances, where we had to keep moving the point of understanding, of when the reader understands that, "Oh! And that's who that is! Oh, and this is..." And what do you show when. You know, it's a very different thing when you are carrying the story both in words and in pictures.
Especially with Lemony Snicket. His books are terrific! We discovered them through our son actually. And they're incredibly... They violate all of the constraints of writing for 10-year old kids, meaning that he uses a profusely interesting vocabulary. The more highfalutin a word, the better! But my son loves this because Lemony Snicket does also manage to play with the words and define the words. His stories are all oblique and very subtle. They're very verbal. It's the adventures of the Baudelaire children. The usual illustrations on his books look very 19th century. Brett Helquist is the one who does the covers of his books. So it's not usually done in such an open style as Sala's. But it's very interesting to interpret the same thing in such different ways. So Lemony Snicket and Richard Sala did a really good story. And it's a story that demands to be reread. Because when you reread it the second and the third time, it shifts. When you reread it, you know different things. There's a story by Kaz in the first Little Lit
called "The Hungry Horse" that's built in a circular structure. It's a circular structure so when you get to the end panel, it's also the beginning panel. So that one is a loop. The one by Lemony Snicket is more like a spiral. The end brings you back to the beginning, but at a slightly different point in three-dimensional space than you were. I don't mean to toot our own horn, but I mean, some of the stories, a lot of what we published in Little Lit
is absolute classics! The text, the pictures. I mean, it's so well done. I am very happy with the artists and the writers.
And you're familiar with the group, Oubapo?
Does it ever cross your mind that what you're doing is maybe a little bit similar to it, maybe less applied? You talk of "assignments" too.
Well, yes and no. The Oubapo is a follow-up from Oulipo, a group formed around Raymond Queneau. Oulipo is one of the things that informed my thinking many, many years ago, and similarly, one of the reasons why I met Art is because I was so interested in the work he did back in 1972, '73, '74. I didn't know much about comics, but I got to see some of the work that he was doing which was along those lines. I don't know if you ever seen a book called Breakdowns
that Art published in 1978. Almost all of the strips predate Oubapo by 15 or 20 years. He did this on his own. Not that Art knew Queneau or Oulipo, but he did a lot of this kind of formal thinking before he even did Maus
. And when he did his strips for the narrative of what his father went through, he used a lot of that kind of thinking in Maus
as well. So there are many precedents... When you read Maus
, it's a fluid read. You're not made aware of the structuring of the narrative, but if you ever hear Art lecture about it — although he hasn't lectured on Maus
in a long time — but if you reread or if you look at the work in Maus
, a lot of the structural conception, a lot of the pages are structured in ways that are similar to this. It's just not made obvious.
Right, it serves the story.
Yes, and one of the Oubapo artists is Lewis Trondheim who is an integral part of Little Lit
. He did a marvelous maze story in the second one, "Strange Stories for Strange Kids." He's so good. Trondheim is so, so good! His story is a maze that you get to read five or six different ways depending on the path you take. And when you get to the end, each different way, even though it's the same panel, it has different meaning. So you get four, five different endings. And the same last two panels always say the same, something like, "Oh! The bag is now empty." But it means a different thing depending on which way you took to get there. Now that's very rich. It's one of our son's favorite.
But is it hard for your artists to work on an assignment like that? Because when you start with "It's a dark and silly night," it sounds like an Oubapo format, where you have actually very clear parameters.
Is it hard for them to have those constraints? Yes and no. I mean in some ways, doing comics for kids is more restrictive than certainly the way we would approach the artists when we were putting together RAW
. When we were there putting RAW
together, we were saying, "What are you working on? What would you love to do? And do the best you can." And that was that. Basically, the assignment was for them to do as well as they could, and our editing had to do with bringing out the best in each artist. With Little Lit
, to have to ask authors like Paul Auster, "we want a comics story for children." He had never done anything like that! That wasn't an obvious possibility for him. But he did it! And his story is very interesting. The story he did was drawn and broken down by Loustal. Again, each time, it becomes something different once the artist gets involved, and for some people — it's actually an interesting point — it's a little easier to be given that point of departure because they can work against it. Even Lemony Snicket, with "it was a dark and silly night," he ends up decomposing "silly." He takes a word that we give him and then he makes something out of it. He says, "in this case 'silly' stands for Somewhat Intelligent, Largely Laconic Yeti."
So, obviously, this was his point of departure. "I'll take the word 'silly.' What can each letter stand for? What about 'Y'?" Okay, he came up with "Yeti" and he wrote this whole story around that.
Are the Little Lits
translated in other languages?
Yes. Actually, on a totally erratic time schedule. There are basically Italian, French, Dutch, Brazilian, and I think Korean contracts for the various Little Lits
. The French have done the first one. The Germans have done the first two. The Italians, I think, have done — I just got an e-mail the other day &mdaash; I think they did the third one as well. They did it almost as fast as us! The Brazilians did the first one. The Koreans, I don't think we ever saw anything! So yes and no. Normally, children's books are sold by the publisher to foreign publishers. It's done in Bologna instead of in Frankfurt, and they find like ten different publishers or so for each book, but comics are harder. I was a judge at Bologna one year, so I got to see the kind of marketplace out there. To me, it's a little sad because such fairs provide very intense competition to indigenous, idiosyncratic children's book publishing. In France, for example, it's hard to publish original French children's books when you have on the market all those French versions of American books that can be bought for a couple thousand dollars. So I don't know if it's the greatest thing in the world. It's one more of the edges of cultural imperialism that Americans have because if you sell it to 15 different countries, they don't need to have so much money from any one country. But again, on the unprotected home market, it's very hard. I know, because when I go to French bookstores, I keep trying to find French books for my kids. And three fourths of what's in French bookstores are American books translated in French. But to make a long story short, with Little Lit
, it became a lot more complicated because everything has to not only be translated, but it also has to be relettered.
To preserve the hand-drawn look?
Yes, and we didn't produce the book in a way that would have made it easy, which is everything set in type and the title is not part of the cover illustration. What they want for kids' books are the pictures done in color and the captions separated and done in type, so you can just change the black plate. Then you can print more than one edition at once. With Little Lit
, we made it nearly impossible, and we knew that. It's a labor of love, I must say. And in a way, it's very gratifying, because while it's important to publish comic strips for children in the U.S., it's less of an imperative in France. Still, we have had foreign editions.
Sure. In fact, would you like the U.S. market to become more like the French market, or do you think the U.S. market should have a different model for kids.
Well, I think it would be good if it could become structurally like the French market, in terms of no separation, where comic books or albums are sold in regular bookstores. It's slowly creeping in. But in the U.S. — the U.S. being the U.S. — the way it's creeping in is that they are creating what they call "graphic novel sections" and those graphic novel sections are one more time being flooded with superheroes. I just heard yesterday that Marvel was about to publish 40 graphic novels every month. So again, it's the same trash. You make an inroad into the bookstore and before you have a chance to pat yourself on the back and be happy that you did this, you have this... It's as if they made an inroad for literature and then before you knew it there were like forty trashy science fiction or romance novels occupying that spot. Oh, God! By the time this is done, it will kill any kind of interest. You can try to tell people, "you can go to your bookstore and find many interesting comics," and they find some forty Fantastic Four or who knows what. It's way too greedy. So, I think, in 10 or 15 years from now, this isn't going to be very helpful.
Right now also, we're in a funny point, Art and I, because we've been mostly lonely in our quest and in our crusade, and then now that the world is catching up with us, and there is article upon article about how comics are great, they're publishing — "they" being like the mainstream publishers — they're eager to put out comics, but it's more Marvel/DC stuff and manga. And it's so indiscriminate. I was on a panel at the BEA where I made some point about quality. It was a panel about comics for children, and I was just in the audience. I said something like, "well, I think that comics can help out kids to read, but they have to be good comics," and somebody else in the audience, who was obviously a comics fan, just responded, "don't you dare
make a distinction between good comics and bad comics! Comics are good for kids! PERIOD!" And the anger was like... "Wait a minute!" Those people who have been — with their generally masturbatory, very limited medium — very hard-core fans are now so thrilled that comics in general are being taken seriously. They're furious that I might introduce the thought that there are good comics and bad comics. It's not what they want to hear.
In a similar vein, something really struck me this year at the San Diego Comic-Con. It was a great show. It was huge, but when I looked around, I almost saw no children at all. And I looked at the material, and I thought, this is all for teenagers and adults. I asked myself, "Are comics still for kids anymore?"
Isn't that ironic!
Yet, there seems to be the beginning of a trend. I noticed that Simon & Schuster is translating and publishing Little Vampire
And occasionally, comic books are actually starting to appear in the children's books sections.
But for us, it was a struggle with Little Lit
. I mean, it was a ridiculous struggle. We went specifically to Harper Collins because they were a children's book publisher. We insisted that what we were doing was a comic book for children. I mean, if we wanted to do RAW
, we didn't need Harper Collins. We were doing comics for kids. And when the first Little Lit
came out, they told us that the Barnes & Noble's buyer for kids' stuff was not sympathetic to Little Lit
, but "Hurray, hurray!" that didn't matter because they got the buyer for graphic novels to take Little Lit
, and that it's going to appear with graphic novels, with Chris Ware and Dan Clowes. And we said, "NOOO! You don't un-der-stand
! This doesn't make any sense to us. It doesn't belong with Maus
! Basically, we didn't go to you, to Harper Collins, to have you fill that section, and compete with Fantagraphics books." And eventually, we won!
Once again, Mouly was the driving force behind launching Little Lit with the participation of Spiegelman. Wasserman reports that "the experience of Arcade and RAW made Spiegelman vow never to edit again. 'Everybody hated me, was the way I felt about it,' he said, pointing to the cartoonists whose work he rejected as well as the ones he accepted but asked for changes. Mouly had to convince him to retract his vow and undertake the children's book series, which will
add a third volume in 2003."
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