Friday, March 3, 2017

Conference Faculty Interview: Kazu Kibuishi

By Tina Hoggatt

For the second in our series of conference faculty interviews, our always fabulous outgoing Illustration Coordinator Tina Hoggatt grilled Kazu Kibuishi, creator and editor of the comic anthology Flight and creator of the webcomic Copper. Kazu is also the author and illustrator of the wildly popular ongoing Amulet series and he recently illustrated new covers for Scholastic’s Harry Potter series.

Tina: In what unique ways do graphic novels serve story?

Kazu: I always saw novels as a way to expand ideas, like taking a microscope to an idea. I see comics as the opposite. Comics are often at their best when a tremendous amount of information and, hopefully, wisdom are compressed into a very small amount of space, and it is the reader who then expands the idea. As life grows complex, newer readers who recognize that growing complexity will turn to formats with compressed and universal storytelling methods to gather information, so the need for comics and visual storytelling will grow over time. When done effectively, graphic novels can be very powerful tools for communication.

Tina: Tell us a little bit about illustrating the new covers for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Kazu: This was not the kind of project that an author ever expects to do! In fact, I didn't expect to get this job. However, when I was asked to give it a try, my focus was to put myself in the shoes of both the young readers of my books who would begin reading Harry Potter, and in the shoes of a fellow author who would likely want to see their work endure like other modern classic works of literature. With that mindset, I went into the project like a photographer visiting Hogwarts and tried to make pretty pictures! It was a wonderful project to be a part of, and brought me closer to my Scholastic family.

Tina: What are you excited to be sharing with our Western WA members at the conference?

Kazu: I'm always looking forward to hearing about other people's experiences and in hearing their questions. Can't think of what specific things I want to share other than my life's story. If I feel like I have helpful information to share, then I'll be very happy to share.

Tina: What are your most and least favorite genres?

Kazu: I enjoy all genres.

Tina: What book have you read the most frequently?

Kazu: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Tina: What are you reading right now?

Kazu: Mostly non-fiction. Reading an autobiography by Akira Kurosawa, the letters of Vincent Van Gogh, and even more current works like a recent book about Elon Musk that I picked up at the airport. I often pick up bestselling non-fiction at airport booksellers. Malcolm Gladwell is a favorite in these settings.

Tina: What books are on your bedside table?

Kazu: Stories of Your Life & Others by Ted Chiang, a small book about mindfulness (full of quotes) that I picked up at a gardening store, and any one of the other non-fiction books I am reading while on the road.

Tina: What won’t I believe you haven’t read?

Kazu: Most of the popular graphic novels. I rarely read comics, not because I don't like them, but because when I do it feels like I'm at work. I prefer to read mostly non-fiction books or watch sports.

Tina: What are your favorite books of all time?

Kazu: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki.

Tina: What character in a book would you most like to be?

Kazu: It would probably be Leon Redbeard (from Amulet).

See more of Kazu’s work at

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