What books did you read when you were a child?
To be completely honest I was not much of a book reader as a kid. I feel dirty just admitting it. The first book I think I really read for pleasure was The World According to Garp when I was 13. But mine was not a house without reading. I voraciously read comic books. And I loved comic strips, the daily funnies in the newspaper. I had piles of those comic strip collections which I would read over and over again.
My mother and father were not really book readers. But they read other things all the time. We got about four daily newspapers to the house, and had dozens and dozens of magazines. So, I never got the impression that one shouldn't be reading. But, it wasn't a house where someone handed me a book and said “You'll really like this one." In my 20s I had to play a lot of catch up. And it was pretty amazing. I swear to you, I don't think I read Charlotte’s Web until I was 19. But this had nothing to do with my ability to read. I was a strong reader, and comic books actually did give me this healthy diet of storytelling. But it isn't something I would absolutely recommend for anybody else. As I often tell people when to comes to graphic novels and prose, it's not an either/or situation, you should have a healthy diet of both.
If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
In no particular order, and without giving much explanation: The Hulk, Gandalf, Wade Watts from Ready Player One and Snoopy.
What is the best thing about reading?
I want to try to avoid all the clichés. The big one obviously is "escapism." I've never actually felt that. I've never actually felt like I've crawled into a story and forgot the world. For me, it really feels more like experiencing the adventure. More so than movies, or television, because when you read you're inside your own head. It is very much like you're being led into a different world. I know it sounds an awful lot like escapism but for me it's a little different.
It's like being in a really immersive amusement park ride. I never forget that the ride is going to end, and I never forget there's an outside world, but when I'm in there, in my experience there, I'm totally IN there. I think the best stories do that. I think the best stories draw you all the way in.
Hilo Book One
What is your all time favourite book?
I can't pick one. I'll have to go with The World According to Garp. Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut. A graphic novel called Why I Hate Saturn by Kyle Baker. And the first Bloom County collection I ever had called Loose Tails. And every book by the late cartoonist B. Kliban.
Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
I am by no means an expert. Quite the contrary, I'm a novice. And this may seem obvious because I’m a cartoonist, but I think drawing is a huge communicator. Very often when I speak at schools, kids will ask me (and other cartoonists) “When did you start drawing?”
We always ask them, “How many of you draw now?" Almost every hand goes up. Except their teachers. We say that “No one starts drawing. We all draw. We all just at some point stop.”
Except us cartoonists.
I think children should be encouraged to keep drawing for as long as humanly possible. Even if they are "not that good." It is an amazing way for us to express ourselves. It never goes away if you don't let it.
How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
I am everything that I am because of my parents. At no point, ever, did they ever discourage me from writing and drawing. I wanted to be a cartoonist since, well, forever. And my parents never, ever discouraged that. They encouraged me. Always. They read what I did, they bought me paper, pencils, markers, they let me write and draw as much as I wanted. It's what I always tell parents when they tell me that their kids are showing some talent or love for drawing or writing. "Just get them some sunlight, nourishment, and encouragement. Everything else will take care of itself."
Hilo Book Two
How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I'm very lucky because my wife is a genius. And I don't mean that the way other people mean that. I mean, quite literally, she has a higher IQ than most human beings. She started reading at three. So, I wrecked the children with a bit of dumbing down with my genetics, and they started reading when they were four. We never had to encourage our children to read. We are very lucky. That said, I have found that I often “pitch" books to them. Because I make things up for a living, because I've actually been in rooms and I've had to pitch stories to people so they will give me money and let me make the stories, I can actually quickly pitch a book to one of my kids and get them interested. One of my favourite memories is trying to get my son to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He wasn't interested. Then I told him about it. And by the time I said that "...And then after years of the factory just sitting in silence, it started making candy again. In a few years after that, Mr. Wonka announced that he was sending out five golden tickets hidden inside chocolate bars that could be found all over the world. If you find a golden ticket, you get to come and visit the factory."
My son stared at me, eyes wide, and asked “Is that really what it's about?" He was so enthralled.
So yes, I like selling the kids on the good books. I feel like I have really done my job if I've done that. My kids, as I advised earlier have a healthy diet of comic books, comic strips, and prose books. Whether is Spider Man or Babymouse, or the comic strips For Better or For Worse or Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts or authors like Judy Blume, or Cory Doctorow or Bard Meltzer or JK Rowling— they read.
And to be honest with you, and I'm saying this not just because I know that people in the UK are going to read it, I love reading books to them when I get to do a British accent. I do it with all of Roald Dahl books, I did it with all the Harry Potter books, and if the tone feels right, I will do it with authors who aren't actually English.
But, the biggest thrill for me in the whole wide world is having my children read my Hilo books to me. I knew that I had really succeeded when after I gave my kids the pencilled up draft to the second Hilo book, then they went off and would play "Hilo". They were pretending to be the characters and act out the stories. I'm starting to tear up just talking about it. It was the most wonderful feeling in the whole wide world. To say I was proud is an understatement. I'm very lucky getting to do what I do.
When Judd isn’t collecting far more action figures and vinyl toys than a normal adult, he is a screenwriter and an award-winning cartoonist. Judd has scripted issues of many bestselling comic series, including Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Justice League, and Star Wars.
Judd grew up on Long Island but today lives in San Francisco with his wife, Pam Ling (whom he met on The Real World); their two kids; and their cats, Chaka and Sleestak. Books one, two and three of Judd’s HILO series are out now, published by Penguin Random House.
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