Steven Bergson Interviews Me About Hereville 2

On July 12, 2013 · 0 Comments


It’s always fun being interviewed by Steven Bergson of Jewish Comics Blog, because he’s so prepared and knowledgeable. Here’s the first few questions from the interview he just posted:

Jewish Comics Blog : How has your life changed since wining the Sydney Taylor Book Award and having its sequel recognized as an SBTA Honor Book?

JCB : In my last interview with you, you told us to expect a wedding in the 2nd book. Yet, that wedding never materialized. Why did you change your mind and will we be seeing a wedding in a future Hereville book?

JCB : It has already been speculated by comix scholars that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster may have been alluding to the Kindertransport when they had Superman‘s parents send him away from a world on the verge of destruction to the safe haven of Earth. This was mentioned in Harry Brod’s recent book Superman Is Jewish? In Hereville 2, you cleverly made a parallel between Mirka’s great-great-bubba’s journey from the Old Country to the New Country (presumably because of antisemitism, though that’s never mentioned) and the separation of the meteorite from her meteor sisters. Were you inspired at all by the Superman origin story?

To read my answers to these and Steven’s other questions, head on over to the Jewish Comics Blog.

Under CTA, Interviews

Barry interviewed on KBOO radio today!

On January 10, 2013 · 0 Comments

barry deutsch and jenn manley-lee!

[Updated: Time is 11:30am, not 11am. I’ll update the post with a link to the archive once I’ve got it.]

Me and cartoonist Jenn Manley Lee will be interviewed on KBOO at 11:30am pacific time today. We’ll be talking about our respective comics (Jenn is best-known for her amazing science fiction comic Dicebox). You can listen live at KBOO’s website.

Jenn is a longtime pal of mine as well as a great cartoonist, so I expect this interview to be fun.

Thanks to S.W. Conser of the show Words and Pictures for making this happen!

Under Interviews

Jewish Telegram article about Hereville

On December 2, 2012 · 0 Comments

In the November 9 issue of the UK newspaper The Jewish Telegram, they had a nice article about me and my work. You can see it as it appeared on the page in pdf form here, or read the text of the article below. Many thanks to writer Mike Cohen!

11-year-old Mirka is a big draw for cartoonist Barry

BATMAN, Superman, Spider-Man move over, there’s a new superhero in town — an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl!

Portland-based author Barry Deutsch has created Mirka who has starred in two Hereville comic books.

Barry introduced the world to Mirka in How Mirka Got Her Sword and has followed it with second book, How Mirka Met a Meteorite.

But he revealed that his hero originally began life as a male character.

“Mirka started with the idea of a medieval fairytale hero, who was having trouble with his dragon fighting because, in his country, Jews weren’t allowed to carry swords,” the 44-year-old explained.

“As usually happens to ideas, time produces radical changes, and by the time the girl-friendly comics site Girlamatic asked me to submit something, the idea of an 11-year-old Orthodox girl’s quest for a sword was right there.”

But why did Barry make his heroine Orthodox?

“I’ve always enjoyed comics that use culturally specific settings — Usagi Yojimno and Love and Rockets are two of my favourites,” he said.

“I think comics are an especially good medium for that, because instead of having to explain, comics can simply embed the reader in a new culture.

“It’s not a lecture, it’s not ‘educational’, it’s just there, inseparable from the characters’ lives.

“So I was eager to try that out, and setting Hereville in an Orthodox Jewish community gave me a reason to research my own Jewish heritage.”

Barry describes the Orthodoxy as a “little important to the storyline” adding that “it is mainly important to the setting and to the main character. It’s an irremovable part of who Mirka is”.

And the Hereville books are aimed at a unique audience — Barry.

“I write and draw the comics that I want to read,” he laughed.

“But I certainly intend Hereville to be read by a general readership. Anyone who enjoys a good adventure story with an unusual protagonist can enjoy

Barry is unmarried, but lives in a semi-communal house, which he co-owns with his partners Sarah and Charles, who he has lived with since the late 1980s.

“There are nine of us altogether, including two lovely smart girls, aged seven and nine, who are two of my best friends.

“We watch Doctor Who together and discuss escape plans should the Weeping Angels suddenly attack.

“They have definitely been an influence on Mirka.”

Barry is working on the third Mirka book and has at least another two planned after that.

He said: “I love the character and the setting, and as long as I have stories that seem fresh and worth telling, and as long as the market keeps on irrationally supporting me rather than making me acquire a real job, there will be more Hereville books.”

Barry didn’t have high hopes for the Hereville series.

“Weird concept, weird colour scheme, unknown creator — I was expecting it to flop like a fish, frankly,” he told me.

Barry describes himself as “Jewish and secular”, adding:

“My parents raised me a reform Jew; we went to synagogue only on big holidays, and I barely attended at all after my barmitzvah.

“My parents became much more religious after I had moved out. I’m still extremely secular in my life, and I identify as a Jewish atheist.

“One of the benefits of working on Hereville is that it gives me a way to connect to Judaism in my everyday life that I’d probably lack otherwise.”

Barry became a comic book fans before he could actually read.

He said: “My parents had the original art to a Sunday page of Walt Kelly’s ‘Pogo’ on their wall, and I’d stare at this one page, rereading it hundreds of times.

“Professionally, I had been doing political cartoons for many years without making much money at it.

“I did Hereville as a webcomic for fun and, when I had about 60 pages done, I self-published a booklet of it and sold it at a local convention in Portland, Oregon.

“Next to me at the convention was Scott McCloud, who is a pretty famous cartoonist. His agent came by his table and picked up a copy of Hereville.

“A week later I had an agent and three months after that, a book deal. It was head-spinning.”

Barry, who cites Faith Erin Hicks’ Superhero Girl as one of his recent favourites, says his home town is “great for Jews”. He said: “It’s not like the northeast of America, where you can’t go anywhere without bumping into a bunch of other Jews, but there are a group of us here and there are thriving synagogues and schools.

“I haven’t encountered any open antisemitism here at all.”

Barry had never planned on making a career out of comic books. He said he was “committed to becoming a vet until age 12 or so, when I took my first
biology class that asked me to dissect something.

“It turns out that being an animal doctor is actually fairly disgusting — which you think I would have picked up from reading James Herriot.

“Ever since that traumatic event I’ve wanted to be a cartoonist.”

Barry is working on the third Hereville story — which, he revealed, involves a magic fish.

He has also contributed a short story to an anthology of feminist comics. Barry’s story in The Big Feminist But is called How To Make A Man Out Of Tin Foil and is set in a Jewish summer camp.

You can read previews of both Hereville books here, and buy copies here.

Blog Hop! Blog Hop!

On October 31, 2012 · 0 Comments

I’ve been asked by poet and my “Alas” co-blogger Richard Jeffrey Newman to partic­i­pate in a Blog Hop in order to intro­duce new authors to new read­ers. If you’ve come here from the link posted on Richard’s blog, wel­come! If you’re a reg­u­lar reader of mine or came upon my blog by chance, this is an oppor­tu­nity for you to get know some­thing about my new graphic novel, and to check out some writ­ers and cartoonists who might be new to you by fol­low­ing the links at the end of the post. They are all fine creators whose work I would highly rec­om­mend. Again, spe­cial thanks to Richard Newman, from whom I swiped most of the text in this intro paragraph.

Ten Inter­view Ques­tions for The Next Great Read

Q: What is the work­ing title of your book?
A: Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite. It’s a new book just hitting stores (including online stores like Amazon) this week.

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: This is a sequel to my earlier book, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. So I already knew most of the characters and the setting before I began work on this book. The books are about Mirka, who I describe as “yet another monster-fighting Orthodox Jewish 11-year-old girl.” For this book’s story, I did a variation on the old “evil twin” storyline, although in this case the twin isn’t evil so much as self-centered. The idea was to confront Mirka with someone who is in many ways her idealized version of herself – strong, fast, not worrying about what others think of her — and to let the story grow from there.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: All-ages fantasy. Also, I should mention that it’s a “graphic novel,” aka a comic book.

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your char­ac­ters in a movie ren­di­tion?
A: Geez. You know, I’ve never tried to answer this question before. If I could use a time machine, so I could hire kid actors who have since grown up, I might cast Abigail Breslin as Mirka, or maybe Chloe Moretz. Or the 11-year-old Kirsten Dunst. I have no idea if any of these kid actors are Jewish, though. To play the grown-ups, my fantasy cast might be Jennifer Jason Leigh or maybe Dianne Wiest to play the Witch, Stephen Fry or John Lithgow to play the Troll, and Allison Janney to play Fruma.

Q: What is the one-sentence syn­op­sis of your book?
A: Eleven-year-old wanna-be hero Mirka saves her town from a meteorite, but finds herself stuck with an identical twin who’s better at everything than she is.

Q: Will your book be self-published or rep­re­sented by an agency?
A: This book is published by Abrams. My agent is Judy Hanson.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your man­u­script?
A: Writing the script for the comic took me three months, or eight months, depending on if you count I spent writing stories that ultimately were not used. Then it took me nine or ten months to draw it.

Q: What other books would you com­pare this story to within your genre?
A: In their review of this book, Horn Book compared it to Raina Telgemeier’s books Smile and Drama and Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost. I am very happy to be listed in company like that!

Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
A: All the Hereville books are, in part, heavily disguised autobiographies. The first Hereville book was about wanting to be a cartoonist but not knowing how to get started. This book, the second one, is about starting to realize your ambitions but realizing that it’s never as simple or satisfying as you’ve imagined.

Q: What else about your book might piqué the reader’s inter­est?
A: I think a lot of people are initially tickled by the concept of a fantasy-adventure novel in which the main character is an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl being raised in an Orthodox community. But what makes it worth reading, I hope, is that the Judaism in the books isn’t a gimmick or exoticized; it’s the setting in which the characters’ live their lives. I try and present the cultural aspects in as non-exotic and matter-of-fact a way as I can, and I think readers appreciate that.

Also, there are some exciting action sequences. Or I hope they’re exciting, anyway.

Here are the writ­ers and cartoonists whose work you can check out next:

Watch out for their “Blog Hop” interviews on November 7th.

Under Interviews

Interview with Barry at VanCAF

On June 10, 2012 · 0 Comments

Here’s an interview I did with the wonderful Geneviève Bolduc of 4GeeksMedia. She and her various camera operators really did a great job.

Under Interviews

First First Interview With Me about Hereville!

On March 13, 2012 · 0 Comments

Desirous of Everything has posted their “first first” interview with me. That one’s from a while ago, I think, but it’s nice to see it online. Here’s a sample:

Question: I personally, loved Pig. I love how much expression he portrays before he even speaks. And then when he spoke for the first time, I think I was just as surprised as Mirka was! Can you talk about your process of creating him?

Answer: I knew that I wanted the witch to have a familiar, an animal friend. But it took me an amazingly long time to decide on a pig! I went through so many ideas… a cat, a ferret, a goat. In retrospect, it seems silly, because a pig is so perfect.

Because the pig is Mirka’s antagonist for so much of the story, I knew right away the pig had to be sort of prickly and easily annoyed. More of her personality came out as I sketched and wrote for her.

When it came time to draw the pig, I was so intimidated! It’s hard for me to draw a pig well. What helped me a lot was buying a half-dozen little realistic pig toys that I could hold in my hand and use as models for the character.

Click over to read the whole thing.

Under CTA, Interviews

Mini-interview of Barry from TCAF

On June 24, 2011 · Comments Off on Mini-interview of Barry from TCAF

I’ve been quiet lately because I’m in Canada. I’ll post a bit about this trip once I’m home, but meanwhile here’s a short interview from last month’s trip to Canada, when I attended the Toronto Comics Arts Fest. Thanks to Good Comics for Kids for making this video!

The graphic novels I recommend in this video are:

* I Kill Giants, by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Nimura
* Smile, by Raina Telgemeier
* Locas, by Jaime Hernandez

Under CTA, Interviews

Interviewed by Laurel Snyder!

On February 14, 2011 · Comments Off on Interviewed by Laurel Snyder!

The children’s book writer and general source of awesomeness Laurel Snyder interviewed me on her blog. Here’s a sample of the interview:

Laurel: Do you think books can change the world?

Barry: Definitely, but only the way a conversation can change the world, or a speech, or a TV show. Everything we do changes the world somehow, but usually the changes are very tiny. So to make a big change you need thousands of people (and thousands of books), all pushing to change the world in some direction. A good example is, are there going to be some engaging and interesting Jewish girl characters in kids books? If just one or two books do that, the answer is “no,” but if a whole bunch of us do it, the answer becomes “yes,” and that will make a small but consequential difference in the lives of a lot of Jewish girl readers who want to see themselves reflected in books.

Please go check it out.

Under CTA, Interviews

The Jewish Comics Blog interviews Barry

On January 24, 2011 · 6 Comments

Steven Bergson of the Jewish Comics Blog has published an interview with me. Steven, who has been incredibly supportive of Hereville, really did his research, and asked smart questions that no one else has thought to ask me.

Here’s a sample, but you’ll have to go to Steven’s site to read the whole thing:

SMB: Thus far, the only Jews we’ve encountered in Hereville have been Hasidic Jews like Mirka and her family. Do other Jewish groups exist in the world of Hereville? Will the reader be made aware of other denominations (e.g. Conservative or Reform) or are they considered totally irrelevant in Mirka’s community?

BD: All sorts of Jews exist in the world of Hereville, but they don’t live in the town, and they are pretty irrelevant to Mirka’s community. But there are non-Hasidic Jews who visit town every now and then. For instance, Rochel, Mirka’s stepsister, has a father who comes by a couple of times a year, and he’s Jewish but not Hasidic.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, he also gathered links to what appears to be every single interview with me available on the web, and published them below the interview! He even found the old interview that Erika Moen conducted with me, before the book version of Hereville was even published.

Thanks, Steven!

Under Interviews

Barry Intereviewed On “Books We Love”

On January 14, 2011 · Comments Off on Barry Intereviewed On “Books We Love”

“Books We Love,” the blog of the Park Ridge Public Library, has posted an interview with me. Here’s a sample:

I love the character of the pig-what made you choose a pig and not some other animal?

In retrospect, it’s silly how long I spent trying to decide on the right animal to be in the Witch’s yard. Wolf? Huge housecat? Giant ferret? But then I thought of pig, and obviously a pig was the perfect antagonist, just because a pig is the iconic “non-kosher” animal that Jews avoid eating. And once I had that, the pig’s grumpy, over-the-top personality fell into place.

Do you have any subjects that you’re dying to write about, but haven’t yet? Any non-Hereville books that you have percolating away in your head?

I have a few non-Hereville ideas. But Hereville is also a very broad canvas — after all, hundreds of people live in the town of Hereville. So I think I could happily do many, many more Hereville books, and be able to fit in a huge range of stories and characters.

I’d be really eager to do a story with a positive, fat character as the protagonist. I was really disappointed when the TV show “Huge” was canceled.

Click through to read the entire interview! And my thanks to Sarah Hagge for doing such a great job conducting the interview. By the way, Sarah also wrote a very nice review of Hereville back in December; you can read that review here.

Under Interviews
School Visits
I love doing author visits, either in person or over the internet via Skype! Click here for information about having me speak at your school.