New York is going well, and the first day of panels were certainly interesting. The show opens to professionals and the press in about 10 minutes… I’ll be there a little later. I did see Scholastic VP David Saylor in the audience for the ICv2 programming yesterday and wanted to ask him about the Francoise Mouly quote I posted this week, but in all the hustle and bustle I missed him. Then what should I find on the comments to that post this morning but a response? Here’s David Saylor, talking about Francoise Mouly’s interactions with Scholastic and the beginnings of the Graphix line and TOON Books:
After reading the statements by Francoise Mouly about her (and Art Spiegelmanâ€™s) interactions with Scholastic, I feel itâ€™s important to set the record straight.
At the time Scholastic was starting GRAPHIX, an artist and friend of mine, Barbara McClintock, suggested that I talk with Art and Francoise because they were interested in exploring a relationship with another publisher after the third volume of Little Lit had been published by HarperCollins. I met with Art and talked a bit about Scholastic, and then later we had a meeting with our then publisher, Jean Feiwel, including a very pleasant lunch where oysters were consumed.
Art and Francoise were interested in publishing what has since become the full-fledged program of Toon early readers. BONE was never part of something they were offering to us as part of their program. They did praise BONE as being a comic that would be perfect for our target market, of 8-12 year olds.
The truth is that we were already aware of BONE before we met with Art and Francoise. My then assistant, Janna Morishima, bought a copy at Forbidden Planet, passed it to me, and I then passed it to Jean Feiwel, with a recommendation that we look into taking over the publishing from Jeff Smith. After reading BONE, I called Jeff Smith and Vijaya Iyer and discovered that they were in fact interested in a publisher taking over the publishing as they neared the end of the series.
Itâ€™s important for me to state that we never â€œturned down BONEâ€ nor was BONE ever presented to us by Art and Francoise as part of their TOON program. The one thing that Art and Francoise did do on BONEâ€™s behalf, was to urge Jeff Smith to create color editions of the BONE books.
I should also say that when Scholastic explored creating a graphic novel imprint, we talked with many, many comics professionals and comic book creators, including Calvin Reid, Allen Spiegel, and Jeff Smith. The founding of GRAPHIX extended from my love of comics as a kid and was an idea that I had long been interested in, from when I first met the agent Allen Spiegel, who represents artists from the comic-book world, in 1996.
The conclusion to our few meetings with Art and Francoise, was a feeling (on our part) that TOON books, as presented at the time, wasnâ€™t how we wanted to launch our graphic novel program, which was going to focus on middle-grade readers. The fact that we couldnâ€™t figure out a way to work together was sad for me, and I expressed this to them at the time.
One last rebuttal: Scholastic never suggested that Art and Francoise do a comic-book version of Shrek! It makes for a very funny story, and certainly makes us seem like buffoons, but it simply isnâ€™t true. Scholastic published movie-tie in books for Shrek but the artwork and look of Shrek is controlled by Dreamworks, the owner of that license.
Iâ€™ve had tremendous respect and admiration for the work of Art and Francoise and I hope their line of Toon Books (which, by the way, were originally going to be published with PENGUIN books: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6312123.html), reach a wide audience and deliver on their promise of helping kids read. I wish them every success and I hope that their Toon Books lead to more (and better) comics for kids of all ages.
VP, Associate Publisher & Creative Director
Hardcover Books & Graphix
So how about that, huh? I didn’t imagine that Mouly’s statement would go completely unchallenged, but that certainly is a different reading of the events. Both Saylor and Mouly are at the show this weekend, perhaps I’ll scoop up some further commentary from both.