Allison's Book Bag

Fine Arts Foundation to Comics

Posted on: April 9, 2013

We had better switch back before the ship takes off.

Zita tells this to her robot double in Legends of Zita the Spacegirl. Next thing Zita knows, her double has tossed her out of the ship and is claiming Zita’s role as heroine. Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke, is the second in his graphic novel series.


“I never left comics,” Ben Hatke told School Library Journal when asked why he returned to comics after taking time to focus on fine arts. Actually, Hatke would contend that it’s the other way around. He started out as a self-taught freelance artist, reached the point where he felt he could do better, but not without studying the fundamentals of art. “It was a point when I decided I should either learn to really do this right or find something else to do with my life.” And so first he studied at a studio in Italy. After that, he got a library card to the to the British Institute library in Florence and created a second course for himself. Hatke believes that taking time to focus on fine arts had a revolutionary effect on his comics. “I think everyone who wants to make comics … should take the time to draw from life whenever they can. It changes the way you look at things.”

Hatke is an artist, writer, and comics creator. He is the creator of the Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels, the second of which I’ll review tomorrow, and a contributor to the Flight Anthologies. He lives in Virginia with his wife, four daughters, a flock of chickens, and a cat. You can find his journal comics, which he gathers into a yearly collection, online at his website. Like me, breakfast is Hatke’s favorite meal of the day. He also apparently loves swords, whistles, fire-breathing, and rolling 20-sided dice with his friends.


According to Kidsreads, the Zita series covers a lot of issues from ego and fame to identity. When asked how he handled these in terms of the audience and age range which Zita attracts, Hatke responded that he doesn’t think about what is age appropriate. Instead, he thinks of Zeta as a real character, because then “her emotional journey will always be accessible to anyone who might pick up the book”. As for issues of identity, those are central to growing to up. As such, being “pigeonholed into a role” is something that we all have to deal with at some point. And while some roles might have validity, roles will only ever be part of who we are. In other words, identity is a universal issue that transcends age.

Other fun tidbits about Legends of Zita can be found by seeking out the rest of the Kidsread interview. Just for samplers, one of Hatke’s favorite parts of this book is the amount of space travel he could incorporate. For inspiration, he browsed a lot of Hubble telescope images and other space images. Also, I found of particular interest how much he involved his family. He tells the stories to his wife. His four daughters let me know when jokes fall flat, or when action is confusing, and if Zita seems like an honest character to them. And for this second book in the trilogy, the oldest two even each got to draw a small background creature.

How would you rate this book?

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