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Kids Comics Month: Get To Know Greg Smith, Michael Tanner, and Zach Lehner

Whether you’re young or old, regardless of your tastes and interests, there’s no denying the appeal of a well-written, well-drawn comic book or graphic novel. “All-Ages” doesn’t have to strictly mean “For Kids Only”… especially when there’s so much wonderful content being created today that’s perfectly suited for anyone to pick up and enjoy.

This month PREVIEWS celebrates Kid Comics throughout the issue with plenty of new and backlist titles available. And in anticipation of this month’s theme, we reached out to some of All Ages Comics’ most talented creators for these mini-interviews! You may know the titles, but do you know their creators? Hopefully you’ll get a better insight into these talented creators with this month’s special feature!

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Greg Smith, Michael Tanner, and Zach Lehner
Comic Creators Known For: Junior Braves of the Apocalypse

PREVIEWSworld: Tell us a little bit about yourselves and about your book!

Michel TannerI've always loved comics and always wanted to write. I took a weird path to get there, but there I am—writing comics. Junior Braves of the Apocalypse (MAR151456) is a Young Adult adventure/horror story about a group of young boys who have to fight off mutant zombies, dirt-bag adults, and a mentally unbalanced teacher, while trying to find out what happened to their parents.

Zach LehnerI'm a really weird guy who draws comics… but the two aren't necessarily related. My book is about zombies chasing a bunch of boys through the end of the world.

Greg Smith: I am one of the biggest kids you will ever meet! In my house you can have ice cream for dinner, clothes don’t have to match, and dogs are people too! My head is in the clouds, but my feet are on the ground. Junior Braves is a book about a group of kids being stretched out like a rubber band about to snap, but bouncing back to normal. It is a book about the resilience of youth and becoming friends. It also has Zombies, FIRE, and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches!  

PREVIEWSworld: What is the most exciting part of working on a kid’s comic? What do you think is most essential in crafting a story geared toward young readers?

Michel TannerThe most essential element to crafting a story for young readers is to make sure you’re still telling a story that you’d want to hear too. If you don’t have a passion for your story why should anyone else? I think young readers in particular can be savvy about inauthenticity and pandering.

Zach LehnerI think the most important thing is not to shy away from the harsh stuff—nobody likes to be talked-down to. I try not to sugarcoat the scarier parts of the story.

Greg SmithThe most exciting part is bringing these characters to life and having them play out adventures that we, as children, sometimes wish we got to live out. I think that the most essential thing in crafting the story is getting the voice right, or in our case, the voices. I feel that a reader needs this in order to make a stronger connection to the story.

PREVIEWSworld: What can readers look forward to in your upcoming project?

Michel TannerAction and a bit of humor… mutant squirrels—spoiler alert. We’re also telling a long story that we hope grows as they do. They’ll have something good to read for the next few years.

Zach LehnerWorking from the script, the next book is really After the End—the boys are moving from looking for someone to make things better towards becoming self-reliant, and making important decisions about right and wrong. It's going to be even more emotionally intense for a lot of them, and they're going to react in unexpected ways. It's really exciting to depict such a powerful period of growth.

Greg SmithFast Cars, Danger, FIRE, and Knives! It is true you will see all those things in the next book as well as ACTION, ADVENTURE, and GROWTH! Perhaps we will see a Bigfoot?

PREVIEWSworld: And lastly, what was your favorite comic as a kid, and how does it continue to influence you today?

Michel Tanner: I had a real soft-spot for West Coast Avengers as a kid. They were the “other” Avengers team—not underdogs, but largely considered second tier. Now I'm writing what is essentially a team book about kids who might be considered "second tier."

Zach Lehner: Calvin and Hobbes. In a lot of ways, I look to that strip as a guidepost—not just for the kind of work I want to make, but in how I live my life. It helped me find perspective on a lot of things I might not have understood otherwise.

Greg SmithMake me pick only one!? I guess hands-down, a long box to prove it true, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. As a kid I could not get enough of them, or the crossover titles with the Transformers! The big take-away was that they always worked together (or tried to) and they always found a way to beat Cobra! I would say teamwork is what stuck.

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Please recommend three current comics for kids that you enjoy, and provide a few sentences about why you think these comics are top picks!

1.Michel Tanner - Mermin (Vol. 1—OCT121154)

WHY? A fish out of water story... literally. Also, superheroes, kind of.

2. Zach Lehner - Gon (Vol. 1—JUN111172)

WHY? It's a wordless manga about a tiny dinosaur who protects fledgeling mammals by hitting bad guys with his head. In addition to that (which is all the reason you should need) it's really sweet and cute.

3. Greg Smith - Courtney Crumrin (Special Ed. Vol. 1—DEC111155)

WHY? Strong Female lead with amazing magical story and incredible art! Smith House favorite.

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