By Patrick Cavanaugh
Author Tomas Palacios says it best with "A talking tree? A raccoon with a rocket launcher?" when asked what appeals to kids most about the Guardians of the Galaxy. It seems like a no-brainer that a ragtag group of intergalactic misfits fighting crimes in outerspace would capture young minds, but where do they start?
In "Guardians of the Galaxy: Beginnings," Palacios gives the origin stories of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot and Rocket Raccoon to make sure kids can grow up with their new favorite heroes. Palacios recently chatted with Marvel.com to tell us what comics he grew up with as a kid, why he loves the Guardians of the Galaxy, and what makes writing for a younger audience so fun.
Marvel.com: What super heroes did you like as a kid? What was your first introduction to the Guardians of the Galaxy?
My first encounter with the Guardians of the Galaxy was in [their series that began in] 2008. They never really got a big enough push when I was a kid, as they were easily overshadowed by the Avengers, etc.
Marvel.com: Kids love super heroes of all shapes and sizes, but what is it about the Guardians that appeals most to kids?
Tomas Palacios: A talking tree? A raccoon with a rocket launcher? A tattooed bald guy who likes to destroy? The most dangerous woman in the universe? All led by a smart-alec human who just so happens to be half alien? Case closed!
Seriously, you could go the old truth, justice, and American way type super hero, but that’s been done to death! Kids are smart and they like zany-ness. They like to be challenged and they like characters that are colorful, unique, flawed, different, fun and crazy-town. You know...like kids!
Marvel.com: Kids aren’t normally the ones buying the books, so why should parents pick up "Guardians of the Galaxy: Beginnings"?
Tomas Palacios: It’s for the younger audience. We created a format that, when held, felt like a picture book, but when you opened it, it felt like a younger version of a comic. The colors really pop. The text is minimal. The story is driven mainly by the art. It’s a 48-page picture book that retells how a group of super heroes came together to save the universe, but told in a tone that a seven-year old, or an 80-year old, would understand. It’s a great read for kids, as they learn a thing or two about leadership and teamwork!
Marvel.com: Who’s your favorite of the Guardians?
Tomas Palacios: I would say Groot. He is a tree of few words. His actions speak louder. Plus, have you seen him when he’s a tiny plant? Adorable!
Tomas Palacios: The Guardians of the Galaxy mythology is vast and has had a few re-incarnations over the years. The difficulty we had with this book was creating an origin story that fit the canon of the Guardians of the Galaxy world, but spoke to the younger audience. The art came in to speak to the reluctant reader. We had to knock out a lot of awesome stuff to have it tailored to an audience that fell into the 7-12 year range. The idea is that the kid will read our books against Guardians of the Galaxy over the next few years and then eventually say, “Ya know what? I want more of the back story and mythology"--because they’ll know that word by then--"I’m picking up the comics!” Hook them young and have them grow to broader/older formats.
The art was key. Ron Lim, who did the pencils, was brilliant to work with. I had this crazy idea of having all these scenes that I wanted to create and I saw it in my head. I tried to draw them on these napkins and I scanned them to Ron and he instantly got them. Then we worked with Dean White, who did the colors. This guy was a dream to work with. He hand-painted everything and then scanned them into a computer and digitally added the colors. When we finally got them in, I thought there is no way a kid will put this book down, that is how awesome the art was!
Marvel.com: You’ve written books for young readers about Thor, Spider-Man, and the Avengers. What’s the best part about writing for a younger audience?
Tomas Palacios: The hard part is writing too much. Or assuming the child is not smart enough to get it, so in return, everything is described/told/given to them. Kids aren’t stupid. They are more imaginative than we think. I’ve learned to trust the reader and let them figure out the world for themselves. Telling them the world is one thing. Having them imagine it is another. The best part about writing for the younger audience is knowing one day my kids will pick these books up and smile seeing their dad had a part in writing a book they read.
Marvel.com: Is there any pressure that your story might be a formative book for future comic book fans?
Tomas Palacios: I hope so. As amazing as Marvel has been with their stories, there is that hole for books that are targeted to the younger audience/reluctant reader. Hopefully what we are doing over at Marvel Press will fill that hole.To awesome books!
To awesome books indeed, Tomas! Like yours! Make sure to pick up your copy of "Guardians of the Galaxy: Beginnings", available here, for the kid in your life or the kid in your heart.