Interview: James Sturm Inspires Kids To Create A ‘Christmas Miracle’ With ‘Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special’

Santa Claus is feeling left behind thanks to the tech and video game-savvy youths of the 21st century who no longer need the fat man’s elfmade goodies. So St. Nick, one of his elves and their pal the Knight decide to create a comic that’ll hopefully get the kids to drop their fancy gadgets and pick up a pencil and paper to create their own comic books. James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost’s rhyming all-ages graphic novel, “Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special” from First Second Books serves as both the story of a Christmas wish as a christmas wish itself, since the creative team hopes “Adventures” will inspire real-life kids to take a breather from all the screen-staring to embrace their creativity by producing homemade comics. In fact, at the end of the comic, children are asked to send a comic to Santa instead of the standard letter.

I spoke with James Sturm about the inspiration of “Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special,” the Center for Cartoon Studies (which he co-founded) and the comics that “Christmas Special” has inspired so far.

MTV Geek: Tell us about “Adventures in Cartooning”

James Sturm: “Adventures in Cartooning” is book that seems to have a magical effect on children. They read it and then they immediately start cartooning. The kids are charmed by the funny adventure story and while at the same time getting basic cartooning tips.

Geek: What inspired the Christmas Special?

JS: Kids in the world powering down their screen and drawing comics seemed to me a true Christmas Miracle. Plus I wanted to write a book that rhymed. And my collaborators, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost, and me wanted to draw Santa Claus and a Yeti.

Geek: How did your “Life Without the Web” journey for “Slate” inform the story?

JS: My time away from the Internet reconnected me with my own creative impulses. I found myself more reflective and less reflexive. For me, that’s a better to be when trying to create.

Geek: What do you hope readers will take away from “Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special”

JS: That you don’t need any device besides a pencil and paper or any power source beyond your own imagination to have an exciting time making comics.

Geek: There’s a serious “I want to save comics” message running through the “Christmas Special” despite the cuteness of the story. Why approach the topic this way?

JS: I’m not sure I intended to have a “save comics” message but I do know that kids love making art and then they stop as they get older. All too early, kids only consume media and stop creating it. I want this book to encourage children to experience the joy of making comics.

Geek: In the back of the “Christmas Special” you asked kids to send comics to Santa. How has that been received so far? What are some of your favorites?

JS: The comics have been coming in everyday from throughout the country. Checking non-virtual mailbox is the most anticipated part of my day. An entire third grade class in Tucson, AZ sent in comics.

Geek: For those unfamiliar with it, what is the Center for Cartoon Studies?

JS: It is a two-year degree granting cartooning school in White River Junction, VT. Great cartoonists like Jeff Smith and Craig Thompson visit regularly. The faculty is the best you’ll find anywhere. If you love comics, if you aspire to one day being a cartoonist, it’s worth looking into to.

Geek: What will you tackle next for “Adventures in Cartooning”?

JS: A book on creating characters and putting them in action called, appropriately enough, Characters in Action.

Geek: Thanks, James.

“Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special” is available now from First Second Books.

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