First Second :01

Today I did two things I never thought I’d do.

I’m on my way to Chicago for ALA 2013, but stopped over in New York for a couple of days to meet the people at First Second. First Second is an incredibly exciting graphic novel list, and I’m really pleased to say I’m about to sign a contract with them for a book written by me, and illustrated by my old friend, Thomas Taylor.

I headed down for lunch with Mark Siegel and Calista Brill. I’d only met Mark once briefly before and never met Calista except virtually, so it was a great chance today to discuss comics in general and in particular the one Thomas and I are going to make over the next couple of years.

Now the first thing to say about First Second is that, being part of the Macmillan US group, they work out of the coolest possible offices:

Yes, you’re right, that is the Flatiron building.

Of course there are bigger, taller skyscrapers in Manhattan, but once upon a time, this was the tallest, and it’s still the coolest, with the possible exception of the Chrysler. More than that, from a comics point of view, it’s iconic; as Mark pointed out, this building is the home of the Daily Bugle in Spiderman. So it gets a few points for that.

Arriving at the lobby, I rode up in the (original) elevator to meet Mark and Calista who kindly found me when I was looking a little lost, and we headed out for lunch. It was here that I did the first unexpected thing today. We went to a great middle-Eastern place called Ilili, and Mark wondered if I’d like to try this:

Yes, you’re right, that is bone marrow.

We ate it, only afterwards wondering what it might have come from.

I digress. After a delicious lunch, we yakked about comics and discussed the project in hand – this is far too early to talk about it much, but it’s called Scarlett Hart, and it looks like this:

Yes, you’re right, that is very cool. Which is not down to me but the superb skills of Thomas. I cannot wait to get cracking on this book properly, though that’s going to be a while off yet.

Then, after lunch, we headed back to nose around Calista’s office, which is very cool, since the walls are covered with very cool art (did I mention that these First Second guys are cool? Well they are).

Yes, you’re right, I do look like I’ve just eaten bone marrow. Calista, it turns out, once studied Finnish. Cool, no?

So then came the second thing I never thought I’d do:
Mark said: ‘Do you want to go on the roof?’
Me: ‘The roof? Of the Flatiron?’
Mark: ‘Yes. The roof.’
Me: ‘You’re kidding..?’

He wasn’t:

Here’s Mark, by the way:

Mark is of course a superb creator of graphic novels himself: his extraordinary work Sailor Twain is testament to that.

I know the rooftop photos look a little fake, but it was a hazy afternoon and the whole of Manhattan was laid out like a film set. And really, at this point, any pretence that I might be as cool as these guys who make awesome graphic novels in an unbelievably iconic building went out of the window, as I stared around me like the slack-jawed yokel from a tiny village near Cambridge that I am.

Still, who needs to be cool?

If you don’t know the great books that First Second make, have a look at their website – it’s a great place to explore, and you get a real sense of what they’re doing in that fantastic old building on 23rd Street.

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