word craft


Continuing Tale: City of Light, City of Dark

City of Light, City of DarkTwen­ty years after its first print­ing, Scholas­tic has just reis­sued City of Light, City of Dark, the graph­ic nov­el I authored.

In 1986 (I think it was), I had been liv­ing in Los Ange­les. Not only did I pur­chase my first com­put­er there, I wrote a fan­ta­sy nov­el set in New York City. The book was actu­al­ly pur­chased by one edi­tor, but then dropped, when in the process of revi­sion I real­ized to write a nov­el set in a mod­ern city, with­out peo­ple of col­or, made no sense. I offered the book to anoth­er pub­lish­er, who turned it down say­ing, “It had no salt.” I put the book aside, not sure what to do with it. A few months lat­er, I read an arti­cle by artist Will Eis­ner, in which he argued that the graph­ic nov­el, a term he pop­u­lar­ized, was a legit­i­mate form of literature.

Bells rang in my head. As a kid, I adored com­ic books and read them by the thou­sands. It struck me that my nov­el was rather like a com­ic book tale and could find life in that form.

By then I was liv­ing in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, and had become an acquain­tance of David Macaulay who was teach­ing illus­tra­tion at the Rhode Island School of Design. I asked him if he knew of any com­ic strip artists. He sug­gest­ed one of his students—who was also a stu­dent at Brown Uni­ver­si­ty. The young man drew a dai­ly strip for the Brown Uni­ver­si­ty stu­dent news­pa­per. The stu­den­t’s name was Bri­an Flo­ca.

By that time my edi­tor was Richard Jack­son, then of Orchard Books. I sug­gest­ed he take my nov­el and we would trans­form it into a graph­ic nov­el. He was dubi­ous, until I sent him a copy of Maus, the extra­or­di­nary graph­ic nov­el by Art Spiegel­man. That book con­vinced Richard that there was valid­i­ty to the form. We three became a team. 

Bri­an and I met often over a peri­od of years to cre­ate City of Light, City of Dark. It is still around and still enjoyed. And Bri­an is still trav­el­ing fast.

1 thought on “Continuing Tale: City of Light, City of Dark”

  1. I some­how missed this arti­cle until now. Thank you for this back sto­ry. I could read pages more if you’ve got them 🙂 City of Light, City of Dark inspired my love for comics, espe­cial­ly graph­ic nov­els, so it’s great to hear that it was born of an equal inspi­ra­tion in you. I would not be the artist I am today if I had­n’t talked my par­ents into buy­ing me this book!

    Also thank you thank you for rop­ing Bri­an Flo­ca in for this project, he remains one of my all time favorite artists, and it’s all thanks to the expo­sure I got to him from this very book.


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