PRINCETON — A Princeton man won two Eisner awards at last month’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, Calif. Skottie Young won the awards, which are considered the Oscars of comic books, for his work on an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” children’s books, published by Marvel Comics.
Young won awards as best penciller/inker and, with Eric Shanower, best adaptation from another work.
It’s been quite a ride for Young, who moved to Princeton a couple of years ago. Young grew up in Fairbury, and like most children, liked to draw.
“We all start off, we’re all given crayons or markers or whatever, and we all draw, but at some point you grow out of it,” he said. “Some people grow out of it at 4; some people grow out of it at 8 or 10; and then some of us never do.”
Young got his big break at a comic book convention in Chicago, when a man by the name of C.B. Cebulski happened to see Young’s portfolio.
“Back then, C.B. was just starting off as well in American comics,” Young said. “At that point he wasn’t in the position to give me jobs.”
But that changed quickly after Cebulski got a job at Marvel as an editor. Cebulski remembered the talented young artist from Chicago, and for 10 years, Young has been illustrating comic books on such titles as “New X-Men,” “Venom,” “Spider-Man,” “Human Torch” and many more.
For the last several years, Young has been devoting most of his time to the Oz series. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was Baum’s first book, and Shanower and Young’s adaptation spent 22 weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list. It also won Young his first two Eisners last year, one for best children’s book and another for best limited series.
Young said the books are a fairly straight adaptation of Baum’s novels. Shanower provides the script, and Young then provides the pictures.
To illustrate the comics, Young said he began as he usually does.
“I just sit down and draw for a couple of weeks,” he said. “Eric has a script, and he’ll send me over a compiled list of the main characters and descriptions from Baum’s novels, and then I just take that information and start sketching, finding shapes, finding ideas, looking for what I think is going to work.”
Everyone knows about Dorothy and the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion from Baum’s first book, but the characters from his second novel, “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” aren’t as familiar.
“We were very iffy on whether people would be into it as much because this one is much less well-known,” Young said.
But “The Marvelous Land of Oz” also has been well received.
“People are open to good stories, and it’s a fun story,” Young said.
Young said the novels are much more detailed than the movie.
“Like most movies that are adapted from books, the books have so many more characters, and it’s a lot more fantasy-based, and it’s a lot more imaginative than the movie was,” he said. “You can expect something more, and a little bit more fun.”
Baum wrote 14 Oz novels, and Shanower and Young are hard at work on the fourth, “Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz.”
The way the schedule works is Young illustrates eight single issues of a book, which are released beginning in October. In September, the eight issues are released in a hardback graphic novel format, so the third book “Ozma of Oz,” will be released next month. Earlier this summer, the softback version of “The Marvelous Land of Oz” was released.
Young said the comic books are reconnecting older fans with the books they grew up reading as children, and introducing this material to newer fans who didn’t even know the books existed.
Young said he was pleased to win his Eisner awards. As an artist, Young said he spends a lot of time drawing in his office by himself.
“It’s a very solitary type of job,” he said. “So at the end of the year, it’s good to know that your peers and your fans — your work is out there, and it’s touching them in a certain way.”
Young said winning the Eisners is a good way to acknowledge everyone who works on the books, as well as being good for him professionally.
“It definitely creates buzz,” he said. “It gives me a little bit of stature, and it puts me on some more people’s radar.”
Young doesn’t want to talk much about what’s coming next in his career, but it will probably include some writing.
“It’s fun for me to be able to try that side, where I’m just the writer, and another artist comes in and takes my words and turns them into pictures,” he said. “It’s a very fun avenue.”
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