Comic Classics is an excellent, accessible way to bring the Classics to a younger audience. Jack Noel kindly took the time to answer our questions and we think his replies, as well as his books, are brilliant!
How did you get your start in children’s books and publishing?
At the very start of my career I was a freelance designer and illustrator working on random bits and bobs. I wrote to Walker Books and said that really I wanted ot be a kid’s books designer. About two years later they told me about a Junior Designer position. I applied and ended up getting the job. That was the beginning of everything.
Tell us a bit about your workspace and processes for illustrating and designing books.
I share a studio in Soho with 10 other illustrators and designers. It’s quite inspiring! My process is to put all the text on the page with big gaps, then draw very quick scribbles in the gaps. Then I read through it and refine it again and again and again. Each time making it slightly better than the last.
Your Comic Classics series is fantastic for making classics accessible for younger readers. What made you want to tackle classic stories?
These stories are *truly* some of the best books ever written. I have to deep dive into every line as well as do visual research into the time period. Some of them I knew before, but never in such detail. Each book is a voyage of discovery for me, and hopefully for the young readers too!
What titles are in the series now and what might you be working on next?
Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles
Did you read Classics as a child?
I have always been a sucker for modern and fun design with lots of pictures, so as a child most of the Classics I came across looked too fusty and dusty for me to engage with. A shame really because the stories are great! I would have loved Treasure Island but I read that for the first time when I was 35.
Like most kids I LOVED Roald Dahl books – especially the ones with pictures by Quentin Blake (The Twits was my favourite). I was also very intrigued by his Kit-kat habit. I loved comic books, especially Tintin. I was obsessed with Beano. Beano comics, Beano books, Beano everything.
What do you hope Comic Classics will offer readers?
The Comic Classics are the Classics, but just made more accessible. They are still very much the actual classic books. They’re not retellings or updates – all the text is the original text from the actual authors (just cut down a bit). The pictures and notes from me make everything easier to follow. I think of it like having a fun uncle at your side, reading you the classic text but also pausing occasionally to explain bits (and make silly jokes!)
What do you hope 2022 will bring for you?
If Coronavirus could stop existing that would help!
What tips or advice would you offer young aspiring writers and illustrators?
Illustrating is such a great thing to want to do – and you’ve already got everything you need! Most fun things involve asking your parents permission and getting a lift to the place and trying to find friends to do it with and charging up the batteries and so on and so on. With drawing it’s just a pencil, some paper … and you’re good to go. Do it for fun, and then keep doing it. Sometimes it can be frustrating but please don’t give up!