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Teen Boat! Hardcover – May 8, 2012
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John Green and Dave Roman on Teen Boat!
How would you describe Teen Boat! in your own words?John Green: Teen Boat! is the story of a teenager with the power to turn into a yacht. It chronicles the trials and tribulations of being a teen and a boat, such as trying to fit in with the cool kids, struggling with acne (or in TB’s case, barnacles), being hijacked by pirates, crashing into icebergs, and going to detention. It’s the only comic that features the angst of being a teen and the thrill of being a boat!
Dave Roman: Teen Boat! asks the reader to go on a journey of self-discovery and transformation, highlighting the universal struggle between inner versus outer identity. Through the power of graphic narrative, it redefines the perceived boundaries between boat and teen, because in our hearts, Teen Boat is you and me. Also, there are jokes about dinghies.
Can you describe your collaboration process?John: Dave and I have collaborated together on a number of projects, and we approach each one a bit differently. How Teen Boat! is written varies from chapter to chapter. Sometimes Dave will have a loose idea for a story that he’ll run by me; other times he’ll have a full script. Quite often, Dave will write an entire story because I tell him I thought of a single funny line of dialog or gag I want to draw. Or, in the case of the Venice chapters, an excuse for me to write my trip to Italy off on my taxes. And I asked Dave to write the chapter with the wedding scene because I wanted to include a cameo of some friends of mine as their real-life wedding present. Though Dave is the writer and I’m the artist, our process isn’t really that clearly divided. When Dave writes a chapter of Teen Boat!, he’ll sometimes loosely draw it in comic form. That contributes a lot to my artistic process. He’ll even do sketches of characters or vehicles that I’ll then adapt into my own style. And sometimes when I’m drawing the comic I’ll notice things that can be rearranged to improve the narrative or add a character moment. There are many writer/artist teams that think of each of their respective duties to a project as completely separate, but that’s not the case with Dave and me. As a writer and an artist we together form one author: Davohn Romreen!
Dave: John is really easy to write for.
Do you have a favorite character? Or scene?Dave: Teen Boat himself constantly surprises me as a character. He walks this delicate line between melodramatic sad sack and showboating, egotistical jerk. One minute he’s crying because nobody knows he exists, and the next he confidently believes he deserves to be class president. The “Vote Boat” chapter is probably my favorite for exactly that reason. There is a scene where Teen Boat nags his best friend into being his campaign manager so she can do all the work for him. It has nothing to do with being a boat, but everything to do with him being a comically self-centered teenager.
John: Favorite scene? That’s tough. There are scenes I really like but were tough to draw, or drawings that I really like but aren’t a big part of the story, or story parts I really like that I thought I could’ve drawn better . . . It’s difficult to find one specific part that I am 100 percent satisfied with. But if I had to choose, I think I’d go with the Venice scenes, especially the date that Teen Boat has with the gondola. I’m especially proud of the Lady and the Tramp homage, plus the gag of the gondola sighing under the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri). As for favorite character, I’m quite partial to the crab and duck that seem to mysteriously follow Teen Boat wherever he goes. What’s their story?
Who came up with the concept of a teen who is also a boat?John: I can’t remember which one of us first said “Teen Boat,” but we definitely came up with the concept together during the weekend of the Small Press Expo in 2000. We had been going to the show a few years, promoting another comic we’ve made together, Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden. That series is stylistically very different from Teen Boat!, and I was thinking about doing something sillier or lighter on the side. Somehow Dave and I got to talking about after-school specials and Saturday-morning cartoons; thus the idea of a teenager facing normal teen problems like acne, bullies, crushes, and peer pressure, but who can also transform into a boat, was born. If you think about it, it’s really just like Spider-Man, only instead of spider powers, TB’s got nautical powers.
Dave: At first it was like a running joke. At the Small Press Expo, John and I kept telling all our cartoonists friends about our “million-dollar idea!” which got a lot of laughs; especially the proposed tag line “the angst of being a teen . . . the thrill of being a boat.” But when you hang out with creative people, a lot of silly ideas get thrown around that don’t actually go anywhere. So the Teen Boat premise sat around for a year or so, and really, it could have ended there. But for some reason, John and I were determined to pay off the joke by making it a real thing. So in time for the next Small Press Expo, we debuted an eight-page Teen Boat! black-and-white mini-comic and sold it for fifty cents! The little photocopied book got an even stronger reaction than we expected, and we were totally blown away by the enthusiasm everyone seemed to have for it. Things just kept snowballing as we found new ways to expand on the initial ideas and keep ourselves laughing along the way.
What were you two like as teenagers?John: I grew up a very sickly child. I had severe asthma and allergies and doctors wanted to put me away in a bubble, but my mom wouldn’t have it. I still sort of lived in a bubble as I spent a lot of time in my room reading and drawing comics. I was quite entrepreneurial, making comics, photocopying them on my grandparents’ machine and selling them to other kids in my school for a dollar. I think Dave did something similar in his youth. By high school, I was fairly normal, at least health-wise. I didn’t play sports, but I was in the plays and musicals, and good at math, and thought I had a pretty low profile, yet everyone seemed to know who I was. I wasn’t in any one clique--I sort of floated around different groups of friends.
Dave: When I was a teenager I listened to a lot more heavy metal and gave much longer answers to questions.
You are both very involved in the comic and graphic novel industries. What advice would you give to teens looking to break into the field?John: This is a very interesting question, because the "field" is very different today than it was when Dave and I were in school. Today there are a lot more avenues for getting into comics. The most important piece of advice is the most obvious one: Make comics. If you want to make comics, make comics! There’s nothing stopping you. There is really no technological, educational, or financial barrier the way there is with something like making a movie or making a video game. All you need is some pencils and paper. That said, you can’t just make comics. If you want to make a career out of making comics, you need people to see them. This is something that’s really easy these days. There are plenty of websites where you can post comics, and plenty of other sites that you can use to spread the word about your comics. But I also think it’s important that if you want to make comics as a career, you spend a little time figuring out what kind of career you want. Do you want to be a commercial artist, writing or drawing comics of Batman or Spider-Man for DC or Marvel? Or do you want to do your own full-length story for a traditional book publisher? Or do you want to do gag strips online that you’ll collect into a book after a year? There’s nothing that says you can’t do all of these, or switch what you want to do later down the line, but being an artist can also mean being a business, and it’s important to at least consider having some sort of plan. But again, what it comes down to is 1) make comics and 2) show them to people.
Dave: My advice would be to listen to John. He gives good advice.
Will we see more of Teen Boat!?John: Indeed you will! The next voyage of Teen Boat sets sail in . . .
Dave: . . . I should probably get back to work on that script!
Top customer reviews
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The art of TEEN BOAT! is clean with easy-to-distinguish and consistent character designs. The girls aren't overly sexified either. They look like teen girls and their designs are stylized the same as the guys. The art doesn't stand out from the crowd, but it is definitely not hideous. And believe me, you'd be surprised how many comics and graphic novels get published with awful art.
TEEN BOAT! first came onto my radar when I read the AV Club review praising its light parody of Saturday morning cartoons. After reading it myself, I cannot come up with a better description than that. TEEN BOAT! is an updated, self-aware Saturday morning cartoon that invites the reader to laugh at the ridiculous premise and plots and enjoy the story anyway.
The protagonist of TEEN BOAT! is actually named TEEN BOAT! He's a high school student who can turn into a boat at will, but must turn into a boat when wet. He gets in and out of trouble, dates an Italian gondola, and runs for class president. Like most teen guys, he's pretty self-absorbed. One of the running gags is how he doesn't notice that his best friend is both into him and has shape-changing abilities of her own.
Older teens will probably find TEEN BOAT! too short and silly. But hey, I'm an adult and thought it was cute. TEEN BOAT! is probably best for tweens, especially ones that still enjoy the cheesiness of Saturday morning cartoons. There is some underage drinking and gambling, but it the protagonist does not partake and the behavior is punished.
I actually requested this book to see what the team of Roman and Green were up to; and with a mind to finding out whether this might be the beginning of a series I could introduce to my 10 year-old son...
...BUT NO WAY, JOSE. I might let a 'd-mn' slide but it's not cool with this helicopter mom to have marijuana, drinking and smoking (cigarettes this time) mentioned like it's no big deal. [Not to mention that 'getting to second base' would have to be explained.] Sooo, me in my-mom-hat will not be suggesting this book for Tweens.
Which leaves the question of who it would be good for. Here's my opinion:
No - for adults. There was some funny stuff here, but not enough to make it worth the effort.
No - for Tweens. At least if you're a mom like me. If your child is already rolling their own, they might enjoy it.
Yes - for guys 13-16 years, if they feel like a fun read that's based on goofy humor.
Yes - possibly for girls 13 - 15 years if they like non-violent graphic novels. Romance is the focal point of the stories. And I particularly like the sections that dealt with where Teen Boat (that's his name) fell in love with a gondola named Risatina.
Maybe - for guys older than 16, but honestly all of the things I thought were inappropriate for younger kids, is going to be too bland for mosts tastes at this age. I mean, no super cool artwork, and no ultra violence or women with extravagant 'attributes'.
I'm divided on this one and not prepared to give it a definitive thumbs-down because there might be a guy out there that will be motivated to pick up more books if he starts on this one. However, that said TEEN BOAT is just got the wrong synergy going. On the one hand it's childish but has inappropriate things for children, and one the other hand it's not sophisticated enough for most Young Adults, which leaves it possibly right for that thin band in between: 13-15 year olds.
putting away her MOM-hat
The entire premise is ridiculous and simply doesn't work. The narrator is a teenager that can turn into a yacht. (?!?) Everyone in school knows this, and they take advantage of him by either bullying him or using him to go on illegal gambling trips. Meanwhile, he has trouble finding love.
The whole thing is awkward and disconnected.
There are a few random scenes, for example, that reference drug use or alcohol in a vaguely "this is bad" way, but bereft of any context, they are just very strange and unclear. The book is filled with inane puns relating to his being a boat, and honestly, one pun is one too many, but none of them are even remotely funny. Then there's the stupid repetition of "[insert vapid phrase here]...TEEN BOAT (in an irritating font)" constantly throughout. We get it. He is a teen and a boat and it's also his name. Stop repeating this horrible mistake of a concept. It won't make the reader suspend disbelief anymore than they have.
It's unclear what the goal was with this little graphic novel, but it didn't work. In the spirit of bad puns, the maiden voyage simply sunk. Waste of time. Terrible.
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