Today’s episode is an interview with Paul Pope about his latest comic book series, Battling Boy. Paul Pope is a prolific cartoonist and illustrator, perhaps best known for Batman: Year 100, for which he won two Eisner awards. (If you haven’t read it yet, you should look it up!) While talking to Pope, I could tell that he’s interested in using comics to tell deeper stories: although it may appear to be just about a monster-fighting super-kid on the surface, Pope draws from classical hero stories and mythology.
Battling Boy, released last year, is about a young boy who is sent to Arcopolis, a vast city overrun by child-stealing monsters. His nameless father is some sort of war-god, and Battling Boy has been sent to this realm as a sort of coming-of-age ritual. But he’s not the only one fighting off the monsters.
Arcopolis has its own hero: Haggard West. He’s a bit like Batman–he has no superpowers but uses a lot of gadgets of his own design. Haggard has been keeping the monsters at bay and has been training his daughter Aurora in the family business … until he is killed in battle in the first scene of the book. It’s as Aurora is preparing herself to take over her father’s role when Battling Boy arrives on the scene, stealing the spotlight.
Now, the second book in the series arrives: The Rise of Aurora West. It actually serves as a prequel, and we get to see a lot more of Aurora’s relationship with Haggard and some of the events leading up to Haggard’s final battle. There’s a bit of a mystery about Aurora’s past–memories she can’t quite recall, hints at something driving the monster activities, and so on.
There are two books planned for Aurora’s story arc, and two books planned for Battling Boy. Paul Pope writes and illustrates the Battling Boy books himself, and Aurora West is written in conjunction with J.T. Petty and illustrated by David Rubín. Although the four books will form an interweaving story arc, they can also be read as two standalone stories, and First Second Books has elected to use a slightly different format for the two. Battling Boy is slightly larger and in full color; The Rise of Aurora West is a little smaller and in black and white. This may also reflect, in part, the different sensibility in the storytelling between the two books–Battling Boy is more action, with mostly straightforward, linear storytelling, where Aurora West gets a little darker, more nuanced, and jumps between current day and flashbacks.
Both are excellent reads, though, and appropriate for tween/teen readers. I look forward to the next two volumes!
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You can find Paul Pope online at paulpope.com (note: contains images that may not be kid- or work-appropriate) or follow him on Twitter at PULPH0PE (that’s a zero, not a letter O). For more about First Second Books, visit the website.
Disclosure: GeekDad received review copies of Battling Boy and The Rise of Aurora West.