Wang’s ‘In Real Life’ adapted at UNI

Cartoonist and illustrator Jen Wang was present at the Interpreters Theatre’s play adaption of her graphic novel “In Real Life.”

SYDNEY HAUER, Executive Editor | [email protected]

Jen Wang, a cartoonist and illustrator based in Los Angeles, California spoke at the Interpreters Theatre in Lang Hall on Thursday, Oct. 26 as part of the Hearst Lecture Series.

She is currently working on a new book, “The Prince and the Dressmaker,” which will come out in February of 2018. It will be the third book she has illustrated and the second that she has written.

Wang also wrote and illustrated “Koko, Be Good,” published in 2010, and illustrated a book written by Cory Doctorow, “In Real Life,” in 2014. “In Real Life,” won Wang the 2014 Cybils Award for Best Graphic Novel.

Wang visited UNI to give a lecture in correspondence with the Interpreters Theatre’s play adaptation this past weekend of “In Real Life.” It is the first  such adaptation of Wang’s work. Wang was present at the premiere performance and participated in a talk-back afterwards.

The lecture drew a full house of faculty and students interested in learning about her work as an artist. Wang casually approached the podium in a black hooded sweatshirt, kindly greeted the audience and began her lecture.

She started by discussing what influenced her to begin drawing cartoons at a young age and cited “The Little Mermaid” as a big influence. She said she found it interesting that it is someone’s job to make images come to life and that through drawings a moving image can be made to translate a feeling or an idea. The autobiography of Bill Peet, a former storyboard artist working for Walt Disney, was also an immense influence for Wang.

Wang also explained she met a friend in high school who was interested in manga, saying that she got into it as well. The newfound interest also served as a major influence.

Wang worked on a web comic in her first semester at college at San Francisco State University. She started out as a film major and then changed to sociology because she doubted pursuing art as a career.

After graduation, she began to draw comics again and worked multiple jobs to get by. She wrote “Koko, Be Good,” which was published by First Second publishing company.

They approached her a while later and asked her if she wanted to be the cartoonist for “In Real Life.” She accepted, and has been with the First Second publishing company ever since.

Julia Segebarth is a junior UNI student studying post secondary education and student affairs. She hadn’t heard of Jen Wang before the lecture.

“I really enjoyed it,” Segebarth said. “I’m kind of biased on that because I actually really like anime and manga and gaming, so I was really excited to go to it. It was required for one of our classes, but it’s so interesting to see a speaker come in [that] actually published a book and go over it with us, and explain how she went through that process.”

Emily Goettsch is a sophomore majoring in communication studies. She said she has never really gotten into graphic novels, but enjoyed Wang’s lecture.

“I thought the presentation was really informative,” Goettsch said.

“It was nice to hear her mindset [and] how her art has or has not changed. She even gave feedback regarding what her family thought of it, but what still drove her despite the knowledge that they might not approve,” Goettsch said. “She knew it was something she was passionate about, so she stuck with it, and I thought that was a really admirable quality to have.”