Meet Dave Roman, creator of the Astronaut Academy series!
What initially drew you to comics?
The drawings, they drew me to comics! I was a drawer who filled his drawer . . . with drawings! As a kid, I’d copy the art from Garfield, The Far Side, and Groo the Wanderer, and those eventually morphed into my own characters. As early as elementary school I was asking my parents to copy my comic stories at their respective offices’ photocopy machines so that I could assemble them into books to share with friends and family. I basically continued self-publishing through high school and college, going to comic book conventions, making friends with other cartoonists (like John Patrick Green of InvestiGators fame), and collaborating on all sorts of fun projects. Comics had this awesome subculture and community that encouraged me to keep being creative and putting my art into the world. The Astronaut Academy series started out as photocopied mini-comics, so having a big awesome publisher like First Second helping to get my weirdly personal space stories into stores, libraries, and readers’ hands is still mind-blowing! And in the time since the first two Astronaut Academy books were published, it seems as if the whole world now shares a similar passion for comics. It’s a thrill to see the next generation being inspired to write and draw their own original adventures!
What was your inspiration behind the Astronaut Academy series?
Growing up, I loved the line “And now for something completely different” that began each episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The sense of genre-bending, fourth-wall-breaking, surrealistic whimsy found within that show (and others like it) spoke directly to me and helped me feel like I wasn’t the only oddball in the world. A lot of my earliest comics had that kind of non-sequitur comedy, but as I get older, I find myself forming deeper bonds with characters and wanting to tell emotional story arcs where the people (and bunnies) grow and evolve. So Astronaut Academy is kind of a hybrid of those two modes. Equal parts silly and sincere. Yes, there are giant robots, Spanish-speaking pandas, and a cosmic manatee, but hopefully, the feelings and struggles they are going through are relatable to the reader.
What scene or panel sequence did you most enjoy drawing in Astronaut Academy: Splashdown, the newest installment in the series?
I loved illustrating the scene where Hakata Soy and his heroic teammates suit up and fly into an active volcano in an attempt to stop it from erupting and ruining Maribelle’s party. It was a lot of fun to draw lava monsters that are manifestations of the protagonist’s anxieties and insecurities. Astronaut Academy is a chance to explore various emotions and the inner lives of kids in visually fun ways. For the volcano scene, in particular, the tension is super heightened by the amazing color work JesnCin did for the book! The lava battle gets so hot for our heroes, you might want a tall glass of lemonade to hel