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From the Funnies to the Munchies: An Origin Story, a guest post by David Fremont

Creating the Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher graphic novel series for kids has truly been a dream come true for me. Now that three books are complete—Catch the Munchies! Tater Invaders! and the just released Reptoids from Space!—I’ve been able to experience a lot of wonderful things with them. I’ve had the opportunity to read excerpts of my books to classrooms of students, presented my books at library author visits, been able to teach children how to draw the Munchies and received kind messages from parents who have told me my books have inspired their children to read more. I recently sat down and re-read through Book 3: Reptoids from Space! The first panel in the story features a chaotic scene with Shady Plains (Carlton Crumple’s hometown) kids having outdoor, summertime fun. It got me thinking back to my own childhood and some of the things that inspired me to make this graphic novel series for children.  

When I was a kid, I loved reading comic books and comic strips. Some of my favorite comic books were Sad Sack, Archie, Donald Duck, Popeye, Batman, and the comics in Mad Magazine My favorite comic strips included Peanuts, Figments, Wizard of Id, Tumbleweeds and Nancy.  My comics-reading obsession led me into wanting to create my own comic strip. The hardest part about that for me was coming up with a funny gag each time. My brain doesn’t really work like that. I love comedy, but I’ve never really liked having jokes told to me so much. I tend to space out in the middle of the joke and rarely do I understand the punchline. So, the thought of telling a joke each day until forever was not for me. My dad would give me and my older brother Mark white pads and ballpoint pens from his Carpet Cleaning office to draw on. Mark would create these funny ongoing comics with titles like Bouncing Boy Barney and Phantom of the Titanic that inspired me to make my own ballpoint pen stories.

From Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space
by David Fremont

A few years later, when I was around 11 years old, my cool, older cousin Steve showed us a comic he was working on called The Great White Shark.  It was very much a Jaws rip-off, but I didn’t care. The drawings were so good and, besides, I was a huge fan of the movie. This was the 70s, so any film with a creature on the loose, a natural disaster imperiling humans or a sci-fi theme was for me. So, I obsessively started creating comics inspired by movies I had seen. I did my own Jaws rip-off called Namu the Killer Eel. Soon after that I created a comic about people trapped in a burning ski gondola called, appropriately, Gondola. It was pretty much Towering Inferno in powder pants. My friends and I saw a weird sci-fi movie called The Lost Continent about a cruise ship that drifts into another dimension full of man-eating seaweed. That film inspired me to create a comic called Red Water about a raft full of people who encounter sea monsters— in another dimension, of course! I became completely obsessed with creating comics based on films I had seen: Fangs (House of Dark Shadows) Sky Vaders (Star Wars) Rex the Robot (Westworld) King Kong (King Kong). Yeah, I loved that last one so much I decided to just draw an outright reboot of the film! 

When I got into high school my older sister’s boyfriend gave me a copy of a sci-fi graphic novel called The Incal Light by Moebius. The fantastical space realms and unique characters within the book inspired me to try and create my own original sci-fi story. I came up with something called Philo Fixer: Weasel from Mars about a cocky, clueless weasel detective solving crimes in outer space. I really fell into the world I was creating, it’s all I thought about. All of those “movie comics” I had previously created really helped me map out the story in a sequential format. 

From Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space
by David Fremont

I went on a backpacking trip with my brother and some friends but foolishly left my drawing pad behind. Being out in nature away from all my high school worries really got my imagination flowing. Ideas for my Weasel from Mars comic came flooding in, but I had nothing to sketch or write with! So, I started stacking all my ideas for the story in my head and created a sort of visual filing system. I was worried I would forget all my great ideas and concepts. I had an idea that Philo had an inch tall reptilian side kick, so I imagined a picture of a tiny lizard, and so forth. When I returned home, I opened the drawer to my visual filing cabinet and began furiously sketching out everything that was in there.  I somehow managed to remember all the ideas for Philo Fixer: Weasel from Mars.

This experience solidified my love for telling longer comic stories, and I really enjoyed having this imaginary, ongoing adventure that I could jump into whenever I wanted. My mom signed me up for a comics class at the local community center with this laid back, longhaired teacher-dude named Mike. It was basically this great space for us kids to create our own comics.  At the end of the course Mike xeroxed and stapled all our comics into one big book that we all got to take home. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I got my comics class anthology—my first foray into (almost) publishing! 

I later learned, in my early twenties, that creating comics was a very difficult way to earn a living.  After relocating to San Francisco, I created an ongoing comic story for Last Gasp and a strip for Mondo 2000, but my bread and butter came from editorial illustration and working at Colossal Pictures painting animation cels. That job eventually led to creating the Zoog characters for Disney Channel and Germtown, one of the first interactive projects for Cartoon Network. When the internet came along, I was given the opportunity to create my own internet show based on one of my comics called Glue.  A few years later DreamWorks TV greenlit a web show I pitched based on a comic from my sketchbook called Public Pool With these animated shows I was able to bring my comics to life and they were some of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I found that I’m happiest when I’m creating imaginary worlds with a continuing storyline. I’m not only able to shut off the noise inside and outside of my head when I’m drawing and creating worlds, but it also gives me inner peace, purpose, and focus. 

From Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space
by David Fremont

The animation and freelance work eventually dried up in SF, so we relocated to LA. After developing a pilot at Nickelodeon that didn’t get a series greenlight, I was left burned out and with no work. So, my wife and I decided that me being a stay-at-home dad for my two young two kids was the best option at this time. Every time I took my son and daughter to the library or bookstore kid’s section, I’d see all these graphic novels for kids. My children loved Captain Underpants, Pokémon, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  It was inspiring to see all these comic book style books gaining popularity. I had a lot of animation ideas in my sketchbook and thought they would make fun books. Also, my author/illustrator friend James Proimos (Waddle! Waddle!) kept telling me “You should do books!”  

One day I was at Leo Carrillo beach with my family. I saw a kid on a towel eating french fries from a McDonald’s Happy Meal bag. I imagined the kid throwing a French fry into the ocean and sea monsters gobbling it up and swimming to the surface for more delicious fast food. The entire story rolled out into my sketchbook and within about two weeks I had the whole thing sketched out.   

I scanned it into the computer and put together a PDF dummy of the book. I suddenly got very busy with my DreamWorks TV Public Pool animated project and teaching cartooning classes, so the book sat inside my computer. A few years later, my Nickelodeon producer friend Mary Harrington (Invader Zim, Rugrats) called me and asked if I had any ideas for books. A former colleague of hers, Kyra Reppen, was looking for titles for a new publishing company called Pixel and Ink. I sent them Catch the Munchies. A few weeks later Editor-in-Chief Bethany Buck not only greenlit the book but offered me a three-book deal.  I got more excited than a Munchie with a stack of cheeseburgers!     

I haven’t stopped being excited and grateful to be able to share Carlton Crumple’s comedy adventures with the young readers of the world. As I said earlier, it’s truly been a dream come true. My biggest hope now is that my Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher books inspire children to read more books and create their own comics. And to all the creators of comics and kids’ books that inspired me so much over the years… “High fries!!!”

Meet the author

The youngest of five children, David Fremont grew up in Fremont, CA (true story), where he loved drawing while watching cartoons. He is now an animated content creator who most recently created web series for DreamWorks TV. When not pitching pilots, David teaches cartoon classes to kids. Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher is his first series with Pixel+Ink.

About Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space

An out-of-this-world new adventure in a very funny graphic novel series that combines fast food, monsters, and battle! Fans of Lunch Lady and Dog Man will gobble this down.

When Carlton catches a UFO on camera, he kicks into full-on Creature Catcher mode. Sick of hearing about Carlton’s heroics, his brother Milt stages an alien invasion using a remote-controlled drone disguised as a spaceship. And Carlton falls for it. 

Iggy and Poof Poof think the ship’s cool, so they borrow it to stage a fake alien battle. But a real UFO full of Reptoids spots the showdown and, seeing it as a threat, swoops in and abducts Iggy and Poof Poof!

Panicked, Lulu calls the Creature Catcher emergency line. Her creatures have been captured! Now it’s up to Carlton to stage a rescue, and save the day!

Bold artwork and otherworldly antics combine in the third installment in the Carlton Crumple Creatuture Catcher series. Middle grade graphic novel readers, including fans of series like Lunch Lady and Dog Man, will eat this up.

ISBN-13: 9781645950080
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Series: Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher #3
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Stubborn Storytelling: Rejection is Not The End, a guest post by Elissa Sussman

At the beginning of my adult life, I set two goals for myself: get a book published and become an animated character. And I believed that out of the two of those goals, I’d become a published author first.

Instead, in 2009, Disney released The Princess and the Frog, where I – along with a few other members of the production staff – were immortalized as a gaggle of giggling, swooning girls obsessed with Prince Naveen. I wouldn’t publish my first novel until 2014, my second in 2016.

Now, five years later, my third novel, DRAWN THAT WAY, a deeply personal story that brings these two goals – and two loves of mine – together at last.

I’ve loved animated movies since I was a kid. My mom saved our first movie ticket stubs from when she took us to see An American Tail, the story of a Jewish family immigrating to America to escape the Cossacks, only the Jewish family are mice, and the Cossacks are cats. As one of the few animated films (well, few films in general) about Jews, it made a huge impact on me, but I never thought I’d ever be able to work on movies like that because, well, I can’t draw.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered there was a whole side of animation that didn’t require any artistic skills – production management. After graduation, I dived right in, working at places like Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks and Sony, and on films like The Princess and the Frog, The Croods, Hotel Transylvania and Tangled.

During this time, I was writing. I was always writing – my love of storytelling running concurrent to my love of the specific visual medium that is animation. After a while, though, it was nearly impossible to balance both. When I started writing full time, a part of me figured I’d left the world of animation behind forever.

But anyone who knows anything about publishing, knows that it’s hardly smooth sailing, no matter where you are in your writing journey. My personal voyage has been a rough one. My first two books – which were part of an intended four-book series – were fairy tale/fantasies and sold very poorly.

I’m proud of those books and sad they never really found their audience, but I wasn’t giving up. I parted ways with my first agent, signed with my second and tried my hand at writing contemporary fiction. One book. Another. Another. Books that never got past the submission stage.

I’m extremely stubborn, but it was a hard and discouraging time. All around me, it felt like doors were slamming in my face. It felt like my writing career was over before it had even had a chance to really begin. It felt like I wasn’t good enough, that I’d never be good enough.

I considered taking a break. Not writing, not submitting, not trying for a year. Maybe longer. Maybe forever.

Then, in July of 2019, I sat down and wrote the first draft of DRAWN THAT WAY in thirteen days. Hayley’s story poured out of me, and I wrote like I’d never written before, the plot, the characters, the entire book, all coming together in a rush of words.

A bit like magic.

Here was a story about a young woman fueled by ambition and confidence, driven to succeed, and meeting nothing but road block after road block after road block. Hayley’s story was easy to write because it was mine. She was an artist, I was a writer, but we were both storytellers desperate for a chance.

At a point in the story, Hayley asks herself: “If I couldn’t do this, what could I do? What good was all this ambition and drive and talent? Was it all a waste?” She later tells another character: “All I want is a chance. That’s all. Just a stupid fucking chance to prove myself.” All things I had been saying to myself, and continued to say as it became clear that as much as I liked my second agent, she wasn’t the right fit for me.

Leaving her, though, meant that I was going to have to go back to querying. For the third time.

It was hard not feeling like a failure at that point, when it seemed like my career amounted to no more than two books that had been quickly forgotten, two agents that weren’t the right fit, and at least three books that no one wanted.

I had written a happy ending for Hayley, but wasn’t sure I could write one for myself.

Yet, my stubbornness persisted. I started querying again at the end of 2019 and by early 2020, I’d signed with my current agent, Elizabeth Bewley. She read DRAWN THAT WAY and connected with it immediately. “This is a book about ambition,” she said.


With Elizabeth’s help, I made Hayley’s story even stronger, even more personal. She suggested pitching it with the intention of including illustrations in the manuscript. She understood the story. She understood Hayley. And she understood me.

DRAWN THAT WAY sold a few weeks into the pandemic. It was released yesterday with gorgeous illustrations from the incredible artist, Arielle Jovellanos.

Its path to publication wasn’t an easy one, not even close, but I am beyond grateful that it ended with this book in my hands. Hayley’s story is my story. Maybe it’s your story too. A story about being talented and ambitious and extremely, extremely stubborn. I’m so proud of it and thrilled that I can finally share it with the world.

Meet the author

Photo credit: John Petaja

Elissa Sussman is the author of books for teens and adults. She previously worked in animation production which inspired her latest YA novel, DRAWN THAT WAY. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two dogs. 

Website: https://elissasussman.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElissaSussman

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elissa_sussman/

About Drawn That Way

Moxie meets the world of animation in this fresh, unputdownable novel about a teen girl determined to prove herself in the boys’ club of her dream industry no matter what it takes.

Hayley Saffitz is confident, ambitious, and intent on following in the footsteps of her hero, renowned animation director, Bryan Beckett. When she’s given a spot in his once-in-a-lifetime summer program, Hayley devises a plan: snag one of the internship’s coveted directing opportunities. Dazzle Bryan with her talent. Secure a job post-graduation. Live her dream.

Except she doesn’t land one of the director positions. All of those go to boys. And one of them is Bryan’s son, Bear.

Despite Bear’s obvious apathy for the internship, Hayley soon realizes that there’s more to him than she expected. As they work together, the animosity between them thaws into undeniable chemistry and maybe something… more.

But Hayley can’t stop thinking about the chance she was refused.

Determined to make a name for herself, Hayley recruits the five other young women in the program to develop their own short to sneak into the film festival at the end of the summer. As the internship winds down, however, one question remains: Will Hayley conform to the expectations of her idol, or will she risk her blossoming relationship with Bear—and her future—to prove that she’s exactly as talented as she thinks she is?

ISBN-13: 9781534492974
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 09/28/2021
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years