Touring In: Ontario
Craft: Author, Illustrator
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Ideal Audience Size: 30-50
Maximum Audience Size: 150
Grades: All Middle-grade audiences, grade 8-12 Art and/or English classes.
Special Equipment: An overhead projector, although a whiteboard, blackboard, and/or Flipchart are always good backups.
Nominated for the 2014 Will Eisner Awards: Best Graphic Album
FOR MIDDLE-GRADE AND TEEN AUDIENCES: How to Make a Graphic Novel… and Why.
The presentation begins with a visual “slide-show” reading from one of the DELILAH DIRK books, projecting panels from the story one-at-a-time. Ideally, audience members and/or teachers are invited to speak the dialogue of the various characters (reading from the screen) – spoken roles include our heroine, her friend, the blustery villain, and the idiot jailor. Narration and subtext are provided by the author, who always encourages an a teacher, parent, or other authority figure to voice the idiot jailor.
Once everyone’s on the same page about what kind of book this is, the author shows examples of the comics, books, and movies that inspired his work and how they all combine to make Delilah Dirk the comic that it is. He explores changing motivations, from wanting to impress girls in elementary school to later wanting to express lived truths in an accessible, exciting medium. Examples such as CALVIN & HOBBES are used to demonstrate how an easy-to-digest newspaper comic strip can communicate truth through humour.
Having established why Tony makes these comics, he demonstrates how they are made. A strong emphasis is placed on the use of an iterative process (i.e., going over the same material multiple times, refining on each “lap”), constructive criticism (the notion of “individual creative genius” is nonsense, and an unbiased objective opinion is a valuable thing indeed), and the value of making mistakes and using inexpensive materials (so there’s little financial impediment to making said mistakes). Tony digs into the nitty-gritty technical details of writing, designing, planning, and drawing a graphic novel. The medium’s unique requirements are explored.
The presentation is concluded by encouraging the students to do what Tony did: if they aren’t seeing what they want to see in the books they read, they can start making their own. The barriers have never been lower, the options for expressive methods have never been greater, and it’s never been easier to reach the audience that needs to hear what they have to say.
FOR YOUNGER AUDIENCES: Heroes and Villains Improvised Character Design-O-Thon
As above, the presentation begins with a slide-show visual reading of a DELILAH DIRK graphic novel, again soliciting audience participation if possible. Note this is often adorable.
Afterward, Tony leads the group through a character design exercise. The audience provides input as the author uses a whiteboard or poster paper to design either a hero / protagonist character or a villain / antagonist character. As he does, he proceeds through the usual trial-and-error steps he would use in any professional character-design situation. He helps the audience understand what sort of choices go into a character’s visual design: how to make them look athletic or not, noble or dastardly, young or old, friendly or aloof, and so on and so forth. Plus, the audience gets to see how a character is built up from rough, simple shapes, and what effect different details have. Tony encourages mistake-making, experimentation, observation, and asking for feedback, just as he does in the presentation for older audiences, but of course without being too scholarly about it or using the long words. He asks the audience to help determine what the character “wants,” and demonstrates how that is an important seed for a story.
If time permits, Tony asks the audience to draw their own hero/villain to oppose the hero/villain the group designed together. He asks them to think about “character foil” concepts, weaknesses versus strengths, and how an antagonist might prevent a protagonist from getting what they want. If possible, he asks volunteers to present their characters to the class, and the group talks through their ideas and execution. Someone gets to keep the character designed by the group, determined using the teacher/librarian’s own discretion.
Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules (First Second Books, 2018)
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (First Second Books, 2013)
French-language bande-dessinée format: Delilah Dirk et le lieutenant turc (Éditions Akileos, 2016)
Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling (First Second Books, 2016)
French-language bande-dessinée format: Delilah Dirk et le shilling du roi (Éditions Akileos, 2016)
Tony Cliff is the author of DELILAH DIRK AND THE PILLARS OF HERCULES, available August 2018. It is the third in the critically-acclaimed DELILAH DIRK series of books. A New York Times Bestselling author and nominee for Shuster, Harvey, and Eisner awards, Tony was raised in and currently lives in Vancouver, BC, where he is a thirteen-year veteran of that city’s animation industry.
Tony has always enjoyed making comics. Much to his mother’s delight, he would spend hours at a time sat quietly at the kitchen table doodling away at characters and their stories. Many years later, when his friend Kazu encouraged him to do the same thing in a professional capacity, he jumped at the opportunity and was rewarded with an encouraging critical reception. His very first published work was nominated for a Will Eisner award. Things have only improved. His Delilah Dirk series has received a similar warm critical reception and has been optioned for feature film production by Walt Disney features.
Having grown up reading Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, For Better or for Worse, and later Tin Tin and the work of Mike Mignola, Tony’s own work is motivated by a desire to contribute positively to a medium that he has enjoyed so well throughout his life. He aims to combine the best aspects of newspaper cartoons, superhero comics, and “graphic novels” to create books that are exciting and viscerally engaging, but which have richer characterization and thematic substance than is typically associated with such material. He makes books for the reader he was and still is: one who wanted to see things to explode, but for a good reason. Plus, it’s a nice way to spend a few hours at a kitchen table.
Old Oak Trees (short story within the FLIGHT: VOLUME 3 anthology)
- Nominated for the 2007 Will Eisner Awards, Best Short Story
Delilah Dirk and the Treasure of Constantinople
- Nominated for the 2008 Will Eisner Awards, Best Single Issue
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
- Nominated for the 2012 Will Eisner Awards: Best Digital Comic / Webcomic
- Nominated for the 2012 Harvey Awards: Best Digital Comic / Webcomic
- Nominated for the 2012 Shuster Awards: Best Digital Comic / Webcomic
- Nominated for the 2014 Will Eisner Awards: Best Graphic Album
“Tony is professional, enthusiastic, and organized… The kids he worked with had a tremendous amount of energy (it was one of the most challenging groups we ever had!) but Tony handled it with good humour, kindness, and patience. We hope to have him back soon… because of his professionalism as a presenter and because his books are wildly popular with young readers.”
—Shannon Ozirny, Head of Youth Services, West Vancouver Memorial Library (West Vancouver, BC)
“Tony spoke to students from Grades 8 to 11… From an organizer’s point of view, he was a dream to work with, as he was very organized, punctual, and flexible when I needed to squeeze a few more bodies into the room! Tony very kindly answered student questions and stayed afterwards to sign books and speak individually with several students, even offering his email address to budding authors/illustrators. A very generous offer indeed. The response from our teachers was very positive and they all found aspects of Tony’s presentation that made for follow-up discussions in class.”
—Joanie Proske, Teacher Librarian, Walnut Grove Secondary School (Langley, BC)
“He’s excellent with children, thoughtful with their feelings, supportive of their creativity and a real gem of a human being… Tony’s stories capture the imagination of children and send them spinning off on their own flights of fancy. He has excellent live drawing skills which provide great entertainment for younger audiences. It is clear that he puts a great deal of dedication and effort into his lesson plans and cares deeply about the people he works with.”
—Pat Race, Director, Alaska Robotics Gallery (Juneau, AK)
“Tony Cliff is a splendid presenter… There was not a single moment during the presentation where I thought the speaker was boring… As a student who aspires to publish her own works in the future, this has inspired me to follow my heart.”
— A Student, Walnut Grove Secondary School (Langley, BC)
“He was surprisingly funny.”
—A Student, Walnut Grove Secondary School (Langley, BC)