Free Comic Book Day and The Growing Legitimacy of Comic Books as Literature

“I just don’t have time for books anymore.”

If you’re a working adult, or even just a busy person of indeterminate age, you may have heard this sentiment among your peers. Maybe even you have slipped into that tenebrific bookless existence. I am here to offer a solution you may not have considered before: graphic novels.

This Saturday, May 5th, is Free Comic Book Day, an event created in 2002 in order to celebrate and increase the visibility of independent comic sellers across the United States. Various comic publishers release special 1-issue samples for comic shops to give away on Free Comic Book Day. Series such as The Avengers, Tank Girl, Riverdale and many others are represented on the list of this year’s free comic samples. If you’ve ever been interested in the world of comics, but had no idea where to start, Free Comic Book Day could be an excellent, low-risk opportunity for you to make your entrance. Locally, businesses such as Paradox Comics and Cards and Comic Junction are joining in on the festivities, but for a list of participating businesses in your area, or for more information on the event, you can visit the official Free Comic Book Day website.

Maus, the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

There is something of a stigma surrounding comics and graphic novels. Their ample use of images rings in people minds as akin to childish picture-books. Much like cartoons, comics and graphic novels suffer from the assumption that only children can, or should, enjoy them. While children certainly enjoy reading comic books, and an ample supply of the comics on the market are meant for children, there is also a thriving market of comic stories meant to be relevant to adults. When it comes to comic books for adults, the thought is that with fewer words per page, this makes graphic novel reading easier and thus less fulfilling than reading a full prose novel. Additionally, there exists and undesirable stereotype about the kind of adult who reads comic books: that of an obsessive, dysfunctional, child-like adult. Let’s banish all of these misconceptions from our minds. Just as there is traditional literature of every genre for every age, so too, are there impactful comics for everyone of any background.

Hugo-Award Winning Graphic Novel: Saga

Comic books (as well as their Eastern counterpart, called manga/manhwa) have been making strides recently both in widespread popularity and in credibility as a legitimate form of art and storytelling. In 1992, the historical memoir graphic novel Maus, became the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize. As a result, it is often read alongside other historical literature in classrooms around the country. The first volume of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga series, a provocative space opera with elements of fantasy, won a Hugo Award in 2013.

In 2009, five comic book artists had their artwork displayed at the Louvre in Paris as a part of a special exhibit titled “The Louvre invites the Comics“. Among the participating artists was Hirohiko Araki of Japan, the mangaka (comic book artist) who created the internationally acclaimed manga series Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

Illustration by comic artist Hirohiko Araki, whose art has been featured in the Louvre.

As we can see, comics, manga, and graphic novels have continuously proven their legitimacy as a media for art and storytelling. They can offer a fulfilling reading experience for people of any age, often with a smaller time commitment. As a visual medium, graphic novels are distinctly poised to enrich the experience of stories in which world-building or character nuance is key. The novel’s artwork allows the author’s vision to be communicated in the truest way. There exist many comic book adaptations of already existing classic or acclaimed literature. Here is a list of 5 graphic novels based off your favorite stories to help get you break into the world of comics.


wrinkle-in-time-coverA Wrinkle In Time

Adapted by Hope Larson / Based on Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time
Grahic Novel – Monochrome / Sci-Fi, Adventure
Published by Margaret Ferguson Books

Many Americans remember A Wrinkle in Time as “that confusing sci-fi book” from their middle school English class days. You may have had the chance to revisit this story with the recently released live action adaptation. If you just can’t get enough, pick up a copy of Hope Larson’s A Wrinkle in Time and see how the medium of the graphic novel has transformed this familiar yet delightfully strange story.


Adapted by Kaoru Mori (writing & art) / Based on Jane Austin’s Emma
Manga – Black and White / Historical Fiction, Romance
Published by Yen Press

In Japan, comic books are called manga, and have developed their own iconic look and conventions for telling stories.  They are marked by their unique art style (sometimes also referred to as “anime style,” after their animated, and more widely known equivalent) their inventive use of paneling and emotive character expression.

While I have not personally read this adaptation of Emma, I have read Mori’s other work, A Bride’s Story, a collection of stories from the perspective of different women in the historical Middle East and Central Asia. Mori’s artistic attention to detail, especially in clothes and home decor is astounding and her nuance in character development make her perfectly suited to adapting this classic novel.

Note: read from left to right, as per the original layout in the Japanese language.


max-ride-coverMaximum Ride

Adapted by Narae Lee (story & art) / Based on James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series
Manga – Black and White / Urban Fantasy, Action
Published by Yen Press

For the thrill junkie, check out Narae Lee’s adaptation of James Patterson’s wildly popular Maximum Ride series. The story centers around a “flock” of children all genetically enhanced with wings and other abilities, as they evade the cruel and shadowy organization that made them that way. I personally think that the fast-paced nature of the story and the fantastic details of the plot lend themselves better to a graphic novel than a traditional book. For that reason, this manga series is, in my opinion, the best way to experience the Maximum Ride saga.


lastunicorn_tpb_cvrThe Last Unicorn

Adapted by Peter B. Gillis (story) Renae De Liz (art) & Peter Dillion (art)
Based on Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn
Graphic Novel / Color
Published by Idea & Design Works LLC

You may take on look at that word “unicorn” and conjure up notions of silly, girlish, fantasies swathed in pink. Nevertheless, you will find something a fair bit more nuanced and mature in The Last Unicorn, though no less pretty to look at. This story feels equal parts folk and fairytale, and the art style of the graphic novel adaptation does an excellent job evoking the unnerving yet alluring nature of both. The story revolves around the eponymous last unicorn as she leaves her forest to search for her kin, rumored to be missing by malicious means. She is joined by a clumsy magician and courageous bar maid as they forge into the territory of the ruthless King Haggard in order to discover the truth.



Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Adapted by Andy Seto (story & art)
Based on The Iron-Crane Pentology by Wang Dulu
Historical Fantasy, Wuxia (Martial Arts Action Adventure), Romance
Manhua / Color
Published by Comics One

You may not have known that director Ang Lee’s year-2000 award-winning martial arts epic was based upon a series of novels dubbed the Iron-Crane Pentology. Or that it was further adapted into a gorgeously illustrated manhua (Chinese graphic novel) series. Inspired in combination by the original novel series and the movie, this adaptation of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, offers an action-packed, drama-filled saga set in a fantastical interpretation of historical China surrounding the wielders of  the legendary sword, Green Destiny, and those who would seek to steal or destroy it.

Originally posted May 3, 2018
Written by Mikaila Norman

Spring 2018 Interns

Meet the Interns – Spring 2018

We have a fresh new batch of interns coming on board this spring. They will be joining the team assembled last fall, sans Rachael, who has graduated and moved onto the big wide open world.

Despite the program only being about 4 years old, each of our new interns is pursing a degree in English with a Publishing Emphasis. There also seem to be some pet lovers among the bunch!

Let’s get to know our new recruits!


Ashley Thorpe

. . . is a senior at MSUM majoring in English with an Emphasis in Publishing. She hopes to work as an editor at a major publishing company after graduation. This is her first semester interning at New Rivers Press and is very excited to get more hands-on experience. Ashley is very passionate (not obsessed!) with Taylor Swift, cats, and reading. In her free time, you can find her on Twitter, watching New Girl for the fifth time, or forcing cuddle time with her cat.


Kendra Johnson

. . . is a senior at MSUM seeking a degree in English with an Emphasis in Publishing and a Writing Minor. She grew up reading everything she could get her hands on and always knew she had a passion for books. When she is not working or interning for New Rivers Press, she is spending her time playing with her dog (AKA the cutest dog on the planet), cheering on the Minnesota Vikings, or enduring the excruciatingly long wait for the last season of Game of Thrones. She is excited to graduate in the spring and hopefully find a job in the Fargo/Moorhead area.



Trevor Fellow . . .

is a senior at MSUM, studying English with an Emphasis on Publishing. He finds himself habitually correcting people’s pronunciation and spelling, even when he knows he oughtn’t, and insists on proper grammar and syntax at all times—whether that’s at the keyboard or on his old-timey dumbphone (“I’m not ignoring you, it just takes forever to type out ‘magnanimous’!”). He likes unusual stories that fuel the imagination, and is particularly fond of Watership DownAmerican Gods, and anything written by the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett. He discovered a passion for words at a young age, and at a slightly less young age discovered that what he really likes is helping other people with their words. He loves working for NRP, and hopes to use the experience to find a similar job elsewhere in the field.

Its great to see another bunch of enthusiastic students joining the NRP crew. Best of luck this spring!

Interviews with Book Designers

The newest book season is upon us. In the coming weeks, New Rivers Press will be releasing six fabulous new books, varied in genre and tone, but nonetheless bursting with artistry and insight. Whereas much time and many pixels have been spent on this blog detailing the involvement of students in the production of our books as content editors, relatively little has been used to demonstrate the ways MSUM design students contribute to our books.

The Design Process

Each year, MSUM design students are paired up with an upcoming New Rivers Press release. The design process is largely a group effort: the design students are coached by NRP’s managing editor and their own design professor, in addition to being advised by the student editor team assigned to their book as well as the author. However it is up to the design students themselves to identify the most important and pertinent aspects of the books in order to bring to life a cover that is not only enticing to readers but representative of the author’s vision.


This post is meant to offer these students a mouth piece to describe their invaluable contributions as designers of not only the covers but interior layouts of our books. If you wish to learn more about the designers personally, you can read their bios here.


Phuriwat “Fuse” Chiraphisit
American Fiction Volume 16

American Fiction Volume 16 is a continuation of New Rivers Press’ long-running short-story anthology. Writers hail from all around the globe and are of diverse ages and backgrounds. There is no theme for submissions, though sometimes unique themes have a way of appearing once all the final stories are chosen. This years stories could loosely be tied together with themes of identity, family life, and evolving relationships.


1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
What stood out to me was how ordinary the lives in the stories are, with a twisted sense of reality hidden in there somewhere. So I thought I’d show a reality that is slightly twisted for the cover.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
After I had the initial concept, the challenge was finding the right imagery to support that concept. I was experimenting with reflections and shadows.

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
The houses were added into the photograph to add a sense of family, livelihood, and domestic conflicts.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
The most challenging part was finding a common theme between all the stories and representing them with a single image.

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
The most rewarding moment was receiving the unedited version of the real book. It’s always fun seeing designs and concepts come to life after working on them on the computer.

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
If you stand back far enough, the cover may look like an old-fashioned book cover with tape binding, but as you get closer, you realize it’s a photograph, twisted, rotated, and yet oddly welcoming.

Brittany Shultz
Boy Into Panther

Boy Into Panther is a collection of fourteen short stories varied in theme, setting, and character. Each is filled with emotion and keen observations on the nature of being human.

1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
My vision for the cover design was to keep it dark and mysterious so people would be more drawn to look closer to the cover while also wanting to read what it’s about.2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
I originally started with two different designs. One was a rustic design with a black background and a portion of wood along with dust particles. The other design that we went forward with was a simplistic modern design with a black background and specific pieces placed in chevrons leading into the book.3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I included broken glass, flames, wood, and mushrooms.4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
The most challenging part was to come up with a design that would try incorporate all of the short stories and not focus on just one main story.5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
The whole process felt like a reward. Having the ability to design a cover of a great short story book for the first time was an amazing experience.6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
As mentioned above, the chevrons on the front cover are subtle, but when you look closely you can notice some of the details of the flames, mushroom, broken glass, and wood.

Emily Zaharia
Deep Calls to Deep

Deep Calls to Deep is a collection of poetry which intertwines family life and biblical narrative. Set against the rich backdrop of Israel, the collection draws from thousands of years of history from its ancient deserts to its contemporary scenes of war.


1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
I first researched images of Jerusalem, as that is where the poems take place for the most part. I compiled many images and gathered three primary colors that I saw in all of the photos. A deep blue, orange, and yellow. I used those colors to represent an over-simplified landscape of the setting; sky, city, and desert. While playing with the words in the title I noticed that [the word] ‘deep’ is basically the same flipped upside down, which was really fun. That played off of the idea of alternatives and reality in the artist’s statement I was given.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
I had a strong idea from the start, but getting everything in the exact right place with the perfect colors took some time and development. I also had come up with other designs, and choosing one was part of the process

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I tried to include the setting of the book somehow, and I did so in a very simplistic way. I also used a texture to represent the desert.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
The interior of the book was an interesting challenge for me. I learned a lot about setting type.

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
Being able to hold a book that I designed in my hands was the most rewarding. I also really enjoyed getting feedback from the author. It was great when she told me that the cover was representative of what she wanted.

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
I hope people can understand that the cover is not just stripes, but a setting and a platform to start the poems with before you even open the book.

Kendal Christenson
Tom o’Vietnam

Tom o’Vietnam juxtaposes the life and times of a contemporary American veteran with the experiences of Shakespeare’s King Lear, communicated through a surreal, stream-of-consciousness narrative.

1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
In the initial design stages I hoped to incorporate a signature style that I have been curating during my attendance at MSUM, a sketchy and grungy approach that has furthered my understanding of design. I wanted the cover to feel individualized to the main character, Tom.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
As I had been designing the book cover last school year, I had also been enrolled in an illustration class. Knowledge from the class furthered my confidence in illustration which shines through in my finalized book cover.

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I attempted to depict the sheer individualism of Tom himself through handwritten typography and sketches of symbolism throughout the book.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
Time management! Seemingly always a weakness for myself . . .

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
I find it rewarding to say, as a student, I have published work in the world.

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
On page 4 of the novel, Tom O’Vietnam, there appears to be an entire page of scribbles and somewhat illegible words, in actuality the typography says, “Freedom is Hell,” a haunting phrase embroidered into the back of Tom’s jacket.


Mandi Wahl
Man of the House

This is a memoir containing short vignettes told in the first person detailing the thoughts and actions of a young boy in the 1950’s as he struggles to assume the mantle of ‘man of the house.’

1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
My vision was to create a cover that would be meaningful to the stories inside the book as well as creating something that people would want to pick up on a shelf as they were walking by.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
I am very pleased with how the cover evolved through out the whole design process. The cover has special character to make it feel as if it came from a 50’s book chest. I could not be happier with how the cover turned out in the end!

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I incorporated the time period by making the cover look worn and gave it a look of an old book/newspaper from the 50’s. I also incorporated stamps which was from one of the most important stories in the book that I personally felt represented the lifestyle of the author back when he was a child telling these stories. It had more meaning to it, which is what I wanted for a cover.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
The most challenging aspect was to visualize what all of this would be looking like when it was printed. There were so many specifications to follow and seeing a flat designing of something is very different from when you get to see it printed and in its true 3D form.

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
I have now designed a book for others to pick up and read! I can say, “My name is in the front cover of a book!” I think that is so cool!

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
There is nothing hidden in the cover of my book. I hope people enjoy the cover as much as I do.

Christen Nagel
The Way She Told Her Story

The Way She Told Her Story is a collection of poetry beautifully blending natural imagery with the stories, culture, and legacies of Finnish immigrant women.

1) What was your vision for the cover you designed?
My vision was to do my best to accurately portray what the book is about. This was a bit of a challenge since I didn’t know much about Finnish culture. The cover design I spent the most time on was an illustration I did based on the poem “The Way She Told Her Story,” which is also the name of the book. I did my best to research more about Finnish culture for ideas on any relevant graphics I could incorporate. I came across one symbol that seemed like a good fit and used that in another cover design.

2) How did that vision change or evolve throughout the process?
I ended up using the cover with the Finnish symbol. When the author reviewed it, she suggested a different symbol. I recreated the graphic and made a few other suggested revisions.

3) What elements from the book itself did you try to incorporate in your design?
I tried to incorporate graphics related to Finnish culture. I also used illustrations that I did based on photos of Finnish tapestries, which the author had sent me, for my chapter artwork. I used part of one of my chapter illustrations next to the author photo on the back cover.

4) What was the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
I would say that the most challenging aspect was researching Finnish symbols. Since I didn’t have direct communication with the author, I spent time on Finnish forums trying to make sure that I wasn’t misusing any of the symbols.

5) What was something you found rewarding about the process?
I really like the book, so I’m glad I got to design it. Since it is poetry, I was able to be more creative with my design for the interior. I think designing the interior was my favorite part since the patterns on the Finnish tapestries that I referenced were really fun to work with.

6) Is there anything special or hidden in the cover that you hope people notice?
I just hope people recognize the symbol and that it gives them a good sense of what the book is about.

If you want to read more about our book designers, you can read their bios here.

Meet the Interns 2017-2018

Meet the Interns

New Rivers Press prides itself on being a teaching press. Because of our partnership with Minnesota State University Moorhead, we have the opportunity to take on students as press interns, or “Printing Devils,” in order to show them the ropes and give them a taste of the publishing industry. Our interns are responsible for numerous areas of operation at NRP, from managing social media to promotion of our books to communication with our authors and supporters as well as day-to-day clerical tasks. We would like to introduce to you our six fabulous interns—divided evenly between new and returning faces—and our managing editor who is in charge of them. Here’s to another wonderful year at the Press!


lauras-bio-picLaura Grimm

. . . is a junior at MSUM. She is double majoring in English and Mass Communications and is pursuing certificates in publishing and professional writing. She grew up on a dairy farm in Waconia, MN. This is Laura’s third year as an Honors Apprentice intern for New Rivers Press, and she’s also the managing editor for the MSUM campus literary magazine, Red Weather and the variety editor for the The Advocate, the campus newspaper. She hopes to one day work at a publishing press as more than an intern.


annabowtiepic1Anna Landsverk

. . . is a senior at MSUM and is in her third year as a New Rivers intern. She is an English major with an economics minor and publishing and professional writing certificates. Anna also works for the The Advocate and Red Weather, so she spends most of her time wandering the halls of the English department muttering about story ideas and deadlines. In her breaks from muttering, she watches a lot of anime, reads a lot of children’s lit, and collects a lot of adorable miniature things she doesn’t need.


Mikaila Norman

. . . is an MSUM senior (who will likely go on to become a super-senior) majoring in way too many things all at once. Her areas of study include English with a Publishing Emphasis, Creative Writing, Cultural Anthropology, and Fine Arts. She is an Honors Apprentice intern, this being her fourth year at the Press. During this time, she has helped edit manuscripts and maintain the website. She has enjoyed her internship with the Press greatly, and hopes to one day work in the publishing industry scene in Minneapolis. In her free time, she enjoys reading manga, kicking butt in ‘dem vidya games, knitting hats (so many hats,) and creating artwork. She loves drinking coffee and wishes she could hug all the dogs.



lauren-staff-bioLauren Phillips

. . . grew up in a small town in northern Illinois, but is originally from Iowa. She is currently a “University Studies” major at Minnesota State, Moorhead which basically means she’s exploring all the subjects that interest her. Her interests span the wide range from English to Neuroscience, so her freshman year will be used to find her niche. She loves to read, especially if it’s out on the lake or in front of a crackling fire. Anytime she’s not jamming to music or eating snacks (preferably Funyuns), she’s playing soccer, and will be part of the woman’s soccer team at Moorhead this year.


13315338_10209305542217081_9051698023330869880_nNayt Rundquist

. . . is New Rivers Press’s managing editor and the one in charge of all the aforementioned Printing Devils. He is a graduate of MSUM’s (now defunct) Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, and this is his third year as managing editor. When he is not too busy teaching classes, editing books, juggling all the things, and being the boss, he enjoys reading, being overly critical of movies adapted from print, and visiting the worlds he’s invented in his head. He is fond of comic books and prose books alike, and has recently become obsessed with novella-length works (the Binti trilogy, Like Hammers on Bone, The Ballad of Black Tom, and Grief is the Thing with Feathers to name a few). He lives with his jeweler/artist wife and their spaz of a tiny dog.


cameronCameron Shulz

. . . is a Senior at MSUM this year, majoring in English with an emphasis in Publishing. Her hobbies include reading, sleeping, eating, making the occasional sarcastic comment, and looking at cute baby elephant photos. Her favorite color is black, or grey, depending on her mood. Her favorite novel is The Girl who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. Whenever she can, she makes the long trip home to Southeastern Minnesota to unwind and spend time with her family and friends. She is elated to be interning for New Rivers Press in her final year here and hopes that it will (somewhat) prepare her for life after graduation.


rachael-staff-bioRachael Wing

. . . is a senior at MSUM and is majoring in English with an emphasis in Publishing with a minor in English Writing. She aspires to work in marketing at a publishing house after graduation. This is her first year at New Rivers Press, and in addition to her internship, she is the head publicist for Red Weather, MSUM’s literary magazine for the second year. If Rachael is not curled up next to her mountain of books she has not yet read or watching Friends re-runs, she can easily be spotted jumping in puddles around campus and attending local theater productions. She looks forward to an exciting semester at New River’s Press!


Written by Mikaila Norman
Originally published Sep 7, 2017

2016 Pushcart Prize Nominations

That time of year has come again for New Rivers Press to nominate several short works featured in this year’s publications for the Pushcart Prize.

This year’s nominations are:
“The Naked Mole Rat Experiment” by Nicole Idar in American Fiction Volume 15
“San Man” by Annabelle Larson in American Fiction Volume 15
“Condolences” by Carol Ratchenski A Beautiful Hell
“The Shattering” by Joel Peckham Body Memory
“Danzig in Gdansk” by Michelle Matthees Flucht
“Stu’s Story” by Stephen Coyne It Turns Out Like This

We wish these works and their writers the best of luck!

The Pushcart Prize is a literary award specifically open to small presses around the country that honors the best “poetry, short fiction, essays, and literary whatnot” (as their website terms it) published each year. Anthologies of the winning pieces are published each year by Pushcart Press and 2016 marks the prize’s 40th anniversary.