Blog Tour: Operation Hat Heist by Jason Platt | Interview

Blog Tour: Operation Hat Heist by Jason Platt | Interview

This is one of the first MG books that the team at FFBC is hosting! Click on the banner for more info.

Operation: Hat Heist!

by Jason Platt
Series: Middle School Misadventures
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Genre: MG Graphic Novel

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In Jason Platt’s second Middle School Misadventures graphic novel, Newell’s favorite hat gets taken away! With the help of his most talented friends, he concocts the perfect plan to get it back. Operation: Hat Heist is a go!

Newell’s favorite show of all time is The Captain! Newell is beyond excited when he learns that the Captain himself, Patrick O’Shaughnessy, will be at Monster Comic Con. He can’t wait to meet The Captain wearing his once-worn-by-The-Captain WWII crusher hat that his dad gave him. But when Newell brings the hat to school, it gets stolen from his backpack! Fart.

When Newell finally spots the culprit wearing his hat in the hall, Mr. Todd confiscates it and reminds the students, “There are no hats to be worn in school!” Double fart. What will Newell do?! He wants his hat back so he doesn’t let his dad down and so he can impress his hero, but Mr. Todd refuses to return it! Just when Newell is about to give up, he receives a note from 8th grader Ethan: “I have an idea. Also, bring your friends. They can help too.” Can Newell, Ethan, and this ragtag group of friends pull off the perfect hat heist?

In this fun and imaginative full-color graphic novel, Jason Platt sends fast-talking, daydreaming, Newell on another desperate quest to save his favorite hat before he meets his all-time hero.

Jason Platt is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, and in 2016, was accepted into the National Cartoonists Society by a unanimous vote. He is also the creator of the popular webcomic series Mister & Me. He and his family live in Davenport, Iowa.

What was the inspiration for this misadventure?

A: There were actually a couple of inspiration seeds that helped bring this story to life. The first one was when my son was in middle school and he was wearing his favorite baseball cap in one of his classes. The principal walked into the classroom, tapped my son on the shoulder, and said, while pointing at his hat, “I’d hate to put this hat in my collection.” My son promptly took it off and he’s never worn a hat in the school again. But the moment certainly left its mark for sure. (laughs) This story makes the principal a lot like Mr. Todd, the principal in Middle School Misadventures. But his actual principal is a really good guy.

The second seed of inspiration is going way back. Because I remember when I got something stolen from me when I was in middle school, and how that made me feel.

So, I took both of those moments and kind of smooshed them together.

It was a fun ride.

Was this a misadventure that I wish I experienced when I was in my middle school years?

A: It would have been SO MUCH FUN! (laughs) Actually, I don’t know if I would have gone as far as organizing a heist like the gang does in this story.

But I think it’s more of camaraderie Newell has with his friends that I really love. Newell might be the protagonist in the story, but it’s that shared adventure with everyone that I love. It reminds me of the friends I had when I was Newell’s age.

Have I ever seen anyone cosplay as one of my characters at a Comic Con?

A: (LAUGHS) No! But if anyone does, please share photos. I would love to see them. That would be great if a group of friends cosplayed as everyone in Newell’s circle! That’s a benchmark I never thought I wanted to see until just now.

Even though I’ve never seen anyone cosplay as any of my characters, I have had young readers send along their fan art. And it always makes me happy.

What kind of advice would you give middle schoolers wanting to get more involved in reading for fun?

A: What’s great about this question is that the answer is in the question, reading for fun. One of the best things about going to a library, or a book store, is that it’s a very personal quest. You are looking for a story that you want to jump into. It’s not required reading or something that is expected. If you need help, ask an assistant to recommend something for you. They might ask what you like to do, what movies you enjoy, if you’re looking for a graphic novel or a traditional book.

I remember when I read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin the sixth grade. It was one of the first books I remember reading because I wanted to. And once I started, I couldn’t stop! I needed to know—HAD to know how it ended! The experience was one I’ll never forget. After I got done with it I just wanted another book, immediately, to fall into.

Find a genre that you like (sports, mystery, humor etc.) and go from there.

Are there any other graphic novels coming from me in the future? Can you share a little bit about them?

A: I’m currently in the planning phase of a new middle-grade graphic novel, but I also have a couple of YA graphic novels I have stirrin’ in the ole noggin.

How does my favorite hat look like? Can I share a pic of it or describe it?

A: I guess I do have a favorite hat (see photo). I guess it’s my favorite for a few reasons. When my son and I visited my alma mater (SCAD, The Savannah College of Art and Design, in Savannah, GA) some years ago, I picked this up at their campus store. I’ve always kinda preferred hats opposed to college sweatshirts. Mainly because once you wear the sweatshirt you have to wash it, but with a hat? It can be a part of your daily. But I’m proud of my education, and the memories that surround it. But it’s also meaningful because it is a hat that I got along with my son—so it’s extra special that way. And when I was inducted into the National Cartoonist’s Society, they gave me this awesome pin, so—as you can see—I attached it to the hat as well. It’s probably the most flair I’ll sport with it.

How long did it take me to learn your illustration style? What is the process?

A: So, when I was a kid, I LOVED looking at, and reading, the comics in the newspaper. Jim Davis (Garfield), Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey) and of course, Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts). Those guys were my heroes. I loved that they made me laugh. I loved how they made others laugh.

And when I got older I started diving into MAD magazine. I would pour through all the illustrations, frontward and backward, before I read any of it. It was a funny magazine, but it was like a master class in cartooning to me every month. There isn’t a MAD cartoonist that I didn’t like, but there isn’t one that I didn’t love more than Mort Drucker. Man—I loved his work. There was something about seeing his line work, and how he would draw caricatures I loved.

But I didn’t know HOW they worked. It was all a mystery to me.

It was a mystery until my art teacher in high school introduced to us all pen and ink tools. They were, what I would say, a very stereotypical kind of pen that when you think of cartoonists. I was totally stoked to use it. And with my first line that I drew, I knew these were the tools that my heroes used. It changed everything for me .I felt like for the first time that I got a chance to peek behind the curtain of how professional artists worked.

And while I still love (and prefer) to work in a traditional form. I have been working digital for the past 20 years. I work on a Wacom Cintiq Pro where I create my work using Corel Painter as the main software. There are a lot of different drawing software choices out there, and Painter is just the one I prefer for myself. It mimics wet and dry media really well. Even though it’s digital, the ink from the pens lay on the paper as traditional ink does. I love it. I feel like I’m working traditionally. WITH my trusty Ctrl Z always nearby, of course! And when it comes to edits or changes etc., you can just whip through them so much easier than in the old school ways where you might have to literally paint on top of your old work. The only downside with working digitally is that, when you’re all done, there isn’t a physical finished piece. You can pick up the flash drive your file is saved to, but there isn’t a finished piece of art that you created that you can pick up.

I think both traditional and digital have their benefits.

And even though I work digitally, I still create traditionally. I pencil everything that I do, and ink and color as if I’m working on a real sheet of paper. So, the techniques are all the same, it’s just the materials that are a little different.

And there you have it!

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