In his debut graphic novel, Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke takes readers on the ride of a lifetime. Dark-haired Zita touches an object she finds in a meteoroid and is transported to a faraway planet with her friend Joseph. A tentacled Screed kidnaps Joseph, and Zita rushes to his rescue, meeting an eclectic cast of characters along the way.
While Zita travels from Earth to outer space in the blink of an eye, her creation took a bit longer. Here, Hatke reveals the story behind Zita and what lies in store for the young heroine.
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Where did the idea for Zita the Spacegirl come from?
It’s quite a few years old now. I met this really nice girl in college, who is now my wife, and we fiddled with the Zita the Spacegirl stories on looseleaf and started developing them. I kind of started making Zita comics to impress her. And it worked.
As I was getting more into comics later on after we were married, I started doing short webcomics, and that’s when Zita started getting shorter also. She started becoming more of a child. I was kind of doing them with the world itself being fuzzy—you didn’t know why she was out there and what she was doing. I would try to tell small stories in three pages, just to get better at comics.
One of your daughters is named Zita. Was she named after the character or was the character named after her?
The other thing about Zita the Spacegirl is my wife’s father is from Italy originally. St. Zita is big in this little region of Italy. If you go to the city close to the village, there’s a beautiful picture of Zita with flowers. She’s one of the few medieval saints who’s not religious, not a nun; she was just a good person who was known for baking great bread. At the time, when I was thinking nothing would ever come of the Zita the Spacegirl comics, we had this little girl. We looked and she had this personality, and we’re like, “There’s our Zita.”
Then I got some serious interest in the book, and I was really nervous. I was like, “Oh no, I hope it doesn’t wreck her life.” And now I’m not so nervous about that any more.
There are a lot of fantastical creatures on the planet Zita gets stuck on but also chickens. How did they work their way into the book?
We’ve got chickens. And my first daughter, Angelica, who is 8 now, she’s just a maniac for those chickens. She’s kind of a little chickens’-rights activist. Every once in a while she’ll launch into a tirade about factory farms and people being cruel to chickens.
So the chickens are a little bit for Angelica and a little because chickens are generally funny when you put them in little hoods and stuff.
Is there another Zita book in the works?
I’m working on the second book now. I signed up to do two, but at the moment it’s envisioned as a trilogy. I kind of know the ending to the series, but there’s a lot of middle that is going to be a surprise to all of us together.
Zita the Spacegirl
First Second / Feb. 1, 2011 / 9781596434462 / $10.99