Graphic Novelist Coming to ARCC-Cambridge Campus!


Original artwork from “Last Pick” that is currently displayed at Cambridge campus. Photo Credit: Rebecca Zych

Read up on his work before seeing him speak on campus!

By Rebecca Zych
Staff Writer 

Graphic novelist Jason Walz will be hosting a free presentation on Thursday, April 25 from 12 – 1:30 in G202! You’re invited to gain insight into how Walz brought his sci-fi creations to life and his experience in the art field. Walz hopes to encourage the creative expression of others through self-depreciative humor and impressive visuals. At this presentation aspiring artists may gain valuable advice from Walz when it comes to the ups and downs of the art industry. On this subject, Walz explained the importance of having a level head. “The art/literary world reward sales and fame, so it’s really important to find the calm in that storm and to not get swept up in longing for things we have no control over.”

Original artwork from “Last Pick” that is currently displayed at Cambridge campus. Photo Credit: Rebecca Zych

Art enthusiasts and readers may also enjoy learning about Walz’s Last Pick Trilogy. The sci-fi/dystopian story follows twins Sam and Wyatt as they struggle to survive an abandoned world. Deemed a part of humanity’s rejects, they were left behind when aliens came to abduct the “useful population”. The aliens soon find out, however, that they severely underestimated the twins. The Last Pick illustrates that no matter how old you are, what trials you face or what differences you have, you can make an impact.

Additional Information on the Last Pick:

The Last Pick follows Wyatt and Sam, who are twins, a creative decision that highlights the main themes throughout the novel. “In this world, turning sixteen is a terrifying thing…To have both Sam and Wyatt dealing with this at the same time made good sense to me.” One of the twin characters is autistic, they’re unfairly labeled as a reject by the alien society. Having these twin characters emphasizes the illogicality of divisions present in the fictional society as well as our own society; Wyatt and Sam are equals yet they are divided by an arbitrary ranking system. Walz wrote the Last Pick with the hope that it will bring more awareness and understanding about autism. He explained that there is an issue with media stereotyping autistic individuals. “I believe that creating characters with ‘disabilities’ means honoring the disability while also honoring the character you’ve created. Our world could use quite a bit more empathy these days, and a good start to that is by exposing readers to diverse lives and diverse experiences.”

Walz’s Experience with Publishing:

            Jason Walz sees his publishing journey as two distinct waves, the first beginning in 2012 when he wrote and illustrated his graphic novel Homesick. The project acted as an outlet for him to explore and cope with his mother’s passing from cancer. Tinto Press, a small publishing company in Oregon, took a chance on the novel. “We never sold a ton of copies, but I was ecstatic beyond belief to just have my book out in the world.”

The second wave came in 2016 while Walz was working as a teacher. “Should I have been paying attention? Of course. Was I instead checking my own personal emails? Of course. An agent from Trident Media (a literary agent company) was reaching out to me because he was a fan of Homesick, and was interested in representing me. I’m sure I just about fell out of my chair.” Months later Walz with help of Trident Media successfully pitched his idea for Last Pick to the First Second publishing company. This break allowed Walz to pursue cartooning full time!

Original artwork from “Last Pick” that is currently displayed at Cambridge campus. Photo Credit: Rebecca Zych

Some Background on Walz:

Jason grew up in a small Kentucky town whose residents were passionate about two things: sports and hunting. Walz was never interested, he’d rather be at home drawing, he soon fell in love with visual storytelling when his local store started selling comic books. This love of comic books compelled him to start writing and drawing his own stories and selling them at his middle school, he received powerful encouragement from one of his teachers and his mother. Their support had a lasting impact on his life and his artistic journey.

Walz also drew artistic inspiration from Craig Thompson, the creator of the graphic novel Blankets, which Walz describes as a phenomenally raw autobiography. “I’m attracted to writers that aren’t afraid of exploring ‘love’ and ‘being in love’ in a positive way.” Another creative Walz praised was Terry Moore; his work Strangers in Paradise had a deeply resonating and honest portrayal of love. “If I can incorporate even a small portion of that into my own work, then I’m completely satisfied that I’ve created the type of comic that I’m drawn to (pun intended?).”

Aside from his comic books, Walz has enjoyed creating cover art for music albums. The creative process is different yet satisfying, he explains, as you are limited to creating one image to capture the entire feel or meaning of the album/band instead of compiling an entire story. “The other thing that makes it really satisfying is that I usually only do covers for bands that I know personally…They already know my style, and we all (for the most part) understand each other’s methods).”

What’s Next for Walz?

Currently Jason is working on the finale of the Last Pick trilogy that is expected to be released in October 2020. The second book, Last Pick: Born to Run will available October 8th of 2019, so be on the lookout! “These books have consumed the last three years of my life, and as much as I’ll miss Wyatt and Sam, I’m looking forward to tackling something new.”

If you are an avid graphic novel enthusiast or a fellow artist wanting to keep up with Walz’s work, follow @jasonwwalz on Instagram and Twitter!