Ben Hatke talks about ‘The Return of Zita the Spacegirl’

The graphic novel is on the New York Public Library Summer reading list.

Since it first appeared in 2011, Ben Hatke’s graphic novel series “Zita the Spacegirl.” has won awards and landed on the New York Public Library’s summer reading list. 

The author will be signing copies of his books, including the newest in the Zita series, at Books of Wonder on Saturday. He’ll also be discussing his involvement with the public library on June 4.

amNewYork spoke with Hatke, 36, about where he got the idea for Zita, his involvement with NYPL and what he plans to do next.

Where did the idea for Zita come from?

I’ve been writing and drawing Zita for many years now. The very first version of Zita was created by a wonderful girl I met in college and I started developing the character to impress this girl. That was my first and greatest victory in comics because the girl married me! Years later I came back to Zita in webcomic form and started developing the world around her. This story, along with a nice selection of sketches and pictures are all in the back of the third volume of Zita, along with a picture of my wife in the very first Zita costume.

What do people need to know coming into this book?

Zita is a world-hopping earth girl just trying to get home. She has a knack for making friends and a tendency to get wrapped up in saving planets from destruction.

Where does this book take Zita?

To Dungeon World! It’s a little planetoid that is a prison (and a mine) for all kinds of unfortunate creatures, and it’s run by a very nasty warden.

What has the response been from children regarding the book?

I’m getting a lot of positive feedback! And touring for the book gives me the opportunity to talk to readers, both young and old, directly. I’m seeing more and more Zita costumes at every event.

You’re involved in the New York Public Library summer reading program. Can you elaborate on that?

Yes! On June 4th I will be opening the summer reading program at the library by talking about the books I read growing up that inspired me to start telling stories. I’ll probably also be doing some live drawing and maybe, just maybe, they will let me do a backflip in the library again. I will ask permission.

Being on a reading list for young people, does that add any sense of responsibility to your work?

I tend to feel a sense of responsibility simply from having the books published – because it uses so much paper and ink and shipping space, not to mention people’s time! I think just knowing that so many copies of my books are being printed makes me feel that I need to tell the best possible story that I can. And the time readers spend in the worlds I’m creating—I try to fill every moment of that time with wonder.

Do you have anything specific planned for the signing at Books of Wonder?

Books of Wonder should be fun. I’m planning to give a little sneak peek into some of the projects that I’ve got coming up, including a reading of my picture book – “Julia’s House for Lost Creatures” – that will be out in the fall.

What’s next?

Well, as I mentioned, there’s “Julia’s House” releasing on Sept. 2nd. It’s my first picture book and I’m really looking forward to sharing it. I’m also in the middle of writing and drawing a new graphic novel about a little girl and a robot and a very special friendship that lasts a summer. It’s one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever worked on. Every page I’ve drawn of this one has been a joy (and I think it shows).

If you go: Ben Hatke will be at Books of Wonder on Saturday from 1-3 p.m., 18 W. 18th St., 212-989-3270, FREE.

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