Interview with Chet Spiewak
Vinny the Bug Man: The Journey Begins
CWS Studios (2007)
Reviewed by (age 13) for Reader Views (11/07)
Today, Juanita Watson of Reader Views is talking with author/artist Chet Spiewak about his new young reader graphic novel “Vinny the Bug Man: The Journey Begins.”
Chet Spiewak is a self taught 3D artist, specializing in the transformation of original cartoon rendered characters, each with a unique style and great storyline. He also manages to single handedly take on the role of writers, artists, designers and production specialists to deliver 3D concepts to the public. The primary focus is to develop new CGI (computer generated) cartoon properties for the graphic novel, picture book and storybook markets. Chet’s first book “An Ornament’s Tale” came out for the holiday season last year and was his first computer generated storybook adventure for the whole family.
Juanita: Welcome back to Reader Views Chet. I had the opportunity to interview you for “An Ornament’s Tale” last year, and it’s great to see you’ve been busy working on your next project.
Chet: Thanks for taking the time out to interview me about my latest project. This time I meshed computer-generated 3D animated graphics with a graphic novel format creating the “Vinny the Bug Man” adventure. The first novel in this series is titled “Vinny the Bug Man: The Journey Begins.”
Juanita: I understand that “Vinny the Bug Man: The Journey Begins” is for an older age group than your first book?
Chet: The “Vinny the Bug Man” graphic novel series is geared children 7-13. But I feel that graphic novel format really opens the door to children of all reading levels. I spent a great deal of time ensuring that any reader can literally follow the plot even without reading all the scripting. This is really beneficial to struggling/entry level readers who might trip over a keyword or two and just give up.
Juanita: What happens in “Vinny the Bug Man: The Journey Begins”?
Chet: The Vinny the Bug Man series follows a young Vinny Mazola, helping his Uncle Guy with their families bug extermination business. Armed with a mail order high tech bug blaster, Vinny accidentally shrinks himself down to a size of a bug at a government research facility. A distraught Uncle Guy drops him out the window into a different world… controlled by mutant insects. Vinny enters new territories ruled by evil tyrants and menacing bugs. Vinny makes friends, humors enemies, frustrates rulers and maybe in the end unite an insect world against the Tarantula Horde!
Juanita: Tell us about Vinny, and how you came up with his character?
Chet: Vinny was really the last piece of the bug puzzle. I created this bug world with hundreds of cool bug characters and whimsical worlds, but I needed a hero… and another bug just didn’t seem feel right. Then one night it came to me—What would happen if a bug exterminator was stuck in an insect world! Here is an individual who has spent an entire lifetime battling bug world and now he’s part it! Then it was just a matter of time creating carefree bug man character who would take his shrunken state in stride. Please keep in mind that Vinny is one of the key heroes in this adventure. He’ll be sharing the spotlight with “Lester the Jester”, a wash up exiled court aphid clown, and “The Whimsical Seed of Knowledge”, a know-it-all seed sprout and finally “Princess Ariana”, a rebellious ladybug princess bent on destroying the Tarantula Horde.
Juanita: I hear that Vinny has a quirky kind of humor that is not appreciated by everyone. Would you tell us about the humor you bring into this story and how it plays out in the storyline?
Chet: I could have easily created a dark dismal world of mimicking the real violent insect world but I decided to create a series packed with adventure, humor and fantasy. The insects clans are at odds with one another and are easily controlled by tarantulas. Each insect ruler behaves more like a spoiled child than distinguished king or queen and their loyal subjects are anything but loyal. This a perfect world for a gullible shrunken bug man to visit and get involved in some ridiculous insect plot. And at the top of this insect heap is a frustrated tarantula ruler surrounded by a cast of self absorbed incompetent soldiers.
Juanita: Chet, you mentioned that this book is actually the first in a series. How many books will you cast with Vinny, and why did you decide to develop this concept into a series of stories?
Chet: I chose to release three books introducing the main heroes in this adventure. The first book “The Journey Begins” introduces Vinny and Lester to readers. In the second book “Our Liberator Returns” Vinny and Lester rescue The Whimsical Seed of Knowledge from the Tarantulas. And the third book “Fortune Telling Woes” the Lady Bug Princess Ariana and the rest of the heroes from a pact to rid the insect world of the Tarantula Horde! After the first three books I’ll make a decision based on the response from the readers. Maybe, I’ll have an online contest for readers to pick the next insect invasion—Ditch Tiger Beetles, or Night Dwelling Gypsy Moths or Long Legged Spider Assassins or…..
Juanita: Most children’s are fascinated by bugs, and I wonder if you had a childhood interest in the insect world that influenced this story?
Chet: Most children are fascinated by bugs and I was no different. I would collect all sorts of insects and spiders in jars when I was growing up. To this day, whenever I stumble upon a weird looking bug I make effort to catch it- ‘cause you never know where an inspiration for a new bug character might come from!
Juanita: For those who aren’t familiar with computer-generated artwork and how you blend it into your books, would you explain?
Chet: Instead of using traditional pen and ink to do final rendering of the images, I use computer-generated graphics to create all my images. To get effects I desire, I build virtual characters, worlds and props with realistic textures to illustrate my graphic novel. In these virtual lighted 3D worlds I pose my characters and render an image with my virtual camera. That image is then edited and placed onto a graphic novel page as a comic panel.
Juanita: What aspect of the writing/imaging process do you enjoy the most?
Chet: What I enjoy the most is telling a story with images. I can illustrate story quicker with images then with words. Almost all of my stories start off with sketch and a funny illustration, which turns into a storyboard. Then it’s refined with footnotes, story notes and character scripting.
Juanita: Many children’s books tell a story that is underlined by certain values and/or moralistic messages. What will children’s learn from this story?
Chet: Vinny the Bug Man series really emphasizes the importance of setting your differences aside and working as team. The tarantula’s rule the insect clans because they know that the squabbling insect are easy to control, hence if the insects would set aside their petty issues- freedom would prevail.
Juanita: Sounds like a great message Chet. You have been working in the computer graphics realm for many years. Did you always know you’d get into writing children’s books, and was there any additional research involved pertaining to how to write a book geared for kids?
Chet: When I first started out I expected to work for one of the many design studios creating computer-generated feature films, but it didn’t quite work out. So instead I combined my vivid imagination with my strong story sense and artistic style to create cartoon adventures for kids of all ages. I decided to go with what I feel than follow some textbook formula for creating children’s books.
Juanita: You must have had a great time in the computer imaging process coming up with bug graphics. What kind of bugs does Vinny encounter?
Chet: In this adventure, the bugs are mutated and take on some human qualities, for example they uniforms, carry weapons and sometimes act like fools. Vinny will encounter armor clad tarantula soldiers, uniformed army ants armies, underwater bug pirates, black widow spider bikers, aphid wizards and even talking plants and flowers.
Juanita: I am a strong advocate of connecting children with nature, and in the world we live in today that can be a challenge. Was the idea of bringing in a natural element important when you were conceiving this story?
Chet: One of the keys to making a cartoon adventure believable is to have based on something that actually exists-like the real bug world The bug world is right at a child’s eye level all they have to do is just spend a little time and investigate their surroundings. It doesn’t matter if one lives in the city or a rural country side, there is always something to discover in the world below. I do think Vinny the Bug Series is a great way to get children talking about a world that’s buzzing all around them.
Juanita: What are children enjoying most about this new book so far?
Chet: The children are really getting a kick out Vinny-“what a goofball!”. He’s always seems to get himself into some sort bind throughout the story, but finds way out and then stumbles back in! I also had children comment the colors and quality- most graphic novels for grade school are printed in black and white—but the Vinny the Bug Man series is full real color.(over 700,000 possible colors)
Juanita: Chet, would you tell us about your website and its interactive options?
Chet: I do have a web site devoted to the “Vinny the Bug Man Adventure”, it contains a variety of interactive and informative online pages. I have online coloring section, interactive puzzles, 3D character animation, information on the 3D design process and a variety of downloads and viewable 3D images.
The site address http://www.bugem.com
Juanita: Have you ever done any animation with your computer graphics? It seems this particular story, with the incredible range of imaginative characters, would translate well to a TV, or big screen format.
Chet: I have done some animation with some of these characters on a CD-ROM, titled Operation Extermination(it’s a bonus when ordering a Vinny Bug Man Novel from my site). The OPEX CD-ROM(2002) contains about 40 short animated clips featuring characters in funny situations, and end up being just over 5 minutes of animation. The CD-ROM gave me real look at all the animated possibilities with this series-- a astounding feature film, video game adventure or even an afternoon kids TV series. We’ll have to see what happens in the future…
Juanita: Chet, it’s been great talking with you once again. Thanks for your time and best to you with your “Vinny the Bug Man” adventures! Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with readers?
Chet: I have created a real cartoon series packed with humor adventure and plenty of imagination. It’s a series that’s safe for all readers and will make a great addition to any home, or grade school library.
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