Thomas Flintham has always loved to draw and tell stories, and now that is his job! He grew up in Lincoln, England, and studied illustration in Camberwell, London. He now lives by the sea with his dog, Ziggy, in Cornwall.
Thomas has worked on many projects, most prominently on the PRESS START! series, which he both writes and illustrates, and also the 'Baby Aliens' series written by Pamela Butchart and illustrated by Thomas.
Press Start! Game On, Super Rabbit Boy! (Nosy Crow)
Set off on an adventure in a gaming world with the Press Start! graphic novels by Thomas Flintham for young readers. Discover how Super Rabbit Boy helps his friends while battling villains, crossing dangerous landscapes, and facing challenges again and again. If you love video games, and having adventures, then these books are for you!
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Q&A with Thomas Flintham
1. What brought you into children's books, and why did you decide to write for younger readers?
At the end of my fine art degree in the early 00's I started making small photocopied zines full of stories, drawings and doodles. They weren't really aimed at any particular age group, but they were certainly suitable for all ages.
After a few years of continuing to make zines in my spare time, while working in retail, I decided I wanted to try and push things further. I went to study illustration at the Camberwell School of Art, and while doing my masters degree there I found the sort of work I wanted to make was a pretty good fit for children's publishing. Once I made the connection it felt silly that I'd not thought about it earlier!
2. What inspired the original Press Start series and the adventures of Super Rabbit Boy?
There have been a lot of books about characters from video games, but I never found anything that really captured what it actually felt like to play video games. When I started to develop the Press Start series I was really keen to include the player in the story.
Each story focuses on Super Rabbit Boy's latest adventure unfolding as a young boy called Sunny plays the latest Super Rabbit Boy game. When Sunny gets stuck, so does Super Rabbit Boy. When Sunny succeeds so does Super Rabbit Boy. The two different worlds are separate but connected by Sunny and Super Rabbit Boy.
I think the series can be fun for non gamers, but I think it would have a big appeal to readers who love video games and that are just like Sunny. I hope I capture something that they can really relate to.
3. Gaming is such a big part of many children's lives - could Super Rabbit Boy help to make them readers, too?
I think so. I discovered Nintendo and video games when I was 10 years old and as a kid I was drawn to anything and everything video games related. I still have my collection of Super Mario books! I also used to buy piles of video game magazines. Repeatedly looking at every page and article really helped improve my relationship with reading.
I think kids are always drawn to books and stories that celebrate and explore things they are already interested in. Although I hope the Press Start books are fun for all readers, they're also full of gaming references that I think would be a lot of fun for gaming fans to find.
4. Can you tell us a bit about your character Super Rabbit Boy? What makes him so appealing?
Super Rabbit Boy is the main character of a series of video games. He ate a special carrot power up that gave him his trademark Super Jump. He'll do anything to stop the latest mean plan devised by King Viking and his robot army.
My favourite thing about him is that no matter how many times he gets knocked back he never gives up. He keeps coming back until he has saved the day. He faces every challenge with a determined smile and will do anything to protect his friends.
5. How did you go about creating Super Rabbit's world? Are there specific games that helped inspire it?
I wanted to make sure that Super Rabbit Boy and his world felt very video-gamey so I drew inspiration from a wide range of the games I've played in my 30 years as a gamer. I also wanted to make sure I added my own ideas and interests into the mix as well, to give the world a distinct feeling of its own. I like writing stories about robots, rabbits and ghosts and Press Start is full of them!
I like hiding details for the gaming fans to spot, alongside silly ideas that I think are fun too. I even appear briefly at one point!
6. How did you decide what your characters would look like - and make them look like gaming characters?
I wanted to make sure the characters were clearly in a video-game and so making everything pixelated was a clear choice from the start. I didn't want the artwork to be too stiff though, so even though everything is made of flat square shapes and straight lines, I bend, squish and rotate them where needed to bring everything to life.
To contrast the scenes in the video game to the scenes where we see Sunny playing, I tried to make everything in the real world as round and squishy as possible.
7. How do you create your illustrations?
I work completely digitally, I'm not even sure how I would draw in this style on paper! I create most of the art using just a pen tool and an eraser tool in photoshop. It is how I like to work anyway, but I also feel it's important that the artwork is hand drawn to help give the pixelated style some energy and life.
It has a fairly simple style but with every pixel being created by hand, it is super time intensive. I think the results are worth it, at least I hope so!
8. Why did you decide to include the 'real' family who play the Super Rabbit Boy games, rather than leaving it as an immersive world?
I really wanted Press Start to be about what it was really like to play games, and you cant have a video game story without a player playing the game. A lot of the video game related books and films I've enjoyed over the years have either missed the player out, or used them in wild and fantastical ways. I wanted to tell stories with a player that kids could identify with, that played and enjoyed games the same way they did.
At first I considered just showing the player at the start and end of the story to bookend things. But as soon I had the idea to jump back and forth throughout the story, with the two worlds interacting with each other in small but believable ways, I knew it was the right way to go.
9. Super Rabbit Boy faces lots of challenging moments.... What's your favourite so far in Press Start?
In the 6th book, Super Rabbit Boy and the Side-Quest Test, he gets drawn into a side-quest to get a special item that will help him defeat a giant robot. What looks like a simple quest at first keeps getting more and more long winded the further he goes. I had a lot of fun thinking of silly ways to make things continually more complicated.
10. What else do you have planned for Super Rabbit Boy this year? Can we expect a TV series in the UK, as one is being made in the US based on this world - how exciting is that!? Are you involved?
It's a big year for Press Start! I'm really excited that Nosy Crow will be bringing the Press Start books over to the UK. They're a great publisher who I've worked with for a long time as the illustrator of Pamela Butchart's brilliantly funny series of Izzy books.
Meanwhile I'm busy creating new Press Start books for Scholastic in the US. I'm currently working hard on book 14 which will be a very special double length special edition!
Finally, there is a TV show in development and I'm SUPER excited! I got to be involved in the early concept stage and watching things develop since has been a dream come true. The team at Cyber Group Studios are super talented and they're doing some unbelievably amazing work. I think all the Super Rabbit Fans will be very happy! It should be on screens all over the world next year.
And when you're not writing.....
What would you choose: Gaming or Doodling?
If I could only choose one it would have to be drawing. It's my favourite thing to do in the whole wide world! Luckily I've managed to make it my job, so after a day of doodling and scribbling I can use my free time to play games, watch films and read. The best of both worlds!
What's your favourite game of 2022?
The best game I played last year was Kirby and the Forgotten Land. You play as a super cute pink ball that can gobble up enemies and steal their powers. It is super bright and colourful and it's a lot of fun to play. The story has a surprisingly bonkers ending too!
If you could put yourself into a gaming world, what would it be like - and what would be your Power Up?
This is an easy choice. As a big fan of the Super Mario games, I'd love to visit the Mushroom Kingdom. I love how colourful and imaginative the world is, and over the years, Nintendo have made a massive number of colourful characters I'd love to meet and defeat.
The power up would have to be the racoon leaf, not only does it let you fly but it also gives you a fun racoon's tail to swish around!
Thank you, Thomas, for joining us on ReadingZone!