Dan Santat is the author and illustrator of Sidekicks and The Guild of Geniuses, and illustrator of OH NO! (Or How My Science project Destroyed the World), Chicken Dance, Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, and many more!
Read the interview below for Dan's answers to questions like "what's the most useless superpower?"
1.) If you were a superhero, (and we’re not saying you’re not) what would your name be? Who would your sidekick be?
I would be the Workaholic and I would have the amazing ability to function like a slightly above average human being with little to no sleep. I would also have slightly above average looks. My sidekick would be a clone of me because then I could get just that much more work done and his name would be Cilohakrow (Workaholic spelled backwards) and we would feel each other’s pain. (If I was punched he would feel the blow and vice versa) but at the same time we could read each other’s thoughts
2.) Who were your favorite superheroes as a kid? Did you read a lot of comic books?
I read comic books like mad when I was a kid, though I was mostly just a manga and Marvel guy. I used to have a paper route and every cent went towards buying X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Incredible Hulk among others. Around my late teens I moved over to more manga stuff like Akira, Appleseed, and Ghost In The Shell but eventually got bored with all that by the time I got to college and now I read mainly more obscure, independent, and small press stuff. My favorite superheroes were Longshot, Spider Man, Hulk, Wolverine, and Batman. The greatest thing about Batman is that his secret identity is possibly even more awesome than his superhero identity. What do you do when you aren’t Batman? Oh, I’m a billionaire playboy, how about you?.... (silence)
3.) What graphic novels do you like to recommend for the elementary school set?
I would say Bone by Jeff Smith but I’m afraid that every kid in the world has already read them. The Flight Anthology is fantastic. It has a very eclectic but seamless blend of talented storytellers with great art. Lunch Lady by Jarrett Krosoczka, Babymouse by Matt and Jenni Holm, and Frankie Pickle by Eric Wight. Smile by Raina Telegemeier is one of the best I’ve read in years and her husband, Dave Roman, just came out with Astronaut Academy which is a fun read as well and it hits on a lot of pop culture jokes that I think kids would totally appreciate.
4.) There are so many awesome kids’ authors these days that got their start in animation. Why do you think there are crossovers between these industries?
It’s because there are lots of animators out there with stories to tell and books are just the next logical progression. Children’s publishing is just as much a visual medium as it is a written one and the content and themes of these stories closely resemble what you find in the animation industry. When I was in art school I wanted to be an animator, but after making my first CG animated film I loathed the process because it was just so time consuming. It took months just to tell one minute of story and I wanted to find a more efficient way to tell my own stories. Picture books provided me with that outlet and I think many animators see it with that same appeal. It’s also a great source for a second income. With animators working long hard hours and having families and so forth the extra income definitely helps while also providing an additional creative outlet.
5.) You’ve written your own books, like Sidekicks, but also illustrated some that others wrote. Which do you prefer?
I prefer doing my own stories. That’s not to say that I don’t like illustrating other manuscripts but I find that the stories I write are much quirkier than your average children’s book author. Writing my own stories is why I got in this business in the first place.
6.) What is the most useless super power you can imagine?
The ability to watch an entire “Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s” marathon uninterrupted.
7.) Does spandex REALLY allow you to go faster?
It compels you to flee from those who are openly mocking you for wearing a full outfit made out of spandex, so yes.
8.) How long does it take you to illustrate a picture book?
If I’m just concentrating on one book I can knock one out in two months.
9.) Which superpower would you prefer: to be able to turn your head 360 degrees a la The Exorcism, or sing (in the tune of Hey Jude) requests for grilled cheese sandwiches in ANY language?
Hey Jude. I’m sure I could impress some folks at karaoke.
10.) If you were an animal, you would be a…
Platypus. Nature’s practical joke. A duck? A beaver? AND I have a poisonous spike behind one leg?! What the heck am I?
Check out and order Dan's newest graphic novel, Sidekicks, here.