(this post comes from the desk of Neal Porter, the Editorial Director of Neal Porter Books, an imprint of First Second’s parent company, Roaring Brook. First Second co-publishes George O’Connor’s Olympians books with Roaring Brook, and Neal is the series’ editor)
The Olympians series began with a quip, when I remarked to George O’Connor that a mutual acquaintance of ours reminded me of Cerberus, the three-headed hound who guards the entrance to Hades. Not a particularly kind or clever remark, but one that led to our discovery that we shared a mutual interest, and love of, Greek mythology. It was a short leap from there to the idea of doing a graphic novel based on those myths, and another to George’s notion that we should do twelve—one for each god who graced the summit of Mount Olympus.
As we near the midpoint of what has become a critically acclaimed and much loved sequence of books it seems time to raise a goblet of nectar in the direction of Mr. O’Connor, the tireless researcher, master storyteller, and superbly talented artist who created them. What astonishes me most of all is George’s ability to shape these stories of the gods and those they touch into a cohesive and dramatic narrative that moves from book to book, sometimes doubling back on itself, sometimes leaping forward like a kind of celestial Mobius strip.
Aphrodite, the sixth volume in the series, is a perfect example. Its beginning harkens back to the creation story George so movingly depicted in Zeus. But here the narrators are the three Charities, Aphrodite’s attendants and they artfully describe the events leading to the goddess’s birth, shown in a gorgeous drawing that slyly winks at Botticelli’s Venus. The narrative then propels us up to Olympus, whose households are thrown into a bit of a state by the arrival of this graceful and wily creature. In time we learn of her hastily arranged marriage to Hephaistos, not exactly Olympus’s answer to George Clooney: the birth of Eros, the story of Pygmalion and Galatea, and ultimately the contest of the golden apple, the Judgment of Paris, and a foreshadowing of the battle that is to follow.
All this in 80 pages! George is not only a teller of tales but also a weaver of stories, who has created a tapestry that will only deepen in richness and complexity in the volumes to come. Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens next!