An Interview With...
Commander Page Turner
Who is Commander Page Turner?
Just a man of flesh and blood -- creating worlds of pen and ink.
Doubt, confusion and ignorance lay at the roots of poor self esteem. Doubt in one's self, your abilities, appearance -- all foster a distorted view in our own mirrors. My stories are not about someone unafflicted by these all too human circumstances -- they are about characters that overcome them and the encouragement they may provide to others.
Imagination is the engine that powers all of creation. Each of us are worlds within worlds of creativity. You just have to find a way to let it out. Books are the best way I know of to do just that. Words and pictures open doors in our minds -- then open our minds to new ideas -- best shared with others -- through new words and pictures.
What impact did television (and shows and personalities like Captain Kangaroo, Hobo Kelly, Romper Room, Mr. Rogers and Walt Disney) have on you as a child?
It absolutely defined me. All of these old friends are gone now -- or almost gone. I realized that there really is no one to take their place in today's entertainment market. Sadly -- I wanted to change that if I could -- even in some small way.
What inspired you to make a difference in the area of literacy?
For several years my wife and I have been supporting the NEA's celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday more commonly known as "Read Across America Day" by helping to distribute children's books -- free of charge -- to school libraries across the country. But we felt even these thousands of donations lacked a personal element of contact and inspiration at the students' level. Our middle son suffers from dyslexia and has experienced difficulty reading throughout his life. Today he is successful publishing his own music magazine.
Dyslexia can create a major stumbling block for its sufferers -- specifically in the areas of public speaking or reading out loud to a group. One of our sons is dyslexic. The practice of reading comics out loud helps coordinate the reader's speech and hearing. The association of words and pictures helps coordinate the visual recognition centers of the brain.
What is the Rocket Car and what do you use it for?
The Rocket Car -- like the Batmobile -- is a concrete example for many abstract aspects of the adventure stories I am sharing with my readers. It is another focal point to reach for. It sums up much of what I am about. Most children fantasize about being able to command "grown-up" vehicles. I'm not really sure if every young "police officer" or junior "fire fighter" understand the true duties of these real-life role models -- but they definitely want to drive the cars, trucks and blow the sirens. The best example from my own childhood is the current reincarnation of the THUNDERBIRDS/International Rescue, where the sons of a retired Astronaut take up the mantle of saving people -- anywhere in the world -- with the help of their magnificent machines. The Rocket Car is real. It goes with me to schools when I visit. I want kids to understand the reality of their own dreams through this tangible symbol of my own.
What were your favorite classes in school?
English Literature and History were my favorites. Science and Math never addressed the specifics of Astronomy and Aeronautics that I was interested in. I contacted my high school art teacher recently to thank him for his encouragement. He seemed happy to hear from me, but surprised as well for my hard won successes. I probably didn't show much promise at the time. Art classes were used mostly as throwaway classes for throwaway kids. That's another concern of mine.
What were you least favorite subjects?
To be honest I was the kid most often scolded for daydreaming or staring out the window into space. I was not fond of class and preferred to spend my days playing hooky on a friend's boat, sailing and skin diving whenever we could get away with it. I began school as a pretty skinny kid. Years of high school and then college competition as a gymnast helped change my outward appearance, but it left me with a concern about all the other kids who still felt skinny on the inside. I think a good part of my work today tries to address those issues.
When did you find you were "good" at drawing?
I guess you could say I was one of the first "Trekkies" -- I remember only being popular at school for two things: drawing the Star Ship Enterprise on demand and being able to hopscotch further than anyone else on a single leap.
When you were a little boy, what did you imagine you would grow up to become?
I only knew that I wanted to work with Walt Disney, Stan Lee and Mattel Toys. I'm luckier than most. I've been able to do all that and more. I even learned to fly.
Can a person make a living as a cartoonist?
I'll be sure and let you know. Actually it is possible, but it comes with fierce competition. I was able to work for years "ghosting" on other peoples creations. Disney characters, Ninja Turtles, even classic toons like Popeye and Casper the Friendly Ghost. There just came a time -- in my case after many years, that regardless of that type of "success" I wanted -- needed -- to see my cartoon characters -- have a chance at their own spot in the limelight.
The current change is horrifying to Baby Boomers. Word is that Disney just sold all their animation desks -- TO PIXAR! Traditional animation has been abandoned for 3-D digital production. Even Comedy Central's early lo-tech success with South Park has changed with the times. Instead of paper doll cut outs used in stop motion animation. They use powerful computers TO SIMULATE paper cut outs and stop motion techniques.
I had to go back to school -- at night -- to get my feet wet again in the current tools of the trade. Look for JIMMY JET 3-D soon!
To be a cartoonist, does someone tell you what to draw or are the ideas your own?
I don't do what anybody tells me -- ask my wife. "But seriously folks" -- my own interests (the IRS says they are only hobbies...) are so widespread, the basic knowledge gained from even casual participation really lays the foundation for most of my stories. The actual scripts provide the "opportoonities" for my own ongoing education. For example, I watched EVERY launch from Cape Canaveral, Cape Kennedy (and back again). I took flight training as an elective Health class in high school. I passed the FAA written exam before heading off to college. For a short time I was even a D.O.D. Flight Simulator Engineer at Lockheed's secret Rye Canyon facility: the "Skunk Works " with a TOP SECRET security clearance. This lifelong interest in aviation and manned space flight... all these experiences... have combined inside me resulting in the JIMMY JET series of adventure books.
What is "Imagine Nations"?
IMAGINE NATIONS is a wonderful online community that I belong to of illustrators, artists and cartoonists from around the world. It does not try to teach anyone HOW to draw -- it focuses its mentoring tools on how to encourage its members to be successful at it. Dedicated to freedom of expression, its gallery pages are composed of self-portraits, biographies and caricatures of each of its members. Open to both amateur and professional alike -- many of its members have found success, syndication and other ways of sharing their work through self publishing. There are hundreds of members from over 14 different countries.
There are even web-based translation tools on each page if you need to read the information in another language. Best of all -- it's free. I don't know how they do it.
If you could relive your life up to this point, is there anything you would have done differently?
Well, I think I let too many years go by listening to what others thought I should be doing instead of what I knew I should be doing. I should have traded in my "power tie" for my space helmet years ago.
There are many admonitions about the silliness of art and drawing and the foolishness of "starving artists." My wife has a theory that every child knows in their heart -- very early on -- what it is that they should be doing in this world. If we could encourage those early sparks and nurture them in that young and wise direction instead of trying to reshape them in our own image -- the world will be a happier place. My books are designed to do just that -- especially for kids who won't get a chance to hear this message anywhere else.
At WONDER-BOOKS we like to say that "We build healthy kids four different ways."
Role Models + Social Connections + Individuality + Power = High Self Esteem
Do you have a favorite quote?
It would probably be my salutation: "Let joy & innocence prevail!" It is taken from the motion picture soundtrack "TOYS" starring Robin Williams.
The complete lyrics are very moving to me....
tell you of a Girl -- her Husband was a Soldier;
And one night, asleep, she dreamed she saw her husband fall
~ Grace Jones from Toys Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer
I would have to say that it reminds me of my own wife's love for me, and how it has saved me and mended my own wounds on so many levels.
Send your questions about the effort to promote child literacy to: Imagiverse - Ask The Expert
- 2 August 2004
8 August 2004
© 2004 - Imagiverse Educational Consortium