If you have a young reader in your life, it’s likely you’re already familiar with Chris Eliopoulos’s artistic style. As the illustrator behind Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World biography series, he has brought dozens of historical figures to life on the page, everyone from Gandhi to Harriet Tubman to Albert Einstein. Eliopoulos’s latest is a graphic novel for an older crowd: middle grade readers. Featuring a pair of twins who unexpectedly find themselves living a video game storyline in real life, Cosmic Commandos is the perfect read for modern-day tweens everywhere. In this installment of Meet the Illustrator, the author-illustrator shares how he fell in love with writing and illustrating, ponders his love of monsters, and shows us a self-portrait in his signature style.
What first made you excited about art?
When I was a kid, my uncle had a remainder book company and my parents would help him in the warehouse on weekends. They’d take me along and I’d sit in these large metal bins and read Peanuts books all day. Then I’d take them home. The Peanuts comic strip is how I fell in love with writing and drawing.
What’s your favorite thing to draw at the moment?
The book I’m currently working on, the sequel to Cosmic Commandos, is about monsters. So, right now, that’s my favorite.
Which illustration from your latest book did you especially enjoy creating?
I loved drawing the Jell-O monster. (Detecting a theme?) He was this gelatinous blob that made me laugh. It was so silly.
Which characters from your books would you like to spend time with?
I based the two characters in Cosmic Commandos on my sons, Jeremy and Justin, so I like to spend time with them. Almost as much as spending time with my real sons.
Can you draw us a self-portrait?
Since I look better as a cartoon, it’s a must.
What illustrated book have you read recently and been wowed by?
Why do you think art is important for kids? What can grown-ups do to encourage kids to engage with art?
I grew up on comic strips and then comic books. I’ve seen a lot of places where graphic novels are looked down upon. I have found that, if we really want children to be excited to read, we must understand that there are reluctant readers and we need to give them a toe-hold to reading. That toe-hold can be graphic novels.
Making it fun to read will create lifelong readers. And that’s the ultimate goal. Mixing art with writing will help that new reader learn to love books and reading, just as it did for me.
What’s the best name for a color that you’ve ever heard?
Xanadu. It’s a Chinese city, a bad movie, and gray-green color of the philodendron leaf.
Books by Chris Eliopoulos
Christopher Eliopoulos began his illustration career as a letterer for Marvel and has worked on thousands of comics, including Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius, Pet Avengers, and Cow Boy, all of which he wrote and illustrated. He is the illustrator of the New York Times-bestselling Ordinary People Change the World series of picture book biographies. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and their identical twin sons.