Jason Shiga Interview

There are two books coming out this Spring that I am REALLY excited about. One of them is, Origami Yoda, of course. The other is Meanwhile, by Jason Shiga. (Also from Abrams/Amulet)

It’s a beautiful cover, isn’t? For a behind-the-scenes of how the cover came to be, visit Mishaps & Adventures.

What’s so exciting about it? It’s described as a wild cross between Choose Your Own Adventure and a comic book. It’s like a flow-chart with a narrative! A maze with a plot!

It’s even got a seal-of-approval from Choose Your Own Adventure authors R. A. Montgomery and Edward Packard:
“Meanwhile is a wallop of a book/graphic novel.”- Montgomery
“Ingenious” -Packard

Having Scott McCloud say “Crazy + Genius = Shiga” doesn’t hurt either.

I’m very happy to have had a chance to interview Jason Shiga. It’s a two-part interview — the other part will be on my other blog.

Q: My book is about origami, your book IS origami. (Or kirgami, for the purists.) You’ve been working this angle for awhile, right? When did you first go beyond just drawing on a flat sheet of paper?
My very first interactive comic was called “the Last Supper” and it was literally origami.

The reader would unfold this square flap. An arrow printed on the flap would tell the reader which direction to unfold to get to the next panel in the story. Sometimes there were multiple arrows in which case the reader could choose which direction to unfold. The most challenging aspect of designing the project was that each progressive panel had to be slightly smaller than the previous because folding it up would slightly increase the size of the square flap. Additionally, all the squares had to tessellate perfectly onto one 11×17 sheet of paper.
At every convention I attend, there’s always at least one person who comes to my table with the entire thing unfolded and asks me to help them put it back together.

Q: Can you explain how Meanwhile works? Nearly 4,000 possible story combinations? I can’t wait!
Meanwhile works via a series of tubes that connect each panel to the next one in sequence. Sometimes the tubes lead right off the page and onto a tab on another page. Sometimes the tubes branch off and the reader can choose which direction they want the story to unfold. It sounds complicated but once you hold the book in your hands, it makes more sense.


The figure of 3,856 possible story combinations is a bit of an underestimation. The figure didn’t include storylines where you enter the incorrect code, or storylines that end in an infinite loop. There’s literally an infinite number of story combinations if you include storylines that have repeating panels.

Q: Those blurbs from the creators of Choose Your Own Adventure books are so impressive. You must have been pretty excited to get those! Did you read those books as a kid?
I read every single one of those books. I tried to get to every single ending too. I couldn’t get enough. Eventually I branched out into other series like, Which-Way Books, Twist-a-Plot, Time-Machine and what would eventually become my favorite gamebook series, Fighting Fantasy. But in terms of books, Sugarcane Island is still my favorite of all time, children or adult. When I read the blurb from Edward Packard, I nearly screamed.

Q: Favorite minor Star Wars character?
Niem Numb.

Read about Shiga’s path to publication in Part 2.

4 Comments»

[…] more here and here. Posted in Cartoonists, Experimental Comics, Graphic […]

[…] over to Ori­gami Yoda to read an inter­view with Jason; Q: Can you explain how Mean­while works? Nearly 4,000 pos­sible story com­bin­a­tions? […]

[…] Jason Shiga Interview […]

  Donna K wrote @

Wow, the author of one of my favorite books of the year interviewing the author of one of my favorite books of the year. Both books are our Guys Read Book Group book selection this year. Love you both!


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