Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the re-release of Lunch Lady! What can you share with us about your experience in revisiting Lunch Lady, its world, and characters as you prepared for this new edition?
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: It was like comfort food. I cracked open the original art files in the early days of the pandemic. So, all of that existential dread I had was tempered by the nostalgia I had when reviewing and revising the art files for this new format. It connected me to where I was in the mid-late ‘00s and all of the joy that I received back from readers throughout the Teens. I have been with these characters for so long that they are like close friends. And while we never lost touch, I haven’t been actively making new adventures for some years, so this was an incredibly happy reunion between old pals.
BD: What can you tell us about your creative process in needing to balance the writing and illustrative duties of the series, and what have been some of your creative influences?
JJK: I write with a script first and then follow with thumbnail sketches. At the sketch stage of things, I know what text needs to get dropped if that aspect of the story is already told with the imagery. In my career I have been illustrator-only for a few picture books and that really taught me that, despite my degree being in Illustration, I am a writer first. I am a sponge for all of the media I consumed as a kid—newspaper comic strips, comic books, Saturday Morning Cartoons, and chapter books checked out from my school library. So, it’s a cross-section of Snoopy, Batman, The Smurfs, and Beverly Cleary.
BD: Are there any special features included within the hardcover editions that you’re able to share with readers?
JJK: Yes! I dug through my flat files and scanned in some sketches that have never seen the light of day. I also penned essays for the back of each 2-for-1 Special. And then, there is also the full-cast audiobooks, which Kate Flannery of The Office leads. I adapted the scripts for what are essentially radio plays. I am so incredibly proud of these comics' print and audio editions!
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that our favorite crime-fighting Lunch Lady’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
JJK: The irony is that by creating a cartoon character, I saw the humanity in a group of people who are often demeaned as cartoon characters. And what I mean by that is that the school lunch ladies (and lunch dudes and lunch people) who work tirelessly in our cafeterias have so often been maligned in popular culture. By infusing this mild-mannered school cafeteria worker with a secret crime-fighting operation, young readers have connected with their schools’ cafeteria stuff in an entirely new way. The Lunch Lady books have shined a light on the compassionate work being done to fill bellies so that kids can learn. I was able to channel all of the enthusiasm readers and educators had for the series by founding School Lunch Hero Day. In this annual event, kids across the country create art projects to share their gratitude with their schools’ cafeteria staff.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JJK: Aside from the reissues, I am also writing brand-new adventures for Lunch Lady and crew! Those new books will begin publishing in early 2023. Also in early 2023: Sunshine: How one camp taught me about life, death, and hope. That is a young adult graphic memoir, a followup to Hey, Kiddo.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about the hardcover editions of Lunch Lady?
JJK: Probably via my website’s Lunch Lady page.