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Jen de Oliveira Brings Back Her Kid Penguin In ‘Reggie: Penguin In Charge

Reggie Penguin In Charge cover crop

Jen de Oliveira has been having fun with Reggie, her kid penguin creation, for years now. Along with a webcomic, she launched Reggie: Kid Penguin, a full-length collection of stories, last year. And now the precocious bird is back with Reggie: Penguin in Charge, another collection of highly relatable stories, now in stores everywhere from Little, Brown Ink.

“Reggie is a kid penguin, with an emphasis on kid,” de Oliveira told Comic Book Club over email. “He has big feelings and a deep connection to the things that make him happy at a particular moment – whether it’s his stuffed bunny Bubba, a caterpillar or roly-poly bug, or a delicious grape popsicle. He is also very determined, so if something isn’t going his way (blowing bubbles, for example) Reggie sticks with it until he can find a solution he’s satisfied with.”

To find out more about the book, and whether there’s more Reggie to come, read on.

Comic Book Club: First and foremost: how long have you been surveilling my family to get the completely relatable material for this book?

Jen de Oliveira: Ha ha! I’m happy to hear you found Reggie’s stories relatable. Reggie brings out my inner child, and I love that he resonates with both kids and former kids (AKA grown-ups).

More seriously, I love how many of these stories are themed around Reggie’s intense devotion to things (animals, toys, etc) – is that the core of his character? Or is it something else?

Reggie is a kid penguin, with an emphasis on kid. He has big feelings and a deep connection to the things that make him happy at a particular moment – whether it’s his stuffed bunny Bubba, a caterpillar or roly-poly bug, or a delicious grape popsicle. He is also very determined, so if something isn’t going his way (blowing bubbles, for example) Reggie sticks with it until he can find a solution he’s satisfied with.

Why a penguin? What was appealing to you about that particular type of animal?

I love drawing anthropomorphic animals – I feel like I can exaggerate them more than I would with human characters. The truth is, Reggie is a penguin because I created his cousin Poppy (for a different project) first. Reggie initially hatched as a side character. But I do love drawing his flippers! I think they’re so funny and expressive.

You’ve already released a book and a webcomic of Reggie… What’s so appealing about this character to you? What keeps it fresh?

Reggie reminds me how to see the world through a kid-lens. He has a sweetness, spunkiness, and curiosity that make him so much fun to draw and write stories for. Because he’s so “real” to me, I never get bored making comics about him – I can put him in any situation and imagine how he would react.

The webcomics are four-panel, versus the layout and continuing story of the book – what does that change for the comedic rhythm for you?

The challenge with a comic strip is choosing a story or moment that can fit within limited number of panels. With the book, I was limited by page count. The challenge was making sure the “beats” of the story fell into the right places. It required a lot of consideration about the number (and size) of panels to use on each page to best communicate the story. Sometimes making comics feels like fitting puzzle pieces together!

Did Reggie ever write a thank you note to Nana for the robot?

Of course! I suspect it might have looked something like this:

Dear Nana,

Thank you for sending me a Super-Mega Robo-Bot (even though it broke into a million pieces).

Love,

Reggie

Are there plans for book three yet?

I would love to make more Reggie books (I have an outline ready for book three), but ultimately it’s up to my publisher. Flippers crossed there will be more on the way!

Reggie: Penguin In Charge is now in bookstores everywhere from Little, Brown Ink.

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