This April, Oni Press will join the space race by releasing the all new original graphic novel FIRST IN SPACE by talented newcomer James Vining, winner of a 2006 Xeric Award. Set in the early 1960s and extensively researched, FIRST IN SPACE tells the true adventures of Ham, America’s first chimpanzee launched into space by NASA.
“This was a story I was determined to tell,” explains James Vining. “Regardless of whether or not it ever found a publisher, I was going to make it happen. It took a while, but I finished the graphic novel and had just barely started to show it around. I was fortunate enough to be recognized by the Xeric Foundation at the same time Oni approached me about publishing it. It was pretty amazing to have those two things happen at about the same time –especially considering this was my first graphic novel.”
“We were excited when we first received samples of Vining’s work,” said editor in chief James Lucas Jones. “His storytelling is amazing and we really felt that this story needed to be told. Ham paved the way for the first human flight into space, and this story is recognition of his amazing feat.”
“James’ work on FIRST IN SPACE was so good that I knew immediately that this was a story I’d be proud to publish,” added managing editor Randal Jarrell. “The artwork is perfectly suited to the subject, and Ham’s story, particularly as Vining has told it, is the best sort of historical fiction, truthful and full of heart.”
In FIRST IN SPACE, Ham is paired with his human handler to undergo his training for the space flight. Smart and quick, Ham quickly outpaces his fellow chimpanzees, but nearly misses his flight because his fondness for banana pellets gets in the way of weight restrictions.
“FIRST IN SPACE is not only a fun and heartwarming adventure, but it also takes a serious look at the use of animals in government safety tests, an examination that’s important to our history and particularly to our future,” said Jarrell. “But it’s also about monkeys in space! What could be better than that?”
FIRST IN SPACE is James Vining’s debut as a solo cartoonist. Having been discharged in 2005 following four years of service in the US Coast Guard, he spent several months working and researching FIRST IN SPACE, and his dedication to the story shows in every panel.
The FIRST IN SPACE original graphic novel ships April 25, 2007 and retails for $9.95. It’s a 96 page 6×9 trade paperback, with black and white interiors and a full color cover. The ISBN is 978-1-932664-64-5, and the Diamond order code is FEB07 3672.