When evil turns to good
When the helpless are remembered
By those who never would
You’ll start to know the way I feel about youAnd if I could, I’d run out into the street
And scream to everyone I meet
That I loved you more than words could ever say
And that I loved you more than life this Father’s Day
So, my dad finally left us when I was 17 years old. It was long overdue. I did not have a good relationship with him, and was afraid of him all of my life. For the 15 years after that, Father’s Day meant pretty much nothing to me, if it meant anything at all. When Sophie was born, I was 32 years old. A few months later I had my first Father’s Day as a dad and it was pretty great. I like being a dad. It’s pretty fun.
As a creative person, I wondered how much of an impact fatherhood would have on my life. I knew my drawing time would be reduced drastically, but I also thought about how much it would influence what I created. I didn’t want to fall into the trap of writing stories about being a dad or about the funny/weird/cute/frustrating things Sophie did or said. I liked having a pretty broad range of stories in Uptown Girl. Some funny, some action-y, some personal, some mystery…and I wanted to stay away from “here’s another story about being a parent”. I was smart enough to know that having a kid was going to be the biggest change my life ever had, and I knew it was seep into my creative work. I also knew I would WANT to write about having a kid. I couldn’t very well have Uptown Girl get pregnant. I mean, I COULD but that would shake up the status quo of the book more than I wanted. So instead I had her friends Jake and Diane have a baby. I did a story about their baby from both Jack’s and Diane’s perspective. Everything they experienced, thought and said were things my wife and I did. It was a wonderful creative outlet. They gave birth to a little baby named Rose, and they quietly disappeared from the comic after that. I wanted them to go and live their lives with their little girl, but I also wanted to remove the temptation of writing stories about parenting or the hilarious misadventures of Rocketman babysitting.
Sophie is now six and a half and I had a little thought recently. For years I’ve been fighting against fatherhood influencing my creative work, but what if I stopped fighting and see what happened if I let it win? Now, just to clarify, I write and draw things for Sophie all the time, such as the children’s book I am doing, but this would be different. If I had let fatherhood influence my creative work right after Sophie was born, I think I would have done…I don’t know, a comic book or strip about all the cliched experiences kids create or about being a dad. I’d become a sitcom writer, crafting stories about a bumbling dad or something. But Sophie and I have adventures, she has an amazing imagination. She’s brave, funny, smart, athletic and curious. So a few days ago, I wondered what Sophie would be like if she was in a comic book…but the imaginative adventures we had were actually true.
We live next to huge wooded area. Ten feet outside our front door and we’re in another world of thick trees, huge ponds, tall grass, paths, and wood ticks. We explore the woods all the time and talk about the goblins that live there. This would be the world Comic-Book-Character-Sophie would live in. In a matter of days, I had a story, a world in my mind. My brain has been bouncing around non-stop. The idea and world revealed itself to me in such a short time that it was like the idea was waiting to be found as opposed to me having to hunt too hard for it.
Creating characters is something I love doing, but this was a little different. The character’s personality, temperament and attitude already existed in my daughter but letting the fictional character develop on her own is also important. I did not want to make the character Sophie in every sense possible. Sophie is busy being six, and doesn’t have time to be a comic book character, so I decided not to name the main character after her. This would help drive home to me as the creator that the character was influenced by Sophie, but she is not Sophie. Make sense? It makes sense to me.
So, I want you to meet Cecelia:
I have no idea what will come from this idea. Or when I will do it. I am wrapped up with Uptown Girl, the children’s book and the secret project Brian and I are working on. The wonderful thing about having an idea is being able to create a new story or character…but once an idea is strong enough, it becomes impossible to ignore. I will probably live in Cecelia’s world for the next few days in my mind. It’s not a bad problem to have.
Like I said, Sophie and I tell each other stories about the goblins in the woods near us, so I let that be the start of the idea. Soon I had a title for the first book and this afternoon worked up a little image that had been in my head all day: