I’ve been asked several times lately why I decided to create a line of scary comics for kids. The story is pretty simple, but there’s more to it than simply liking to make comics and also liking kids.
I’ve been writing and editing comics for about ten years now. It’s been more a hobby than a full-blown passion, something I did from time to time when the urge struck. A few years back, however, I decided I wanted to be a little more serious about it. I promised myself I’d write and produce at least one new comic every year. That’s certainly not a lofty aspiration, but with a young son and a full-time job, the goal fit into my time and money constraints.
About this time last year, I had written the first draft of a 150-page graphic novel. One that I absolutely couldn’t stop thinking about. A story that had me excited to take my writing to the next level. One night, after tweaking my script in a way that had me more enthusiastic than ever, I went upstairs to get my son ready for bed.
At the time, Daxton hadn’t yet turned six. I found him in his room, flipping through my earlier comics, THE BOY WHO WANTED WAR and WATCH YOUR STEP. I don’t consider either of them adult comics, but they both have themes and key scenes that aren’t meant for kids. So despite letting him look through them many times, I had never read them to him.
“Dad, will you read me one of your comics?” Daxton said, as I was getting him into his pajamas.
“Sorry, kiddo. I still don’t think you’re old enough for those. Want to read Spider-Man? Or Scooby-Doo?” His disappointment was immediately apparent. That was something I wasn’t ready for. My son, my biggest fan, was devastated as only a 5-year-old can be, because he couldn’t read something his dad wrote.
“No,” he said, putting all the sadness he could muster into that one little word. He was quiet as he hopped onto the bed. He normally gets very talkative and energetic at bedtime, so his calm was rather unusual.
We had discussed why I wouldn’t read him the comics before, and I didn’t want to rehash the conversation just before bed. So I tucked him in, letting him ponder his little boy thoughts as I turned out the light. I leaned in and kissed him on the forehead, telling him to sleep well. As I turned to leave the room, he said, “Dad?”
I could tell he was struggling with something big, and that he was summoning all of his courage to ask me about it. “What’s up?” I asked.
“How come you never make comics I can read?”
His words hit me like a physical blow. Here he was, the love of my life, practically crying because his dad wouldn’t make a comic that he could read. Several responses rushed through my mind, but nothing felt right. So I said, “Sorry, Daxton. Maybe someday.”
I didn’t write again for two months. My graphic novel script, while still alive in my head, just didn’t instill that passion in me anymore. How could I write yet another comic that my son couldn’t enjoy? How could I be proud of something that my own son couldn’t be proud of, too?
Not long after, inspiration struck. See, my son was born on Halloween, and we had begun to watch kid-friendly scary movies and before bed, I’d read him some not-so-scary ghost stories before bed. So I decided that I would write a scary comic for my son. Something age-appropriate, but just spooky and fun enough to get him excited about reading. Maybe so much so that he’d want to share the comic with his friends.
And that’s how THE CURSE OF COTTONWOOD CT. was born. I even had Daxton help write the story. He came up with the ghost story theme, some character names, and the ending was all him. I have to tell you, working on a comic with my son, and later reading the printed copy with him on the floor, was one of the best experiences of my life. Seeing the hint of fear in his eyes, and the thrill of reading a spooky story with his dad, is a memory I’ll cherish forever.