Most of us are content to abandon our childhood obsessions, in pursuit of more “grownup” fare. For Mike Dawson, however, being a Queen fan has proved a lifelong commitment, something inexorably linked to his own story, growing up as a British immigrant in the United States in the mid-80s. When Dawson first sat down to document his devotions, he expected little more than a quick one-off.
Four years and 300-odd pages later, Freddie & Me was finally complete. When it came out, earlier this year, the book proved surprisingly touching in its exploration of the lives of both Dawson and Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury.
We sat down briefly with Dawson to discuss the birth of the book and the power of autobiographical comics.
How long did it take to complete Freddie and Me?
It took me about four years exactly. I started it thinking that it would be more like a 70 page joke book. I just thought it would be amusing to do a book about what was sort of a universal topic. And then it took about four years, from start to finish.
Why did it morph into such a massive project?
I just think I had more story to tell. At first I was just going to list every memory I had of Queen. I started to realize that there’s more to it as a story about how we all have these things that we can relate tell. Many people, I think, whether you’re a child or an adult, have something like this in their life.
Is it safe to say that this is your first major work?
Yeah. I had done a series called Gabbagool, which I collaborated on, with a friend of mine. I serialized it.
Was it autobio?
No, Gabbagool was about three guys living in the Bronx. They don’t like their jobs or their lives, so they go on a hedonism trip. It’s very different than Freddie and Me.
Was autobiography something you felt you needed to work up to?
I had a lot of friends who did autobio, so I didn’t do one. I thought one day I might show up in their work, but I never did, so I finally did an auotbio book [laughs].
For selfish reasons.
Yeah. No, but really, I’m a huge fan of autobio books, though I’m sort of starting to move away from it.
The book isn’t just straight autobio, though—it’s Freddie & Me. In some sense it’s as much about Freddie Mercury as it is about you. Would it have been tough to do an autobio piece without such a tangible entry point for you?
What I realized is that the actual events of your life are not as important as how you tell the story. The unusual aspects of my life are being an immigrant, having that immigrant experience, and that’s a lot of what the book is about. But really, I haven’t had an outrageous, unusual life. Obviously, having the Queen aspect gives the book a little bit of a focus and broadens the concept at the same time. I think we all like bands [laughs].
Your latest piece seems to have elements of autobio, as well.
At the moment, I just recently had a child, and that has made me focus more on short stories. Hopefully I’ll be coming out with a collection of superhero themed short stories, next year. I’ve got this new manga-style strip about brothers with superpowers fighting each other that I put on the Website. There’s a new graphic novel that I’m working on that’s about a bunch of boy scouts. I want to work on a longer book, but I can’t right now, with the baby. These stories tend to be about eight pages each.
[Concluded in Part Two]