Mike Dawson has been tooling around the world of indie comics for some time now. After years of self-publishing minis, the artist been work on the six issue mini-series, Gabagool back in 2002, chronicling the life of three Bronx-based nerds in their early 30s. It was the publication of this year’s Freddie & Me: A Coming of Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody for Bloombury, however, that really put the artist on the map.
The book is as much a love letter to Dawson’s life-long musical obsessions as it as the autobiography of a young British transplant growing up in the States during the height of Reganomics.
In this second and final part of our interview, we talk about the reaction of Queen fans, the catharsis of autobiography, and how having a kid has affected the artist’s output.
Is your new work geared toward younger readers, at all?
No, actually, quite the opposite. The boy scout thing is a horrible thing about horrible people. It’s about men vying for power within the hierarchy. The adults, who are the dads, and the kids, who are the teenagers both parallel in their dynamics, even though there’s a big sort of gap in their ages. They behave the same way. And the superhero stuff is pretty humorous.
Do you feel compelled to do work for younger readers, now that you have another one coming into the world?
Uh, no. it’s funny, because the child was coming and then I started working on these stories about these brothers fighting, and they fight so viciously and the dad is always hitting them and telling them to shut up. People are like, “wow, Mike, fatherhood is really bringing out a nice side in you.”
It’s a way of getting out aggression.
“Shut Up!” Yeah.
When Freddie and Me came out, you got some sort of feedback from Brian May, didn’t you?
I got feedback from people tangentially connected to Brian May. The person who runs his Website posted about it. I got a lot of feedback from Queen fans. The official Queen archivist who also knows Brian read the book and gave me the blurb for the back of the book. I also interacted a bit with their manager, but Brian never gave me a phone call…
What’s the reaction been like, among Queen fans?
In generally, very positive. In general it did pretty well over here, it did pretty well in the UK, it just came out in Italy. But there are one or two people who don’t really like that I’ve taken their thing and done my own thing with it. but that should be sort of expected, because we all kind of feel like we own it.
It’s always interesting to take someone else’s art and try to tell your own story through it.
I know I’d feel the same way if someone else took Queen—“that asshole. What does he know? I’m the real fan.”
Is the book easier to read as a Queen fan or a non-Queen fan?
Uh, I feel like I’ve got a bit of a hook with the Queen fans, but I’ve never really had a sense that non-Queen fans have and issue with it. what I try to do with my autobiorgraphy is, I try to make the people I know and myself into real characters. I don’t do a lot of narration. Some autobio—which I like—have a central character, which is clearly the cartoonist sort of describing to you the events that are going on.
Like a diary strip.
Something like that. I wanted to make it like my parents were real characters—sort of the Joe Matt style.
It took you so long to work up to an auto-biographical book, and now you’re already moving away from that style. Is there a sense that a weight has been lifted, now that the story has been told?
Yeah. What I found interesting is, all of these things that were big events in my life, once I put them on paper, they sort of evaporated from my head. I never tell those stories of things like how I moved to America anymore. I put it on paper, and now I’m moving on.
Because it’s redundant to tell a story you’ve already written?
No, I think when you work on it, you sit down and take a couple of days on a page, so one sequence takes a couple of weeks of intense concentration, so, once I’m done with it, I’m kind of out of it—but not in a bad way.
It seems like one of the primary reasons for doing autobio for a lot of artists is a sense of catharsis. Did you get that out of Freddie and Me?
I feel like it sort of helped me think about things in different ways, to really concentrate on something and make more of an effort to understand it. And having done this book and read it, I’ve learned a lot about other people’s perspectives on things.