Brian Gordon Finesses The Foul In 'Fowl Language: The Struggle Is Real' [Interview]by Caleb Goellner
Whether you have small children of your own or have simply observed the trials and tribulations of friends and family with theirs, you know the truth of Brain Gordon's new book title, Fowl Language: The Struggle is Real. The new book -- the sequel to last year's Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting -- collects even more honest observations of a duck family's perpetually perplexed patriarch. Informed by Gordon's own adventures in parenting, the new collection expresses the strata of experiences that come with the proper care and feeding (and loving, and surviving) of two ducklings. Or human kids, whichever you've got on hand.
We got in touch with Brian to discover how he blends the euphoric with the foul to create something uniquely fowl. Read on for our full interview.
GoComics: Your name is Brian Gordon, but because the title of your comic is Fowl Language, in my head you are always "Brian Fowler" -- like your comic is a triple pun. Why have you done this to me?
Brian Gordon: I'm secretly trying to drive you mad...
GC: Fowl Language is inspired -- at least in part -- on your life as a dad. Does your family appreciate what they may or may not contribute to the strip, or do they think every dad is a cartoonist for a living?
BG: On one hand, they think I'm, like, celebrity-famous, and will tell incredulous strangers as much. And yet they couldn't be less impressed by what I do.
GC: What's your comic-making process like? How do you get from foul idea to fowl comic?
BG: When I'm stuck for ideas, I simply make a list of things that frustrate me. There's nothing funny about a day that's gone well, but when things go horribly off the rails, as they regularly do, there's comedy gold to be mined.
GC: Fowl Language is one of a generation of comics that shows the reality of parenting from the perspective of parents -- without a filter of vanity or perhaps traditional politeness. Thing is, you live in the Midwest, which is polite to a fault. Is there a war of conflicting emotions raging inside you as you work on your comic?
BG: Well, I was actually born and raised in blue-collar Massachusetts, which is a much swearier, less polite place to grow up than the Midwest. I worked hard to curb my tongue when I moved out here 20 years ago, but I think some of that repressed frustration and profanity is coming out in the strip.
GC: Fowl Language has some actual foul language for humorous effect. How do you decide on the optimum amount of foul per strip?
BG: As a teenager, I was one of the only kids I knew that didn't swear. But what turned me around was when I realized the punch a well-used f-bomb had. That said, I never aim to offend or shock, I just try and use the same sort of uncensored language I might use when I'm joking with a close friend about our shared frustrations.
GC: Fowl Language blends crisp black line art with a kind of watercolor paper texture for colors. How did you decide on this aesthetic?
BG: When I first started making comics, it was pen on paper, colored with real paint. While everything I do now is created digitally, I still appreciate the aesthetic of more traditional media and try and recreate that as best I can on the computer.
GC: Fowl Language: The Struggle is Real (out now in stores and online!) is your second print collection. What was it like preparing for this release vs. the first book, Welcome to Parenting? Was it anything like having your second child compared to your first?
BG: That's a fairly accurate analogy. The first child and book were terrifying. I had no idea what to expect and had regular panic attacks during the whole process. The second child and book were still really hard, but slightly less terrifying, having been through the process once before.
GC: I saw you standing near Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis at an industry event and noticed that you're in his class of buffness. What's your preferred training method? Conventional weights or simply weighted drawing tools?
BG: Well, lugging my kids and all their crap around is my main source of exercise, but that whole starving artist thing is what's keeping me relatively slim. I should make workout videos where it's just me fretting over the cost of groceries.
GC: Cartoonists who create on the edge often have a backlog of content that was too hot for final publication. How big is your pile of Fowl Language outtakes?
BG: I have a trusted group of friends who I'll run material past to see if I'm crossing a line. I have a sizeable collection of jokes I've written that are funny to me and close friends, but maybe shouldn't be released into the wild. Swing by my house sometime and we'll all have a big, inappropriate laugh! Just don't tell anyone what you saw.