No matter where you live, no matter your background, no matter how many children you’re raising, the fact remains: Being a parent comes with parts stress and joy. And, sometimes, it’s nice for parents to be able to laugh at the beautiful chaos. Cartoonist Brian Gordon, a parent of four, understands that more than most, and he has taken that understanding in crafting in his wildly-popular, hilarious, and heartfelt comic strip Fowl Language. The comic focuses two parents and their four children, whose wide range of personalities are both alternately vexing and rewarding for their mom and dad. Fowl Language is the perfect comic for parents new and old, as well for children to hopefully better understand their own parents.
Mr. Gordon just launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring Fowl Language Volume 4 to the printed page. Mr. Gordon spoke with me recently about the concept of Fowl Language, the comics that influenced him as an early reader, the Kickstarter for Volume 4, and why both Fowl Language resonates with both adult and child readers.
FreakSugar: For folks who might not be familiar with the series, what is the idea behind Fowl Language?
Brian Gordon: It’s a gag comic based on my daily frustrations and failings as a dad to four beautiful, amazing, and at times wildly challenging children. While it’s largely autobiographical, I try and speak to themes and experiences that all parents struggle with.
FS: You have a robust cast in Fowl Language. What can you tell us about the characters we’ll encounter?
BG: Well, there’s Kitty and Dicky, the mom and dad, who are just trying (and often failing) to raise their kids as best they can and desperately clinging to each other for support while they do it. Their kids are all quite different from one another, just to make it extra challenging. The oldest son, Spike, is a lawyer at heart, and will argue to the death on all matters related to homework or chores. Champ, the second oldest son, was once the chatterbox of the family, but is in a more reclusive phase and is terribly bored or annoyed by anything that involves leaving his room. Pixie, is the older daughter whose brain is so busy thinking complex thoughts, that she can’t be bothered with silly practical things like remembering to wear shoes. Missy, the youngest girl, is a volatile rollercoaster of hormones. Her dad treads lightly around her for good reason.
FS: The comic resonates with and appeals to both children and adults—particularly parents. What kind of responses do you get from fans of Fowl Language? Do you ever get parents telling you, “Thank God someone else gets it”?
BG: Exactly! I’m constantly accused of spying on people’s families, but I assure them that if ever I get a free moment from my kids, I’m sure as hell not gonna spend it looking at someone else’s.
FS: You’ve said you get responses from parents; what about your younger readers? What has been their reaction?
BG: To my surprise, parents often tell me their kids enjoy my books as well. I guess they must enjoy reading about how the children torture their parents.
FS: I’m sure you get a wide range of responses; what do you hope your readers take away from your work?
BG: Ultimately that they’re not alone in the struggle. Most parents vent to their spouses and friends about their daily frustrations. It’s like a release valve to help keep one’s sanity. I like to think of my comic as a way of sharing and commiserating about those same struggles, but in duck form. (I’m weird.)
FS: What made you initially decide to tackle your subject matter? What was it that clicked for you that the relationships between kids and parents was what you wanted to focus on?
BG: There’s nothing more ripe for a joke than failure and frustration, so parenting has been an endless inspiration for me.
FS: What kind of comics did you read as a kid? What do you read now?
BG: I grew up in a golden age of newspaper comics. Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County, and Peanuts were all daily must-reads for me. I caught the bug early, though. At the tender age of six I saw an interview with Charles Schulz on tv and decided then and there that I would do that for a living. Nearly 50 years later and I still haven’t thought of anything I’d rather do more. As for what I read now, I love reading my friends’ comics, mostly. Heart & Brain, Lunarbaboon, They Can Talk, The Underfold, Ninja and Pirate, and Murdercake are some of my favs.
FS: The comic is from the perspective of the parents. You’ve said that your kids inspire your work, but have you ever taken inspiration from your life when you were a kid and your interactions with your own parents?
BG: Oh, all the time. It’s especially fun to compare the laissez-faire parenting style of yesteryear to how things are, for better and worse, today. I also love to write about how my kids might handle parenting one day themselves.
FS: How do you combat writer’s block? How do you shake it off? Is there anything in particular that helps you shake it off?
BG: Coffee, deadlines, and the constant need to meet said deadlines so I can afford my coffee.
You’re partnering with Rocketship for this campaign. What made Rocketship a good partner for Fowl Language?
BG: I was looking for a partner who seemed genuinely invested in comics and making things run well. After meeting with the owners, I feel so lucky to be working with Rocketship. These guys have an obvious passion for comics and they’re waaaaay more organized than I am, thank god.
FS: This is the fourth volume of Fowl Language being released. What is it about the comic that keeps it fresh and fun for you?
BG: I laugh when I think back to when I started my comic. I used to think parenting would get too easy and I’d run out of material. Silly, silly, naïve me. The challenges have all changed, but god help me, they keep coming. The upside is that I always have something new to vent/ joke about. The downside is my waning sanity.
FS: On to the Kickstarter itself, what can you tell us about the campaign?
BG: Well, the main goal, obviously, is to make the book happen. This is my first Kickstarter, so I’m nervous about how it’ll go. But there’s lots of fun add-ons and goodies for backers, which I’m hoping we’ll be able to reach.
FS: What kind of rewards can backers expect? How did you decide what to offer backers?
BG: It all depends on how much money we raise, but we’ve got cool simple things like stickers and enamel pins, but I’m also offering original ink drawings and full watercolor painting commissions for the higher-tier contributors.
FS: If you had one last pitch to potential backers, what would it be?
BG: I’m just so excited to get this new book into people’s hands. I’ve had three years of cartooning to draw from since my last book, so I’ve picked the funniest ones from the bunch to make into this latest collection. I figure anyone with kids this age will find it cathartic to laugh at all the struggles. Those with older kids can look back and laugh at how hard it was. As for parents with young children, just think of this book as a way of preparing yourself for what’s coming!
The Kickstarter for Fowl Language Volume 4 is now LIVE! Make sure to check out the campaign for this hilarious and heartfelt tale, that’ll resonate with readers with or without their own ducklings!