Writer/illustrator Charles C. Dowd is the creator of the great all-ages comics Lilith Dark and Kidthulhu. His most recent project is the Kickstarter-backed The A to Z Guide to Jobs for Girls, an adorable board book that takes a very expansive view on what girls can do.
We reached out to Dowd via e-mail to talk about the book, his kids and why he likes to create girl-power comics.
You’ve done several girl-power projects recently. What draws you to that sort of material?
When my daughter was seven, I took her to our local comic shop, and for the first time realized that there was basically nothing there for her aside from a Strawberry Shortcake comic. The only other comics featuring female leads were all sort of, let’s say “inappropriate” for a seven year old. Nothing against Strawberry Shortcake, but I was hoping to find something with a little more teeth. Anyway, that’s when I started developing my first comic series, Lilith Dark, which is the sort of story I was looking for that day at the comic shop. A story about a tough little girl that wasn’t a princess who could kick some butt and went on adventures. Visiting the comic shop that day led me on my current path, and I’ve been going strong ever since.
Which job was the most fun to illustrate?
I think my favorite page in The A to Z Guide to Jobs for Girls is a toss up between “N for News Reporter,” and “P for Paleontologist.” Both of those pages include big toothy monsters, and big toothy monsters are definitely one of my favorite things to draw. I also really had fun incorporating these weird looking little cats into a lot of the book. Cats and little girls and monsters are my bread and butter!
Would a project like this be possible without the Kickstarter funding model?
Maybe, if the right people were to pitch it. I think a lot of publishers tend to shy away from children’s books that try to make any sort of political or social statements. It’s kind of like when your parents would tell you to never talk about religion or politics at the dinner table I guess. But for me, I know there’s an audience for this sort of book, so I decided to go ahead and make it. My inner social justice warrior will never be silenced!
You have a son and a daughter, how do they respond to your work?
They seem to think it’s kind of cool. They both actually helped with the creation of this book. My son, CJ, did a lot of the color flats, and my daughter, Allison, helped brainstorm many of the featured careers. She also starred in the Kickstarter video. She’s definitely the outgoing one in the family. My son and I prefer staying behind the camera.
There seems to be a real hunger for girl-power media in the marketplace. Why is it so hard for large publishing houses to produce this type of material?
No one wants to be controversial. That’s just corporate culture I think. If you’re going to release a book or movie that takes a stand, that means you’re going to offend whoever disagrees, and corporations don’t want to offend anyone. If they stick to the status quo, then they have a better chance of making more money, so they stay out of political and social issues. Recently Target removed gendered toy aisles from their stores, and so many people lost their minds over that. I was actually pretty surprised that they did that. Most companies are so afraid of the backlash that they don’t want to do anything even remotely controversial. Trust me, when I launched this book campaign I got a bunch of really dismissive and rude comments from people online. Taking a stand on something means angering the opposition, but I’m not a corporation, so I’m content to just block the haters and make as many feminist books as I want to!
You can contribute to The A to Z Guide to Jobs for Girls Kickstarter campaign to reserve a copy of the book, get signed and limited editions, and even get personalized sketches from Dowd.