Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mom's Cancer Notes: Page 4

I'm annotating individual pages from my book Mom's Cancer as they are posted on These are my notes on Page 4 (May 11). 

Now I have to tell you about the Duck.

My original conceit for Mom's Cancer was that my family would look like people but everyone else would be depicted as animals or objects that somehow symbolized their personalities, as in Alice in Wonderland or Animal Farm. I first drew Mom's osteopath as a duck because she was . . . a quack. (Necessary disclaimer: I'm not insulting osteopathy in general; I'm sure there are some good osteopaths doing good work. Mom's was not one of them.)

Original on the left, published version on the right.
This was also one of the early pages where I had to
redraw Mom, as I described in my notes on Page 1.

The problem was that there weren't many other characters in the story, and my high-concept symbolism didn't seem appropriate for the next one. Or the next. After a while, the osteopath was the only non-human character in the whole thing, and people reading it for the first time online began to ask, "Uh, what's up with the giant duck?"

Later, when we began thinking about editing for print, I hinted online that I might change her into a human. Fans of the Duck who'd understood my intent in the first place erupted in outrage (i.e., politely voiced mild disagreement). I think I made the right decision, but I gave Mom's duck--er, doc--a little lapel pin as a nod to her history and her champions.

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