Smash Pages Q&A | Mike Dawson

The creator of ‘Troop 142,’ ‘Angie Bongiolatti’ and more discusses the second book in his ‘The Fifth Quarter’ series.

Mike Dawson is the Ignatz Award-winning cartoonist of books including Freddie & Me, Troop 142 and Angie Bongiolatti. He’s a comics essayist whose work has been in Slate, The Nib and many other publications, some of which were collected into his 2016 book Rules for Dating My Daughter. Dawson also contributed a comic to the Rutgers University Press anthology New Jersey Fan Club.

Recently he’s been making The Fifth Quarter, a series of middle grade graphic novels about basketball – something which he admits came as a shock to him, having hated sports when he was younger, but having come to appreciate the game when his daughter started playing. The second book in the series, Hard Court, is out now from First Second Books, and I spoke with Dawson about the series, what it has in common with his earlier books, and finding a way to make personal work.

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Comics Lowdown: C2E2 thief thwarted; Dawson on Somalia airstrikes

Plus: People moves, promotions, podcasts and more!

Crime Does NOT Pay! Stephen Bowles of Remington, Indiana, learned that the hard way: He was nabbed for allegedly stealing $9,000 worth of comics at C2E2 this past weekend, after a vendor caught him on video. The vendor had set up a camera at his booth to keep an eye on sales, and when he noticed Bowles acting sketchy he reviewed the footage and observed the 51-year-old man apparently taking comics from several booths. The vendor called the cops and they arrested Bowles, who had some of the comics on him. Three vendors reported that comics had been stolen from them.

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Mike Dawson’s ‘Sad-Boy’ zine satirizes 90s autobiographical comics

The ‘Rules For Dating My Daughter’ creator returns with an old-school zine satirizing autobiographical cartooning.

Rules For Dating My Daughter” creator Mike Dawson has gone old school with a new ‘zine about “lonely navel-gazing mopey sad-boys.” And he’s using Kickstarter to fund it.

“Sad-Boy Comix and Stories” satirizes 1990s-style autobiographical cartooning. “Read comics about Sad-Boys adventures on e-Bay, first dates, and his experiences tabling at SPX (the Small Press Expo), all the while making the case that comics don’t have to be limited to infantile stories about grown men in tights punching each other – they can be about real world concerns, like being twenty two years old and liking to look at porn magazines and R. Crumb drawings,” the Kickstarter page reads.

Here’s a sample of what to expect:


On the rewards front, in addition to the book itself you can pledge $200 for your own “Sad-Boy” style portrait. “Let me lovingly render you in your lonely ‘Eightball’ comics-reading glory, no extra charge for obsessive cross-hatching and beads of sweat,” Dawson writes. The campaign has surpassed its goal, so you know the zine will eventually arrive in your mailbox later this year.

Smash Pages Q&A: Mike Dawson on ‘Rules For Dating My Daughter’


Nine days ago Mike Dawson started a Kickstarter campaign to publish Rules For Dating My Daughter: Cartoon Dispatches from the Front-Lines of Modern Fatherhood

Five days later he met his goal.

Rules For Dating My Daughter is a new book of comics about marriage, parenthood, politics, and raising two small children in present day America. The comics in this collection examine a wide variety of topics, from after-school pickup and Disney’s Sofia the First, to gun control issues and impending environmental collapse. Simultaneously political, philosophical, and humorous, these first-person cartoon essays all seek to answer the book’s central question, Am I Good?

My thanks to Dawson for this interview.

Tim O’Shea: How did the Lisa Hanawalt, My Dirty Dumb Eyes, BoJack Horseman blurb come to happen?

Mike Dawson: Lisa emailed me in response to the Cartoonist’s Diary strips I did for The Comics Journal. When I started putting the Kickstarter together, I asked her if I could use her comments as a blurb for the project and she graciously said yes. There was a teensy bit of a learning-process there, as when I was initially looking to gather up some quotes, I wasn’t sure if it was necessary to ask for permission. I quickly realized that it’s best to get permission. I also reached out to Kim O’Connor who’d provided the negative blurb on the Hooded Utilitarian in response to what is probably the darkest strip in the book, Overcompensating.

I wanted to include Kim’s quote in part as kind of a little bit of dark humor, but also because that comic is disturbing by design. I am conscious of the fact that with this book I could easily go down a road where I present myself always as this very engaged, always progressive and well-intentioned “good guy”. And that’s not reality. Kim got what was funny about me using the quote, and gave me the go-ahead to put the comment on the page.

Given that the book covers a range of topics did you consider any other titles?

For a while I had it in my head to call the book “Tom Cruise Fights The War of the Worlds”, after one of the strips talking about the Tom Cruise War of the Worlds movie in relation to climate change.

I think Rules For Dating My Daughter is a much stronger title though. People picking up a book called “Tom Cruise Fights The War of the Worlds” might have been disappointed to see all these comics about my family. And Rules For Dating My Daughter makes a lot of sense for the book. The eponymous strip appears early on in the collection and establishes the difficulty of setting hard and fast rules with parenting. Then the comics move on to keep asking questions about different aspects of our lives, always trying to look for the “good” way to engage with the world, but not often finding answers. So, in that way, the word “Rules” works as kind of a little joke, because it’s tough to figure out what the “rules” really are.

What does your daughter think about all this attention?

One of the comics, My Dad Gets Rele Fostated, ran on Slate on Father’s Day, and it actually used some of my daughter’s drawings in the comic. I had them list her name as a co-author, because I thought she’d get a huge kick out of that.

She seems to like drawing, and making her own books. I don’t push her on it too much. But, she has one friend who likes doing that too, and they are always writing little comics called the “Orli and Emme Adventures”. Some of them have titles like, Orli and Emme and The New Girl, or Orli and Emme on Thanksgiving, but my absolute favorite one has always been Orli and Emme Get Locked in the Car.

You are likely to reach goal in the next few days (he did), any plans for the extra cash?

I’m shocked and humbled to be getting so close to my goal so quickly. I am not going to count my chickens before they hatch, but in the event that I do surpass my goal, I have got some thoughts on other books I could try to move into production on.

Will any of it be in color, I love your color work
Thank you. Yes, a chunk of the book will be in color. This came about because of the Longstreet Farm comic, which kind of relies on color, and I didn’t think would work so well in black and white.

Since those pages are going to be in color, it’s giving me thoughts on how I might be able to use some coloring in some of the other comics.

What lessons have you learned from your past kickstarters?

This is my first one, and even though it feels like it’s going alright, there are still some lessons I’ve learned. I think I made the mistake in the project video of talking too much about myself and my comics career and not staying focused on the Rules For Dating My Daughter project specifically. If I can find the time to shoot new video, I’d like to put up something talking more directly about the book, and maybe looking at some pages in progress. I do feel good about having tried to give the book the lowest price point possible, $16 with shipping included, because I think that’s increased people’s willingness to take a chance on the comic.