Silly Daddy - Joe Chiappetta

This is another graphic novel I came across in the library; when I skimmed the back and saw that it was an autobiographical account about being "both a good artist and a loving father," I figured, hey, I need to read this! Now, having read it, I'm glad I found it and took the time to finish it.

The book is a compilation of Chiappetta's "Silly Daddy" series of comics and includes a selection spanning roughly fourteen years. As with many comics and graphic novels, the cover image was cleaner and more professional-looking than the illustrations inside, so at first I was a little put off. "Silly Daddy" was a sort of homemade comic, the type you'd see at a zine symposium or the Small Press Expo. The drawing style improves as time goes on, so some of the earlier strips are a bit sketchy and crude. On top of that, he uses apostrophes at random (personal pet peeve) and his spelling isn't great.

But as I kept reading, I was drawn into the story. It's autobiographical, but not completely grounded in reality, either. In one story, when he goes to a comics convention, he runs into MIKE, whose "mnemonic powers are known throughout the universe." As they converse, Mike's arms are stretched to incredible lengths by Psycho-Child, his one-year-old flying daughter. Another story is set in the near future, when Chiappetta's daughter is a teenager, California has fallen into the ocean, and the country is requiring bar-code tattoos on everyone's hands in order to do business.

Chiappetta is a vegan, a hippie who shaved his head when his daughter was born and didn't cut it for seven years, and pays cash because he's paranoid about the government. He's not afraid to show his flaws and inner self in his comics: from his shame about slapping his daughter in anger to his pain and emptiness following his divorce, he puts it all on paper and lets the reader sift through it. But because he's honest about himself, you also see his growth as a father and an artist. And since it's real life, it's not a neat package that gets all wrapped up at the end, but you do get the sense that he's starting to put his life back together again.

When I read comics like Superman and Batman, it's harder to see myself creating anything like that someday. But it's inspiring to see books like Silly Daddy, because it shows that you just have to find a story you want to share, and the will to put it on paper.

Fed to jonathan's brain | August 27, 2004