Dave Scheidt and Miranda Harmon on their Mayor Good Boy | Interview
Brother and sister Aaron and Abby Ableman just got new jobs with their town’s mayor. Kids working with the mayor’s office might seem a little weird, but then, you should see who the mayor is—a big, white, fluffy talking dog named Good Boy.
The Ablemans secure their positions after they save Mayor Good Boy from an angry, papaya-wielding mob on election night, thanks to Abby’s quick thinking and Aaron’s extremely smelly socks. It turns out that not everyone in the town of Greenwood is enthusiastic about having a dog for a mayor, and one of them will go to great extremes to try to sabotage Mayor Good Boy’s new administration. It’s up to the Ablemans to help Mayor Good Boy succeed.
That’s the premise of writer Dave Scheidt and artist Mirnada Harmon’s new graphic novel Mayor Good Boy, the first installment of a planned three-part series. We recently spoke to Scheidt and Harmon about their new book.
First, I was wondering if you could each tell us a little bit about your influences, particularly as pertains to your work on this book. Were there particular artists or works that informed Mayor Good Boy?
Dave Scheidt: I know it sounds wild but I’m a huge fan of Twin Peaks so that for sure was a big influence. When you’re telling a story where the town is a character in the story, that’s the first one that comes to mind for me. The Simpsons is also a big sort of indirect influence where we want people to see characters in our books and be like “What’s the deal with that guy?” We wanted Greenwood to feel like a living, breathing community and I think we succeeded.
Miranda Harmon: There are so many artists who inspire me! I grew up watching a lot of cartoons and I think that shows in my work. When designing the characters for Mayor Good Boy, I wanted them to be appealing but simple to draw, because I knew I’d be drawing them over and over.
I looked a lot at Rodney Greenblat, the artist who designed Parappa the Rapper and who illustrated many Puffy AmiYumi records.
Because a graphic novel involves so much drawing, I had to remind myself throughout the book to look at outside influences to get inspired again! When designing all the background characters in the town, I tried to observe people in real life whenever I was around a lot of people. I also drew a lot of people I know personally into the crowd scenes.
Can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of Mayor Good Boy? Where did the idea for the book come from?
Scheidt: I really wish I knew where exactly my ideas come from. As far as Mayor Good Boy goes it really started with me typing the words “Dog Mayor” in my notes app. I had no idea what that meant or where it was headed but that was the initial tiny bit of an idea.
That’s how it usually goes with me. If I keep thinking about an idea over and over then I have to try and make it. It really came together when I told Miranda about it and started to bring it to life visually. I’m super lucky to get to work with someone like Miranda who takes my silly ideas and really runs with them and brings them to life.
Harmon: Dave came to me with the idea for Mayor Good Boy back in 2018. The original idea was pretty simple, a dog was elected to be mayor of a small town! We emailed a lot back and forth when coming up with the original pitch pages, because I was designing the main characters but also the feel of their town. We knew from the start that we wanted to make the book funny and silly but also sweet and heartfelt.
Can you guys walk us through the creation of the title character, particularly visually? How did you decide on what breed of dog he would be, for example, and what was the design process like? Did it take a while to settle on the final design?
Scheidt: I feel like this is more of a Miranda question but I always thought he would work best as samoyed. I think even if you might not even like dogs, if you see this big fluffy dog walk by you have to go “aww.” The creative relationship I have with Miranda is really built on trust. I pretty much let her work her magic and she’s the real star here so as far as designs go she really nailed it.
Harmon: We decided that Mayor Good Boy would be a samoyed dog, which works well I think because those dogs look like cartoons in real life. At first it was a challenge to make him as fluffy as a real samoyed, but after some simplification I think we landed on the right design. As long as he had dot eyes and a big goofy smile, I think the dog breed shows through.
There were some challenges too about how he walks, if he can stand up, et cetera, but because it’s a cartoon I’ve decided that he can do whatever he wants when it’s necessary! At first, he was going to be wearing a sash that says “MAYOR” and a little hat all the time, but I think it’s better he’s just wearing his collar.
How about Aaron and Abby? Did it take a while to settle on their designs?
Scheidt: I basically just sent Miranda some very brief descriptions of the kind of people Abby and Aaron are. Things like their relationship and personality and their favorite food and things to do and again this is all really showcasing how great of a visual artist Miranda is. She really understands these characters and brought them to life with lots of great physical comedy and quirks that really make them feel like real kids .
Harmon: When designing Aaron and Abby, I drew a couple pages of sketches first before settling on their designs. Dave gave me descriptions of Abby and Aaron’s personalities and we went from there. I wanted to make Abby look cool, so I gave her a purple jacket. Aaron I knew would need to move around a lot so I kept his clothes pretty simple. Originally they were going to have more details, like buttons on Abby’s jacket and Aaron’s shoes being always untied, but I had to simplify.
One of the interesting aspects of the book is that while it has a high concept of sorts—a dog who is mayor!—Mayor Good Boy himself isn’t necessarily the protagonist, the Ableman kids are. David, how did you arrive at the focus on the kids, rather than the mayor himself?
Scheidt: When we were creating Mayor Good Boy (and everything else I work on) I always set out to make something I would have liked to read as a kid. He’s really sort of the friend I wish I had when I was a little. He’s always in your corner and I think kids could use someone like that in their lives, too. He’s not perfect and makes mistakes but always wants to make things better for everyone around him.
This book is about community and Mayor Good Boy really brings out both the best and worst in people. So that is really it. Mayor Good Boy is meant to be this person who shows up in your life and inspires you to be yourself and hopefully make a positive change in your own life.
Do you guys have an ideal audience member in mind when you were working? I noticed that, like the best all-ages entertainment, there seemed to be jokes aimed at various age groups, including adults, sprinkled throughout.
Scheidt: When you’re writing for kids you’re also writing for adults. People don’t seem to bring this up enough but parents, librarians, siblings and booksellers and many other adults read kids books too.
It’s also been so important to me to help make books that I would enjoy if I picked them off the shelf. It’s also never really pandering or a creative balance or a conscious thing to me. That’s just naturally the type of storytelling I create and I’m very grateful that people always bring this up.
It also goes to show the sort of thankless work editors and sensitivity readers do. They make sure the jokes I make don’t go too far or ever inappropriate. Trust me there have been some jokes that were a bit too spicy.
Harmon: The book is primarily for kids, but we know that adults will be reading and want to make it fun for them too! For example, in the zoo scene I decided to give Ms. Monica a Dr. Ellie Sattler outfit from Jurassic Park. I think it’s possible to make media that is entertaining for everyone, even if it’s mostly for kids!
The book includes instructions on how to draw Mayor Good Boy and the kids in the back. Miranda, is that how you draw them each time, or did you, like, reverse engineer a how-to from your personal process?
Harmon: The how-to-draw pages in the back of the book are more for kids to learn, and to show that the characters can be broken down into simple shapes. When I sit down to draw the characters, it’s different every time, but I do start with the basic building blocks. When drawing a page, I will first draw a really messy thumbnail, then messy pencils, then slightly cleaner pencils, and that process can sometimes be chaotic.
I was a little surprised to see that the first book has an ad for the next two books. How far ahead did you guys work, and where are you right now in the process of working on the next two books?
Scheidt: We started working on them officially in 2018 but I already had a really good idea of where we were heading, thankfully. Book two is almost finished and I’m working my way through book three. I’m honestly so glad to work so far ahead because nothing is more heartbreaking than when a kid asks when your next book is coming out and you don’t have an answer for them.
Harmon: Book two is almost done, I’m just wrapping up the lettering now. Dave is currently writing book three!
Is there an end in sight, or can you guys see the Mayor Good Boy series going on indefinitely?
Scheidt: So far we have these three books coming out and the rest is up to the readers if they want more! So the best way to make sure we get more of these books is to tell your friends and everyone in your life about Mayor Good Boy! There is so much to explore in our little town of Greenwood and I’d love to keep creating in this wonderful little world if we get the chance. I hope we do!
Harmon: We have plans through book three, but after then we’re not sure! Hopefully we’ll be able to continue, it all depends on how much people like the first three books. So if you like Mayor Good Boy, please tell your friends!
Finally, does Mayor Good Boy have any ambitions to seek higher office someday? Could there be a Governor Good Boy, or even a President Good Boy at some point?
Scheidt: I will forward this question to Mayor Good Boy himself and let you know if he has any statements. Personally, I think he could really do anything he sets his sights on. He’s a very good boy.
Harmon: I think Mayor Good Boy could become president someday! He would probably fill the White House with cheese.
Filed under: Interviews
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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