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On one level, Eric Orchard’s Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch is a classic adventure tale about a girl who has to go find the witch who turned her parents into kangaroo rats, in order to undo the spell. The art is reminiscent of children’s fantasy tales, and Maddy meets a fanciful assortment of friends and foes along the way. However, after reading Orchard’s recent tweets about his experiences with mental illness, I realized there are many layers to this story.
I asked Orchard if he would discuss the way his experiences with mental disorders — his mother’s schizophrenia and his own depression and anxiety — have influenced his storytelling.
Brigid Alverson: How has mental illness affected your life?
Eric Orchard: My mother always suffered terribly from schizophrenia, but when my father died, when I was 2, she fell apart. Most of my childhood was my mother struggling to keep herself together. In retrospect it seems like a heroic feat; even though I suffered somewhat, she overcame things that I find astounding. She had reserves of strength and compassion that saw us through. She was battling fears and terrifying visions so that I could have some kind of normal life. Really, there was only so much she could do. What I recall most was the antipsychotics causing her to sleep most of the day. With no siblings or father, I was alone a lot. These were times I started writing and drawing. I had hours to tell elaborate stories and build worlds. I was taught to read very young by an aunt, and that also helped.
J. Torres brings to our attention the premiere of Saturday Morning Webtoons, a new web “channel” linking readers to a lineup of all-ages webcomics from some familiar names: Boo Bear & Flo, by Jack Briglio (Digger & Friends, Scooby Doo) and Agnes Garbowska (Marvel’s Girl Comics, You, Me and Zombie); Gobukan, by J. Bone (Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Owl Magazine), The Little Tales of Otto & Olive, by Stephanie Buscema (Rocketeer Adventures, Pugs in a Bug); Orchard of Laughs, by Eric Orchard (Maddy Kettle, Yo Gabba Gabba: Comic Book Time); and Princess at Midnight, by Andi Watson (Glister, Skeleton Key).
In addition to the stable of weekly and biweekly comics, the site also offers each month a free downloadable comic; first up is Lopopo’s Lost Sock, by Alex Serra (Handy Manny, Teen Titans Go). Next will be Funnies Farm, by J. Torres (Archie & Friends, Disney/Pixar’s WALL-E) and Tracie Mauk (Comic Book Crossfire, Fight).