by Mike Dawson
Mike Dawson’s autobiographical graphic novel Freddie & Me isn’t the first excursion into the “a band saved my life” genre, but it is one of the most refreshing, poignant and snark-free. More than an autobiography of fandom, it’s a rumination on memory and mortality. “When I think of Queen I can remember my whole life,” Dawson opens, going on to explore the consistently mediated influence of the band and its lead singer, Freddie Mercury, on his childhood.
Even if Queen is the ubiquitous influence on Dawson, an unexpected detour into George Michael’s back-story and songbook is remarkable for its dignified and pathos-rich depiction of the Wham! frontman.
Dawson spoke with NUVO about autobiographical comics, the “superfan” phenomenon and how rock music doesn’t have to split up a family. The complete interview is on nuvo.net.
NUVO: When you began F&M did you have strong feelings about autobiographical comics as a genre?
Mike Dawson: Personally, I am a big fan of autobiographical comics. Favorites of mine definitely include Joe Matt and Chester Brown. I think they were probably some of the first autobio comics I came across in my initial alternative comics “discovery phase,” and they’ve remained at the top of my lisat.
One thing that was important to me was making a real effort to create characters out of all of the people who appeared in the book, especially my friends and family. I felt like the only way that the ending of the book was going to have any sort of emotional resonance was going to be if the reader had actually learned to care a little bit about the people in the story early on, and this would only happen if the people were reasonably well fleshed out. I think this is more akin to the Joe Matt style of autobiography, where the people around him are just as well written as the protagonist, as opposed to perhaps a style where the cartoonist is the sole focus, and other people are more loosely sketched out.
NUVO: In coming-of-age autobiographies, music tends to be a means by which the narrator affirms his identity in conflict with his family. But Queen doesn’t drive any generational divide within your family. Even your grandmother has a favorite Queen song.
Dawson: It occurred to me that within my family, my Queen-thing had become part of our “family mythology.” My English teacher used that phrase, and it stuck with me. This is the way families are, I think. There are some things that become part of the lore of the immediate familial unit.
There are other things that I’m passionate about, but aren’t part of my family’s mythology, possibly because the Queen obsession goes back to my childhood, and also probably because of the long-running rivalry with my sister. I doubt that my parents would have thought twice about Queen if their son hadn’t become a fanatic, but because of that, they have an attachment to the music, too.
Like I said, other passions of mine don’t really register at all with my family. Like, Chris Ware. I love his comics, but if I went home for