Popular children’s author and comic book illustrator, Bob McLeod, chats with Australian Women Online.
Bob McLeod has been doing something super. Something that is the envy of kids and adults everywhere. Something most people wouldn’t even view as ‘work’. Bob has been creating superheroes.
Bob, who lives in Pennsylvania in the United States with his wife Lucy, was a renowned US comic book illustrator for thirty years before releasing his first children’s picture book – Superhero ABC in 2006. The book has been a great success – children, adults and comic book addicts adore the quirky humour and emotive illustrations. This is not your average, run of the mill ABC tome, no no. Flush with colour, wit, action and bulging biceps, it’s the quintessential book for kids of all ages – even beyond mastery of the ABC.
Stacked to the rafters with comic alliteration (“…huge man is happy to help heroes and never harms humans…”), kids can follow the adventures of such supersonic heroes as Bubble Man, Water Woman, Multiplying Mike, and Laughing Lass, who knocks foes to the ground with her loud laughter and licks them like lollipops.
Bob McLeod told Australian Women Online, “I started drawing around age five and it always came very easily to me.”
His earliest drawing, a character called Buffalo Bee, was copied from the Wheat Honeys cereal box, followed quickly by copies of newspaper comic strips and Disney characters. In high school, Bob started writing and drawing one-page humour comics.
“I actually started my art career in 1974 at age 23, working in the production department at Marvel Comics,” he said.
Bob subsequently became a very successful freelance comic artist, creating heroes and foes for thirty years. But despite his self-motivated success, it was actually Bob’s wife, Lucy, who encouraged him to go into children’s books.
“She always wanted me to write kids’ books, but I was hesitant because I had heard they didn’t pay very well, and I was making a good living doing comic books. But I finally decided to give it a try. I was very interested in being able to do the complete art by myself, after decades of mostly just doing pencils or inks in comics.”
Superhero ABC was born soon after, and Bob says he enjoyed the entire process enormously. “I love writing and drawing funny pictures, and the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response my ABC book has received from readers has been so gratifying. It’s so wonderful to see the excitement and joy children get from my efforts.”
So, why the interest in superheros? Bob actually began drawing humour satires for Marvel Comic’s ‘Crazy’ magazine, then switched to superheroes when the industry shifted in that direction. “I’ve illustrated in many genres,” he admits. “But humour has always been my main interest. I’ve illustrated western, romance, horror, sci-fi, martial arts, war, funny animals – every genre I can think of, really.”
With a solid backing of well over thirty successful years in the illustration industry, Bob has also had his fair share of obstacles.
“I had to teach myself almost everything I know about art, and was repeatedly rejected when first trying to get work in comic books.”
Amazingly, the art director at DC Comics told him he needed to “go back to school and learn how to draw”, but Bob saw this as a challenge and simply persisted.
Editors at Marvel and DC Comics constantly frustrated his efforts to do quality work, and, like authors the world over, Bob’s children’s book journey has been far from idyllic.
“Even after Superhero ABC’s great reviews and great sales, my subsequent book ideas have been rejected by my editor and publisher. I’ve just recently written two more children’s picture books that I think Harper Collins will publish, but I don’t know yet. I should hear sometime in June.”
Of course, persistence is everything, and if Bob had any advice to wannabe author/illustrators, he would encourage them to write engagingly. “I would say try to entertain yourself, and you’ll probably entertain others. My favourite parts of my work are usually cited by my readers as their favourite bits, too.”
Bob also says that new writers need to consider their audience, and who it will be. “Keep their interests in mind as you write,” he said.
As for the future, Bob is looking forward to writing and drawing many more children’s books. “I’m very excited about my newest book idea, but can’t reveal any details at this time, except to say it features two characters from my ABC book and their children. It may be two or three years before it’s published.”
While we wait with baited breath for the publication of Bob’s fabulous superhero family saga, it’s clear this is a man bursting with creativity and drive. Illustrating is clearly a deeply entrenched part of his life, and when asked why Bob draws, he admits it’s because he’s always loved it. “I always wanted to be a cartoonist of some sort,” he says, before adding: “I’d be very depressed if I could no longer draw.”
Indeed, the world would be considerably more depressing without the odd Bob McLeod superhero or two.
You can learn more about Bob and his eagerly anticipated children’s books at www.bobmcleod.com.
Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod is published by Harper Collins and is available in Australia at leading book retailers.
Tania McCartney is an author, editor and a regular contributor to Australian Women Online. To learn more about Tania please visit her website www.taniamccartney.com