with Joe Chiappetta creator of Silly Daddy
Name: Joe Chiappetta
Comics: Silly Daddy
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a cartoonist?
Joe – I was a late bloomer in the cartoons. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I switched from fine art painting to making comics as my main artistic focus. The shift was made because it was much easier for me to communicate more with comics than it was with paintings. I wanted to tell visual stories & that’s what I did. I found the fine art industry at the time (late 1980s) too stuffy & puffed up with self-importance. Conversely the independent comics scene in the 1990s was full of average people who happened to also have talent & a means to tell a story.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your cartooning career?
Joe – Meeting fellow cartoonists--especially peers I admire -- is extremely fun. Of course, the award winnings & nominations are always exciting. I won the Xeric Award in 1998 & received a few Ignatz nominations for Silly Daddy. Also, in 2012 I won an award for the book, comic, & presentation called Back Pain Avenger. I was also nominated for a Harvey Award, but then that same year, for some unknown reason, the awards were cancelled. So there is very little record I was even nominated. Another highlight was mid-career, when I became a Christian & started incorporating those values into my work. I lost 90% of my readership almost immediately & I wouldn’t change that for the world. You sure find out who your real friends are in those times.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Joe – I was so young when I became a father. It chose me, I didn’t choose that role. Fatherhood is something that takes time to grow into. I didn’t start out any good at it at all. That’s really what the early Silly Daddy comics were about -- how I was failing at family & what I was doing about it.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Joe – The family has always had a positive impact on me. I believe that God used my parenthood to teach me how selfish I was. Then he showed me how to change & lead the family in a way that would be best for everyone.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Joe – All three of the kids like it that they appear in comics -- it’s like they are almost famous. On the negative side, there have been too many times in the past that I have focused on career over family & even career over God. Both of those scenarios never turn out good. Cartoons -- & any kind of art -- will never love people. People love people. I can make cartoons, but I can’t live for them. I live for God; I live to love him & the people in my life.
QRD – Have your children effected the comics you make &/or read?
Joe – Almost every comic I have ever made has something to do with being a father or family man. It’s hard to separate my daddyhood from my comics. Even though the kids are getting older, they still are a walking source of great material.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from an artistic career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Joe – Trying to make an entire living wage from comics for a whole family is extremely difficult. I tried to do it, but it is so unstable -- the industry. Therefore, the problems only come when a person gets under the illusion that they MUST make their living from comics. People are in for a world of suffering if they believe that. I speak from firsthand experience.
QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on going on the convention circuit, would you have showed more earlier in life if you’d known?
Joe – Conventions can be fun, but I burned out of the convention scene after a few years. I need to be with my family. I need to be part of the community. This isn’t Mad Max; the road warrior life gets old pretty quickly.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a cartoonist has a greater impact on your community?
Joe – Being a father has an impact on the community -- yes! But the cartoonist part is just a tiny piece of it. I may use those skills here & there, but what changes lives is when men step up & lead people where they need to go -- to Boy Scouts, to Bible Study, to projects that serve the poor. That’s where the real impact is.
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become cartoonists or parents?
Joe – Parents, most definitely.
QRD – Both family & comics seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Joe – Family must come before comics or any career for that matter. Your comics won’t keep you warm at night. I only do the comics when all the other needs are met.
QRD – What do your kids think of your comics?
Joe – They get a big kick out of them & have a lot of laughs over them. Many of the comics actually chronicle the silly things that actually happened to us over the years.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a comic project with your children?
Joe – I have already. My kids have colored some of my work & they’ve written stories for anthologies & books I have published. It’s not a lot of work though, because I don’t really push them in this area.
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Joe – Seek wisdom. Study the Bible. Have brotherly/sisterly love for one another. Don’t be a fool like I was in my youth & made comics the idol in my life. If you like comics & make them as I still do, learn to appreciate them for what they are: way to communicate, connect & relate with people in real life. Don’t hide most of your life away behind the pride of creativity. Connect with God & people. Focus on finding joy in real life, because too many live on Fantasy Island, which fades away when the closing credits roll.