Take Eight with Fowl Language's Brian Gordon

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine
Cartoonist Brian Gordon describes himself as “Neurotic dad. Coffee drinker. Occasional sleeper,” yet he’s also the creator of one of the most popular comics on the Web today, Fowl Language, a dead-on, hysterical look at parenthood. The Massachusetts native moved to Kansas in 1997 and worked as a greeting card cartoonist for Hallmark for 18 years, before being laid off in 2015. The father of a 5- and 8-year old, Gordon is now supporting his family as a full-time independent cartoonist, and his first book, Fowl Language: Welcome To Parenting, was released last month.

How old were you when you started cartooning? What did you like to draw?

As a little kid I spent an inordinate time indoors drawing and copying pictures off of the funny pages from our local newspapers. I can’t recall exactly when it all began, but some of my earliest memories are drawing comics on butcher-block paper at the dining room table. In hindsight, I probably should have gotten a little more fresh air as a child.

What was your favorite cartoon as a child?

Around the age of 6 I discovered Peanuts and spent the majority of my time reading and drawing them. By the age of 7, I would happily tell anyone who asked that I was going to become a “syndicated cartoonist” when I grew up, despite having no idea what “syndicated” meant, other than you got to draw comics.

You worked as a greeting card cartoonist for Hallmark. What would surprise people about creating greeting cards?

The oddest adjustment for me was the lead-time on cards. You’re constantly working ahead of time on the next year’s cards, and rarely during the season that holidays occurred. I remember sitting in my cubicle in July, listening to Christmas songs on my headphones, trying to get into the spirit to write Santa-related cartoons and thinking, This is a weird job.

How did you come up with the idea for Fowl Language?

I started the cartoon about a year before I got laid off. I had been working on another comic called Chuck & Beans that was owned by Hallmark. It was a semi-autobiographical cartoon about two young, single guys who were obsessed with pop culture and trying to get dates. Over time, however, I got married and became increasingly less young, and I found it was getting harder and harder to write for these characters I could no longer relate to. Fowl Language was my way to reflect and make fun of what was going on in my life now.

What has surprised you most about Fowl Language’s popularity?

Just how many people can relate to the same problems and frustrations I have as a parent. When you’re in the thick of it and going nuts at all hours with your kids, it can feel like you’re the only one suffering these injustices. Whenever I put out a cartoon I always sort of hold my breath in anticipation, wondering if other people are gonna relate and understand.

Is there a particular aspect or area of parenting you like drawing the most? What gets the biggest response from fans?

You know, the really sweet stuff, where I acknowledge how much I love my kids, is always liked and appreciated. But the cartoons where I’m a little more honest and admit how much parenting can seriously suck at times are the ones that have gotten the most support and response.

What’s your favorite part of being a dad and what drives you the most insane?

Favorites: Those serendipitous moments where you notice that thing you never thought they’d get is finally sinking in. Or the times where your kid just does something ridiculously sweet or kind out of the blue. The Insane Stuff: Too numerous to list, but the constant hounding and reminding to get my kids to do absolutely anything has got to be the worst.

How did the book come about?

Fowl Language: Welcome To Parenting is all about the realities of parenting versus what I was led to believe it was going to be like. I’m hoping people will use it as a coping book or give it as a baby shower gift so new parents can be given fair warning! (Editor’s note: Fans can support Fowl Language, Gordon, and his family by pledging one-time or monthly donations as little as $1 by becoming a patreon.