Every person has dealt with loss on some level, and there are an infinite number of ways of coping with it. For many, the act of creation, whether it be songs, poems, art or something else, is the way of choice to deal with the sadness that follows losing something or someone they love. For creator Ross Mackintosh, it was crafting the deeply personal story of his father's death into a graphic novel.
Releasing in April from Com.x, "Seeds" is an autobiographical account of how Mackintosh's father's cancer affected him and his family. "They are supportive," he told CBR News of his family's stance on his turning private tragedy into a public literary work. "Everyone deals with grief in their own way, and I wouldn't like to imply that this is my family's account. It's mine."
"['Seeds'] is an autobiographical comic book about my father's cancer," Mackintosh said. "I had been wanting to have a go at a comic book for a while but never knew what it would be about. I make idea notes regularly. It was clear at a certain point that there was an arc to the events surrounding my father."
While Mackintosh realized he wanted to tell his father's story, doing so in the graphic novel format was not his first inclination. "I thought I might write a short piece about it -- maybe an essay or something. But because each moment was a visual memory, as well as one that I could articulate, it felt natural to apply it to sequential art. I had no intention of publishing at the time, I should add."
"Originally, I just hoped to form a few ideas I'd had, and practice my graphical storytelling," he continued. "It's flattering that someone wants to publish it, and would be even more so if anyone bought it, but the achievement for me came with the completion of the artwork."
"The family and friends who I first showed it to suggested it," Mackintosh said, describing the way in which he decided to actually publish "Seeds." "It had crossed my mind throughout the creation process, but I thought that, because I had put the story down just as I experienced it (with little editing), others wouldn't understand it, let alone want to buy it. Com.x convinced me otherwise."
Although "Seeds" is quite different in tone and subject matter from Com.x's existing library, Mackintosh has found a positive relationship with the publisher. "I researched a few companies and they fit the bill," he said. "I was surprised they took it, as it's unlike their previous work, but have found them to be perfect gentlemen."
"Seeds" was a process-in-the-making for Mackintosh, who depicted much of what he was experiencing both physically and mentally on the printed page. "During the period of my dad's illness, I found myself looking at aspects of life in a new way," he said. "For example, the elephant-in-the-room that I interpret as a grim reaper in the book could easily have been described in words only, but the moment that event happened, I visualized what I show in the book. I'm quite a visual person. Cinema is one of my main interests and I see comics as being a close relative of that medium."
According to Mackintosh, his love of movies informed his composition of the book, influencing a number of his decisions throughout the creative process. "Good cinematography sometimes means that the action in a scene needn't move. It would be possible to have a series of stills, with voiceover, and still have a convincing movie. Think of the famous scene in Mike Leigh's 'Vera Drake' when she realizes she's rumbled. Although it was wonderful as a moving image, I can see it as a still, with speech bubbles coming from elsewhere representing off-camera characters. In that respect, watching films has made me understand the importance of framing scenes -- choosing which moment within an action represents the whole scene. That's what I aspire to, anyway."
Although much of Mackintosh's view of the world as depicted in "Seeds" is presented with artistic license and visual interpretation, such as his aforementioned inclusion of the grim geaper, much of it also had to do with personal reflection. "Until the events in the book happened, I'd not really thought how it might feel when I get to the end of my life; who will be there, what will cause it, how I might react and how it will feel," Mackintosh said. "I have young children myself and feel at the prime of life -- at the beginning of something -- but seeing my dad as a dying parent made me realize that's just what I am, albeit 40 years younger."
When asked what aspect of the book he expects will resonate most strongly with people, Mackintosh responded with the hope that "Seeds" will inspire readers to discuss the subject of death, as well as give others currently coping with a loss of their own some level of comfort. "Dying is something we all have in common, yet are reluctant to discuss or even consider. I hope the book stimulates a little thought, at least," he said. "Perhaps people who have had some experience with terminal illness will find some solace in the fact that they are not alone."