In the new graphic novel Mayor Good Boy by Dave Scheidt and Miranda Harmon, there’s a new mayor in town… but somehow, not everyone is excited about that fact! Will political unrest spoil what should be a golden age of cheese-powered leadership?
The Beat had to find out more about Mayor Good Boy in advance of its publication by Random House Graphic next Tuesday, August 31st, 2021. We caught up with Scheidt and Harmon over email to learn about the best way to consume cheese, find out which of the many laugh out loud jokes in this story was their favorite to include, and to discover what real-life (and fictional) dogs inspire Mayor Good Boy himself!
AVERY KAPLAN: Can you tell us about the origin story of Mayor Good Boy? How did you both come to be involved on the project?
DAVE SCHEIDT: I think like any idea I get, I try my best to scribble it down on my notes app on my phone so I don’t forget. There’s this romantic notion that writing is just that. You get a good idea and you write it down and explore it and then a story is born, but the reality is I have hundreds of half-formed ideas written down that will never go anywhere. But this one was different.
In 2015 at 10:26pm I just had a note that read “Dog Mayor.” I think more and more as I thought about it, the concept just really made me laugh and stuck with me and kind of haunted me. I was lucky enough to work with Miranda on another book I did called Wrapped Up and realized she would be perfect for it. Her work has such emotion and movement and heart in it. So, I just presented her with the idea and was like “Hey, what do you think of this?” and she loved it. It would have just been another idea in my head, but Miranda really brought it to life and made this imaginary world feel that much more real. The rest is history!
MIRANDA HARMON: Dave approached me with the idea back in 2018. I had worked with Dave previously on his series Wrapped Up, so I knew that we got along and worked well together. I loved the idea. Both me and Dave have similar sensibilities, and we both knew that we wanted to make something silly but with a lot of heart and a positive message. I started sketching some designs for Mayor Good Boy, Abby and Aaron, and we went from there. We were both overjoyed when Random House Graphic liked it too!
KAPLAN: While this is a very silly story in some ways, it has a serious message about civic responsibility! Can you tell us what lessons you hope readers will take away from Mayor Good Boy?
SCHEIDT: I look at it like this—Have you ever witnessed someone do something nice and unprompted in public and you sort of look back and kind of question your day-to-day interactions with people? Like,” am I as nice as I can be?” I think sometimes people need a little reminder that it’s not hard to help or spread a little kindness in the world. The world can feel a bit bleak and hopeless and that can make you feel very small. But showing kids that they can make a positive difference and help their community isn’t hard. Positive change starts from the ground up. My hope is that kids still enjoy how goofy and funny and gross our book is but that it also empowers them to help others. Showing them that it’s not that hard to do something nice goes a long way, I think. I never really set out to make this book to teach kids a “lesson” per say. I kind of just wrote a story I think I needed and thankfully others seem to think so too, so I hope it helps bring a little light into the world. That’s the best possible outcome for me. To know that it helped inspire some kids and made them laugh in a dark time.
HARMON: I want kids to learn that they have power to change the world. When I was a kid, I was aware of bad things going on, but it didn’t feel like I had any say whatsoever. But today we see a lot of youth-led movements, like the Sunrise Movement. That’s so cool! I hope that adults can make room for kids’ voices, because it’s their world too! Mayor Good Boy leads a town, but he also struggles with his confidence. He gets a lot of help from his constituents and friends. I want kids to know that it’s okay to ask for help, and we’re stronger when we’re kind to each other!
KAPLAN: Mayor Good Boy is an amazingly charismatic hero, but every protagonist must also have an antagonist! What went into designing Mayor Good Boy’s political opponents? Was there any inspiration?
SCHEIDT: There isn’t a specific person who comes to mind, but it was more so people who are stuck in the past and just think about what works for them as opposed to what serves the greater good. I think the past couple years have really shown us how self-serving people can be and there really has never been a better time to encourage kids to think about the world around them and not just their own little bubble. Empathy and kindness are really what motivates our characters in the book. I think those kinds of feelings can be infectious once kids see them in action and in part will help them inspire other kids, too.
HARMON: Old Man Mervis, the main antagonist, is stuck in the past. He’s rude and mean because he’s afraid of change. Of course, the past several years has been very charged politically, we’re seeing a lot of progressive people step up to make positive changes and a lot of other folks trying to hold them back. I think it’s important to be open-minded and to support what’s best for the people in our communities.
KAPLAN: Mayor Good Boy is filled with hilarious jokes! Did you have a favorite, or one that you were especially eager to include? (I really loved the Ellie Sattler outfit!)
SCHEIDT: I’m a huge dork and laugh at my own jokes so this is the best question (laughs). It’s so hard to pick a favorite because I think Miranda really brought so much funny physical comedy to the book that really wasn’t on the script page. The whole zoo sequence in the book plays out way funnier than I imagined. There’s also a scene with some talking raccoons that turned out very funny. I’m also so happy you caught the Jurassic Park reference! I wish I could take credit for that but that’s all Miranda.
HARMON: I’m so glad you caught that! I love Jurassic Park and was happy to put in a little reference to it in the book. Dave is the one who wrote the jokes, but I loved drawing the zoo scenes the most. Also, anything Aaron says is hilarious, he’s a really fun character to draw. I think it’s so funny when he wears his giant tuxedo!
KAPLAN: How does working on a graphic novel differ from you work in animation? Do you find that your experience in animation informs your comic work (or vice versa)?
HARMON: Comics and animation are really different, but I definitely find my experiences overlapping and informing each other. In comics, the whole visual style of the book is up to me. On an animated production, I have one job on a big crew, and the final product is the end result of a lot of different hands and viewpoints. Both are a lot of fun in different ways! My background is in comics, so that’s where I learned how to draw and write to begin with. I think that making zines and being my own comics boss for years allowed me to shape my own style and sense of humor. Drawing comics professionally has taught me to be confident about my choices! Working in animation has taught me to be more economical about how I draw, and to be considerate of how one stage of the drawing will impact the next. (For example, if the thumbnails are clear, the pencils will be easier to draw!) I may have less freedom when I draw for animation, but I love collaborating and seeing the final product. It feels really special to be part of an animation crew.
And even though there are fewer people involved, working on a graphic novel still means working with a team: I’m working the most closely with Dave because he writes the books, but I’m also working with editors (Whitney Leopard), designers (Patrick Crotty) and marketing (Nicole Valdez) too. There are a lot of people who work behind the scenes in both comics and animation, and every job is very important!
KAPLAN: I notice that the newscaster bears a striking resemblance to Steenz, the cartoonist behind the daily Heart of the City strip! What went into including this awesome meta guest star?
SCHEIDT: It’s funny how that worked out because I am sort of terrible with naming characters so most of the time, I just sneak my friends into books, and I thought about who would fit this role perfectly and that was Steenz. She is one of my favorite people in comics so why not make her immortal in the pages of a comic book?
HARMON: Dave and Steenz are friends, and it worked out really well. Steenz is an amazing cartoonist and it’s an honor to have her in Greenwood!
KAPLAN: Mayor Good Boy loves cheese, possibly because cheese is objectively good. What is your favorite kind of cheese and way to eat cheese (with Mac, on crackers, or…)?
SCHEIDT: I mean mozzarella is the obvious choice here, but I don’t discriminate. Cheese sticks and pizza are what’s up. Funny story—there was a dog that lived next door to my grandparents named Pepper and she LOVED cheese. My grandpa would buy fancy deli cheese for her and when we’d come over, he’d be like, “you want to feed Pepper?” We’d run outside and Pepper would run over to their yard and loved it. She was such a good dog. All dogs deserve a nice little treat. Mayor Good Boy’s love of cheese is kind of my little tribute to her.
HARMON: Mozzarella is my favorite cheese for sure, especially on pizza. Fried cheese sticks are one of my favorite foods, but I also love a good lasagna or eggplant parm! And I’m a big fan of fettuccine alfredo. I guess what I’m saying is that I love cheese too, so I can see where Mayor Good Boy is coming from!
KAPLAN: Is there any fictional dog who is an inspiration to Mayor Good Boy himself?
SCHEIDT: Mayor Good Boy watches a lot of spooky tv shows with Abby and Aaron, so I know he loves dogs like Scooby Doo, Nanuck from The Lost Boys, Cujo, Queenie from The Burbs and Frankenweenie. I’d like to think that Mayor Good Boy gets lunch with Air Bud whenever he’s in town.
HARMON: He’s not fictional, but I bet Mayor Good Boy would very much look up to Balto. I think he would also admire PaRappa the Rapper, the slogan “I gotta believe” strikes a chord with Mayor Good Boy!
KAPLAN: Can you give us any hints about what’s up next for the Mayor Good Boy series?
SCHEIDT: The great thing about sequels is you get the chance to explore the world you introduced in the first story way more and that’s exactly what we did. We get a much better look at the inner workings of our cute little town. The secondary characters get more time to shine and more problems arise. Maybe we’ll see a little romance, maybe a little bit of crime. Maybe a little bit of family drama? It’s gonna be wild! I can’t wait!
HARMON: In Book 2 we see more of the secondary characters, and we meet some new friends too. Mayor Good Boy gets to make a movie, which is really exciting. We also get a look into his past, which is my favorite part of the book. It’s really exciting and heartfelt, Dave knocked it out of the park! And as always, there will be pizza!
KAPLAN: Is there anything else you’d like me to be sure and include?
SCHEIDT: I’d just like to thank everyone for all the enthusiasm and excitement for our book. Making things is pretty horrifying but it means the world to us that people are so stoked on our book. It feels amazing. So, thank you to all the readers and retailers and parents and librarians and teachers and booksellers for that. We couldn’t do this without each and every one of you.
HARMON: Thank you so much for interviewing us and for sharing our excitement! We’ve been so happy to make these books, and nothing feels better than seeing others share our enthusiasm. I hope you love Mayor Good Boy as much as we do!
Mayor Good Boy will be available at your local bookstore and public library beginning August 31st, 2021.