PORT TOWNSEND — Stop right there. Hold your writing implement high.
Take the “Pencil of Power” pledge and repeat after me: “I promise to keep writing — and keep drawing — my stories because no one can tell my stories the way I can.”
Such is artist and “Dead Max Comix” author Dana Sullivan’s credo, shared with youngsters in classrooms across the North Olympic Peninsula and around the nation.
“Write on!” he urges his students to punctuate the pledge — loudly — even if they’re in a quiet room at school.
“It’s fun to yell in the library,” quipped Sullivan.
Even with this behavior, or maybe because of it, he gets to virtually appear in the Port Townsend Library on Tuesday morning.
His free, one-hour class in cartooning will start at 10:30 a.m. on Zoom; the link to the interactive session can be found at PTpubliclibrary.org via the calendar page.
Like Sullivan’s “Dead Max Comix” books, the class is for all ages, but if he must narrow it down, the cartoonist says his work is for “age 10 up to my age,” which is 63.
The fourth novel in the “Max” series, “Fur Ball of the Apocalypse!,” is slated for release next month. It’s the most fun yet, Sullivan promised.
Sullivan, who lives in Port Townsend’s North Beach neighborhood, does school visits to introduce his graphic novels and encourage students to explore their artistic selves. He also teaches workshops through Northwind Art, formerly the Port Townsend School of the Arts.
His July workshop sold out, so he’s offering another: “Graphic Novels and Comix for Teens,” Aug. 24-27.
Details about the in-person course, which Sullivan will teach from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day at Fort Worden, can be found at Northwindart.org under classes.
Until some years ago, he didn’t consider himself a writer; instead, Sullivan was steeped in the corporate world, specifically Costco. When the company sent him to an executive leadership course, he found himself seated at “the grownups’ table,” where he began to see he didn’t belong.
Sullivan speaks well of Costco, emphasizing he learned a lot as a creative director there. Problem was: He wasn’t called to be an art director managing a department of 20 people. He was called to be an artist.
“I realized I wanted to tell stories rather than do performance reviews,” Sullivan said.
Within a year, he’d left Costco. Today, Sullivan is a cartoonist and graphic novelist with some 20 books to his credit, including his “Dead Max Comix” series about a boy, Derek, and his dog, Max.
“All my books have dogs,” and all aim to have readers laughing, Sullivan said.
He added that he wrote this series to show kids how they can cope with three tough Ds — divorce, death and drinking too much. These figure in the books, he said, because they affect so many kids.
Sullivan has dealt with them all, both in his young life and recently.
“Derek’s parents are divorced. His mom drinks too much,” and in the first book of the series, his beloved pet, Max, dies and becomes a kind of guardian ghost.
“One thing I do with grief is I make stories, and draw,” Sullivan said. “I can’t change how my mother was,” for example, “but I can make her different in a comic.”
Derek, artist that he is, does the same thing.
Sullivan hopes to host book signings and visit schools around the release of “Fur Ball,” as he has done with the other three in the “Dead Max Comix” lineup.
The first is subtitled “The Deadening,” book two is “The Rocking Dead,” and book three is “Bully for You!” All four, published by Red Chair Press, can be ordered from local bookstores. More about Sullivan can be found at www.danajsullivan.com.
In the back of each book, Sullivan leaves his reader a note.
“We all need help sometimes! Your school counselor is a great person to start with. What could it hurt? They like kids and remember what it was like to be one,” he writes.
“Two excellent CONFIDENTIAL resources: Crisis text line 741-741 (USA) or 686868 (Canada) to connect with an online volunteer.”
He provides the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
“And please get this into your noggin: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Really.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, senior reporter in Jefferson County, can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]