Violet Charles, the creator of Bridget over troubled Waters, answers some of the most pressing questions her fans have asked. As well as some less pressing ones.
How did Bridget over troubled Waters begin?
I have been drawing comic strips in some form since I was in high school. One day (not in high school) I created a tiny, good-hearted, but fiercely opinionated little girl, and she immediately told me she needed her own strip.
Why is it called Bridget over troubled Waters?
I’m crazy for puns, and as soon as I named my new character Bridget I thought of calling her strip Bridget over troubled Waters.
But then I thought, “Do I want to name my comic after this song?” It is a classic, but what does it really mean?
I examined the meaning and discovered the phrase “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” referenced a much older, traditional song, but the sentiment behind it in any manifestation is a very positive message.
There is a lot of dissatisfaction and unhappiness in the world, a lot of “troubled water” and people need bridges, or Bridgets to get across.
Why doesn’t Bridget use her father’s last name?
Because her father’s last name is Maggot. He insists it is pronounced “Ma-go”.
When Debbie and Quiggly were naming her, they both agreed that she should keep the Waters’ name, and not be Bridget Maggot.
And little does Quiggly know, Debbie chose the name Bridget in reference to her very favorite book series ever.
Why aren’t Debbie and Mr. Maggot still married?
Because sometimes things don’t go how you planned. I wanted my comic to show that there is more than one way to have a happy family.
Debbie and Quiggly Maggot got married too soon after they met, and their entire relationship was a jet-propelled, neon catastrophe that burnt up like a splash of lighter fluid in less than a year.
They probably still love each other.
They will probably always love each other.
But they just don’t work as a couple. Bridget would love it if her parents could reconcile, but let’s just say nobody is holding their breath.
Are any of your characters based on you?
I was nothing like Bridget as a child. I was a lot day-dreamier, and less outspoken.
People sometimes think Debbie is supposed to be me. She really isn’t.
Debbie is an airheaded working-mom with no idea how to do her job, a penchant for trashy TV shows and no cooking skills.
I am a clever, non-mother (except to my dog), with several jobs, a love of silly cartoons, and mad skills in the kitchen.
But we do have a few things in common. Mainly her taste in music, fashion, and her creative disposition.
Debbie makes soaps and hopes to get her truly awful novel published. I like to think I’m a slightly better writer than she.
Over the years Debbie has evolved. She was a very one-dimensional, almost stock character to begin with. But I wanted her to be a good mother in spite of her shortcomings, so she changed. Her freeform parenting is at least partially inspired by my own mothering style…er, dog-mothering, that is.
Are your other characters based on people you know?
Bridget began based on my brother but has long since changed. With the new drawing style, Bridget became less abrasive and more believable as a little girl. She is still a know-it-all for sure, but she sleeps with her stuffed squid, and would love it if unicorns really existed.
Uncle Oliver is like an uncle of mine -ish. But if a real person behaved like Uncle Oliver it would be a disaster. I mean, he tried to pay for a hamburger with advice once.
Kiti amusingly is actually a lot like my best friend, and that’s funny because I didn’t meet her until the strip had been going for a few years. Life imitates art, or art imitates life.
(If you ask her if the Kiti’s haircut strips are based upon true events she’ll say they are directly inspired by the time I tried to cut her hair. I however, observe my right to refuse to acknowledge the question on the grounds that the answer is yes, and it makes me look bad)
Aunties Jackie, Maddy, and Roxy are influenced by my sisters in that there are three of them. But other than that there is very little similarity. Cartoon characters are meant to be absurd, and none of my sisters have blue hair, know how to weld, or are on their third husband. All my sisters are kind, wonderful people. Debbie’s sisters need to be wacky, selfish, or competitive in order to be funny.
None of my characters are true representations of actual people…
Except Grandpa Waters, who is unquestionably based on my father.
What are your inspirations for this comic?
Carl Barks = my favorite.
He was a fantastic cartoonist. His Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck work was so good. I was absolutely transported into the world of his comics when I read them as a child. The Uncle Scrooge anthology book has comforted me in many difficult times.
In all my cartoon work, I seek to rise to his level of craftsmanship. Carl Barks knew where to put his characters in each frame, how to capture the essence of poses and emotions without adding endless hyper-realistic detail.
Don Bluth has been an influence as well. I must have watched The Secret of NIMH 200,000,000 times as a kid. I almost got a chance to meet Mr. Bluth once, but destiny was thwarted by one of those railroad crossings where the bell rings, the bar drops, and I’m stuck three cars back going, “NO NO NO!”
I’ve also always loved Calvin and Hobbes. Before I could even read, I was entertained by the illustrations. The facial expressions were so funny.
Bill Watterson once noted (in The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book) that he wanted to see a comic strip about a little girl, drawn by a woman, I suppose that was part of my inspiration. It’s probably why I made Bridget blonde like Calvin.
Invader Zim and Lisa Simpson are probably subconscious influences as well.
What about the illustration style?
I don’t have any direct influences for illustration. I took a few months off from drawing the original Bridget comics to create the new style.
All my characters are drawn with filled color and clean lines.
Everything else is a sort of mock-watercolor look. I enjoy drawing in this style, especially the background scenery.
It’s relaxing. I don’t do a whole lot of backgrounds unless they’re necessary, because be it a cliché , less is more.
How long does it take to do a strip? What’s your creative process?
Between one and five nights. I work during the day, so I have to do Bridget comics at night. (The dream is to do Bridget full-time. Incidentally, if you would like contribute to that dream, and help spread the joy of Bridget over troubled Waters, please visit my Patreon page, where you’ll get some super-amazingly-fantastic BotW goodies.)
The comics start out like this…
…and then I make sure the dialogue works before I begin drawing my characters in. I joke a lot in conversations, and I listen to other people’s jokes for ideas.
Sometimes I say, “Oh, that’s funny, can I borrow that for a comic strip?” I’ve never had anyone say no.
Some jokes are hilarious to me, really not so much to other people. So I usually cut those jokes and try for new ones.
Why is your strip G-Rated?
It’s rated G for Giggles! But seriously, there are plenty of comic strips out there that get their laughs by being rude. And that’s fine, if the cartoonists want to shock and offend and they find humor in it, okay.
But I think there’s enough of that stuff already. I prefer to focus on optimistic expression. Do I ever get an idea for a joke that might be pushing the boundaries of G ratings? Sure, but too bad for those jokes. I always think of others.
Why not just the hide adult themed jokes in the subtext?
While I was working as an au-pair, I noticed that a lot of children’s entertainment had adult jokes “hidden” in the supposed subtext. And it occurred to me, why must we “smut up” the kids’ stuff to entertain adults? Why not create humor that’s actually funny to adults AND children?
Yes Virginia, it is possible.
I feel the mark of a true comedian is someone who can make un-shocking things funny. Anybody can elicit a laugh by being vulgar. But vulgarity becomes a comedy crutch.
I would be far more impressed to hear someone be funny about not wanting to have to buy soap, than swearing malcontents. Some child readers might not get all the educational or Debbie-centric jokes, but if they do, that’s okay. My adult jokes are references to art history, science, or things like losing your job, and the justification of “emergency Chinese food”, not…smut. I do like the word smut. It’s funny.
Smut smut smut.
Did you know it literally means dirt?
Smut smut smut. Still funny.
I also like the word squid.
Why all the purple?
My reasons for plentiful purple are two-fold.
Because I am Violet Charles, and violet is a shade of purple.
But primarily because purple occurs least often in nature, (at least that’s what color theorists say.) And it’s a dreamy, fantasy color, but also a happy color. And I wanted a happy color. The happiest colors (again, according to color theorists) are yellow and orange.
But yellow and orange are used a lot in advertising and for toys that make 200 incredibly obnoxious noises. I really wanted my comic to stand out by being softer. I guess it’s similar to my reasons for keeping the comics kid-friendly.
Personally, I don’t want to be yelled at all day. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I can imagine the colors yellow and orange yelling happy things at each other. But I can’t see purple yelling.
“I KNOW!!! I SAW THAT PERFORMANCE TOO. IT WAS GREAT!” yelled Orange, waving his arms, flinging a bite of Caprese salad off the tip of his fork as he gesticulated. Yellow was equally excited, a forgotten nacho in his hand, as he replied, “THE COSTUMES WERE SPECTACULAR!”
Meanwhile, Purple sat at the next table, sipping his Earl Grey and writing a brilliant joke.
What’s next for BOTW?
Worldwide recognition…hopefully. I want to dedicate my life to making people happy through comics.
So tell everyone to read Bridget over troubled Waters.
I dream of having Bridget books for sale, and spreading her positive message, and little, plastic Bridget dolls, that smell like strawberries and hang from your keychain.
And here’s a chicken for no reason.