Pop! Whiz! Bang! Episode 30: El Deafo

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[0:00 - 3:35] Intros

[intro music]

Patrick: Welcome to Pop! Whiz! Bang!, a comic conversation with Meggie Ramm and Patrick Lay. I’m Patrick Lay. My pronouns are he and him.

Meggie: And I’m Meggie Ramm. My pronouns are she/her or they/them. This is not a podcast about the most recent releases from Marvel and DC, it’s about the theory and process behind the comics that you know and love. We’re so excited because we have with us, once again, Cordelia McGee-Tubb. Cordelia, say hi!

Cordelia: Hi!

Patrick: Hi!

Meggie: That’s all you get to say for the rest of the episode. [laughs] Today we’re going to be reviewing Cece Bell’s El Deafo, but before we get into that, how’s everybody doin’?

Patrick: I’m doing good, I’m a little bit sleepy. I took a nap earlier today and I don’t think that it did the thing it was supposed to do and make me not sleepy. It did the opposite thing where it made me more sleepy. But I didn’t have time to get coffee! I live in Hell! Why am I in Hell?!


Meggie: You had a nap and you’re … okay, yes.

[more laughter]

Meggie: What was I going to say? Oh, we watched the new RuPaul’s Drag Race and there’s a queen from Columbus, Ohio!

Patrick: Oooh! Oh my goodness, that’s so - you know what? I think I knew that. My friends work at a vegan bakery called Bake Me Happy, and it’s also a center for the queer community there. I feel like I knew that, because I think they filmed a segment in the intro for that at Bake Me Happy. Oooh, research! I’m gonna look it up.

Meggie: Oooh!

Patrick: Bake Me Happy’s a great bakery. Go in and see my friends, James and Koli. Also, the delicious baked goods!


Meggie: Go see the bakery, but [laughing] don’t buy anything.

Patrick: Right.

Meggie: Cordelia, how are you doing?

Cordelia: Speaking of bakeries, I’m doing well because I am eating a donut from Donut Farm.

Meggie: So here’s the thing: If you’re a guest on our podcast now (sorry Lauren and GB, I didn’t realize we live so close to donuts when we recorded your episodes), there is a vegan donut place by our house called Donut Farm. I know it’s vegan donuts and that sounds like that wouldn’t be good, but they’re actually amazing. My favorite one is the cinnamon sugar one.

Cordelia: That’s what I’m eating, yeah.

Meggie: They have these crazy other ones. They’ve got a matcha one, a Mexican chocolate with cookie dough one, and a rose lavender one. And, Jesus, they’re just so good. So, if you want to be a guest on our show, Tweet at me and maybe you’ll get donuts.


Meggie: Actually, don’t Tweet at me because I don’t know how Twitter works. [laughs] Tweet at Patrick.


Patrick: Right, Tweet at me and then I will make Meggie get you donuts.


Meggie: Hey, I really like how our system works. I know how Instagram works, kind of. You know how Twitter works, mostly –

Patrick: You have about 4 times the followers of me on Instagram. So I’m gonna say that you got it. You got it figured out.

Meggie: Okay!

Cordelia: Do you both know how email works?

Meggie: Not at all.

Patrick: Awww man. [sigh]

Meggie: Can you… can you tell us?

Cordelia: Yeah, give me your password and I can -


[3:35 - 7:37] About El Deafo

Meggie: Today we’re talking El Deafo by Cece Bell. It’s a #1 New York Times bestseller. It’s also one of Cordelia’s favorite books, which is great.

Cordelia: I’m literally hugging the book right now, I love it so much.

Meggie: Patrick, do you want to give us that good, good synopsis from GoodReads? … He’s nodding. He’s not saying anything, but he’s nodding yes.

Patrick: Okay, El Deafo:

Starting at a new school is scary, even more-so with a giant hearing aid strapped to her chest. At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here, she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, a powerful aid that will help her hear her teachers. Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear, she can hear her teachers not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school. In the hallway, in the teacher’s lounge, in the bathroom. This is power, maybe even a super power! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, listener for all. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

Meggie: So that’s actually not a terrible synopsis.

Patrick: No.

Meggie: We do the synopsis from GoodReads every time, Cordelia, and the majority of the time, it’s awful.

Patrick: Right, usually there’s a lot of editing and adding going into it.

Cordelia: Who writes it?

Meggie: I don’t know. But the one for The Prince and the Dressmaker starts like: [dramatic voice] “_Paris. 1800s.[laughter] Okay, calm down, Spielberg. It’s very dramatic.

Patrick: Yeah, the one for Courtney Crumrin was like 4 sentences long. It was just…

Cordelia: This one seems to have been pulled directly from the back of the book.

Patrick: Feels like that’s the right thing to do.

Cordelia: Yeah, totally!

Meggie: Yeah, that seems smart. So how did everybody first get this book? The head of the CCA program, Matt Silady, during the summer program would bring a huge amount of his own comics into the graduate studio and you could rent them out of the library, take them home, and read them, and that’s how I first got into this book. I just remember being like, “Oh, that’s a really bright and colorful cover. If I was a child, I’d be into that!” Then I took it home and I read it and I loved it! Patrick, what about you?

Patrick: This lived in the world of really, really big kids comics that I hadn’t read. I knew of Smile, I knew of Dog Man, so it was just added onto the pile of things I had to get familiar with. But it’s kind of a genius book. So this was a reread. This was probably 5 years ago I read it for the first time.

Meggie: Cordelia, what about you? How did you get into it?

Cordelia: I don’t remember how I first found it. I definitely got it in 2014, shortly after it came out, and I think I was just like, “Woah, I’m interested in stories about children feeling awkward at school [laughter] and discovering themselves, and I’m interested in the field of accessibility and disability, so it seemed like a natural thing. I remember I was reading it during Christmastime. I bought the book for myself and my partner at the time bought it as a gift for me, and then he gave me the book. It was a kind of new relationship and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to tell him that I already literally had the book in my bag [laughter], if that was a good thing to say or a bad thing. But I was like, “Oh, it’s really nice that he knew I would love this book, because I’m literally already reading it.” [Meggie laughs] But sometimes people feel sad if you already have the thing that they give you. Anyway, I have two copies of it.

[7:37 - 11:48] About Cece Bell

Meggie: So let’s learn a little bit about Cece Bell. I want you guys to know that I was writing about this comic, and then I was like, “Aw crap, who wrote this again?” And then I was like, “Cece Bell, because she’s the star of the comic. It’s about a rabbit named Cece. It’s an autobiographical comic.” [Patrick laughs] I was kicking myself, like, “Okay, well done, Meggie.”

Cordelia: The author herself is not a rabbit.

Meggie: No, the author herself is not a rabbit, though it does star rabbits.

Patrick: Wait, what? The author’s not?

Meggie: That makes this so less impressive. I thought it was drawn and written by a rabbit.

Patrick: How der she.

Meggie: So, Cece Bell grew up in Salem, Virginia, which had to have been a cool place to grow up; went to the College of William & Mary as an Art major; got a graduate degree in Illustration & Design from Kent State. She was a freelance illustrator, but now she’s a full-time author/illustrator, livin’ that good, good dream. Her publishing story starts when she submitted something to Harper Collins and got rejected. Then, as she said, she just waited until a better idea came along, and then sent it to Candlewick Press, who was like, “Yeah! Love this one!” And then 3 months later, they called her to do some changes, and she had a book. So that’s cool. I would love to talk to her because she comes from more of a children’s book illustrator background. El Deafo is actually her first comic, which we’ll get into later. Some of her previous work: She did a series called Sock Monkey, Sock Monkey Goes to Hollywood, Sock Monkey Boogiey Woogie, Sock Monkey Rides Again. She actually has one of those mini houses, a mini trailer, that she’s turned into her studio. It’s parked behind her house, and she’s got it totally decorated with sock monkey stuff, which is really cool. She also wrote Food Friends, Busy Buddies, Bee-Wigged, Itty Bitty, and a couple of other titles besides that. She did a lot of these children’s books before she started working on El Deafo because she didn’t want get pegged as “that deaf author/illustrator” - those are not my words, those are her words verbatim. So she waited and she wanted to get a bunch of books under her own belt until she started writing her own story.

Patrick: Did she write those books or did she just illustrate them?

Meggie: Both, she wrote and illustrated.

Patrick: Great, okay. That makes a lot of sense.

Meggie: El Deafo received a Newbury Honor in 2015. A Newbery Honor is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children and here’s the thing: I think, because we had a librarian visit and talk to us about this, I’m pretty sure that up until this point, a comic had not received a Newbery Honor. It had only ever been children’s books. So this was one of the first comics to receive a Newbery Honor. She didn’t win the Newbery award, this is kind of like runner-up, but still, that’s really, really cool. It also won an Eisner in 2015 for best publication for kids, and it’s a New York Times Bestseller. I’d also like to say this again: this is her first comic.

[laughter at the tone of awe in Meggie’s voice]

Meggie: This does not happen that often. But she had all this children’s book illustration under her belt, then she did her first comic and basically knocked it out of the damn park [laughs] on the first try, which is just really impressive. If you’re reading the comic, the skill is there.

Patrick: Oh, yeah.

Meggie: It’s not like, “I guess this person won an award because, uh, [shrug sound].” This has everything that a really good comic, a really good children’s book, and a really good book has. So way to go, El Deafo!

[11:48 - 30:40] Discussing El Deafo

Meggie: As we said before, El Deafo is about a character called Cece who, when she’s younger contracts meningitis, which causes her to have hearing loss. It happens when she’s 4, so she’s really, really, really little. The story follows her as she has to deal with the different parts of having hearing loss in school, and also just different parts of growing up as a kid, which is my favorite part of the book. They do a really good job of just being a kid and feeling like everyone’s looking at you, and sticking out, and it’s just wonderful. We’ve got a couple different characters in this book. We’ve got Cece; it’s great because they age her as time goes on. Her hair slowly gets longer, she gets glasses. She has a different litany of friends, which is another really great part about this book, how kid friendships work out.

Patrick: They’re sort of the central element of the book, which I thought was really great. So much of the book is about her trying to have a good friend. There are so many versions of kid friendship that are not good, but you’re a kid and you’re bumbling and you don’t know any better, so you take ‘em anyways.

Meggie: Also, Cece doesn’t focus on her parents through a lot of the book. Her parents are very much side characters. Her parents are also not very helpful in the friend department.

Cordelia: Her mom forces her into these friendships; I can relate.


Meggie: Her one friend Ginny -

[Patrick starts giggling]

Meggie: Ginny, throughout the book, talks to her in not a polite way, in that she speaks really loudly and really slowly, because she thinks that Cece can’t hear. Cece depends a lot on lip-reading, and at the beginning of the book goes through a lot of things that make it hard to hear people. She’s like, “If people speak really slow and really loud, it’s really hard to read their lips.” That’s what Ginny does. She brings it up at one point; she doesn’t do it in a very good way. I think she says out loud, “Why do you talk to me like this.” I dunno, maybe it is a good way, I’d be frustrated, too. But Ginny doesn’t take it very well, and then her mom’s like, “You haven’t seen Ginny in a while, you guys need to hang out.” Her mom is best friends with Ginny’s mom. Oh, God. Raise your hand to the friends that you had because of your mom.


Meggie: Cordelia’s hand is shot through the roof.

Patrick: So high in the air!

Cordelia: I love you, Mom!

Meggie: I love you! I love the Lucases! I loved hanging out with Dane and Brian. They were great. … Cece’s goal in this is to try and find a friend, but she’s also having all these different experiences because when she goes to school, she has two different kinds of hearing aids. She has ones that she can wear in the summer, which are ones that clip into her ear, and then the one that she wears to school is called the Phonic Ear. It’s kind of this walkie-talkie contraption that she wears around her chest, and she’ll give a special microphone to her teacher, and her teacher wears it around her neck. So that way, no matter where the teacher is in the room, Cece can hear what the teacher’s saying.

Cordelia: I should also mention this is set, I think, in the 1970s, so technology was very different then.

Meggie: The teacher’s wearing that so that way Cece doesn’t ever have to worry about -

Patrick: - whether she can see the teacher or not -

Meggie: - lip-reading or anything like that. And that becomes an issue at some point because - oh my god - so she has to give this microphone to all of her teachers. She gives it to her gym teacher, whose name is Mr. Potts. And she does not like her gym teacher because - you might have had this experience at some point in your life - the gym teacher was kind of biased towards the athletic kids. She has this panel where she’s like, “Mr. Potts grouped us into two groups: the athletic kids, and everybody else.” I can only imagine how hard it would be to do sports - I can’t do sports with all of my senses. There’s a reason I do running, because I only have to depend on me. But especially if it’s something like dodgeball or baseball or basketball where there’s a large amount of communication involved, and lip-reading is one of the primary ways involved in communication, I would be so screwed.

Cordelia: Not to mention being a small kid and having this giant pack on your front. Running around with that on you would be very uncomfortable.

Meggie: And it’s like 80s, 90s technology. It’s not like now when you can drop your phone and it will probably survive. If something bad hit that, it would probably shatter into a million pieces. And that’s what happens because Mr. Potts -

Patrick: It’s literally made out of Bakelite!

Meggie: Mr. Potts has the microphone and then he drops it, and he ends up breaking it. First of all, the fact that he’s just like “Oh, whoops,” that is not even sorry. He doesn’t apologize for it, he’s just like, “Eh, accidents happen!” I’m totally on board with Cece because I think she ends up crying. That means that for the next 3 to 4 weeks, she can’t understand anybody in school. She can’t understand any of her teachers because she’s got to wear her regular headphones. Sometimes she can’t see her teacher’s lips. She has to depend a lot on her classmates. That bit in the book always makes me curl into myself. What were some of your guys’ favorite parts of the book?

Patrick: I loved the cartooning. It is so clean. I think this book is deceptively simple. The language is relatively simple, the storytelling is straightforward, but the amount of skill that is required to tell a story with this amount of clarity is extremely high. You have to be at the absolute tip-top of your game to be able to tell a story this easily. I don’t think you necessarily need to read the words to understand what’s going on; it certainly does help. But that’s a good function of good cartooning, being able to tell the story with or without [the words].

Meggie: She’s really good at communicating emotions with really, really simple linework. There’s the whole arc where she’s talking about watching stuff on television, and it’s the soap operas -

Cordelia: So good.

Meggie: - and they’re going word by word. The main character in the soap opera - it goes panel by panel - is like, [dramatic voice] “I’m.” “In love.” “With Deborah!!!”


Meggie: She captures every single word of that in such a soap opera way,and it’s so perfect. She’s got a really good visual vocabulary in this book. Another thing I wanted to point out is on page 93, when she goes to Ginny’s sleepover. One of the things she did, which I didn’t notice until my second read-through, is she gave all of the bunny girls different colored pajamas in such a way that they’re rainbow-colored PJs. When they’re lined up on page 93, they form a little bitty rainbow, which is (a) just adorable, and (b) really visually smart. This book is for kids, and that’s a very playful color composition. Also, on page 93, the girls at the sleepover have decided that Cece needs to get a makeover. And if you’ve ever been that girl at a sleepover, I want you to know it’s horrifying. It feels like being Piggy in Lord of the Flies, because for some reason, they have honed in on the fact that you will be unable to say no, and you are the weak animal in the herd, and they are going to try to make you pretty, which I hated because I liked how I looked, I didn’t need makeup - sorry, this is a situation that’s happened to me at literally almost every fuckin’ sleepover I went to as a child.

Cordelia: When I was preparing for this podcast, I was like, “Maybe I should go through and add my little Post-Its to this book of important scenes I want to discuss.” I literally have a Post-It on this very page that just says, “I identify soooo much.” Most of the Post-Its I have in this book are just like, “Yep, this happened to me, and it was awful.”


Meggie: And that’s the thing about this book, Cece is really good at capturing what it’s like to be a kid. She draws herself inside a bubble when she first goes to elementary school, in saying that she always got stared at. If you’ve ever had something happen to you - it could be something as small as tripping in front of everybody in the cafeteria, or it could be something big like having a hearing aid or when I had a death in the family -

Patrick: Or just, like, a persistent state of being.

Meggie: - just having people hone in on you like that. That’s good. Also she had that frenemy Laura, who was that girl who basically ran the friendship. “This is what we’re gonna do. This is what you’re gonna do. Why aren’t you doing this thing? We’re best friends. We’re definitely best friends.”

Patrick: Constantly reminding her that she was better at everything, that she looked better in everything they were wearing together. It’s a very incisive look at what it’s like to be a kid, built on memories of actually being a kid, and not looking at it from the outside and being like, “Oh, this is what a kid’s like!”

Meggie Yeah, I think that comes with her background in doing kids’ books. But yeah, it doesn’t feel like someone who’s an adult writing a book about their experience as a kid. The fact that she’s like, “Look, he’s gonna love me because I’ve got that cute little rose on my tank top,” [laughter] that is such a kid [thing]. I love it.

Cordelia: The only thing that I don’t like about this book is that it didn’t come out when I was a kid.

[Patrick laughs]

Meggie Oh my god.

Cordelia: There’s so much about it, just reading it, it puts me back to when I was that age. I looked a little bit like Cece Bell. I had the same haircut -

Meggie: - and the glasses -

Cordelia: - a lot of the same anxieties. We got glasses around the same time. Even the simple things of using her mom to get out of social interactions. I did that all the time. And I still do now, where I’ll call my mom and I’m like, “I have to go to this thing, but I really don’t want to.” [laughter] She’s like, “You have my permission to not go.”


Meggie: You have to get your mom’s permission to say no!

Cordelia: But it’s just all of these little things… Going through this book, every spread, I’m just like, “Oh, I’ve had an experience like this.” And if I had had this book when I was younger and known all these same things she’s thinking about are the things that I was thinking about. We feel so alone.

Meggie: The mental gymnastics that you’re performing to get through the day.

Cordelia: Yeah!

Meggie: Also, just real quick, at my brother’s 8th grade dance - you know, they have a dance in 8th grade for whatever - all the girls came up to ask him to dance, and he told all of them, “My mom told me no.”


Meggie: She didn’t, he just didn’t want to dance with any of them! But I was just like, “Ah, that’s brilliant!”

Cordelia: Going back to that scene about the makeup, where one kid is like, “Oh, but can you even wear makeup if you’re deaf?” That’s such a frustratingly naive question, but I love that Cece’s like, “Oh, this is my opportunity to get out of getting a makeover.”

Patrick: “Don’t think you can!”

Cordelia: “Sorry, I can’t.”

Meggie: She captures a lot of the questions that kids ask that aren’t appropriate. I think that one girl also asks at one point “Are you dumb?” And, oookay, your parents need to sit down and talk with you about what is and is not appropriate to talk to a person about.

Patrick: One of my favorite features of the book, and it’s one of my favorite features of really, really well done kids literature in general, or media at all: When I was a kid, I did not think of myself as a child. I thought of myself as an adult. All of my feelings were just as complex as they are now. It’s weird to look back at things and imagine a child in that place doing those things, because in my experience of it, there were sooooooo many thoughts and emotions. I think Cece does a really good job of capturing that, yes, these are simple problems, but they are not simple in experience.

Meggie: When you’re a kid, regardless of what you’re going through, regardless of what adults tell you, problems seem monumental. And it’s because they are monumental. At that point in time, whether or not you’re accepted by your classmates, whether or not you succeed in the physical education, that is kind of make or break points to you, because you don’t have bigger stuff that you have to deal with. Because you’re a kid! When parents are like, “Oh, you’ll understand when you get older,” I feel like that’s really dehumanizing. Because it’s like, “No, you don’t understand. This is how kid world works. This is very important to me. And this is very important for my sanity to get through this day.” But because you’re little, you don’t know how to articulate that, so you just start crying.

Cordelia: I feel so much for little Cece in this book because she is going through this process that non one else around her is going through. So she does have this real world big thing that even her parents can’t really guide. They try, but they don’t really know what she’s experiencing.

Meggie: Really all she wants to do is have somebody who accepts her for who she is. It’s not ‘til she meets Martha - God bless lil Martha, who’s just great - it’s so great because when she meets Martha, they have a sleepover that night. She goes over and she wants to fall asleep but Martha keeps on talking, so she’s like, “I’m just gonna turn off my ear buds real surreptitiously so I can go to sleep.” [laughter] And Martha’s like, “Wait, did you just turn off my earbuds at me?” And instead of being offended about it, Martha’s just like, “No no no, it’s fine” -

Patrick: “I wish I could do that.”

Meggie: “- I just want to tell you more about this tomorrow.” [laughter] Yeah, “I wish I could that with my brother.” And it’s also great because Martha meets Cece and at no point is like, “I’m going to talk slower. I’m going to point out the fact that you’ve got ear buds.” She just treats her like a kid, and that’s all that Cece wants.

Cordelia: And Cece’s like, “Maybe this person doesn’t know!” But the great thing is, she does know, and she doesn’t care. “Oh, you’re another kid just like me. Great. Cool, let’s hang out.”

Meggie: More points on capturing what it’s like to be a kid: When her mom tries to take her to sign language classes, [laughs] and her mom is like, “This is sooo cool. This is gonna be great.” And it’s so frustrating because when they get to the sign language classes, everybody’s like, “Cee, isn’t this sooo cool?” And Cece’s like, “Everybody needs to back the fuck off.”


Cordelia: But she doesn’t say that, because it is a kid’s book!


Meggie: No, she doesn’t, but she does end up kicking her mom in the shins because she doesn’t want to be there.

Cordelia: That’s something that I find really interesting in this book too. Before that, she has this kind of mental adventure of being El Deafo, so she has all these really fascinating imaginations. Sometimes those lead into real world actions, and sometimes they don’t. That is also such a kid thing, of imagining all - actually, I still do this - imagining all the way that you could act in a scenario and then dialing it back. But sometimes you accidentally -

Meggie: - the imagination bleeds through?


Patrick: Right. All the arguments you win in the shower when nobody else actually says anything back.

Meggie: So Cece has this alter ego that she calls El Deafo, which is her, but instead of her hearing aid being kind of a weakness, it’s her super power, it’s how she can hear where her teacher is at all times, including the bathroom, [laughs] which she focuses on a lot in this book. But when you’re a kid, bathroom stuff is very intriguing.

Cordelia: Yes.

Meggie: She’s got these super powers, and one of the things that she does is she imagines what El Deafo would do in situations, which is usually her speaking up for herself. When she’s got the friend Laura who’s just awful and mean and pushy, after the sleepover, she’s like, “What would El Deafo do in this situation? I’d tell Ginny to stop talking to me in a disrespectful way. I’d tie up Laura and tell her I don’t want to put makeup on.” It’s great.

[30:40 - 37:38] Discussing comics technique

Meggie: It’s also really visually interesting, because when they switch over to El Deafo, Cece puts halftone in the background. It kind of turns into a little bit more of a comic-y comic book.

Patrick: There are also thought balloons around all of the El Deafo sequences, even when they start happening before you see her thinking. There’s at least one sequence where suddenly there’s thought balloons around the thing before you see Cece having the “…” thought balloon. This prefaces the idea that now she’s having a fantasy, but it’s kind of a feasible thing to have happened at that moment.

Meggie: Also, this book has a lot of characters in it for a kids’ book, but it doesn’t feel that way. She goes through like 5 different friends and 4 different teachers, and it never feels overwhelming, which is also really great. We should also say, and this is something I’ve wanted to point out since the beginning but I’ve saved it for the end: This was the first comic that she did, and before she started drawing it, she says that she just read Understanding Comics multiple times. You know that Patrick and I have problems with - well, mostly me - I have problems with Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. But she read it and it really shows in this book. She has really good panel-to-panel transitions, she has really good interactions between her words and her pictures, and all of her angles and panel setups are just – it’s just really frustrating how well it turned out on the first go. [laughs]

Patrick: It’s exceedingly regimented. It’s set inside the safe lines. It rarely goes outside of those to a full bleed. It rarely even drops a panel. Usually there are three rows to every page. It’s pretty rare to find anything outside of that. She’s set up some rules to follow - I think some of those are directly out of Understanding Comics - and has followed them to the tee over and over again, with endless creativity and variation. I mean, that’s part of the thing about this being at the top of the game.

Cordelia: I think my favorite page, and also one of the most heartbreaking pages, is page 12 where she comes to that realization that she can’t hear. This is right after she gets back from the hospital, and this is one of the most genius comic book pages I’ve ever seen, I think. Just the use of these enormous speech balloons that are empty, that start to consume a lot of the panel. Yeah, she’s following the form of comics but showing the weight of silence in a way that is so beautiful and is using the comics medium - I don’t know how to say this -

Meggie: It’s very powerful. In this specific page that we’re looking at on page 12 when Cece finds out that she can’t hear what her mom is saying, the speech balloon of her mother takes up about 1/3 of the page. So the fact that the speech ballon is getting almost as much weight as the visual information makes it land even more heavily to the reader.

Patrick: And the final panel where she says, “I can’t hear,” or rather thinks, “I can’t hear,” it’s the tallest panel. So as the panels progress, they each get slightly larger and larger. They get taller and taller until there’s the punctuating moment at the end of the page where Cece admits to herself and realizes that she can’t hear. Yeah, the Comics with a capital C in this is excellently executed, just from top to bottom.

Meggie: I know that we’ve been saying this a lot, but this comic is so powerful. It has these moments that are like that, where she realizes that she can’t hear, but then you also have super funny moments, where at the very beginning when she wears her polka dotted bathing suite and gets her first Phonic Ear, and she’s putting it on and she’s like, “Yeah, but does it look good, ‘cause I need to look good.” She does such a good job of capturing all these incredibly specific feelings that any kid who’s ever felt awkward or out of place can connect with immediately. This is a great book in terms of looking into different kinds of accessibility and what it was like for a hearing impaired person to grow up, but it’s also just a good book for kids.

Cordelia: Like I was saying, every page I identified so much with this. Getting Satisfactory or A’s in all of your classes except gym class - I also have written a comic about that!


Meggie: Oh my god, I’ve read that comic! It’s a really good comic!


Cordelia: I love this book, and I think I’m especially biased because her physical character looks so much like my mental model of myself at that age.

Meggie: Cordelia also sees herself as a small rabbit. [laughs]

Cordelia: Well, I mentioned that to a friend on Friday, I was like, “She kinda looks like me.” And they were like, “She’s a rabbit.” I was like -

Meggie: “Exactly!”

Cordelia: “Come on!”

Patrick: “Exactly so.”

Cordelia: But also the style of it reminds me of watching Arthur when I was a little kid.

Meggie: Yeah, it does.

Cordelia: This world populated with these young animals who are unsure of themselves.

Meggie: Even the panels that have some kind of background in them - there’s one that show’s the outline of Martha’s house - they’re not incredibly detailed. This book is mostly close-ups of characters and kind of sparse backgrounds. But it doesn’t feel like some other comics do, where you’re like, “Oh, this is very blank and boring.” The colors and the fact that she can draw these characters so well make it all tie together. It’s just really good. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you doing? Go out and buy it, dammit.

Cordelia: Yeah, stop listening to the podcast and go read it [laughter], and then immediately start listening to the podcast again.

[37:38 - 41:44] Maybe we go on some tangents…

Meggie: Also, the kids at the slumber party want to watch Somewhere in Time, which is this movie about, who’s the guy who played Superman?

Cordelia: Clark Kent. [laughs]

Patrick: The original guy who played Superman? Reeves.

Meggie: Yeah, Christopher Reeves! So I know this because this is a Michigan movie called Somewhere in Time. It’s about this guy who finds a way to travel back in time - Christopher Reeves finds a way to travel back in time - so he can meet the love of his life on Mackinac Island. [laughs]

Patrick: Nice.


Patrick: U P! Oh, and it’s Jane Seymour, too!

Meggie: Oh it’s not the U P, it’s an island. But yeah, I just think it’s so funny these kids are watching this movie. Really, the only reason I can imagine them wanting to watch this movie is because Christopher Reeves is attractive. Because it’s not an incredibly good movie. [laughs] The love theme, one of the girls says, “I love this music! I hope they play it at at my funeral!”


Cordelia: I actually have been having a lot of conversations lately with people about what music to play at their funeral. I want my funeral to be a large dance party.

Meggie: Yeah.

Patrick: I have one rule, and I’ve told it to as many people as I could.

Meggie: I haven’t heard it yet.

Patrick: My funeral needs to be whatever’s going to make the funeral director the most uncomfortable.

[Meggie bursts out laughing]

Patrick: So you just run through ideas until you find one where the person’s eyes get really wide and they just sort of sit back in your chair, and you’re like, “Oh, that one. That’s the one we’re doing.”

Meggie: [recovering from laughter] I’m just imagining Gretchen with this list, and running down and, “Oh, there’s the face! There’s the face. That’s the one we’re doing, alright.”

Patrick: “There it is.”

Cordelia: Oh my goodness.

Meggie: “We’re greasing ferrets and letting them loose -“

[Patrick bursts out laughing]

Meggie: “- within the chapel during the ceremony. Whoever catches the most ferrets gets to give the speech. The one speech.” Oh my god.

Patrick: I was thinking of not inviting my family and just inviting strangers. We’ve had some good ones. Anyways, sorry, not to get all derailed.

Meggie: I think dance party’s good.

Patrick: Dance party’s a great one.

Meggie: I like getting derailed about funerals.

Cordelia: I do want to slightly also derail, and speaking of uncomfortable situations: Were sleepover parties common in your childhood? They’re a major activity in this book, and I think I went to like 2 and I was very anxious about them.

[Patrick laughs]

Meggie: I went to a couple that were birthday parties, but I was never very good at them. I was the kid they always wanted to give makeovers to. I remember I was always the first one awake in the morning -

Cordelia: Me too! I hated that experience.

Patrick: You’re not allowed to move until someone else is awake.

Meggie: Yeah but if you’re the only one awake, you’re just sitting there in the kitchen talking to whoever’s mom it is, who’s like, “Yeah, I’m just waiting for everyone else to wake up at a regular time so I can give them blueberry pancakes.” And I was like, “You don’t understand. I’m awake now because I want to start the day.” [laughter] They’re like, “Alright, you small, weird businessman.” But yeah, I remember doing a bunch. I remember also not getting invited to a bunch, too, which was super fun. My friend and I have a plan to have a sleepover sometime soon, where we’re gonna build a blanket fort. It’s okay, we’re adults now, and I get invited to shit all the time that I say I don’t want to go to because I’m an introvert.

Cordelia: Blanket forts are way better than makeover parties.

Patrick: Way better.

Meggie: I don’t understand why that was a thing. I need somebody who did that at a makeover to explain that to me. If you were one of those people at a sleepover that gave someobody makeovers, can you send me an email as to your thought process?

Cordelia: Tweet at Patrick.


Meggie: Tweet at Patrick to explain why.


Patrick: I will relay it.

[41:44 - 45:23] Recommendations

Meggie: Before we get completely off-topic, do you guy shave a recommendation for a comic book for people to read if they liked this one?

Patrick: I’m gonna have to go with the Raina Telgemeier move. I would say Smile, Sisters, Drama, Ghost, any of them, really. I think you kinda have to go that route because they’re autobio, they’re really funny, clear.

Meggie: It’s not out yet, but I’ve seen pages because I worked on it: when Raina Telgemeier’s Guts comes out, it’s gonna be very similar to this situation, and I think you should give it a read. I also think you should check out Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. I can’t remember if we talked about it on this podcast, but it’s just absolutely delightful.

Patrick: That’s a newer release, right?

Meggie: No it’s been out for a while, it’s been on the comic book shelf for a while. It might have come out early 2018 or late 2017. It’s about these kids who over the course of a summer, create their own magical personas and build a medieval era kingdom using cardboard.

Cordelia: Oh my gosh.

Meggie: It’s really great because it’s all about the kids accepting who they are. There’s a girl who’s really loud, and her grandma’s like, “In my day, kids were seen and not heard!” And it’s not like the girl learns the power of when to be loud, she ends up creating her persona as this Hulk character and her power is smashing things with sound. There’s another character who has a business running a lemonade stand, and she gets into this business war with this other kid who’s selling cardboard weapons [laughter], and she’s all about making money. In the end, the kids are like, “Look, we’re all out of money, we can’t do anything.” And she’s like, “Ah, what am I going to do?” It’s not her learning not to value the dollar; she ends up opening a tavern with the girl who creates weapons. So it’s a “your weakness is your strength” kinda thing. It’s really cute and really well drawn. I really like it. You should definitely check it out.

Patrick: Cordelia?

Cordelia: I can only think of children’s books that I would recommend.

Meggie: That’s alright!

Patrick: That’s cool!

Cordelia: There’s this one book that is either called Cordelia, Dance or Dance, Cordelia, Dance and I know about it because my parents got it for me when I was a kid, because my name is Cordelia. It’s this really lovely children’s picture book about this crocodile named Cordelia who is forced to go to dance classes. Her tail is really long and she keeps knocking everyone else over with her tail; she’s clumsy and she feels like she’ll never fit in. She really wants to find a friend, and I won’t tell you what happens, but it has a great ending. Great book!

Patrick: It’s called Cordelia, Dance! by Sarah Stapler.

Cordelia: Thank you for looking that up!

[45:23 - 48:19] Outros

Meggie: So once again, that was El Deafo by Cece Bell! Definitely get it and read it and by it and love it, because it’s fantastic. Cordelia, where can people of Earth find you on the internet?

Cordelia: Well, people of the entire galaxy -

Patrick: Ooh hoo hoo!

Meggie: Yeah, I always say “people of Earth” but that’s really discriminatory towards Martians and -

Cordelia: - people who are hanging out on the Moon and stuff -

Meggie: I mean, the international space station does love our podcast, is what I’ve heard.


Cordelia: Anyway, I am @cordeliadillon on the internet, so you can find me on Instagram and Twitter and on my website.

Meggie: Patrick, where can the mole people find you?

Patrick: The mole people got to dig their way to one of those undergrown buried fiber cables, and they gotta tap into it, and when they get to the internet, they can look me up at Go to Twitter or Instagram and look me up: @plutarian_2. Meggie, where they gonna find you? It’s not mole people, though.

Meggie: I can only currently be reached via homing pigeon. So what you’re going to do is tie your note around the homing pigeon’s leg, and then you’ve got to go outside, do widdershins, then counter-widdershins, then you’ve got to say a quick moon blessing over the homing pigeon, [laughter] and then you’ve gotta -

Patrick: Counter-widdershins is just clockwise, Meggie!!! [laughs]

Meggie: I know! But that doesn’t sound nearly as fun. And then at the very end, you’ve got to play the intro music to Lion King, so that way when you throw the pigeon up into the air, it’s right at that bit where Rafiki holds Simba up to the air - [sings] we’ll find our way on the path unwinding - that’s what needs to happen. Or you can just Google @MeggieTheRamm, and that’s where I am on Instagram, Patreon, and Twitter, but that isn’t nearly as fun.


Meggie: You can also read us really easily by emailing us at or checking us out on Instagram and Twitter: @pop_whiz_bang. Definitely check us out on Instagram and Twitter to hear about all the awesome links we got from Cordelia in our last episode about accessibility in comics. I think we’re done talking during this episode… We’re done talking about comics. That’s how we sign off on this podcast.


Cordelia: We’re DONE. No more comics. … Just kidding!

Patrick: You’ll have to go read some.

[outro music]