A PAWSOME ADVENTURE

Dead Max is back in ‘Furball of the Apocalypse’

Posted 6/24/21

Every panel of the Dead Max Comix transport you back to middle school.

On every page, you can almost hear the metallic slam of locker doors and the shrill ring of the class bell. With the crack of …

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A PAWSOME ADVENTURE

Dead Max is back in ‘Furball of the Apocalypse’

The real Max’s ashes paid a visit to The Leader office along with plush dolls modeled after the main characters made by author and illustrator Leanne Hatch.
The real Max’s ashes paid a visit to The Leader office along with plush dolls modeled after the main characters made by author and illustrator Leanne Hatch.
Leader photo by Alli Patton
Posted

Every panel of the Dead Max Comix transport you back to middle school.

On every page, you can almost hear the metallic slam of locker doors and the shrill ring of the class bell. With the crack of the spine, you’re again in the thick of it – weaving between peers, bullies, and hormones, all swimming the hallways upstream.

The books’ creator, Dana Sullivan, gets it.

“I haven’t matured beyond 12,” the Port Townsend-based author and illustrator joked.

“Twelve and a half on a good day.”

The Dead Max graphic novel series stars a boy named Derrick and his dog named Max. When Max dies and is cremated, his canine ghost comes back to guide young Derrick.

The pair are back in the fourth installment of the stories. Book four, “Furball of the Apocalypse,” picks up with a more confident Derrick. The ghost of Max has encouraged him to “dog up.”

The timid young boy that was introduced in book one has taken several steps forward, slowly but surely  getting the hang of this middle school thing.

“Derrick has been making cartoons for the school newspaper which was a big breakthrough. He was very scared to submit his work to the middle school newspaper,” Sullivan explained.

Through making his work public to his peers, Derrick finds out that all the kids are struggling with their own things, not just him. He starts an advice column to help out.

“So he’s not such the weirdo that he thought he was,” the creator said.

In book four, Derrick and Max’s biology class goldfish friends, Finn and Gillian, go missing. At the same time, the two biology teachers are gone and nobody knows where.

Derrick takes to his comic drawing and starts making up a story about where everybody and where every fish has gone.

“He starts making up a crazy story about an accident in the lab where the fish somehow get ‘transmotorfied’ into robot zombie piranhas … GIANT robot zombie piranhas,” he described.

Derrick continues to concoct the wild story in which one of the biology teachers has been kidnapped by these giant robot zombie piranhas. The other teacher has to help rescue him and Super Max joins the chase.

“When Derrick draws comics it’s a lot of fun for me.”

Sullivan described getting to draw the crazy comic pages from the mind of a middle school boy where he didn’t have to be too careful and everything could be bizarre.

When it came to writing and creating this fourth book, Sullivan explained how he wasn’t as concerned about making everything work out.

“I was going nuts. I was just having fun.”

When it comes to comics, you can do anything, he said.

Sullivan still has his junior high yearbook to guide him through the mind of the main character and his other middle school friends.

“I had to study those and read some of the comments people made and remember who they were and realize, ‘Gosh! Maybe that girl liked me!’”

It was fun to go back and get into the head of a student navigating the horrors of middle school, he said.

From bullies and girls, you feel for Derrick as his home life and school experiences come to life on the colorful pages.

“All these books, frankly, make me cry when I write them,” he said, reminiscing and thinking about kids in a similar situation to Derrick.

In writing this series, he really wanted to help kids get through middle school

“When I first started out with this, my agent told me … she said, ‘You know, sometimes the best thing you can do to help a kid in trouble is to make them laugh,’” Sullivan said.

He said he cracks himself up from time to time, especially when illustrating the comics Derrick draws. And writing the puns the two goldfish make.

“I know it’s pretty low class to crack yourself up, but I do all the time.”

His characters are not just funny, they are lovable, too.

“I love the love between the dog and the boy,” he said. “Max is a snot head … He never says, ‘I love you, kid,’ or anything like that. But he won’t leave. And he sticks up for Derrick, tries to teach him to ‘dog up’ and stand up for himself.”

Check out Derrick and Max’s adventures in the Dead Max Comix series. Book four will be available in early August. Visit danajsullivan.com for more.

In July, Sullivan will be teaching a teen comix class for one of Northwind Art’s summer programs with a second class scheduled for late August. Visit ptschoolofthearts.org for more information.

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