There’s often a tipping point between wanting to write, and becoming a writer. For Cedrick Lui, that moment arrived the day his wife announced her pregnancy. Suddenly he found himself with a deadline. Having already approached the artist CH Kim to get onboard the project, all he needed was a story to bring his comic to life. Lui began building a small exposure project as his first step into the Ottawa comic scene.
But looking through the pages of his stand-alone comic, Son of God, it’s safe to say that this isn’t just a step. Instead, it’s a leap forward ending in a splash of emotion, imagery and relevance. A comic this well done cannot be chalked up to simple exposure, and a story tackling such complex issues around mental health cannot be passed off as anything small.
Son of God is a comic that follows a man named Armand as he appears newly birthed and fully grown in an ally of the city streets. Looming in the background, reflected on building surfaces and growing larger between the high-rises is the presence of a nameless God. With each page read, author Liu and artist Kim take us deeper into the corruption of the city, and how this darkness weighs upon Armand’s mind. But what happens next is an uplifting surprise.
“The comic is not so much plot driven, as I wanted to make it atmospheric,” explains Lui. “Delusion of grandeur is one of the key facets of schizophrenia specifically. I wanted to start with that, and degrade with a slow drop all the way to the bottom with feelings of desperation and paranoia. The character was born out of that.”
“I had to be really sensitive, because I didn’t write the comic to spotlight mental illness particularly. It is really a dramatization – it’s very, very rare to have anyone who suffers from that many aspects of schizophrenia.”
And yet despite this heavy opening tone, Lui incorporates a brilliant twist with his storytelling that, in my opinion, make this comic particularly special. The darkness of Armand’s world begins to crumble with glimmers of hope. It’s that hope that makes this comic stand out, sharing an important message around support and mental illness.
Son of God beautifully creates a gentle ’twist in the plot’ by simple writing and impressive visuals. This, Cedrick explains, is because the story was actually written with the artist CH Kim’s creative style in mind.
“Because of CH Kim’s artwork being so very surreal, I wanted a way to incorporate that. So I did a brainstorm walk . . . What happened was my wife – we’d been trying to get pregnant, and one day she came up to me and she’s like “we’re pregnant” and there was this weird moment where I had to face up with am I going to be one of those people who said he wants to be a writer, and then never tried? I figured, well this is it, I have a deadline.
So I took a little walk and tried to think of ideas of how to use his artwork. I was walking down the street, trying to think of the surreal stuff that comes out of his brain. I was walking, and looking at a tree, and was like, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be weird if it bowed to me?’ and other weird LSD trippy things as I was walking, and began to form a story around that.”
With his exposure project now complete and selling online and in comic shops, Lui has been encouraged by the positive reception. He has other (secret) projects on the go, but in the meantime, he is pulling some purpose from Ottawa’s creative community. “Everyone is so friendly in Ottawa to begin with, so if you have that shared passion there’s something golden about it. I just want to connect with them and encourage them. I love the idea of Ottawa becoming a bigger centre for that stuff.”
Catherine Brunelle is co-host of Ottawa Writes, a podcast exploring the art & business of writing.