Comics Features Interviews

The Further Adventures of Cream Maid: In Conversation with Mark Dickson, Writer of “Cream Maid”

Last year, we reviewed Cream Maid #1 – a delightful comic that captures the reader’s heart with a timeless message of acceptance. The new full volume of Cream Maid’s adventures is available to pre-order from December 14th, so we caught up with the comic’s writer Mark Dickson to hear more about it!

A Place To Hang Your Cape: For anyone who’s unfamiliar, please can you introduce us to Cream Maid?

Mark Dickson: I like to describe the character of Cream Maid as “cat-adjacent”.

Take all of the feline qualities that you might expect, but then combine it with the wearing of human clothes, the ability to stand upright, and shake it all in a jar with the run-off energy from a chaos god.

They’ve recently been hired by the couple known only as “Honey” and “Darling” to maintain a stately home in the English countryside. However, it appears to have been a decision purely based on the fact that Cream Maid appeared to already be wearing a stereotypical maid outfit.

This energy then excitedly jumps up and down on the wedge that’s appeared between the couple in recent months, and they are forced to confront their relationship in the wake that Cream Maid leaves behind them.

This is a story about living with anxiety, self-definition and found family.

AP2HYC: Did the ideas for Cream Maid and the kind of stories you could tell change between writing that first issue and this complete four-chapter volume?

Dickson: Absolutely. When I was writing the first issue, my thoughts were driven towards making the individual story a complete one. The characters start in a bad place, go through their hijinks and adventures, and grow as people by the end of it. This story ended up becoming the first chapter in this volume.

This meant that when I approached continuing on the story, I knew that I had this strong foundation of characters that I could now start to pull from. I no longer had to establish where we were coming from, and could think more about where I wanted them each to go.

What resulted was a heartfelt, sincere and character-focused story, with one character getting the spotlight in each chapter. The first three chapters focus on Darling, Honey and then Cream Maid, respectively. This left the fourth chapter as a reaffirmation of the entire found-family, which is something that was important to me.

AP2HYC: What were your main goals when creating an all-ages comic like this? Were there any challenges?

Dickson: Part of the reason why I wanted this to be an all-ages comic was to be able to create the queer representation that I wasn’t able to see in media as a young child.

Cream Maid themselves does not present with any specific gender. They wear whichever clothes strike their fancy in that particular moment (as evidenced by the many, many costumes that they wear), and nobody says, or even thinks, anything about that.

In Chapter 3, we see Honey return to her childhood home to discover that she has two elderly dads. Again, no attention is drawn to it because I wanted to normalise the fact that two men could have raised a child together into an adult. As a gay man myself, I have more of a personal stake in this, as it’s an experience that I hope to achieve myself some day.

I created the accepting and understanding world that I wanted to exist, and who deserves to see that more than children?

AP2HYC: What advice would you give to anyone looking to make their own all-ages comic? What’s most important?

Dickson: My only advice would be to not talk down to your audience. I believe that children are capable of comprehending much more than you give them credit for. You can explore ideas, themes or character journeys that have weight to them, even if you skirt around the particularities that would take it down a darker and more explicit route.

Most people see the label “all-ages” and immediately purely attribute it to people below the age of five. However, what you are trying to create with all-ages media is the moment that everyone has had: it’s where you revisit something from your children as an adult, and you see all of these additional plot details, references or jokes that you missed the first time around.

That’s when you know you’ve created something that is genuinely for all-ages.

AP2HYC: Can you tell us a bit about the creative team on Cream Maid?

Dickson: The artist, Rebecca Burgess, has been absolutely astounding at somehow pulling these ideas directly out of my head and putting them onto paper throughout this entire process. Not only was she able to design the most adorable character of all time in Cream Maid themselves, she’s able to express such nuanced emotions across the spectrum of both emotion and character. It’s been an unquestionable delight to work with her, and I couldn’t have asked for a better collaborator.

The letterer, Davis Rush, injected such a strong cohesion to the words that I’d written. By choosing a slightly off-kilter speech bubble, it compounds the high-spirited essence that runs throughout Cream Maid’s story. On top of that, he contributed a bunch of incredible sound effects that bring so many of these scenes to life.

Rhianna Mills designed our logo, and performed the unenviable task of capturing the entirety of a book in one image. And somehow, she blew it out of the water. It contains a bunch of hidden references to future plot points and, as expected, looks phenomenal.

Similarly, the cover artist, Samantha Benc, has been working hard behind the scenes to do the same for the entire front cover. The design work and attention to detail on the cover has been brilliant to see come together, and seeing her artwork as the cherry on top has been so rewarding.

AP2HYC: Lastly, have you got a favourite moment in the four chapters?

Dickson: My favourite moments in Cream Maid are when I get to combine the extraordinarily bizarre with the suddenly, and surprisingly, heartfelt. That is what I think sits at the heart of what makes Cream Maid unique.

There is a moment towards the end of the third issue where the characters accidentally find themselves in an auditorium to watch a show. Each character is confronting their own issues, but have been forced to put them aside due to Cream Maid’s inability to sit still. They’re manic, overwhelmed and functioning purely on stress and adrenaline.

As the show comes on, everything suddenly falls silent.

They are forced to sit there and watch this show, and it ends up being everything that they need to process their inner turmoil. In the peace and quiet, they are able to find themselves. All of this was only able to happen because they were frantically chasing their frenetic feline friend.

It’s the power of cats, I tell you. Or cat-adjacent beings at the very least.

For more information and to pre-order Cream Maid see here – then sound off in the comments below or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

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Matthew Smith

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