Leonard Cachola: Inside and Out - Part 2

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Neil Figuracion checks in with Leonard Cachola, creator of the web-strip Innies and Outties about his characters, his strip, and his life.

Part I

BROKEN FRONTIER: I was going to talk about some of the themes that you’ve included in your work, for instance Iris’ feeling of abandonment, when her grandmother leaves, and Harold’s tumor. What’s it like to have a public forum for your feelings on life’s problems?

LEONARD CACHOLA: It’s easier to talk about it. I’ve always been a bit open. Maybe a little bit too open about certain things.

It’s one thing to deal with the emotional abandonment that Iris feels, because there’s nothing physically wrong, happening to her. I can get away with that with Harold and his tumor, because he’s an imaginary character to Otis, and he’s not human. Even though in the storyline, as it stands currently, he’s real to Xana and Otis, he’s still not human.

BF: To get back to Iris, what was the fan reaction when Iris’ grandmother left?

LC: Some people were just shocked. Which kind of blew me away, because I didn’t think anyone really cared that much about them. It’s like “Oh! People have actually invested emotionally in them.” It was a surprise.

BF: Iris is pretty hurt. If Gramma came back would she pleased? Would she feel resentful?

LC: If Gramma came back she would be happy to see Gramma. She would be extremely upset that she had gone in the first place, but I think she would be happy enough to have her back. Cause Iris is pretty well grounded. Although she’s upset now, she’s smart enough to realize that the time with her Gramma is better spent than just being upset over it.

BF: Did your fans know about your fight against cancer when you first had Harold announce his tumor?

LC: No. It was... I just threw it on everybody. A few people did. I didn’t really post it on the comic strip until five days afterwards, after my diagnosis. I wanted to make sure I actually had it, before I started writing about it. Nobody really knew. I announced it the exact same day that I put it in the comic strip. So, I made it completely public. I knew I wanted to go public with it.

I find that being open and public about it.... Well number one it opens me up to criticism, but it opens me up to a lot of support as well, that I would not have had otherwise. Now a lot of people are aware of it, and they’re more understanding when they talk to me. Maybe a little bit too... treat me too fragile, sometimes, but a lot of people who’ve read the comic strip know...

BF: You have a sense of humor...?

LC: that I’m not that fragile.

BF: What are the different kinds of reactions that you’re getting?

LC: I get a lot of, most people are apologetic. Like I’m dead or something.

BF: Well, you’re not the first guy to get cancer.

LC: That’s right. I can understand that because for a lot of people when someone announces they have cancer, it’s pretty serious. It’s a death sentence. I didn’t want to let it overwhelm me like that. Some people are just shocked. Disbelief: “You can’t have it! You’re too young to have it!”

BF: You said you got criticism?

LC: Criticism? Yeah. “Why are you doing a comic strip on cancer? What’s so funny about cancer?” I’ve gotten that before.

BF: Well, what is funny about cancer?

LC: Oh come on. This thing that's growing inside of you. It’s only one aspect of you that all of a sudden is attacking your entire body. I mean come on, how ridiculous is that? I mean seriously.

BF: [laughter] I guess you’re saying that it’s important to what, laugh at our...

LC: There’s a certain perspective involved in it. Yeah, I won’t kid you. The treatments are scary! But humor and fear, they go hand in hand.

BF: Have you met any readers who had their own cancer experiences?

LC: Yeah, actually I have. Well not face to face. I noticed, not just apologetic, not just shock and disbelief, but also other people, all of a sudden, you hear their problems too. Like if they had cancer. They profess that to me. It was their way of relating to me, and saying “you’re not alone in having cancer.” That was very comforting, and that was something I would not have gotten had I just not said anything. If you don’t say anything, then you do feel alone. You do feel like you’re the only person going through this.

But you’re not.

BF: Everyone’s got something going on.

LC: Everyone’s got something going on, and a lot of people have gone through what you’re going through. You're not that unique. I mean, as personality, human being, you are that unique, in terms of what details you bring into your humanity, but in terms of getting cancer... well, what is it? One out of thirty people have cancer right now?

BF: I didn’t know that.

LC: You can’t let it take over your life. You can’t get depressed about it. It is an overwhelming thing, and it can be an overwhelming thing. It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming thing.

Innies and Outties, hit the web on Valentine’s Day, 2000. Since then, two full length Innies and Outties collections have been published, It’s All Mine and You Can’t Have It, and Phooey, Evil Gets All the Fun. A third collection is in the works, You’re Only as Good as your Maker.

- Neil Figuracion

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