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The Big Belch: Big Fun, Serious Message

This graphic novel features a team of superheros, including a parrot named Fletcher.

Amanda Lafond

Follow Amanda Lafond on Twitter at @PepperNPals

Kay Wood's talked about the premise of The Big Belch in her Kickstarter fundraiser.

The Big Belch is not your usual graphic novel. While typically this medium seems to feature heroes who are nearly exclusively young, Kay Wood’s work takes a different approach. When the plans of a big oil company put the earth in danger, it’s not a superhero who saves the day, but two baby boomers, a bulldog and a parrot.

For Wood, the subject matter of the graphic novel is what drove its creation. "When I saw the devastation in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I just had to do something,” Wood said.

However, this doesn’t mean the work any less fun. "It’s funny — wry humor. This is a funny book about a serious subject. It talks about some of the motivations behind our drive for more and more fossil fuel even as the planet heats up. I've found over the years that sometimes the best way to get across important messages is not by preaching but by entertaining.”

The Big Belch Graphic Novel by Kay WoodThe Big Belch features a group of superheroes, including a parrot named Fletcher. 
When it comes to Fletcher, the parrot portion of the four main protagonists, Wood took inspiration from real life. "While the character Fletcher in The Big Belch is not any particular type of parrot, he was inspired by a real parrot. A very dear friend from college days had a parrot named Fletcher since she was a girl. Her Fletcher was a lilac-crowned or Finsch's Amazon. He was a handsome intimidating presence who unfortunately passed away several years ago. But he just seemed like a great character for the book.”

Although he is a bird, Fletcher’s importance to the story shouldn’t be understated. Wood explains, "His direct action at a critical moment saves the world from blowing up. The book's other environmental crime fighters are baby boomers Monty Cane and Maureen Able — a long-time married couple, and Francois, an extraordinarily lovable French bulldog who closely works with Fletcher. Fletcher is highly intelligent and cantankerous. He doesn’t have much patience for fools, which he seems to consider most of the human race — but he does love Monty, Maureen and François.”

The Big Belch was a 3-year-long endeavor for Wood that included a successful Kickstarter campaign and a grant from The Leeway Foundation. For the graphic novel’s lively art style, Wood stated she looked to, "R. Crumb and other early underground comics. [I] really like how alive the drawings are.”

Though Wood acknowledges her first foray into the world of graphic novels was a great challenge, it was also one she had fun with. "It’s hard to say which was better: writing or drawing. I love both and they had to work together. I sometimes changed the story arc after doing a page of drawings because it worked better visually. But it also had to work to tell the story. Even though it was an amazing amount of work, it was wonderful to do. It was so absorbing. I actually enjoyed doing the 17 or more rewrites of the story. Something that was a total surprise. I’ve always loved drawing — which is a good thing as there are approximately 5 to 7 drawings per the 118 pages. And that’s not to mention the re-drawings.”

The Big Belch won’t be available until mid-July, and Wood and her fans anxiously await the arrival of the release date. "I’ve no expectations. But I do hope people really like it, get some  laughs, and maybe think about what we’re doing to our world,” she said. "We do only have the one planet. Why do we keep trashing it? As Fletcher  would say, ‘Get your acts together people! Us birds are depending on you. Sqwaaak!’”

The Big Belch is available for preorder in eBook format on Smashwords, in print on Create Space and on Amazon

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Posted: June 23, 2014, 11:00 a.m. PDT

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