Every parent has their own hopes and dreams for their children, which sometimes don’t always end up becoming reality. (I think my mom still mourns the fact that I never became an engineer.) For Yvon Roy, those hopes and dreams ended up taking a different path in life when he found out his young son was on the autism spectrum. In his new graphic novel Little Victories: Autism Through a Father’s Eyes, Roy explores the journey a father and son share in learning life on the autism spectrum, and a father discovering more about himself through his son’s way of looking at the world.
Here, Roy discusses the motivations for bringing his own story to the page, the advice he would give his younger self if he could go back in time, and what he hopes readers of Little Victories take from the book.
What inspired you to bring this deeply personal story to the page?
Roy: The idea that my experience could be of some help to other parents. You know, make it a bit easier by sharing, so that we can build knowledge about autism together.
This is a book of vignettes, stitched together to show how both you and Oliver come to understand yourselves and each other. Were there stories that didn’t make the cut that you wish did?
Roy: I was completely free to create what I wanted, I could use as many pages as needed, my editor was very elegant about it. So I did pretty well say it all, all what mattered.
What I love about this book is that you don’t shy away from the difficult moments of raising a child on the autism spectrum, but you also make sure to show the moments of joy. How hard was it to keep that balance in check, so that the book doesn’t become too overly optimistic or too maudlin?
Roy: Little Victories is a lot about helping parents feeling normal about their hardship, their weaknesses, to be, then, able to get back up again. It was important for me to show it all, the rocky trail, the bad weather. The necessity to talk about it. The necessary time to heal. The obligation to move forward.
Was it a conscious choice to draw this book in black and white? Is the absence of color any sort of metaphor for the larger challenges you and Oliver both faced?
Roy: What I had to say felt so important to me, I had so much to communicate, I didn’t want colour to be a distraction, in the making of the comic, and in the reading of it. The whole book was created in order to communicate in the most simple manner.
When you receive this diagnosis, you really do feel like your world is crumbling down. It’s something I saw in my own family when we found out my niece was on the autism spectrum around the same age as Oliver. If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Roy: Nobody, I mean nobody in the whole world ever said having a kid was easy, so you weren’t warned. No kid is easy. Well, almost no kid. Let’s not talk about easy kids and UFOs. Raising a kid these days is a challenge. Very complicated. If you get caught into it, you could pretty well forget to have fun along the way. That would be a fatal mistake. Fun is the secret ingredient to all success in life. Have some.
How are you feeling about the portrayal of people on the autism spectrum in popular culture today? On one hand, Sesame Street here in the U.S. has done a fine job portraying a character on the spectrum, with Julia. And then on the other side, Elon Musk’s recent announcement that he has Asperger’s received a lot of backlash. So for every one step forward, it feels like there are still two steps back.
Roy: It seems that any subject, these days, becomes highly inflammable. There is so much to learn about autism, we need to be able to share one another reality in the most friendly manner, discuss our differences, grow together. I feel that we are making progress.
You both wrote and illustrated this story, which adds to the intimacy of it. Was it always your intention to take on both tasks?
Roy: Yes, I had a very clear image of the book in mind. My goal was to make the most accessible, easy-to-read book about the parenting of a different child. It was important for me to control all aspects of the book so that any person of any culture who never had the occasion to read a graphic novel before would still feel comfortable reading Little Victories. To me, it was all about being accessible.
Were you a comics reader growing up? What are some of your favorite characters and stories?
Roy: Yes I was! I was crazy for the next Conan, and the next Batman too. On the European side, I would read comics magazines like Pif Gadget. I loved Hugo Pratt and his famous Corto Maltese. Reading comics was like another way of breathing.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your family’s story?
Roy: Your kid is different, he’s like a puzzle, it for you to find the solution. So explore and then get creative!
Any new projects on the horizon that you can share with us?
Roy: I am working on an album, it is full of colour and adventures, I make it to amuse youngsters. Just pure fun! But I cannot say more.
Little Victories: Autism Through a Father’s Eyes will be available from Titan Comics on May 25, 2021.