Wallace and his best friend, Spud, discover a muffin under a bus seat on their first day of school. A quick examination reveals that this snack had been forgotten at the end of the previous school year, rendering it “wicked hard,” says Wallace.
What ensues is a hilarious series of adventures in which Wallace, Spud and new girl in town, Amelia, play baseball, crack the blacktop and disturb a hornet’s nest with the putrid pastry.
“That happened,” said 33-year-old Will Wilson of Jamestown, who writes under the name Will Henry and is the creator of Wallace, Spud and their wacky family and friends in the comic strip series “Wallace the Brave.”
“That was my brother Iain and I. We found an old muffin in my locker in second or third grade. It was rock hard. I said, ‘Iain, throw it under the tire when we get off the bus.’ The muffin came through.”
The full book of “Wallace the Brave” comics, published by Andrews McMeel in October, 2017, has garnered national attention. The comic has been nominated for two Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards – Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12) and Best Humor Publication. Henry launched the daily “Wallace the Brave” comic in March of this year.
The winners of the awards, named in honor of pioneering cartoonist Will Eisner, will be announced at the San Diego Comic Con’s gala awards ceremony July 20. But despite the accolades and attention, Wilson remains humble.
“I’d be lying to say I wasn’t excited, but it’s not the focus,” he said. “Whether I’m adored or not, I’m still going to be drawing comics the next day.”
Wilson started copying “Garfield” comic strips in his childhood and continued creating cartoonish works while studying sculpture at the University of Connecticut.
“If you saw my sculptures I made there, they were pretty much 3-D cartoons, like wall reliefs,” he said. “The writing was on the wall even then.”
Wilson said he has about two years’ worth of “Wallace the Brave” comics stocked up to be released daily on gocomics.com. Still, he strives to draw a new strip every day while juggling his duties as owner of Grapes & Gourmet in Jamestown and being a father to his 3-month-old son, William.
“I love the comic strip format,” he said. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do it at this level, but here I am.”
While “Wallace the Brave” now has an international readership, with a French-language translation in the works, Wilson draws heavily on his Rhode Island childhood and the summers he spent at Roy Carpenter’s Beach in Matunuck.
“I look fondly at those memories of being a kid,” he said. “Rhode Island’s a great place.”
In addition to the New England feel of the landscapes in “Wallace the Brave,” and Rhode Island expressions like “wicked,” the name of Wallace’s school, Moonstone Elementary, is taken from Moonstone Beach Road, with Matunuck Elementary School close by. Wilson himself attended school in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where his family lived during the winter.
An early “Wallace the Brave” strip reflects Wilson’s father’s annual summer ritual of stapling his and his brother’s shoes to the wall of their Matunuck home, encouraging the boys to run about barefoot and carefree. In the comic, on the first day of a new school year, Wallace’s mother urges him to put his shoes on. Wallace replies, “I’ve spent all summer getting my bare feet tough!”
“A memory will spark an idea,” Wilson said. “It starts with a bit of truth. Everybody in this book is molded after somebody. I had a great childhood, my parents were fantastic, very creative. I wanted to voice that relationship, which you don’t get in other comics.”
He explained that the characters Wallace and Spud are modeled after aspects of his own personality, while Wallace’s brother, Sterling, is inspired by Wilson’s real-life brother, Iain. Wallace’s friend Amelia is based on Wilson’s sister of the same name.
Even Wilson’s pride in his Scottish roots comes through in the strip. The Scottish name “Wallace” is present in his family, and “the Brave” conjures images of bold highland warriors.
“I wanted it to have a Scottish feel,” he said. “And Wallace is a brave kid.”