“I’m so glad that you’re on board with this, dude…” grinned Leroy, as he met Brad outside the offices of the Big Brother Little Brother charity.
“I think I’ve convinced myself that this is a good idea…” shrugged Brad.
“What about Blake, is he okay with having a lodger come and stay?” asked Leroy.
“Yeah, totally…” nodded Brad. “We talked it over, and we know it’s going to require some adjustments for us both, but if it’s going to help us pay the bills then it’s a bit of a no-brainer really…”
“Awesome…” grinned Leroy. “Well, how about you wait here and I’ll go and get the kid that the charity has matched you with. His name’s Zach — you might remember him, he was a student at our school for a couple of years.”
While Leroy headed into the offices of the charity to collect the lodger that had been allocated to them, Brad waited outside in the sun, racking his brains to try and remember any of his past students called Zach.
“Hey, Brad…” said Leroy, emerging back outside. “This is Zach…”
“Good to meet you, Zach…” greeted Brad, shaking the kid’s outstretched hand. “Actually, now that I’ve got you standing in front of me I think I do remember seeing you around school a while back. I don’t think that you were ever in my class, though. Is that right?”
“Good to meet you, sir…” replied Zach, politely. “No, I don’t think you ever taught me at all.”
“Please, call me Brad…” insisted Brad. “It makes me feel way too old when guys your age call me Sir.”
“So, how about you two guys go and grab a coffee or something?” suggested Leroy. “I’ve got some paperwork to catch-up on here. If you get along okay, then we could get everything finalised and Zach could move in today?”
“Sure!” nodded Brad. “Is that okay with you, Zach?”
“Yes, Sir… I mean, Brad…” stumbled Zach. “Coffee sounds good.”
Zach followed Brad to the car, and they drove a short distance to a nearby donut and coffee place.
“So, tell me a bit about yourself…” suggested Brad, as they found a table in one of the quieter corners of the restaurant. “What led you to getting involved in the Big Brother Little Brother scheme?”
“It was a combination of factors, I guess…” shrugged Zach. “Things were a bit messed up at home, and my grades were suffering at school. Mr Johnson suggested that the people at Big Brother Little Brother might be able to help me out…”
“Always sounds weird when people refer to Leroy as Mr Johnson…” smiled Brad. “Was it a good move for you? Have they been able to help you get things back on track?”
“Yeah, absolutely…” nodded Zach. “But once you get to my age, and you’re finished with school and stuff, it’s time to start thinking about getting a job and being a bit more independent… I really appreciate that you’re making your spare room available to me.”
“Well, it’s a good deal for us as well…” explained Brad. “It’s not like we’re doing you any huge favours — the charity is picking up the tab for renting the room, and that helps us pay the bills. Don’t feel that you owe us anything, or that you’re obligated to us in any way. Have you started looking for work at all? Any idea of the type of job that might suit you?”
“I’m not sure, to be honest…” shrugged Zach. “I was thinking maybe a bar job or something could be fun. I’ve always been a pretty good dancer, so I was thinking of maybe giving that a try.”
“You mean, like, dancing in a bar?” asked Brad.
“Yeah…” shrugged Zach. “Do you think that’s a good idea?”
“Um, well — you’ve certainly got the right look for it…” replied Brad. “But you’d have a lot of guys wanting to… push the boundaries with you…”
“I think I’d be okay with that…” winked Zach. “I don’t mind a bit of… having my boundaries pushed…”
“So, you’re into guys then?” asked Brad.
“Yeah… I’m into guys…” confirmed Zach.
“Cool, I just didn’t want to assume anything…” smiled Brad.
“I guess that’s why they’ve placed me with you and your husband?” suggested Zach. “So you can give me a bit of… guidance?”
“Oh, Blake and I aren’t married…” corrected Brad. “Although, we’ve been together so long that sometimes it feels like we are. Plus, I don’t think that we’re in any way qualified to be giving you guidance about anything. Maybe you can learn from some of the mistakes that we’ve made along the way, but we’re definitely not experts on anything.”
“Does that mean that you’re happy to rent the room to me?” asked Zach.
“Yeah, totally…” nodded Brad. “Look, you seem like a good kid. If we can help you out by giving you a place to stay while you find a job and get yourself sorted, then that’s the least we can do.”
“Awesome!” grinned Zach. “It will be like having two Dads, or something…”
“That’s too weird!” laughed Brad. “We’re not old enough to be father figures! Maybe you can think of us as uncles or something, that’s only slightly less weird.”
“Do you want me to call you Uncle Brad?” suggested Zach.
“No!” laughed Brad. “I definitely do not want you to call me Uncle Brad! Just plain old Brad is going to be perfectly fine. Come on, finish your coffee. We’d better get back and tell Leroy that we’re good to go.”
Can I call you Uncle?
We’re currently serialising the story. This is the fourth instalment — read earlier episodes here.
We want to hear your opinion
“In a fictional universe I would wield magic”
I caught up with artist Stefano Junior to talk art, illustration, and super-powers.
When did you start to explore your passion for illustration and art?
I’ve been drawing as far back as I can remember. According to my parents, I drew a very convincing female figure from my imagination at about three or four years old. From then on, when I wasn’t at school, watching cartoons, or voraciously reading comic books, I’d be drawing. My parents eventually enrolled me in a fine arts weekend program at a local college — I studied there for several years while going through grammar and middle school.
What is it about superheroes that appeals to you?
In hindsight, apart from the obvious colourful allure of superhero adventures, it was the transformative nature that is the basis of most superhero narratives. As a child, in suburban 80s America, with my penchant for the arts, girls toys, and a foreign name, I was bullied extensively — superheroes provided a means to escape, I could imagine that I might one day extricate myself from that oppression.
Books like Chris Claremont’s X-Men, which were ripe with soap-opera-like drama, reassured me that my ‘latent’ powers weren’t things to be ashamed of. Roger Stern’s run on Superman affirmed my beliefs that though people could be cruel and misguided, it didn’t mean that I should have to sacrifice my ethics and sense of what’s right. George Pérez’s Wonder Woman — that she was an immigrant appealed to me as a first-generation Italian, and she never lost her compassion for even her greatest foes.
Growing up with older sisters and a strong Italian matriarch may have influenced me gravitating to female heroes. But there was also the allure of the outrageous 80s feminine glamour of heroes like She-Ra, or the many fantastic mutant women of the X-universe who all played such pivotal roles in the series while donning fantastic costumes created by amazing artists like Paul Smith, Arthur Adams, and Marc Silvestri.
I love your drawings of Sorceror Stefano — is that an alter ego?
I’ve been developing an illustrated version of myself over the years. I’m currently studying cartooning at the School of Visual Arts — comic legend Phil Jimenez was one of my instructors my sophomore year. Our mid-term assignment was to create a fictionalised life drawing of ourselves in a turnaround. So I photographed myself, and further developed the design of my Sorcerer self. As an artist, the process of creation feels like sorcery, so were I to exist in a fictional universe, I would definitely wield magic. I’d also like to be physically invulnerable.
Who are some of your art heroes or inspirations?
My inspirations are pretty vast. From the art world it includes Bernini, Gabriel Rosetti, and Waterhouse. From comics it includes Esteban Maroto, Garcia Lopez, Marc Silvestri, Brian Bolland, George Perez, Phil Jimenez, Adam Hughes, Colleen Doran, Art Adams, and especially Alan Davis — both for the aesthetic beauty and elegance of his art, and as a draughtsman and storyteller.
If you could do a life drawing of a male super-hero, who would you choose?
Henry Cavill as Superman.
Your moustache game is pretty strong — what does your moustache say about you?
At its most base, it’s a homage to the machismo of the 1980s — particularly my hero, Tom Selleck as Magnum PI. He’s the epitome of masculine idealisation.
I grow it and shave it constantly — it’s spawned its own cartoon of my creation. You can follow the exploits of me and my moustache — Mr. Mustardo — on Instagram. It’s absolutely vain, but it allows for me to be humorous in a single panel cartoon form that deviates from the more representative work and superhero storytelling that I’ve primarily been focused on.
What are some of your goals and ambitions for the months ahead?
I hope to further develop an original comic that I started in the Fall, that centres around a complex heroine and a magical discovery. Plus there’s some newer humorous cartoons that Id like to serialise online somehow — one that follows the exploits of a majordomo in an early 20th century hotel, another that follows a boy through multiple mediums and circumstances that end badly.
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