ANDERSON – Being a young black kid in Elwood wasn’t easy for Deon Parson.
His family was in a predominately white community, and he often felt judged for the color of his skin.
“We didn’t have the best of days because everyone was always talking down about us and treating us poorly just because of what we looked like,” he said.
But over time Parson, 19, found his own form of therapy by putting pen to paper.
Inspired by his favorite orange cat, the Anderson High School graduate took what he learned from Jim Davis’ “Garfield” and his own life experiences to create “Kurami.”
“Kurami” is making its debut today in The Herald Bulletin, where it will run on the Comics page Monday-Saturday.
“It makes me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something in my life,” the 2013 Anderson High School graduate said. “Back in Elwood, people used to say, ‘You’ll never make it in life. You’ll just rot in jail with the other black people,’ and such.”
But as difficult as it was to deal with racism at such a young age, that pain has fueled Parson’s drive and creativity.
His comic strip follows Kurami, a blind baby with a positive attitude. Supporting characters include Ana, a plus-size woman trying to deal with society’s prejudices against her, and Bree Kay, a plus-size woman who is determined to share her happiness and show people that size doesn’t matter.
Self-acceptance is a common theme and goal in “Kurami,” and Parson wanted to show that sometimes you have to look at life a little differently than others. That’s why a blind main character was perfect.
“I wanted to have a character whose perspective on life was completely different from everyone else’s,” he said. “And you know, people take sight for granted. So I wanted there to be a character that doesn’t judge based on looks or appearance, but based on the personality and the heart of a person.”
The comic strip’s style is influenced by “Garfield,” which Parson discovered as a child. His love for the grumpy, fat cat has continued throughout his life.
Parson said part of it is because he sees the humanity in Garfield.
“Everyone sees a fat, lazy cat who hates Mondays and eats lasagna,” he said. “But inside, what I see – as Jim Davis calls Garfield a human in a cat suit – I see a person who doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him. He loves himself for who he is, and he’s willing to defend his right to be who he wants to be.”
Recognizing Garfield's perspective has influenced how Parson approaches his own work.
"Intelligent Life" cartoonist David Reddick said he likes Parson's cartooning style and positive humor.
"Dee brings with him a positivity that's contagious," Reddick told The Herald Bulletin in an email. "His comic, like most cartoonists' work, is a great personal reflection of him."
Reddick, who used to work for The Herald Bulletin, introduced Parson to Davis in December. Reddick works for Paws, Davis' Muncie facility where "Garfield" is created.
Davis gave the young cartoonist advice and left Parson with a couple of keepsakes: He drew a picture of Garfield for Parson, and then drew a likeness of Kurami for the young cartoonist.
“I was crying on the inside. I couldn’t express (my excitement),” Parson said. “I feel like I have a better chance at winning the lottery three times than having that happen to me.”
Davis told him to keep going, and not to stop.
The encouragement will help Parson continue his mission to bring positivity to the world through “Kurami,” proving that good deeds overcome negative comments.
“It’s so much effort and energy to make someone’s day bad,” he said. “I could use that to make someone’s day better.”