Supporting Cast: Dawn Weston of MARY WORTH
Karen Moy, the writer behind MARY WORTH, occupies a fairly unique position not only as the current torchbearer for a much-beloved classic storyline strip, but also in that she writes one of the few comics focused on the lives of seniors. While younger characters often find their way under Mary’s wing for the duration of a storyline, Karen has dedicated a lot of time during her tenure on the comic to giving us deeper glimpses into Mary’s life and the lives of her closest friends.
Among those characters, Dawn Weston is the youthful outlier of the regular characters we see. Dawn is a 19-year-old college student living with her divorced father, Wilbur, at Charterstone. Here’s what Karen has to say about Dawn:
She represents youth in a mainly senior strip. She grew up with her mother in Connecticut as an ugly duckling – picked on, bullied, and ostracized. When she moved across the country to live with her father in Santa Royale at 15, she blossomed into a beautiful strong young woman who, despite still trying to find her way, is thriving. Sadly, Dawn’s romantic life has been disappointing so far.
Dawn met Mary when she came to live with Wilbur. She was a troubled teen who was vindictive, deceptive, and unpleasant. Mary saw through that and encouraged Dawn’s potential to be a better person. With Mary’s guidance and friendship, as well as the friendship of others at Charterstone, Dawn turned her life around, became closer to her father, and found a kind of peace living in Santa Royale.
Many years ago Dawn was an overweight unhappy teen who closely resembled Wilbur. This was before she got contacts and took up swimming. She was destructive, hateful, and lied a lot. Her former self does not resemble who she is today. She’s grown out of that painful time in her life. As do we all. She still has growing pains, but they are much easier to deal with nowadays.
The first time I wrote for Dawn I ghost-wrote the ending of her relationship with Woody Hills, a young college professor who had mental problems. They were both kind of kindred spirits. Theirs was the real thing. Sadly their love was marked by the tragedy of his illness. Before his sister took him away to a mental institution, they had a very touching goodbye. Dawn came to see him and he thought, “Dawn, go away…I’m no good for you.”
The favorite kinds of scenes that I like to write for Dawn are the ones between her and Wilbur. They are very close as father and daughter. This is surprising to both of them. He was living a bachelor life for a long time while she was with her mother in Connecticut. Being parental wasn’t part of his plan except during the infrequent times she used to visit him. As for her she didn’t spend a lot of time with him except for during long school breaks when she was able to fly out to stay with him. She used to call him “Wilbur” for a while before she called him “Dad.”
I enjoy writing humor in the strip when I can. Tom Batiuk is a master of including humor in a serious situation in a comic strip. I learn a lot from his work. I also like to write scenarios for Dawn where she is involved in a romantic relationship. She will be happy one day in that department, but until then, she will continue to experience different kinds of involvements. I’d like to write a story where Dawn’s in a relationship – either a friendship or romantic bond – that really works for her. It doesn’t have to last forever, but she’s had several devastating disappointments in her life and it’d be nice to see her with a real friend outside the people at Charterstone.
Writing for Dawn is great. She brings a youthful counterpoint – vulnerability, naïvete, a sometimes carelessness – to the more senior attitude of experience, maturity, careful reasoning. The challenge is to write a character that is no longer a dependent child, but is not yet a fully mature adult. She loves her father, but she also wants to create a life for herself that is hers. She’s emotional, yet has a growing maturity.
Here are some of Karen’s favorite “Dawn Moments” from MARY WORTH: