My first prose story, published by The Verge 2/8/19

It’s called Move The World, and it was a pretty bumpy buggy ride. It feels so naked without any pictures, but that in itself is probably good exercise— if a story has to stand up without images to make its points, it might strengthen the story in several ways. Not in all ways, because there are so many skills that a writer has to have to write prose that don’t overlap with comics at all: brevity and precision of vocabulary, or the right word at the right time, that was a big one. Sense of momentum I found I could manage, that wasn’t so different. But one of my studio sisters, upon reading it, chuckled over how visual it is. This is undoubtedly because I was straining to “see” everything I was creating, since I wasn’t going to be drawing this story after the writing part was over. Unless I do.

And how ‘bout that art? Zoë Van Dijk, that sure is pretty art!

Here comes a thought

Watching PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA, one of the things that sticks with me is the fact that the perky, happy, slice-of-silly-life magical girl intro has almost nothing to do with the story. The cast is recognizable, but none of the events depicted ever happen in the show, and— much more important— the tone set by the intro is totally at odds with what follows. Now, lots of anime (looking at you, FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST) has horrifyingly awful things going on in its story, and then has happy, bouncy, popcorn-chompy end credits, the whole running-and-laughing type thing. It’s really jarring, but it’s the end credits. It doesn’t set the tone. MADOKA, on the other hand, is a total bait-and-switch. You think you’re watching another sorta basic magical girl story. Even bright and cheerful anime often has high-stakes themes or veers into WTF territory, but MADOKA definitely is playing with the viewer’s expectations. They want to crush crush crush your head.

THE DRAGON PRINCE is a Netflix Original. This means that, after the first episode, you don’t have to watch the opening sequence or end credits. This is a mercy from On High and I wish more streaming services did this. But through the end credits, there are pencil drawings that are funny and clever, suggesting little scenes of current or past events in the show. The showrunners say that these are part of the story. So far, my beady eye has not discerned any dropped handkerchiefs about underlying mysteries or future events… but that doesn’t mean there were none, or that there won’t be in the future.

It would be funny as hell to have slight (or even major) differences in each opening sequence, and/or major hints in the closing credits. Me, I’d be half tempted to leave the first ten seconds of both the same, and tell some wildly different part of the story each time. Like, write the opening sequence from a different person’s point of view every time, or have a puzzle in each end credit sequence. Or do each opener in a different style or aspect. This opener’s from a famous literary soliloquy, the next one’s in the actual words of the person the soliloquy depicts— for example, the first version depicted is the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s HENRY V, a famously rousing pre-battle drum-beater. The second version would be an attempt at recreating what King Henry might actually have said before the Battle of Agincourt. The third could be a fistfight between rival historians who’ve had a snootful at a university holiday party, I dunno. The possibilities are endless. The thought of getting away with this for a while until some viewer catches on is dee-licious.


This is the thing I want to make happen on Patreon. I'm gonna post a bunch more stuff related to it this month. Like the look? Your support is very much appreciated, because this book will, literally, never exist without it. ONEIRADORA means DREAM GIFT.

God Bless Fans Of Minor Characters

  Because PINK LARS. 



  OK, back up: I've always found myself leaning towards loving the villain, the anti-hero, the oddball, whichever character is played not by a sleek, angular love-beast but by someone with a little oddness to their beauty. In other words, Character Actors. When I say I love the villain, it's not because I think villainous acts are cool. Ditto anti-heroes; most of the time they're just off-white knights. They're really heroes with a little tarnish. But what a difference that tarnish makes.

  Standards for *HEROES* are hard to meet, and heroes take a lot of crap when they don't live up to them. But I maintain that a hero isn't necessarily the same thing as a protagonist, because at this time and in this place in storytelling, a hero is an emulative figure, somebody to look up to. Somebody better than the average person. The Greeks didn't seem to care that much about the moral or ethical responsibilities of, say, Hercules or Achilles; they were horrible people on a personal level. Expecting heroes to have no flaws or failings at all makes for tedious storytelling, though. It is the flex between failing and striving that makes characters feel human.

  This is not to say I can't conceive of a true paragon, a hero who holds the banner high. That hero just has to have their feet firmly planted in the muck and know how nasty life can be and still be willing to say 'within the reach of my arm, the world will be better.' That's a hero. You need hero characters. Most of us don't have our feet under us that well.

  That's what makes the ones who have fallen down, and are maybe still falling, and don't know how to pick themselves up so interesting. Sometimes they never make it, and they really are villains. Sometimes their one or two decent acts are not enough to balance their awful ones, and they are failed heroes.  Sometimes they can't believe in themselves as heroes, and their self-loathing is confused with humility; that's a tarnished knight. Redemption's a road we're all on. We've all got something to make up for. 

  Lilo of LILO & STITCH is a hero. She's a weird little nerd-larva with a wild imagination. There's a little scene early in her film that I love. She's leaving the studio where she takes dance lessons. The other girls don't like her, but she's game to keep trying. They all have fashion dolls, and she has a rag doll that she made. While she's introducing her rag doll (with a suitably bizarre backstory about parasite infestation and surgical recovery), the other girls quietly flee. Angry and embarrassed by her failed social attempt, Lilo slams her doll into the dirt and stomps off... for a long moment... then she runs back, grabs up her discarded doll, hugs it fiercely, and carries it away with her. 

  This scene makes me tear up every time. "You GO, little nerdling, don't let anybody tell you who or what you can love!" I'm so proud of Lilo in that moment. Scrump, her doll, didn't get her what she wanted. Lilo loves Scrump anyway. She made Scrump, and Scrump is awkward, but Lilo loves her. Scrump's imperfections are part of her charm. This is not to say that Lilo won't or shouldn't get better at making dolls or whatever else as she grows older, not that she might not attain a high degree of skill later in life. But Scrumpy has a charm all her own that shouldn't be ignored or discarded in favor of more even stitching or skillful stuffing. Grown-up Lilo might choose to give her creations deliberate 'imperfections' to create that charm, the same way Japanese potters practice wabi-sabi in their art. They find beauty in chips, cracks, and other flaws. It's a philosophical point.

  Which brings me to Lars. Lars is a character who is getting his star turn on the TV show STEVEN UNIVERSE. Lars has never really been a villain. He's not big enough for that; he's not a threat. What Lars is is an annoying, awkward, conflicted teenager, one of the masses of ordinary Earth people whom the powerful Crystal Gems protect from annihilation at the hands of their home civilization. 

  He's REALLY annoying, awkward, and conflicted. I mean, not a dashing rogue with a heart of gold. Not a sassy Peter Pan who will always do the right thing after he yells about it a little. He's more of a Snape figure, a genuinely unlikeable person who is always unhappy and treats people around him pretty badly. 

  /Sidebar: If Movie Snape hadn't been played by the mellifluous Alan Rickman, Book Snape would never have become the goth emo hero he was. I loves me some Snape, I truly do, but I know how characters evolve. /Sidebar out.

  Lars is full of fears and doubts and he wants to be cool so badly that he can't admit that he loves the things he loves. He's a mess. He's tied up into a million knots, and hates everything, because he's cut himself off from all the things he's really good at, because he's afraid someone might think they're weird. He can't even admit he has a girlfriend, because Sadie loves the shit out of him, but she doesn't even TRY to be cool. This is because Sadie knows there's a difference between looking cool and actually being cool, which comes from knowing who you are and what you like and what you stand for, whether these things are big or small. Sadie isn't glamorous, so Lars doesn't let anyone know they're dating, least of all himself. In a show that is all about love and acceptance and relationships, his annoying, whiny, why-are-you-like-this presence seemed only to be to provide a foil for the regular kids who DO know what they love and are willing to pursue it.

  Late in the game we find out that Lars is a great baker. Lars has a family recipe that comes from his Filipino or part-Filipino heritage. Lars would gouge out his own eyeballs before he would admit that he really loves making fancy cakes and such... but the Cool Kids (tm) invite him to a pot luck, and he goes for it. 

  Or not. In the end, even though the Cool Kids are not looking for him to prove himself, they just want to hang out, he can't do it; he drops his amazing cake in the trash and slinks away, and we feel worst for Sadie, who is having a fine time hanging out but is heartbroken because she can't untie Lars's knots any more than he can.


  But it gets worse first.

  Actual-Villain Gems come from Homeworld, kidnap all of Steven's human friends, and in the skirmish to free them, only Lars doesn't have the sense to run OFF of the Gem ship. He and Steven are taken to the Gem homeworld. Thrills and escapes and Lars is basically useless and enfuriating-- LIKE ALWAYS-- until he realizes that he can exploit blind spots in the massively sophisticated Gem technology. They don't value organic life. they don't think of it as useful in any way. Presumably there isn't any on Homeworld. So the scary robots that hunt down unwanted Gems (called Off-Colors) can't even see him. He hasn't got a gem, so he doesn't count... so he has a unique ability to hide, to evade, and to protect the little group of outcast Homeworld Gems who are trying to help him and Steven. Lars is valuable! Lars can be a hero! LARS GOES NUTS!

  Lars dies.

  Lars hasn't been training for this all his life like Steven; Lars hasn't got any magic or technology to protect him. Lars just sails in like Tarzan, heart first, all his long-thwarted desire to do good and not be crippled by fear poured out in one big fight... and he gets himself killed.

  This isn't the end for him. I'd need a lot more space to talk about all the other things that come together to save Lars. Suffice it to say he isn't as vulnerable to being hurt anymore, and he has a dimensional portal that connects Homeworld to Earth in his hair, and he's got a cool scar. And he's pink. Hair and all. He's a cotton candy hero. And though other people can get to and from Earth through him, he's currently stuck where he is. And when Sadie finds out about al this, first she's gonna tear Steven limb from limb, and THEN I hope she goes full Jungle Queen and joins Lars in his perpetual, desperate, ass-kicking hide-and-run on Gem Homeworld and they will be SO AMAZING.

  I heart this show with the grew-three-sizes-that-day Grinch heart. I really do. Redeeming a character is HARD. You have to make them terrible. Then you have to make them wonderful. I loves me some Pink Lars. All the fan art from folks who loved Lars BEFORE his Face Turn is great. "See? SEE?? <3<3<3" 





Original Art: Last Five NO MERCY Covers

I am preparing the remaining five pieces of color art that served as covers for the Image series NO MERCY for sale. Sign up for the mailing list to get the first look at the pretty, pretty art!

Foundational Comics

  One of my Desert Fathers of comics is Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius. A wizard, a visionary, a creator able to drag you into his worlds of glimpsed detail, he just threw you down onto the streets and gullies of his stories. Whether it's the dust in your throat and the smell of horses and sagebrush in his cowboy epic or the soaring alien landscapes of his inner-space operas, YOU ARE THERE. There's junk in the gutters and trash cans of the kind that an anthropologist could spend lifetimes sorting out, if that were the only clue to the reality of the worlds Moebius created. He gave the spaceship NOSTROMO its garbagey, lived-in feel for the movie ALIEN. For TRON he made the costume design elegant and functional in turns and he made a digital prophet in the form of a Sphinx.  He's one of my pantheon, one of the greats, and I never tire of what he does well.

  But then there are the things he does not do well. Maybe it's just my taste. But I have a problem with one of my favorites. 

  I'm rereading THE GARDENS OF EDENA, or reading it with all its scattered bits and bobs together for the first time. It's a beautiful new hardback from Dark Horse. I gather that Stel and Atan, the two goofy protagonists, arose out of a need to draw a bunch of illustrations for Citroen. I loooove Stel and Atan, especially when they do go putting around the stars or weird planets in an incongruous little car... they're good partners, veering from weird adventure to weird adventure. They seem gender-neutral, or gender-not-the-point, at any rate. They are not lovers. They seem masculine in some ways, feminine in others, and it was really refreshing! I love a lot of Moebius's other characters: he does good 'dorky everyman' without making that everyman emasculated and hopeless, and his sexy characters are loads of fun too. But Stel and Atan were different. They were friends. They could only be together because they liked each other, and worked well together, because there was no sexual dynamic between them at all.

  For a while.

  Then Moebius decided that the way to go forward past their dashed-off origin situation-- sketches for Citroen-- was to imagine them as having existed in an 'artificial' society, artifice here having the negative connotation commonly held. Stel and Atan are quite young, and yet take for granted a ridiculous degree of medical intervention as necessary for health. They've both had multiple organ transplants, including many hearts and lungs. They both have implants that protect them from infection and other illnesses, but also regulate their hormone levels (producing their asexual appearances and hairlessness, and presumably dealing with graft-vs-host disease from their transplants, but that's neither here nor there). See where this is going?

  Well, one misadventure leaves them stranded on a beautiful world with the slightly eye-rolly name of 'Edena' or 'Aedena,' depending on which book you're reading. Planets called Eden are a hoary old space-opera trope. Anyway, Aedena is beautiful beyond belief, and our two friends get stuck there. They've never eaten fruit off trees or consumed water out of the hole in the ground, and find the idea more than a little disgusting. Moebius wanted to show them relearning to live in a natural world, reconnecting to ordinary human rhythms. They're utterly at sea. Is Atan's dizziness and delirium early on due to hunger? Dehydration? An infection that his implants fought off? They're afraid and uncomfortable. Over time they figure some things out. But again, you see where this is going. Stel puts on some muscle. Atan, though, is sure this world is making him sick, because he's lost a lot of weight and isn't as strong as he used to be. When they finally strip down at a river's edge for a bath, you can see that Atan has lost a lot of upper-body muscle, a bit of weight overall, and has developed breasts as well as blond hair.

  All that would be FINE. If Stel didn't try to rape his friend of years and years. Atan crowns him with a rock and runs away. Stel is sorry, but done is done. They spend a lot of the next adventures alone... but we're sticking much closer to Stel. 

  Stel is as lost as he ever was in the wilderness that is Aedena. The temperate forest part they landed in is as perfect as if it were a tended garden, which is, if I may say, just as 'artificial' as the world Stel and Atan grew up in. The landscape they travel through changes to jungle and finally to desert, and seems much more wild and unkept, though there are still many suggestions of keepers. Stel proceeds on his road to nowhere, becoming more ripped and masculine, having more weird dreams that are clearly not dreams, the big one involving finding Atan, who is now completely damseled, held captive by a metaphysical monster which fate worse than death blah blah blah blah horrible. Of COURSE when Atan meets Stel in the dream he's wearing a pretty blue dress and has his long shampoo-commercial tresses smoothly brushed. Of COURSE he wants to make love NOW. It makes me grit my teeth to call Atan 'she,' to hear both characters append an 'a' to her name to feminize it. Stel has changed every bit as much as Atan has, and YET he does not change HIS name. And the fact that Atan was a partner, fully engaged in whatever ridiculous things they were doing, and is now just another princess in a tower, this is enfuriating. Atan might well connect with femininity and decide to call herself 'she' and change her name. But it's never presented as a choice she made. It just happened. And Stel is the one to start using feminine pronouns and calling his erstwhile friend 'Atana.'

  Atana is beautiful. So beautiful. Of course.

 Then we catch up with Atan in real life, still far from wherever Stel happens to be, trekking, as he is, just moving for the sake of moving, and we see that Atan has gotten all ripped and Jungle Queeny. At that point I was willing to put the Anger Finger down and go "OK. That was just Stel. Of course his identity colors his dreams. Let's see where this goes." Well, where that goes is that both Stel and Atan are captured by citizens of an even more 'artificial' society than the one they came from: people who wear protective gear so all-encompassing that they consider an uncovered human face as grotesque. The whole human body is taboo to them, at all times, in all places. Nudity includes the face and hands, regardless of gender, and is Not Done. Being captured by these people is more or less the end of Atan's identity as an individual.

  This capture takes place in part three, "The Goddess," and, yep, you guessed it, Atan is the goddess in question, and Atan remains basically comatose for most of the rest of the book. Two-thirds of the book... and naturally Stel keeps trying to find and yawwwwwwwwn rescue her. And even though some parts of this book have burrowed deep into my consciousness (as long-time readers of my own work will see), I have never been able to read it much past the middle of "The Goddess." I gather that the bigger forces at work have nefarious plans. Don't much care. What I do care about is that Atan's agency is destroyed bit by bit until it seems as if... he doesn't even exist? He's just Stel's anima, a projection of his dreams? And Stel, having left Aedena, at the end will travel back there to be united with that anima, which he claims to love? Mmmph.

  Stel and Atan could have been so much better. I would have loved them so much more if they had just retained their solid partnership, no matter how their bodies changed or whatever they did. I might even have been able to excuse the attempted rape on Stel's part; neither of them ever had any sex ed, because it's implied neither had ever expected or been expected to use their junk for anything. If that awakening had been handled EVER so many other ways, they could have been great. But mostly what guts me is that in the end they're not just puttin' around the brightly-colored landscape in a battered Citroen, laughing and heading for the next bizarre work-for-hire or other misadventure, rolling their eyes at their provincial former friends, who now think they're grotesque and don't understand why they don't get surgery to go back to "normal."

  I miss them as friends. I don't think they gained anything deeper. Their friendship was better.









ECCC today!

  Headed off to Seattle for Emerald City Comic-Con today! (Yes, I'm missing the first day of the show; it couldn't be helped). This could be my only West Coast appearance, so please, come out and see me! I'll be in the Artist's Alley, but, since I was kinda last minute, I have no idea where. I will have loads of original art, I will have books, I will be sketching madly. I will be on a panel on Saturday to talk about Adam Warren's EMPOWERED comic!

  After the show I will be hanging around in Portland for a few days, drinking I mean visiting loads of my favorite cartoonists. I've been dreaming of this for over a year, I don't get out to the Happy Hunting Grounds nearly often enough. 

  Still formulating my convention schedule, so watch this space!


Patreon Posts

  I have a Patreon account! I tend to just scan whatever I'm working on, whenever contracts permit, and scan it a couple times a week. 

  I was yipyapping about Terry Pratchett's witches on Twitter with some friends, and ended up making an attempt at drawing Nanny Ogg as a child. They're posted here. 

  I also post eight-page sections of FINDER after they appear in DARK HORSE PRESENTS but before-- like, quite a long way before-- they will be collected into graphic novel format. Check it out! You can make a lot of things happen on Patreon!

The Valentine's Day Sale and ECCC Commission List!

  Time to lower some prices, make some offers, and start a new list for commissioned drawings! If you want to buy a drawing for a partner, friend, or lover, email me at lightspeedpress (at) gmail-dot-com, and I'll have an e-card you can give to them over the wine and cheese!

  Cover art is now on sale, and books will ship free once I figure out how to do that! Watch this space...

  EDITED TO ADD: Ok, can't figure out how to do free shipping. But there is a percentage discount code until the 21st! Enter WHYAORTA during checkout, and thank you in advance!

  EVENING UPDATE: Holy merde! All the covers are gone! 

Well, I still have some NO MERCY covers left: Death Beach, BLUR/Gap Year Kids, Sister Ines/Disney Princess, aaaaand Chad Boo Hiss. Shall I put those up tomorrow? I'll put 'em up.


Announcing the "Ramona Knows Best" Furniture Drive

I spend a whole day every twenty pages fixing what I call Womp Face. I assumed it was just a brain thing, that facial proportions just go wonky on me because I am busted in the head. I tend to distort faces as if they were silly putty, pulled up and to the left, too small on the right side. I flip pages over and overcorrect the other way, hoping they come out somewhere in the middle.

Fixing Womp Face is tedious, tedious work.

Ramona Fradon, if you don't know her name, is an amazing lady, a pioneering woman drawing comics during the Silver Age. She drew Aquaman, Brenda Starr, Plastic Man, Metamorpho... so much! She's been around the block a time or two, and when a cartoonist who can still draw like a house on fire at 89 tells you you draw cockeyed because you draw on your lap, well, maybe it's time you got a drafting table.

I have drawn not even one page in twenty years on a drafting table. I don't have any of the setup. SO... since it's not just the table but the right kind of lamp and a chair that won't kill my back and maybe a new lightbox, a whole rig: I have to say, if anybody is inclined to throw me a couple bucks to further this goal, I have new items in my shop. I will be attending SPX in a few days and NYCC in a few weeks, and I am open to accepting commissions at lightspeedpress (at) gmail (dot) com.




Secret Gardens

  Theodora Goss wrote something nice which made me think these things: 

  Diana Wynne Jones writes about the place where she grew up. Her parents ran an educational conference center, and there were three gardens on the grounds: one which was public, open to all, where the outside world was part of the goings-on. Everyday life took place there. She and her sisters played there. Then there was a formal garden: when you went there, it wasn't on the way to anything else. The flowers and trees and paths were all there for themselves, a bit more rare, a bit more graceful. Last there was a true Secret Garden, hidden behind walls, which was kept locked, and rarely visited by the children. In there were fruit trees, and mysterious statuary, and remarkably aggressive bees, all the carefully-tended vegetable plots. The remarkable Ms. Jones says that in all her books she strives to create those three gardens again. Every book has its outer grounds, where ordinary life happens. Might be pretty, might be plain, might need more tending, will always have odd bits of rubbish or lost toys or keys or similar discarded under bushes. Some books manage the second garden, where things are more carefully cultivated and strange things more likely to happen... but not all books have that third garden, the heart of any vivid experience, where anything could happen but where the pattern of the book, seemingly simple, is shown to be a tiny part of a vast fractal weather pattern, which the reader may never fully grasp no matter how many paths she wanders in it. No book can spend all its time in that third garden; the other two play their parts. But books don't feel like living things without at least showing you the garden gates, even if you can't get through them.

  I cannot understand why so few people have read Diana Wynne Jones's books. She should be a staple among fantasy readers and lovers of well-written books everywhere. There should be t-shirt, leggings, and duvet covers at WeLoveFine, and not just for HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. Her posthumously published collection of essays and lectures, REFLECTIONS: ON THE MAGIC OF WRITING is a treasure box. Diana Wynne Jones and Shirley Jackson were soul sisters, and we lost both of them way too young. They both should have been magically pickled to live at LEAST a couple hundred years. Which is a story germ if I ever heard one. 


Making People, Part 2

  Everybody knows about ball-joint dolls by now, right?

  Okay, back up: Most of us grew up with Dolls For Girls (that usually meant Barbie) and Action Figures For Boys (which, when I was a kid, meant G.I. Joe). Barbie, with her clicky bendy vinyl-covered knees. The kid I was bent 'em fifty ways until one joint popped through the vinyl, revealing the structure underneath. Science! Then that leg was amputated, and half a ball-point pen made a dandy peg leg, and that same pen made gaps in her teeth and five-o-clock shadow and some tats, and Babs was launched on her career as the Scourge of the Caribbean. Modifying dolls is a thing that comes naturally to every kid.

  Many doll traditions have as an article of faith that a doll is, or can be, a person. Go look up bunraku on youtube, it's one of the great classic styles of Japanese theater. Dolls don't have the same life as puppets, but there's still loads of character-building there... The good folks who make Asian ball-joint dolls, or BJDs, take dolls to a whole 'nother level. Like this, or this, or this. These dolls are terrifyingly expensive, exactingly sculpted, and cast in resin, which is light and very strong. BJD enthusiasts paint and repaint the faces and bodies, change out the wigs and eyes, and oh BOY, the clothes. Holy mama, the clothes. But the ball joints are what give these dolls a lot of their whammy. Remember Pirate Babs and her one remaining clicky knee? As movements go, she's not even on the same level as Lon Chaney's Frankenstein. Let's count her joints, or points of articulation: head turns side to side (1), shoulder swivel (2), hip swivel (2), bendy knee (1). That's six (but would be seven if it wasn't for Science). That's OLD Barbie, mind you; there's a world of Barbies out there now with way more articulation than that-- more on those later. But Barbie was made to strut down a catwalk. She looks good standing. Ball joint dolls do stuff like this and this and this. Points of articulation vary, but your typical BJD's neck joint is hemispherical, which means that one joint can swivel all kinds of ways. Your doll can look up or duck its chin, can tilt its head to give you the side-eye. Your doll's elbows and knees will most likely be hinged rather than ball joints, but that's not unlike the type of joint we actually have, so no big. The shoulders, wrists, hips, and ankles will be ball-jointed, which mean the legs and arms can swivel and turn with a great range of motion. There may be one or more torso joints, so your doll can tuck into a ball or flex into an arabesque. There are a minimum of fourteen points of articulation, and the types of joint used open up a world of my favorite thing, posture and gesture.

  This is a fan thing, so there are clubs and cliques and rules and ideals, for what all that's worth. The resin-doll folks tend to stay away from the vinyl dolls, like Tonner and Fashion Royalty  and Monster High. There are SO MANY fourteen-or-more jointed dolls out there, holy shmoley, and some of them are really awesome. People take off their factory paint and do all kinds of crazymazing things with them too. How about boil perms for natural hair? Or tattoos? Or just adding details to make a doll more what you imagined it would look like? 

  One inescapable difference between the average resin BJD and fashion doll is size. The resin dolls are bigger. Some of 'em are two feet tall! Fashion dolls take their lead from Barbie, who is a 1/6 scale doll-- this means two inches equal one foot. So, for example, a doll based on a woman who stands 5' 6" tall would be 11" high without bendy plastic platform shoes. Lots of resin dolls are twice that scale. This difference is not minor. The smaller dolls are fiddlier to paint. Their clothes are even harder to make, because the fabrics that drape and gather and stretch nicely on a person may not work on a resin doll and will look completely ridiculous on a vinyl doll half that size.

  This is all going somewhere, I swear. My itchy itchy hand always wants to get into making people. Har-de-har, you thought I forgot about action figures, didn't you? The folks who are way into modifying dolls are all into the skinny elfy anime characters, right? HA HA HA HA HA. More on THAT rabbit-hole later.

  I leave you with this fashion doll, Momoko; this resin doll, Aaron, and this nameless, seamless soft-vinyl-skin doll.  Lots of trade-offs to weigh.




Making People #1: Lisa Lichtenfels, figures in fabric

Lisa Lichtenfels makes people out of stiff wire armatures, cotton batting, and nylon stockings. I have seen these sculptures with my beady, bloodshot eyes, and they are distressingly realistic. They have great presence. 

I spend a lot of time fiddling with details to make characters seem real in various ways. Human beings are powerfully imitative; what we see or hear or sense, we want to represent, whether visually, verbally, or in some other descriptive fashion. We have a potent fascination with recreation of what we experience, whether it's drawing the human figure, creating texture with oil paint, or inadvertently dueling with selfie sticks in crowded tourist attractions.

 Making people is a particular fascination of mine. I have funneled all the energy of what I call my Obsess-O-Matic into doing this with pencil and pen, but in between drawing projects, or when I'm feeling burned out, I find the Obesso-Ray seeking other ways to do this. I have nearly zero sewing skills, so I'm not gonna try to get the same effects that Ms. Lichtenfels has achieved. Look at thiiiis: Empress Livia 

And thiiiiiisss: En Pointe

And THIIIIISSSSS: The Calligrapher 

Her narrative descriptions are a little cringey, but her work itself is stunning. She approaches the making of her figures as I do: as the making of people. She's brilliant.


To the Art List Folks

I will tinker with this as I go, but right now the plan is this: all subscribers to the Art List will get an email once a month with no more than five new pieces of art and all their details. Whatever has not sold from the last list will be taken down from the store, and the new art will go up. 

So: within a few days there will be a new list. Today, I am putting the wildly-colored "Piranhacoyote" cover from NO MERCY #2 up for sale on eBay.


New Art In Store

There are five-- oops, scratch that, four new pieces of art in the store, one just flew away. Make the rest of 'em fly out the Moon Door! Please let me know if you want personalizations when you buy, and thanks!

Hopelessly In Love


I have been fascinated by the process of capturing movement and gesture with simple lines all my life. As a kid in the pre-VHS Dark Ages I'd sit through four showings of a Disney movie at my town's dilapidated twin-plex in one go. Nobody ever came and rousted me out, don't know why.

It's hard to explain how NOT filled with beautiful drawings the world was then.

But I look at this gorgeous piece by Ryan Woodward and I realize, when I watch actual dancers-- whether filmed or live-- I am enjoying their art more imagining them animated. 



New Hotness/Old and Busted

How do you design a show banner that doesn't look dated in a year? Three thoughts:

One: Change your banner image every time you start a new major project. Even if the look and feel of a new book is not substantially different from previous work, even if the main character hasn't changed, you can reinterpret that look, take a few risks. Pick something really striking and poetic, an image that sums up the whole project.

Two: Change your banner image every time you completely redo your website. Repeating the images you use to draw people to your site helps get it into their heads like bright, sparkly brain-chiggers.

Three: Change your banner every time someone puts a foot through it during tear-down at a show. This is certainly the most economical option.

No, really; finding a balance between sticking to a really striking, iconic image, especially one that people are used to looking for to locate you at shows, and making your look fresh and new to reflect evolution of your style in art and story, it's tricky. Movie posters oscillate between abstract-stylish-icon, like the poster for VERTIGO or JAWS, and Big Faces Of Stars, which show people the pretty pretty mugs of the angular love-beasts they follow into the theaters. Posters and covers have their tropes and iconography. Learn 'em, use 'em, break 'em if they don't serve your needs, tastes, and philosophies. When I made my banner image, I used a character that is often but not always my protagonist. I made an essentially life-size image of him; people like to take pictures with him. He's in his natural habitat (dirt) and there are other elements you can't see unless you walk up to the table. I hope it suggests that there's more to see than first meets the eye.

BUT I've trotted it around for years, and I'll be thinking of a new one starting....



Guest Post: Tim O'Shea on NO MERCY

I distinctly remember the moment I was hooked to the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock incarnation. It was even before you were introduced to Sherlock, when his presence was felt from offscreen via a series of texts to journalists from Sherlock during a police press conference.

In the opening pages of No Mercy #1 I got that same vibe. De Campi and Carla Speed McNeil introduce the cast via dialogue and narration played out via various forms of social media.The mostly teen cast features people from all walks of life and social strata. Without spoiling elements of the first issue, I will say I am particularly drawn to one character who partially relates to people via emoticons.

The emoticons are not heavy handed or sappy. They work within context, and as the drama of the story ramps up, serves to pull at your sympathies for certain character dynamics.

The story has elements that will appeal to a Young Adult audience to a certain extent while also giving enough mystery and drama to pull on adult consumers.

Such a balance is not easy to achieve.

Tim O'Shea (, who has covered comics and pop culture for various websites since 1999, currently contributes to Robot 6 ( and his own pop culture blog, Talking with Tim (