Thank you.

Hey. This is just a quick note to say something that I don’t say often enough – that most people don’t say often enough.

Thanks for listening to me out here on the Internet. Thanks for spreading the reach of my work with your links, if you’ve done that; thanks for supporting my work via Patreon, Kickstarter, or buying it in a comic shop, if you’ve done that. (And please don’t feel any new obligation to do these things if you haven’t.)

Thanks for all your favorites of my art on gallery sites; thanks for spending the past month or two putting me in a place where I get to have the privilege of grumbling about how much work doing a second edition of my Tarot deck is going to be.

And even if all you’ve done is to silently consume my work, without doing any of these other things – thank you for listening to my ramblings and looking at my drawings. I hope that their effect on your life has been generally for the better.

Anyway. It is a sunny day, and I am sitting outside of Peet’s flipping off a Google Maps car as it drives around Green Lake, and I should get to work on drawing my queer sci-fi comics. Thanks for giving me an audience. ❤🧡💛💚💙💜

The Reverse Marvel Method

Shower thought: Nick and I are currently doing Parallax in the Reverse Marvel Method.

The Marvel Method works like this: SUE and JANE get together and come up with an idea for a plot. JANE goes off and draws it, doing her best to tell the story entirely in pictures. Then SUE writes captions and dialogue that expand on JANE’s drawings. Optionally, SUE will go on to take all the credit and financial reward for creating this stable of beloved characters.

The Marvel Method is in contrast to the script-first method, wherein SUE writes a script that lays out all of the dialogue and all of the panel transitions, hands it off to JANE, who pretty much follows all of SUE’s directions.

The Reverse Marvel Method, on the other hand? SUE and JANE get together and come up with an idea for a plot; SUE goes off and writes a script that’s got loose descriptions of the scenery and actions but leaves all the page and panel decisions out. JANE takes the script and draws it, making all the decisions about how to best break it up into pages and panels. Whether she will also go on to take all the credit and financial rewards is an open question; I’m hoping to avoid it.

There is a lot of trust involved in the Marvel Method and the Reverse Marvel Method that isn’t in the script-first method. SUE trusts JANE to tell the story in a series of pictures; JANE knows her stuff. But she can’t always be sure JANE’s going to be the one drawing her stuff in script-first; maybe JANE’s getting behind and JESSIE, the editor on the book, brings in STELLA to fill in for an issue, maybe JESSIE is juggling budget for ten books and decides to let FRANCESCA have her first try at graduating from being an intern on this one. SUE arguably has to lay everything out panel by panel to give the book a chance to not become a mess if FRANCESCA still has a lot to learn about telling a story in pictures.

This may have been more interesting in the shower; I dunno.

workin’ workin’

I’ve been spending most of my time lately working on that funny-animal space epic I’ve been kicking around for the past couple of years. Here’s a few screenshots I’ve posted on lately.

I’ve fixed the typo in the last sentence since taking this screenshot.

Kirt is a very very pretty boy.

Sometimes it feels like I have to sit around for a while designing something for every single page. This one’s nowhere near done.

Lighting is very important sometimes.

Color’s important too. I dreaded drawing this giant space station for weeks, then just kinda made it happen without much thought at all – I had a pretty solid basic concept in my head, lifted from a moderately obscure Big Dumb Object novel teenage me liked.

I’ve got four pages of this done, with a few more in varying degrees of progress, and about ten or so that only exist as Nick’s script. Nick’s been working on the script for the other first chapter of this story; I’m hoping to be able to start drawing that in the near future too. I really need to spend some time turning the Parallax page of my site from a placeholder into something I can start throwing finished pages into; right now nobody but folks supporting me on Patreon have seen the full pages.

an unexpected megadose of Nostalgia

Oh, damn.

So most of my listening lately has been out of an iTunes Smart Playlist called “not recently overplayed”; it contains all the music in my collection that hasn’t been played or skipped in the last three weeks, and that hasn’t been played more than fifteen times. It’s been part of an attempt to make me go find some new music. Which has sort of worked, sort of not.

I just made its counterpart: a playlist that automatically shows stuff that hasn’t been played or skipped in the last three weeks, but *has* been played more than fifteen times. And holy shit is it full of music I know by heart. All the albums I can halfway play in my head. And a few tracks that have a much higher play-count than the rest of the album because I clearly really like them – or have put them on a manually-curated playlist for some reason.

I should still go Look For New Music now and then. Finding a source for recommendations still kinda feels like work; figuring out how to convince an algorithm to give me music I might enjoy without it just feeding me the same stuff that’s already on my “recently not played but clearly beloved” playlist sounds even more like work.

A Pleasant Cup Of Tea

click this tiny thumbnail for a definitely NSFW image

Who wouldn’t enjoy a nice cup of tea next to a hot tub on a nice evening? Especially when you’re sharing it with an old friend.

Another one of those commissions I took at the beginning of the month to try and get my work habits back in good shape. It’s been working. This one did interesting things to my attention span; it felt like it I was making no progress for most of the time I worked on it, despite it actually going at a steady pace. I’ve gotten so used to cranking out a full figure for a comics panel in a half an hour that drawing someone with enough limbs to make for two and a half characters felt like it took forever, even though it only actually took about two and a half times as long. Worth it, though; I’m pretty happy with the results.

Also, to save you some counting: eight.

the dream of some horrible shit

Dear brain why did you think it was a good idea to dream I was sharing a bed with John K. Uuugggghhhhh. The part where he was confessing his evil past and trying to drug me with big needles was not good either, even if I did get to have my hands around his throat and end up jamming those needles through his hand and into his face. Repeatedly. Which was both really horrible and kind of good.

The second part of the dream was no better. Okay the part about flying a nimble little X-Wing-ish craft out of the reach of some “T-wings” that had an attack involving trying to crush me with huge metal plate wings was kind of fun. But. After some other stuff I was running across a yard from an assassin, who had previously demonstrated his weapon: a small thrown object designed to look like some kind of clockwork hummingbird, with razor wings. He casually threw it as me. I batted it out of the air and felt my left hand get a little sliced; I then fell to the grass as he started to explain how he had anticipated how I’d react to that first attack, and… I lost the rest of it, only noting something about the blades being poisoned, as I tried to crush its body, only to watch it shift and blur into some kind of horrible hybrid of plant leaves with markings that looked like a squirrel, which started running at me… and then I lurched to the right and woke right the fuck up with “oh so that’s what an avern looks like” bouncing through my head.

I have nightmares where I get killed by weird alien plant weapons out of The Book Of The New Sun. 10/10 for style, brain, but negative six hundred for a dream where I had to literally yank myself away from the brink of death. None like that ever again please brain.

I need to pee.


So this morning I looked in on Robyn Byrd’s twitter account. I was following a link to a screengrab she’d posted of John K sending her probably-drunken abuse and threats; as I skimmed the rest of her account, I found a list.

Ever since she and Katie came out about the way John K lured them to Hollywood and coerced them into sex when they were barely legal, they’ve been getting contacted by other people he did this to, or who he tried to do it to. I knew there were a few more people I strongly suspected he was trying to seduce, but I wasn’t expecting to see a list of nineteen people. All blanked out except for the Katie and Robyn, who were number five and six; the list started in the early 90s and continued all the way up to 2017.

And I feel queasy and complicit about the length of this list. Like everyone else who worked there when he was openly having sex with Robyn, I knew there was weird shit going on, and I never told anyone. Just hinted about it now and then. It was like this secret we were all carrying around and just… couldn’t discuss outside of the animation world. And all these enthusiastic young girls coming in from outside the whisper network of the animation scene fell prey to him. I hope most of them noped out before it turned into “move to California and live with him”.

And worse, for years I’d direct beginners looking for advice on how to improve as artists to the instructional posts on his blog. I did it often enough that I had a keyboard expansion shortcut set up. I really hope I never sent him someone who he ended up preying on. I really, really, hope I didn’t. If I did, I don’t think it’s possible to apologize enough for facilitating that connection, but please drop me a line if I did and I’ll try. I stopped a few years back when Katie told me privately that he’d been creeping on her, but…

Fuck, Spumco was a fucked-up place. Sometimes I feel like my fundamental drawing skills are irrevocably tainted by being picked up from there.

The Element Of Air

click thumbnail for full NSFW image

Rub bottle furiously for genie. If no genie is in the bottle, one will be drafted. Aim with care.

Last week, I opened up for a few commissions to try and rebuild my work habits. This is one of them. The request was to focus on the precise moment of transformation from “fox” to “fox genie”; I of course went for a certain amount of animation smear stylization and multiple images because that’s how I tend to think. And enjoyed being cheerfully cartoony and suggestive because that was sort of the whole point of doing some commissions.

I’m pretty happy with how quickly this one came together. I used some of the same methods I’ve been exploring in my comics, and was able to take advantage of prior art – I’ve draw Peganthyrus a lot before, and Phorm multiple times, so I could just open up previous drawings as graphic style libraries and skip a lot of setup. And skip a lot of fiddling with stuff in the drawing process; if I ever start giving my little Illustrator For Artists 101 talks at cons again, I really need to amend it to talk about how useful graphic styles are.

(My work habits seem to be coming along, too. I’m actually getting up and making a to-do list in the morning again, which helps a ton. Even if I don’t always get to everything I write down.)

Poor Grendel’s had an accident.

About a thousand years ago, an anonymous scribe wrote down an Old English epic that had been kicking around for about three hundred years. This manuscript would manage to survive until the modern age, becoming one of the oldest major works of Old English. No title is given in the manuscript; we commonly call it Beowulf, after the name of the story’s hero. Beowulf kills a couple of monsters, becomes a king, and goes out to kill a dragon, who mortally wounds him.

Forty-seven years ago, an American man named John Gardner wrote a novel, which explores the history of the first monster Beowulf killed. Grendel hangs out watching a minor Danish tribe settle into domestication, explores nihilistic philosophy, talks to the dragon, and gets killed by Beowulf.

Thirty-seven years ago, an Australian man named Alexander Stitt adapted Grendel into an animated cartoon. There are songs.

Grendel, Grendel, Grendel stars none other than Peter Ustinov as the titular monster. Who is a goofy-looking, spotted, green beast with a long, long nose.

The whole film is drawn in a flat-color aesthetic similar to the one I work in a lot; lines are practically nonexistent, and everything is charming and goofy.

It’s really kind of fascinating to watch. Especially when it turns more and more serious as the end approaches: watching two of King Hrothgar’s thanes plot treachery against him, with super-moody lighting, is constantly contrasted by the fact that one of them looks like a Muppet.

There’s gorgeous lighting throughout the film – sometimes stark black shadows, sometimes deep blue ones, sometimes really crazy colors just for the sake of design.

And all of it is told in fairly contemporary English. Mostly with Australian accents. It’s a hell of a thing.

At the end, Grendel dies. And then a merry song begins and all the characters start dancing around cheerily as the names of their voice actors show up above them. This moment really sums up the contradiction at the heart of this movie: a brightly colored adaptation of a book wherein a monster wanders around exploring existentialist philosophy, and then gets killed by the hero. It’s a pretty amazing thing.

Things to watch for, if you decide to brave the ten chunks of overcompressed VHS transfer on Youtube that’s all I can find of this:

  • moments when they take advantage of the fact that the backgrounds are drawn as simply as the foreground, and circle the whole camera around one character – I think there may be a definite narrative point being made here about how both Grendel and Unferth’s fates are entwined.
  • the way Hrothgar and his court move from swearing by “the Great Bogey” (Grendel) to saying things like “Sweet Christmas!”; one of the subtle narratives running through Beowulf is of the Christianization of Northern Europe and it’s pretty neat to see this coming up in here (as well as much less subtly, given that one of the turning points of the movie is a bard telling the story of Cain and Abel while Grendel lurks outside listening). It’s worth noting that apparently the film’s director also did a series of commercials for the “Christian Television Association” over the course of the 60s, 70s, and 80s; I would be very curious to find out what his personal beliefs were. There is not much about Stitt online; that nugget comes from the site for a book that’s a retrospective of his career.

The amazing video store I live a block away from has this in their catalog. On VHS. I’m very tempted to rent it along with one of the VHS decks they have for rental; I’d really like to see a crisper copy of this than what Youtube did to it.

It’s still kicking aound the back of my head the next day. Specifically, some choices around the casting and color design.

The same person plays the voice of both the Dragon and Beowulf. On the one hand, it’s simple economy – both are important roles, but brief ones compared to Grendel or the core members of the tribe of Danes that Grendel watched. On the other hand, it’s very tidy. The Dragon sees all of Time at once; he knows how Grendel will end and dances coyly around it. And Beowulf is, of course, that ending.

Outside the scope of Grendel’s tale, they’re even more tightly linked. They are each other’s endings, as well; decades later, Beowulf’s last heroic act will be to slay him.

(There’s also comic effect; Dignam uses a very posh voice for both roles. Having a far-off, legendary warrior speak in a British-flavored accent is both kind of goofy (especially when contrasted against the band of brutes and cutthroats he leads), and an interesting choice for an Australian film…)

This relation is carried through to the visuals, too: the Dragon is nothing but bright reds, the colors bleeding into each other as the combination of VHS and Youtube compression reduce him to little more than a silhouette. Beowulf’s cape is a bright red rectangle fluttering behind him; together, they are the most vividly red things in the whole film, except perhaps for the fire-snakes that populate the pool that hides the entrance to Grendel’s cave.

I would have to watch the film again to check but I am petty sure those are the *only* bright red things in the entire film. I’m pretty sure Stitt and his crew were clueful enough that this is by design, if so. (Oh, hey, look, up in those screenshots. Who’s the only Dane wearing red? Unfirth. Who tries and fails to kill Grendel multiple times; who Beowulf slays – at King Hrothgar’s suggestion – as part of his plan to lure Grendel into Hrothgar’s hall – just before he kills Grendel. Yep. Very nicely done, Stitt. The red ties them all together in a complex knot around Grendel’s ending.)

Addendum 2: oh man we just checked and while DVDs don’t seem to be available in the US, they’re still in stock on the site of the Australian company that is distributing it. Total cost, including shipping to the US? AU$19, which works out to about US$15.50. Hell yes. I just bought a copy and will maybe offer to donate it to Scarecrow Video to keep next to their VHS copy when I’ve watched it, because I want to make it easier for more folks to see this treasure.

this week

Sunday: I decide that since I’m gonna be selling stuff at Norwescon at the end of the week, I want to take it easy this coming week. Also there is D&D and our comedically bad decisions may result in giving the Big Bad exactly what she wants. Also I discover that my Tarot deck has now entered the levels of out-of-printness where the only people offering it for sale are pricing it in the low three digits, and begin getting things together for possibly Kickstarting a second printing. When I throw together a first draft of the pitch, I take out the deck to ask it which ones I should use in the pitch; the 10 and 99 of swords leap out while I’m shuffling before I even ask.

Monday: The landlord wakes me up around 7am. I have somehow managed to forget to pay rent since last July, and he has only just now noticed this. In looking into how this happens, it turns out I have managed to stop paying my rent for an entire year. I send him email informing him of this. He used to notice within a week if I missed a payment; I wonder what’s made his 2017/18 so chaotic?

Tuesday: I come home in the evening to find water on the kitchen floor. It seems to be coming from below the counter and stove. I write what is probably the most awkwardly-timed maintenance request ever to the landlord. I also fire off an email to the investment counselor at my bank, briefly describing the rent situation and my need to withdraw money from my investments to cover this ASAP. I update the landlord on this. Also my regular D&D game nearly falls apart. Also after I get back from the grocery store later in the day I note that the two rotted-out loafers which mysteriously appeared on the sidewalk outside the apartment last Friday have been meticulously placed at the corners of the yard. The inner Magician feels this is, at the very least, some very bad feng shui if not outright Bad Mojo; I put them in the neighbor’s dumpster.

Wednesday: There are moist spots in the carpet near the kitchen that do not correspond to the new wet spot on the ceiling. I drop a message in the bank’s general communication system asking them to either poke my investment counselor about this or get me someone else who can deal with this. In the afternoon he replies and wants to talk about it on the phone. I say okay sure whatever, call me.

Thursday: Nick and I rent a car and go down to the airport hotel Norwescon is at. I set up and start selling. While browsing the net to kill time (it’s slow, as expected for the first day of a four-day con), I get multiple people pointing me to an exposé on John Krickfalusi’s propensity to have sex with underage girls. Most of which happened while I was working at his studio. I now want to take out the part of my brain that learnt important things about drawing from him and wash it. Processing this is definitely not a thing that helps my performance as Con Table Peggy, but a book sells itself anyway. I come home and there is an ultra-short email from the landlord asking what’s up with the money; I tell him I’m playing phone tag with the investment counselor while also trying to honor my commitment to deal at this convention. I also drop some email to said investment counselor saying, you know what, how about we do this via email, I am stuck at a con all day and really can’t do phone stuff. I wonder why it seems to be suddenly very urgent that I get this money to my landlord by the beginning of the month when he could ignore it for a whole year.

Also there are still many moistnesses around the kitchen floor.

Friday: I guess I get up and go deal stuff at the con and maybe I sell a bunch of books and am happy? Maybe I exchange email with the investment counselor and can give the landlord an ETA for when the money’s in my account so he’ll relax?

Saturday, Sunday: see Friday

I really hope next week is TOTALLY FUCKING BORING.

I may have a post soon about the John K thing as well, I made some lengthy toots as part of initially processing it. It’s like everyone who worked there had this secret they were kinda carrying around, that we could never actually say out loud (though we would certainly all obliquely hint at it when he came up in conversation), and now we can finally say it…