Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Bold Triangle Mandala

This mandala would probably appeal to hippie Jews. Also, hippie Rastafarians. Although in my experience that phrase is basically redundant.

This mandala would probably appeal to hippie Jews. Also, hippie Rastafarians. Although in my experience that phrase is basically redundant.

All weekend I kept telling myself, “I’m going to get 1 or 2 comics finished this weekend so that I’m not driving myself crazy trying to beat midnight deadlines after crazy days all week.” Friday night we actually got in early–10:30, which is an early Friday for us–and then spent 3 hours playing Words with Friends. OK, there’s still Saturday. No, Saturday we were frantically cleaning the house in expectation of some guests, and once they arrived we went out with them, and didn’t get back until 10:30 again, at which point I had other work to catch up on for the next 3 hours. But there was still Sunday: we only had brunch plans and then had the rest of the day free. Except I had to bring soup to a sick friend, and there were a lot of things to talk about with a lot of people, and now it’s after midnight, I’m still updating a mandala post, and so far I’ve got 3/4 of a script for tomorrow and nothing else.

Monday Mandala was a good idea, but it’s removed some of the urgency of Sunday nights.

I should have an article on Panels entitled, “3 Webcomics for People Who Find Kinky Sex Hilarious.” Will update later with link.

3D Dragon Comics #1!

You were probably expecting something with a little more depth, but that's just a matter of perception.

You were probably expecting something with a little more depth, but that’s just a matter of perception.

There’s a type of psychological intervention known as Sand Table Play Therapy, which basically involves arranging objects and figurines in a tray of sand. Sand is nice, but it also goes everywhere and I don’t really think it’s all that integral to the actual symbolic actions that comprise this treatment, which is basically about forcing rigid adult minds to become malleable enough to throw off the limitations of maturity engage in meaningful play. I’ve got a million of these little objects–I could easily have created dozens of different tableaux using stuff that’s already in my office–and it really is soothing to rearrange them sometimes. It’s also nice to justify owning all these tchotchkes.

I’d been thinking about doing this type of 3-dimensional photographic comic for a long time, even before I started this blog. Reading Dave McKean’s Pictures That Tick made it seem like time to try. For some reason, I thought this would be faster than actually drawing a comic, which was not in any way the case. It took twice as long as Dragon Comics usually take. But it was more fun, and got me away from my desk.

It would be really nice if there was some easy way to build a model that didn’t fully set: one whose features couldn’t be smushed, but whose arms and legs could be repositioned. And then I wish I had the equipment and knowledge to make stop motion animation films.

Anyway, I wasn’t really ready to do a comic about my demons, even though creating them yesterday also inspired me to do this. Maybe one day. I’m still puzzling over my comic about depression. It’s funny: seems like everyone gets depressed, and yet depression is a really personal and idiosyncratic experience. At least mine is.

Opening Pandora’s Box: Meet My Demons

From left to right: Chronic Pain and Insomnia, Foggy Delusion, Insatiable Desire, Crippling Self-Doubt, and Winged Hope

From left to right: Chronic Pain and Insomnia, Foggy Delusion, Insatiable Desire, Crippling Self-Doubt and Depression, and Winged Hope

Felt like working with my hands and taking a break from the tablet and webcomics, so I reached for the Sculpey, and, as inspiration tends to steer me, went to the weirdest place.

Sharp spikes, massive fangs, throbbing veins, bloodshot, wide-awake eye

Sharp spikes, massive fangs, throbbing veins, bloodshot, wide-awake eye

Here we have some metaphorical, 3-dimensional representations of my demons: Chronic Pain and Insomnia, Foggy Delusion, Insatiable Desire, and Crippling Self-Doubt and Depression. And then, because I have read the classics, I added Hope, who is either the blessed relief vouchsafed mankind by kindly deities, or else the worst curse in the box. Either interpretation is considered correct. It simply depends on your philosophical outlook.

General cloudiness, tentacles of disordered thought

General cloudiness, tentacles of disordered thought

Now I can also make 3-d comics about the physical embodiments of all the emotional handicaps that have held me back in life. Ha ha. Although first I guess I better make a Monica figurine for these guys to plague.

Greedy gaze, hungry mouth, probing tongues

Greedy gaze, hungry mouth, probing tongues

To tell the truth, working on the computer all the time kind of makes me lazy, both in terms of the way I lean on the myriad available tools rather than my own artistic sense along with the overall degree of creativity I expend on a particular idea. I might try to get some stuff done on paper, with a pencil, in the near future.

Formless hopelessness, one hand covering shame, the other reaching out for help

Formless hopelessness, one hand covering shame, the other reaching out for help

There’s a school of thought that suggests welcoming in weakness interrupts its power over you. If you accept problems, instead of combating them, you can move on with your life.

Gossamer wings,  sweet curves wrapped in sunshine and warm breezes

Gossamer wings, sweet curves wrapped in sunshine and warm breezes.

I sort of started storyboarding a comic about depression, but it almost feels exploitation and derivation. Everyone does depression comics, right?

I’ll write a depression comic. Later.

When Sallie Mae Comes Calling

The Bard does not approve.

The Bard does not approve. Then again, the Bard never went to college.

This gag is actually an old joke of the Rabbit’s. We used to laugh so hard. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you default on your student debt? You can’t, as the expression goes, get blood from a stone. You can, however, get it from a head wound. But despite the central premise of The Merchant of Venice, there’s really no meaningful gain to taking a financial obligation out of a human body.

This comic is for the many, many people I’ve watched claw their way out (or not) of the rough burlap sack of the lowest levels of academia. The ivory tower is a sink or swim proposition. At this point, I don’t know that many people who are still adjuncting–most of them have gotten tenure track jobs or gone into some other lines of work–but I do know a few, and at one point I knew dozens. It’s basically thankless, low paying work that people do in the hopes that it will lead to more prestigious work with better pay and also job security, but it only works out that way for a select few.

Aside from The Man’s largesse and faith in me, one of the reasons I am able to do what I do is that I never had any student loans, since I am essentially 1 1/2 steps away from being a trust fund hippie. I mean, I don’t have the cash, but I do have the safety net. But I have friends who have been making well over their minimum payment for over a decade. I have friends who have been paying the same undergraduate education off for almost 2 decades. It’s crippling. You could get a mortgage in some parts of the country for what some people pay every month for the privilege of education.

In some places, it’s considered a right.

You can run. You can hide. But you can’t escape Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac. Or Dr. Biff and the Brain Repo Man.

Your Marital Narrative

We'll also be exploring mace as a therapeutic option.

We’ll also be examining the efficacy of pepper spray as a therapeutic option.

Hey! I drew a comic about going to therapy. Can I be in the New Yorker now? Or is my wit not dry enough? I tried to draw the therapist’s smile kind of forced and tight-lipped, but she still looks kind of happy, so maybe the art isn’t there. Yet. The Man believes it’s getting there.

The therapist comic seems like such a staple. So, whenever I have an idea for a comic, there’s always this voice asking if I’ve really had an idea for a comic, or if I’m just remembering something that someone else did years ago, that I read and forgot about, but which has been hanging around in my subconscious for all this time. How do you know? It’s not like there’s a big database of comic ideas and you can type in keywords and see whether or not someone’s already thought of the same gag. In face, I’ve seen different artists do essentially the same joke lots of time, and they’re probably not stealing, intentionally or otherwise.

If a musical genius like George Harrison can commit “subconscious plagiarism,” what hope is there for anyone? Am I funny, or am I just repeating someone else’s joke?

That’s the one-panel gags, obviously. The big comics about my bizarre life are mine alone, of course. And maybe if I get a Patreon and/or a Kickstarter and start making money off of comics I could do long ones every day. Still, the one-panel form is an important one.

I guess the secret is to make everything absolutely as personal as possible. No one else has my life experience. Not even remotely.

Probably, no one’s done quite this comic. Originally I wondered if the man and the woman shouldn’t be the banged up ones, but implications of domestic violence seemed like they would detract from the joke. They’re not trying to hurt each other. Things just got out of hand and the therapist got in the way by mistake.

Special thanks to The Man for his suggestion that the glass on the diploma be shattered.

Just Another Mandala Monday


Although I do favor certain colors, I also have this weird thing about using the crayons equally. It’s hard to incorporate white crayon into anything. 

Happy Monday, mandala lovers (and all others who grace my page with their clicks).

This mandala feels very balanced. I like the sunny feeling, as if light is streaming in through a rose window. It’s full of lemony sunshine goodness.

We had a busy weekend with nonstop excitement. I thought I would work Saturday night but I ended up spending it all with The Man, who thought he was going to work Saturday night, but ended up spending it all with me.

There are more comics in the works for later this week, thought!

Every Person’s Life Is Worth a Story

You're not the only one. No one's *ever* the only one.

You’re not the only one. No one’s *ever* the only one.

Even though my first passion was always fiction, and my training is entirely in fiction, my professional success has almost always been in nonfiction. I don’t know if I’m substantially better at nonfiction than fiction, but people seem much more willing to pay me to tell the truth than to make things up. Since I started workshopping with the Owl and the Rabbit, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about creative nonfiction, specifically, how memoirs work. People want to tell their stories,and they seem to want me to help them do it.

So: that’s it. Whatever is the worst, the most horrible thing that you feel sort of uncomfortable discussing with even your closest friends, the thing that you would never want the world to know, that’s the stuff you have to mine up from the depths of your brain and polish into a princess-cut gem if you want to write a biography that works.


People ask that question sometimes, too, and the answer is because you lived through it, and if you did, someone else did too, and your story will validate them, or else someone else is wondering if they can live through it, and your story will give them hope, or else someone else can’t possibly imagine what you’ve been through, and your story will enlighten them. Surviving difficult, confusing, and/or embarrassing circumstances often provides you with the wisdom of experience, which you may then feel compelled to share for the edification of others. This is why we have literature.

All the stories in this comic are true. The one in panel 2 is, of course, the famous “No Wire Hangars” scene from Mommy Dearest, but the others are all details that other people have told me about their own lives, or their parents’ lives, with maybe a couple of my own stories mixed in. I didn’t draw any of the people the way they actually look, though, because while some of these are things that people might not want connected with their identities. (Except for the dog; that’s really what the dog that saved a woman’s life looks like, because come on, that dog is clearly awesome.) I did write earlier in the week that I was planning “one of those brutal personal comics about the most painful things that have ever happened to me” but I couldn’t settle on which brutal, personal episode of my life to wrench up from the darkness, so I chose an assortment of other people’s problems.

I had also planned for this one to have the most awesome artwork yet. I had it all storyboarded out and did the lettering in the early afternoon, but then I forgot about Parent’s Night at the Boy’s school, after which The Man talked me into started the director’s cut of Yentl at 9 pm, so I didn’t get back to work until after 11:30, so I just jammed through drawing all those people. Next week I’ll get more brutal.

People in Tucson Be Like…

Popsicles? I don't eat 'em myself. Could go for a cup of hot coffee, though.

Popsicles? I don’t eat ’em myself. Could go for a cup of hot coffee, though.

Last week the Girl and I were running some errands and, while driving about 4 miles from one store to another, we saw 5 people dressed all in black, with long sleeves and long pants. It was about 105 degrees. Today I saw a dude in a black hoodie and he was wearing the hood part. Walking down the road. In 105 degrees. I like the heat and all, but, damn. People are crazy. It’s sick hot here. Most people wear tank tops and shorts, and plenty of people carry umbrellas or parasols. It’s not at all weird to see some big tough guy carrying a pink parasol. The sun is that brutal. And then there are the people dressed like they’re going to a funeral in North Dakota, not even carrying a bottle of water.

Don’t even get me started on the people out exercising at lunchtime.

Here’s to you, people dressed for the winter while walking around one of the hottest parts of the country during what will most likely be remembered as the hottest summer on record (until next summer, probably).

Fortunately, ice cream and quiescently frozen treats are easy to come by around here.

Dragon Comics 111

I'm actually really good at math for a liberal arts major.

I’m actually really good at math for a liberal arts major.

This letter really did come in the mail today. That’s crazy to me. I don’t get as many credit card solicitations per week as I used to when I had a job, or even when I didn’t have a job but the economy was great, but I still get a lot. Random companies just offering me a one time loan at 38% APR is a new one for me. These terms seem not good, but I guess they’re so favorable to the lender that they can afford to send out 1000s of these letters on the chance that 1 person with credit that’s not good enough for a credit card but still good enough for these people will consider this a good way to get some fast cash.

The other thing I get in the mail a lot, besides people offering to loan me money I don’t want to borrow, is people asking me to give to charitable causes. I do donate money to charity, but some of these places, while highly rated for spending responsibly, seem to waste a lot of resources asking me for *more* money. But I’m gonna give when I’m gonna give, and your dead tree missives have no effect on that. I don’t need 3 pleas a week; save that money and use it in lieu of a donation.

On the plus side, that means my name is on the list for a lot of poorly managed charities, by which I mean organizations to which I have never and will never send money, but who nonetheless send me free “gifts,” primarily saccharine greeting cards and flashy address labels.

I should do a post displaying my collection of free address labels. It’s pretty extensive at this point. I’ve never bought address labels. I actually don’t think it really takes that much effort to write my name and address. But, hey, everyone want to give them to me for free.

What a weird world. It seems like there’s more than enough for everyone, and yet we have really pervasive distribution issues.

Obstinence Only Education

It's my religious right to allow my toddler to set herself on fire and she'll live with the consequences.

It’s my religious right to allow my toddler to set herself on fire and she’ll live with the consequences.

Giving advice is one of those things. I’m not sure, exactly, why people come to me for counsel, but I definitely like telling people what to do, and usually they find my words enlightening. So…sometimes I like to seek out and answer strangers’ questions on the Internet.

Every time I find myself on some site where people are asking for advice, I end up giving desperate teenagers straight talk sex education, because kids in this country seem woefully uninformed about birth control, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, not to mention their basic sexual rights as human beings. It’s surprising how ignorant some of these kids are. They definitely shouldn’t be having sex at all, but since they’re going to do it anyway, it behooves them to go at it armed with all the information they need to do it safely.

Why are they so woefully ignorant?

Abstinence only education is an oxymoron. The vast majority of Americans will have premarital sex. Most of them will do so for the first time before they’re 21. Half of them will do so by the time they’re 17. Some of them are younger. The ones who’ve learned to protect their bodies and respect themselves will learn and grow and stay safe throughout their experiences. The ones who have been taught nothing will end up like this. Or this. Or this. Because one of the most harmful things you can do to a child’s psyche is alienate that child from their body.

People like to have sex because, if you do it right, sex is awesome. But to do it right, you need to start with the right knowledge, and that information takes years to acquire. Toddlers need honest information about their bodies, and so do grade school kids, and so do teenagers. It’s a long conversation. If you think that you are somehow protecting your family by not having it, try checking those 3 links in the last paragraph again.

People who receive abstinence only education are much more likely to experience unplanned pregnancies and contract STIs. The only proven way to reduce the incidence of abortion in any community is to ensure that everyone receives comprehensive sex ed and access to affordable birth control.

Or, conversely, you could hide your head under a false pretext and pretend not to notice when things start catching fire.