Tag Archives: words

Dragon Comics 152

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I don’t have proof that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I do know the pen is the only weapon I know how to wield proficiently.

There used to be this old joke about how writers, like squids, released vast clouds of ink when threatened, but, in the way of rotary phones and cursive handwriting, the idea that writing is linked to ink will fade from the collective conscious. Is there an animal that released warning flashes of light? Everything is pixels. Anyway, I’ve always done this, whether I felt that danger was imminent or not. Creation is a compulsion.

But I do feel threatened. The news reads like an episode of Black Mirror. And not the “San Junipero” one.

Ms. Kitty reminded me that making snarky webcomics is an action. Maybe not on the level of Nazi-punching, but better than rolling over and pulling the covers over my head. In fact, I’m not hiding anymore. By and large, I’m fully exposed. Kind of a risky strategy, but I feel like I can stick my neck out a little more if it seems to be helping others.

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Totes Inappropes

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Microsoft? Ew? Not going to touch that one.

It’s sort of a wonder that this blog is as accessible as it is; in person, I can be extremely inappropriate. Maybe I’ve never been thrown out of a day spa for using salty language during a company team-building exercise like some kitties I know, but, on average, outside of the elementary school and my dealings with children, I’m really not rated for anyone under the age of 17. I can make anything sound inappropriate. That’s why I’m not allowed to accompany the man to the hardware store or to the car parts store. I am totes inappropes all the time, but especially when the world is asking for it.

This one started with “clapback.” I guess that term was IRL slang before it was all over the Internet but I definitely associate it with semi-famous people arguing on Twitter, to at least the same extent that I associate “clap” with “gonorrhea.” Every time I hear it, which is increasingly over the past few months, all I can think of is a ping pong clap infection. You have to both get treated, people! Hashtag and Buzzfeed really speak for themselves; I know (from experience) that what I’ve done in panel 2 never works in real life, though. Nothing stops those people. Only the last one eluded me for a while. Originally I was going to make a 3-panel comic but the truth is that this template is easier to work with, so I ran through my knowledge base to find a 4th thing to make fun of so I could use this one, and “Google Doodle” it is. I guarantee if you asked someone to check out this Google doodle 25 years ago, their response would be much, much different.

And speaking of semi-famous people on Twitter, the author of Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, Christine Baldocchino, retweeted my comic making fun of people who didn’t like her book. I still don’t understand Twitter, but it is beginning to work for me on some level.

Happy Friday! Make sure you don’t get that clapback and remember to keep your Google doodle to yourself unless you have enthusiastic consent to share it.

We Never Wordplay Anymore

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It was a love of precise description that brought them together, but it also tore them apart.

This nerdy little comic is a sort of a riff off something I drew in August using the same banged-up copy of Webster’s 9th for reference. That book is about 30 years old, and my Roget’s model is even older: that one has my mom’s name and “Room 209” written on the first page, and my mom stopped teaching for a long time after I was born, meaning the thesaurus is at least 40. I like the idea of them being an old married couple, but it’s hard to believe they’d really split up. They absolutely go together. They even line up perfectly in juxtaposition on the bookshelf and I’m pretty sure that Roget is going to go back to Webster after taking a few days to think about priorities and remember their shared love of linguistics and wordplay.

I’m not totally sure how the arms are attached. If I were a better cartoonist these books would have more and better extremities and possibly some kind of faces, and Webster would be in a La-Z-Boy, but I need photos for reference because my mind’s eye is more turned toward words than images, and couldn’t quite picture how a hardcover book would fit into a recliner.

It’s probably only funny if you’re the kind of person who reads dictionaries and thesauruses for fun. Which I do. Clearly, there must be others.

Ode to the World’s Most Horrible Cat

This is actually a sketch of Algernon, who passed away a few weeks ago. If Lupin noticed I was drawing her portrait she would deliberately move every 15 seconds.

This is actually a sketch of Algernon, who passed away a few weeks ago. If Lupin noticed I was drawing her portrait she would deliberately move every 15 seconds and probably try to take the pencil out of my hand. Just imagine a fluffy black ball of evil with poisonous yellow eyes.

I’m not much of a poet. But Lupin is not much of a cat.

Lupin, a Long-Hair

I am a kitty with fur so fine
I sit on your things to prove that they’re mine
I know that you love me because I’m divine
I love you too but won’t give you a sign

You scream at dead mousies? I’ll bring you some more
You don’t need these books, right? I’ll knock them to the floor
You’re trying to sleep now? I’ll scratch on this door
You cleaned up my fur dread? I’ll just shed four

When your stepkids pet me I’ll scratch at their faces
When your husband gets dressed I’ll eat his bootlaces
When you drop your elastics I’ll hide them in places
When you invite friends in I’ll lick without graces

Because I’m the queen I must always be free
Because there’s a window I must climb up to see
Because I’m the kitty I’ll tell you the key
Because you’re my person you must always love me

(This sketch is from an exercise in the Trickster’s Hat that I did not do properly. But it’s a nice sketch of a cat much more lovable than the one in whose honor I dashed these verses.)

Too Many Words

There’s a roster of webcomics I adore because they’re smart and funny, and Subnormality, by Winston Rowntree, is high on that list. He subtitles his comic, which mixes fantasy, science fiction, slice of life, and true storytelling, “comix with too many words.

The cursed eyeball plant

The cursed eyeball plant: late 90s

I think I write comics with too many words. I’ve been reading books about graphic storytelling and trying to understand how to create images that do the work of words.

The fiery glowworm; late 90s

The fiery glowworm; late 90s

I drew these comics for my little cousin while toying with the idea of creating an illustrated zoo of imaginary animals, but ultimately, I figured that what came out of the crayons was probably a bit too creepy and esoteric for a 3-year-old.

A clownfish. Why, why, why? This image is so wrong. It was wrong when I drew it in the late 90s, and it's just increasingly wrong every year.

A clownfish. Why, why, why? This image is so wrong. It was wrong when I drew it in the late 90s, and it’s just increasingly wrong every year.

Still working on it.

Just Lucky, I Guess

When I was in middle school, I basically came home every day and wrote for about 2 hours. In grad school, I used to write every night between 10 pm and 2 am. I didn’t really think about it; during the times in my life when I was into my work, I was into my work. When I do NaNoWriMo or go on a writing retreat, I write at least 2000 words a day, and often, many, many more. Some of us are lucky in that we don’t have to discipline ourselves too much: the thing we want most is the thing we want now.

It's a sign. It pretty much speaks for itself.

It’s a sign. It pretty much speaks for itself.

I just lettered this sign for my darling husband, at his request. Usually, something like this would take me a couple days, and each letter would be perfectly spaced and formed, sketched first in pencil and then inked with a fine-tipped pen (but I would still manage to smear the ink while erasing the guidelines, and also get some on my hand and smudge it in the gutter). When I lettered the Robert Graves poem, it took me about a week, and I’m pretty pleased with it, but it still isn’t perfect to my eye. Anyway, he said he didn’t care if it was perfect, he just wanted it done. So I just quickly blocked out approximately where the letters should go.

It’s an interesting sentiment, anyway. There are times when I don’t want to draw or write, and I have to force it. There are even times when I don’t force it and just watch Netflix and maybe cry about my failure as an artist. Usually, though, I’m fairly focused on my goals. When I decide to write 50,000 words in a month, or cut out carbs, or clean my office, usually I can just do it.

A quick Google search attributes this quote to a psychologist named Augusta F. Kantra.

Words Fail

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This is among the first drawings I did on the Wacom Tablet: rough, but effective. There’s me—I can draw a fairly decent cartoon representation of myself, or a representation of what I picture as my best self—and there’s my stepdaughter getting her hair combed before bed, smiling because I’m showing her a funny cat video on YouTube. Working from a photograph would probably render better results, but this is drawn from memory, ninety minutes after she went to sleep. It’s flat; the proportions are off. I must live with my faulty perception, and my unpolished ability.

As may be apparent to readers, I’ve never had an art lesson in my life, save for grade school and camp curricula, and a couple semesters of pottery. What I have studied, extensively, to abstraction, to the exclusion of vast swaths of normal human existence, is writing. I have toiled well over my ten thousand hours to mastery. I have taken ten Iowa-style fiction workshops. I have taken craft classes. I have studied with acclaimed writers, and considered their feedback, received their approval. I have organized my own workshops, created circles of writers who read and critique each other’s writing. I have revised and revised and revised.

I could describe for you, in broad brushstrokes or pointillist detail, the way the light plays on my stepdaughter’s hair, how the blond strands glow with natural rivers of platinum and strawberry, the way the tangles of her youthful athleticism smooth out into silky sheets of gold under the thick teeth of my wooden comb. I could show you the surface: the cinnamon freckles blooming across pink cheeks, the cool ice of her sparkling blue eyes. I could show you the hidden details: the wine-colored birthmark just under her hairline at the nape of her neck, the cracked white leather places between her fingers where her skin at times dries out so completely that blood seeps from the gaps. I could write a book about her: the way she chatters about cartoons no one else has seen, the way she hold her nose not only when she jumps into the pool, but also when she swims, one-handed, beneath the water.

The image is what it is.

All my life, my writing has been characterized as remarkably good. Qualified writers who have achieved recognition in their art have told me that I write well. I have sold a couple short stories. In the corporate world I have supported myself solely through this craft since I finished my MFA, ten years ago, but publishing four short stories in a decade while writing web content at $100 an hour is not quite the same as selling a novel.

I cannot sell a goddamn novel. Another successful writer, a close friend, suggests I don’t submit enough, and so I polish my queries and hurl them out in the universe. Some agents, some publishing houses, can’t afford the courtesy of a rejection note. Most are kind enough to offer the form rejection. Occasionally, an agent will ask for some piece of a manuscript before rejecting me. Whenever I get a little traction, the dream gets pulled out from under my feet. My work is not viable, or commercial, or accessible, or whatever it is they seek.

Originally I considered calling this blog “Words Fail,” which I’ve kept as a tagline. Words fail, but not because of my ability. With modesty and humility, I can state that I probably write in the objective ninety-ninth percentile of people on the planet. But that is not, apparently, good enough.

And here I’ve decided to share my infant scribbles, little amusements in which I’ve invested one fraction of one percent of the effort that I’ve put into ten novels, two full-length stage plays, and countless short stories, and already, before I’ve even officially launched my brand or shared this URL with friends and family, people seem interested in what I’m trying to do.

My drawings only hint at their intentions; I can only polish them up to the point where my ability falters, while I’ve acquired the ability to burnish my writing to a fine, mirror-like glow. But words fail.