Strange art and stranger stories over at Haute Macabre today…
Exhumed by Zola Jesus | Particle Flux by CHELSEA WOLFE | Femme Couverte by Black Mare | Crown by Myrkur | 13 Beaches by Lana Del Rey | Burn It Down by Daughter | Black Rose by The Glass Child | Home by Shannon Lay | Reindeer King by Tori Amos | Ave Generosa by Gyða Valtýsdottir
On this week’s Fripperies For The Resistance…!
The Creeping Museum is the nonprofit creative vision and labor of love conceived between two friends and a grilled cheese sandwich in a North Portland laundromat in the spring of 2016. Their remarkable mission? To help artists and independent creators give back to their communities by turning their strange and unusual work into tiny pieces of affordable art in the form of collectible enamel pins– for which to support wonderfully worthy causes.
The visionary creeps responsible for this collaborative venture involving spooky wearable art and a commitment to making the world a better place are Alyssa Glass and Layla Sullivan. “At The Creeping Museum,” they insist with infectious enthusiasm, “the gallery is you!” The Museum’s collection of tiny art can be found creeping on the lapels of art lovers from coast to coast and around the world, and each sale of these mini masterpieces benefit organizations such as Bat Conservation International, The Library Foundation, or The Worthy Pause, just to name a few of their chosen causes.
Released by The Creeping Museum in March of 2017, this 1.5” vintage-style shield brooch, either in Shining Armor Silver, Classic Victorian Gold, or Lucky Copper Penny, with black enamel features a sword inspired by Joan of Arc’s coat of arms against a bouquet of deadly nightshade (which, according to lore, was used to honor Bellona, a Roman goddess of war), and watched over by a tiny bat.
20% of proceeds from the sale of each pin will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in support of their fight against hate. The balance of proceeds will be used to support The Creeping Museum’s nonprofit mission of helping artists give back to their communities by turning their work into tiny, affordable editions to support worthy causes.
According to co-founder Alyssa Glass,
“I created the “Resistance Insignia” design as a personal act of catharsis shortly after the 2017 presidential inauguration; I needed a wearable daily reminder that I wasn’t going to let hate and bigotry win without a fight.
There’s a handwritten positive affirmation hidden inside each package – I feel like we need all the positivity we can get right now, and sometimes it’s therapeutic for me to have to sit down and think of lots of positive messages for strangers. (I didn’t think that anyone would ever see or read them, but I’ve actually received some really moving notes from people who said that the secret messages found them at the exact right time.) It’s also comforting to know that all over the world, people are wearing the pin and taking strength in its message. I’ve spent a lot of 2017 feeling hopeless, and being able to use this project to raise money for both the Southern Poverty Law Center and our own Creeping Museum projects (like our Little Free Library and miniature gallery) has given me a way to feel like I’m at least playing a tiny part in standing up against a tidal wave of hatred and daily outrages.”
How does one go about styling this empowering accessory? Check out my suggestions, above! As always, click here, or directly on the image for a full listing of the items used in the ensemble.
Bonus! Are you writing letters to your Congressmen, Senators & Representatives? Whether you’re looking for just the right stationery for penning notes to your elected officials, or want to surprise a loved one with a little bit of inspiration in their mailbox, these sets of 4×6 inch Resistance Postcards are the perfect reminder to keep fighting the good fight. Each set includes four different designs: three new drawings by Layla Sullivan plus a postcard version of our their Resistance Insignia pin.
20% of proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood and to the Virginia Garcia Clinic, an Oregon health center that provides medical care to migrant and seasonal farm workers and others with barriers to receiving health care.
Are you a creator who gives a damn? Are you aware of artisans or indie businesses speaking up, reaching out, and creating art or goods to express outrage with injustice, promote anti-hatred, or which encourage safe spaces in their communities? Please let me know about them for future Friday Fripperies!
My bold, beautiful, beloved friend Meredith just shared this Kickstarter project with me, and it’s such an important thing, a vitally, crucially important thing, that I am compelled to share it with you, too.
BECOMING DANGEROUS: A book about ritual and resistance, is comprised of twenty personal essays from witchy femmes, queer conjurers, and magical rebels on summoning the power to resist.
Some words from the creators:
“BECOMING DANGEROUS is a nonfiction book of deeply personal essays by marginalised people using the intersection of feminism, witchcraft, and resistance to summon power and become fearsome in a world that would prefer them afraid. With contributions from twenty witchy femmes, queer conjurers, and magical rebels, BECOMING DANGEROUS is a book of intelligent and challenging essays that will resonate with anyone who’s ever looked for answers outside the typical places.
The latest book from Fiction & Feeling, a new and independent UK publishing company, the book is edited by Katie West, and Jasmine Elliott. From ritualistic skincare routines to gardening; from becoming your own higher power to searching for a legendary Scottish warrior woman; from the fashion magick of brujas to cripple-witch city-magic; from shoreline rituals to psychotherapy—this book is for people who know that now is the time, now is the hour, ours is the magic, ours is the power.”
Contributors for this book write for publications like The Guardian and The Paris Review; websites like Autostraddle, The Hoodwitch, VICE, Broadly, and Nylon; and have published books and journal articles with several different publishers.
Some identify as witches; others identify as writers, musicians, or artists. All of them have developed personal rituals to summon their own power and want to share these personal experiences of resistance and survival with you.
I have already backed this project; I cannot think of any book more worthy or deserving of my money right now, and I am absolutely certain that BECOMING DANGEROUS will similarly compel so many of you, too.
It’s been a long few weeks. Few weeks? More like 8 weeks, I guess. Two months.
August arrived quietly enough, but ended in a flurry of activity and travel. I drove down to South Florida for work purposes, and was there for but a few days before heading back to Orlando to catch a flight to Salem to meet up with the Haute Macabre crew for a madcap weekend of witchery and poetry and beauty with some of my extraordinary friends.
The day of our arrival we were whisked away by the very excellent Jo, a new (to me) friend, who took us back to her lovely home, fed us delicious pancakes, and let us play with her two sweet puppers while we recovered from our long flights. From there it was off to Witchpix (or goth glamour shots, as we came to call it) for dress ups and close ups at their spooky costume studio in Salem! I was a little nervous about it because I am basically nervous about everything, but it was great fun. And, I mean, there was a wind machine! And props! And a broom that seated four. And did I mention dressing up? There were capes and cloaks and corsets galore, and even a hat that fit my big pumpkin head.
A++ ridiculousness, would highly recommend.
After our goth glamour shots we ambled over to the Black Veil Tattoo Studio for the Night Market Event which made for an utterly surreal dream of evening. Already exhausted for having been awake 24+ hours, being amongst the jostling crowd of people and the heartfeels from both meeting the creators I’ve admired from afar, as well as friends, both new and old–it was an intense experience. Especially if you’re not great at meeting people even when you’re at the top of your game (and please note, I don’t think my game actually even has a “top”. Maybe a “lower-middle”.) It was pretty wild. Pictured in the top photo is one half of our fearless leadership team, Samantha, along with staff writer Sonya V., whose face I adore. The bottom photo is the rare beauty of fellow staff writer Maika K. (whose face I also adore.)
Afterward we discussed how that, if there was ever a crowd in which to feel uncomfortable and anxious, we were in the right place–I suspect everyone who walked through the door that evening deals with anxiety and anti-social awkardness on some level. No doubt about it, we were among our people.
Later, in discussions with another friend, I was musing at how, even in the most accepting of crowds, I always end up feeling like the odd one out, an outsider. When I was much younger, this bothered me in a vague sort of way…but I finally realized it bothered me because it didn’t bother me enough…if that makes any sense? I felt like maybe humans are supposed to try their damnedest to be a part of things, and I think I recognized in myself that I just …didn’t want to. I love the idea of community, but at the same time being around people makes me so uncomfortable (anxiety re: saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, not having enough to talk about or maybe saying too much) that I think my discomfort is almost tangible and it might be a little off-putting to people who are trying to interact with me. And so I remove myself from the heart of things (if I ever even made it there) and observe from the edges. I think I am happiest there, on the fringe. I can see you over there and wave, and smile, and be glad in my heart that I got sort of close to you, and then I can scoot back to a dim corner and read a book while listening to the good times and revelries of the people I care about…from afar.
Wow, sorry to ramble like that. At any rate, I hope I never give anyone the impression that I don’t want to talk to them or I am too good to hang out with them and chat or whatever. (Unless you’re some weird, creepy dude, in which case, fuck off, you’re a pig from hell.) But I’m always happy to know like-minded souls and kindred spirits, so please forgive my weirdness if you’ve ever met me in person and thought “huh, I thought she’d be a lot nicer than that.”
The next day we spent quietly recharging as we explored only a small portion of the 175 acres of grounds and monuments in the exceptionally beautiful Mount Auburn Cemetery–after which we again visited Black Veil, for the debut of Ashley Rose Couture’s current newest collection.
This time last year I was wringing my hands and tearing at my hair in mourning because I could not attend Ashley Rose’s exquisite “Shadows of the Realm” collection debut; this year I had a front row view of her equally enchanting “My Dearest Dust” installation, so I guess it all worked out in the end for ol’ Sarah.
On Sunday it was back to our old haunt, The Black Veil Tattoo Studio! We were tattooed by the gracious, talented Ryan Murray who took our secret design collaboration ideas, which incorporated elements and symbols that are important to each of us, improved upon them immeasurably, and created something more beautiful than we could have hoped for. I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful experience for my first fancy tattoo (I already have several shitty ones) or have spent the day with people more dear to me.
In between tattoos, Matthew Murray, an outstanding host and as talented an artist as his brother, kept us company while we explored all the nooks and crannies and hidden corners of the shop. That wee kitten just kills me. Those tiny claws! What a little charmer! And the grim witchling from Handsome Devil Puppets– Ahhhh! Love love love.
Post-tattoos, we one by one headed over to the Satanic Temple, where Sonya read from their book, Salt Is For Curing, and along with poet Janaka Stucky (The Truth Is We Are Perfect) and author Peter Bebergal (Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll) presented an utterly enchanting, thoroughly engaging evening of poetry and prose. After their readings, there was a fascinating panel discussion and Q&A, brimming with shrewd insights and observations from the authors, as well as some… er… surprising and belligerent feedback from the audience. Which really didn’t even have anything to do with the presenters really, just some guy with a grudge and who wanted to vent inappropriately. Quel horreur!
Still–it was an amazing evening and probably one of my very favorite parts of the trip. Probably because I was in the audience, as opposed to in front of it. (Sorry Sonya. But you were magnificent!)
On our last day in Boston, before departing to the airport to catch our various flights, we made one last stop: the Harvard Museum of Natural History. What a powerfully peaceful place to unwind after the previous few days of whirlwind adventures! So many marvelous specimens (that elegantly attired long-tail widow bird)! So many sweet derpsters (that hedgehog!) There was wonder to be found around every corner.
And then…I was home. Just in time for hurricane prep!
But that’s another story for another time.
P.S. When you get home after travels, do you just like to sort of spread your newly acquired loots over your bed and revel in it? Me too!
P.P.S Sharing photos of my hair and nails because they will never look this nice again.
Amongst my acquaintances it would seem that we all appear to have a similar predicament with regard to the printed word: that is to say, an intense, almost obsessive acquisition of books. Whether for pleasure, research, or keeping up our nerdy/witchy Instagram appearances, we acquire stacks and piles of bound, printed matter much faster than we actually read through them.
No doubt if I were to quiz one of these friends at random they will admit, with a strange sort of embarrassed pride, that they have shelves upon shelves of unread novels–and yet there is an Amazon Prime parcel on their doorstep, a small press delivery on the way, and their virtual cart is brimming with another order ready to be placed. Oh, and they’ve just come back from a stroll through the musty, dim-lit shelves of a local used bookstore, and hey look, what a surprise–here’s a few more books.
What if I told you that you could use these mountains of books as more than doorstops and spider-squashers? What if I revealed to you a use for that collection of charming, old-timey ghost stories that has been gathering dust and cobwebs on your nightstand? Yes, yes, I know–you are going to read it eventually, and I do appreciate that sentiment: I’ve got the same book next to my bed that I’ve been too sleepy or too busy looking at my Twitter feed to actually pick up and peruse.
You are no doubt familiar with the practice of divination, or, the seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means. One can foretell the future through cards, clouds, drops of mercury, even a pile of steaming entrails. Today, however, we are hitting the books for our divinatory purposes! Divination from books or verse is an ancient process known as bibliomancy and is sometimes used synonymously with the terms stichomancy (divination from lines) or rhapsodomancy (divination through a random passage of a poem).
There are, of course, different schools of thought as to how bibliomancy works. Originally, it was a means of seeking divine answers, and the most popular book used for this practice was American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (just kidding! It’s the Bible)–though this is not the only text that’s been used for this purpose. Other popular texts included the Aeneid of Virgil, the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer, and The I Ching has also been used in a similar manner. Seekers of illumination would meditate upon their questions and blindly select a passage in the book, which supposedly would impart to them the divine wisdom they needed for the solution to their problem. In this theory, it is believed that one is led deliberately to their answers by some sort of higher power, or perhaps an angel, spirit guide, or aliens.
Other folks see it as more of a psychological enterprise—a means of communicating with your own damn higher self. Meaning, we most likely already contain the answers to our problems, we just can’t always easily tap into them due to all of the “mental filters” that we have built up through our lives and experiences, clouding our ability to see the issues clearly. By this ideology, it’s not really the book that contains any special or wondrous answers; you already know the solutions you seek, and the chosen passage just acts as a tool to help you access them.
But back to the books– you mustn’t feel compelled to use one of those “sacred” texts to practice bibliomancy. All that’s required is a book that speaks to you at that moment. This could be from the library, a new book you’ve purchased for this inaugural divinatory occasion, or something from your own bogged-down shelves. It could be a spiritual book, fiction, nonfiction, that smutty romance novel that sits on the back of your toilet, or even your beloved, dog-eared, 30-year-old stolen library copy of Harriet The Spy. The books you adore will have had an enormous influence on who you are and your beliefs. These beloved writings will have caused you to examine your own depths, encourage you to think in new ways, and eventually become part of who you are, which is why they are great vehicles for shedding light on the questions to which you are seeking answers.
Let’s get started, shall we? In preparation for a bibliomantic ritual, give some thought as to the kind of question you want to ask: are you seeking romantic resolution or perhaps repairing a relationship? Or maybe you’re all like,”Love? Fuck that horseshit! Where did my great-great-grandpa bury that hidden treasure?” Perhaps you just want guidance on what to make for dinner tonight, but somehow opening an actual cookbook seems too mundane. Words taken out of their larger context could trigger something deeper than you imagine is possible. This could be the most amazing Monday night supper you’ve ever made!
Focus your question and find your book. Trail your fingertips along the spines of those lonely, mostly unread books (again, no judgment) and see what calls to you. The titles themselves can often reflect how you are feeling, or coincide with a situation you have been dealing with. Maybe the embossed detailing tickles your fancy. Maybe the cracked, faded lettering on your dear copy of The Complete Grimoire of Pope Honorius makes your innards go all cozy and it just feels right. Go with it!
Sit with your chosen book in a quiet space and close your eyes. Clear your mind and try to not focus overly much on the emotions attached to the question you need help in answering. What you are aiming for is a state of “calm expectation.” When you feel comfortable, relaxed, and emotionally and spiritually in a good place, ask your question– out loud if you don’t feel too weird about it, or quietly in your mind, if you prefer. Take a few seconds to allow your question to be heard and absorbed. Then pick up the book.
Close your eyes and let your fingers meander through the book’s pages, lingering over the paper wherever you may feel compelled. At some point while doing so, you will intuitively feel the “right” place to stop (or your finger will get tired, that’s a good place to stop, too.) Place your finger on the spot you are drawn to.
Read from where you finger is resting, be it for a few words, a sentence, a paragraph, or an entire passage if you’re into it. At first glance, the words may have no bearing on your question. “What the fuck is this nonsense?” you may wonder, “I asked if my girlfriend is cheating on me and this asshole is talking about cherry blossoms. Thanks a lot, Basho!” Give it some time. Look at the words you are reading: what do they have to tell you about your situation? Do they offer any guidance or inspiration? Do you connect emotionally with what you have just read–did it leave you gleeful, frightened, peevish? Repeat the passage aloud or write it down by hand–your higher mind has deliberately selected these words to help you in some way and eventually you will understand their importance and meaning.
Some mystics suggest for this exercise that if you’re left even more confused than when you started and you require more clarity, try it again from the start. Pick a book that seems to fit your question, and then merge your chosen answer with the last passage. It is said that sooner or later you will be able to see what the words are trying to get through to you. Or you’ll go crazy. Because I’ll be honest, at this point I am thinking of a freaky Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel scenario involving infinite permutations of all these passages mashed together and it’s sort of creeping me out.
There you have it, bookworms! Since you’re clearly not ever going to read anything from those dangerously teetering, towering book stacks, why not harness the power and the magic of those beautiful, potent words contained within to get some questions answered and get your shit together?
Okay, okay, I poke fun, but I get it. I am one of you, truly! I just checked out eight books from the library but I’m still plowing through a pile of books I bought two years ago. And yet, somehow I just purchased four more books for Summer Reading 2019? How does this even happen? It’s a sickness.
So let’s do this for a start. Read through the above thoroughly, and as your first foray into the arcane art of bibliomancy, I want you to think long and hard on this question. Meditate, roll it around in your mind, choose your title from your shelf and ask aloud of the angels, aliens, your intuitive brain-meats, and who/whatever else…
“What book shall I read next?”
Photo credit: Maika Keuben / @liquidnight
(This article was originally posted at Dirge; the site is no longer active.)
To continue spotlighting creators who give a damn, today on Friday Fripperies: Resistance Edition, we are featuring Cat Coven’s “Neo-Nazis Not Welcome” designs, which you can wear proudly emblazoned across your chest on a fantastically fierce red on black tee shirt, or, if you prefer, the same fearsome design in the form of a portable patch to decorate and designate your bags or jackets as a FUCK OFF NAZI SCUM zone.
100% of profits from this design are donated to Make the Road New York (MRNY), which is a grassroots organization in NYC that fights for Latino and working class communities, including: “workers’ rights, tenant rights, LGBTQ justice, youth power and policing, public schools and education justice and immigration justice.” Learn more at http://www.maketheroadny.org
Remarks Cat Coven’s Kjersti Faret:
“I created this design in response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. I was so angry – it’s 2017 and Nazis are still alive and well in America. Since Trump’s election, bigots have felt safer voicing their hate. I’m fortunate enough to live in a liberal NYC bubble, which protects me from much of this direct rhetoric. However, I wanted to acknowledge this horrible phenomenon in the best way I know how: drawing about it.”
My previous charity designs have focused on love and healing, but I wanted this one to express my rage. The imagery of the cat attacking the snake paired with the phrase “Neo-Nazis Not Welcome” shows anger while still cultivating a safe space. I hope it inspires and empowers others to speak up against ignorance and hate.
How might one style this powerful statement tee? I have some suggestions for you, below!
As always, click here, or directly on the image for a full listing of the items used in the ensemble. Also included with these selection is Chase and Scout’s Watchful Eye Amulet, featured here, previously.
Are you a creator who gives a damn? Are you aware of artisans or indie businesses speaking up, reaching out, and creating art or goods to express outrage with injustice, promote anti-hatred, or which encourage safe spaces in their communities? Please let me know about them for future Friday Fripperies!
Peeking in post-storm to share some reviews for the Solstice Scents Later Summer collection that I wrote up for Haute Macabre, as well as the opportunity to win some of these scents for yourselves!
Do you want to smell of an ice cream sundae enjoyed in the murky seaside town of Innsmouth? Or perhaps strange desert visions? Or nostalgic Spring Break make-outs with your high school boyfriend? Leave a comment over at Haute Macabre and tell us which scent you’d most like to try!
I am writing this as the rains lash against the windows and the winds brazenly, violently, gust about our home; a hurricane is nearly upon us, the lights are starting to flicker, and soon, no doubt, the power will have gone out!
Who knows what will happen? Not I! This space may be quiet and empty for the next few days, or weeks. Please don’t forget about me, friends! I will be back soon
(originally published on the Coilhouse blog, November 23, 2010)
Devoted and cultish readers extol John Allison as “a rare gem in the often hard-to-navigate web comic underbelly.” Though you may not presently be reading John Allison’s current endeavor, Bad Machinery, chances are that you are perhaps already familiar with him through his older works, Scary Go Round (2002-2009) or Bobbins (1998-2002), or as an artist/chum linked to through one or more of his contemporaries.
Fans of Jeffrey Rowland’s Overcompensating for example, will recognize Allison as “The Englishman” , a British gentleman of dubious distinction who occasionally happens upon the scene to politely antagonize the regulars. Or, through Dumbrella Collective alum, R. Stevens, mastermind behind Diesel Sweeties and 8-bit illustrator of our charming editrixes here at Coilhouse. Maybe even through one of the dynamic guest strips he has provided over the years to one of your long-time favourite web comic artists.
Marked by clever, peculiar dialogue, absurdist humor, dotty characters (and delightful ladies fashion!), mysterious happenings and hi-jinks, and a dense mythology (though compelling and completely addictive, to which anyone who has begun to peek through his archives can attest) – John Allison’s story-telling genius is unmistakable. And in a medium where visuals are the reason most viewers show up in the first place, the exquisitely charming, highly stylized art is “as big a draw as the comedy”.
Described as “postmodern Brit horror”, Allison’s previous comic, Scary Go Round followed the hapless denizens of Tackleford, a fictional British town beset by all manner of supernatural activity including, but not limited to: zombies, space owls, the devil, and portals to other dimensions. Though Scary Go Round ended in 2009 [EDIT: though it periodically picks back up again!] a few of his beloved characters have moved on to Bad Machinery, which picks up in Tackleford 3 years later. The focus is on an entirely new cast of sleuthing schoolchildren attending Griswald’s Grammar School, whose well-intentioned energies may be causing more problems than the mysteries they solve – but they throw themselves into it all with much vigor and aplomb.
I recently caught up with John Allison about his new endeavor; see below the cut for our Q&A in which John talks about the transition between old stories and new, the state of web comics today, and the meaning behind the monsters.
UNQUIET THINGS: Right now the “Big Push”, as it were, is your current series, Bad Machinery. When you made the change to become a full time comic-ing man in 2003-ish, was Bad Machinery even a twinkle in your eye at that time, or was it something that evolved over the years from the characters that you developed in Scary Go Round? Has it been almost a year now since Scary Go Round ended? How has the jump from Scary Go Round to Bad Machinery gone? What were your expectations regarding your fans reactions? Were they met, or exceeded? (or neither?)
JOHN ALLISON:I certainly had no notion of creating Bad Machinery when I went full-time back in 2003. That was 7 years ago! It seems like a lifetime. At that point, Scary Go Round was just starting to get on its feet, audience-wise. It had only been running for about 12 months. Last summer I was frustrated with how sprawling Scary Go Round had become, and (not for the first time) I tried to work out what would make a good spin-off. I wanted something with a tight concept, so I couldn’t drift too far off my initial idea. And I wanted something that I could sell to a publisher in good conscience – something that wasn’t a mess!
I had some vague thoughts in my mind, a kind of Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys setup in the Tintin format (having read almost none of the former and admiring rather than loving the latter). I was probably very tired at the time!
The reaction wasn’t great, people loved the Scary Go Round characters. My last year of work on the series had been really spotty and I thought that readers would breathe a huge sigh of relief. And they did – as they stopped reading. Over the first month, half of the old SGR audience went south. It was a very frightening time. It wasn’t helped by what may have been the slowest introduction to a comic ever. Some readers were angry about “having to read about children”. They strongly identified with the old cast and were horrified by the new.
In that first month, while I was trying to find the mood and the tone of the piece, some long and pretty scathing reviews appeared on prominent blogs, the general theme being “by the end Scary Go Round had lost its way, and this is more of the same – but WORSE!” They tended to cite Berke Breathed’s Outland, his follow-up to Bloom County, where all the old characters slowly re-appeared. But for me, bringing back all the fan favourites that, to be honest, I never wanted to see again, made me feel ill. It was a miserable time, I went from believing in this new thing, to quickly doubting everything I did. I was fortunate that many of my friends in comics really supported what I was doing.
After a year, the comic has started to find new readers alongside the ones who stuck around, and it’s extremely gratifying when people write and say that they never read Scary Go Round, but they love Bad Machinery.
While Scary Go Round focused a on group of young adults in their early to mid twenties…and then later in the series you added several high school characters, this new batch for Bad Machinery are little folks, rather young – in grammar school, I believe. What prompted you to go in this direction?
I wanted to write all-ages books, kids’ literature that stands up when you read it today. I loved the Just William books, and I can still read them now, the writing is sophisticated and hilarious. It may be that this is not what the market wants, but as an exercise it was what I wanted to do. It also stops you leaning on lazy attention-getting devices – sudden death, sudden sexy times. You have to be a lot more resourceful as you write.
Both your comics are /were quite character driven, but the plots usually revolve around the general strange goings-on in town or the odd beastie du jour. .. previously we’ve seen zombies, vampires, dimensional portals etc., but I imagine writing about children presents the opportunity to introduce all kind of imaginative monsters and new bits of wonderful weirdness into the story. Your thoughts?
The idea of Bad Machinery is that the supernatural mysteries are a distraction from the real dangers, which are personal. All through “The Case Of The Good Boy”, the actual manifest danger is how Jack is being victimised through no fault of his own, and he can’t really ask for help. He’s the good boy! No one has spotted this. I’m probably not doing my job very well, am I? I like drawing monsters and beasts, but they’re not real so they lack a certain weight for me.
With regard to “ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night” – I am keenly interested in hearing about your influences as such things go. From some of the references culled from within the Scary Go Round archive, one might be inclined to think that you’ve had some personal dealings with the Old Deceiver himself, ha! Or perhaps some passing familiarity with esoteric studies of some sort. Or at the very least a subscription to the Fortean Times. Can you tell us from where you draw your inspiration?
I’m an arriviste in this field, a dilletante. I don’t like horror movies and I’m scared of books about ghosts. There was a Dennis Wheatley book in the house when I was a child, with a picture of Satan on the back, I was scared of that too. All my work is a metaphor for actual real life problems. I did a story where a character’s girlfriend is blown up in a caravan and thereafter exists, and is seen sporadically, in the afterlife. That was about long distance relationships. When I tried to do actual mystical stuff, and I say this with no fear of contradiction, it wasn’t all that good. The problem is, when you’re generating a lot of material, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re doing.
You’ve been doing this for quite a while now, practically when there were dinosaurs on the internet (as opposed to in space) – what are some changes – for the better or the worse – that you’ve seen in that time? Can you tell us briefly about your progression from when you got started to where you are now?
People’s attention spans are knackered. The internet has become a Las Vegas casino, a comfortable, noisy area designed to keep you disorientated and keep you spending money. Good luck trying to find attention with longform work. But I think there’s a sense now that we have to push back in the opposite direction, that people don’t want to read articles surrounded by video ads and animation.
I started in webcomics when almost no one was doing them and occupied a privileged position at the forefront of almost every movement – Keenspot, merchandising, bigger web presence at conventions, when there was less competition. Based on that, I have probably underperformed to an extent! But when people who went on to huge success cite me as an influence, I am enormously proud. I just wish they would put a huge link to my work on their website, next to a giant animated arrow.
Now that we have caught up to present day…can we expect to stick with these characters for awhile, to see them grow and mature as they continue to battle monsters and solve mysteries? Can you give us a peek into what might be in store for our young friends? Or…do you already have something else – something entirely new – brewing?
I’m going to take a month off Bad Machinery to do a mini-series about one of the Scary Go Round characters. It’s kind of a pilot for a series, though if it became a full series I doubt I would have time to draw it myself. I’ve spent months working on the character designs and getting the look and feel of the thing. It gives me a chance to draw adults again, something i do miss. I love drawing fashion and of late have started to feel out of it – there’s only so much of that kind of design work that you can do with 12 year old characters. But I have a thirdBad Machinery story worked out, it’s kind of ludicrous and sad at the same time. Even though it’s been an uphill struggle, post Scary Go Round, I love writing the new comic. If people get that from it, then the difficulties are by and large worth it.
The idea is to do a “case” for each of the three terms of seven years of grammar school. If I get that far, we’ll have been places together. I hope that I get the chance.
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