Monday, October 31, 2016

Light The Fire, Gather Round! It's A Halloween Triple Feature!

All Hallow's Eve! When the darkness comes knocking, when the air smells of pumpkins and fallen leaves, it's time to explore the grim and the ghastly. Which is what we plan to do today!
Today, we'll be posting a Halloween Double Feature review of 'Patrick The Vampire' and 'Hopeless Maine', followed by a Monthly Matinee feature, 'The Masks We Hide Behind' after dark.
Snuggle down, dim the lights and hold on tight, Halloween has come to town!
And as an extra special gift for our Strip Show readers, here's four spooky Ray Bradbury stories. When the sun goes down, listen. Feel the turning of the world, and the shiver in your blood.Happy Halloween!
From The Dust Returned-
The Halloween Tree-
Something Wicked This Way Comes-
The October Country-

Halloween Double Feature Revue: Patrik The Vampire

Sink Your Teeth Into This!

Everybody's just trying to get by in life, really. You go to work, you pay your rent, you hang out with friends, you catch a guy down a back alley and drink his blood...

wait, say that again?
It's just another day in the life of Patrik The Vampire, the work of Bree Paulsen. According to Bree, 'Patrik’s a fun-loving guy who enjoys knitting and baking, visiting his friend Becky at the local coffee shop, and is a proud member of his neighborhood’s book club. He’s just a really nice guy trying to live a normal life.

Oh! And I almost forgot! He’s a vampire.'

The Rating

 Bloody good!

The Raves

From the earliest pages, this comic showed itself to have a wonderful grasp of writing style and the artistic chops to carry it off. The art and the script work together in seamless harmony, a deft sense of framing and imagery perfectly supporting witty one liners and snappy rhetoric, keeping us engaged with every page. 
The creator's pulled off the feat of creating a work that makes you think but still makes you laugh on a regular basis, and that's no easy trick. In the early pages, the comic is mainly a vehicle for well-done humor, but soon the story grows into something more: an exploration of personality, guilt, redemption and the longing we all have at some point in our lives to reach beyond our own lives and connect with others. Put plainly, Patrik wants so badly to make a friend! There are some deep themes in this  piece, but the writing and dialogue make sure that it never gets too heavy.  The art style helps keep the atmosphere from getting too dark: the loose playfulness of watercolor paints, the bright, chipper colors and stylized drawing flair keep what could have been a very grim piece in the realm of the cheerful, self aware comedy.
There's some solid characterization in this work: Patrick's desperate cheerfulness reminiscent of a recovering addict who desperately wants to prove that he can be a good man is wonderfully balanced with his two diametrically opposed best friends, one bitter as black coffee boiled too long in the pot, the other sweet and wholesome as a fresh baked cinnamon roll. Add in a cranky cat and a cute cast of background characters, and you have a recipe for a great comic.

The Razzes

I'll be honest. I've nothing to complain of. Hats off to you Paulsen! Personally I like to read the work on Taptastic because I find annoying Tumblr's habit of insisting that a click on the image means you'd like to see the image as a separate tab rather than going on to the next post, which is what I'm trained to do by most comics, but I understand that this is the fault of the platform, not the creator. In terms of art, writing, or workmanship, no complaints!

The Revue

Here's your Halloween treat, enjoy!

Halloween Double Feature Revue: Hopeless Maine

Are You Ready For A Story?

Listen Close, And I'll Tell You Of Hopeless, Maine...

So glad to have you come to town. Mind your step, you don't want to trip on a tentacle.Oh, her? She's the nanny for a local family. Didn't you know ghosts make the best nannies? Oh by the way, the town witch's selling curses at half price this week. Only the best quality of course. None of this mass produced plague rubbish.
Welcome to Hopeless, Maine. It was imagined by Tom Brown, written by a woman he ensnared in his imagination (she's now Nimue Brown) and ready to ensnare you....
According to the creators, 'The small island of Hopeless, off the coast of Maine, is a breeding ground for demons, freaks, vampires, and other creatures of the night. Our story follows Salamandra, a young girl with one foot in our world and one foot in the otherworld, as she navigates a life on the edge of reality.'
You were warned. 

The Rating


The Raves

Dark. Shadowed. Things you can't name moving out of the corner of your eye. In a word: atmosphere. This work has it in spades. Every panel, even the most mundane, has a sense of something shivering on the edge of your vision: something unseen, unnamed and all the more disturbing for it. And then of course there are the blatant dissonances with reality: the family (skeleton) dog, the dead nanny who sometimes forgets to hide the fact that her face is a skull. The neighbors sleeping in their coffins. The tentacles in the bay. All these things are accepted with perfect equanimity by the residents of Hopeless, lending the work an air of macabre magical realism reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's 'From The Dust Returned' and 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' as well as a hint of Neil Gaiman and Brom, a dash of Lovecraft, and a little Addams Family in there somewhere too.  It's a truly thrilling and beautiful work. Oh, and the characters are pretty thrilling too! The town witch, the preacher's son, the girl who plays with lightning, each of them is at once an archetype and a character in their own right; stubborn Owen, dreamy Salamandra, each with their own yearnings and kennings. 
The storytelling beautifully balances the mundane and the mysterious, playing on the unique human ability to accept almost anything as 'normal' if it's presented right. The storyline explores many of our deepest human motivations: to fit in, to have power, to feel safe. And it explores the dark uses those needs can be turned to: combine the need to feel like part of the group and the need to do something in the face of an event that makes you feel helpless-a plague, say- and you have witch burnings. Combine the fear of death and the invitation of a friendly smile, and you might just sell your soul.
But it's really the art that sells this fantastic and fanciful world where the veil between real and unreal has been shredded to ribbons and left to twist in the wind.

The Razzes

I would have liked to give this comic a ten, but there's a snag. The art's stunning. The writing's superb. But the reading platform? That flies like a lead balloon, and no amount of magic is going to make it less of a burden.
Here's what happens: You go to the Hopeless Maine site. You get a page with eerily beautiful illustration, an introductory explanation...and no comic. Puzzled, you begin to poke about. Under the 'books' section, you find a list, click one. 
Another beautiful illustration with a link to 'read the book here'. You're then redirected to a digital image of the book, and your torture begins. Click to read and you get an insanely blown up version of each page with text that's grainy. Not unreadable, mind you...but awfully close. It doesn't help that the text is somewhat crammed in its word bubble to begin with, but I believe the fault lies with the upload. The art's fared far, far better than the text has when being scanned in. You click again...and the image arbitrarily shrinks again because apparently you clicked the wrong spot. Surprise. The fact that you spend a lot of time mucking about with your mouse, frowning, clicking and frowning again to read each page or properly view each begin to see the problem.
I can see the creators' reasoning: they want to sell books. They want you to see how beautiful the books are, but they want to give you a reason to buy the better quality version. All that said, as a reader if what I remember about your work is being annoyed, I'm less likely to buy it. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Brown, if something is to be hosted on the web, please make it easily readable on the web. It's a terrible amount of work to redo all that text...but it might just be worth it.

The Revue

A must read. Eerie beauty that shivers in your bones and sticks to your dreams. The perfect read on a Hallowed night....with all the candles lit.

Monthly Matinee October: The Masks We Hide Behind

The Masks We Hide Behind; Geek Culture, Free Speech, Harassment And Internet Anonymity. It Matters For All Of Us.

 The Magic

Masks. Pull one on, and your identity is concealed, revealed, improved or obscured. It's an intoxicating thing, this freedom. It is, in fact, so beguiling that the German language has a word for it: Maskenfreiheit, the freedom conferred by masks.  We love the power a mask confers, especially those of us who read comics and delight in comic culture. Conventions, cosplay, roleplay, stepping into the protagonist's shoes. Behind the masks, we do all the things we didn't dare. Behind a mask, a blind man becomes the savior of Hell's Kitchen, a mild mannered journalist saves Metropolis, a wealthy dilettante becomes the Dark Knight and a scared girl becomes a Marvel with a capital M.
 A quite unassuming person pulls on a mask and SHAZAM, they're a superhero!
Or a supervillain.

The Mask

In the age we live in, we've been given the best mask of all: the world wide web. On the web, we're free to really be ourselves, to indulge the things that we might not be able to talk about or do in our daily life. On the web we let out parts of our personality that yearn to be free. We change all kinds of things when we interact on the web in venues that range from chat rooms to rolepaying games: species, sex, social standing. Some of us are heroes on the Web. Some of us are teachers, storytellers, performers, artists, friends, guides, students, guardians.
But behind the masks, some of us transform into something else. Sometimes, we become monsters.

The Trolls 

Art by Wil Huygen

We call them The Trolls, those who use the anonymity of their masks to indiscriminately hurt and shame others. If you create content on the Web, chances are you will someday encounter a Troll. They're the person who randomly posts 'you suck' on your new art piece. The person who goes on a rant on your comment thread and destroys the conversation because you don't agree with them on a point, however minor it is.
Some trolls are simply annoying. Some are terrifying.
Cyber-harassment or 'trolling' is a problem that's gone from bad to worse in the last few years. It can affect anyone, but it tends to fall most heavily on people with progressive views and women in the media. If you're both, you might as well have a target on your back.
Take Gamergate.  In Carly Smith's IndieWire article GamerGate: A War on Women Hiding Behind a Mask of “Ethics” , she wrote up several disturbing interconnected cases that occurred in 2014, started by an angry ex-boyfriend of Zoe Quinn and infecting the lives of two other creators:

*The case of Brianna Wu, an independent game developer who was threatened so badly and so often online that she has had to move her family from an address disclosed by a troll online and ask for a security detail when she attends conventions. Why? Because she defended Zoe publicly and said 'You cannot have 30 years of portraying women as bimbos, sex objects, second bananas, cleavage-y eye candy," she said. "Eventually it normalizes this treatment of women. And I think something is really sick and broken in our culture." You can read more about this on the well-written Inc article by David Whitford.  

This was an actual Twitter account linked  to a game
that let users punch
an image of Anita in the face. 

*The case of  Anita Sarkeesian. According to Smith, 'For pointing out demeaning stereotypes of female characters within video games in a series of YouTube videos, feminist cultural critic Anita
Sarkeesian has received bomb threats, shooting threats, rape threats, and death
threats from certain parts of the gaming community. Just this past week,
Sarkeesian canceled a speech she was going to give at Utah State University,
citing possible dangers and insufficient security measures after an anonymous
threat promised "the deadliest school shooting in American history"
in response to her presence on campus.'

The ubiquitous Troll

We can talk about these cases all night, unfortunately. The wonderful actor Leslie Jones of the new 'Ghostbusters' movie was recently harassed off of Twitter by misogynistic, racist viciousness. Back in June Jonathan Weisman, the deputy Washington editor of the New York Times, quit Twitter after a barrage of anti-Semitic messages. And now Chelsea Cain has been bullied out of social media, just this past month.
Chelsea's crime? A t-shirt with sass
Chelsea Cain is a comic writer and an artist of her craft. Recently, she celebrated and joked about the short run of Mockingbird (Marvel Comics) as it ended by putting the heroin in a tshirt reading 'ask me about my feminist agenda' on the cover of the last issue.
She was harassed so badly that she deleted her Twitter account.This is Chelsea's experience in her own words.

An artist was just forced out of the space of public discourse by viciousness and misogyny.

The Troll Caves

Unfortunately, there's no easy answer to the reason people become Trolls. Psychology, social status, and cultural conditioning all play a part in creating a Troll. Psychologically, the very anonymity of the internet helps to allow for Trolls. Several psychological experiments have proven that people, when they feel they aren't being watched, will behave much more badly than usual. We need other humans to act human, essentially. When we feel that no one is watching us, some of us feel free to indulge our darker urges. It's so easy to lash out when there will be no repercussions.
In his article for Dark Psychology, Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. wrote  'the Internet Troll is a unique creature to say the least. In essence, the Internet Troll is what this writer calls Cyber Environment Dependent.

Cyber Environment Dependent simply means that an Internet Troll requires access to cyberspace in order to engage in their nonsensical passive aggression. Without having what this writer calls the “veil of anonymity” available to all online users, Internet Trolls would be non-existent. If anything, and without going into a long diatribe, if they could not hide behind their technology, “they would quickly have their ass kicked for their incessant provocations.” Prior to the internet, Internet Trolls were men, women and children who kept their subconscious fantasies for power, control & dominance between their ears hoping to one day ascend to a position in life whereby they could feel psychologically superior. Now with the internet and a cyber environment to interact with others without being in the physical presence of others to communicate, the Internet Troll flourishes.'
Okay. That might be a wee bit over the top in terms of rhetoric. But several reputable news and research groups have looked into this issue and found much the same thing. The trolls? They really are losers. They're miserable, and they give vent to misery by attacking others. For a moment, they're the one in charge. For the moment, they have power.
Paul Jun, in his insightful and useful 99U article  Don’t Feed the Haters: The Confessions of a Former Troll put it best of all when he described what drives a Troll:

1.They’re bored: Trolls lack stimulation “IRL” (in real life), for good or ill, so they seek it online where it’s readily available and easily acquired. A troll’s behavior reflects a deep insecurity so having someone respond to their words gives life meaning, regardless of how pathetic that may sound. I raided that wedding because I wanted to be noticed and talked about. Random people cursing me out through private messages or the general chatroom invigorated me. I was so bored with my real life, and even my virtual character’s life, that I learned to find joy in harming others. If a troll had something better to do, like work or a hobby, they wouldn’t have time to troll. The next time you find yourself posting a negative comment think about why you’re doing it.

2. They want attention: All a troll wants is you to turn the spotlight onto them. They want you to repost their comment to your followers. They want you to write a blog post or status about them. They will use anything and everything to get it. They will criticize you, post inflammatory comments, or write remarks just to make you wonder how someone could be so dumb. The problem is that you will feel compelled to respond to “set things right.” Even if you respond in a cheerful or positive way, you’re still feeding the troll.
Art by Vaejoun on Deviantart
I'll add a number three to that: Trolls are usually unsatisfied with their own lives. Not just bored. Miserable. Unfulfilled. UNHAPPY.
To illustrate the point, Joel Stein tells this story in his Time article:
"I’ve been a columnist long enough that I got calloused to abuse via threats sent over the U.S. mail. I’m a straight white male, so the trolling is pretty tame, my vulnerabilities less obvious. My only repeat troll is Megan Koester, who has been attacking me on Twitter for a little over two years. Mostly, she just tells me how bad my writing is, always calling me “disgraced former journalist Joel Stein.” Last year, while I was at a restaurant opening, she tweeted that she was there too and that she wanted to take “my one-sided feud with him to the next level.” She followed this immediately with a tweet that said, “Meet me outside Clifton’s in 15 minutes. I wanna kick your ass.” Which shook me a tiny bit. A month later, she tweeted that I should meet her outside a supermarket I often go to: “I’m gonna buy some Ahi poke with EBT and then kick your ass.”

I sent a tweet to Koester asking if I could buy her lunch, figuring she’d say no or, far worse, say yes and bring a switchblade or brass knuckles, since I have no knowledge of feuding outside of West Side Story. Her email back agreeing to meet me was warm and funny.

I saw Koester standing outside the restaurant. She was tiny–5 ft. 2 in., with dark hair, wearing black jeans and a Spy magazine T-shirt. She ordered a seitan sandwich, and after I asked the waiter about his life, she looked at me in horror. “Are you a people person?” she asked. As a 32-year-old freelance writer for who has never had a full-time job, she lives on a combination of sporadic paychecks and food stamps. My career success seemed, quite correctly, unjust. And I was constantly bragging about it in my column and on Twitter. “You just extruded smarminess that I found off-putting. It’s clear I’m just projecting. The things I hate about you are the things I hate about myself,” she said.'

Few trolls are so honest with themselves and others. Some have been taking pleasure in hurting others so long that there is no changing their behavior. So what's to be done?

The Battle

So what do we, as a community, do about the trolls?

Respect. Reflect. Rethink.

First, we can make sure WE aren't part of the problem. Here's some good rules from Edutopia

Starve The Trolls
What trolls need, what they CRAVE, is attention. Recognition. They want to know they've had an affect.

Don't. Feed. Them.
Don't respond. Don't acknowledge. Put them on your blocked or ignored list so you don't see the messages. Don't even talk about them publicly; if you have a friend online, sure, vent in PM, but DO NOT let the troll see you squirm. Know from the start that they're not here for a reasoned discussion, they're here to see you flinch. Don't blink. Turn your back. This may make them more vicious in the short term, but in the long term animals don't stay where they're not fed.

 Stand Together

Art by Simon Love

People targeted by the worst of the Trolls often feel terribly isolated. In Stein's Time article, Leslie Jones said this regarding her serious internet harassment: “I was in my apartment by myself, and I felt trapped,” Jones says. “When you’re reading all these gay and racial slurs, it was like, I can’t fight y’all. I didn’t know what to do. Do you call the police? Then they got my email, and they started sending me threats that they were going to cut off my head and stuff they do to ‘N words.’ It’s not done to express an opinion, it’s done to scare you.”
Don't leave a frightened victim to suffer alone.
If someone you know or someone you know of is suffering a trolling, get the community behind them. Don't just chat amongst yourselves about how wrong it is: contact the person directly with support. Flood their walls with positive, friendly messages. Ignore the trolls, but make absolutely sure their voices are drowned out by better things.
Here's a good example. When I heard about what had happened to Chelsea Cain through an acquaintance, I researched it, then got on several art forums I'm a part of and posted about it. On Sunday we'll be sending over 30 images of our own characters in the same t-shirt that Mockingbird wore to show our support. This is the internet equivalent of taking your neighbor a bottle of wine after they've had their house robbed and staying over to keep them company. It's how we let each other know that they're not alone.

Stop The Game

If things are escalating and the person being trolled starts to feel unsafe, there are groups out there to help.


is a rescue service for women media creators. According to the site, "TrollBusters provides just-in-time rescue services to support women journalists, bloggers and publishers who are targets of cyberharassment. We use our virtual S.O.S. team to send positive memes, endorsements and testimonials into online feeds at the point of attack. We dilute the stings of cyberbullies, trolls and other online pests to support you, your voice, your website, your business and your reputation."

Crash Override, founded by Zoe Quinn, is another anti-trolling group with a lot of work under their belt and an extensive resource center. The site describes itself like this: " Crash Override works with clients before, during, and after episodes of online abuse with a combination of public resources, private case work, and institutional outreach."

*Author's note: I was unable to discover
 the artist of
several images in this piece,
 especially the girl with the masks.
 If anyone knows, please tell me so
I can credit the creators.

Paint Your Own Mask

Unfortunately, there will always be trolls growling in the dark corners of our society. Somewhere, someone will always feel entitled to hurt someone else from some seat of perceived superiority. There will always be that person who has come to feel that their comment is funny and if you don't take the joke you're being too sensitive. Somewhere there will always be someone who feels so helpless and angry about their own life that hurting someone else is their only way to feel accomplished. It's sad but true that as creators, responsible readers and artists, we have to learn how to fight them. 

But we are a strong community, full of talent, vibrancy, wit and humor. We'll paint and craft our own online masks, weave them out of our art and our wits, our worldbuilding and our storytelling. We'll make carnival masks so beautiful that, when we walk together, you won't even be able to see the trolls for all the beauty. And we'll keep on walking through this wonderous parade called life. 
Grab your mask, it's carnival time.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday, October 23rd 2016: Doghouse In Your Soul

Ladies and Gentlemen!
Come one, come all
To view The Doghouse in your Soul!

Doghouse In Your Soul is created by Josh and Katherine Raimonde. Let's join Meshack, Chinmey and the crew at Mondo's pet store for a few laughs.

The Ratings

The jokes are flat

The Raves

Of all the comics in Doghouse, I enjoyed this one, mostly because it's the kind of humor I do like:

Poor Alaska, but you taste so good with butter.

I admittedly like this one because it's a video game reference:

And since it's an election year:

I thought some of the other pet related jokes were amusing, but most of the jokes fell flat for me. The about page mentions that the strips contain a bit of social commentary, references to pop culture, "but deep down has a lot of heart as it’s coming from a pet lover and a new dad." Congratulations on the baby!

But, that's when it hit me: they're dad jokes.

They're harmless, they're punny at times, and when their child grows up aside from having two lovable, artistic parents, that child is going to enjoy the best dad jokes. I say that respectfully because when/if I ever have a child, they too will suffer from my dad jokes.

The Razzes

I felt that the jokes were scattershot though. One would be about Game of Thrones. The next Donald Trump. Then a "cats hate water" joke. Some jokes felt like obvious commentary like people sneezing into a buffet table and kids touching and grabbing everything (which BTW, is totally true). 

I also kept thinking: why these characters and these commentaries? Do they really go together? Chimney being a dopey dog worked for me, but I think we tend to characterize dogs in that vein. It's a "stupid, yet lovable" trope -- think back to Odie from Garfield or more recently the dog from Up. Meshack the skunk seemed to be fairly central to the comic, because he's more anthropomorphize and insightful on a human level, a la Brian from Family Guy. He sits in the arm chair and watches TV amd there's also the Meshack's Corner strips:

The animals taking on human commentary seems out of place. The one-off about Meshack and Jon Snow didn't really work for me. The jokes about the animals being animals, or at least vocalizing from their point-of-view I thought were more amusing. It's why I like the crab comic up above. To humans crabfest is an amazing dinner, but to a crab that is a horror show.

As I read the comics, I did have one technical issue with the Summer Olympics comic, and it was reading the order of the speech bubbles. Usually speech bubbles are arranged to read left to right, so I naturally read the top row of bubbles without considering the bubbles below it, and really they needed to somehow criss-cross each other or my instincts would mean I'd miss half the conversation.

Maybe this comic would be better served as a vertical one so we can get the left-to-right read on the conversation between Meshack and Chimney.  

The Revue

If you like animal humor, you may find some of the strips here amusing.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Saturday Revue Octobe 21st: Moses Jones,Apocalyptic Mama

A Girl's Gotta Do...

What A Girl's Gotta Do...

Modern parenting is hard, and it just keeps getting harder. Teething troubles. Deadbeat dads. Zombies?
But Moses Jones has four mouths to feed, Madonna the Katana and a lot of moxy. She isn't letting a few undead slow her down. 'Moses Jones: Apocalyptic Mama' is her story. Written by Em Mccarty, this is zombie dystopia as you've never seen it before.

The Rating

Hmmm....close, but no katana.

The Raves

At its best,  'Moses Jones' reminds me of  the art therapy journal of someone coping with trauma: raw, beautifully lucid and painfully candid. The story revolves around the deep emotional bonds Moses forms, and when it stays on those themes it's wise, moving and meaningful. The emotional content packed into the work is palpable even in the simplest phrases, and the piece really does make you feel for the characters when it stays focused.
The art style is a pen-and ink lucid dream, as raw in its execution as a piece of folk art and as bluntly powerful when at its best. Sacrificing finesse for emotion, it delivers a gut shot that reminds me of Cheyenne artwork: its stark simplicity doesn't give you any wiggle room. You have to face it head on. This story pulls no punches, in storytelling or in style.

The Razzes

Unfortunately, those powerful punches are often thrown with the finesse of a wild haymaker, and too often they miss the mark. I admire the style that Mccarty is aiming for: the wistful lucid dreaming of a sensitive woman in a dystopian world, coping with her issues through her art. But both the storytelling and the art have a long road ahead of them before they can support such a powerful tale.
Here's my advice: do a lot of study on the anatomy of the human face and head. Here's the basics:

1. The eyes sit at the vertical center of the head or just above, about halfway between the top of the skull (not the hairline) and the bottom of the chin.

2. The bottom of the nose (not the bottom of the nose tip, which can be angled however) sits halfway between the brow and the chin.

3. The ears stretch from the eyes to the bottom of the nose.

4. The width of the eyes is roughly 1/5 of the distance from outer ear to outer ear. In wider faces, this doesn't apply.

5. The eyes are one eye-width apart.

6. The width of the nostrils is the same as the width between the eyes.

7. The center of the lips is located 1/3 of the way down the distance between the bottom of the nose and the chin.

8. The width of the lips (from side to side) is roughly pupil to pupil.

Fix the faces and the rest of the art will look at least twice as good.
Now, storytelling is harder to fix, but  my main advice is this: KISS. Keep it simple sir. Too often, the storytelling rambles off hither and yon: into the lives of side characters who aren't even named at first, into the past, off to moon about an absent lover. All these storylines have their place, but they feel more like loosely connected strands than a story fabric. I understand that the creator is aiming for a personal journal feel, but sacrificing story for style is a cardinal sin of comic making. Tighten the story up, or you're going to lose your readers.

The Revue

I'm keeping my eye on this one. With a little more attention and practice, it'll be shooting off zombie heads at two hundred paces!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Backstage Pass October: Meredith Moriarty

Hurry Hurry Hurry! Grab Your Ticket Quick!

Ghoulies And Ghosties And Long-Legged Beasties, Come Along For Your Halloween Treat!
Meet The Wondrous Weaver Of Frights And Sights,

Meredith Moriarty!

Do we have a spooky treat for you today! Boys and ghouls, take a seat with Meredith Moriarty and listen to her tales. Meredith, take it away!

I'm a graphic designer by day, comic book artist and illustrator by night, from Philadelphia, PA. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 with a B.S. in Information Sciences with a focus on web design and programming, but decided I'd rather do art stuff instead.

Main Project

Third Shift Society is a supernatural action comic about two paranormal investigators: Ellie, a young college dropout struggling to find her place in life; and Ichabod, a calm, intelligent man who happens to have a pumpkin for a head. Together they navigate a world full of ghosts, vampires, witches, and demons...and those are just the clients! You can find it at, ThirdShiftSociety

Other Hobbies, Guilty Pleasures and Obsessions

Video games, baking, watching cartoons, knitting and crochet. I am tremendously boring. :P

So, tell me about your early experience. How did you fall in love with telling stories in pictures?

I'm...not entirely sure. I think it was the result of impatience and vague misanthropy. Haha, that probably needs some elaboration. So I always loved reading and making up stories, and cartoons were basically my favorite form of entertainment. Animation seemed like the natural path to go down, but then I learned how much time goes into making a few seconds of content, and how many people are involved in the process, and that was a big turn-off. I wanted my picture stories and I wanted them now, damn it! :P So comics it was! Later on I discovered how nuanced and beautiful the medium could be, and I'm definitely happy to be working in the field. It's just funny where the choices of our younger selves can lead.

What media and programs do you work in to produce your project?

Photoshop and Manga Studio.

As a reader I really appreciate your crisp and colorful art style; what were your major influences as this style evolved for you? Did you set out consciously to master a specific style, or did it evolve organically from the art you were exposed to?

A little of both, I think. I grew up watching a lot of Bruce Timm's work, and I think elements of that style have definitely stuck with me in little ways. I was also pretty big into anime in my middle school years and into high school, and I sought to emulate the art of shows I saw on Toonami and Adult Swim. The results were...less than wonderful. But I think the biggest influence on my style over the past ten years has been the online art community. Being exposed to so many techniques and approaches, you can't help but be inspired!

Can you tell me about your typical day or strip-creation session? How does your work process flow from idea to finished page?

Although most of my scripts are scribbled out on notebook paper,

 the actual comic pages are entirely digital. Using Photoshop and an 11"x17" comic template, I do a quick thumbnail sketch to work out the paneling, speech bubble placement, and flow of the action. I then do a loose sketch to more fully block out the figures, followed by a tighter sketch to nail down the details. If the script calls for characters to spend a lot of time in a particular environment, I might whip up a Sketchup model to use as a base for my backgrounds. Doing this ensures that the surroundings are consistent from page to page, and it's also a big time-saver! Once I'm satisfied with my "pencils", I take the file into Manga Studio for inks. Technically I could do this part in Photoshop too, but I find Manga Studio has crisper inks, and the stabilization option is super helpful. After that it's back to Photoshop for colors, text, and speech bubbles. Sound effects are usually last. I like to make my own by drawing out the letters in black, then using layer styles to add color and effects. If only I had more interesting handwriting. :P

What’s the most difficult part of your work?

TIME. I work a 9-5 job and try to squeeze in some exercise and family time every day,
Art By Randy Coffey
 which usually leaves me a few half-asleep hours a night to work on comics.
 It's definitely exhausting, but I really enjoy it. There are some days I can hardly wait to get home and draw! 

Can you tell me about your storytelling process? Do you prefer to script your stories, fly by the seat of your pants, or somewhere in between?

Definitely somewhere in between. I do my scripts one chapter at a time, and they tend to be formatted more like screenplays: mostly dialogue with a few stage directions interspersed throughout. Sometimes I'll indicate where a page turn should be, but usually I leave it pretty open ended and figure out the divisions as I go. I rarely change the content while I'm drawing the page, but if I think of something better than what I've previously written, I'm definitely open to making edits (after letting it sit for a couple days, of course - sleep deprived me is not always to be trusted XD).

You use a lot of interesting mythology from a variety of cultures; how do you go about researching it?

There are a ton of great documentaries out there, and I like to put them on in the background while I work - multitasking at its finest! I'm also a big reader, and usually around this time of year I'll get on an "educational spooky books" kick. Last time I learned way more about the scientific origins of vampires in the European tradition than I'll probably ever need to know. :P

  Does getting mythology ‘wrong’ or being accused of cultural misinterpretation/ appropriation ever scare you off an idea?

Nah, not really. I like to use mythology as a starting point, but never set out to present my comic as an accurate guide to folklore. The characters in TSS may be vampires or demons, for example, and although they might abide by certain mythological conventions, ultimately I prefer to focus on their individual personalities and stories rather than getting hung up on their place in the folkloric tradition.

You have a wonderfully lucid way of getting your character’s personalities across. How do you go about designing a character’s personality and/or features?

Ah, there are so many books and guides that do a better job explaining this than I ever could. But there is one thing I find really helpful but don't usually see mentioned: know what your character's voice sounds like. I'm not sure it works for everyone, but personally, if I can "hear" their voice, I can write their lines, which in turn helps me flesh out their personality. I suppose it has something to do with how much our accents, vocabulary, and speech patterns are a product of our personal histories.

How much of a buffer do you like to keep?

Haha, I'd LIKE to have at least a couple pages of buffer, but the reality is closer to zero. And by "closer", I mean it's zero. No buffer. The page you see is the one I've been working on that week. One day I will have a true buffer, and it will be glorious. XD

Has anyone told you that you'll never be a successful artist and you'd be better off studying a real field and/or getting a real job?

Not exactly, but I was frequently encouraged to get a job doing something that pays well and just do art on the side. I suppose the rationale was that if the art thing takes off, you can always quit your day job. If not, well, at least you won't starve. Happily, my day job is also art related, so I guess that worked out ok. :D

What message do you hope readers take away from your work?

Hmm...I don't know that Third Shift Society has a message, per se. At its core it's a story about finding your place in the world, and I hope that resonates with my audience, but ultimately my goal is to tell an engaging story that people enjoy reading!

What keeps you devoted to telling the story you’re telling?

Latent masochistic tendencies? Haha, seriously though, I'm not entirely sure. I guess I just get really excited about sharing stories with people, and drawing comics is super rewarding. It's my creative outlet, and my way of relaxing and having fun. But I wouldn't enjoy it half as much without the fantastic support from my wonderful readers. <3

Thanks for the thrills and chills Meredith! Happy Halloween!