Why Mrs Beaten makes so much jam

Sometimes, when it is late and she does not sleep, Mrs Beaten misses her husband. She thinks at great lengths of the things they did together, late at night, when there was no one else to see, or judge. She considers it important to be clandestine about some things. It is a gesture of respect to your neighbours to make sure that they have little or no idea what you do. One should have multiple lines for laundry so that items revealing too much can be hidden from viewing.

Mrs Beaten notes that it is curious how one can hate a thing at the time and miss it when it is gone. This is true of both her late husband, and the things he liked to do in the night. She does not regret his absence.

Sometimes, when the town is too quiet, and there is no sound of wind or wave to distract her, Mrs Beaten stalks her own kitchen at night. She reaches for the jams that did not quite work. For the fish jams, and the crab jams that of course aren’t sweet, or pleasant, or anything at all like jam, but which keep through the winter… She opens them, and painful compulsion takes over. She smears the contents onto her skin, her clothing or even her hair. Sometimes she wails aloud as she does this, but only very quietly so that none of the neighbours will notice her keening sounds as anything distinctive amongst the night cries of the island.

On the following morning she will have to clean herself and her home, as she always did. It feels less shameful, now. She does not judge herself for these compulsions.

Advertisements

Things I am up to

Comics making thoughts from Nimue Brown.

Druid Life

This week I finished colouring volume 3 of Hopeless Maine. It’s the second graphic novel I’ve coloured, and the first time on my own project. For those of you less familiar with the mechanics of comics making – this is normal. Making a comic involves writing a script, drawing it, colouring, inking (or over-lining in our case) and lettering the pages. These can all be done by different people, and in the more famous comics there is more of a production line approach to creation.

I started working on pages back when Tom did a project called The Raven’s Child. I took on some of the shading work to try and get him some breaks and time off. It’s not unusual in the comics industry for people to work ten and twelve hour days, and seven day weeks, and for a while we did that. We’ve since decided that the…

View original post 432 more words

Making comics – making you complicit

Working on the Hopeless Maine graphic novel, things have occurred to me about how the whole comics making process works. One of the things that struck me recently (over the head, with a damp tentacle) was the way in which a comic creates the perspective of the viewer. How a comic is drawn tells you who you are in relation to what you’re seeing.

Many comics favour a filmic approach to the art. Exciting angles, worm’s eye view, bird’s eye view, Dutch angles (when you tilt the camera). Distance shots, medium shots, close ups. You see the world of the comic as a camera would see it, as though you are watching a film. It can be a way of creating surprising and dramatic art, and showing off the artist’s grasp of perspective, space and angles. In terms of creating good art, this may be a significant factor.

When you watch a comic as though it was a film, stood on the outside, seeing through an imaginary set of cameras, you are outside the story. You are an observer, and the story is something you see, not something you participate in. Films show us streams of images that make sense, and that we can just look at with little effort on our part. Comics show us static images and we have to provide the motion and sound track in our heads. We have to turn the written words into voices. Comics require us to be much more active participants in bringing the story to life.

We don’t do a lot of fancy angles with Hopeless, Maine. There has been occasional criticism of this. Tom does the odd Dutch angle, but he points out that this is often what happens when you tilt your head to look at something. Most of the time, the perspective the reader gets is the perspective of someone standing, or sitting in the same scene. You might not be on an absolute level with the characters, but the eye view you get suggests that you are a person and in there with them.

It may not be a coincidence that so many people have been able to imagine themselves as just that – on the island. This blog is rich with contributions from people who have no trouble imagining they were there. Of course you were there. You’ve seen it with your own eyes…

Witherspoon’s Mother

This is Mrs Witherspoon. She cooks at the orphanage, and teaches cooking. By ‘cooks’ I mean that she is incredibly adept at chopping up things and boiling them, and has an absolute confidence about what can be eaten, even if it does fight back when being dished up. In fairness to her, no one has ever died as a result of Mrs Witherspoon’s cooking, although a fair few people have chosen to go hungry instead. Learning not to be too fussy is a good life skill on Hopeless, Maine.

Like many women in history, her personal identity is obscured. Her surname is not the one she was born with. The late Mr Witherspoon – who we never really see, but whose existence can be inferred from her presence, was Reverend and orphanage manager before Reverend Davies took up the job.

In the portrait, we see her at her best, armed with the tools of her trade and the medium of her art – tentacles. However, as with Whistler’s Mother (a painting we clearly haven’t stolen from even a little bit) the woman in the image is defined by her relationship to the artist. Even as she’s represented, she’s being erased as a person in her own right. Do we succumb to the temptation to ask who the younger Witherspoon is? Are we interested in the artist? Or are we interested in the woman who has been made a subject of the art?

Mrs Witherspoon herself doesn’t say much. Like so many women whose lives have made them invisible, she’s never said much to anyone about her own experiences. She’s seen a great deal that she will never speak of. She knows secrets – most especially the secrets of the Reverends of Hopeless Maine. Her silence supports and enables. It facilitates. It does not challenge or question or offer a counter narrative. Hers is the silent complicity of women through history who have been willing to believe that the men know best and should lead and not be questioned… Women who have done this not in ignorance, but in full knowledge of what they were going along with.

Mrs Witherspoon believes in feeding orphans. She does not believe in questioning why there are so many orphans to begin with. She is not the sort of person to cause trouble by suggesting any of the things that might reduce the number of orphans in the first place. She is certainly not the sort of woman to create a scandal by letting any breath of a whisper escape into the world about how many of the orphans she has tended were actually her husband’s children.

Perhaps that’s why, if you look at the picture in the background, Witherspoon the Younger has suggested a rather unsavoury fate for Mrs Witherspoon.

Sailing the gothic sea, bound for Hopeless, Maine

Review!

Mind Games with Dr Matt

Hopeless, Maine, from the minds and pens of Tom & Nimue Brown, is a deep, rich world, that is both new and also incredibly familiar.

It taps into a deep melancholy that evokes Poe, Dickens, Carroll, and Lovecraft, and also shows us that we can find warmth and comfort at times from acknowledging the collective sadness and angst, which we as humans, are all touching to varying degrees throughout our lives.

The visual style has an almost therapeutic quality, and it’s clear the artist pours themselves utterly into each frame.

I don’t want to talk at great length about it, as it can only really speak for itself, I just would like to encourage you all to discover Hopeless, Maine, for yourselves.

https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/

And if you are a devotee of roleplaying games, can I also recommend you follow the link below and check out the Hopeless, Maine RPG, which is…

View original post 35 more words

Breaking the moon

As far as I know, this is the first picture Tom ever did of Salamandra breaking the moon. It’s about ten years old. I don’t think at this point we knew why she was breaking the moon, either.

Those of you who have read either Inheritance as a standalone book, or as the second half of The Gathering, will know that Sal breaks the moon at the end of that book. Or appears to. Whether it is illusion, she never says. Is she really strong enough to split the moon in half and then put it back together later when no longer in a fit of pique? If she is strong enough, why is she hanging about on a small, grim island? Why hasn’t she taken over the world?

As the story unfolds, the questions of who and what Salamandra really is, what she can do, and what her limits are, remains pertinent. Obviously I’m not going to give you any spoilers for future books at this point!

In the meantime though, here are some things to ponder. What are the limits of your powers? How do you know? Why are you living the life you are living and not rushing off to do something far more dramatic and important? What are the limiting factors on your ability to change the world?

A Cup Full of Tentacles

A few years ago, Tom, James and I started singing together in a more organised sort of way, doing three part harmonies in a folk style. We started because we had regular events locally with floor spots and because it turned out that James could hold a tune no matter what and that harmonies could be built around him to good effect.

Nearly two years ago at an event in Shropshire we found that the space we’d been put in wasn’t suitable at all for the workshop we’d planned, and off the cuff, changed gear and sang a set instead. We got away with it, and, motivated by this, I wrote the Hopeless Maine sea shanty.

About eighteen months ago we were invited to do a Saturday evening event as part of Stroud Book Festival. Now, graphic novels do not lend themselves to public performance – you can’t read from then, or hold them up in a meaningful way for more than a table’s worth of people. And Gods help me, I am not getting into powerpoint projections. So we undertook to sing, putting together a set of songs around which we could talk about Hopeless. It went well, and since then we’ve taken that mix of stories and songs to other events.

Last weekend we were in Gloucester as part of the folk trail, with a set in the Victorian school room at the folk museum. When we do steampunk events, we tend to bill ourselves as Hopeless Maine because there’s a fighting chance people have heard of it. On the folk side, less so. When we go out as a folk activity, we’re A Cup Full of Tentacles – named for a piece of art Tom did some years ago. And yes, on one occasion someone did put us on as ‘a cup full of testicals’ instead.

For the folk trail, Saffy made us an actual cup full of tentacles (photo below). Saffy is awesome. You can find out more about her here – http://www.snell-pym.org.uk/

And here’s the original cup….

Why Donald does not love his dead dog

For the first eight or so years of his life, Donald was just your regular Hopeless Maine orphan with a dead dog as sidekick. He remembered very little about his family, and had no idea where the dead dog – Drury – had come from. But hey, the dead dog was neat, and funny, and adored him and it was all fine.

Then, as so many children who live for long enough do, Donald became curious. He took up exploring in his spare time, going out with other young orphans to poke about in old ruins, dodgy cellars, uneasy corners. There’s an element of natural selection here that young humans on Hopeless seem to relish, even though mostly what it does is punish the curious with death, leaving an adult population of survivors who have learned not to ask, not to look too closely, not to leave the path and never to wonder what the funny noise was. For some, childhood on Hopeless is truly a magical, if brief experience. Not all children want to grow up, and the island is all too ready to assist them in this.

Donald’s downfall did not come out of the darkness with far too many teeth. It did not lure him into a deep pool, or latch on to steal his blood. It came in the form of a book. A book hidden in a dusty attic, that called out to him when he first glimpsed its pale spine. He took the book back to his bed in the orphanage, and hid it under a loose floorboard.

Everyone in the orphanage has at least one loose floorboard or moveable bit of wainscoting to hide stuff behind. No one touches anyone else’s hidden stuff – it is one of the unspoken rules of the orphanage. Everyone pretends not to know where other people have hidden their things. So long as floors or ceilings are not compromised by the stash, and nothing comes out and kills someone, the adults also undertake to have no idea who has hidden what.

The book obsessed Donald. It haunted him. When he tried to sleep at night, his head was full of images that tormented his young soul. He could find no peace. He became silent, ghostly, unable to speak. For two years, he said nothing to anyone, and because weird afflictions are the daily business of the orphanage, no one bothered about it too much. He was later saved from this condition, but that, as they say, is another story.

Sometimes, late at night, he would sneak the book out and take it to a window in the hopes of illuminating a few words or images with moonlight. The book showed him other worlds, and while it filled him with misery, he could not let it go. He learned many of the words by heart. D is for Dog left a hollow pain in his chest, but he could not look away.

The Devil’s Fingers

In Britain, there are many bits of landscape named after the Devil. There’s usually a story to go with it. Other landscape features not called after Satan may also have stories that involve him. Here he threw some rocks at a giant. This hill is a pile of shoes that were part of a massive bluff to keep him out of town. This rather phallic outcropping is… well, you get the idea.

Hopeless Maine has a cluster of rocks called The Devil’s Fingers. These rocks form a sort-of island, not very far out to sea. It’s close enough to the main island that, during the ill-fated attempt to build a bridge between Hopeless and the mainland, a bridge actually got this far. You can read more about that here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/the-devils-fingers/

Over here is a story about the civic band playing on a platform when the bridge reached The Devil’s Fingers – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/bridging-the-divide/

It’s also a spot where mermaids are especially likely to show up – more here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/disaster-narrowly-avoided/

If you look at the rock formation, it’s obvious why the locals saw fit to call it the fingers. As to why it’s The Devil’s fingers…. there is a tale…

When people first came to live on Hopeless Maine, a long time ago, the Devil got wind of the island. Now, being the Prince of Darkness, ruler of Hell and other equally unlovely titles and job descriptions, Satan feels possessive when it comes to horrible things. One day, he heard the colony of monks praying from Hopeless to their God. Now, the monks hadn’t intended to set up home here, they had been looking for a remote and spiritual island, wanting to emulate Iona, but they’d got horribly lost, and then horribly shipwrecked. Forced to remain on the island, they set up a distillery and got on with praying.

So imagine all these lost monks, trying to find something to make whiskey out of in this inhospitable land, and praying to God for a decent grain crop, and the Devil hears them. And the Devil thinks to himself that he’ll go over to this miserable island for a look. He likes tormenting monks by making small mammals and landscape features look like sexy women. So the Devil heads off towards Hopeless. As he gets nearer and can see the island, he realises it’s the sort of horrible place he particularly loves, and feels angry because he didn’t make it, and it isn’t his, and he wants it.

He gets even closer, and he can see all the things with eyes living in the mist, and he wants to grab this whole place and take it down to Hell and use it to torment the damned. You can get bored with fiery pits after a few thousand years, trust me on this.

Just as the Devil reaches out to grab the island, something happens. Something awful and nameless and terrifying rises up to meet the advancing Devil, and the Devil falls back into the sea, cold stone dead, with just his fingers sticking out. He lies there to this very day. And whatever it is that killed Satan of the coast of Hopeless, well, people say it’s still here, and you’d best hope that’s all you ever find out about it.

The Mystery of Erik

If you’ve read Hopeless Maine, Sinners, you may have noticed the two page spreads. Being the clever sort of people you are, you will have noticed that the two page spreads tell a story that has nothing to do with the main story. The super-attentive will have recognised Melisandra – mother of Salamandra, and will have figured out that she’s collecting a young man and drawing him into her underground, night time lifestyle.

A note about vampires on Hopeless, Maine. Some of them really are vampires in all the traditional senses of the word. Some are energy vampires. Some are lifestylers. The lifestylers take up living underground – for the glamour, the excitement, to get away from the voices, because they cannot bear the attention of the eyes in the sky, and so forth. They are not vampires, even though they act like vampires. The consequence of this is a slow death from malnutrition – which is quite likely what would have happened to them over a Hopeless winter anyway, only with less romance.

Back to Erik. As there’s no text in the two page spreads, you had no way of knowing that his name is Erik, but it is. The reason his name is Erik, is that we borrowed the face for this character from actor Erik Moody, who we met through the awesome Ragged Isle project.

A bit of back history on that score – some years ago, director of Ragged Isle Barry Dodd made contact with us online. He suggested that as we are both spooky islands off the coast of Maine, that perhaps we could be friends. We love Ragged Isle, and have huge love and respect for the many brilliant people involved with it. You can find out more about Ragged Isle here – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1870996/

And you can find Erik Moody on youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/theemptycinema/featured

As for Erik the would-be vampire? What happened to him? If you know, drop us a line…

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.