Category Archives: Hopeless inhabitants

Hopeless in Space!

We took a little bit of Hopeless, Maine to Steampunks in Space, at the National Space centre in Leicester.

To our utter delight, Nimrod and Fiona came along in their These Our Revels costumes!

And here we have Lyssa Lopez Wain, whose image features in the Optimists volume. She’s also Queen of Night Potatoes in the tarot set!

And here’s Mélissa Delteil with her fabulous Annamarie Nightshade picture, also featured in Optimists.

Hopeless Players

Hopeless Players are now officially a thing!

We took Mrs Beaten’s Literary Salon to the recent Steampunk event in Gloucester. Poet Algernon Lear (Craig Hallam) was coaxed/threatened into performing and survived a set in which bloomers were thrown at him, hecklers demanded dancing girls and critiqued his work, and Reverend Davies found his metaphors improper! 

This was also the first time we’ve had John Bassett performing in public as Reverend Davies, which was really exciting.

We’ll be exploring possibilities for taking Hopeless Players to events, putting on small entertainments with whoever is able to be there on the day. If you’re comfortable improvising within a team and fancy becoming a Hopeless Player now and then, do please let us know.

Equally, if you fancy having some of this chaos – or other forms of chaos that we can provide – at an event, do say!

Reverend Davies is with us

We have a longstanding habit of borrowing people’s faces – partly because creating individual background characters can be hard work. Partly because including people we like in the project is always a lot of fun.

Reverend Davies was not based on any real people. However, he’s going to be in the silent film as a character, and this means an actual person will be playing him. That will be John Bassett, who has also done a lot of work developing the script and sorting out practical stuff alongside Tom.

This wasn’t planned as a photo shoot. we just realised that real people who were featured in the art would be coming in, and then realised that as Mr Bassett was in the building, we could get him to pose with Reverend Davies…

Mermaid Tales

Young Salamandra by Tom Brown.

The Mermaid Grandmother

Ancestry is very much part of the Hopeless Maine story. The Jones family claims to descend from pirates, while the Frog family show every sign of having originated in Innsmouth. The island celebrates its Founding Families. 

Unlike most of America, Hopeless was not occupied prior to the arrival of settlers from further afield. In local indigenous languages it is referred to as The Place We Go When We Are Young And Trying To Prove Something. There are four tribes associated with the Maine area and I’ve tried to be careful around both honouring their existence and not putting this story on to them. The island is a silly place to live, and local people know that. The founding had everything to do with white capitalist exploitation of resources, and since the resources went away, has mostly been populated by people from shipwrecks.

On her father’s side, Salamandra is descended from one of the founding families – The O’Stoats. This is a family with a long tradition of murder, and unpleasant occultism, often combined. Her father – Durosimi, is present in the graphic novels and you can find her paternal grandfather in New England Gothic. The grandmother on this side is a significant absence and I might seek out her story at some point.

Salamandra’s mother, Melisandra, is a bit of a psychopath and we also see her in the graphic novels. We meet Balthazar – Melisandra’s father, but her mother has also existed as a significant absence. I’d suspected for a while that she might be a mermaid.

This year we started looking at the mermaid grandmother in earnest. Her name is Alraune – which is German for mandrake. Dr Abbey named her as part of the project we’re working on together. So far, we have one image of her, although clearly there will be more, and it will be interesting to see more of her mermaid form as we progress. It’s also been interesting exploring the dynamics between three generations of magical women, none of whom really get on with each other.

Alraune by Dr Abbey

Jellyfish women

Jellyfish women grow from the head down. These creatures begin life as regular jellyfish, with eggs growing into larvae that swim about for a bit and eventually find something to attach themselves to. They feed and grow as anonymous looking tentacled things. These eventually tuck their tentacles in and become small sea creatures. Feeding continues. Feeding and growing. So much feeding. Eventually the jellyfish bell and tentacles start to develop. And sometimes, the bell has a face.

Why certain jellyfish develop human-seeming faces is a bit of a mystery. If the jellyfish survives, it will continue to feed and grow – specifically growing downwards until it takes the form of an adult human female – often wearing a large and elaborate dress. This is clearly because the jellyfish woman incorporates the bell tent of the regular jellyfish form. It may just be an uneasy coincidence that this form exists.

When the jellyfish woman has feet, she finds a location where the depth is just right, and attaches herself to the sea floor again. Once this has been achieved, a jellyfish woman can in theory live forever. The sea depth is vitally important – no more than the head and shoulders of the jellyfish woman should be exposed by low tide. However, it is vital that the head at least is exposed as this is key to how the adult jellyfish woman feeds.

The ability of jellyfish women to learn and deploy human speech is another of their many mysteries. It is theorised that they are psychic and either draw the language from the head of a potential victim in order to speak, or project their words into the human mind. 

The jellyfish woman will use either seduction to lure a victim, or will try to persuade them that she is a normal human at risk of drowning. Once the victim enters the water, the jellyfish woman uses the poison in her tentacles to further entrap her prey. She consumes small amount of blood, but her poison is addictive and causes victims to voluntarily return, craving fresh hits. Feeding over an extended period, coupled with the impact of the poison, will kill the victim.

Who’s a good boy?

Drury is a good doggo. He knows this in his bones, and is sometimes confused when people find him scary. Granted, he’s a large pupper and he knows he isn’t supposed to jump up at people, but he gets excited. 

Exactly when, or how, or why Drury turned out the way he did is a bit of a mystery – especially to him. In essence he was just a dog who was very into being a dog. And he was so enthusiastic about being a dog that when bits of him stopped being a dog, he didn’t really pay it much attention. He just kept bounding about. 

He must have been more alarming during the period when his softer tissues were retiring. It is unlikely that he noticed much about this, but a lage, decaying dog is not the cute floof most people want to see, much less be enthusiastically licked by.

Perhaps he belonged to a night soil man, who would not have noticed the smell. Perhaps his owner was a necromancer – deliberately or accidentally, and loved Drury too much to let him go, even when bits of him started falling off. Perhaps he was conjured into being with the intention that he be awful and terrible, but he just continued being far too much of a dog for that to work out properly.

As a bone creature, one of Drury’s particular hobbies is finding things to dangle out of his mouth that function like a tongue. He also likes to bring people presents, as with the illustration above. He knows he is a good boy, and no amount of screaming will ever persuade him otherwise. 

What Donald Does

I’ve thought about Donald rather a lot – far more than would be obvious from reading the comics. He’s a character who began in the early version of Hopeless, Maine, before I was writing it. He wears a jumper with a big G on it – for Gorey. Edward Gorey. Donald has an ambivalent relationship with the skeletal dog – Drury – and is otherwise a young human trying to figure himself out.

One of Donald’s major life goals is to be Owen’s boy wonder. Although he wouldn’t phrase it that way because he’s had a comic-deprived childhood and has never seen a superhero in a cape. But, if wearing his pants over his trousers was part of what was called for to back Owen up, he’d do it. Grudgingly. 

Donald has noticed that while Owen means well and is really good at some things, he’s useless at practical details. Owen needs someone to remind him to take his gloves, to wear a jumper when it’s snowing, to carry a lantern in case the search goes on into the night… and Donald is the fellow for the job, at least in his own mind.

The other thing that is super-important to Donald is colour. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I work on coloring the next volume – Optimists. Donald likes colour so much that he spends his spare time concocting things that can be smeared onto walls. With varying degrees of success and odour. This means that the house on Gaunt Street is one of the most colour intense places on the island. The lighthouse also has colour, but Salamandra can do that by magic, and does not spend so much time boiling snails and collecting different shades of mud.

Voices in her head

The island is full of demons. The ones you can see are in many ways easier to deal with because they are outside of your head and you have some reason to think they aren’t you.

The whisperers are the worst. The demons who slide in as thoughts, and tell you that they are your own voice. The demons who say that you are just like them, that you come from the place all demons come from. You are made of demon. Your essence is monstrous. Everything you do is suspect.

The demons tell you not to trust yourself. Sometimes they are the voice of your mother, who was clear that she regretted your existence. She would have killed you if she could. She killed your brother. You are worthless, useless, a disappointment, she says. 

Sometimes the demons remind you that you did not save your brother’s life. What good are you? What point is there in you even existing? You fail, and fail again. When it most matters, you fail.

Where does that magic come from? You don’t know. The demons in your head tell you that magic is tainted, dangerous, and theirs. You are theirs. You are just like them. Only you are weak and fearful. That’s why you couldn’t save Sophie Davies, why you had to disappoint your best friend and let him break his heart over his mother dying. You were too weak to save her. Too afraid to really use your power. 

In your heart, you know you are evil and that if you aren’t very careful then you will do something awful. Poor Salamandra. Are you saying this to yourself now, or are the demons saying it to you? Poor you. Poor little you. 

Remember me? 

The one voice that never goes away. Oh, sure, you can lock me in a box, but I’m still in your head and you will always remember me as a little girl with big, tearful eyes, begging you for mercy. I’m here to make sure you never forget that you are the real monster.

I was you all along. I’m still you.

(Art by Dr Abbey, text by Nimue)

Bears are people too

Bears have big ears, for listening.

They don’t say much.

Bears never tell  you to shut up

Or say not to complain that they are biting you.

Bears do not wake you in the night

When their demons are out of control.

Bears listen, and are patient

And do not mind what you think.

You can tell a bear when you are scared, or angry

They will not hurt you. 

A bear is a good friend.

They have their own lives.

We have all been made up

One way or another.

It’s just bears already know this,

And have nothing to prove.

(Art by Dr Abbey, text by Nimue).

Hopeless Characters

One of the things we’ve done ahead of the gallery show in Okinawa is produce a line-up of characters from the comic. This, we gather, is something Japanese readers love to see in relation to comics and that sharing this kind of image would be a much more Japanese way of doing things. It was entertaining figuring out the heights of the cast in relation to each other.

When we started work on Personal Demons, Tom was in the US and I was in the UK. The colouring happened digitally. Sinners is the first book I coloured on. So it’s been interesting for me to look at those characters in their early stages and think about how I would have coloured them.

If you’ve read Personal Demons (the first half of The Gathering in the UK edition) you’ll know that it is not an especially colourful body of work. Tom is not fond of working with colour – which is how I got involved in the first place!

This is the first time I’ve coloured Miss Calder as a living person with skin tones. It will probably be the only time I colour young James or the unnamed young lady who dominates the first book. It was also an opportunity to assert what terrible taste Doc Willoughby has – he’s been benefiting from Tom’s muted tones as no one has been able to see quite how garish and ridiculous he really is.