Category Archives: Hopeless

Hopeless Family

The Hopeless Maine family is large, sprawling, and wonderful. We have so many awesome people getting involved in all kinds of ways to make the island ever more weird. We love you. You make it all worthwhile.

In 2019, we didn’t go to the enormous steampunk gathering in Lincoln, but Lyssa did, bearing a copy of The Gathering to put into the hands of Japanese film producer and wizard Dr Abbey. He was rather taken with it, and a conversation developed from there.

We fell in love with him. Emotionally, creatively. Tom and I were enraptured by his ideas, his perspective, his energy.  Over the months he became more of a part of our lives and we talked, ever more seriously about what we might do together. If you’re a regular here, you will have seen bits of that going by.

In July, he came to us from Japan and for some weeks he has lived with us, drawing, talking, sharing ideas. There were a lot of ideas, and most of them are things we simply can’t do without him. We were daring to dream large there, for a while, and to imagine a future for the series beyond the story arc we already have planned. Abbey drew a number of images that clearly belong further along the timeline of some characters than I was expecting to go.

This is a picture Tom did of the three of us before we had met in person. It was drawn as a statement of intent, a small act of magic to move us in the direction we wanted to go. It’s Abbey doing his Durosimi face – he’s a tricky person to catch with one image. How he looks depends a lot on whether he is serious or clowning, or truly happy, or deep in concentration. He usually wears glasses, his hair is far crazier than any image really captures.

I’m posting it now as a statement of intent, an act of hope and dedication. This week has not gone well. There are times in life when you have to choose between dreams and being sensible. When you protect your heart, or keep it wide open no matter the cost. There are times when all you can do is choose whether to step away, or keep trying and hoping.

Hopeless, Maine is a project built fundamentally out of love and a willingness to try unlikely things. It is at heart a project about hope. It’s always been a community project, and we’ve always held doors open and enthusiastically encouraged anyone who wanted to play with us. It’s who we are, and what we do.

At this point, we have no idea how anything might work out with Dr Abbey. We don’t know what options we even have.  It feels like everything is hanging in the balance.  So we do what we always do. We keep moving as best we can. We keep hopeful.  We want the heart of this project to be three people, not two people. We want future projects where Dr Abbey has his hands on the paper. We want to take the larger, crazier dreams and make them real.

This is what we’re for, as a project. This is what the story is about – both in real life and in the graphic novels. What people do when they love each other, and do not give up, no matter what.

Hopeless Optimists – an update

Hopeless Maine volume 4; Optimists, has been delayed. We’ve been affected by the virus and the book will be out later than intended. Sorry about this!

Part of the issue is that Sloth is not a big publishing house, and like much of the independent comics market, depends on events to sell books. With all events cancelled, things have been hard for Sloth. It’s not been a good time to invest money in printing a new book.

As creators we’ve also been hit. We lost work – although thankfully not all of it, but enough that it has impacted on us. Unhelpfully for Hopeless, Tom is the one who has had more paying gigs come in, and it’s made more sense to take those and let Hopeless wait a bit.

We are a fair way into Hopeless Maine Optimists. It should be out early next year when we hope there will be more scope for taking it to events. After that we have one more book to go to complete this narrative arc, and hopefully that will be a bit less affected by the state of the world!

What happens after Hopeless Survivors, is an interesting question. We don’t quite know at this point, but pondering is under way. We had thought Survivors would be the last Hopeless graphic novel – they take Tom about 6 months and they don’t pay for six months of full time work, which is challenging for us as a household. However, there may be entertaining and time efficient ways of keeping on making comics, and we are exploring that at the moment and seeing where it takes us.

The uncanny death of Annamarie Nightshade

Hopeless Maine gets inside people’s heads. This is a story about a story…

Merry Debonnaire was one of the many people who was not best pleased about what happened to Annamarie Nightshade. She dealt with this by writing into the original story and adding a second layer that changes everything. If you’ve not read that story, you can find it here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/annamarie-nightshade-is-going-to-die/

Last week I sat down to look at this story, because we are intending to do something very exciting with it (more on that soon, all being well). I thought I’d just have a look at the original pages and lift some of Reverend Davies’ dialogue because I needed more dialogue than Merry had included.

It was then that I discovered that a scene I was sure we’d put in Sinners, was not in the graphic novel. Cue massive household panic and flailing. We had those pages, they were in the webcomic and they definitely exist and somehow we hadn’t got them into the graphic novel. Sorry about that! Thankfully the story still makes sense without them, but they were important.

When I saw Merry, I asked her if she’d read that story when it was in the webcomic. She hadn’t. She’d written her story, neatly weaving it into a scene that SHE HADN’T ACTUALLY READ!!!

This happens around Hopeless Maine projects far more than is reasonable.

Hopeless Maine – it will posses you.

Hopeless Food

What do people eat on the island? It’s not a great place for growing crops. The cows are small. The chickens are psychopaths and may well turn out to be demons. You can eat the sea life but only if it doesn’t eat you first. There are potatoes, but their eyes glow and they will try and run away. The fungi…. just no…

who knows how your meese will grow?

Sometimes things wash ashore from wrecked ships. You might want to eat those. And weevils are high in protein.

The preferred cooking technique is to cut things up very small, and hope for the best. What the eye doesn’t see, the stomach might or might not grieve over.

One of the key features of Hopeless Maine cookery, is the agent of change. But don’t eat them, the consequences are unpredictable. The wise cook adds agents of change to pretty much anything, and waits around in the hopes of getting something a bit more edible.

Hopeless Seasons

This blog post has been written in response to a reader question about island life. I have a list of questions to work through, but it isn’t that long, so if you’d like to ask something, please do! Hopeless is and always has been a community project, and  we’ll gladly explore whatever anyone is interested in.

Geographically, the island of Hopeless is somewhere off the coast of Maine, and gets something akin to Maine seasons, only it doesn’t really do summer. Summers in Maine can involve blue skies and warmth, but the island is always on the chilly side.  Sometimes, if you look carefully, you can see a distant line of blue on the horizon, out beyond the island’s inherent malevolence. That’s about as good as it gets for islanders.

The best way to tell where we are seasonally is to look at the trees. Not the dead ones. Don’t look at the dead trees. Especially don’t look at the eyes on the dead trees…

We digress.

Hopeless Victims (volume 3) is set in the autumn, and we do have some leaf colour – far more muted than the rest of Maine tends to go in for, but it is there.

The next book – Hopeless Optimists is set in the winter and there is snow on the ground, and Salamandra still isn’t wearing a coat.

Which means that the final book in the series, Hopeless Survivors, will be set in the spring. Because there’s nothing like juxtaposing  extreme peril against signs of new life and hope.

I grew up in a small town on the edge of the Cotswolds. It is the place the rainclouds often first stop when they’re wandering up the Severn River. It is a place that is more often than not under a dark cloud.  On foggy days – and there were plenty of those when I was growing up there – the landscape would fill with mist, turning the hills into small islands. Whether Dursley is quite as cursed as Hopeless I can’t tell you, but the climate is certainly plausible – regardless of whether you ascribe it to demons or not.

Hopeless Maine and diversity

One of the things that really bothers me with fiction and comics is the way that bad history and white supremacy get in the mix. The number of times I have seen people suggest that including People of Colour in a situation is woke and historically inaccurate is distressingly high.

The problem is that so many people have got their minimal historical education by watching films that were made by people who were racist and/or had other issues. American films from the first half of the twentieth century would cheerfully have white men playing people from anywhere in the world while failing to include People of Colour in times and places they most assuredly would have been. It’s not improved much since then.

The evidence is widespread, the art, the historical information, the written records, the photographs… Ignorant of actual history and fed only a whitewashed history, some people get really cross when faced with better representation.

The oceans of the Victorian era were multicultural places. People working on boats worked on whatever boats they could. If you lost a few key crew members to accident or illness, you’d take on people wherever you next landed. Crews were diverse.

And therefore we can confidently say that people with an option of shipwrecking off the coast of Hopeless, Maine would also have been diverse. We’ve populated the island with people whose ancestors came from all over the place and had no intention of getting stuck here! We’ve also kept it deliberately vague because we don’t have the knowledge to depict the specific experiences of people from around the world. It’s a balance to try and strike – inclusion but not trying to speak for people. We’re very aware that the publishing world lacks for diversity, and that representation matters.

We’re not good history, we’re wilfully anachronistic, and we like to play with things. But we’re still more accurate than the whitewashing.

Agents of Change

Agents of change are small entities that often crop up in the background in Hopeless images. They are beings who live out their names. They change things. The more of them there are, the more scope there is for change. Their presence on the island is a major reason for the island’s odd flora and fauna.

We’ve not used them prominently in any plot. But, Merry Debonnaire has used them repeatedly – first in this short story https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/07/06/the-aunties/

And then again in this excellent tale about what really happened to Annamarie Nightshade https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/annamarie-nightshade-is-going-to-die/

Merry’s concept of the agent’s of change as Aunties was taken up by Keith Errington and turns out to be significant in his Oddatsea novella.

There have to be agents of change in the film, because if you look closely at the opening to The Gathering, there they are in the water with baby swimmy Sal. Helping her change. They are not solely responsible for Salamandra’s watery transformations – she does most of it for herself, but they give her a lot of ideas.

If you would like to help us make agents of change as puppets, we’re crowdfunding the film as we go along and your support would be greatly appreciated.  More of that here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/bringing-hopeless-maine-to-the-screen-one-creature-at-a-time/team-creatures/

For the love of Dustcats

Dustcats are one of a number of Hopeless Maine cat species. They are adorable, floating cats who use their long tongues to slurp up dust. In normal circumstances, dust is their main food, but it is important to remember that dust is basically particles of dead skin. A hungry dustcat might not wait for the skin to naturally fall off.

Dustcats have been known to eat people’s faces. Island lore has it that they only eat the faces of the beloved dead, so this is only going to happen to you if you have a dustcat who loves you very much. Probably.

Like all cats, Dustcats are pointy in way they can use to attack and defend. However, they have additional capacities for violence. They can regurgitate dust – a process not unlike throwing up a hairball, only this is a dustball and can be launched from higher up.

In extreme circumstances, dustcats form a wrecking ball – knotting their tails together in the middle and putting all the pointy bits on the outside. It is a formidable thing to encounter.

What would a dustcat look like in motion? What would it look like as a puppet? We want to know. We know we are not alone in this. If you want to know these things, and you can spare a few pounds to help us make dustcats, we’re crowdfunding puppets for the Hopeless Maine film. If you aren’t able to chip in but want to help, please share your love of dustcats and help us find people who can help! We have social media badges and everything. More over here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/bringing-hopeless-maine-to-the-screen-one-creature-at-a-time/team-dustcat/

Spoonwalker by Dr Abbey Masahiro

It sounds to me so botanically beastful

His walking is looking like dancing

And making noise, zee boo, zee boo.

Eye colour changes by temperature.

When rainbows appear, he sings

Songs of the ancient moon.

Rider of storm, rider of wave.

Cutlery thief exposed.

 

 

(Dr Abbey is part of the Hopeless Maine film crew, and slowly being lured into other things, which is what the island tends to do to people – more here  https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/casting-durosimi/  )