This strip features my ghost boy Timothy, and introduces his sister, Gabriella.
People have been telling stories for as long as people have been people. They tell them and retell them times and again, presidents and kings and schoolchildren and factory workers. There’s something fundamental to being a person in the love of stories.
I don’t know what that something is, I’m just an art student. But I do know something about why stories matter to me.
Stories are home. Star Wars is the same wherever you go, and you can see Scorpius from California or Georgia. You can carry the stories you love most with you when life takes you away from familiar places.
Stories are friends. You get to know the characters as well as they know themselves, and so following their story feels like spending time with them. Some might have experiences like yours, but with dragons. Maybe it seems wimpy to need stories and characters as friends instead of flesh-and-blood people, but at some point everyone struggles with feeling a connection to the human beings surrounding them.
Stories are safe. Horrible, awful things can happen in them, but if it gets too much you can close the book or turn off the screen, and they have a set beginning and end. Life isn’t nearly that kind.
Stories are constants. Well, they are and they aren’t. Every version of Cinderella is slightly different, and the differences change what the story means. But there’s still a shoe, or a cyborg foot, left on the stairs, and a prince at a royal ball. Change is inevitable, except for from vending machines, but stories make familiar patterns no matter how much they are told.
Stories are exciting. Though life is too. It has octopuses in it, and colors and trains and quantum physics. There’s magic everywhere, if you know how to look for it. Trouble is, in the day-to-day drudge of normal life, it’s easy to forget that. Stories help bring back a sense of wonder.
My roommates were particularly enthusiastic about this character, whose name is Timothy, and asked me to draw him a sequel.
Running through mesquites,
sun on my shoulders,
for sandpaper breaths.
never approaching fast.
it was awful.
it was awesome.
Rhythms that matched my pulse,
handing glowsticks down the row
shouting the chorus
with the man on stage,
with the crowd,
Sketching my newborn cousin
in our grandmother’s arms
rubbing his silky hair
holding his tiny hand
Throwing snow at my brother,
or water balloons,
or paper airplanes,
or fallen leaves.
The first time I drew a mermaid,
eleven and gangly and wrapped up
that guided my lines.
the mermaid I painted a decade later,
a shark’s tail
a steady gaze
only the vaguest idea
what I was doing.
in a garden at night,
on a stage, wearing glitter,
in a kitchen,
or a dream,
or a studio,
or a quiet warehouse.
sandpaper breaths are an old friend,
and so’s the burn between my shoulder blades.
I jumped more
when I was young,
but the dance has the same heart.
A Gila monster
sighted at dusk
on the side of a dirt road.
in a zoo.
a tree, old and bent and strong.
ants on the sidewalk.
fish in a tank.
a coyote, half glimpsed in tall grass.
a heron at a river.
that no one can touch.
paper and fabric and soul
into something new,
Finding a story
that fills a space
I didn’t know my heart
telling a story
to do the same
for a heart I can’t even see.
Standing in a thunderstorm
to the pulse of the rain.
Patterns show up everywhere
Like electrons orbiting protons and neutrons
that form moons
mathematically perfect spirals.
Like the rhythm of songs
the variations of sound waves
the walk of birds
(Utahraptors walked like chickens
my yard is full
of feathered dinosaurs).
Like my family
calling me by my brother’s name
even when he’s in a different state
and I’m in a skirt.
Like the structure of stories
told again and again
in different skins.
Like the rhythm of rainfall.
There’s a comfort to that.
Everything has a design,
though it may not be obvious
to human eyes.
Things I am grateful for:
1. Freedom of speech. It would be difficult to make awesome things without it. The rest of the Bill of Rights goes here too.
3. Mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. Some fairy tales are more than six thousand years old, and still told today!
4. Brains. It would be hard to live without them.
5. Water. I grew up in a desert. Rivers still blow my mind.
6. That while I may occasionally find lizards on my bed, I will never find a satanic leaf-tailed gecko there unexpectedly. Meeting one while knowing I was going to meet one might be fun, though.
7. Duct tape. I once won brownies in a duct-tape craft contest. Later I made my prom dress from duct tape. Duct tape is good.
8. Vision. My eyes mostly see fuzzy shapes and colors without glasses or contacts, so I am very grateful to live in a time when those are available.
9. Shoes. Especially high tops. And low tops. And combat boots.
11. Star Wars.
12. Cool apps like Amaziograph, which I used to draw today’s picture.
Things I am not grateful for:
3. People who think yelling at you will make you agree with them.
4. Yelling in general.
5. The fact that Captain America got turned into a Nazi in the comics. Seriously?!
6. Those little prickly seed pods that stick to EVERYTHING.
7. My attention span going AWOL when I’m trying to learn something cool.
8. Lots of other things. I’m trying to shorten this list and lengthen the previous one, though.
This is an old story. A brash hunter. An infuriated deity. And a monster.
What the crime was and which deity was infuriated, depends on who’s telling the story.
The hunter, Orion, stays the same, though. As does the monster–Scorpius.
Supposedly, their final battle was so destructive that the gods feared putting them both in the Underworld, where they might keep fighting. Instead, they were placed in the sky, as constellations, on opposite sides of the heavenly sphere. You will never see Orion and Scorpio in the sky at the same time. That was deliberate, so they cannot fight anymore.
Watching Scorpius’s heart flicker as he rises in the evenings, I wonder about him. Was he created just to kill Orion? Did he start out as one of the many monsters wandering about Greek myths? How did Artemis (or Apollo, or Gaea) get him to cooperate? Did he have some specific grudge against Orion to begin with?
This is an old story. It’s been told and retold thousands of times, the details altered or faded or lost to living memory. If Scorpius was ever anything other than the weapon that killed Orion, we have no way of knowing. He got the short end of the narrative–no characterization, no motivations, just a capacity for violence and a target. Like the Winter Soldier, sans tragic backstory.
Writing protip: figure out what drives your villains. You don’t have to reference it specifically, you don’t have to make it a sympathetic drive, but figuring out why a bad guy acts as they do is the first step towards believable characterization.
Scorpius doesn’t have that, right now. But, myths don’t have a copyright. We can fill in the details ourselves, if we think to.
Say the deity was Artemis, and that Orion’s crime was more than boasting. Say she turned to an old friend for aid-perhaps she had slain a greater monster than Scorpius, saving his life. He would have gladly hunted Orion, to right a wrong and repay a debt.
Or say it was Apollo, envious of Orion’s rising star (pun completely intended) and his friendship with Artemis, who turned up in his lair and took Scorpius’s mate or hatchlings hostage. He would have fought fiercely then, if it was in hopes of saving a loved one.
Or Gaea, Earth Mother, seeking to protect her creatures from the mighty hunter, went to Scorpius for help. As one of her creatures, he gave it.
Or say Scorpius was a monster, and did what monsters do, and it was only because someone whispered a suggestion to him, or claimed Orion had insulted him, that he became so focused on the hunter.
All or none of these backgrounds may be applied to the myths, with varying degrees of effectiveness.
This is an old story. We can’t know what its original tellers intended for it, or for Scorpius, to mean. We can only know what it means for us, now.