This cartoon was drawn by the wonderful cartoonist Jenn Manley Lee. (The link goes to Jenn’s long-running science fiction slice-of-life comic, “Dicebox,” which I highly recommend).
I know there were a variety of reasons Barry asked me to illustrate this cartoon, from the chance to create a couple of thematic costume designs to giving a smack up the head to those idiots howling about a ruined childhood because something was created not specifically for them. (By the way, in the absence of time machines, the only way to ruin a person’s childhood is if they are still going through it.)
It was also fun to come up with a classic skimpy, bondage adjacent costume for the original heroine design —complete with high heels— while being mindful of aspects that could be reinterpreted into an updated and more practical design. I chose a “G” logo mark in order to unite them more clearly. That “G” could stand for Glory, Gladiator, Girl or, heck, even Gynephilic; I’m not choosy.
I also took pleasure in ignoring Barry’s “stage directions” in order to have the two versions grab coffee (or tea, tisane, hot cocoa, etc.) in order to discuss things further. Like civilized folk do.
Jenn is one of my oldest friends; she and I met in cartooning circles back in the 1980s, and we traded self-xeroxed minicomics. I think that many artists, when young, learn a lot more craft through competing and comparing and trading tips and shop talk with their young artist peers, and Jenn and I definitely did that for each other.
Jenn has a huge toolbox of cartooning techniques, and I think that shows even in this simple four-panel cartoon – her grasp of colors especially is far beyond my own. (Jenn has done coloring work for most major US comics publishers.)
Although Jenn and I have known each other forever, we’ve almost never collaborated. I asked her to draw this one because I thought she’d be great for the challenge of designing both the sexified original and the 2020s “reboot” of a made-up character. In my script, I suggested a superhero themed character, but Jenn suggested a Roman themed character instead (with a bit of a “She-Ra” influence – Jenn and I both loved the recent-ish, controversial She-Ra redesign), and the results look great.
Jenn’s work has tended more towards action/genre comics, while my work has been more cartoony. I thought Jenn’s rough sketch for panel four didn’t have enough exaggeration in the poses, so with her permission I did a few sketches (based on the poses she’d already chosen) to suggest slightly bigger poses and bendier spines.
Jenn added a lot to the script – not by changing the words, but with what she did with staging and setting. (My script originally called for grotesque babies with adult heads for panel four, but Jenn wanted to change that and I think she was right). And lots of excellent details – the tapping on the window in panel three, the eye-rolling clerk in panel four – were Jenn’s.
Jenn named the comic book store “HEY KIDS! comics,” which I loved but there was just no way to avoid it being covered up by word balloons. But someone should get to see it! So, here you go:
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels.
The first three panels feature the same two women in each panel. Or maybe a woman and a teenager. They’re both dressed in stylized Roman soldier outfits. The older woman, on the left, is dressed in what the artist called a “bondage adjacent costume,” with straps and high heels and a skimpy one-piece made of brown leather. She’s wearing pteruges – you know, straps hanging down from her waist to sort of form a skirt. She also has an amazing mane of red hair cleverly arranged to resemble a Roman Galea helmet.
The younger woman, on the right, is wearing a brown leather vest over a dark green bodysuit, flat boots, and a Roman Galea helmet. She has protective armor on her forearms and calves.
Both of them wear red capes and carry round shields and swords. The older woman’s shield features a stylized letter “G” in yellow on a red background; the same symbol, in the same colors, is on the younger woman’s belt. I’ll call the two characters “Original G” and “New G.”
The two women are back-to-back and in a battle, fending off swords left and right. They’re in a building with pillars. In the background, we can see ancient buildings, an active volcano, and what I think is a dragon flying.
Despite all this, the two women are calmly and cheerfully chatting with each other. (I love that, and that was all Jenn.)
ORIGINAL G: Who are you? You look familiar…
NEW G: I’m you! A redesigned version of you, anyway.
The two women are now at a little table in front of the display window of a modern comic book store. They’re both carrying coffee. Original G is sitting down, while New G is already seated, legs crossed at the ankles, looking relaxed.
ORIGINAL G: So does this mean I don’t exist anymore?
NEW G: Nope – there are thousands of toys and comics and animations with you that no one can take away! But now my version of you exists, too!
Original G leans towards the display window, tapping on it like people tap on goldfish bowls. On the other side of the window, we can see action figures of both versions of G, displayed on pillars.
ORIGINAL G: I get it. This way, we can entertain different audiences, right?
NEW G: Exactly! Who could complain?
We’re now looking at the cashier counter in a comic book store. A tired-looking cashier leans on one elbow, rolling her eyes. In front of the counter, two adult men are screaming in horror. One man, in a green shirt, is holding out a comic book with the “G” symbol on the front cover, wide eyes staring at it. The other man is actually sitting on the floor, hands tearing at his hair, legs kicking like an unhappy toddler, as he stares at an action figure of New G.
GREEN SHIRT: THEY MURDERED MY CHILDHOOD!
HAIR PULLER: THIS IS THE WORST ATROCITY OF ALL TIME!