In Which I Dreamed I Was Lord Vishnu

A couple nights ago I had a very vivid dream about being the Lord Vishnu.

I understand this might be very offensive to some people, as a mere human cannot be a god, nor should they assume they ever could be. Please understand that I mean no offense, rather that I am reporting exactly what I saw in my dream and that I do not assume myself to be godly, but rather that, for a night, I was blessed with a strange sort of empathy previously unknown to me.

I was in a small room, much like a classroom. There was even a chalkboard on the wall, but no seats. From the very start, I was aware that I was Lord Vishnu. I was aware of my blue skin, gold-bedecked torso and crown, and I was choosing to portray myself with only two arms.

The classroom was empty. The walls stretched away into a deep red, and I knew that they stretched far past the stars. We were in a small, concentrated section of the universe. With an expression of profound boredom, I turned my focus to my current task. I stretched out my hand over a patch of dark red land, a patch just in front of the chalkboard, and I called into existence a number that seemed close to fifteen human beings.

Strips of paper fluttered into existence, shooting from the ground and shivering as though moved by a wind from beneath. On them were crude drawings of humans, their designs simple: two-dimensional. I knew that they could only see in the second dimension. Therefore, were I to move before them, they would see my three-dimensional body in two-dimensional segments; there was no way for them to perceive me in my entirety. I recognized these segments as my avatars: Rama, Krishna, Vahara, the Buddha, etc. Even in viewing all ten, it would be difficult for humans to perceive me.

I took a chalk piece and wrote my lesson on the board. I wrote the truth of the universe, the purpose of life, escape from Samsara and the embrace of Moksha. I wrote the secrets of identifying that God is present in all things and I wrote all this without thinking too hard on it, for the words were sealed upon my heart; they were that very thing of which I was made.

I turned to the people, little shivering slips of paper, the image on their strips flipping their heads like poorly-animated cartoons. Their frantic movement, their chattering…it awakened an odd distaste in me. I pointed to the board and read to them what was on it, but they appeared not to hear. A few of them saw segments of the board, and I hoped they would talk to one another. The cosmos beckoned me; I could not stay in this room another moment. I left them, thinking they would talk amongst themselves, sharing ideas and therefore perceiving my message.

I do not remember what I did when I was outside of the room.

When I came back, everything was on fire. The slips of paper were ripping one another, burning amongst the flames, others were drowning one another, the ink running and screams, screams filling the air. Severely disappointed, and with an air of one destroying a malicious pest, I stretched my hand over them and shut my fist. Immediately, they were sucked back into the earth and into the realm of death. The screams were silenced. The flames were blown out. I was alone again in this miniscule section of an ever-stretching universe, a faint scent of smoke upon the air.

I rested for a moment, my hand still a fist in the air. Slowly, I opened it again, and I called into existence the same amount of humans, who shivered like little slips of flame. Again I taught them the lesson, writing it more clearly on the board, repeating it at times, just to be clear. Once again, the universe beckoned, and I left them alone.

When I returned, it was the same story. Flames enveloped the earth, the humans drowned one another, and ripped others to shreds. They just…kept…killing each other.

I felt the anger surging within me. Despite my attempt to calm myself, when I closed my fist to demolish them, it was with a quickness far greater than the previous time. My entire body was tense and the lingering smell of smoke served as a reminder of what I could not teach.

I paced the scorched earth, knowing in my heart that the true problem lied in their very design. Their brains were molded towards violence and fear, but this was not something over which I had dominion. This was Brahma’s territory, Lord of Creation, and I had only the ability to call forth life and destroy it if I saw fit.

Frustrated, I tried again. I called forth the humans and watched them shivering before me, unaware of my presence, unaware of the power I commanded over them. They chattered base and useless things, blind to the cosmos surrounding them.

A thought occurred to me that I should walk one human through the entire board, helping them to perceive the entire message. I made myself small, the size of the humans, and I stood behind one of them. I placed my hands on each side of the paper figure. When they joined and I felt the warmth of my own body through this being, I became aware of how thin they were…how very fragile. And in that moment, when such a fragile thing yielded to me and trusted me completely, despite being as frail and fleeting as a flower petal, I was filled with an overwhelming love towards this individual.

I realized, as the dreamer, that Lord Vishnu usually had best friends or brothers that were human, whom he loved immensely, like Arjuna. Standing there, with this paper-thin being between my hands, I nearly wept with love.

Slowly, I moved the human from their place at the edge of the board, careful not to upset or damage them, until they had perceived the entire board. The human puzzled this over, trying to piece together all the two-dimensional slices they had received. I approached the next human.

I repeated this process until I had walked every human through the lesson. They each puzzled it. Some began to talk to one another, working out their perceptions, for the moment, at peace. I returned to my place in the stars, watching them, this time without boredom or frustration, but with an immense love that warmed me to the core and brimmed beyond my skin like an aura or a glow. I finally had hope for these creatures. They were learning.

That is where my dream ended. I hope I have not offended anyone in what I experienced. I am but a slip of paper like everyone else, and do not assume myself to be equal to Lord Vishnu or God or whoever it is that runs this place. I just wanted to share something with you that I found inspiring. Let me know your thoughts, concerns, or interpretations; I’ll be interested to hear.

Much love,

Paula aka. Squonkhunter

The Move to Seattle: A Love Story

Yes! I moved to Seattle! Here’s a brief update of what’s been happening over the past seven months:

The initial move to Seattle SUCKED. Moving SUCKS. Especially because you leave all your friends behind. But then:

  • I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t seen in ten years! Turns out Caity moved out to Seattle a few days later than we did. Last time Caity and I were seen physically in the same room together was when we were tossing peanut M&M’s against the wall to make a cracking sound, and telling all the other girls at Horizon’s Math & Science Summer Camp that we were “doing crack.” Rinnan was in on this, too. Don’t think you can hide, Rinnan.
  • Haile and I got a kitten! He’s a little black kitten who was born around the same time Haile and I moved out here. Getting him was a careful decision. Caity was like, “Let’s get a cat!” and we were like, “Okay!” Thankfully he is friends with our roommate’s cat Mr. Guy. The two sometimes snuggle together when they sleep.
    • Fun fact: Our roommate initially started as our Airbnb host, but we ended up liking each other so much, we stayed with her. Cheers to you, [name redacted to protect tender identities]! We’d be lost without you!
  • I started a song cycle! I have been learning Schubert’s Winterreise and Die Schöne Müllerin on the piano to take compositional notes. Like those painters who go to art museums to copy every stroke of a painting in order to learn about the original artist, or like a novelist who spends hours reading poetry, it often helps to learn to play some of the pieces by your favorite composers in order to draw inspiration into your own work. Thus Schubert has been my biggest guide in creating Becoming Hyde, a song cycle about Dr. Jekyll’s transformation and the harrowing consequences it bears. I will be posting these finished songs on my Patreon, and the main goal is to someday have it performed before a live audience.
  • I am reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. I am also growing my hair out. Updates like that can be seen on my Twitter.
  • I’m illustrating the cover of my friend’s novel! It’s a fantasy steampunk adventure with OPERA. Sneak peeks of what’s coming up can be found on her blog.
  • I created and am continuing my first online comic strip, Hoof Fellas, about a blue satyr who struggles to live up to the expectations of being the devil’s brother.
  • I was finally able to start drawing Tamino pages! I will unfortunately have to stockpile a year’s worth of pages, since they are taking me so long to produce, and I want to be able to update weekly. For sneak peeks on the finished pages and to help me produce them more quickly, visit my Patreon.
  • Haile and I are making a visual novel! That’s right, we’re making a GAME. A fantasy horror game. And you can DATE PEOPLE. Haile is writing because she is a phenomenal writer, and I will be doing all the art and music.

Much is happening, and much is coming up! Thanks for listening, all!

Much love,

Paula

I’m on Patreon!

thank you patreon04042016

Hello, all! I’m excited to announce the launch of my Patreon page! So far I’ve been using it to reveal Tamino sneak peeks and early releases of Hoof Fellas! I’m absolutely floored to be garnering support for my projects and I hope someday to be able to do this full time as a career.

I’m also excited to share some scripts and silly concept art from current projects, as I often write or draw things to entertain myself without the intent of showing anyone else, but now you can see them, too!

Click those three dorks to wander over to the page!

Much love,
Paula aka. Squonkhunter

EDIT: So far I’ve been posting 2-3 times per week, and am using it as a medium to post all my old comics from college, which I’ve never serialized online. I am also almost finished with the first song in my Becoming Hyde song cycle, and will be posting that on PATREON ONLY, for those paying $25 a month and up. Thank you for your support, and I look forward to sharing more secrets with you!

WASP 2016 Featuring Jade Sarson!

It’s that time of year again! When a group of comic creators come together to draw each other’s things, and this year it’s Jade Sarson drawing a short comic I wrote for Tamino and the Magic Flute. Enjoy, and click on the images to see what else she’s done!

wasp2016_1wasp2016_2WASPcreatorbanner2016-1

Initiating Sex Change in 3…2…

When you have a project you’ve been working on since you first started writing, oftentimes you have a pile of characters who have grown comfortably into deep entities that sometimes even feel like real people (or sometimes you have characters who have stagnantly started rolling about in their own feces).

Whatever the case may be, a writer often finds that their views on character writing may have changed, and that these original characters from that decade-old magnum opus you never got around to completing are now outdated and no longer match your aesthetics.

Such was the case with my cast of Rathuni, my oldest-to-date project. When I started, my cast was almost entirely young white males, as that was what I was used to seeing on television, movies, web comics, novels, etc. Thus, sub-consciously, every time I tried to write a woman, I was sexualizing her without even realizing it. I was making her less complex than any of her male counterparts, despite being a woman myself. I think I can safely say that I am not the only female author or artist who’s ever felt pressured to make her women beautiful and tantalizing. As a lesbian, I felt the added pressure that if I included a lesbian in my story, people would think I was inserting a Mary Sue.

And then came Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe. I was finally shown women who reminded me of people I’d met in real life (sans their magical powers), not particularly beautiful, but all interesting and full of as much character as any fictional males I’d ever seen. They were complex and fraught with their own worries, worries that did not pertain to whether or not a man had interest in them or found them attractive, and they were identifiable to both female and male viewers alike. This was such a relief after everyone was touting Disney’s Frozen as the most feminist thing since Rosie the Riveter, because Elsa and Anna were women with whom I still could not identify. Strange though it may be, I felt that if this was what a woman was, I had no business being one. The kind of representation Steven Universe supplies is not to be underestimated. Exploring these types of women is important because we exist and we’re never shown as being celebrated.

So I still had my young male cast that was almost entirely made up of people who were of European descent. Compared to my later projects (and projects underway), this aesthetic no longer matched how I felt about the world and who I wanted to represent.

So I went through and started altering my young, male cast to suit my tastes. I split Shibuki into two female characters, Hidemi and the Puck-ish Miyako, I accelerated Basil to age sixty-three, and changed the slightly insane Slickfeed smuggler Remfield into a girl.

--Hmm?!?

You might notice she doesn’t look any different.

As I was changing Rem into a girl, I started drawing clothes that accentuated her breasts and hips, just to make the change apparent.

Hips don't lie.

Nah...

But these designs did not sit well with me.

I realized very quickly that I felt pressured to suddenly sexualize this character, despite her personality and function in the story remaining completely the same. Why didn’t I feel like pulling the shirt tighter across Rem’s chest when he was male? Why didn’t I tighten his pants to show off his posterior then? Why was I doing it now?

Because in this society, we are bombarded relentlessly with sexualized women to the point where I didn’t know how to write characters who did not fit this mold.

I started initiating the sex change in my outline of the plot (simply by changing the pronouns and adding a few more Ss in front of those Hs and Es). Rem’s behavior (and name) remained the same, and when I started picturing her going through the same motions, sucking too hard on a cigarette that had gone out, sucking it to the back of her throat and coughing it out again, all while trying to act nonchalant, the character started to emerge. She’s a slouching, flat-chested, pancake-butted smuggler who picks her nose in her spare time and wiggles her fingers between her toes to get the sock fuzz out. She eats cans of beans cold because her cigarette lighter is too faulty to make any real fire. She feels like she’s cross-dressing whenever she’s in a dress.

In short, Remfield is still here.

Here she is in baggy clothes and the same goggles as always:

Then again, I’m not saying you should apply sex changes to your characters willy-nilly just to include more females. (For example, Sridar Williams is someone who could never actually be anything but male. Believe me, I’ve tried.) Rem has always been a very metro character anyway, and it feels like I’m delving more into who she really is by this change. It’s something I’ve been sitting on and conceptualizing for a couple months, and I’m so happy with it that I am ready to finally share it with the world.

I suppose what I discovered in this project is that when you gender switch a character, hardly anything changes. People still mistake Remfield for a guy, and she doesn’t really care which pronoun people use with her. Girls, guys, we’re all the same. Steven Universe is an excellent and powerful step in that direction. I look forward to a society in which the media begins to depict that, and where future generations can grow up with less boundaries than we did.

Concerning Tamino

Alright, so the short version is I am postponing the Kickstarter for Tamino and the Magic Flute another year (estimated January 2016) for many reasons.
Ehhhh....
1) The project was started only seven months before the self-assigned due date, and five of those months were spent writing the script.
a. Why? Because I have always, ALWAYS given up on reading a comic with good art and a horrid story long before I have given up on reading a comic with a great story and horrid art.
b. Story is important. Everything else is painted lines.
fashionturntotheleft

2) That left two months for paneling and prepping some cool art to show in the KS video.
a. Preferably, I wanted to make the first two chapters (Overture & Chapter One: Child of Night) available to preview while the KS was up. This would allow people to get a sense of how I write and what direction I am taking this comic in.
b. This rushed timeline also allowed no time to correct any paneled page drafts I might have wished to improve. It’s pretty much excrete it out and keep going, which I don’t want to do, for the sake of readers and for the sake of personal standards.
22aug2014testpage

3) There is also the possibility I am moving.
a. That’s right. From Hawaii to the Mainland. So a shoddy KS and setting up a job and living situation are too many things to juggle right now, and I would be cheating the integrity of this project if I did not give it the amount of attention it requires. I would be cheating my audience as well, and this is unforgivable, because you all have been incredibly encouraging.
sarastro concept

4) Though the first volume may take around two years to make, this extra prep will allow the second volume to only take a year.
a. I will be working on the final pages for the first volume of Tamino at the same time I am paneling and preparing the second. This also keeps the art uniform and within the same universe.
queen concept

I hope this decision does not upset anyone. I have spoken with my agent and she has confirmed that this is a wise move. I will be more apt to please with art, story, and the finished product if given another year to create.

Thank you all for being so supportive of my projects and for believing in my art. An artist is a sensitive creature, and before we can be strong enough to believe in ourselves, we must first rely on the belief of others. You have helped to make me strong, and I am confident in this project, thanks to you.

To another year of updates and concept art teasers!

Much love,

Paula (aka. Squonk)

TATMFdump13dec2014

“Why are all of your characters white?”

I was asked this today on Tumblr concerning my newest graphic novel in progress, Tamino and the Magic Flute, in regards to Monostatos looking like this:

Monostatos by Squonkhunter

The question was posed mainly because Monostatos is originally portrayed as a Moor, and the person asking the question wished to defend the original libretto from 1791. Because I have already received comments as to why Monostatos is portrayed as white, here is the answer I gave on Tumblr, which I am reposting here so I don’t have to repeat myself on this issue.

“Hello, [name], thank you for asking. To be fair, I have not uploaded all of my character designs as of yet. Since this is a fantasy, the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa as we know them do not actually exist in this realm, but some of the characters, arguably, can look to be of European descent. It’s strange that you said all of my characters are white, as I have uploaded Pamina, and she looks to be of Korean descent. To be fair to you, though, you might not have seen that earlier post, and I have not uploaded anything of Sarastro, who looks to be of African descent.

As far as taking The Magic Flute seriously, I have scoured through the original text and full score multiple times. I am so dedicated to this piece, I have learnt pieces of it on the piano and in fact, when I was a young girl about the age of seven, I decided to learn German for the specific reason that The Magic Flute was in German and I wanted to know what the characters were saying.

Sixteen years later, I understand the entire script, and have read Mozart’s letters to and from Schikaneder concerning the matter. I have seen countless performances of all three different versions of The Magic Flute and am currently in possession of the most verbose one that contains all the scenes that are normally cut out. I take this opera enormously seriously, and you can be sure that I take this adaptation just as seriously.

The adaptation to comic form changes the storyline to fit the darkness and epic nature of the music. The music in itself contains all the psychology that Schikaneder did not place in the libretto, for example, Tamino’s insecurities (the frailness in the notes, the fact that he’s the highest Mozart tenor there is, the support he needs from the music in order to complete an idea, and the constant questioning and hesitation that fits him musically, all of which is Mozart’s doing and not Schikaneder’s). Thus I am riffing off of many of the main themes and adding back story so that the scenes that do occur within the opera contain as much weight visually as they would when paired with the music. This is a unique challenge when working in a purely visual medium.

Insofar as to why Monostatos is portrayed as white, the only real purpose he was portrayed as a Moor in the first place was to appeal to the mentalities of the time. If you look in the stage directions in the libretto, Schikaneder doesn’t even refer to his own character by name. He simply calls him “der Mohr.” Even to his own author, Monostatos was nothing but the color of his skin, an unappealing, ugly, fat, apish man whose attractions for the chalk-skinned and pallid Pamina are both disgusting and humorous.

To an 18th century audience.

That is not something I want to replicate in a 21st century comic. The power of The Magic Flute is its immense and chameleon-like ability to adapt to any country or any time’s sentiments (just look at Impempe Yomlingo’s adaptation of the piece, where South African instruments play Mozart’s original melodies in an all-black cast where the Queen of the Night is a colonial presence, it’s absolutely brilliant!). The point is, the piece is about the triumph of good over evil. Now, what that good or evil is depends on the opinion of the person adapting the piece.

For my personal adaptation, the good represented by Day is Love. The evil represented by Night is Fear. This works for me, as I view fear to be the opposite of love (Why are people racist? Because they lack understanding towards the opposite party and do not attempt to understand out of fear.). For my piece, I argue that race does not matter and I show this by portraying different ethnicity in characters and yet letting them react to one another as if race did not matter. They treat each other like human beings and accuse each other based on actions or on social status which is determined by employment or noble birth, and nothing to do with race.

With my Monostatos, I just drew the character who popped into my head. I did the same with Sarastro. Sarastro ended up black. Monostatos ended up white. It doesn’t actually matter, as long as you stick to what the characters represent at their core, and what is expressed in the soul of the music, not by specific dialogue. I wanted to capture the feeling of being an outsider in Monostatos, of being conscious that everyone hates him, but I have built him a back story that provides that information rather than toss around the word “Moor” and point fingers at how ugly, stupid, and manipulative he is. Rather, we are able to sympathize with or damn Monostatos based on his actions rather than the color of his skin, yet I keep the same jilted mentality and manipulative personality of the original. The shell in which this entity occupies should not matter, even if it conflicts with the details of the original because, in the end, it is not the details that make The Magic Flute the masterpiece it is. It is the music that reaches to eternity, its unique ability to adapt, and the universal triumph of good over evil.

I hope this is a sufficient reason and that you understand I deeply revere this opera, yet respect it enough to see its faults and change it to bring out more of its beauty.

Thank you,

Paula aka. squonkhunter”

What you can expect from this adaptation is a great amount of deviance from the original concerning the plot, but a strict adherence to the emotional journey threaded out by the music. We emerge triumphant, Tamino and Pamina are believably in love, and the comic is appropriately dark and appropriately humorous in accordance to the score. Just don’t read the synopsis of the original expecting to know what plot twists are coming up. You won’t. You so won’t.

Much love,

Paula