Monthly Archives: October 2018

Mara Page 9

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I usually like to load my blogs with visual references, but to tell the truth, the story I am telling on this page is more about philosophical, political and spiritual references than visual ones. However, there is one major influence, or series of influences I can trace through for you here.

One of the things that has kept me interested in Mara as a project is somewhat hard to explain. I often have an idea, so I go seeking reference for that idea, or some film or comic that has the mood of that idea, and what I find rarely hits the mark, rarely sates the needs of my eyes as a viewer, of my mind as a reader. I then realize that the ONLY way what I want to see and feel is going to be seen or felt is if I make it. In other words, dare I say it, I feel that Mara is truly and genuinely unique. There’s nothing else quite like it.

Light Years

All that said, one obvious influence, perhaps even swipe, was from the movie “Light Years,” which contained an understated eroticism, but also was where I got the idea for a civilization of mutants that had been created by the power structure of the above-ground world. That whole concept really got stuck in my imagination and I began to riff on all the possibilities this contained for Mara’s world. In truth, in the original Mara, done a long long time ago, those mutants played a lesser role, but now they have become a driving force and in a way her guardians, guides, and often victimizers. For me I find the seeds of my ideas in the corners of other works, very often I respond most to a character, concept or aside than I do the major thrust of the story being told, and I think, “More could be done with that.”

In the end, though I was influenced by the mutants in “Light Years,” my mutants serve a different purpose and come from a different perspective, but to be fair to me, my mutants are not merely different in narrative purpose, but in that they are mostly composed of Frankensteinian pieces parts of animals and humans, thus separating them one degree further from “Light Years.”

In a sense my mutants are no more influenced by “Light Years” than by “Frankenstein,” and just as notably, by “Island Of Lost Souls,” MGM’s 1932 adaption of “The Island Of Dr. Moreau,” which is a “must see.” No less influential than the mutants was the concept of “The Panther Woman,” who has influenced not only Mara, but my own inner self.

Island Of Dr. Moreau

No less influential than “Island Of Lost Souls” was the 1977 film version of “Island Of Dr. Moreau,” in which, again, the animal-human mutants are very obviously seen, but what might not be immediately obvious is that here again, as in “Island Of Lost Souls” we see a return to my favorite fairy tale influences, “Beauty and the Beast,” as well as “Cinderella,” in that both contain barefoot beauties surrounded by beasts, filth and squalor. That contrast for me is as fascinating as that of the mix of pain and pleasure in sadomasochism.

So I think you can see that even something as simple as a “swipe,” once analyzed becomes far more complex. I have not merely “swiped” the ideas I loved from “Light Years,” that was merely the spark of inspiration, then came in other influences like “Frankenstein,” and “Island Of Lost Souls,” and “Island Of Dr. Moreau,” and it all mixed together with my own observations about how politicians use religion, and enslave God to serve their own perverted needs. In other words, once I get past the self-effacing notion that I have “swiped” something I begin to see the domino effect of numerous other influences just as important as the initial inspiration, then that all gets filtered through me, my life, and my output as an artist to become something that, in the end, bears very little resemblance to “Light Years” or any original source of inspiration. In a sense, all art is collage, we gather influences, ideas, passions, cut a bit from here, paste a bit from there, move things around, and create our own worlds from the ones we love. And hopefully in the end our collage looks more like us than it does our influences.

If you love what you are seeing, please note that I am creating these pages with a return of NOTHING, so I am seeking patrons. Monthly patronage would really help this project come along, and my patrons get all manner of cool exclusives: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

Mara Page 8

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OK, group, so here’s another case where I have to openly talk about the evil world of “DRUGS!” Ooh… sounds so sensational when we say it that way… something BIG pharma, politicians and exploitation documentary makers (and NOT the divine type of exploitation of the cinema) know all too well. Rather than referring to marijuana as a plant medicine and DMT and Ayahuasca as a plant teacher, we use the word “drugs” to shut down dialog and vilify… but enough of that rant. This page was partially inspired by the one (of 15 or so) DMT trips that went bad, though I get more specific on that later. In the trip, the floor under my bare feet became quite menacing, so here I mixed that with a scene from the original Hans Christian Andersen story “The Little Mermaid.” Note how Mara’s feet are enjoying trodding upon mushrooms, that soon turn into vile polyps, then eyeballs.

Below is the passage from “The Little Mermaid,” which seems to me to emphasize if not somewhat eroticize her bare breasts.

“Beyond this stood her house, in the centre of a strange forest, in which all the trees and flowers were polypi, half animals and half plants; they looked like serpents with a hundred heads growing out of the ground. The branches were long slimy arms, with fingers like flexible worms, moving limb after limb from the root to the top. All that could be reached in the sea they seized upon, and held fast, so that it never escaped from their clutches. The little mermaid was so alarmed at what she saw, that she stood still, and her heart beat with fear, and she was very nearly turning back; but she thought of the prince, and of the human soul for which she longed, and her courage returned. She fastened her long flowing hair round her head, so that the polypi might not seize hold of it. She laid her hands together across her bosom, and then she darted forward as a fish shoots through the water, between the supple arms and fingers of the ugly polypi, which were stretched out on each side of her.”

Edmund Dulac Little Mermaid

Edmund Dulac Little Mermaid

Were these hallucinations, the physical reality of this space? Does it matter, isn’t all maya, all illusion? Anything that is real to us in a moment is the reality we know.

While in the panels below I reached for a balance between the old world I loved (Gollum from the Rankin Bass Hobbit), and what is to me the new world of stylistic abstraction and the raw looseness I am chasing. First with the old world I know, I recall in the Hobbit cartoon just how magnificent the anatomy of the Gollum was… those fabulous hands!

To be honest, I have to confess that the Rankin Bass Hobbit had more of an influence on me, my mind, my art, the velocity of my life, than anything up to that time, and perhaps anything after, potentially including the earth-shattering influence of Star Wars. What that Hobbit did for me was first introduce me to fantasy of the highest order! And, more importantly, if you look carefully at the backgrounds and the lines, the entire design of the movie was based on the work of an artist who, many years down the road, was to become the biggest influence on my art and style, Arthur Rackham. Seriously, look at Rackham, then watch the Hobbit and tell me you don’t see it!

And, though I say somewhat new territory for me, the abstraction and stylization, as is still my path, it is based on the work of a master. Though I was not looking at this image, Klimt was very much in mind.

Gustav Klimt
Judith I, 1901

But what is coming on the next page is not merely a return to the reality of erotic texture that was always a part of my Mara work, but most definitely pushed many steps further than I had been capable of all those years ago… but that, will have to wait until we get to page 9.

If you love what you are seeing, please note that I am creating these pages with a return of NOTHING, so I am seeking patrons. Monthly patronage would really help this project come along, and my patrons get all manner of cool exclusives: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

Mara Page 7

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As Mara goes deeper and deeper down into her own self, her own struggles, and her understanding of her world, I guess it’s about time to go deeper about where her world, and in fact, mine, came from.

It was a long time ago, I picked up a copy of Warren’s “1984,” an uncommonly good issue, but two things really stood out, Frank Thorne’s “Ghita,” and Jose Gonzalez’s “Herma.” I was a really young artist when I found this, and this single magazine, probably as much as seeing the Hobbit in 4th grade, then later Star Wars, influenced me in a truly life changing way, it game me an artistic vision. When I saw those two masterpieces of exploitation and fantasy comics… I KNEW exactly what I wanted to do.

Needless to say, it seemed a miracle to me years later when I was headed to Frank Thorne’s studio to finally meet and talk with one of the artists who changed my life. Example below is scanned right from that ragged old copy of “1984.”

I managed to set up a meeting with Frank thanks to my fearless pursuit of mentorship. Fantagraphics had sent him some Mara to look at before they decided to pick up the series, and Frank sent back a bunch of notes and even some overlays in which he drew over my drawings to show me where I had gone wrong. These overlays were revelatory, but so was the fact that Fantagraphics had forgotten to black out Frank’s address and phone number, so, I called him. Immediately he let me know that any time I was in Jersey, I could stop by. Immediately I began planning a drive from Ohio to New Jersey, and through a raging blizzard, made my way to Frank Thorne’s studio… life and art changing event.

No less influential, and you’ll see this as you look at a lot of these images where Mara is descending stairs, was Jose Gonzalez’s exquisite “Herma,” though I never met Gonzalez, his work has had a profound influence over me, and below, again, is a scan from that very same ragged copy of “1984.” And if you look at the past couple pages, and pages to come, you’ll see the influence of his backgrounds in my work.

Oddly, as I have begun the inking process, I have been slowly draining those influences from the work and allowing my style to dominate… this I had not seen coming, but I am pleased at last to be happy enough with my own style to be allowing it to overcome the love of my influences.

If you love what you are seeing, please note that I am creating these pages with a return of NOTHING, so I am seeking patrons. Monthly patronage would really help this project come along, and my patrons get all manner of cool exclusives: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine