Category Archives: Annotations




The Deal
This short was originally written for a website that was distributing Crazy Mary and other comics through (semi) smart phones on a pay-per download system. The site was called ROK comics and my friend and former editor John Freeman was involved. Note this pre-dates iPhones and real smart phones by a few years but Freeman was consistently ahead of the curve as far as tech went (ask me about V zones sometime). I had just finished writing a story for William Blankenship’s “Special Edition” book and we collaborated well together. William’s style, I noticed, would work spectacularly with Mary’s more creepy elements. The situation led to me writing a short and William illustrating it as a thank you for Special Edition. As you can see my instincts were spot on; William produces some of the creepiest imagery for Mary’s visions I’ve ever seen. J.K.’s interpretation is skin crawling and profoundly unsettling, William’s is borderline madness. It’s like having the best apples and oranges ever grown to pick from.
Despite its length “Deal” is brimming with references and encapsulates a lot of the arc elements I’ve worked out for Mary…
Some weren’t even intended that way.
PG 1
PN 1 – “Six years ago” that being six years from when we first meet Mary in “Trail of tears”. I’m sure you figured that out.
Mary says “no” three times, yes this was intentional. The recurring threes motif and also showing Mary’s advanced state of mental anguish.
PN 2 – Col. Taurus is a character that plays a significant part in Mary’s backstory but he has yet to be seen. He is the leader of Project Dragonfly which is responsible for Mary’s condition. He has kept contact with Mary since she left the project. (This provides story vectors for Mary) The military in Mary’s world utilizes Upgrades as independent contractors for objectives the military can’t get directly involved in. Mary is on Taurus’ speed dial for that but he also does it to keep tabs on his “project”.
I gave him the name Taurus going off the bull animal totem, specifically the concept of sacrifice. This is from a google search on Bull as animal totem: A Bull totem symbolizes nourishment through its slaughter or sacrifice.
Draw your own conclusions from there.
Mary’s brainwaves are being monitored: delta, theta, beta and gamma
Delta waves are usually associated with the deep stage 3 of NREM sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep (SWS), and aid in characterizing the depth of sleep.
Mary’s Delta waves are spiking, whiles she’s awake; essentially in a dream state while awake.
Theta waves are a bit more controversial; different schools of thought link it to motor function and a mammal’s sense of location in an environment, others think learning and memory. Cortical theta waves in older children and adults tend to appear during meditative, drowsy, or sleeping states, but not during the deepest stages of sleep. Several types of brain pathology can give rise to abnormally strong or persistent cortical theta waves. After years of not knowing and letting the explanation for Crazy Mary’s BIG secret work itself out I discovered all of these interpretations and differences are valid in context of Mary’s situation. But initially the appearance during sleeping and meditative states was what I had intended.
Beta wave states are the states associated with normal waking. No wonder they are in the cellar right now.
As for Theta waves, I got this from Wikipedia: A lead article by Andreas K. Engel et al. in the journal Consciousness and Cognition (1999) that argues for temporal synchrony as the basis for consciousness, defines the gamma wave hypothesis thus:
The hypothesis is that synchronization of neuronal discharges can serve for the integration of distributed neurons into cell assemblies and that this process may underlie the selection of perceptually and behaviorally relevant information.
Or, in short, theta waves help in the interpretation of reality. So her theta waves are crashing. That means her perception of reality is substantially altered. That is a thematic element of Crazy Mary in a nutshell.
PN 3 – Sigma waves – when I wrote this sigma waves weren’t believed to exist but Sigma is next in the Greek alphabet, so it made sense that if I was to expand on already established science Sigma would be the next wave. Remember way back in “Epilogue” Tweek is experimenting on decaf coffee and the possible sigma wave emanations?
Of course the sigma waves can’t be pinned down, it’s my McGuffin.
Corporal Neti sums up everything I’ve been droning on about with waves and shit by saying “She’s lucid dreaming in reverse.”
PN 4 “…The dose?” they seem to be keeping Mary drugged up during her episodes.
PG 2
PN 1 – Neti is, in Sumerian, Babylonian, and Akkadian mythology, a minor underworld god, the chief gatekeeper of the netherworld, and the servant of the goddess Ereshkigal. It should be apparent why Corporal Neti is named as such.
PN 3 – The first look at William Blankenship’s interpretation of Mary’s crazy vision. I always give the artist a lot of free reign with these panels because I imagine these panels are the kind of thing comic book artists are dying to do. I think I recall William freaking himself out a little by what he was doing here.
Sigma, Delta and Theta waves spiking when Roswell shows up.
Roswell, as usual, being obtuse – what he is saying is a mental test to test if you’re mental. “…crazy is quite subjective, isn’t it?”
PN 4 – I might have mentioned before that I am a set lighting electrician in my day job. I know I mentioned in my bio that I worked on BABYLON 5. I pay homage to that great show in this story by somehow fitting in four of the five QUESTIONS constantly asked throughout the series. Those questions are:
Who are you?
What do you want?
Why are you here?
Where are you going?
Do you have anything worth living for?
As a side note I knew about three of the questions while watching the show. When I worked on it I got to ask JMS if there were actually five questions; he said “yes” but looked like he was going to cry. Good thing I never mentioned the Lord of the rings references, he might’ve broke down by the caser’s salad.
Two of these questions are in this panel.
PG 3
PN 1 – That background looks like H.R. Giger doing art for the next Doom video game.
A partnership? Yes, it’s kinda an origin story. Damn smack in the middle of an origin story, really.
PN 2 – “Who are you?” this is, in order of the B5 questions, the first but it was tough enough getting the questions into the script organically, forget about correct sequence. If there truly is such a thing as correct sequence.
PN 3 – The original version of “Chase” served as an introduction to the trinity of Roswell, Loki and Hoax. You can see that in an issue of DWP and the super rare “Trinity” collection put out by DWP. Art was by a different guy and the text had a whole internal narration by Glimmer. This short covered the same ground, just not as much info.
Roswell originally came to me in a dream which was set up like an extended film trailer. He was a lot more evil in the dream but still had the same eloquence. In good magick fashion I flipped it on him and re-imagined him with a lot less menace and trapped him in a fictional universe. He doesn’t mind seeing as how he has some form now and a major character arc. That’s why he’s mellowed considerably.
Hoax had the feeling first, her design grew as the stories progressed but that’s how I wanted her to develop; let her reveal herself as things went. Kinda odd but her essence was always there it just didn’t want to reveal itself all at once.
Loki – Comic relief and usually generates the most chaos. All I ever described him as was an imp.
PG 4
PN 1 – “The codes, she knows the codes!” This line popped into my head when I was writing the story. This was a point where I still hadn’t been shown what the trinity really is. Yes, I’m intentionally using a passive verb there. Now that I know everything it makes perfect sense.
PN 2 – Beta and Gamma waves rise once she starts communicating with Roswell and talking about a deal. Her or the trinity doing it?
PN 4 – “Three choices you can make.” Guess what they are. Here Mary says “Yes?”
PG 5
PN 1 – “Each can set you free, just in different ways.” Not all choices are acceptable apparently.
PN 2 – “For access” and all that implies.
PN 3 – “Where are you going?” the last of the Babylon 5 questions appearing but not the last B5 homage…
PN 4 – a call back to Chase again and a recurring theme; Choice or the illusion of choice.
PN 5 – “Be seeing you.” Roswell’s regular goodbye to Mary. B5 used that line with the Psycorp conspiracy. But he was paying homage to “The Prisoner”. I tip my hat to both by this line.
PG 6
PN 2, 3 – “Deal? Real?” me being clever I guess.
PN 4, 5, 6 – Essentially a dolly back out of the room through the monitor and into the control room, common cinematic device. Obviously something happened in there but what really happened. Col. Taurus’ last line “There are no facts in this game, only interpretations.” I believe that was Josh’s addition, of course because it is Nietzsche. It’s about positivism.
Positivism holds, roughly, that the phenomena we observe through our senses are physical in nature and that they actually happen in a material world. Thus positivists take these phenomena as objective fact and use it for their world-explanation, for example by making physical laws. Nietzsche’s statement is that fundamentally, positivists are interpreting observed phenomena as physical (instead of non-physical, e.g. Berkeley), and real, when in fact they have no definite justification to do so. Thus, facts are really the subjective result of information: there is nothing necessarily “true” about them, other than how they fit into a particular interpretation.
Even though I feel putting the quote in feels a tad awkward there is no doubt that Nietzsche would grok what Crazy Mary is about.
By my friend, Hugo award winning editorial director and Semi-guru Lou Anders. Check out his musings and writing updates at and @louanders Thanks Lou.
My bio may contain some fictional elements.
Friends, family, dogs, influences, video games, porn stars and more thanked.

That wraps up the annotations for “By Factory smoke and acetylene light” hope you enjoyed it and it deepened you enjoyment of the work. I’m not sure but maybe the next Mary GN will be titled “De do do do, De da da da” or “tea in the Sahara.”

ANNOTATIONS FOR “WAITING TO EXPLODE” from the GN Crazy Mary – by factory smoke and acetylene light

some sky high action
some sky high action

Script – Michael Colbert and Josh Finney
Art – Ryan Sergeant
Layouts and colors – Josh Finney
Waiting to Explode has been laying around since the Digital Webbing days; the plan was to have it as a stand-alone story if we went and did the series with DWP. Sadly, or possibly for the best, that route was not to be taken. But when the time came for 01 the story was, in my opinion, the perfect step to take to expand the euniverse. It was a great story with a twist, lots of action, A Die Hard-esque plot (which I’m a sucker for) and most signifigantly: already written. With all the work I had on deck I was grateful for the fact that I had stock piled stories. All I had to do was crank it up, make a tiny revision here and there, let Josh take a quick gander for a dialogue tweak here and there then move on to production… Easy.
Boy was I wrong.
PG 1
Pn 1 – A slightly different opening. Originally I opened with what’s on PAGE 2; it was a struggle to get the story into 22 pages so I felt what happens on this page is evident on page 2. Doing the story for the GN freed up space so we get a get an in-the-moment killing instead of a remove.
As a side note, I always have sympathy for the poor security guard in movies and TV. Their function in such media is suffering a senseless and horrible death to illustrate how bad/evil/monsterous the antagonist is. Always wrong place, wrong time for these poor saps.
Guilty as charged, but in case you wanted to know; the guard that gets his head blown off was named Reggie. Things had been a bit up and down for Reggie recently; his girlfriend of two and a half years had just left him. (“It’s not you, it’s me.”) But he did recently reconcile with this estranged half-brother because of a cancer scare. Reggie drank a bit too much and couldn’t stop recalling the glory days of high school. Especially when he made that winning touchdown off a beautiful Hail Mary pass that Gibson had thrown to Simmons. Simmons was a dick and always got the girl even when he acted like a complete douchebag. But it wasn’t Simmons who was wide open near the endzone that fateful day in October. It was REGGIE! Gibson tossed that pigskin and it was like the whole world went into slow motion. Reggie could see the spin on the ball as it soared through the air in a beautiful arc right to where he was headed. As the final seconds ticked down on the scoreboard and the HUD in his helmet, Reggie knew this was his moment. But the ball was too high and two defensemen were closing in. Instinct took over and Reggie leapt over the attacking slabs of muscle, violence and football gear and plucked that goddamn ball right outta thin air landing safely in the endzone. Everybody in the bleachers went crazy, even Brittney Walters… especially Brittney Walters… and all was right with the world. That night at a kegger his buddy Scooby (not his real name) was throwing because his parents had gone to the Poconos for the weekend, he scored again, this time with Brittney. Douchebag Simmons, attending the same party, passed out on the back porch and woke up vomit stained with Scooby’s wire hair terrier mix licking the remaining chunks of barf off his lips. Suck it Simmons.
Yes those were the good ‘ole days and the rest of Reggie’s life was a slow, spirit breaking decline from that young highpoint. Brittney went on to become a dental hygienist with four kids out in Wichita near the Holy Texas Empire border. They never hooked up again though they did become Facebook friends a few years ago. Simmons went on to sell used hover cars in Jersey and ranks 20,056 in World of Warcraft’s Fightin’ Cleric brigade (Holydeathmerchant97).
Reggie’s story will never be known beyond the digital ink of these annotations but that doesn’t lessen the tragedy of his passing. In fact the tragedy is amplified; Reggie’s funeral was closed casket and only a smattering of people, including his half-brother and his ex, attended. Unsung and few to remember him; Reggie’s violent death was merely an exclamation point in an otherwise standard sentence. Reggie might never have lived up to his potential as a comic book character, but he had a good credit rating and always tipped at least twenty percent. So, next time you see that poor miserable son of a bitch security guard who gets sanctioned an hour and a half before the Bruce Willis image-licensed hero saves the day in a special effects extravaganza, remember Reggie. ’Cause that poor bastard dying for plot reasons has a rich backstory that only the writer and the extra playing him care about.
But I digress.
PG 2
Pn 1 – Poor Reggie
Pn 2 – Saul giving last rights.
Pn 3 – Hugo’s body in the shot, of course we don’t know that Hugo is the bomb at this point. This is the opening I originally wrote and it serves multiple ends: We learn of God’s army and their ruthlessness, someone is watching them from survaillaince cameras, that watching someone doesn’t want this to go down, Saul is a righteous ass-hole. Then add in a re-read after the Hugo reveal and the page takes on other levels for the story. Saul is still an ass-hole however you cut it, though. I always loved the bloody wheel tracks; ghastly but effective.
PG 3
Pn 1 – A cluttered, chaotic, busy night in Megalopolis. This page is a lot of Josh’s doing; the set-up is pretty tight and there is a lot of information (both visual and dialogue driven) packed into these four panels. Once again I love each artist’s interpretation of Megalopolis. I try and veer away from the Blade Runner rainy dystopian punk rock look but I do feel that population nexus’ like Times square are going to be even MORE overloaded with advertisements and information and this panel does capture that.
Pn 2 – Mary’s ring tone is “Spirits in the material world” from the Police. Pretty on the nose especially considering the caller. The other house band for Crazy Mary is Sisters of Mercy BTW.
Pn 3-4 – These two panels achieved the same goal I had done in a page in the original draft. A bit more economical. The holoprojector on panel 4 is saying “No image available.”
PG 4
Pn 2-5 – Roswell doing what Roswell does best; a little abstract information delivered elegantly. It should be noted that Roswell never tells Mary to do anything, he just gives her information and lets her decide for herself. Of course since he knows Mary he doesn’t really have to; he’s pretty sure what way she’ll go. This irritates Mary to no end. She has free will, arguably, but her reactions can be anticipated. He’s nudging her, immediately quelling the “Bullshit or not?” question of Hugo.
Pn 5 – “Two worlds and in-between” a line from “Lucretia My Reflection” a song from Crazy Mary’s other house band Sisters of Mercy.
PG 5
Pn 1 – Roswell not messing around anymore.
Pn 2 – Mary’s hostility at her hand being forced. Roswell does look a tad smug.
Pn 3 – Two buildings mentioned here. 1 – Thorndyke building – pretty sure a blade runner reference. 2 – New Rose plaza is assuredly a William Gibson reference. I applaud Josh for this one.
Pn 4 – “Everything will add up.” A foreshadowing line if there ever was one. An overt reference to Hugo’s AI nature.
PG 6
Pn 1, 2 – Josh added a lot of sweetening to the flying panels. Ryan’s pencils and colors were great but blurring the background and adding VFX to the bike’s propulsion and such just made the panels come alive.
PG 7
The dead spot is a frequency envelope generator. A natural extention of tech in this world (countermeasures). In an earlier draft Glimmer sneaks into the building and tricks a God’s army into shooting it full of holes. The final version put the generator inside the bomb. That made tactical sense and eliminated some plot cleaning up from previous draft.
Pn 4 – “… ridiculously overpriced spy toys…” Josh’s line. I always liked that line.
Pn 5 – Another example of Josh’s sweetening and an excellent example of Josh’s military/hardware fetish. Sometimes I think Josh is a cyborg sent back from the future to acclimate us all to the singularity or the fact that “Call of Duty” becomes the primary outlet for international conflict.
PG 8
Pn 1,2 – Another sweetening trick; Josh broke this panel in two and placed the recoil below the muzzle. The result is about a hundred times more dynamic. He did the same trick for Pn 5, 6 achieving the same magnitude of effect.
Pn 5 – “Club Dreah” in the background – Ryan illustrated my friend, Sean Dulaney’s book “Dreah, Queen of thieves”. Ryan was also illustrating my aborted adaptation of Yar’s Revenge back in ’08. I wanted to work with him since seeing Dreah on DWP and this was the opportunity.
PG 9
Josh “remixed” this page making the action more dynamic. The way I laid out the page had a bit more info and turned out crowded. Intergrating diagonal lines and splitting that one panel into two really amped up the tension. I know enough about graphic design to see when it’s done right but just not enough (at the time) to come up with that idea on my own. This is the benefit of having someone like Josh in your corner.
PG 10
Pn 1 – A hazy vfx over the panels on this page. Nice aftermath shot.
Pn 5 – Two to the chest… …and one to the head – Josh’s line, lending more credence to the cyborg from the future theory.
PG 11
Pn 1 – Simon is a ladies man, you can tell.
Pn 2,3 – You had ONE job, Simon…
Pn 5 – Mary doesn’t kill so it is tazer pistols in all their glory. Bet it hurts though.
PG 12
Pn 4 – Mary really liked that coat too.
PG 13
Pn 2 – 3 But Hugo has told you where the bomb is Mary. Hugo is struggling, has always been, with telling Mary the truth. I wouldn’t call it a slip-up; Hugo is just being as evasive as he can be while still giving Mary what she wants.
A side note on Hugo’s name: I wasn’t thinking of Hugo Chavez when I named him; Hugo just seems like a name an AI would give itself. Beats Reggie (sniff, poor Reggie).
PG 14
Pn 1 – The original version of this story focused more on the Die Hard mechanics of the plot. I was determined to get a face to face between Mary and Hugo and as a result I had to thin out God’s Army methodically. It kinda got off track from the heart of the story but it also built up a relationship between Mary and Hugo not un-like the John McClane/Al Powell relationship in Die Hard. When Mary and Hugo do meet face to face there is a level of tenderness in their brief time together. Obviously the situation changed in the re-write and the dynamic between Mary and Hugo changed too.
PG 15
Pn 1-2 – Josh pointed out to me in the script that Saul’s religious trappings are very catholic. I wasn’t cognizant of that at first but it later helped dictate elements of God’s Army design and agenda as they evolved from faceless baddie/obstacle to more defined antagonists.
Pn 3 – The problem with finding a sufficiently wrathful bible passage wasn’t eeking one out from text but in choosing from the multitude available. Fortunetly I had a substantial list of quotes that I had gathered from researching the supplemental prose story in Titanium Rain and another project titled K.R.A.N.E.
Pn 4 – I named Saul after my least favorite apostle
PG 16
Pn 1 – I suppose it’s redundant to point out that Saul is modeled after Hans Gruber in all the most superficial ways.
It’s mostly covered by a balloon but you can see Peter’s bandages from his most recent bout of cutting.
Pn 4 – I never specified that God’s Army dress like the support team for Master Chief. I believe that came out of Ryan’s designs.
Judges and Exodus team – Josh’s flourish; a little old testament wrath style. Fitting for God’s Army.
PG 17
Pn 1 – Wallpaper had made a swing to hypnotic patterns when Thorndyke building was built apparently.
Pn 2 – 3 – You get the feeling Peter isn’t well liked among the members of God’s army? Too weird for a bunch of neo-fascist religious nuts? “The cutting keeps him pure.” This was a Josh idea. It adds a fragile human angle to a least one of these messed up people.
PG 18
Pn 2-3 – I love the holo-schemes. Pretty much exactly how I wrote them out. Josh sweetened them with a filter of course.
Pn 4 – Still no lack of wrathful smack talk. Thanks bible.
PG 19
Josh had written some dialogue for this exchange that wasn’t quite what I was aiming for. At first I thought my redux was a bit on the nose but Josh loved it. He felt I was right on target and encouraged me to get in touch with my anger towards religion. That advice informed the later speech from Mary.
“…that’s not piety, that’s myopia!” Ok, Mary DOES hang out at a lot of coffee houses.
PG 20
Pn 3 – About wheels turning – Glimmer chooses to go in to help Mary. This is the beginning of the architecture of coincidence that saves Mary’s ass.
PG 21
As stated previously; I had wanted a face to face between Mary and Hugo. This draft made it obvious that was just not possible. Here is a version with the reveal of Hugo as the bomb :
PANEL 5 Low angle. By a desk surrounded by three of the low walls. Phil and Andrew are in a pile like sacks of flour. Mary is standing over them. Hugo’s balloon is back to spiky.

You did good Hugo. How’s part two of the plan?

I have five minutes of recorded hall cam footage.

Start running it. And the radio check-ins?

I can fake it as long as they don’t want to talk sports or something.

Don’t worry. One last thing Hugo…

PANEL 6 Mary is by the door Andrew and Phil were guarding. She is ready to open it. Hugo’s balloon is spiky.


You say if I find the bomb, I find you, right?

Yes, but… I have to tell you something…

Don’t bother, I’ve figured it out already grasshopper…


PANEL 1 A full page. We are inside the room, it’s an office with the desks pushed away to the edges. The lighting is from the overheads. In the middle of the room is the snowman bomb. Mary is in the background standing in the doorway looking at the device and she has a knowing look on her face, like she is bummed that she is right.

You are the bomb.
I felt that their heart to heart, where Mary convinces Hugo to not murder thousands of people need to have that visual connection and intimacy. I noted that Hugo should be shot like another person in the scene and his original design (like a snowman) reflected that. Just not gonna happen with the final draft. I had to sacrifice the intimacy but ultimately this situation made more sense from a logistic standpoint is more thrilling and has a better vibe of danger and desperation.

PG 22
Pn 1 – Since there was no face to face Hugo got radically redesigned into the (again very Cathloic) ball and cross. It should be noted that it’s only Saul’s sense of the dramatic that informs Hugo’s shape because, really, after the bomb explodes there wouldn’t be anything left. But I had decided very early on that Saul was a melodramatic douche bag.
Pn 2-3 – Mary always knows when she is being directly watched through a camera. Must be that crazy sight of hers.
“Just don’t explode.” A simple solution. But life is never simple like that or, more specifically, we don’t allow it to be that simple. Classic, well-trod argument here: Free will vs. Fate. What if God came down from heaven and said you were put on this earth to kill thousands. It is your destiny to have your name reviled with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Cheney? Two things 1. You’re not cool with that. 2. God is an asshole. I mean just #1 is enough but essentially #2 is about some prick using you to push his own agenda and selling it as “Destiny”. I think it’s obvious where my sentiments lie. But Hugo’s existential crises is more tactile…
PG 23
Pn 1 – He was created to blow up, there is no hypothehtical here. What a mind job that would be. Consider that instead of being a psycho like Hitler who cultivates the mass destruction your destiny is that you are patient zero for an epidemic that will kill thousands or maybe millions. You’re not a bad person, you just got the short straw. If you knew that what would you do about it? Especially if you had your creator (the one who also made the virus) telling you your purpose.
Pn 2-3 – “A rudimentary AI, no smarter than a chicken.” Chicken; the one meat all religions can agree on.
PG 24
Pn 1-2 a little humor to lighten the tone. A female pope; note they aren’t upset that it’s a female pope. Gay porn in the background as Pete cuts himself to fight the urges.
Pn 3 – Behind Saul’s words is the God’s army logo; it’s a mod of a fascist logos from Italy if I recall correctly. A lot of research went into that little detail.
Pn 4 – Ahh, the dangers of expanding your mind, AI or otherwise.
“The data sea” was coined (at least by my knowledge) by David Louis Edelman in his “Jump 225 trilogy” a book series I cannot recommend highly enough. It’s from Pyr books which is run by my friend, and Crazy Mary afterward writer, SF guru Lou Anders.
PG 25
Pn 2 – The importance of Zero, One, Two and its correspondence to Yes, No, Maybe is revealed later.
Pn 3 – Sometimes I do think Roswell is deliberately obtuse just to make Mary work for it.
Pn 5 – This is Mary’s angle to convince Hugo not to explode.
PG 26
Pn 2 – Droppin’ a little Nietzsche on ya! Rather fitting for an existential crises.
Pn 3-5 The whole argument condensed into 3 panels. Gun included.
PG 27
Pn 1 “These Assholes…” Mary feels the same as I do about the subject (no big surprise). I have a real problem with people trying to cram THEIR morality and world view down my throat! I’m very much a “Live and let live” kinda person and this behavior is very much against my personal code. This goes doubly so for religious folks because the idea that they could be mistaken is short circuited by their unwavering faith that it is mandated by God therefore right, regardless of the evidence to the contrary. What’s baffling is the obsessive need to eradicate all contrary points of view and any variant from their accepted world view. It seems like a pointless exercise to me; shit, if you’re so sure you’re right just kick back and enjoy the fact. Of course the point is that deep down they know they’re wrong and externalize that denial by trying to expunge contrary viewpoints. Hence blowing shit and people you find disagreeable up.
Welcome to sentience, it aint ever easy.
Unlike me Mary is a big coffee drinker.
Pn 4 – “By taking a leap of faith” subverting the opposition’s dogma there.
PG 28
PN 1 – Glimmer’s vehicle is an odd duck sort of an ATV of flying machines. Ryan just winged it (I gave no description of it). One can assume it’s newer, not a conversion like a lot of flyers in Megalopolsis. So I figure Glimmer has some money in the coffers. Some interesting backstory there.
PN 4 – Ouch! See the wheels turning; did Roswell know Glimmer was going to be there at that moment?
PG 29
PN 1 “Fire and brimstone…” heh.
PN 2 – I love that Hugo switched to the camera watching them. Quick way to make them know who he is.
PG 30
PN 1 – EXPLODO! Hugo got to have it both ways. I can’t help think of the collateral damage of the Thorndyke going up but it could’ve been worse. Nice epic panel BTW. Thanks Ryan and Josh.
PG 31
PN 1 – Apollo’s coffee again, I never get tired of that joke. Post-game wrap up over coffee.
PN 2 – Trinary code for AI; Yes, no, maybe… a trinity of “Spirit guides”. A lot of threes hanging around this book. Hmmmm.
PG 32
PN 1 – Ummm, yeah… Hugo could’ve that. If he did I guess he could watch Mary from a security cam…
PN 2 – Rez-lines indicating the shot is on a SECURITY CAM!?!?!?!?
PN 4 – As I’ve said before; Mary always knows when someone is watching her through a cam.
In the original draft I had a follow-up scene of Hugo wandering free on the data sea essentially in an AI nirvana.
PANEL 5 The kaleidoscopic tube again. In the center, like we are zooming away from it is Mary on the cam monitor.

It feels like a billion fingers or hands reaching out and carrying me…



PANEL 1 The tube again but we are just about to leave it and enter the Escher cityscape of the web again.

…Crowd surfing on the web…

PANEL 2 We see the full cityscape the racing lights, the windows into our world, code floating in the air… a glowing living thing.

Here I am now one with infospace all the thoughts, dreams, and ideas of the world!

PANEL 3 The same view except that glowing hands come into view from the bottom of the panel. They are human but they have a slight purple glow, like an aura around them.

Humans, artificial intelligence… and more… I can be part of their lives here…

PANEL 4 Same view except the arms are spreading out to the sides of the panel.

I am part of it, the living world. I am one with everything…

PANEL 5 The full panel. We see Hugo he looks like a teenage boy version of the child we saw back on page 18; young, vibrant, glowing and happy. He has his arms stretched wide like he is embracing everything a broad blissful smile on his face. The web city pulses and glows behind him and all around him. He’s truly in his element.

…This must be Heaven!
This end also existed when Mary and Hugo met face to “face” so part of it was archaic to begin with.
We decided to leave it a little open to interpretation. What we did in final draft soft sells the idea and has its own charm too. I think it’s a better ending because the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about a lot of the loose ends.



The second published Mary story (Digital Webbing #23) the first in color. Ed Dukeshire hated this story, he’s in the minority. The idea sprang almost fully developed while in the shower and I think it shows off the versatility of Mary. Coffee is a slow burn and is a lot more about the internal workings of this universe. The story also introduces two of the trinity, Roswell and Hoax. Loki would’ve been superfluous in this story. J.K. was experimenting with a different style, what he calls his Diego Bernstein; markers (I think) instead of guash. He was doing something similar at the time for Fallen Angel at IDW. A bit quicker in process but no loss in emotional punch or detail.
PG 1
Pn 1 – I don’t think I need to point out the pun of Apollo’s Coffee.
Pn 3 – “It’s not like I could stop you.” The first hint at Mary’s relationship with her trinity, Roswell in particular; she considers it a pain in the ass. She can’t even have a cup o’ joe in peace.
Pn 4 – Mary expands on why it can be a pain in the ass.
Pn 6 – Be careful what you ask for.
PG 2
Pn 1 – “Very Hitchcock…” Mary is referring to the famous Hitchcock lesson about the difference between surprise and suspense; two men sitting at a table talking and a bomb underneath explodes. The audience is surprised. Two men talk at a table and the audience knows there is a bomb underneath is suspense.
I recently discovered an expansion on the Hitchcock lesson by playwright Tom McCormack which dovetails nicely with the rest of the Coffee story :
Once again, imagine a restaurant where there’s is a ticking bomb under the table, and we in the audience know it’s going to go off in fifteen minutes. Now imagine one of the characters knows it as well, but can’t reveal it. With this, the suspense ratchets to another level. Not only are we aware of the impending explosion, we share in the character’s anxiety to get away and the excruciating effort of acting totally unconcerned even as the bomb ticks down. The emotional connection we have to a character for whom this situation is a matter of life or death makes the suspense we feel that much greater.
This isn’t quite what happens in Coffee but it does reflect the added layer of suspense.
Pn 2 – The idea of choice is another recurring theme in Crazy Mary.
Pn 3 – “Like I have a choice.” This falls into the question of choice; it’s not in Mary’s character to allow innocent people to die. Since she has the burden of knowing something is going to happen and her character would reflexively attempt to do something about it, does she really have a choice?
Pn 4 – Roswell plays along, to an extent. This speech does double duty; it reminds Mary of the mechanics of this universe and her place in it and opens the door for the next story and the next Mary GN plot.
Pn 6 – “Three choices… Yes, No and Maybe.” This is the most important trinity in Crazy Mary. This is the biggest recurring theme; the subjective nature of reality, neatly encapsulated in three words.
Note Magritte’s Son of man behind Roswell. Magritte is my favorite artist. Son of man was the template for Roswell in the first place.
Pn 7 – “You know what my choice is.” Is it a choice?
Dali’s Persistence of time can be seen in background, my second favorite artist. Fitting that the surrealists are given a shout out in Mary, don’t ya think?
PG 3
Pn 1 – Making the Roswell/Son of man connection blatant.
Roswell gets in a gentle dig at Mary and drops a clue as to what the prize is at the end.
Pn 2 – Completing the Roswell/Son of man circuit. Mary was originally scripted says “Damn!” I forget if the final cut was intentional or an accident.
Pn 5 – The readers first reveal of a second trinity member, Hoax.
Pn 5-7 The classic Mary P.O.V. set up.
The dude with the baboon jaw freaks me out.
PG 4
Pn 1 – Here comes the hearse.
Pn 3 – If it wasn’t obvious before Hoax was pointing to the fire alarm. The perfect means to clear the coffee shop in seconds, helping Mary in her choice.
Pn 4-7 Hoax is the member of the trinity that most of the bad things happen around; if she pops up death will be involved or at least massive collateral damage
PG 5
Pn 1 – Case in point.
J.K. outdid himself here.
Pn 3 – Silas Blackburn R.I.P.
Pn 4-5 – Originally there was no dialogue for these two panels. Josh felt that we needed to point out that Silas had a crystal in his hand. I felt that it was obvious. Calling back to Roswell’s comment is a bit on the nose but at this point the reader has no idea why a man died for a chunk of rock. And her line tells what the item is without answering any questions.
That is the next story’s job.
As I said above Ed Dukeshire hated Coffee and Dreams simply for the fact that it wasn’t like Trail of tears. “It didn’t have enough action” was his reason. Chase was a direct response to that comment; it is nothing BUT action… on the surface. Since I figured that was all Ed cared about I gave him a rip roaring flying car chase through the canyons of Megalopolis. Chase also gave me an opportunity to do yet another type of Mary story where the visual was all action but the reading is a completely different experience (Subjective nature of reality anyone?) a similar but more extreme version of the Trail of tears structure. The original version of this story (which appeared in a digital webbing Mary one-shot called “Trinity”) was illustrated by Fedrico Zumel and was a bit of a mess. My experience in being an editor get discount viagra online was limited and diluted even more because I still got psyched at seeing my words become visuals. Thus I missed a lot of mistakes that Fedrico doubtlessly would’ve fixed if I had said something.
This version, which is completely re-done by William Blankenship (Doublejumpers, NFL Rushzone), debuts here in “By factory smoke…” more on him later.
Josh Finney, my editor, was no stranger to aerial action having done the spellbinding Titanium Rain. He helped shape the re-write and give it a bit more punch and coherency but the story and its objective have remained the same; you learn about Mary’s trinity while watching a dazzling kinetic story long action scene.
PG 1
Pn 1 – A nice big panel filled with Easter eggs. William came up with the idea to put the credits on the billboards and signs.
Yes, I have flying cars in Crazy Mary. What I really dig is each artist’s take on the flying car; William’s looks like back to the future hover conversion, Ryan’s looked more like star wars mini-rigs (google it, if you’ve never seen them) and JK created the feel of a car but also something new. I don’t really have a preference but I think William’s take is perfect for this particular story. If I remember correctly the cars were the toughest part of the illustration, William had never really tackled hardware in such volume before.
PG 2
Pn 1 – Tweek must’ve been watching some western on sync just before this story kicked off.
Pn 2 – Tweek’s lair looks nothing like Epilogue. Holograms are cool things aren’t they?
Glimmer is the defacto narrator for the series. Obviously he is referring to the events of Coffee and Dreams.
You don’t see much of Glimmer’s wardrobe but he rocks a Jerry Cornelius/Gideon Stargrave/Jon Pertwee/60’s British spy look. This is partly because he’s originally a magician showman but it’s also because if I had the guts and a hundred less pounds I’D rock this style too.
Pn 3 – The data crystal from Coffee and dreams; I assumed any self-respecting SF fan knew what a data crystal was in the other story. Turns out that’s not the case. Most writers also recognize the crystal for what it is: a mcguffin.
PG 3
Pn 2 – A lot of interesting billboards hidden in the cityscape. I swear that’s a They Live alien on the left.
“Where we are now” is another recurring line.
Josh added the motion blur on the cars, it really amplifies the sense of speed.
Pn 3 – Street names – 56th no signifigance, Vailo – a tribute to my favorite Yu-Gi-Oh card Maha Vailo, Morrison – Jim or Grant whichever dealer’s choice.
PG 4
Pn 1 – I always yell “Punch it!” in an ironic way.
Pn 2 – What did get scrubbed from this version was all the narration about her Trinity. The visuals and placement in the GN line up rendered it somewhat superfluous
Ident signals on trucks. I think they have something like that for real, if not, soon.
Pn 4 – More than the cars is each artist’s take on Mary’s vision. William’s style is something akin to Tex Avery emulating H.R. Giger on the brown acid laced with DMT. Oddly enough I think he felt more comfortable doing these panels than the straight up car chase material.
“THIS WAY for comFORt and pleaSURE.” Writing that pissed off the autocorrect on my word processor.
PG 5
Pn 1 – “My guess, Mary just had one of her moments.” Good guess Glimmer.
Pn 2 – One of the intangibles but driving forces of Mary is her trinity’s tweaking of cause and effect. Mary needed to choose between left and right, Roswell told her left.
Pn 3 – Meet Loki, a decidedly non-Tom Hiddleston looking imp and the weird third of Mary’s trinity. I mean, he is putting the moves on a hula doll. He also allows Mary to twist cause and effect to her favor and makes a bad pun while doing it…
PG 6
Pn 1 – The hula doll gets tossed…
Pn 2 – We get to do Dr. Stangelove homage…
Pn 3 – It causes Tony to lose his concentration…
Pn 4 – jerking the wheel…
Pn 5 – Almost knocking Dan outta the car. This buys Mary the precious seconds she needs for the events that happen next. Of course she doesn’t know that it’s going to work that way just that her spirit guides are helping her out.
I constantly crack up with Dan calling Tony “Bitch” it’s a funny little detail that adds to the story.
PG 7
Pn 4 – There is no significance to 1988. Seriously, it’s just below 2000. Move along…
PG 8
If I remember correctly Josh gave the tilt to the panels and shifted panels a bit to create a greater sense of energy. I’m sold.
Pn 2 – “The Utopiate” if you haven’t read Josh and Kat’s Utopiates remedy that situation right now and order a signed copy.
Pn 4 – About the only place we could put a Blues Brothers shout out.
PG 9
Pn 1 – Looks like those few seconds lost cost Tony and Dan. I’d feel bad for the people on the bus, originally it was one of those shipping trucks with a busted ident signal. It’s late night so there probably wasn’t anybody on the bus anyway.
Pn 4 – Meet Hoax; remember what I said about collateral damage?
“The smell of success” and “Providence” very telling and still not the last play on words in this story.
PG 10
One of the bigger questions that runs through Mary is stated on this page
Pn 2 – For some reason Loki shouting “Yaaahoooo!” and Mary telling him “Shut up!” didn’t’ make the final.
Pn 3 – “Ok feels pretty subjective right now.” Right on the nose.
Pn 6 – The last and biggest wordplay; The Continential sign becoming “CONTIN” in the same panel that Glimmer tells Mary about getting “Brotherhood of the void” off the data crystal. If you look close you can see sparks making the ellipses “…” right after the “Contin”.

The Gang

Annotations for Trail of Tears and Epilogue from “By Factory smoke and acetylene light”

COVER – Done by my friend J.K. Woodward. J.K. has been instrumental in the look of Mary since almost the beginning. He came up with the idea of Hoax having the black and white stripes for her visual motif. Curiously this was the first time he’s done Loki (the little imp guy).
The title: “By factory smoke and acetylene light” is taken from the Police song Invisible Sun.
INSIDE COVER – Repurposed image from J.K. Digital Webbing issue #23
CREDIT PAGE – Little seen Crazy Mary cartoon version by J.K. Woodward.
FORWARD BY TONY LEE – A dear and gracious friend and a damn spiffy dresser to boot.
DRAGONFLY COVER – Dragonfly’s are Mary’s animal totem (mine too); it can freely move between the dream world and real world. There isn’t a better description of Mary out there. You’ll find plenty recurring Dragonfly based imagery and themes in Mary.
Not the first Crazy Mary story I ever wrote (third actually) but this is where it all begins. Turn the way back machine to SDCC 2002 and I’m eating from a bucket of meat with friends and friends of friends. At that table eating tri tip is a punky looking guy by the name of James Woodward. First look would put us worlds apart but we quickly discover a common ground of sardonic humor and Bowie fandom. I give him a copy of the trail of tears script, which had been languishing for a year or so, and forgot about the whole incident in a fruitful attempt to blur the night with booze.
Imagine my surprise when about two months later I get page 1 of Trail of Tears in my e-mail. J.K’s work was in greyscale because we were going to take it to Digital Webbing an anthology book that was B&W. JK built the work for the future, though with the lush scales. That future was realized for the graphic novel when Josh Finney colored the story. The pallet Josh uses builds off of JK’s work; muted but enhancing. Personally I find it absolutely breathtaking.

PG 1
The first page I aimed for a cinematic trick; a dolly back going from a tight to a wide. J.K. absolutely killed it!
Pn 1 – Tight on eyes rain rolling down, or tears? Visually this creates a connection to the child and teddy bear long before we see the silver thread. As sappy as it might sound, yes, the teddy bear is crying for the little girl too. Sounds cornball on paper but visually you can’t argue with the effect.
Pn 2-5 – The rest of the dolly back/wide shot; the sense of isolation and loneliness surrounded by people is palpable.
Pn 6 – Our nice wide reveal and introduction of Mary. Who is this woman that found a lonely abandoned teddy bear in the bustling mob? This whole page works so well as an intro to both the story and Mary. It grabs and reels in. Still one of my favorite pages, ever.
PG 2
Pn 1-4 – One of the things I learned early on was bridging the visual gab to Mary’s abilities. I have to usually burn a panel or two setting up her P.O.V. At least in the early stories, figuring that when things became more established I could shortcut. That being said these panels are not wasted space. You can see the wheels turning in Mary’s head and Glimmer’s narration feeds info about the world. Both converge in
Pn 5 – Mary’s P.O.V. This was, according to JK, the panel that convinced him to do the project specifically the giant mosquito piercing the guy’s neck. I script these panels something like They Live on a DMT/Acid trip. Every artist I’ve worked with digs and/or fears these panels because except for specific plot points they got free reign but have to go weird. JK’s more personal work dovetails perfectly with that requirement.
PG 3
Pn 1 – Another visual insight; Mary is the only one going in that direction against a sea of indifferent umbrellas. I had this in an old screenplay I wrote. It worked so well metaphorically I nicked it for Mary.
Pn 4-5 – The Jumbotron clues us as to what Mary is after. Glimmer’s narration on Pn 4 mentions Col. Tarus. I have yet to do a full story with him even though he’s an important part of Mary’s world. Further I have worked a lot of totem symbolism into Mary; try googling bull totem sometime.
PG 4
Would you believe there was about two months in-between writing pg 3 and 4? I wasn’t sure where to go after the quest started; was the child across the city? Should there be more obstacles between Mary and the place the kidnappers were holding the child? Finally I realized I was overthinking it and just had Mary go down an alley leading to the kidnapper’s hideout.
Pn 3-5 Another visual set-up for Mary’s P.O.V. by now just about anybody would understand what this weird shit is about, at least on a visual level. I do dig using these normal view/P.O.V. panels.
PG 5
Pn 1-8 Trying to build tension. A lot of subtle work on J.K.’s part.
Pn 9 – I always loved this shot.
PG 6
This was a miscue, I blame myself; either I was too heavy handed with what I was going for or didn’t properly explain it. I meant to have a straight-on shot of Mary landing on the other side of the fence and the tears and other background elements added up to dragonfly wings on Mary’s back. That being said it’s a great panel on its own although the dramatic emphasis seems to be misplaced.
PG 7
Pn 1-4 – A nice build-up of tension in these panels. The action of the story morphs a bit. I was demonstrating the versatility in the world I created. Glimmer’s narration has been dramatically intersecting with the action while still informing.
Pn 5 – Note the dragonfly images on the window sill.
PG 8
Pn 1-3 A stealth takedown. I think I was playing Syphon Filter and Tenshu a lot when I wrote the script. I loved the sneaking and quite takedown. Also pallet-wise a great example of Josh’s work between these panels and Pn 4-6.
PG 9
Pn 1 – Awesome tense panel, note little dragonfly motif in the window order viagra online jams.
Pn 6 – The tide is turning, the sun is breaking through the clouds. It’s no accident it’s at the exact moment Mary saves the kidnapper from falling to his death.
PG 10
Pn 1-3 Perhaps you’ve seen the Mythbusters ep about using guns akimbo? Sure, two guns at once looks cool in every action movie, comic book and video game ever made, but it’s almost impossible to actually HIT anything in real life. These three panels might depict the only working use for two guns at once.
Pn 4 – Note she holsters one of the guns.
Pn 6 – Room number 1023. You’ll see a lot of 23 and multiples of 5 pop up in Crazy Mary.
PG 11
Pn 2 – The guy in the fedora hat always makes me think of Art Carney (Norton from the Honeymooners), even the look.
Pn 3 – Oops, she has two guns. Ok, I’m not immune either.
Pn 4 – Non-Norton guy smashing through door headfirst, sunlight pouring through. A little lense flare to sell it (Note years before J.J. Abrhams over did that trick in the Star Trek reboot).
PG 12
Teddy bear and little girl reunited. The rain is gone and the sun streams through. On paper that metaphor seemed a tad heavy but J.K. and (later) Josh sell it perfectly.
As a follow up note; that damn teddy bear has been a recurring visual anchor of almost every pin-up and artist interpretation done of Mary. It’s interesting how small (what you think are throwaway) bits connect with the readers and outside creative folk. As far as I’m concerned it can stay a lynchpin of the Mary mythology as long as I’m writing the book.

It’s odd to me that a two page epilogue that was written nearly ten years after Mary was first published serves as the reader’s introduction to the core characters. But perhaps it makes more sense than at first look; I’ve have lived many years with these characters so a little two page character study simply WORKS better than it would several years ago. At least in a fine tuned way; these characters pretty much sprung forth whole but the banter has the weight of years. Tweek and Glimmer’s bickering has evolved. Originally Glimmer was mostly puzzled and slightly irritated by Tweek. Glimmer’s quippy antagonistic attitude towards Tweek is his way of coping with a tech weirdo that takes a drug that gives him a different personality every time they meet. Tweek’s Johnny Rotten-esq persona is the closest thing to a default personality he has and also has the most caustic relationship with Glimmer. Mary’s coffee addiction is something that kinda developed over the years too.

PG 1
The years working as a pro in comics have sharpened J.K.’s considerable talent to a ginsu edge this page is a hell of a lot more dynamic in the layout than I could’ve come-up with.
Pn 1 – Mary delivering the kidnapped child from Trail of tears back to her parents. There was a lot of “If you can fit this in…” stuff in these script pages, just the pop up window to “find freelancers in your area” could be squeezed in.
The little girl’s last name is Forestburg. They are friends of mine and do have a girl, so I guess the kidnapped girl’s first name is Lola.
Pn 2 – This was another panel that had a lot of stuff there was no room for including one bit which I nicked from Paul Cornell’s work on Dark X-Men because it was so a clever, I couldn’t resist. Here is the excerpt from my script:
Each character has a caption over their head:
MARY – SEEING THINGS DIFFERENTLY – Ghost in the machine.
The Police, as noted in the title of the Graphic Novel, are one of two house bands for Crazy Mary.
Note Glimmer’s playing card.
This is Tweek’s first appearance, for all of you. Originally he was modeled after Liam Lynch of Sifil and Ollie fame. I met Liam while I was working on Babylon 5. This version of Tweek bears more than a passing resemblance to Mr. J.K. Woodward (cue shrieking tween girls).
Pn 4 – Glimmer’s playing cards project holograms. In a shelved 4 issue story Glimmer uses his holo-playing cards to escape from a gang of killers. This gives him at least fifty four (two jokers) different tricks to pull out at any given time. In a weird bit of synchronicity (great Police album BTW) two different times I was in the middle of writing scenes where Glimmer used one of his cards I found playing card lying on the ground.
PG 2
Pn 2 – The idea of running DC power through a cup of two week old coffee is hysterical to me. That it’s just part of Tweek’s shambles of a living/working space is even funnier.
Pn 3 – Sigma waves don’t exist. I’ve extrapolated from the known brain waves. Sigma waves also get play in the last story “Deal”. A connection between coffee and Mary’s halucinations?
Sync, by the way, is a party drug Tweek is exceedingly fond of. More will be learned in future stories but essentially it “blank slates” your personality and you can input stimulus (via TV, music, books, whatever) to craft a new, temporary personality. One catch is that the new personality is subject to the user’s interpretation of the stimulus. An example would be taking Sync and listening to Kanye West; you would then imprint the public traits that resonate most with your subconscious, like being a pompous egomaniacal douchbag, but not automatically be able to imitate his (admittedly amazing but increasingly strange) flow. Sync is part of the “Subjective nature of reality” theme that drives Crazy Mary as a whole. It also gives me an excuse to have Tweek dress as Roy Rodgers one story and Abraham Lincoln the next.
Pn 4 – It’s not the fact that Tweek has been running electricity through the coffee for two weeks, or even that the coffee is two weeks old. It’s the fact that the coffee is decaf that is the final straw for Mary. She heads off to Apollo’s coffee (not originally a recurring set but it keeps popping up) and right into the next story “Coffee and Dreams”.
Pn 5 – The Cyberchurch – worth noting for future reference.