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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.
From http://philosophy.stackexchange.com
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 www.louanders.com 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.”

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.