Artist Shaenon Garrity is well-known on the Internet for her long-running Web comic NARBONIC, where mad scientists ran amok and everyone was having a good time. The iconic tee shirt “evil” with a pink heart as the dot of the “i” comes from NARBONIC. Well, Shaenon just can’t leave mad science alone, and Jeff, a NARBONIC fan, was so inspired he sent her a script of an idea he had. Several months of conferring, tweaking and sketching later, we’re up and running with SKIN HORSE, and yes, that comes from THE VELVETEEN RABBIT.
Garrity works in clean, simple black and white, letting the expressions on the faces (or not, with characters like the sentient silverfish in the basement…) and the dry dialogue carry the story. Right now I don’t see signs of an overall plot arc, but the mini-arcs have had me laughing out loud more than once.
Project Skin Horse is US black ops. It’s so black ops, the artificial constructs run the show.
The project director, Gavotte, is a swarm of bees (the only swarm ever to apply for a government job.) The field commander, Sweetheart, is a canine Chimera with human intelligence and speech, while Unity, the undead super soldier, is a field operative (generally referred to as “Plan B”). Unity usually kills only what you tell her to kill, but watch out for those “tooth noogies”. Their job is to protect and relocate artificial and emerging intelligences for the safety of both the “client” (i.e. monster, augmented animal, etc.) and the humans who may threaten or be threatened by the new life.
The only human in this nuthouse is Dr. Dennis “Tip” Wilkin, formerly Captain Wilkin, USA, and a decorated leader of known bravery, integrity and patriotism. He was shuffled sideways into Project Skin Horse via the CIA after his last tour of duty, when he started wearing women’s clothing in public. He still wears women’s clothing 99% of the time. The irony of this transvestite psychologist is that no woman under the age of 80 can resist him – and this often means more than one in the same bed. It’s apparently a testimony to his charm, skills and sex appeal that these women don’t mind sharing him. He’s a sweet guy, and of course embarrassed by this fact.
Our story begins at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., as an adult male African lion and what appears to be a tall woman carrying a folding chair are slowly pacing toward each other. Our dialogue, penned over the establishing comic:
**It’s 10:08 p.m.**
**I’m staring down a deranged, genetically-augmented African lion.**
**There is a sniper in position on the roof of the visitors’ center.**
**And I’m wearing a gender-inappropriate pink sweater.**
**It’s a Roberta Frost.”
**The situation is under control.** (Tip looks resolved despite his pink sweater with a Peter Pan collar.)
**I’m a psychologist.**
**Our sniper’s name is Unity. Obstensibly, she’s Plan B.**
**Right now, she’s got a tranj rifle trained on the subject’s exposed flank.**
**Wish we had any idea what dosage to use.**
(Tip’s visibly sweating now.) **If we’re wrong, the dart’ll just make him mad.**
**Plus, once Unity starts shooting, it’s kind of hard to get her to stop.**
**I’m sort of hoping we can stop with Plan A.** (Tip stops, unfolds the chair, sits down and says: “Hi, I’m from the government. Can we talk?”) **I bleed less from Plan A.**
Enjoy. Oh, and Volume One is now out, with the first year of strips. Just in time for seasonal gift giving. Support independent comics today!
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is currently working on a new Alfreda book, an adult fantasy mystery series, YA/manga, and a few other things as well. You can find her latest work at Yard Dog Press. Her bookshelf is here – and with luck will contain several novels before the end of the year. She plans to blog at BVC Fridays until she runs out of topics.