Opera and Cosplay Duke it Out

When I last posted I had this vision that a heap of things were going to be done by now.  I was going to be finished the Junketsu and I was going to have worn it triumphantly at PAX.  I was going to be churning out shirts and skirts and things for summer.  I was going to have finished all the performance dresses that I stupidly started right before comps and concerts.  Hell, at one point I even thought I would make a gown.

Haha, NOPE.  It’s a crazy story.

So I entered the New Zealand Aria the night before entries closed.  Then I realised that it was on at the same time as PAX so there was no point finishing the Junketsu (wrong, but we’ll get to that in a minute).  Then I cut out two Man Repeller-inspired ruffled shirts for My Wardrobe S/S 16, but sewing the pleather for my Attack on Titan cosplay had killed the tension wheel on my Janome and it went off to be serviced.  Two weeks of waiting for it to come back and consoling myself with fan art later…

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I tend to only ship characters with musical instruments.

…I should have done all the finishing on the fuchsia performance dress then, but stupidly I chose to binge on Noragami instead.  Then I did an audition for Opera Australia in Sydney.  Then I got a callback, so I had to cancel on New Zealand SO THE MORAL OF THAT STORY IS IF I’D JUST FINISHED THE DAMN JUNKETSU I COULD HAVE GONE TO PAX ANYWAY.  I was sad and happy and confused so then I entered the Diamond Valley Eisteddfod (again the night before the damn thing.  Noticing a pattern?). I hand-hemmed the fuchsia dress at the venue on the day, and then I won the aria section.  Then I found out I had the job with OA.  Then I didn’t sleep for about 48 hours.  Now I’m doing weird random procrastinatey sewing things instead of finishing the summer clothes that I know I’ll need up north.

Like how I suddenly decided that the arm and pocket badges on my AoT jacket look wrong and need to be fixed.  The method I’m  using now (just appliqueing on a big general wing-shaped cut-out and then zig-zagging the lines on over the top) is a lot quicker and easier than the first method I used, and I think it reads better too.

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Way better, right?

I’ve started on one of the summer shirts, but I’m currently baulking at the buttonholes because my machine is still a bit hit-and-miss with buttonholes.  It’s just the frumpster shirt pattern with the sleeves cut in further, and a ruffle on a strip of bias binding added over the top.

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If it looks like it’s spent the week scrunched up in a corner, that’s because it has.

The Junketsu has now been hemmed.  Behold it in its shortness if you dare, along with my best attempt at a faux-fringe (which really just ended up looking kind of vintage.  Oh well.  Satsuki’s kind of a pin-up anyway).  I ordered a wig online yesterday, taking my chances with a random cosplay wig shop on AliExpress.  The shipping times are so variable that I just put in the address as my parent’s place in case it takes a month and I’ve moved out of the sharehouse, so Mum, if you get a very long blue wig in the post please don’t get a shock.

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As if getting a wig in the post could be any more shocking than the length of that skirt.

I have decided I’ll attach the sailor collar with snaps, but the ones I have in my stash are tiny, so I’ll zip out to somewhere and get bigger ones.  I’ve glued  I-don’t-know-what-you-call-thems on the boards.  They’re the bits that you pass epaulettes through to button the boards on.

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They don’t look very nice because I glued them on and used Fray-Block to finish the edges.

I will add epaulettes to the Junketsu and then the boards can button or snap on.  I was worried that the boards were too big, but even just pinned on they look really good.  The scarf tie things are another story though.  I’ll take them off and make them smaller and pointier.

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With both boards in dynamic pre-transformation pose

I’ve also ordered the white stretch-PVC for the boots, and I’ll put them together on my friend’s serger, because I really don’t want to be servicing my poor old machine twice in as many months, and comparing my sewing machine to Sergei the serger is like comparing an elderly lady who’s still ok walking the dog with some kind of super hardcore Russian SAS person with muscles on their muscles.  Then I’ll get a pair of op-shop heels and glue them over the top.  The PVC was a bit expensive, but there’s really only one place in Australia that had it and I only need a metre for my scrawny pins so it’s not that bad.

Then the only thing will be the sword, Bankuze.  It’s basically a big white katana with a fancy cross-bar (no idea what you call that part on a katana, and behold my apparent inability to google it).  The internet has many which are expensive, not super great-looking and of dubious customs-passability.  I’m contemplating how hard it would be to make a passable Bankuze-like-object out of cardboard or papier mache or plastic or something.  Satsuki doesn’t even usually bother to unsheathe it unless she’s fighting Ryuko anyhow.

 

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Attack on Cosplay Part Two – The Thousand and One Infuriating Straps

I’m not gonna lie, I would seriously rather hand-sew another set of 18th Century stays than make another Attack on Titan harness.  True, the stays took me like 8 months longer, but they didn’t involve trying to make my craptacular Janome come to terms with pleather.

Internet research confirmed that pleather is a special snowflake, and because it’s both stretchy and sticky, it needs extra help to go under the presser-foot without bunching and puckering.   Some recommended a roller foot (sounds awesome but couldn’t get one), or the ol’ paper trick, where you pin paper over the fabric and rip it off after.  Others recommended a teflon foot, which I got, as my local Janome dealer didn’t have a roller foot.  The poor shop lady looked at me with plain distress on her face when I said ‘cosplay’ and ‘pleather’ in the same sentence.  Sadly, when I got the foot home it only kind of vaguely worked, more on that later. Pleather’s other extra-special attribute is that it doesn’t like pins, because it’s not woven and pins will leave holes.

But this is me we’re talking about, and I like leaping in at the deep end without checking for pointy rocks/stingrays/Cthulu first.  I already felt I’d done enough planning by drawing up a ton of notes on what attaches where.  Bear in mind there are much MUCH better diagrams in google images, and even though I’d drawn these out, there was no guarantee I’d follow them perfectly in the moment.

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Haha, even just reading those back now there are so many places where I deviated from the plan.  Because I am Captain By-The-Seat-of-My-Pants.

So first I just made oodles and oodles of strapping from the pleather, with the non-stretch direction lengthways. Turning a tube was too hard because the right sides stick to each other, so I folded an 8cm-wide strip in half, wrong side to wrong side, topstitched the fold, then folded in the other edge a cm or so and topstitched it too.  Because by that stage I hadn’t had a chance to haul my butt to Maribyrnong to get a teflon foot, I used the paper method, and because pleather dislikes pins, I used bobby pins.  It helps that because I have stubborn hair, I have extra-strong bobby pins.  BOBBY PINS ARE THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.  Also, if you are someone with Hermione-levels of hair like me, you probably already have loads of them lying around.  If you have short hair/love office products, I hear paperclips work too.

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Yes, that’s La Traviata.  It was in an old subject reader from my undergrad so it was an excerpt anyway.  I wasn’t sacrificing actual sheet music.  The paper rips very cleanly off in this instance because the pleather doesn’t try to come with it the way a knit fabric does.

After I’d made metres and metres of the stuff, I started with the back pad and made my way down from there, sometimes using Dido the dressform, but trying it on me every now and again because sometimes she goes a funny round-shouldered shape that’s not helpful.

The back pad (and both the scabbard pads, for that matter) were a cheap grey poplin underlined with felt leftover from a dragon plushie I made for a friend’s five-year-old a while back and forgot to blog about.  Problem is, this is the colour of the felt:

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Naw, how cute was it before it got loved to death?  Anyway, back to AoT.  Turns out when you underline grey poplin with green felt and then expect to cut what are effectively large buttonholes for straps to pass through, you inevitably see the green felt on the inside of the slash, like your harness is secretly Bruce Banner or something.  Not a massive problem, but weird up close.  And cartoon-prompting.

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Have a very dark photo of the pattern, because I can’t be bothered lightening it.

Then it was a matter of trimming straps to size and adding them one at a time.  The upper back first, then the sternum buckle, then from there.  Somewhere along the line I realised it’d be easier to make the whole thing in one rather than trying to keep the top and bottom separate.  I’m sorry I didn’t take better notes as I went, but it was pretty damn confusing, the whole process lasted a couple of weeks and I’m not entirely sure I knew what I was doing at the time.  There was wine was involved at several points.  Also some pretending to be Levi, some pretending to be Veronica Lake, and some wearing the flower crown from when I was Woodsprite 1 in Rusalka earlier this year. Pro-tip, don’t drink and sew, and definitely don’t let a soprano have access to wine, cosplay and a camera at the same time.  Do have a montage though.

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By the end it was crazy trying to get the whole thing under the needle…

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And sometimes I resorted to some dumb tactics…

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Most of it was sewn together using a variant on this criss-cross pattern:

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Right up the top in that photo you can see what I mean about the green felt too.

Some of the details ended up being pretty crucial.  For example, I realised early on that it’d be silly to permanently attach any of the straps to the scabbard pads in a way that they couldn’t move.  So this is the arrangement I came up with on the back, using fabric loops.  The thigh straps just feed through enormous buttonholes the way the shoulder straps do in the shoulder pad:

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The buckles were just sewn on and the holes for the latchets were made with a stitch ripper because my awl (and by awl, I mean very sharp pencil) didn’t work.

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I didn’t end up attaching the straps at the front with buckles to the belt because I couldn’t really think of a way to do it, I ran out of buckles, and really I was just looping them around the belt loops of my jeans and using the belt (which is totally separate) to hold them down.

Here it is in its completed (if slightly dodgy) glory:

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I tried taking a couple of videos of putting the whole catastrophe on to see if I could document it clearly, but it didn’t make it any clearer and it takes roughly ten minutes (I can see why humanity is dying out if it takes their strongest members that long to get their kit on and off, you know what I mean?), so make do with a talkthrough:

  1. Lay the catastrophe on the floor, front side up.  Make sure nothing is tangled (HA)
  2. Sit yourself down smack-bang in the middle.  Shimmy thy legs under the bit that will cross over just below your stomach in the end.
  3. Then get each leg down into the leg loops until your feet are at the bottom.  Make sure nothing’s twisted again.  If something is twisted, swear at it for a while until it goes away.
  4. Do up the thigh straps.  Adjust the crap out of all leg bits so that everything sits where it should.
  5. AWESOME FUN TIP: Put on some socks now!  It’ll keep the foot loops from leaping off your feet when you stand up, and stop them squeaking like you’re walking through a rubber ducky warehouse in stilettos when you put your boots on.  My socks have cats on them.
  6. Grab hold of the back pad over your shoulder and stand up.
  7. Squiggle all the straps up over your bum at the back.
  8. Pop your arms through the arm-holes at the top and shimmy the top half on without throwing your neck out.  If you can’t turn your head after, time to swear some more and then call the physio.  Make sure those straps aren’t twisted first though.  See earlier swearing comment.
  9. Do up the sternum strap.  If you are a boob-owner and need to move yours out of the way, do that now too.  If you just have massive pecs like Captain America I can offer you little advice except good on you for having them, and can you do that thing where they pop individually?  That’s hilarious.
  10. The ends of the straps that come from the back button on around the front ones (because I found if I sewed them down I couldn’t get my hips through it.  Your mileage may vary if yours don’t prompt strange older women to compliment you creepily on your physiological suitability for childbirth.)
  11. Now’s when I add the belt over the top.  I’m about to tell you about the skirt too. If you’re still reading that is. If you’re not then I guess I can call you a spleeny bat-fowling scut and you’ll be none the wiser. Thankyou Shakespearean Insult Generator…

The skirt thing was a lightly shaped arc thing with holes for the belt loops so I could still put the belt through them.  It tied on to the belt loops with little ribbons (aww).  It goes on after stage 10, and there are slits for the belt loops of the jeans to go through so that the belt can still be threaded through them.  Then the ribbons are tied on to whichever strap is closest.

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It’s pretty hard to see in these photos.  Sorry.  The areas of shaping and the edges were folded over and topstitched, and this is where the teflon foot came (vaguely) in handy.  Vaguely because it was only a bit better than the metal foot, but on seams in the middle of a piece of pleather the paper method gets a whole lot harder.

The bit that really made sticking hot forks in one’s eyes sound like fun was the boot covers.  I loosely followed this boot cover tutorial, mostly because I didn’t want to have to destroy any of my shoes and I didn’t want to buy any new ones to cover.  First I was going to cover a set of riding boots that I can be seen wearing in most of the above photos, but the problem is I have scrawny wee calves, so the boots aren’t fitted.  So the first one looked completely wrong and the top flaps were more flops.  So I re-drafted them to go over a pair of ankle boots and then fit directly to the leg.  Much better from a fit perspective, but such a nightmare from a topstitching perspective.  And the teflon foot did a very half-arsed job. Then when I thought I was out of the woods, the top flaps were still disappointingly floppy (yes, I’m being dirty, you love it) because the pleather was quite soft, even after being interfaced with heavy linen.  So I went with my usual sewing panacea of using twill tape to create a bone casing and putting a cable tie in it.  That appeared to help.

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The other inaccuracy was that the cords on the AoT boots are brown.  But I had green rat tail left from when I butchered the green soprano gown (the gown as it was, and as it is now and ever shall be).  So I have green cords on my boots.  Shh.

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You can’t really tell, right?

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So that’s a wrap really!  I’ll make a cloak at some point to add to it, but I’ll wait for the perfect green wool so that it’ll be warm and rain-repellent and heavy and gorgeous. In the meantime, have some more pictures of me and my friend having fun outside the movies in our costumes!  I may have taken to photoshop and done a Who Framed Roger Rabbit on two of them… couldn’t resist.

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Two Hanges are better than one.

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Levi’s kicking himself he picked the berry paddle-pop when he could have had dulce de leche but didn’t want to look like he was copying Hange 2.

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Eren’s wondering if the Hanges would catch him if he tried to escape.

OH!  And if you haven’t already done so, check out the Society 6 store I just got!  I do way more art than just photoshop characters into silly photos, and you can get it on a mug or a phone case.  It’s pretty awesome. 🙂

I’m Not Dead, Honest!

Though I’d forgive you for thinking I was. What it means though, is I’ve got a whole backlog of creativity that I should have posted about ages ago, but didn’t get around to doing it. Usually because the minute I had a second (… or the second I had a minute? Wibbly wobbly timey wimey…) that’s either when I’d get a text from a friend going “Tea?” or remember urgent washing that needed doing, or be so tired that it was all I could do to put on Outlaw Star/Fullmetal Alchemist/Chobits/Hellsing (stop judging me) and then zone out over a full pot of tea.

Today is the watershed. Most notably because I am sick, and so have forced myself to stay home, desperately trying to recover before my awesome teacher arrives tomorrow (hahahaha, even I laugh at this vain optimism. I’ve used about a hundred tissues in the past 24 hours, and sustained a burn when I sneezed in front of a friend’s log stove).
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The Girl Who Sneezed at Fire.

Secondly, although the weather is balmy and sunny, I don’t have enough dirty clothes to make it worth taking out whoever’s washing was left abandoned in the machine this morning. If they want to waste this glorious drying weather, that’s their problem.

Thirdly, and most distressingly, THE KETTLE IS BROKEN! My beloved kettle! Boiler of water, genesis of tea-based beverages! On account of my self-imposed housebound-ness, I refuse to go and purchase a new one until tomorrow, so I’m boiling water in a saucepan in the meantime. I’ve only had one pot of tea today. I know, I can’t believe I’m surviving either. Only by the powers of distraction – also known as writing a blog post – will I get through this, until the time when I can go to Big W and purchase a new kettle without snotting all over the sales assistants.

So down to business.  As usual, I have started more things than I have finished, so I’ll chronicle things in this order: Finished things, Paused things and Started things.

As far as finished things go, the list is short but awesome.  I made a shirt!  

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ACHIEVEMENT!

I salvaged the fabric from a manky, rather yellowed dress the Adorable Folkey fished out of the Theatre garage sale last year, which I suspect is a poly-cotton, given its dislike of high iron heat. I also used – dun dun duuuuunnnnnn!!!! – a commercial pattern!

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Ok, so it’s a bit like attack of the frump, but the essential bits are there.

The pattern came from an op shop where I also found the most magnificent old dresser, which should have been in an antique shop, but it had a big ding on the front of it (nothing a bit of oil couldn’t fix) and also needs a screw to reattach one of the drawer handles.  Just proof that if you sift through enough suburban op shops you really do find gloriously under-priced gems.

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Ten points if you can spot the ding.

 But back to the shirt.  Since it was only ever meant to be a toile, seeing I haven’t used a commercial pattern since about 2009,I hadn’t thought about how yellow the fabric was in places.  But it was really rather noticeable, and it looked like what it was: gross.

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Nasty.

Once it was finished I gave it a tea bath (oh how I lament the loss of my kettle!) in an attempt to counteract the unevenness of the yellowing and some big blue stains which I only found afterwards.  It worked a treat on the blue stains, and it’s got it to the point where the faded colour is more peach than yellow (you can’t really see it in photos, but in real life it was a huge difference), and it looks nice enough under a jumper.  Being my first attempt at a shirt I was terrified of how it would turn out, and whether I’d encounter issues with the collar stand, but I guess reading lots of Male Pattern Boldness has sunk in, because it went together calmly and with no swearing.  Thanks, Peter!  I now feel emboldened (hur hur) to make shirts for my friend Brave Sir Robin, who has the classic problem of Veuve Cliquot taste on a Toohey’s budget.  I’m thinking of finding some vintage shirt patterns and then grading them to fit.

I also starched some lace to my window, so that I can have natural sunlight without feeling like a zoo exhibit.  I got the recipe for the starch mix from Manhattan Nest, after having used other, weaker recipes that resulted in much, much swearing.  I cut the lace to size, dipped it in the goop, ensuring it was all soaked, and then squeezed out the excess goop and applied it to the window.  It was like being midwife to Cthulu, and I was pretty glad I had elected to protect whatever dignity remains in the ancient sharehouse carpet with a large flattened cardboard box. Then I let it dry, and when I one day break my lease and move on, it’ll come off a treat with some warm water, and the window will probably be cleaner than how I found it.

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Behold the offspring of Cthulu.

As far as the Paused/In Progress things go, I started adding some pinked pleated trim to my robe a l’Anglaise just for funsies, I keep meaning to fix/finish the cuirass dress but keep not getting around to it (I did end up wearing it at Liederfest, probably looking a right mess with pins holding it together.  Damn my stubbornness), and I gleefully butchered the green soprano gown with the intention of making something else out of it. My last sketch stands thusly:

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Whoops, I accidentally drew a giraffe.

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The unfinished cuirass dress and the trim on the Anglaise.

In the Started corner, we have ‘teaching my workmates how to sew’, and gowns for Death.  My workmates are fast learners and picked a nice easy first project, even though it’s a dress, so they’re rocking along well.  I’ll need to pick up the pace once I’m better though.  It’s good for me to lug the sewing machine to work and back, and combined with the serious attempt I’ve been making at building some upper body strength, I am proud to announce that I can no longer do the zipper the whole way up on the zodiac dress.  Seriously, watch out Arnie, I’m taking you down in our next arm-wrestling match.  

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Though I’ll probably be too busy using my guns to smash the patriarchy to arm wrestle Arnie.

I’ve been jogging too, and steadily.  I know.  Me?  Jogging?  You better believe it.  Nothing has ever motivated me to keep at exercise before, I guess because I’ve got genes that conform to the modern ideal of stupidly-skinny without any effort, and fitness wasn’t enough of an end in itself.  But a while back I invented a character in one of the dumb little stories I write as a sidekick to the main character, and I’ve come to realise that she’s pretty much me.  Hell, even my hair has started copying her, doing the side-fringe-one-side-with-a-weird-sticky-outy-flyaway-on-the-other thing.  I didn’t make it, it did it by itself.  However, the biceps I need to work for.

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If I was allowed to have violet hair and a sword.

The gowns for Death are a little easier seeing I can work on them whenever, and seeing she’s more of an hourglass than I am, her dress block looks more like a dress block and not like bacon the way mine does.  Her preference for circle skirts also means that the skirt drafting is just going to be all maths and none of that stupid faffing around with skirt blocks.  The first design is a sci-fi influenced, colourblocked number, to be done in a beautiful ivory duchess satin and a lovely heavy rayon-nylon.  I’m thinking of cording the shoulders for added oomph, especially seeing Death loves Star Trek and Blake’s 7, and the more sci-fi references we can cram into a gown the better.  And what says sci-fi like strong angular shoulders?

2014-07-16 14.47.44And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love an overt Star Trek influence?

I’ve started patterning, and just need a heap of cheap stuff to make some toiles.  Unfortunately Lincraft is closed for renovations, so my usual 10+ metres of disgusting $2.00/m polypop is out of the question.  Oh well, Sydney Rd it is.

So I have a very very busy month of sewing planned.  I seriously doubt I’ll get through it all, but I’ll give it a shot.  I’m getting better at drawing up my patterns meticulously, and I’ve started adding on the seam allowances and notches.  They look a lot better now and the garments go together more quickly and accurately, so who knows, I might actually save some time.

Now I have to go eat some toast before OQ rehearsal.  That’s the opera quartet a few friends put together a few months back to do corporate gigs and shamelessly make money.  We’re called Operation Quartet. Check us out. I know, I know, I said I was housebound, but I won’t be singing.  Promise.

Progress!

Having finally finished my Masters degree (eep!) I now have a bit of time to work on finishing those Bombshells costumes.  It’s now at a point where to finish them properly I have to go to one of the cheapo fabric shops in Brunswick and get some cheap vintage buttons, and hopefully some belt buckles too.  At the moment the skirt of mine’s just pinned to the bodice, because I’m going to make the belt a built-in feature of the waistband, so there’s (again) not much point in attaching it until I have a belt buckle.  But what it does mean is pictures!

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Words cannot express how proud I am.  My machine sewing is normally horrendous, but these are all even and neat and stuff.  And yes those are more cartoons in the background.

DSC_0132So I watch Sailor Moon while I sew.  What of it? …

… well, apart from meaning that the bodice of my dress has spent the last few days looking like this:

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Sailor Soprano!

Oh, and in case anyone’s curious/hasn’t seen it doing the rounds on the book of face, here is one of the cartoons that was on the wall behind me.  They’re doing the Ring Cycle in Melbourne at the moment, you see, and I managed to score a ticket to the dress rehearsal of Siegfried.  A particular scene towards the end had me and Folkey giggling.  Unfortunately, this will only make sense if you’re familiar with the opera, but I’ll try my best to explain:

Siegfried’s parents were siblings (Wagner is unfortunately chock-full of horrible horrible incest, FYI), children of Wotan, king of the gods.  Understandably, Siegfried is not very bright.  A little birdy (literally) tells him that there’s this chick called Brünnhilde who’s basically doing a Sleeping Beauty atop a mountain surrounded by fire and only the manliest man-hero can get past the fire and wake her up and so on.  Brünnhilde is actually Wotan’s daughter, so it’s another whole level of ick-Siegfried’s-going-to-do-his-aunt-ness.  Anyway.  So Siegfried, who literally can’t feel fear because he’s too inbred, goes and rescues her, but there’s this whole scene where he forgets he’s up there looking for a lady (because he’s inbred and also he’s never actually met a lady-person) and gets a rude shock.

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Siegfried might be suppressing something.

Also, in the actual opera that whole exchange probably goes for about 45 minutes.

Also also, I apologise for the poor picture quality on some of my earlier posts.  They were bigger before, I swear.  I guess I’m still on the ol’ WordPress learning curve.

A Sojurn in Toontown with Alexander the Great

And here we go with the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? references.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go and watch it this instant.  It’s the best.

However it’s not Roger that’s inspired me back to my (old) tooning ways, but Hark, a Vagrant, which is also the best, and is even better if you’re a massive history nerd.  Now back in the day, I took Ancient History in high school, and spent most of the time up the back with my two other Ancient floozies, drawing reams and reams of cartoons.  Mostly of our diminutive Canadian teacher getting eaten by mooses (Meese?  Moosi?  What the sam hill is the plural of moose?!), but also of Alexander the Great, who is such a card.  Seriously, he got so drunk at a party at Persepolis that he BURNED THE PALACE DOWN.  So I started a series of cartoons entitled “Alexander the Not Great”, wherein he tries his hand at many things and discovers he’s not great at anything other than hitting stuff with swords.  The older ones are on the Book of Face (I might transfer them over here one day), but here are my fresh batch!  Straight out of the oven, by which I mean my brain.   Enjoy!

*I am aware that probably only my Nixon people will really get the Alexander the Not Great at Opera one.

**I apologise for the poor scan quality.

Alex not Great at DirectionsAlex not Great at KnittingAlex not Great at OperaAlex not Great at FB