20th Anniversary of Litmus Test 10

After my first mini comic Jack Face came out in July 1996, I started my ongoing title, Litmus Test. This is was my training ground and I did all kinds of stories in this title which I would photocopy, staple together, and try to sell. With issue six, I made a huge leap forward in my art and storytelling. Yet it was issue ten that I was the most proud of.

This issue contained two very different, but self-contained stories: “Holiday Phone-call” and “Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House.” The first was based on my grandmother and so, while expressionist in certain aspects, was a real-life piece of fiction. The second was the second appearance of Kit Kaleidoscope and so existed in a silent world full of fantastical characters. Yet both stories were similar in the fact they both came to me almost fully formed.

I was really proud of this transition that I created for the two stories.

According to the inside cover of Litmus Test 10, it was published in October of 2000. I’m not sure this is accurate, because the notes on the back of “Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House” state that I finished it in November of 2020 with a parenthetical remark that says “a month late.” So I think I intended to have Litmus Test 10 done by October but didn’t quite make it. Still, I’m using this October to recognize that this comic came out twenty years ago.

Holiday Phone-call

While I had a clear vision for this story, as is common for me, it took me a few tries to get something I wanted.

It took me three tries to get the first page.
And three tries to get page three.

According to the notes on the backs of the pages, I started “Holiday Phone-call” on January 9th of 2000 and finished it by August 14th. I was proud of how it turned out and I received some positive responses for the work. While I think the story is a bit thin now, I still really like how I handled it visually. And since it is based on my grandmother and her house, I’m so glad I drew it. She died not long after this story was completed.

Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House

This is probably the most Angela Carter-inspired of the Kit Kaleidoscope stories. It’s not included in the Kit Kaleidoscope collection because it is the most fantastic and doesn’t sit well next to “Kit Kaleidoscope and the Mermaid in the Jar.” Also, I don’t like the story as much as I once did.

It may be hard to see, but it says “Angela Carter” on the cover of Kit’s book.

Still, at the time I felt like this story was a major accomplishment. It was the longest wordless story I had ever taken on. The beginning is concerned with a slave auction and figuring out how to depict the auction wordlessly provided a big challenge. Yet I really liked figuring out how to do it and I realized that I found the struggle to be rewarding. Along the way in the auction, I included some fun references (or “easter eggs,” if you wish).

I put Bill Clinton in the group of slave buyers.
And I had Kit “pay” the auctioneer with the marbles from “Kid Kaleidoscope and the Tale of the Seven Marbles” from Litmus Test 3 and the yo-yo from Kit Kaleidoscope Goes to the Masked Ball.

I started “Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House” on March 14th of 2000 and finished it on November 22nd. So yeah, it was late for my self-imposed October deadline. It didn’t really matter since I just needed it done in time for the Alternative Press Expo, which wasn’t until February. Still, at 32 pages, “Kit Kaleidoscope in the Carnal House” was one of the longest stories I had ever done, next to Jack Face.

So as I said, I felt like when I put these two stories together that this was the strongest statement I had made for my art yet. Litmus Test 10 also had the best cover I had ever done on a mini. Mostly, I just had plain photocopied covers. But seeing all the fancy things people did at the APE, I felt that I had to try a bit harder. Yet I didn’t want to spend too much money. At the time, I had purchased my first color ink jet printer. So this is what I used to make the cover. For the inside back cover I included a pastel self portrait along with a scan from something I had written about myself as a kid. As it turned out, the statements made by the six-year-old me basically applied to the twenty-seven year-old me. Twas ever thus.

You can get a pdf of the full run of Litmus Test through Gumroad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.