Lady May became a lot of fun to draw and write, and is one of the most complex characters in the entirety of Long John. Historically, she’s lightly based on characters from the region. Firstly, Rosa May––an interesting character who met her fate in Bodie, Ca. (where our story will undoubtedly end up), and (with regard to Lundy) May Lundy, the daughter of Lundy’s namesake founder. Lady May’s relation to the latter is only shared with regard to location and name. If anything, Lady May shares more with the former, though much of that history will be related in future pages.

Lady May was a difficult character to design from the get-go. She had some very specific parameters, and I was a bit stressed out by the requirements (I don’t like being told what to do, even if it’s myself calling the shots). What I knew was that Lady May––like any of the other major characters in any comic I draw––needed to stand out. Perhaps it’s my mild animation background, but somewhere along the way a specific character design theory was stamped upon my aesthetic. It’s the idea that every major character should have a unique silhouette, that you should be able to recognize the character from outline alone (this is probably why so many of my characters look a little weird, going back to my Eben07 days). I played with a lot of shapes––mixed in with some of my own desires with regard to designing a major female character––and nothing was really sticking.

That is, until I went to my sketchbook.

For most of the characters I’ve ever created, I don’t remember the day I nailed the design. With Lady May, I was at a loss until I remembered a nearly three year-old sketch I had drawn, under the influence of a few overpriced small glasses of scotch in a Denver hotel. To be as transparent as possible, Lady May’s design is based on the very nice bartender that served my wife, Nicole, and I as we bought drinks after a heavy day of walking around downtown Denver taking in the sights. As a guy that draws (and one that particularly focuses on faces), I was intrigued by the lines of her face and hair and drew it from memory the next day sitting on a friend’s sofa. I knew I hit on something when Nicole saw the drawing and exclaimed, “That’s the bartender from the hotel!”

The first appearance of Lady May, as a bartender. July 2012.

The first appearance of Lady May, as a bartender. July 2012.

Since then, she sat as a few drawings in one of my patent-pending “sketchpiles”––conglomerations of sketches I do on a page that have no real connection with each other––until the need to draw chapter 2 presented itself. After too much time fretting over the design, the memory of this interesting face flashed through my mind. This felt like such a coup because I had never mined my old, random sketches for designs before.

Inspiration can come from the strangest places. With the case of Lady May, I regret not learning that bartender’s name, for her visage has given this comic a great character––one that I love drawing and has helped set in concrete a personality that, before then, was looking for a home.