The Bag of Theseus

A saturated photo of Lucy on a green hillside on a sunny day. She's lying on the grass reading a book, a small orange backpack on the turf next to her.

The bag in this photo is now old enough to drive.

I got it sometime early in high school, probably from the outdoor shop Riley’s mom managed down in Ventura. I eschewed carrying any kind of purse for years because I like keeping my arms and hands free to scramble about, and this little pack was a dream come true for that purpose. It’s just the right size to hold all my essential belongings: a water bottle, a sketchbook, my pens, snacks, a book, even (these days, when necessary) an iPad.1

It’s been down the Grand Canyon and across the Pacific Ocean, to conventions and signings, through endless TSA checkpoints, and to the Edinburgh hillside in this photo, where I passed a blissful and sunny afternoon in 2007.

But last week I came home to find the front panel shredded open thanks to the escalating Rodent Situation here at Bellwood Towers. I was heartbroken. Patagonia have a repair program where they’ll do their best to fix anything that’s gone wrong with their stuff for free (pretty cool!), but the wait times right now are long, and I couldn’t really imagine being without this thing for months on end. I could patch these little rodent holes myself—they’re not huge, after all—but the truth is, the bag’s seen better days.

The elastic is shot. The zipper pulls all broke off long ago. The inner lining is dingy and stained because I’ve never learned my lesson about which pens can and can’t survive air travel. The waist straps are missing because I cut them off to make a belt for my dad when we’d evacuated from the Thomas Fire and his trousers kept falling down.

And so I thought “What’s the harm in looking?” and opened eBay.

As you might expect for an item released in 2005: not a lot of options. Some from the same line, but inevitably in a larger size, and all of them black. The only similarly small one was $115. From Japan! Excessive. Unreasonable. I gave up.

And then the following morning I checked again. A bag! My bag! The same color (well, the color I guess my bag must’ve been once upon a time, though I’d never think it to look at them side by side), thirty bucks, shipping from Texas. Too good to be true.

I hit the button.

Two small Patagonia backpacks side by side. They're identical, but the one on the left is faded to a light brown with tears across the front. The one on the right is newer-looking, vibrant orange.

When I was working on A Life in Objects (my first 100 Day Project, back in 2016) it became very clear to me that I love long-term belongings. Partly it’s because I grew up in a very thrifty household and the idea of randomly replacing or upgrading things willy-nilly is blasphemy to Bellwood ears. But it’s also because I love the stories that trail behind oft-used and much-loved items. And yet: a huge benefit of that project was giving myself permission to let some of the profiled objects go after feeling like I’d preserved them for posterity in some small way.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I drew this backpack. Oh yeah, here it is: Day 52.

A black and white illustration of a small backpack with written text. It says "Day 52: doing the math, I think I've had this little orange patagonia daypack for more than a decade(!!!). I've never been good at carrying a purse—I want a waterbottle, snacks, a sketchbook, something to read, and a mess of pens with me at all times. I also prefer to keep my hands free. This trusty companion has held all that and more on boats and buses, in forgein countries and throughout the greater Portland area. I love it dearly, like a limb. To be utterly self-sufficient, that's a precious feeling."

I guess my feelings about it haven’t really changed.

Anyway, I’m blogging about a tiny, ancient backpack because I want to give myself permission to take its replacement with me on my next adventure: a flight tomorrow morning, my first since February of 2020. I’m sure I’ll be twitchy and anxious under my double-masked exterior, trusting in two shots of vaccine to carry me across the country and back without incident, but I think there will also be a lot to appreciate. A lot to wonder at. I feel rusty, but renewed by this long break from going anywhere.

Tiny miracles. Old things made new again.

1. Hell, when I first got this bag the iPad hadn’t even been released. I didn’t own a cell phone. Different times.

New Comic: Who IS Wonder Woman, Anyway?

Greetings, friends! I’ve got a new comic in the world!

There’s a lot of talk about Wonder Woman in the world right now, thanks to the new film about her opening this weekend, but who is she really? You can head over to The Nib today to read all about her history as a feminist icon, patriotic symbol, and modern warrior thanks to writer Sarah Mirk, colorist Joey Weiser, and myself! I’m really pleased with the final result of our efforts.

If you dig these comics, you can keep ’em coming by supporting my work on Patreon. (And biggest thanks to those of you who do so already!)

Use your strength for good,

Lucy

VanCAF this Weekend

Hey Vancouver, I’m heading your way this Saturday and Sunday for the loveliest comic arts festival on the West Coast: VanCAF!

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You can find me at Table C11 with copies of my new book Baggywrinkles: a Lubber’s Guide to Life at Sea, along with maaaany other delightful goodies. Just look at these fresh, fresh books!

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So delicious. You can also catch me on the following panels and live podcast recordings:

RE-WRITING HISTORY: RESEARCH & INVENTION IN HISTORICAL COMICS
Saturday May 21 4:00 PM – 4:45 PM
Hosted by Jonathon Dalton
Featuring Lucy Bellwood, Tony Cliff, Rachel Kahn, Steve LeCouilliard, Kris Sayer
From the stacks of the library (or the recesses of online journals) to the page, cartoonists plumb the depths of history for inspiration. In this panel, these cartoonists will discuss their methods – from research to brainstorming – for creating comics rich in, and inspired by, history.

And also:

SNEAKY DRAGON’S VERY TALL PODCAST
Saturday May 21 5:00 PM – 5:45 PM
Hosted by Ian Boothby & David Dedrick
Featuring Lucy Bellwood, James Lloyd
Join the Sneaky Dragon podcast’s David Dedrick (Totally Tintin) and Ian Boothby (The Simpsons comics and CBC’s The Irrelevant Show) as they welcome cartoonists Lucy Bellwood (Baggywrinkles) and James Lloyd (Futurama comics), discussing everything from tall tales and tall ships to the work habits of fairly tall cartoonists.

It’s gonna be a hoot! I can’t wait to see you all there. If you’d like a cheat sheet, just refer to this handy-dandy guide:

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New Comic: Scurvy Dogs

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That’s right! My latest comic, an examination of maritime history’s deadliest deficiency, is now live! For the last few months, Eriq Nelson and I have been hard at work researching the ins and outs of scurvy in the Golden Age of Sail, and now we’re bringing our findings to you in 18 pages of informative, entertaining comics.

There’s even a Napoleonic Capybara. No joke.

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I’ve had such a blast working on this piece—even if the production timeline was somewhat delayed by the Kickstarter I ran this summer. Speaking of which, this comic will round out the hardcover collection of Baggywrinkles comics I’m publishing in 2016! What’s more it’ll be in FULL COLOR! Gosh I’m excited.

Anyway, you can read the whole thing right here! I do hope you enjoy it.

New Comic: Pacific Passages (Baggywrinkles #5!)

Happy Friday, comics friends! I come bearing tidings of a new Baggywrinkles installment. Pacific Passages is a historical story that’s been in the works since earlier this year. It’s written by R.J. Mockford, a maritime historian who’s done a lot of work on the history of the original Lady Washington, and illustrated by me!

If you’d like to order a print copy listen close: I’ve only got 20 of them available right now and I’m flying to England next week so the order window is only open between now and Monday. You can get the individual issue here or the five-issue Baggywrinkles bundle here. You can also get a shiny PDF version on Gumroad!

And now, without further ado, THE COMIC:

Many thanks to all of you who have been supporting me on Patreon! This comic couldn’t have happened without you.

Boston Bound

The time is upon us!

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I’m departing for Boston this evening for a week of historical research and sailing aboard the Charles W. Morgan, an original 1840s wooden whaling ship. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, feel free to refresh your memory with this post. I’ve got some fun stuff scheduled for the blog while I’m away, so stay tuned for news and thrilling events that will autopost in my absence. I’ll also do my best to update from the road — or water, as it were.

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In addition: I would also love to see any and all of you in the Boston area at Trident Booksellers and Cafe, where I’ll be doing a reading/signing on July 14th at 7pm. This is my first solo signing event, and I’m really excited to meet all my East Coast boat comics people. Here’s a link to Trident’s site with some more info, plus a Facebook event where you can invite your friends.

See you on the other side, pals!

Summer Travels: The 38th Voyage

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Big news, friends! I’ve been selected to participate in a fellowship program through the Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum this summer, sailing aboard the last wooden whaling ship in the world — the Charles W. Morgan. This is a huge thrill, and promises to be the catalyst for a new installment of adventurous nautical comics. Just look at this beauty:

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Charles-W.-Morgan2-640x423Originally launched in the 1840s, the Morgan has been fully restored and will be sailing around the Eastern Seaboard for three months this summer, taking on 80 fellowship participants who will each capture an aspect of the voyage according to their own disciplines. Needless to say I’ll be drawing some comics and sharing them all with you when I return! Here’s the itinerary:

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While the stint aboard is brief (a mere 24 hours), I hope to use my time in the area to visit a few other vessels as well as Mystic Seaport itself to gather more info for the comic. I’ll very likely be based in Boston during the trip, and am looking into the possibility of doing a reading while I’m there, so stay tuned for more details as July draws near!

You can learn more about the various voyagers and their many specialties here. I’ll be sailing on the second day sail from Provincetown on or around July 10th. For more information about the voyage, the ship’s restoration, and local events you can attend, visit Mystic Seaport’s homepage for the 38th Voyage.

Do you live in Boston and have a recommendation for a good reading venue? Let me know! Otherwise keep your eyes peeled for reading details, further updates and sketches from the road once I set out.

 

Melville & The Peking

I recently had the pleasure of doing some illustrations for my friend Justin Hocking, whose forthcoming memoir, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld, will be released next September from Graywolf Press. Justin is the Executive Director of the Independent Publishing Resource Center, where I got my Certificate in Comics and Independent Publishing. If any of you Portland folk don’t already know about this fantastic resource, I highly encourage you to check it out. While the book goes through final revisions, Justin was kind enough to let me post these here on the blog for y’all to enjoy before they appear in print. So here’s some boaty goodness!