When I was a little girl, I always felt a little bit different from the other girls. I didn’t care about babies, and if you asked me who I was going to marry I’d look at you and say, “My cat?” I played with My Little Ponies and stuffed animals, and everyone knew not to get me Barbie dolls because even from a very young age I hated them and everything they stood for. I’d write little stories and poems, complete with illustrations filling the entire page. I was tested in third grade, and they found out I had college level reading comprehension already. This meant I was bored in school a lot, so all of my school papers from back then are covered in drawings because I’d finish everything so fast and have nothing to do while I waited for the other kids to catch up.

When I was a little girl, I desperately wanted to be like everyone else. I was sweet and polite and well-liked, the stereotypical teacher’s pet with the straight-A report card to show for it. My mom always dressed me in cute clothes, with my hair all done up in matching hair ties and the whole works. When I colored in my coloring books I would look at the cover and whatever else I could find for reference before I started coloring the characters in, because I wanted them to be as accurate as possible. I remember being only eight years old, and right before I fell asleep at night this feeling of unreality would hit me as I looked around my bedroom. And I would wonder, “Who am I? What am I doing here?” I felt a lot of the times like no one listened to me or understood the difficulties I was going through at home, so I had to be strong and not let my feelings show.

Now that I’m a woman, babies still aren’t for me. I don’t play with My Little Ponies anymore, but I do have several shelves of them displayed at home. My bedspread has unicorns and rainbows all over it, and I sleep with a weighted stuffed monkey every night. When I’m bored at work, I draw little comics and pictures to make my coworkers smile. I like to tell people I’m a not-so-evil genius, because my mind is always coming up with new stories and crazy ideas, but I definitely don’t have the heart for ruthless world domination.

Now that I’m a woman, I still wish I was more like everyone else. I always look well put together, with matching jewelry and carefully painted nails. But I often feel like no one really takes the time to see me and all of the things that I struggle with. I laugh and smile, so you’d never guess from looking at me that I have suffered a lot too. I have so many questions, so many feelings, so many things that I just don’t understand. About people, about God, about life, about why we all do what we do. And I don’t have any other way to process these feelings except through my work.

These two girls inside of me have been warring for my entire life. The first little girl became Iris, and the second little girl became Jane, in my series Iris Tiger Tails.

Iris is the younger sister, a free spirited Rainbow Tiger who does her own thing and goes her own way in life.

Jane is the older sister, the sensible and introspective one who struggles with her self worth and worrying about what people think.

And they love each other, but can they learn to like each other?

More specifically, Iris Tiger Tails is about Iris and Jane and all of their friends in Pantheraville, which is patterned after the East Springfield neighborhood of my hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts. I decided that they would all be cats, because while I was totally joking as a kid about wanting to marry my cat I still I have always loved cats. And the idea of a white tiger with rainbow stripes living in a town filled with orange tigers was exactly what I was looking for when I started coming up with the idea of Iris.

I have a special place in my heart for Iris’s friend Simon, who is is based off of the boy who was my first love. Simon lives in The Alley, which is named for a section of East Springfield known as The Village, a cluster of rundown row house apartments that no one wanted to live in when I was a kid. Simon struggles with all of the ills of poverty that plague the city of Springfield even to this day. But Iris doesn’t care about any of that, because she likes him no matter what. Just like how I felt about my Simon back then.

(Optional: There is also a story that goes with the comic above called Believing in Fairy Tales)

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