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Super Drags review: It’s the most pure distilled fabulous queerness I’ve ever seen in a cartoon (and I say this as a Steven Universe fan) November 20, 2019

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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The post where I do my best to spread the Good News, that there exists a saucy gay drag-queen magical-girl animated comedy and everyone should watch it.

Okay, not everyone — I’ll give some caveats at the end — but definitely a heck of a lot more people than Netflix has bothered to advertise it to.

Look at this! Why did nobody tell me about this??

Super Drags posing

'Was anybody going to tell me' meme

What is Super Drags?

Fast facts:

  • It’s a 1-season, 5-episode adult animated comedy series, released in November 2018
  • Here’s the official page, with a free-to-view trailer
  • It packs more explicit, unashamed queerness into those 5 episodes than any other cartoon I can think of
  • The only possible competitor would be if you took the whole 5000-episode run of Steven Universe and pared it down to a supercut of Just The Gay Parts
  • This in spite of being produced in Brazil, which (in my broad understanding, as a total non-authority on the subject) is more oppressively, dangerously homophobic than the US
  • The original is in Portuguese
  • There is an English dub, fabulously voiced by contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race
  • It’s wrapped in “for adults only!” warnings, not because the content is any less child-friendly than (say) your Bojacks Horsemen or your Ricks and Mortys, but because Brazilian authorities tried to get it shut down on the grounds of this much gay being Harmful For Children
  • It was (heartbreakingly) not renewed for a second season

Here’s a promo video, in which the main characters (Portuguese, with subtitles) play Drag Race judges for Shangela, who ends up voicing Scarlet in English:

And here’s a beautiful flashy music video of the big musical number! (Also Portuguese, no subtitles, but the melody and the visuals stand on their own.)

Plot and worldbuilding stuff!

The elevator pitch is “What if Charlie’s Angels, but also drag queens, with superpowers, because magical-girl transformations?”

In this universe, all LGBTQ people have magical energy. The Big Bad is an evil magical-drag-queen nemesis who tries to drain our energy for her own purposes. It’s like if Ursula from The Little Mermaid was a first-season Sailor Moon villain.

…sidenote, in case you were worried, the representation isn’t “cis gay men and nobody else.” There’s a butch lesbian in the recurring cast, a genderfluid person (ETA: that word is exclusive to the English dub; a Brazilian viewer tipped me off that the original Portuguese dialogue includes “bissexual”, which means exactly what it looks like) as a one-off love interest, and all the ensemble scenes are wonderful collages of different races, body types, and gender presentations.

Group shot of queer characters

Group shot 2 of queer characters

Our heroes also fight non-magical everyday homophobes, who get written with scathing realism.

The moment I knew the show wasn’t pulling any punches was in the first episode, where a newscaster complains about being Silenced by the Law of Political Correctness, then chirps “however, we have a special guest who is thankfully above the law!”

According to the reviews I’ve found from Brazilian viewers, it’s also pitch-perfect when it comes to local queer culture, community dynamics, slang and speech patterns, even memes. All of which flies right over my head, so here’s a post (with no-context spoilers) about one viewer’s favorite details.

The handful of reaction posts on Tumblr have a dramatic split between “Brazilian viewers fiercely defending the show as culturally-accurate, uplifting, and brave in a terrifying political moment” and “American viewers complaining that the show is problematic because it’s a comedy about drag queens with no perfect role models and lots of sex jokes.”

As the Super Drags tell their nemesis (and this is also in the first episode): “How dare you try to turn the LGBTQXYZ community against each other? We do enough of that on our own!”

Super Drags team-up attack

In between missions, our girls work sitcom retail jobs and deal with other everyday problems. All of which are written in amazingly nuanced and thoughtful ways for a show that also features “defeating an orgy monster with a lip-sync battle.”

Detailed character stuff!

Our heroes are Color Coded For Your Convenience!

The Super Drags themselves go by “she” in-uniform, and a lot of the time when out of it. Like the Sailor Starlights, only more so. I’ll roll with that.

Super Drags out of costume

In blue: Safira Cyan, or Ralph by day, an excitable college-age kid who’s built like a football player and squees like a fangirl. (She’s an anime fan in the original, and for some reason all the otaku references were replaced in the dub, but you can see them in the subtitles.)

Safira anime pose

Ralph lives with her younger sister (they play video games together!) and their dad, comes out to them mid-series, and is very shippable with another young guy who starts out reciting the homophobic beliefs he was raised with but whose heart clearly isn’t in it.

Safira’s weapon is a classic magical-girl wand that casts protective force-fields. Which are shaped like condoms. Because of course.

In yellow: Lemon Chiffon, aka Patrick, the oldest of the group and generally the smartest/most strategic. In most cases, the other two treat her as the de facto team leader — unless she pushes it too far.

Lemon and strategy

By day she’s a single guy with thick thighs and thinning hair, who has some body-image insecurities on the dating scene. And this show has Things To Say about unrealistic beauty standards within the community…not to mention, about masc guys who look down on anyone too flaming or femme because straight people disapprove.

Lemon’s weapon is a fluffy boa that can be used as a whip or a lasso, especially when there’s a bondage joke to be made.

In red: Scarlet Carmesim, also Donizete, the loudest and most aggressive teammate with the most cutting insults, who refuses to suppress that attitude in an attempt to appease racists. (But will give it a shot when trying not to get fired.)

Donny with insults

Donny still lives in her religious/homophobic mom’s apartment, and I’m pretty sure it’s because neither of them can afford to move out. Her rock-solid sense of fierce self-confidence is the reason it doesn’t bring her down.

Scarlet’s weapon is a fan that she uses to throw shade. Yeah, you knew that was coming.

The Charlie to these angels is Champagne, who runs operations from a cool magitech compound and breaks the fourth wall at the end to petition for viewers’ support in getting a second season.

Champagne with a contract…we let her down, folks :(

So here’s a thing. The show never draws a sharp line between “people who become drag queens because it’s a way they’re driven to express themselves as gay men” and “people who become drag queens because they were trans women all along.” That’s consistent with how South American LGBT+ culture works. (Again: best of my knowledge, not personally an authority on this, etc etc.)

Many of the characters, including Champagne, never describe themselves in ways that translate to one of our sharply-defined Anglo-USian identity categories. And I’m not going to try to impose any English labels on them here.

But I can say (in contrast to Safira, Lemon, and Scarlet), Champagne never switches out of her “drag” name/voice/presentation, not even in the most candid off-duty scenes, and still has the same bustline when naked in the tub. Make of that what you will.

Super Drags fans

You Should Watch This Show

If you have a Netflix subscription, watch Super Drags!

If you ever do a Netflix free trial month in the future, make a note to yourself to watch Super Drags!

It’s one of their original productions, so there’s no risk of missing your chance because the license expired. But it’s absolutely not getting the promotion it deserves. Which means potentially interested viewers won’t find it, which means Netflix will think there’s no interest, which means they’ll keep not promoting it…etc etc etc.

No idea if there’s any chance of getting it un-canceled, but maybe we can at least convince them to release it on DVD.

Super Drags hero walk

And the sheer gutsiness it took for a group of Brazilian creators to produce this show in the first place — that deserves to be rewarded with your attention.

In spite of various anti-discrimination laws that sound good on paper, the country has serious problems with homophobia, transphobia, and anti-LGBT violence (warning, article has a violent image which is only partly blurred).

Maybe the creators could’ve gotten a second season if they made this one softer, less sexually-explicit, more restrained…but honestly? I bet that wouldn’t have helped.

Consider Danger & Eggs, an Amazon original cartoon. It was made in the US, thoroughly child-friendly, and restricts its LGBT+ representation to things like “characters go to a Pride celebration…where nobody ever names or describes the quality they’re proud of.”

And it didn’t get renewed past the first season either.

(Note: it had a trans woman showrunner and a queer-heavy creative staff, so I blame all that restraint on executive meddling, not the creators themselves. The showrunner even liked the tweet of my review that complains about it.)

So there’s something very satisfying about how Super Drags went all-out, balls-to-the-wall (sometimes literally), all the rep explicit and unapologetic, packing every 25-minute episode with all kinds of queer content that would be censored or muted elsewhere — but here it’s exaggerated and celebrated and just keeps coming.

(…as do jokes like that, and I’m not sorry.)

Super Drags rainbow powers

Okay, there are a few legitimate reasons to not watch this show

Some caveats.

None of these things are Objectively Bad Problems that the show itself should be shamed for…but maybe they’re genuinely not your cup of tea.

It does have actual Adult Content beyond “the existence of gay people.” This show loves to swing barely-clothed cartoon genitalia in your face. There is, as mentioned, an orgy monster. If that kind of humor is going to bother you too much to appreciate the rest of the show, give it a pass.

I wasn’t kidding about how realistic the homophobes are. Opening of the first episode has a guy trying to murder a busload of people while shouting slurs at them. If that level of hatred on-screen is gonna crush your soul, even in a show about sparkly queens flying to the rescue with dick-shaped magical weapons, don’t push yourself.

Any fiction with this much crossdressing and gender-transgressing is going to hit some trans viewers in a bad way. Because trans people are such a broad group, with so many different experiences, that Every Possible Trope Involved pushes somebody’s buttons. (See also: “some trans readers complain about a storyline that turns out to be drawn from a trans writer’s actual life experience“.) If this show goes does gender things that turn out to be personally distressing for you…or even just distressing for this specific time in your life…don’t feel obligated to keep watching.

It has aggressively-sassy queer characters making jokes and calling each other things that are affectionate in-context, but would not be okay coming from straight/cis people. If you can’t wrap your head around that, go watch something else.

Other Than That, Go Watch This Show

For all its big heart, big ambitions, and big gay energy, Super Drags is tiny enough that I’ve binged the whole show 2 times in the past 2 weeks. Thankfully, it’s highly re-watchable — lots of fun background gags and subtle foreshadowing that you don’t catch on the first round.

(Pausing one last time to appreciate that a show with elements like “the high-tech robot assistant is called D.I.L.D.O.” can be subtle at all, let alone be this good at it.)

I’ve also paged through all the fanart on Tumblr and Deviantart, looked up the single fanfic on the AO3, and started brainstorming plans to request it in Yuletide next year. Someone, please, come join me in (the English-language side of) the itty-bitty fandom for this ridiculous, glittery, over-the-top, fabulous series.

Super Drags hero splitscreen

 

Vintage gay wedding photos, more-vintage cheap souvenirs, super-extra-vintage fossils, and other neat things August 30, 2019

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…the photos depict him in a commitment ceremony with another man, and unbeknownst to him, the store manager had a policy of withholding developed photos if he deemed them “inappropriate”—as he did these.The photos, though, lived on because the manager of the shop had another policy: Staff were allowed to do whatever they pleased with confiscated pictures. An employee held on to the photos.”

“About a month after they met, Hay and Gernreich combed the gay beaches of Malibu and the Pacific Palisades looking for new Mattachine members. They brought along copies of the Stockholm Peace Petition, which called for a withdrawal of troops from Korea. They mistakenly believed that the peace petition was so radical it would make the new gay organization seem mild by comparison. Nearly 500 people signed the petition. No one signed up for Mattachine.

“IDK” was attested as military slang in 1918.

“It sounds just like the kind of joke that is ubiquitous in today’s cheap-and-cheerful souvenir industry: ‘I went to Rome and all I got you was this lousy pen.’ But the tongue-in-cheek inscription recently deciphered on a cheap writing implement during excavations in the City of London is in fact about 2,000 years old.”

“As the water slowed and became slack, it deposited everything that had been caught up in its travels—the heaviest material first, up to whatever was floating on the surface. All of it was quickly entombed and preserved in the muck: dying and dead creatures, both marine and freshwater; plants, seeds, tree trunks, roots, cones, pine needles, flowers, and pollen; shells, bones, teeth, and eggs; tektites, shocked minerals, tiny diamonds, iridium-laden dust, ash, charcoal, and amber-smeared wood. As the sediments settled, blobs of glass rained into the mud, the largest first, then finer and finer bits, until grains sifted down like snow.” A geological dig preserving the day of The Asteroid.

“It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little.

He stopped taking ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) three months ago and there continues to be no evidence of infectious HIV in his system. Each of the three patients were being given the procedure with that aim of treating cancer, so while a bone marrow transplant is not a viable option as a common cure for HIV infection, it does give us hope that we’re getting closer to a permanent cure.”

Sorry, liberals, there are only 23,328 genders August 6, 2019

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[Boag] was shocked at the size of this population, which he’d never before encountered in his time as a queer historian of the American West. Trans people have always existed all over the world. So how had they escaped notice in the annals of the Old West?” (Some not-well-thought-out use of the phrase “assigned sex”, but worth reading anyway.)

““M” and “F” didn’t always appear on the federal identity document. In fact, sex was not directly listed on U.S. passports until 1977.

“I believe that gender reassignment surgery is a right but I didn’t know what surgery would mean for me. […] Even my friends who’d had the procedure couldn’t really explain what would happen, so I made my decision without proper information about possible outcomes. I’m writing this essay to offer a small window so that other trans girls have more information than I did.

“‘He was rightly classified as a man’ in the medical records and appears masculine, Stroumsa said. ‘But that classification threw us off from considering his actual medical needs.’

“And that, these devout fundamentalist Baptist women all knew and believed, was simply wrong. The life of the mother, they all knew — with utter confidence and moral certainty — was more important than the potential life who wasn’t expected to survive this difficult pregnancy.

The idea that millions of sperm are on an Olympian race to reach the egg is yet another male fantasy of human reproduction.”

We couldn’t see the [Alzheimer’s] plaques in the brain until 10 years ago because we didn’t have the technology. So now that we have the technology to find the plaques, we actually understand that we probably misdiagnosed women forever. And that could be one of the reasons why some treatments don’t work that well in women.”

“Until the 1960s, scientists considered the idea of a cancer-causing virus to be preposterous. At the same time, more than 8,000 women a year were dying of cervical cancer, and researchers couldn’t figure out what was causing it. […] Way back in the 1950s, bacteriologist Sarah Stewart pioneered the concept that viruses could lead to cancer—and was almost thrown out of the scientific community for her heretical ideas.

There’s a species of fungus that has 23,328 distinct sexes. “Individuals of any sex are compatible for mating with all but their own sex. However, there are two genetic loci determining the mating type, locus A with 288 alleles and locus B with 81 alleles. A pair of fungi will only be fertile if they have different A and different B alleles; that is, each sex can enter fertile pairings with 22,960 others.” Sorry, liberals, there are only 23,328 genders. And 368 ways for these mushrooms to be gay.

Art, internet, & media (2000-foot paintings, million-dollar pixels, Bury Your Gays supercuts, and more) June 21, 2019

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A nearly 2,000-foot-long thangka (a religious Buddhist painting) wraps around the interior walls of [the museum’s] second floor. The painting is one of the longest thangkas in the world. More than 400 Tibetan artists spent almost 30 years finishing the masterpiece.”

Fifteen years may not seem a long time, but in terms of the internet it is like a geological age. Some 40% of the links on the Million Pixel Homepage now link to dead sites. Many of the others now point to entirely new domains, their original URL sold to new owners.”

Have you ever wondered whether it’s possible to do anything on the web without JavaScript? How many sites use progressive enhancement in practice? Chris Ashton did an experiment to find out. ”

“I hope to raise the profile of difficulties faced by real people, which are avoidable if we design and develop in a way that is sympathetic to their needs. Last time, I navigated the web for a day with just my keyboard. This time around, I’m avoiding the screen and am using the web with a screen reader.

As far as we can tell (and trust us, we’ve looked everywhere) not one person has reported setting their eyes upon a Pornhub-branded truck. No one took to social media to let their friends know Pornhub had responded to their request and cleared their snow, or posted about spotting one somewhere in Boston.”

Video: the evolution of queerbaiting. With some startlingly overt pre-Hays-Code gay clips, the original context in which queerbaiting developed, and how the current mainstream handling of LGBTQ characters is aggravating in a whole new way.

“Or they could have had Lexa’s death not follow mere minutes after Clarke and Lexa had sex. After a season of potential growth, they finally came together – Clarke and Lexa were finally a couple, finally, clearly in love and DEATH.” A couple years old but still relevant, about series that actually include queer characters and then kill them off ASAP.

I literally googled “Bury Your Gays supercut” and found that exact video. (It’s a women-only cut, even.)

How to recognize fake AI-generated images” of faces. It’s gotten exponentially harder in the past five years.

Lack of representation is a failing of the wizarding world. We must first acknowledge this failing if we want to address it. Pretending Harry was not explicitly written as white in the canon is denying that there is a lack of representation in the wizarding world. Pretending Hermione was not explicitly written as white is denying that there is a lack of representation in the wizarding world.”

“Typewritten portraits” printed in The Strand, March 1909. Emoticons are older than the internet!

Monday Works Roundup, 6/10 (Good Omens, Lucifer, Sailor Moon, and more) June 10, 2019

Posted by Erin Ptah in But I'm A Cat Person, Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
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But I’m A Cat Person
Parade Wear (wallpaper | Emma/Bianca, Sparrow, Bennett/Cohen, Camellia, Jany, Henriette | worksafe)
Hoard of Lesbian Pride Flags (art | Kara Lynn | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
Mermay 2019 Wallpaper (art | mer!ensemble | worksafe)
Cozy Captain (art | Sigrún | worksafe)

Good Omens/Lucifer
Lux Omens (comic | Lucifer/Chloe, Crowley/Aziraphale | G)

Sailor Moon
Moon Pride wallpaper (art | Setsuna, Rei, Mamoru, Minako, Usagi, Chibiusa, Michiru, Ami, Haruka, Makoto, Hotaru | worksafe)
Zero Hour (art | Usagi, clone!Usagi | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Miranda issues a double-challenge, and Emma has a personal realization.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Juniper gets called away by a blast from their past.

Depressing immigration link roundup June 4, 2019

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She’s a toddler, so she can’t tell me if something bad happened to her. I don’t know if she thinks we chose to abandon her. All I know is she came back pounds thinner, with lice and a hacking cough, and she cried for days, traumatized by a government that keeps children from their parents because they are migrants.” [NYT]

“The Intercept’s and ICIJ’s reporting, which included a groundbreaking review of more than 8,400 reports describing placements of ICE detainees in solitary confinement, found that the immigration agency has used isolation cells to punish immigrants for offenses as minor as consensual kissing, and to segregate hunger strikers, LGBTQ detainees, and people with disabilities.

The Onion pulls no punches: “Saying the incident was so long ago that he had difficulty recalling the girl’s face, ICE agent Ed Thornton couldn’t believe he was being reprimanded Friday for a child who died months ago.

“We followed U.S. law, and asked for asylum at an official border crossing in El Paso, Texas. We were together for one night, and the following day they took him away. I begged them not to separate us. They told me, ‘You don’t have any rights here, and you don’t have any rights to stay with your son.’

a backlog of links about dirty industry secrets March 12, 2019

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What’s a dirty secret that everybody in your industry knows about but anyone outside of your line of work would be scandalized to hear?” Twitter thread, both DMs in screenshot and direct replies.

“An investigation found that [Tokyo Medical University] had reduced all medical school applicants’ initial test scores by 20%, before inflating the scores of male applicants’ exams.

“Some executives argued that women’s traditional expertise at painstaking activities like knitting and weaving manifested precisely this mind-set. (The 1968 book “Your Career in Computers” stated that people who like “cooking from a cookbook” make good programmers.)”

“At first, the military doctors in Germany refused to admit her, saying it was just period cramps […] Finally, almost exactly a year after Lipe first started experiencing the pain, a private, nonmilitary reproductive endocrinologist and general surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida, figured out what was wrong with her — multiple small pelvic hernias caused by the ill-fitting body armor. It took two one-hour appointments, her records show, and they knew exactly how to fix it.

Somehow, my personal autonomy, my health and my comfort didn’t rate high enough to outrank the desires of my future, then-nonexistent partner. And nothing I said could change my doctors’ minds, not the stories about my frequently dislocating hips, my mom’s complicated pregnancies or the increased rate of miscarriage and preterm labor for EDS patients.” (Inconsistent attempts to use trans-inclusive language, but the point is serious.)

The photo went viral because many viewers noticed how beautiful the subject was before they noticed his prosthetic leg. The image also landed me in Facebook jail. Facebook deleted it and suspended my account for six months. It was only after a huge public outcry and media inquiry did Facebook reinstate the photo, but shortly after reinstating it, they once again removed it, and my account was again banned.”

“11 percent of users older than 65 shared a hoax, while just 3 percent of users 18 to 29 did. Facebook users ages 65 and older shared more than twice as many fake news articles than the next-oldest age group of 45 to 65, and nearly seven times as many fake news articles as the youngest age group (18 to 29).

Monday Works Roundup, 2/18 (Paisley Brickstone, Sailor Moon, Supernatural, and more) February 18, 2019

Posted by Erin Ptah in But I'm A Cat Person, Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
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But I’m A Cat Person
All Torted Up (art | Kara Lynn, Poe, Patrick, Reseda, Cybele | worksafe)
Gold and White (art | all the Beings | worksafe)
Steppin’ out (sketch | Bianca/Emma | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
Fancy Iona (art | Iona | worksafe)
Woman in Black, Mage in Off-White (sketches | Acai, WiB | worksafe)

Paisley Brickstone
Kiddie Hue-mans (art | hue-mans | worksafe)

Sailor Moon
Conspicuous Princesses (art | Chibiusa, Hotaru | worksafe)

Supernatural
Monochrome Wincest (sketch | Sam/Dean | worksafe)

General/Miscellaneous
Webcomic Woes 27 – Age difference (comic, G)
Lesbian Pride Stamp (stamp)
Genderqueer Pride Stamp (stamp)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
A major plot point turns on “some lizards have detachable tails.”

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
A misunderstanding is repaired, and Elisa makes future plans.

Monday Works Roundup, 2/4/19 February 4, 2019

Posted by Erin Ptah in Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
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Leif & Thorn
Cuddling (sketch | Kale, Caiomhe | worksafe)
Fire and Ice (art | Kale, Leif | worksafe)
Take My Hand, Let’s Dance (art | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)

O Sarilho
Grumpy Boy, Loves Stars (chibi | Nikita | worksafe)

Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Mira (chibi | Mira | worksafe)

General/Miscellaneous
Asexual Pride Stamp (stamp, worksafe)
Ally Pride Stamp (stamp, worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Lightning strikes twice!

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
New storyline! Elisa shares a bit with Leif about her family history.

Monday Works Roundup, 1/14/19 January 14, 2019

Posted by Erin Ptah in But I'm A Cat Person, Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
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But I’m A Cat Person
Inspiration, 20GayTeen to 20BiTeen (comic | ensemble | G)
Poor Unfortunate Beings (sketch | Jany, Kara Lynn, Blake, Walker | worksafe)
Spotlight Heist (cover art | Miranda, Timothy, Sparrow | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
Leif & Thorn Deleted Scenes 2018 (comic panels | ensemble | G)
Longsword Heart (wallpaper | Pascentia | worksafe)
Anniversary draft (sketch | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)
#OCDressup – Leif and Thorn (paper dolls | Leif, Thorn | worksafe)
Formal Bunad, Cute Shoes (chibi | Elisa | worksafe)

Deer Me
Deer Me (art | Viana, Velvet | worksafe)

Sailor Moon
Tuxedo Ally (art | Mamoru | worksafe)

Wizard of Oz
The Great Responsibilities of Oz (fic | Dorothy/Ozma, Toto, Wizard, Glinda | T)

General/Miscellaneous
Rainbow Hibana (chibi commission, worksafe)
Queer Pride Flags (animated stamp)
Trans Pride Flags (animated stamp)
Webcomic Woes 26 – The independence learning curve (comic, G)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
The Wolf is back in action, and she sure doesn’t look happy.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Lots of things are on fire! Fortunately, they’re supposed to be.