A Cabinet of Gentlemen

Way back when I was living in Bloomington, Indiana – around about 2010 or so – my good friend Carlea Holl-Jensen and I were inspired by various graphic novels and illustrated stories to brainstorm a collaborative illustrated novella. We did so over several conversations at SOMA coffeehouse and visits to the Public Library – and we were both excited about the project, titled “A Cabinet of Gentlemen”.

But time passes. Carlea moved to the East Coast, and I got bogged down with writing my dissertation and then project after project after that.

So, here is the gist of this sadly (so-far) failed project. Two sisters inherit and live in a house together – one bookish and the other more outgoing, both a bit sick of men. But the aunts who had lived there before them were apparently witches, and they soon discover a book of spells. The bookish sister is the one to start spell-casting and accidentally turns her extroverted sister’s jerk boyfriend into a tiny version of himself. Problem #1: Jerk boyfriend is accidentally killed (possibly by a papercut).

So, outgoing sister, in a demented moment, decides to preserve him like a butterfly – which she has started collecting after inheriting her aunt’s collection. Long story short, the sisters start to amass quite a large collection – until the more bookish sister spares a wayward young man who had come to their house asking for directions. As the more extroverted sister gets more and more obsessed with the cabinet of gentlemen they’ve amassed, the bookish one recognizes Problem #2: the futility of murder – and possibly the need to get out of her sister’s rather nutty influence.

In the mean time, of course, they amass quite a collection of gents. And though the project quickly sputtered out, I did make two and a half drawings – enough that I might actually turn it into the novella-that-is rather than the novella-that-should-have-been.

For now, though, here’s the initial sketches. This is the wayward young man who would have become a friend to the bookish sister (but not a romantic interest).

A Valise of Gentleman 2a

And here’s one of the first shrink-ified and taxidermy-ed dudes in the story. It’s hazy in this sketch, but there would be pins holding them up – and keeping parts (like this guy’s slightly-detached arm) together.

A Valise of Gentleman 1a

In my mind, the bookish sister turns to cartography and tracking crypto-zoological creatures with the friendly gent as a friend and sometime companion, while the more extroverted sister either realizes she’s being crazy and sees a therapist – or is shrunk down and forced to live in the house for the rest of her life.

But who knows?


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