Eliza and Her Monsters is the story of a girl (Eliza) who, by day, is a total nobody in the high school hallways. She may as well be invisible and that’s the way she likes it. But by night, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of hugely popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea! Eliza loves who she is online, and she can’t ever imagine the real world measuring up… until the two collide when a boy named Wallace, who happens to be a top Monstrous Sea fan fic writer, transfers to her school. As she tries to balance her ‘Eliza’ life with LadyConstellation, everything begins to crumble as the pressure of creativity chips away at everything she’s built.
This book is amazing for the way it handles storytelling, friendship, anxiety, and identity, but it’s even more special because it includes pieces of Eliza’s very own web-comic within the pages! The author, Francescia Zappia, included illustrations and graphics that feature in Monstrous Sea! Eliza and Her Monsters isn’t out until May 30th, 2017, but you can scroll down now to check out the prologue and first two chapters – plus bits of Monstrous Sea throughout!
Eliza Mirk is the kind of name you give to the creepy girl who clings to her ex-boyfriend for weeks after he’s dumped her because she refuses to accept that he hates her guts. Eliza Mirk is a low-level villain with a secret hideout in the sewers. Eliza Mirk belongs in a comic book.
But Eliza Mirk is me. I don’t think I’m desperate or deluded enough to hang on to an ex-boyfriend after he’s broken up with me, I wouldn’t go near a sewer with a ten-foot pole, and unfortunately I do not live in a comic book. I do live kind of a comic-book life, though, I guess.
I go to school during the day, and at night I cast off my secret identity to become LadyConstellation, creator of one of the internet’s most popular webcomics, Monstrous Sea, and fearless mother of a fandom. My superpower is the ability to draw for hours without realizing what time it is or that I haven’t eaten in too long. I succeed in disappearing in my disguise, and I excel at standing out in my true form.
Why LadyConstellation? you may ask.
Because, I reply, my favorite culture in Monstrous Sea comes from a people who have stars in their blood. These people—Nocturnians—instinctively chart stars. That is their calling in life. That is what they feel they must do, as I feel I must tell their story.
LadyConstellation is the one charting this story, drawing lines between plots and characters and places like the Nocturnians draw connections between stars. She is fearless, like the Nocturnians; she is mysterious and aloof, like the Nocturnians; and like the Nocturnians, she believes in the mystical, the supernatural, and the unknown.
LadyConstellation is the hero who defeats Eliza Mirk once a week and celebrates with her many admiring fans. She is beloved by all, even the villain, because without her the villain wouldn’t exist.
I am LadyConstellation.
I am also Eliza Mirk.
This is the paradox that can never be solved.
Masterminds :: Submind :: Webcomics
THE BEST THING YOU’LL READ TODAY
Posted at 10:46 a.m. on 02-19-2014 by Apocalypse_Cow
go here. read this. thank me later.
+503,830/-453 | 2,446,873 Comments | Reply | Flag
The origin post is open on my computer when I shuffle over to it in the morning. Overnight, another three hundred comments have cropped up. I don’t know what they say anymore—I haven’t checked in months. I know some are from fans. A lot are from trolls. I don’t look at the post for the comments. I look because it is my daily reminder that all of this—all of my life—is a real thing.
My beginning is time-stamped in history.
I smooth down my tangle of hair, yawn, and rub sleep from my eyes. When I blink, the post is still there, sitting happy near the top of the Masterminds subforum for webcomics. You’d think, after two years, it would have fallen. It hasn’t.
I close the browser before I betray my own rules. I do not read comments. Comments are explosives for mental walls, and right now I need those walls up. I open Photoshop to find the file I was working on last night, a half-finished page from Monstrous Sea. All the line work is done. I started on the colors but didn’t finish, and I still need to add the text. Still, I’m ahead of schedule. This will be a whole chapter kind of week. My minimum for each week is one page; usually I average three. I always have something to post.
I skim over the comic page, skipping from panel to panel, double-checking the characters and settings. I lay out the rest of the colors in my head, then the light sources and the shadows. The text. The flow of the action looks okay, but in the bottom panel I drew Amity’s nose too narrow again. It’s always noticeable in close-ups of her face, and it’s always her nose. I’ll have to fix it later. I don’t have time now.
Like it agrees with me, my alarm clock goes off, and I jump. Even when I know it’s coming, even when I’m staring right at the thing. I shuffle back to the other side of the room to hit the button before it wakes up Church and Sully in the next room. Stupid middle schoolers get to sleep in an extra half hour, and they think they’re kings.
Mom already has two hard-boiled eggs and a glass of freshsqueezed orange juice ready for me when I get downstairs. I don’t know when she hard-boiled those eggs. She certainly didn’t do it last night, and it’s the crack of dawn now. She sits at the island counter in her running outfit with her bouncy ponytail, reading some health article on her tablet. A few strands of hair are out of place, and water splashes in the shower down the hall. She and Dad are already back from their early morning run. Heinous.
“Morning, hon!” I know in some universe she must be speaking at normal volume, but it is not this universe. “Made you breakfast. Are you feeling okay? You look a little gray.”
I grunt. Morning is the devil’s time. And Mom has told me I “look gray” at least once a week for the past year. I drop onto the island stool in front of the eggs and juice and begin eating. Maybe I should try coffee. Coffee might help. Coffee might also send me into spiraling bouts of depression.
Under Mom’s elbow is today’s issue of the Westcliff Star. I pull it over and turn it around. The front-page headline reads reminders placed at wellhouse turn. Below that is a picture of the sharp turn in the road past Wellhouse Bridge where wreaths of flowers, ribbons, and toys decorate the ground. That’s local Indiana news for you: they have nothing, so they fill their pages with the reminder that Wellhouse Turn kills more people every year than great white sharks. Also local Indiana news: comparing a turn in the road to a shark.
I finish the first egg. Dad comes out of the back hall smelling like a pack of spearmint gum and wearing slightly different running gear than what he wears when he goes out with Mom, which means these are his work clothes for the day.
“Morning, Eggs!” He stops behind me, puts his hands on my shoulders, and leans down to kiss the top of my head. I grunt at the nickname and stuff egg in my mouth. Hard-boiled heaven. “How’d you sleep?”
I shrug. Is it too much to ask that no one speak to me in the morning? I have just enough energy in my mouth to eat delicious eggs; there’s none left to form words. Not to mention that in twenty minutes I have to get in my car to go to school for seven hours, where I’m sure plenty of talking will happen, whether I like it or not.
Mom distracts Dad with her health article, which is apparently about the benefits of cycling. I tune them out. Read about how the Westcliff High band bus driver fell asleep at the wheel and drove off Wellhouse Turn last summer on their way back from regionals. Chew. Before that it was a guy driving with his son in the winter. Drink juice. And before that, a woman taking her two kids to day care early in the morning. Chew more. A group of drunk teenagers. Finish off the egg. A lone girl who hit the wrong patch of black ice. Finish off the juice. They should put up a barrier to keep people from flying off the turn and down the hill to the river, but no. Without Wellhouse Turn, we have no news.
“Don’t forget, your brothers have their first soccer game this afternoon,” Mom says when I drop off my stool and take my plate and cup to the sink. “They’re really excited, and we all have to be there to support them. Okay?”
I hate it when she says “Okay?” like that. Like she expects me to get angry at her before the words are ever out of her mouth. Always prepared for a fight.
“Yeah,” I say. I can’t muster any more. I return upstairs to my room for my backpack, my sketchbook, and my shoes. I jump up and down a few times in an attempt to get more blood flowing to my brain. Eggs eaten. Energy up. Ready for battle.
I resist the urge to go back to my computer, open up the browser, and check the Monstrous Sea forums. I don’t read comments, and I don’t check the forums before I leave for school. That computer is my rabbit hole; the internet is my wonderland.
I am only allowed to fall into it when it doesn’t matter if I get lost.
Amity had two birth days. The first was the same as anyone’s, and she didn’t remember it. She didn’t spend much time dwelling on the fact that she didn’t remember it, because she had learned years ago that nothing good came of dwelling. The second birth—or the rebirth, depending on what mood she found herself in—she remembered with stunning clarity, and imagined she would for the rest of her life.
Her second birth was the day the Watcher took her as its host.
Some people have called Monstrous Sea a phenomenon. Articles here and there. A few critics. The fans.
I can’t call it that, because I created it. It’s my story—it’s the one I care about more than anything else, and it’s one that a lot of other people happen to enjoy—but I can’t call it a phenomenon because that is pretentious, and narcissistic, and honestly it makes me queasy to think of it that way.
Is it strange to be nauseated by recognition?
Lots of things about Monstrous Sea nauseate me.
The story is at once very easy and very hard to explain. I’ve never tried to do it in person, but I imagine if I did, I would end up vomiting on someone’s shoes. Explaining something online is as simple as pasting a link and saying, “Here, read this.” They click. Read the intro page. If they like it, they keep reading. If not, oh well, at least I didn’t have to talk.
If I did have to explain the story without the very handy reference of the story itself, I imagine it would sound something like this:
“On distant planet Orcus, a girl and boy fight on opposite sides of a long war between the natives and colonists from Earth. The girl and boy are hosts to parasitic energy creatures whose only weakness is each other. There’s lots of ocean, and there are monsters in that ocean. Stuff happens. Colors are pretty.”
There’s a reason I’m an artist and not a writer.
I began posting Monstrous Sea online three years ago, but it blew up when the origin post appeared on the Masterminds site. People actually saw it. They started reading.
That was the weirdest thing. People other than me cared about it. They cared about Amity and Damien and the fate of Orcus. They cared whether the species of sea monsters had names. They cared if I put the pages up on time, and how good they looked. They even cared about me, who I was, though they never got past my username. The fans didn’t, the trolls didn’t, the articles and critics didn’t. Maybe the creator’s anonymity made it more of a phenomenon. It certainly kept me from getting too nauseated to work. I get emails from agents and publishers about putting Monstrous Sea into print, but I delete them right away; traditional publishing is this huge, terrifying thing I have to fend off with a stick every once in a while so I don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of a corporate machine manhandling my baby.
I didn’t make Monstrous Sea to be a phenomenon—I made it because it was the story I wanted. I make it now because there’s something inside of me, crushed around my heart, that says I must do it. This is what I was put on Earth to create, for me and for my fans. This story. This is mine, and it is my duty to bring it into the world.
Does that make me sound pretentious?
I don’t care.
It’s the truth.
MONSTROUS SEA FORUMS
Location: Nocturne Island
Interests: Riding sea monsters, charting stars, exploring clockwork palaces.
Followers 2,340,228 | Following 0 | Posts 5,009
View earlier updates
Oct 14 2016
Don’t forget, new Monstrous Sea T-shirts are on sale this week! We’ve got Amity and Dallas, Damien and the dread crows, and plenty of sea monsters. Go check them out! monstroussea.com/store
Oct 15 2016
Wow, you really ate up those T-shirts. More on the way! (Plus, don’t forget the next compendium!)
Oct 17 2016
I think you guys are really going to like tonight’s pages…
Oct 18 2016
Hehehehehe told you you’d like them. >:D
Oct 19 2016
Yes, yes, I know, I’m evil.
Oct 19 2016
You liked the shirts so much, they’re going to be on sale this week too! Hot off the presses!
Oct 20 2016
Excited for Dog Days tonight! Hope to see everyone in the chatroom.
When asked what the rebirth had felt like, Amity could only respond with “Painful.” A creature of pure energy had crawled inside her and rearranged her very genetic structure. How else could it feel? But the people of Nocturne Island were persistent, and deeply spiritual, and the Watcher
was one of their great guardians, so eventually she changed her answer to “Enlightening.”
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