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The Mary Sue Interview: Angry Ballerinas and Body-Positivity Meet in Indie Comic Cavalier

“Well as far as the story goes, it’s about, uh, avoiding haters,” jokes Liam Purdy, author and illustrator of the indie comic Cavalier, a slice-of-life short-story which follows ostracized ballerina Pen on her transformation from gangly bully to self-confident dancer. “It’s a story about being able to depend on yourself and enduring the problems in life that you can’t change.”

In Cavalier, Penelope Ayers is a ballet student who aggressively flaunts her skills to compensate for the fact she towers over her classmates. Her teacher, Richardt, sympathizes but is powerless to calm her rage; he gave up his love of dance when an accident left him covered in deforming scars and sent him running from the spotlight. If Pen is to salvage her career as a dancer, she must learn to make peace with her roommate, her peers, and her own body—and maybe inspire Richardt to embrace his own along the way. The comic boasts a female-centric cast of multifaceted characters of varying races, creeds, body shapes, and sexualities, with a plot that doesn’t focus on romance but instead the personal journey of Pen and its other characters.

Having Cavalier as his debut print comic is a dream come true for Purdy, not only as a milestone in his career as a comic artist but also because it’s a chance to tell the kinds of stories he loves to tell. “The stories I write are specifically made to challenge misconceptions,” states Purdy, “so most of the morals focus around [the dangers of] jumping to conclusions and generalization. In Cavalier, […] there’s a weak girl and the strong older man where the girl saves both him and herself. I want girls to be able to identify with the one who pulls the other out of the hole.”

Purdy has been drawing comics for years and is well aware of the transformative effect they can have on readers’ lives—and of how unfriendly mainstream comics can be when it comes to sharing the stories of complex female characters. That’s why Purdy has chosen to begin an Indiegogo fundraiser to cover the costs of Cavalier and get the story straight into the hands of those who need this sort of story most. The comic, which is planned to be 30-pages of full-color art, was a participant in Indiegogo’s International Women’s Day fundraising week.

Cavalier is also of personal as well as artistic significance to Purdy. “The main reason I wanted to fund this project in particular is that my grandparents were recently diagnosed with cancer, and they’ve always cared and worried about me a lot,” he confides. After an assurance that his grandparents weren’t in immediate ill health he added, “I had really wanted to be able to afford the time to create and publish something beautiful to show them, and promise them I’m going to keep getting better.”

The fundraiser’s goal of $2,500 by April 1st would be enough to sponsor production, editing, printing, and the delivery of both digital and physical copies of the comic to its Indiegogo patrons in June. The limited Indiegogo printing of Cavalier will also feature signed copies of the comic, an art appendix featuring character and production notes, and opportunities for commissioned art from Purdy as well as the chance for you or a friend to become background characters in the comic. If the goal is surpassed stretch goals include both limited-edition digital epilogue and prologue comics, detailing the aftermath of the comic on Pen’s career and Richardt’s life and struggle with his sexual identity leading up to the accident, respectively.

When asked whether he has plans to produce further comics if Cavalier is funded, Purdy said, “No question, if I reached my goal I would work on it full-time and spend all that time drawing and practicing, getting better and creating something; so there’s no doubt that I’d follow-up with another comic project.”

Alana Mancuso is a freelance writer and fiction editor with a passion for geeky things and good storytelling. You can find out more about her and her writing at alanamancuso.com or @AlanaMancuso on Twitter.

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