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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XL: Yesteryears

They talked comics still, mostly because Robbie’s mom took him every two weeks to the shop where he dropped fifteen or twenty on the most recent chapters of some favorites or soon-to-be-favorites. Then he’d pass them along, book bag to classroom, locker to book bag again where they’d get crinkled and bent and loved and even read sometimes.

Compartmentalization happens without realizing. Talk to this person about this subject; that person about that. Criss-crossing social circles shouldn’t—couldn’t—happen. Brendon didn’t really think of it like that, of course. He thought: I can’t talk to Robbie about Casey and I can’t talk to Casey about Robbie and I certainly can’t talk about Tori Kel to anyone.

The beginnings of social compartmentalization regardless.

Superheroes became that safe topic. Villain transgression, hero motivations, ability realities, scientific impossibilities (or improbabilities), what makes fantasy different than sci-fi and, occasionally, which artist do you like the best. Though, admittedly, that last conversation was more Brendon’s wheel-house than Robbie’s.

To Brendon it meant he could keep his friendships intact, regardless of broken feelings over Tori Kel. He had so few of them—friends, that was—he didn’t want to lose them. Either of them. Unlike Casey, he’d never had the freedom to work his way into private circles. Unlike Robbie, he didn’t have the confidence to believe he belonged in all of them.

“This one’s about dragons being grown in labs. And this one, a town that’s swallowed into the earth and finds itself in a parallel world.”

Brendon flipped through pages of an orange-red pallet artistry and noted the vagueness on expression, the complexity on clothing, the flare of line-work beyond speech bubbles. The dragons though—my, were they rendered in loving detail. The scales individual rather than blurred, the beards more carefully wrought than character hair, the crests and horns shaped exactly so to give more identifiable personality in a black profile than the scientists in their basic white lab coats and somber expression.

“Borrow it,” said Robbie. “I’ve already read it. It’s like, not as good as the one about the riders, but still cool.”


“Don’t let Casey touch it though.”

Brendon looked up, painfully aware his own expression had turned vague and somber. “Okay.”

“I mean it.”

The scar along Robbie’s hairline drew Brendon’s eye. There’d been a sheet of blood that day last summer on The Big Hill. Brendon’s shirt a goner, soaked to its core. And all that was left of Casey’s fury sat as a little white line, all but imperceptible, the stitches done a good job of hiding just how vast the damage.

“I know. I won’t.”

And he didn’t.


Next Chapter: XLI