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Another month, another ATC swap! Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are small crafts that are freely exchanged between individuals, around the world, usually via snail mail, as an exercise to interact with other artists and experience/collect samples of their work. Basically, you "claim" the most recent participant before you, select one of their listed themes as the subject matter for the card that you'll subsequently make for them, and then post your own preferences for an ATC, so that the next person who comes along can do the same for you.

The first of the three cards that I made for the July 2018 swap went to "SonjaBoo", a woman from Massachusetts, for her "He-Man or She-Ra" theme. As a child, I was really into He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and literally had a tall kitchen garbage can full of nothing but those action figures. I love and appreciate She-Ra now, but, when I was a lad, I wouldn't have been caught dead with any She-ra: Princess of Power toys, however, my younger sisters had several of them, as well as their horse mounts (which are still collecting dust in a box in the attic as I write this), so, I was still familiar with Adora and her friends/enemies anyway.

I based my drawing on a She-Ra cosplayer, but something went awry, as she ended up with the proportions of a Little Person, which is kind of neat actually.

My second and third cards were both for "Curiousfae", a fellow Michigander. I did her "Dogs" theme for the first one, and chose Jack Russell Terriers, as her Craftster profile states that she has one of those for a pet. While we've owned several dogs over the years, we've never had a Jack Russell Terrier. However, one of my brothers-in-law is absolutely batty about that breed, and seldom goes without one as a pet, as such, I've seen plenty of Jack Russells since my younger sister tied the knot with him. I much prefer felines to canines, but, to each their own.

The other card I made for Curiousfae focused on her "Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars Sneaker" theme. I've never actually owned a pair of these, and doing research for this card kind of made me want to buy some! That said, I do have a pair of well-ventilated canvas shoes, for the hotter summer months, so, I kind of know how Chucks would probably feel on my feet at least.

Just FYI: I much prefer to write in all capital letters when I print, and, only by concentrating can I prevent myself from doing that and use lower case letters like a civilized person is supposed to. I let my mind wander here, which is why the back of this one is in all-caps unlike the previous two cards.

And, before I show you what I got in return, here's one last look at the three cards I made scanned together:

My first swapped ATC of the month, from "Blupaisan", a woman in Vermont, arrived on Thursday, July 12th. The pale yellow envelope had one of those new, heat-sensitive total solar eclipse stamps on it, which was pretty cool, as that's the first one of those that I've ever gotten on any of my incoming mail to date. It reminds me of the similar "rub signs" that vintage Transformers and Battle Beasts toys used to have on them.

Blupaisan chose my "Don Martin style" theme. Don Martin (who passed away in 2000) is one of my favorite comic strip artists of all time and, along with Spy vs. Spy, his work was always my favorite part of vintage MAD magazine. Don's artistic style is instantly recognizable, and probably the most notable thing he did with human anatomy was that he almost always put an extra bend midway down people's feet where none should exist. While I didn't have the time or ambition to dig it out of storage, I have a feature in an old issue of either Mad or Cracked magazine where they did "plastic surgery improvements" on various comic strip characters, and Don's got "foot straightening" (the Simpsons got eyeball reductions, Andy Capp had his hat surgically removed, Garfield had lipsuction, etc.)

Before we move on to the contents of the envelope itself, Blupaisan did an extra illustration of a Don Martin-esque mailman delivering a letter on the front of the envelope. Unfortunately, the "Shook Shook Shook" sound effects got partially covered by the printed bar code, but, it's awesome nonetheless!

Inside of the larger envelope was this smaller one, containing the ATC, and addressed to a Mrs. Grace Gustofson in Jamestown, New York, which is pretty far from Michigan. It's stamped February 13, 1939 too, and my time machine is on the fritz (Rainbow Dash "accidentally" poured a slushee into the plutonium reactor--I don't want to talk about it), so, I don't know how I'll ever pass it along to her! And, oh, how I wish postage stamps still only cost 2 cents . . .

The ATC itself depicts a smug, Martin-esque politician who apparently can't even be bothered to pick up infants himself for baby-kissing photo opportunities. Since he has his eyes closed, if I was there, I'd be sorely tempted to plant something other than a baby in his open palm to see if he'd blindly kiss it, sight unseen! Some dog poo perhaps? Blupaisan did a great job of capturing a Don Martin character's typical body proportions and expressive features here and the background looks nice as well.

Speaking of which, while Blupaisan didn't tell me what it was, I got the "Fonebone 2020" reference because Jeff Smith's Bone is another comic series that I've read in the past and loved. Don Martin came up with "Fonebone" first (it's the made-up surname of several of his characters), but, as a tribute, Smith adapted it as "Fone Bone", the name of the main protagonist of his work, which is how I'm familiar with the title.

For comparison purposes, here's a sample of one of Don Martin's strips, scanned from my copy of The MAD Gross Book. They often had bizarre and humorous twists like this.

As an extra, Blupaisan also included this sheet of paper with several vintage journal entries on it, written by her Grandmother, which talk about several sorority meetings (but, given that they're dated 1916, and the envelope is 1939, somebody sure took their sweet time sending them!) Women won't ever let me join their sororities, and I can't for the life of me figure out why--it's like they're discriminating against me for some painfully obvious reason, but whatever could it be?

While it takes place much earlier in time, Blupaisan's letter reminded me of a book I recently read, Rachel's Journal by Marissa Moss. It's about a pioneer girl, and her family, moving out West to California, and is done in a similar diary format. To me, the most memorable part of this volume was when the families were passing through a desert and the girls found an abandoned doll in the sand and wondered what had happened to the girl that had owned it, and whether or not one of the many graves that they'd seen along the trail was hers--that made me incredibly sad. I'd never read an account of the trip out West from a girl/woman's perspective before, so, that was interesting and educational. For example, I never knew that women used to sew small rocks into the hems of their dresses to weigh them down and keep the skirts from blowing up and revealing their legs when it was windy (and which also resulted in bruised shins from them bouncing against their legs when they walked, and I also imagine that extra weight would be very bad if you got swept away in a river).

I've started keeping a (digital) diary in recent months, but, mostly all I write about are the results of my doctor appointments, unusual happenings, and the weird dreams that I sometimes have.

Thank you for your ATC take on a Don Martin comic strip, Blupaisan, and I also appreciate that your envelope illustration helped shook it to me a little faster!

Curiousfae's envelope came on the same day as Blupaisan's, but I don't remember which one I opened first! Well, "B" comes before "C" in the alphabet, so, that's the order I'm covering them here.

Inside of the envelope, the ATC came taped inside of this textured card--the pattern looks like dragon scales to me!

Curiousfae chose to combine two of my themes, "Betty & Veronica" and "Don Martin style", so, I got a double dose of Mr. Martin fun in the mail that day. And just think, I wasn't too confident that anybody would even be interested in that theme! I feel that Curiousfae did a really great job of adapting those two young ladies into Don's style and she made sure to include one of his crazy sound effects too. They're probably banging their heads together rushing to see who can do something first for Archie . . .

Here's another of Don's cartoons for comparison, this time his spin on Rapunzel. That must be some aromatic hair (although I suppose having your armpits tugged on might be slightly less uncomfortable than your head, as I imagine that would distribute the climber's weight more evenly--it'd still hurt something awful though!) I've always noticed that Mr. Martin didn't draw women very often for some reason; most of his strips focus on males. When women are present, it's generally only because the joke requires a wife, girlfriend, etc. to make it work. Make of that what you will.

And this is a page from one of my many Archie digests. In the unlikely event that you've never heard of Betty & Veronica, Betty is the blonde who's the kind, wholesome girl-next-door, while Veronica is the raven-haired lass that's a conceited, spoiled, rich Daddy's girl (while she can be pretty vain and mean, Ronnie generally does do the right thing when it really matters). They're both in love with, and always competing for, the affections of Archie Andrews. But, Archie really doesn't treat Betty all that well in my opinion. He bends over backwards to do anything for Veronica while Betty is generally relegated to being his "Plan B" girl when Ronnie is busy or just doesn't want anything to do with him. Betty really deserves better than Archie and hopefully someday she'll get it.

Curiousfae also sent me a fun extra: a Fortune Teller Miracle Fish! I've read about these and seen them on TV before, but never owned one until now. All you have to do is place the thin translucent plastic fish on the palm of one of your hands and then, observing how it reacts to your body heat, you look at the chart on the back of the envelope to see what that means. Between this, and the miniature Ouija Board that she made for me back in April of 2016, I think that Curiousfae is trying to tell me that I should quit my day job and take up a career predicting the unknown!

The detail on the fish didn't scan too well, so, the writing on its' side reads, "Place the Fish in palm of the hand. The movements will indicate your fortune. Keep fish in envelope when not in use."

I tried the fish several times, in my left palm, and all of the attempts resulted in both the head and tail bending or the entire fish curling up, so, I guess that means I must be madly in love.

Curiousfae, thank you very much for your unique take on my favorite feminine duo and the magical love fish (Rainbow Dash almost-kind-of-sort-of promises not to mistake it for a gummy Swedish Fish and devour it)!

My third and final card arrived on Friday, July 20th. Hawaiian "Mountains and Clouds" selected my "Paper Dolls" theme. I could be wrong, but I think this may be the first mail that I've ever gotten from that island state in my life! The ATC came nestled inside of this arctic envelope, decorated with a polar bear motif (I blurred out our addresses for privacy purposes, and I always go to great lengths not to reveal my real name, so, keep it a secret, okay?) Polar bears are indigenous to Hawaii--everypony knows that!

Affixed to the envelope, was one of those new "scratch & sniff" stamps, which actually work pretty well. Very fruity aroma--kind of banana-bubble-gummy to my nose. These conjure up memories of the scratch & sniff stickers I used to sometimes get as a kid, often as rewards in elementary school. I still find old scratch & sniff children's books in thrift stores from time-to-time (Strawberry Shortcake in particular), but, as those are usually from the '80s or 90s, the scents on those pages are always long expired, so scratching them yields nothing but fingernail marks on the paper.

As for the ATC itself, Mountains and Clouds made me a jointed ballerina paper doll! She noted that she created this design several years ago. The ballerina's azure outfit and pulled-up blonde hair remind me strongly of Disney's take on Cinderella. The blue background also gives me the impression that she's dancing underwater. The ballerina has eight points of articulation; she moves at the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.

The back of the card has some colorful cloud, fish, and mountain stamps on it too, which are a fun visual spin on Mountain and Clouds' Craftster title (I blurred out her real name and e-mail address for privacy purposes.)

Here's a quick animated GIF I whipped up of the ballerina doing some dancing (and maybe a little farting--she's counting on that scratch & sniff stamp to cover for her) so you can get an idea of the range of motion that she's capable of. Rainbow Dash feels that it's probably not terribly safe to prance around on your tippy-toes, eyes squeezed shut, when there's also a giant rectangular piece of drywall glued to your back, but what does she know? This is art!

The "manly" part of me would like to deny that I have any interest in ballet or ballerinas, but since I've accumulated numerous ballerina collectibles, and even a "super-girly" video game (Imagine: Ballet Star), over the last several years, that's obviously a lie, so, I might as well just embrace it.

I'm only exaggerating slightly when I say that I can find a book on almost any subject if I dig through my piles long enough! This page is from Dorling Kindersley's 1994 The Young Dancer, by Darcey Bussell and Patricia Linton.

2006 Barbie: 12 Dancing Princesses Interactive Princess Genevieve (African American version). This was a relatively expensive electronic ballerina doll that originally came with three sensors that girls could attach to both of their wrists and one foot to "dance along" with animatronic Genevieve (which only required a staggering 10 batteries, across five separate compartments, to accomplish--yikes!)

Much cheaper and smaller 2013 McDonald's Kristyn Farraday (African American version) and Odette from Barbie in the Pink Shoes, another ballet-themed animated film.

Thank you very much for my little dancing diva, Mountains and Clouds!

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