Ugly the immortal coyote returns today for the 10th installment of Ray Daylami Frost’s self-published comic, How did this happen??? Far from a wacky serial though, the zine features Ugly and their partner, Disco the crow, exploring topics like death, self-harm, anxiety and gender identity in some true-to-life ways.
“The coyote is kind of like an extension of myself in my work,” Daylami-Frost said. “Ugly is immortal, reincarnated, reanimated—’always living, always coming back, always dying, always keeping on,’ is the quote from the poet Mary Tall Mountain, who I think of a lot working with this character. It’s pretty grim. And I don’t mean it to be grim, but like, that’s just sort of the nature of a lot of my work.”
Daylami-Frost is owner of Zeppy Stardust Studios, and has worked in illustration, screenprinting, and—especially—zine-making for years. The characters serve as avatars for Daylami-Frost and their partner Shay, who are both non-binary, and focus on subject matter that they believe just needs to be talked about sometimes—even if it’s dark. The upcoming issue, “Roam Forever,” follows Ugly on a meandering journey across vast, open landscapes—an image from Daylami-Frost’s childhood that has developed a deeper context over the years.
“It’s sort of like a visualization of, I guess, what was probably my earliest suicidal ideation as a child,” Daylami-Frost said. “Just this idea that I could walk forever until I got to a place where nothing existed. And so, it’s sort of following my coyote character on this sort of imagined journey, up over the mountains and across the desert to the ocean and then across the ocean floor through the Abyssal Zone, because, you know, the fact that there is a real place called the Abyssal Zone is just too perfect for that.”
The tenth installation of How Did This Happen??? is a departure from Daylami-Frost’s usual style. “Roam Forever” features full-color landscapes, (rendered digitally via Photoshop over hand-drawn linework) something that has rarely been a priority for them in the past.
“I realized that, like, looking at a lot of my work, that I have been kind of afraid to put in a lot of those details … that nail story in a visual way to somewhere concrete,” Daylami-Frost said. “Drawing a bunch of different types of landscapes and drawing the desert is sort of a way to force myself to practice drawing those kinds of subjects that I typically think of as being less interesting when I’m working on illustration.”
“Roam Forever” is also largely a silent comic—devoid of any exposition or dialogue on the part of a narrator or characters. Daylami-Frost said that, despite their own inspiration for the piece, the zine is largely meant to be up to the reader’s interpretation. However, they believe many people can connect with the theme presented in the comic, and the illustrations serve to tell a visual story instead of a narrative one.
“I like the idea of it aesthetically being a really beautiful, vibrant comic, but it also at the same time being about something that’s dark and that people probably feel, but don’t admit to—or feel, but don’t talk about,” Daylami-Frost said.
With the addition of the coloring process, Daylami-Frost estimates each panel of the 12-page comic takes about four to five hours to complete. After the zine is completed, they will print an original color version and then distribute color copies that Daylami-Frost prints, trims and binds by hand—a laborious process that is much part of the art medium as it is about distribution.
“It’s something that I’m very precious about,” Daylami-Frost said. “I don’t think I would trust a professional shop to do it to the standard that I want it done. I’ll have handled and trimmed every issue because I want it a particular way and I feel like I have to do that myself.”
This article was funded by a City of Reno Arts + Culture Grant.