Syr’gg ship teases aside, Guilded Age did not do much with the open portrayal of lesbian relationships. For a while, I kind of avoided the topic because I didn’t want to get pigeonholed after Penny and Aggie. But by this point, I was starting to feel like we should show a lesbian couple more actively, somewhere. Although Gastonia is definitely not less prejudiced than present-day advanced societies, its prejudices are different. Sexism is certainly a thing, but the same society that cracks jokes about stuffing a pie with avians is actually pretty tolerant of all humans who find love with other humans.

So that’s the reason for the blonde in the dress and the raven-haired soldier here, who were drinking together in the center of the bar where everyone could see. It’s a somewhat cliched “femme-butch” dynamic they’ve got going on, still beholden to traditional gender roles in its way and arguably stereotypical. But it feels right for Gastonia, and I was worried that they wouldn’t come across as a couple if we did anything else. As it was…I’m not sure any readers got they were supposed to be a couple anyway. We couldn’t do too much more with them without sucking focus away from Sundar, but a little “Behind me, dear” line from our soldier in panel 1 might’ve been a good addition.

Sundar’s life philosophy in panels 3 and 4 is borne out by his own experience. He’s been a disgraced child-seller drugged in a gutter and the regent of his own country, with a few other highs and lows rounding out his story. You’re up, you’re down, but one never knows what tomorrow will bring!

I asked John to play a little trick on the reader with E-Merl in the last frame. You see E-Merl’s face and pose first and you think maybe, just maybe, he’s getting over his pain. Then you read his words and realize, oh no, wait, he’s definitely getting worse.