In "Puppet Makers," The Aristocrats of Versailles Are Cyborg Courtesans

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Artist Molly Crabapple has given us an exclusive peek at art from her forthcoming web comic "Puppet Makers," which imagines Versailles as a den of courtly cyborgs. Crabapple also told us how Versailles went steampunk - and about mechanical liaisons.

io9: Puppet Makers is set in an alternate history Versailles where it sounds - at least from early descriptions - like aristocrats are clockwork cyborgs called Dollies. When you were planning the story, what events did you imagine had turned Versailles into a cyborg wonderland? Did somebody invent robots hundreds of years before they did in our timeline?

MC: I got the idea for steampunking Versailles during college. I was reading some stories about the court, and came across the tale of a hapless courtesan of middle class extraction, who, during her dozenth bow before the queen mother, collapsed of heatstroke. I realized between the wigs, corsets and protocol, court life would have been better performed by robots than human beings.

In "Puppet Makers,", the industrial revolution is brought to France by a German engineer named Maria Barbarosa. While the robotic shells, or Dollies, that aristocrats wear were initially conceived of as war machines, they're quickly turned by King Louis into means of controlling the oft-rebellious aristocracy.


Was there any art from the Versailles period that influenced your drawings in the comic? What kinds of art were you looking at to inspire your imagery?

For colour scheme, we've dug into the Watteau blues-and-pinks. I've been obsessed with Baroque: Style in the Age of Magnificence. It's a fat photo-book of the decorative and mechanical arts of the baroque era- forks, wallpaper, theatrical displays, church interiors. It's art that requires so much intensity of skill and effort as to be kind of unethical. Once you see that gold and eggshell, nymph covered child's garden carriage- and think of all the skill, the man-hours squandered on a toy- you understand why the French revolution happened.


Since this is Versailles, naturally I'm wondering how the dollies have their dangerous liaisons. Will we see any mechanical debauchery?

Well, aristocrats can take off their dollies. But eventually, like proper gnostics or fashion victims, they may stop wanting to.


But I'm still burningly curious about dolly sex.

Well, they could take off their big clanking machines and just have sex the normal way, though they'd probably be kind of pale and sweaty and stinky and soft. Or their dollies could have phallic bolt-ons, but then one of them would still have to be dolly-less.


We had it where the trend amongst prostitutes was to draw a line down the center of their face to mimic the seam of a dolly's mask.

When does the comic start and where can we find it when it does?

"Puppet Makers" launches on Wednesday, May 12th, at