Most artists’ origin stories have similar themes. Something calls to them, pulls at them in childhood, a time where they (like everyone, but theyre particularly sensitive to it) feel lost because something about them does not fit into the world the adults around them have made. The act of creation becomes an innocent, sacred endeavor.
For local artist Left Handed Sophie — nee Phonzie Davis — childhood escape was through superhero cartoons and ‘80s faves such as “Jem” and “DuckTales.”
“I watched so many cartoons as a kid I’d have to re-adjust after watching them to live in the real world. As a kid you wanted to be a part of that world. Cartoons seemed more real to me than the mundane world,” he said.
But his origin story is about where Davis’ similarity to other visual artists ends. See, Davis is a comic book artist who lives as Left Handed Sophie, a character that is the star of his comics.
Sophie the character is a ferocious folk hero, a young albino who lives in the inner city. She came from a crime family and was sent to live with a man named Dr. Savage, who taught her how to use real “magik” which is “using your will to manifest what you want in life,” Davis said. When Sophie is sent back to her family and the magik-less world she is forced to fight to keep her power alive.
Left Handed Sophie first appeared in a comic book by Davis in 2005 called “Ecstasy Garage.” The character, with no name yet, popped up again and again. She had a hold on him.
“I felt like that character represented an aesthetic that had always been my way of expressing myself,” Davis said.
From there, Left Handed Sophie took over. Davis becomes Left Handed Sophie. He dresses like her, has a Facebook page as her. Being her means he is better able to listen to her as he tells her story through his art, using his own magik to create the world in which he wishes to live.
Davis is Clark Kent to Sophie’s Superman.
“No matter what, I’d be Left Handed Sophie. I just use a visual significance to ignite that spark,” Davis said. “I don’t know if I’d want to be an artist if it wasn’t this immersive.”
His art is now exclusively about Left Handed Sophie. Davis posts new art work, sometimes just single images of Sophie fighting in bombastic color on his website. He’s currently working on a longform Sophie story, and often collaborates with another local artist, Bryan Moss.
“When collaborating with Phonzie/Sophie you get a completely different perspective on comic art, for his approach with drawing is to leave everything on the paper,” Moss said of his friend. “If you look at his art you can see where the first line begins and the last line ends. Most people try to keep it a clean as possible, Phonzie/Sophie goes in the opposite direction. The approach gives his work a stronger artistic merit and makes it less mechanical and more natural.”
“When you first check out his work the first thing that strikes you is its complete originality,” said comic artist Ed Piskor, the Pittsburgh-based brains behind Hip Hop Family Tree. “He’s got a deep knowledge on the medium but is able to filter it all into something so beautiful and unique. I respond positively to good work that comes from a place I’ve never seen before.”
Left Hand Sophie’s villain?
“The real world,”Davis said.
Photos by Meghan Ralston