Liz and Jimmy Reed are better known as Cuddles and Rage. He’s Cuddles; she’s Rage. They came up with the nicknames while playing Army of Two, a video game requiring players to cooperate in order to win.
“He was very strategic, but I was all about going in with guns blazing,” says Liz.
For the past decade, the Elkridge, Maryland couple has been producing quirky web comics, stop motion videos, animated shorts, clay sculptures, comic books and more. They recently published their second children’s book, Sweet Success. Illustrated with photographs of the couple’s colorful handmade dioramas, the book follows Scoops, an ice cream cone who can’t seem to finish anything she starts.
“The germ for it came a little bit from our own experiences and partly from our young niece,” says Liz. “Creative people have so many ideas, how do you know which one to pick?”
The duo handcrafted 90 props for the project using commonplace household items, such as sugar packets, gum wrappers, coffee grounds and dental floss. They sculpted and photographed their sweet setups in their basement studio, while the writing, design, and illustration was done upstairs in their respective offices.
Their homespun setup has come a long way since they first started a decade ago. Neither has formal artistic training. In fact, both have a background in film and digital media; though Liz is focused full-time on Cuddles and Rage, Jimmy still has a day job in the industry.
It all started when Jimmy bought a sketchbook with the thought of drawing a kid’s book, but “our doodles were very dark,” says Liz.
Their scribbles ultimately turned into comics, which earned them kudos from friends. Buoyed by the encouragement, the Reeds began posting their hand drawn comics on Tumblr. They started earning a passionate following, so the couple decided to branch out artistically. They taught themselves how to use Photoshop and animation software, and how to sculpt.
In 2011, they exhibited at the Small Press Expo (SPX) in Bethesda, which showcases the work of alternative cartoonists and underground artists.
“That was the first time we put our work in front of people like that,” says Liz. “It was thrilling to see their reactions right in front of us.”
The next year, the couple trekked up to New York City to take part in the MoCCA Arts Festival. There they met a slew of art directors and editors; many suggested they focus their talents on creating a children’s book. Ultimately, they landed a book deal, which lead to the publication of Sweet Competition in 2016.
A lot of their art features food characters – a talking taquito gives cooking lessons in one video, while a pair of biscotti mistake a cup of coffee for a hot tub in another. This is a reflection of the duo’s real world food obsession.
“Whenever I travel, I never have a list of places I want to go shopping,” says Liz, who loves to cook. “I just have a list of places I want to go eat.”
Other artwork takes its inspiration from pop culture. One of their dioramas took viewers into the upside down of Strangers Things, which was ultimately turned into an Instagram story.
“It’s a really great way to gain exposure and bring new people to your content,” says Liz.
They even designed a beer label for a farmhouse ale accented with pink guava, which was the official beer of Awesome Con 2017.
All this work – and a booming Etsy shop – proves that if you finish what you start you can attain some sweet success.
Click through our photo gallery to see behind the scenes of how Cuddle & Rage characters are created.