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pic by Allan Amato

Monday, September 17, 2018

Remembering Mik Casey

Mik Casey
When I was fresh out of animation school, I had the luck and delight to get picked up immediately by Dynomight Cartoons. It was a small studio space, where you met people everywhere you went, and simply getting up for a stretch or to visit the bathroom had you encountering various artists in odd nooks and crannies, working diligently away.

I started in Posing and was sitting in a throughway, with my back directly facing a small room that housed the inimitable Mik Casey.
Mik passed away recently, and I find it difficult to imagine such a vast, intelligent, funny, deeply caring person being gone from this world.

Last year, I was invited to Mik’s 70th (at the Prescott of course!) I almost didn’t go. I was worried that somehow, in the intervening time since I fell out of animation that Mik would have ‘aged suddenly’. My inner picture of him was what I wanted to hang on to. I was scared that he would be different and I felt a cowardice at not wanting to have my image of him altered.

How silly. How silly to think that time would change the ultimate bounty of friendship, love and wicked glee that Mik was. I kicked myself in the ass and went to the birthday. I got there and there was a long table with friends gathered round, and a set of crutches. And Mik!

Animation layout of 'the Gang'

I don’t remember anything next except one of those long, deeply satisfying hugs that only Mik could provide. I felt tears sting my eyes and it was perfectly fine. He looked the same; he WAS the same. He was laughter, love and friendliness. I had been so mistaken being worried about how time would work on him. I am so glad I went. We drank, we ate, shared stories, cards and of course, a small sketchbook made the rounds. People drew cartoons and passed it along. The sketchbook went round and round. One thing  Mik always was doing was drawing and sharing his love of storytelling.

Mik Casey manning the front desk, 
Dynomight Cartoons 2003

When the studio moved to bigger digs, I was in an outer area, far away from ‘The Boarding House’ where Mik held his domain. But I’d met him. And often would see him going up the single person elevator at the building, specifically put in place for someone who couldn’t do two flights of stairs with a crutch and permanent injury. ‘If you want me, you’ll have to put in an elevator’. 

I visited the Boarding House frequently to chat and see what he was up to, share stories and bits of wisdom; books and art and ridiculous/ naughty doodles. There was a small tv in there and a video player. He had a big collection of things to watch, including PeeWee’s PlayHouse, which made absolute sense.

When my Posing days came to a close, I was invited to become a story sketch artist on the Untalkative Bunny. I was welcomed into the Boarding House, along with my classmate Ron Huse and a variety of young people who sat near us and learned not just about Storyboards, but about life, travel, exploration, spirituality, humour and motorcycles.
LinkedIn endorsement by Dev Ramsaran
Mik took people literally under his wing. I can’t think of a more generous heart, as far as professional mentor goes. He was never jealous of his gifts and skill. He shared openly anything that would help someone learn to be a better artist, storyteller and person. He introduced new ideas, polished up old ones and presented them in ways that a young person could digest and absorb. Story sessions during Bunny were a time of intense creativity. The scripts were loose, and if you could insert a gag that would work with the show and improve it, everyone up and down the line said ‘ok’. We got to write, chat, work cooperatively on what we loved and made a wonderful show.

Mik introduced not only ideas, but food! He was a connoisseur of Asian cuisine and would get the urge to ‘go to Chinatown and pick up that amazing KimChi at that little place around the corner…’ And if you were lucky, you could go with him in the sidecar of his motorcycle, or the vast boat of a car that felt more like a couch on wheels.

He introduced me to the print shop ‘Reportex’ on Elgin when I needed a printer for the anthology comic I was working on. He was a one-man cheering squad when it came to my effort at self-publishing and contributed strips and art to the 4 comics I was able to put together.
Mik Casey and Ron Huse examine freshly printed t-shirts in the Boarding House.
Dynomight Cartoons, Muriel St location, Ottawa.
Mik Casey's PeePee Boy from 'Abraxia's Dream' #1
ed. Suzanne Marsden, published by DragonHead Studio 2000
I remember going down to the printers with Mik and he parked the Boat near Elgin/ Frank to get as close as he could to the shop. He headed out and I hung at the car. It was parked illegally and I suppose I was guarding it? Mik said he’d only be a minute, and of course time passed and a Grey Hornet swung by and hopped out her car. She looked at the Boat, and me, and said ‘Move it or I’ll give you a ticket right now!’ I explained that it was my friend’s car and he was going to be right back. She frowned and reiterated her threat, and then mentioned something about towing the thing.

I ended up in the driver’s seat, feeling very tiny for the first time in my life, and managed to manoeuvre it around the corner, still getting the Death Glare from the meter maid. But I couldn’t let Mik’s car get towed or saddled with a ticket. It was gratifying to see him return a few minutes later, with a flushed grin on his face. I explained; and he said ‘Good! Good—now to the Yang Sheng for some noodles!’

Mik Casey's Billy Belly from 'Abraxia's Dream' #3
ed. Suzanne Marsden, published by DragonHead Studio 2003
When the studio moved to its final spot on Catherine St., Mik was in a back room, further away than I wanted him to be. However, he had a huge space, with a corner crammed with everything that made him happy: artwork, posters, plants, the drawing desk and a chair for guests (or Shivan Ramsaran, the Animation Director at the time!) It was welcoming as always, and safe. You could lounge, spill your guts, laugh, just let his empathy wash over you if you were having a tough day (and there were a bunch of them back then.)
Mik Casey in the new studio digs on Catherine St. Ottawa (circa 2003)
I was still wrestling with coming out and Mik was so accepting and sweet. We exchanged wonderfully rude Birthday and Christmas cards, trying to out-do each other with vast fields of bouncing boobs or forests of engorged penises. It was the studio at its finest, with no PC stuff to get in the way of being a teenage brained idiot enjoying simple jokes and fun.
Classic studio birthday card, with Mik Casey's front cover. Circa 2002

The height of the silliness was a celebration for Mik’s birthday. Somehow the studio had managed to keep a secret (tough to do with so many people involved.) Mary baked a spectacular Boob Cake, decorated in lace icing. Grant, Bruce, Terry and a few others did a field trip to the Sex Shop around the corner and secured ‘decorations’, which included a 6’ inflatable penis and a small, surprised-looking inflatable sheep. The card went around and everyone outdid themselves. Balloons got inflated.

Bday card from Mik Casey 2014
The day came, and it was Mardi Gras and Pride’s love child Parade. We marched the cake in a procession, Mary at the front, surrounded by the cheering, singing honour guard. The sheep took middle position, and the coup de gras, or, giant inflatable dick, brought up the rear (so to speak).

As we approached, the din filtered into the Boarding House and we filled the doorway. Mik’s incredulity and delight sparkled in his eyes and filled his whole body with laughter. ‘Oh! Oh – you shouldn’t have… [spotting the sheep] You really shouldn’t have!’ The cake descended to a crescendo of singing and then he saw the enormous Dick. We just all cracked up and that was it for the day. The rest of it was spent joyously eating cake (Jane, with her flowered plate!), taking turns playing with the squeaky sheep and posing the stand-up penis in various spots in the studio. I took pictures. I’m always the one doing that; and I’m glad that I did.

Bday celebrations at the Prescott '08

Thinking about Mik makes me feel warm, and bittersweet, sad and happy at the same time. It is impossible that he is gone, because he had such a great presence. And yet, the reverberation of his presence keeps echoing in everyone who had the pleasure of his company and called him friend.

I’m reading a lot about meditation, and Ram Dass, and his Guru Neem Karoli Baba. There is a section on death and transformation. There are parts of things I read and listen to that make it easier now, than before I started this spiritual journey to accept death and the passing of a dear, sweet man. I can imagine the bright soul ‘Going Home’ as Ram Dass says. Rejoining a being of vast, compassionate, eternal love and gentleness; rejoining a shining light.

It makes it easier for me. But I’m still very attached to the world, and my connections on it. I feel the deep loss of someone who for so long was as institution onto himself. Someone who connected with lots of people in a positive way, who kept his sense of humour and positivity, even when in pain.

When I was out of animation, I had cast around looking for any skill I possessed that might earn me a dollar and ended up doing Data Entry. I eventually found myself at the CRA keying tax forms. I listened to music so I wouldn’t go bonkers and put in my time on possibly the most uncomfortable, non-ergonomic chair ever designed. The height couldn’t be altered and I half-crouched over a computer that had been state-of-the-art in the early 80s.

And yes, I completely threw out my back. My sciatic nerve got badly damaged and I was in excruciating pain. I attended physical therapy to help speed the healing and strengthen my core. To do this, required going to Riverside Hospital a number of times. I was scared going in, and worried about having to face this alone. I limped down the long hallway, using a cane my Dad had given me. I tried to breathe and calm down in the face of the newness and of the hospital.

Tools of the trade - photo Mik Casey
While I waited to be seen, I desperately scanned the walls and stack of ancient magazines for something to distract me and calm me down. And then I saw them. There was art on the walls: and a ton of it was Mik’s. There were little cartoons and drawings, Thank-Yous and funny sketches. Although I was alone, I really wasn’t. Mik had been in the exact same place, and had left the little part of himself that he always did: sweet, wonderful artwork that served dual purpose (although he couldn’t have known that at the time.) I felt safe, and comforted, happy that in a way, he was with me and the physical therapy’s scariness shrank to something I could accept.
Mik Casey's 'Sharky'
I’m so thankful that I got to know Mik and have him influence an important time in my life. I’m grateful for the wisdom, and the silliness, the laughter and hugs. And I have some of his art; the expression that he could do better than many people I know; distilling ideas into drawings and finding the perfect way to articulate something either beautiful, poignant, sacrilegious or whatever piqued his fancy into a single or multi panel piece.

Thank you Mik. Take your rest and enjoy tubing down the river of the afterlife, balancing a drink, and some noodles as the crutches are left behind.

Suzanne Marsden

Sept 11th, 2018.
Mik Casey

Monday, October 31, 2016

For Alan Salvin

Alan Gordon Salvin November 14, 1954 - October 25, 2016

Rain smeared windshield,
Grey streaks running down
And my forehead is throbbing with that
As the skies drench and mist,
Spreading sodden leaves around my feet.

Limping down a moist sidewalk,
Not hurrying
Not rushing to greet that

The building crouched
At the corner; a white thug of concrete,
Weighty and opulent, yet
This is where the stammered hellos
And final
Good-bye happens.

The doors cradle a hushed entryway,
The wood; real oak,
The brass polished,
The greeter,
Somber in her suit; it is her job
To steer the stumbling mourner within,
To make sure
That everyone knows

The room is the same
Every time.
There are clumps of people;
Friends who know,
Family in staggered, staring shock,
Numbly gripping hands,
As eyes glaze with reddened, endless tears,
Trying not to look away.

There are hushed, gossiped quips and murmured ‘sorries’
There are short notes of quiet pain,
Turning on the spit,
There is the book,
The scrawls of “I Was Here” -
No restaurant reviews or art show gushing praises,
Just your name,
To say
You came.

And she
Not there,
Sequestered in a warm, small room,
Arms holding the shaking shoulders, family,
A knot between the Outside
And within.
Arms tightening, holding,
No words suffice,
For the impossibility
Of his death.

They go?
A child cradled,
Taught to walk and
Nurtured, the breath wafting over the kindled
The joy of Flight
The passion of sound,
The endless talks,
The smile,
The twinkle in those eyes,
The vibrant brain curled within that skull,
Now over,
The twinkle

They go on?
The mourners, clustered in drab greys, blacks and sallow beige,
Shuffling before the powder blue coffin,
The picture of him; looking smiling into your face,
Saying ‘I am Here’ ‘I live’ ‘I breathe’ ‘I see’,
And impossibly

I can’t—

Every end table is furnished with
Necessary boxes of tissues,
Every other table,
A carafe of coffee,
For those who need to
Keep their hands

And the monitor flicks through pictures
Of a young man’s life,
The outdoors, the lake, nature –
Music, the strummed thrum of reverberant sound,
The endless joy of variation
The exploration and hunger
To feed that passionate soul.
The quiet pictures flicker
And the mourners stand in awkward semi-circles,
Half talking, half watching,
Wishing they were there,
For any other reason
Than this.

This last goodbye,
To someone
Who should not be

Suzanne Marsden
(c) October 29th, 2016

SALVIN, Alan Gordon 
November 14, 1954 – October 25, 2016
It is with deep regret and profound sadness that we inform you of the passing of Alan Salvin, peacefully at his home, surrounded by friends and family. Alan was a gifted musician who freely shared his time and talent with others. He was an outdoorsman and recreational pilot. Possessing a brilliant mind, he was not shy to share his wisdom and boundless sense of humour. He is survived by his mother Barbara "Bobby" Salvin, brothers Ian Salvin and Neil Salvin, sister Lynn Eckervogt (Thomas), nieces and nephews Cameron, Tyler, Annabelle, Lilly and Zoe. Special thanks are extended to his good friends Ron and Cynthia who provided love, devotion and support during this difficult time. Visitors may pay their respects at the Westboro Chapel of Tubman Funeral Homes 403 Richmond Road, on Saturday, October 29, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of your choice. Condolences, tributes and donations may be made at

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Travellers

Since Deviantart makes it tough to view 'mature' themed work unless you sign up, I'm putting my #inktober for today here. Enjoy!

The Succubus and the Rakshasa, co-conspirators and dimensional travellers, causing evil wherever they go! (c) 2015 Suzanne Marsden

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Parade Black

It's been a long time since I've written poetry, and even longer than I can remember that I've stood in front of people and read what I'd written.

I'm fortunate to be a part of an amazing group of writers and poets who accept and don't judge, encourage and dissect (without leaving a corpse behind!)

I'm grateful to the wonderfully talented Bobby Salvin, award-winning poet, author and artist for inviting me to join this year's writing group. Without this group of interested and cool people, it's unlikely 'Parade Black' would've been dislodged from my brain, while I was tightening my laces last week. Thank you!

Parade Black

The shoes lasted longer than the job.
The interview outfit still hangs unworn-
The good clothes carefully saved for later.

The trappings and plumage you present
Like the good silver and the China plates
Only dusted off for Easter
And awkward internet dates.

The hesitant smile
The captured bird
Fluttering madly in its bony cage

The steady gaze
The confident gait
The sway of self
And firm handshake.

Trotted out twice a year to caper and perform
Then carefully hung back on its hook
Because that is not your norm.

The rictus and unblinking eyes,
Which punch-clock cruelly victimized
The creative heart, the fairy wing
Crushed by a nametag on a string.

     The crawling commute
     The daily pressure
     To conform, fit in, be timely and grin,

No matter the strain and hopeless pain
Of a desperate creature circling the drain,
The foundering horse in unceasing rain
For one who dared go against the grain.

The shoes lasted longer than the job.
True, they’re not new,
     The leather’s cracked,
          The sole’s worn through,
But they fit more comfortably
Than proper jobs do.

And the interview pants, worn sparingly
At gatherings with friends and family,
Not for those you’d hoped to impress
Are fitting in a little better
As you are
     Loosed of unwelcome fetters.

Suzanne A. Marsden
© September 28th, 2015

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Five years

Photo montage for Dad's funeral & visitation
I was thinking of my Dad today; it is the fifth anniversary of his passing. It seems surreal that it is five years later and that it is snowing, and I'm here remembering. It is real/ yet not real-- for me he is always vibrantly alive, sparkling with his humour and intelligence, gentle love and support. And yet, he is definably gone as well; no physical hugs, no sharing of stories, passing along of books, awkwardly and accidentally pressing the wrong button on his electric chair while bending over for that good-bye hug.

It is the dichotomy of death; wherein you hang on with all of your will to that which you do not wish to lose, and at the same time there is the ultimate letting go. You cannot hold it strongly enough for it to stay, it can never be that way. The soul slips through your fingers and joins the ether; that great unknown beyond; whether to comfort, omnipotent awakening or the void. We don't know; no one has come back and said: yea or nae.

Gathering at the Royal Canadian Legion 618 Stittsville
ON for Norm Marsden's memorial.
I feel bittersweet this morning; an aching poignant squeeze in my heart. I miss him. But it is not the heart wrenching stab of excruciating loss of February 5th, 2009. It was so raw; a wound that would never heal; just bleeding out the wrenched scream of 'no---'.

There is that deep ache of the past wound; like the broken bone, healed that foretells of storms. Tears stand behind the eyes; to be loosed if (should it happen) a song randomly appears on the radio; whether 'Men of Harlech', or 'Singing the Spirit Home' or (and this did happen last year: 'I come from the land down under' while shopping for groceries)...

I miss him in a thousand tiny ways that seem insignificant, but they pile up like the grains of snow swirling, rising into an 8 foot drift on one side of the house and nothing on the other. Significant in that together they build the wavering remembered image of him, from all those tiny thoughts and feelings.

I find myself watching a movie and saying 'Dad would love this--I can hear him laughing right now!'. I am partway through a book and want to share a passage with him (as he would always share with us around the table). I am at a restaurant with Mom and our eyes meet, and we know Dad would love the food, or the atmosphere, or the server; using his 'universal language' of a big smile and dancing eyes to immediately cement a nascent friendship.

I miss him.

In ten years; my memories will be dimmer; the strongest ones will be of my childhood, swinging; hanging onto his thumbs as the enormous giant strength of my Dad lifted from the ground and made me laugh. My memories of him at his end will be dimmer; I will be hanging onto the warm, loving images I sort and sift; choosing the best and turning them like jewels in my mind.

But, Carl Hiaasen said things better... a character's eulogy that Mom chose to represent my Dad:

"He was a fighter, a real tiger, but he had a generous heart.
He was an idealist who believed in the innate decency and honesty of everyone he met.
He faced profound sadness in his life but he never let himself be defeated by it.
He never lost his sense of humour or his optimism.
He was one of the most positive and unselfish persons.
He chose a simple, ordinary life because he believed that was the secret to true happiness.
He wasn't perfect.
He had weaknesses as all of us do.
Impulsive moments, blind spots, and lapses in judgment.
He wasn't a perfect person but he was a truly good person and we'll all miss him dearly."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

CONTEST Anne McCaffrey Day

Dragonquest, painted by Michael Whelan

Anne McCaffrey (April 1st, 1926 - 21 November 2011) introduced me to a deep and passionate love for dragons. As a celebration of this year's Anne McCaffrey Day (April 1st), I've proposed a contest to honour her and dragons as well!

I've set up an area on Deviantart where people can link to their dragon drawings, poems, written work or any other draconic representation that shows how they feel about dragons. The contest opens April 1st, 2013 and closes April 8th 2013. You have 1 week to get all dragony n__n

Have fun with it, draw, paint, sketch, scratchboard, write, fingerpaint, sculpt.. whatever moves you. Then photograph or scan the work and share it over on Deviantart. You can also link to your work in the comments section here as well.

THERE IS A PRIZE! What would a contest be without a prize?
I will pick my absolute favourite draconic representation and present the winner with an original piece of artwork by me (the subject will be dragons of course!) So, you should PM me your vitals, if you'd like to receive your prize.

suebrainpower (at) gmail (dot) com.

Good luck and clear skies, Dragonriders!

PS Michael Whelan has painted some of my favourite Pernese dragons. Check out his site for inspiration n__n.

The White Dragon, painted by Michael Whelan

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brain Power Studio sings for Sick Kids Hospital TO

Hi everyone,

Beth Stevenson's animation studio Brain Power Studio in Newmarket ON (where I freelance part-time) put together an amazing video this year to raise money for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. Please take the time to check out the video, click and share with folks you know to help raise more $.

Brain Power Studio is one of the co-sponsors of the monthly Ottawa Comic Jam, along with DragonHead Studio. Without the help of Brain Power, it'd be a lot harder to make the Jam happen on a regular basis. Beth Stevenson and crew have always been there for us, so I'm doubly thrilled to be able to promote the video and see if we can get those views/ numbers up to help with their great cause!

Thanks again, and have Merry and safe Holidays.