Neil Gaiman says:

Neil Gaiman says:
pic by Allan Amato

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.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vegetarian recipes


I've been wanting to return to being a vegetarian for awhile, but didn't have the push to get back into it. Last week, on the 401 on the way home from a retreat for Brain Power Studio, we were stopped near a large livestock truck. As the car and truck paced each other, I looked over and saw a pig's curious face checking me out. Then I saw little hooves, and finally, a cute snuffly snout checking out the tiny air space that they'd provided for the pigs to breathe. My heart hitched at the sight and I blurted to my pal beside me: 'That's it, I'm going vegetarian'.

She said: 'What? When?', I said: 'Right now, today.' And the little hairs on my arms stood up. Wow!

So, lately I've been making big piles of hummus and also really gotten into dahl (tx to my Mom ;-)

Due to popular demand, I’m posting my how-to guide to delightful hummus (from my good friend  Brenda) and the recipe for dahl that I’ve been concocting lately as well (that is nommy!) Hope you enjoy.

(From the Moosewood Cookbook – Cooks at home)

How to Cook Dried Beans

Measure 1 - 2 cups of garbanzo beans (chick peas) and pour them out on a cookie sheet. Check them out. If there are any weirdo ones, or pieces of dirt or little stones, get rid of them. Rinse your beans!

Place the rinsed, picked over beans in a pot, add cold water to cover the beans, plus at least 2 inches and set aside to sit at room temperature. After 4 hours or more, drain off the soaking water. Cover the beans with fresh water and they are ready to cook.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the picked-over, rinsed, soaked and drained beans in a large pot and cover with water, 2 inches deeper than the beans. Place the beans on high heat and bring them to a rapid boil, then transfer them to a large covered casserole dish and place in the oven. Bake for about 1.25 – 1.5 hrs.

Remove from the oven and drain your beans!

Brenda's Hummus

1 19 oz. can chick peas (or your freshly cooked beans, right out of the oven)
1 clove of garlic (or more)
½ tsp salt
3 – 4 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
¼ cup lemon juice (or juice from 2 lemons)
¼ cup water

Place the drained chick peas in a blender or food processor and process.

Mash the garlic with the salt. A mortar and pestle work well to mash garlic. Add the garlic, salt, tahini, lemon juice and water to the chick peas.

Mix very well until texture is smooth, adding more water if needed.

Serve on a platter and garnish with paprika, olive oil and parsley and/or toasted pine nuts.

Freezes well. Hummus thickens after being frozen, so after thawing, add a few drops of water and mix.


(From the January 23rd, 1991 ed. of the Ottawa Citizen, Silk Roads Afghan Restaurant on Sparks St.)

1 lbs (454 g) red lentils
4 – 6 cups water
1 Tbsp salt
½ c veg oil
2 med onions, finely chopped
2 med tomatoes, finely chopped
¼ Tbsp cayenne pepper
¼ Tbsp gr. Coriander

Rinse lentils under cold water, then place in a large pot. Add 4 – 6 cups water and the salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 5 minutes, or until lentils are soft.

In a frying pan, heat oil and sauté onions and tomatoes until onions are translucent.  Add cayenne and coriander to the mixture and simmer until it becomes sauce-like.

Add mixture to cooked lentils and stir. Simmer for 5 minutes (or longer).

Serve in bowls, topped with juice squeezed from a ¼ fresh lemon.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Homophobia in O-town

I don't usually write about homophobia or LBGTTQ related topics. Like on FB I try and keep things pretty light here, or centred on my interests which include: comics, painting, my talented friends, family, road trips and my pets.

But yeah, homophobia is out there and it reared its ugly head this week. I'm not sure if it is the weather, stressed-crazy people reacting to the US election, or solar flares. Or maybe just dumb-asses who are taking their frustration at not getting any hockey pumped into their living rooms by attacking gay women.

Two gay friends I know posted this week about being harassed for what they looked like by complete strangers. Both of my friends are women, and they were both attacked by other women; which I find sort of bizarre. Ok, I actually find the whole thing bizarre. I'm lucky; although I'm androgynous- looking, with very short hair and an extra 200 lbs to mask an easily identified gender shape, the worst that happens to me is that I get called 'Sir'. And that ain't so bad. It's something I've gotten used to since my early teens when I initially cut my hair.

So I've been lucky.
But some folks aren't lucky. Check the recent post in Wolfville NS about 'Acadia Fag' who was verbally abused by straight boys at a University sponsored music event.
And my friends in town. I can't believe that a complete stranger actually spat on my friend. And this asshole had a child with her!
Next, some elderly lady swore at another friend of mine and called her a 'freak'! Simply because of her tattoos and differently coloured har.

I can't image what drove these lunatics to yell at, spit and verbally harass my friends who are sweet, creative, cool people. What makes these attackers think it is 'ok' and acceptable to take their anger and fear out on a complete stranger and make them feel like shit?

This is NOT OK. This is an action motivated by hate and fear. Whatever they are experiencing in their lives that made them believe insulting an identified gay woman would make them feel better and more secure is irrelevant. If it had been some guy doing it to some girl, it would have been all over the papers. Or some white people insulting and spitting on black people. But for some reason, homophobia is still acceptable in some people's view.

Just like being overweight seems to be the final target for stand-up comedians to use as material, so attacking gay identified/ presenting people seems to still be ok. Not only is it patently not ok, it is something that continues to generate fear and has dark repercussions for those that experience the ridicule and harassment. Attacking someone physically is bad, but a verbal attack lingers, sometimes longer than the bruises.

Do you know if you attack someone verbally you can hurt them enough to make them go home and kill themselves? That's called bullying. Kids are being (hopefully) reprogrammed to nip bullying in the bud, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We don't accept bullying from kids or teens ('zero tolerance'). We sure as hell don't have to accept bullying from  adults. It is surreal that it happens at all, and it should be a criminal offence. (Keith Savage mentions bullying in one of his posts here).

Recently, a very close friend went through the final surgery required for his FTM transition. I learned a lot both from his experience and going with him to the clinic. I met and talked with Trans men and women and came away with a deeper understanding and respect for Trans people and what they have to endure, cope with and finally win through.

I wanted to let people know how he was doing and was really excited about everything he was experiencing; in a really positive way. I'm an optimist, I've been out for a long time, and I didn't realize there could be anything wrong or potentially dangerous about my news and posts.

Apparently transphobia is alive and well and terrifying. I talked with my friend and he cautioned me about spreading the news, as some people at his work and in his life aren't aware of his status as Trans. I was surprised because I tell everyone who'll ask that I'm queer. I had no idea that other people aren't the same way and that they experience hatred, fear, discrimination and verbal and physical abuse if they are out (or are outed). I was dismayed and promised to be more circumspect. But it really made me think. (**update--excellent post on American Trans Man about this)

We supposedly live in a progressive, socially aware country. Yet, my friend is personally aware that he could be fired, assaulted or killed because he is Trans. I would hope to think that we live in a country where hate crimes would be followed up by the police, but who knows. Is it one person's word against the other? Is it she said/ she said? Would it be some elderly lady pointing at a tattooed, green haired dyke, calling her 'freak'/ 'abomination' and some people on the judicial end of things nodding silent agreement?

How can we live in the capital of a country that supposedly is 'free' and still have a mom with her kid walk past one of the coolest people I know, who is a volunteer, animal lover, helps kids who are troubled, is a musician, and has endured physical problems all year, and still has to put up with being yelled at and SPAT ON?!

Maybe the anti-bullying programs shouldn't just be in the primary and secondary schools. Maybe the programs need to attend to the continued effrontery of cold-hearted bitches who are marching around Ottawa, insulting, spitting and abusing peaceful, gay women.

Or maybe I need to talk with these supposed pillars of 'straight'/ safe, society and let them know how it feels to be frightened, insulted and spat upon.

"Teach your children well."

Then reteach the ##^&@ adults.


PS-- One of the first anti-homophobic songs I ever heard was from Spirit of the West. It inspired an enormous art piece during my studies in Ottawa U's BFA programme. It hit me right in the gut and helped open my eyes.

Spirit of the West's "Take it from the Source"

I was sitting in basil's with a friend and coffee  
Thinking the world a fine place to be 
When the man on my right got up to leave 
And left a little piece of his mind with me 
He said, "faggots like you should be put in asylums" 
Now tell me, who takes the blame 
For his being scared, so unaware 
That he would fire his fear without an ounce of shame 
Whatever happened to love thy neighbour? 
Nothing more than a worn out cliché 
Are all men created equal or has this too become passé? 
You don't need to open your mouth for me to read your lips 
I can follow the language displayed on your finger tip 

They don't look before they leap 
They don't think before they speak 
They just sharpen their tongues on you and me 
Spit poison darts between perfect teeth 
You've got to take it from the source 
Look at where it's coming from 
You're got to take it from the source 
They're only wasted words on me 
I guess i just don't measure up 

Strayed from the straight and narrow road 
So you lock me up, throw away the key 
'cause i don't live by your dress code 
That's ok, i've heard it before 
You can open the wound i feel no pain 
I don't need an armour suit 
You're the one with the ball and chain 

 (c) 1988 (John Mann/ Geoffrey Kelly) SOTW 'Labour Day'

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

24 Hour Comics Day Noble Failure

Photo credit: Troy Little (c) 2011, Summerside PEI.

October 20th was this year's 24 Hour Comics Day. Usually I like to host the event at my place in Kanata (DragonHead Studio), but unfortunately due to renovations, I wasn't able to!

That didn't stop me from jumping into the challenge and tackling it with the ridiculous bravado for which I've become famous. It's been a long while since I've tried a 24 Hour Comic challenge solo, in fact, it's been 11 years. My first one... which has yet to be completed and scanned, was done solo. It was a brutal experience, even 11 years younger. And this October's event was no exception.

I kicked off around 10:30 am. I highly recommend starting in the morning. The one time I gave 'er a go in the evening (2008 I think), was an exhausting and abysmal failure. I only managed to get to 19 pgs that time 'round (yet another comic clamouring to be completed and shared!)

This time I also was missing critical supplies I usually have on hand for such things: jellybeans, icy squares and the horrifying 'drink' known as Rev. Apparently no one in Stittsville drinks Rev (which is the location of the LCBO I tried first).

This time 'round I also decided I would do things differently. Instead of doing a complete page/ hour as Scott McCloud suggests, I was going to tackle the problem by penciling my pages first. That meant I had to crank pages out in 1/2 hr increments. Crazy!

But, my thought went something like this: if I don't finish my inking entirely, at least I'll have all the pencils done. I'll have a complete story told (instead of the several 24 hr comics languishing around that all seem to peter out around pg 19 or so!)

Things trucked on well. I was using the 110 lbs. white card stock that I prefer (the same stuff we use at the Ottawa Comic Jams), penciling with Bic #2 mechanical pencils, ruling out panels (I hate rulers and panels in general, but this time they seemed appropriate). The story rolled out and I hit the 12 hr mark with the entire comic penciled and fairly lucid. I was a bit disappointed that the pacing of the story goes crazy in the last 3-4 pgs ('Oh my God, I'm out of pages!?') Oopsie. Anyway, they do wrap up somehow. And no splash pages!

Splash pages are a cheat when you get behind, doing it the old-fashioned way (case in point, pg 7 from 'The Magic Cauldron', my 24 Hr comic from 2007!). This time I found I needed every single page at my disposal for the story I was telling. It felt satisfying to be able to move through the pages and panels and honestly use every bit of them to the best of my ability (and not feel like I was 'behind' all night!)

Around 4:00 am or so, I was flagging. I had coffee, horrible candies I'd found somewhere (augh!) and my eyes were getting blurry. My inking was going to hell and I was ruining my comic. I was also utterly exhausted and realized that although I firmly believe anyone regardless of age or ability can tackle these things, that I was feeling every one of my sleepy 43 yr-old-bones  yelling at me to GO TO BED.

So I did.

And didn't feel guilty for one minute.

I got up the next day after about 5 hrs of sleep and kept inking for a bit, til the time ran out. I was pleased that I had a comic, pretty much finished, where before there had been absolutely nothing.

I'm a procrastinator, big time. The beauty of the 24 Hr Comic is that;  if you do it, once a year, you will have in your hands, at the end of that period of time: a comic. This means, no matter what happens during the rest of the year, you will have produced at least one physical comic with no delays, procrastination, what-ifs, over-thinking, guilt or apathy. Hurray!

I've been inking the beast on and off all week and I'm happy as a peach. The panels are pretty clean, the lettering isn't wobbly and I'm using templates for my word balloons(!) I hauled my folder to the Ottawa Comic Jam last night to share and had some really supportive and sweet comments on it (thanks Emily!)

Sure, it's a "Noble Failure", since it does not adhere strictly to the Dare's rules. But that's ok. I'm in good company (what with the likes of Neil Gaiman and Kevin Eastman setting the bar!) And I'm proud that I created this thing.

When it's finished, I'll post it over on my Deviantart gallery, which you can get to by clicking here.

Cheers, and thanks for reading my ramblings (as always).
If you haven't tried the 24 Hr Comic challenge yet-- do it! You have nothing to lose (except a bit of sleep). It's worth it and it is an experience unlike any other.

Next year, I WILL be hosting the 24 Hour Comics Day Event at DragonHead Studio. Get your pencils ready!

All the best,

Monday, July 09, 2012

Just Stop


Some people get extremely excited at the proposal of something new coming their way. And, new things can be fun. Unfortunately, certain things aren't really new, are they? They're redone old things that are pretending to be new. And that is not a good thing. That's actually pretty depressing; especially if you really liked the 'old' thing better and all the sparkles and glitter on it just makes it something you wish you'd never invested your emotions into in the first place.

Most people realize that when something isn't broken, you should not undo all the screws, replace them with gum and spaghetti and then put it back together again. It wasn't broken to begin with...and it sure is not going to work when you're finished fiddling with it. Please, for the love of whatever religious or spiritual power you tip your hat to: do not redux, reboot, rewrite, re-do, re-configure, twist-up, bend-over non-broken iconic superhero characters, books, movies and the like.

I'm not being a whiner; I do think some re-jiggering and mash-ups of genres can be fun and that cool things pop out of unexpected places (zombies & everything; pirates & everything; ninjas & everything; sharks & apes...) But, really. Think about it. Do you really, really REALLY need to re-tell yet another rendition of a known super hero movie?

The ancient Greeks used to  attend plays and went in knowing the script by heart. They'd watch the same plays over and over again. Is the current crop of reduxed comic movies and books just a version of Greek theatre? Is retelling Spiderman, Superman and the Hulk what people want to experience? Can't we just agree to be content with a version of the heroes' stories and continue to write new stories within that context and see what happens next? Do we have endure the retelling of everything from the beginning and grind the ORIGIN in audiences' faces, yet again?

We know Superman is the last son of Krypton, we know Uncle Ben dies, we know Bruce Banner has anger issues, we know Bruce Wayne's parents die. We know these things. This leaves studios with a couple of options: Write Something New. (AGGGGH!) Ok, no, I know branding and money and test audiences reveal that Writing Something New is dangerous. Dangerous-- if you're on the wrong side of it, can either kill you, or make you extremely poor.

That leaves the studios with: Write Something Within Context. Safer, for sure. But it requires some reading, a bit of research and a (hopefully) love and respect for the material one is handling. Accept that it's OK if you can't get the original cast back, and they're off someplace doing legitimate theatre. Viewers aren't dummies. We really aren't. Honestly. We know what Clark Kent looks like. He's the guy with nice hair and glasses who stutters around Lois Lane. We know what the Hulk looks like. Truth to tell, when I watched Hulk II, I literally thought it was Hulk II. I thought it was a continuation of the Hulk story; because he is an iconic, easily recognizable character. I didn't need to see the original actors to recognize Bruce Banner. For me, for that movie, somehow it all worked.

Is it so difficult to continue a superhero's story and not have to retell his beginnings? Things don't have to end in trilogies. They can just keep on going (look at the endless Planet of the Apes movies from the 60's) You can have spin-offs and 'son-of' or 'daughter-of' stories, leaping from iconic characters. What about movie serials ("Zorro's Black Whip"). Pick up the story and get going with it. Try a new villain once in awhile. How about Superman vs someone who isn't just some human millionaire? That might be interesting. Or, Batman vs someone who isn't a gibbering lunatic?

Please, be brave and patient.  Take the time to read the background material; make use of the wealth of comic stories that have piled up for decades behind iconic characters and see what you can do to continue those tales and write in the spirit of those characters. Don't reboot, redux, reconfigure, rise Phoenix-from-the-ashes with yet another retelling of an old, dead horse. We KNOW the Origin Stories. Surprise us. (Or Write Something New).

Or make all the male characters girls. That would also be ok.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Ants in Pants

Hello All,

I've found for some reason that I'm in an emotional/ mental slump; exacerbated by the internet. I'm not sure why this is, but getting online makes my mood worse. So, taking a page from the fantastic Neil Gaiman quote: "Make Good Art" when things go to sh*t, I decided to give it a go. Thankfully, I'm not experiencing a creative slump at the same time as my emotional/ mental one. When they all go together, I usually end up curled in bed with junk food and a stack of paperbacks.

But... comic first, then 'spoilers' n__n
You can either enjoy the comic here, or on my Deviant page (which has bigger images).

"Ants in Pants" came directly from an ant infestation last weekend. The title is taken from a hilarious episode of The Tick (thanks Ben Edlund!). The Ghandi quote I dug up online, when I was trying to look up quotes on 'compassion'. It seemed to suit. I'm not really trying to be preachy (as an omnivore, I guess that would be hypocritical). I guess, I'm just trying to get people to think a little before they grab the "R@!D" or "Kill-X" or what-have-you to eradicate whatever pests are bugging them.

Most bugs can be encouraged to go outside (my Mom spent years as a teacher, calmly showing kids in portables that they could safely 'trap' wasps under a cup, using a piece of cardboard, to gently slide underneath.) She also was instrumental in teaching me tolerance for spiders. She has a great story of returning a large spider back to a rural area where it had originally been captured, and had to take it on the train. Ask her about it sometime n__n.


PS--If you're curious about the role-reversal of ants/ humans or humans as pests; check out the amazing book by William Tenn "Of Men and Monsters".

All artwork (c) 2012 Suzanne A. Marsden

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Even more painting and zombies

Hi all!

It's been a busy week or so. Last week was the Ottawa Comic Jam's 3rd Anniversary party! Wahey, as my pal Nia would say n__n. If you go over to the new Jam site, you can ogle photos and fresh artwork as well! Thanks again for all the love and support guys--it is so much appreciated.

It's very tough for me to host things like this because I'm naturally quite shy, even though I can fake being an extrovert. I like being in a quiet, creative space, just pooting along doing my own thing. It takes an enormous amount of will to organize the Jam and keep it going--even though people assure me I make it look easy (?). So, to everyone who endures the ridiculous angst the week before the Jam and the day itself, (when I'm freaking out and crawling the walls)...and who still talk to me the next day... THANK YOU.

So! On an unrelated Jam note, I started an experimental Acrylics class at Art Mad in Stittsville, with Bernice, our lovely instructor! I had my first class last week, which was about 3 hours. I worked from a photo I'd taken last summer in Fredericton, when I'd been invited to crash my friends Rob Anderson & Bobbie Stewart's family reunion. I had a great time and got to see many interesting salads (and pick up the very cool Harris Family Cookbook, courtesy of Goldie, Nina (Maya) & Rick Stewart's hard work!)
I still would like to put more work into this, but I'm happy with how it is coming along:

The acrylics class students were all really excited and supportive of my effort, as was the proprietor of the shop who asked if it was for sale?! My Mom liked it too. She has expressed a strong opinion that I should be painting more often, and I think I'll take her up on that advice ;-) (To see more of my early efforts, check out the Argle blog here!)

I got to catch up with my pals Nadine & Westin Tuesday, which was good. We went to Carlingwood Mall and I got to browse Pet World. There were Siamese kittens, little turtles, huge hermit crabs (I do like hermit crabs!!) I saw cute Dumbo rat teenagers with funny bellies and cute 'Mickey Mouse' ears. We watched a hamster jam tons of rodent blocks into its cheek pouches 'for later'. Then I headed to the back and watched puppies rolling around. There was a giant Labrador on his back w/ massive paws in the air. He was three times bigger than Hank. Apparently I'm not permitted more puppies :-P

After grocery shopping and a stop at the LCBO, Westin & I spent time finishing a few of the Jam stories from last week. He couldn't attend the party but was keen to get some drawings in. He also received 'UNION' by Image comics as a freebie--lucky guy!

Westin and I decided we'd work on a co-written/ plotted/ etcedrted Zombie comic. I got excited and drew panel 1 yesterday. I have no clue what he's going to follow-up with, and I don't know where or how we'll host the comic so it can be read in order..but here at least is my 'Panel 1'. (Possibly we'll compile them over on Deviantart).

It was fun doing something completely different. I've never drawn a zombie story before, so it should be interesting!

Cheers, and a moment of silence for Mr. Bradbury, who passed away June 5th. I was sad to hear that he'd passed, though at 91 he had a great run! Some of my favourite short stories were penned by him; and no one can describe gothic Americana... Rockwell with the hidden razor in the apple, quite like Bradbury!


All artwork (c) 2012 Suzanne A. Marsden (except the Ray Bradbury novel covers).

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Hello comrades!

There is a new post over on Argle featuring the nascent acrylic blunderings of yours truly. Go check it out! A preview of my attempts to make a cool and funky birthday painting for my niece!
Gridding up the b & w printout of Mario, gridding up the canvas (fun!) Using a grid is a great way to enlarge a picture if you want to paint it (and don't have a projector). It helps if the original drawing and the canvas are exactly the same ratio (your 3 x 4 drawing translates far easier to a 12 x 16 canvas than an 8 x 8).  My teacher Kala Ritchie recommends using a watercolour pencil to trace it out, but as I hadn't yet started my class I didn't know that. I used a 2B and just painted thickly over the lines... esp the white areas.

4 days of gridding, erasing, painting and staying up late produces Mario! Then I got to outline him w/ blue-black to make him pop. I was tempted to throw in all the bricks on the castle and stuff, but easily talked myself out of it.

Ahh, who says art critics are all mean? Here is Bronwyn on her 8th bday enjoying some original artwork--yay!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Myst cat

The story of Myst began with my roots in the Ottawa Animation community. I had just dropped out of the BFA program at Ottawa U and I needed to find a job. My summer job from '89 (tie-dyeing t-shirts for a couple of Deadheads) was no longer available, and I scoured the paper. A small classified ad appeared for Hinton Animation Studios and I managed to get an interview. Little did I know that by the time Hinton finally rolled up its carpet, it would have employed pretty much every artist, cartoonist, neo-tattooist, punk, scribbler, animator and muralist in town. You see; it needed cel-painters by the truckload for a feature film (aka 'Opaquers'). These were the lucky folks who hand-painted the back of acetate cels for TV shows (The Raccoons) and yes, features (Warner Bros. The Nutcracker Prince).

Opaquing, although not rocket-science, took patience, steady hands, good eyes and, understandably enough something to get you through the dullness of painting 245 cels of a raccoon tying shoelaces and standing up. The 'something', for me, and many of the other opaquers was music. Music (at that time, dragged around on cassettes and walkmans..or ghetto blasters...) was listened to, shared, traded and copied. A LOT.

Celtic fusion, an interest in traditional fantasy RPGs, and a love of comics helped to gel one of the most amazing groups of friends I've had the pleasure of building. 22 yrs and counting... n__n It was at Hinton that I met Rob Anderson, Bobbie Stewart, Clayton Jacobs and Bobbie's sister Nina Stewart (though I've always known her as 'Maya' <--'good Maya' for anyone who is paying attention :-)

Years ago, Maya brought home a Manx kitten from her Uncle's farm in her home province of New Brunswick. The kitten was Matilda, an amazing cat, with a unique personality and yellow, owl-like eyes. She was a beautiful creature, squared off bum, dark fur with gold highlights. Maya was hoping to revive the NB line of Manx cats, specifically those which, rumour had it, had some wildcat blood in their background somewhere! One only has to look at say, this pic of a lynx to make a few logical jumps to the truth...

Matilda never had kittens, but Maya's black cat Mungo (also a Manx from NB) eventually hooked up with my Mom's barn cat Minkie (the famous cat from 'The Story of Minkie's Kitten') We figured that at the end of it all, we'd end up with Munkies n__n . Minkie littered 6 kittens, one of whom was an unusual black striped tabby named El Diablo who, despite the ill-fated name, was one of the gentlest and sweetest kitties I've ever known. Of the other six, two were Manx, and of those two one survived.

I had no idea at the time that Manx mutations can have terrible genetic consequences; since the lack of a tail being the end of the cat's spinal column, can produce kittens that can't live (or live well) if the spine is too short. One is left with paralyzed kittens, or unfinished kittens, or kittens that can't control their bowels. Little Bongo, a grey tabby Manx, was one of the latter and sadly had to be put to sleep.

The other Manx of the litter, was a tiny, grey silver 'hamster'; tailless, healthy and female. We called her Myst and she was born Jan 4th, 1997. Myst grew to be a thick-set, silver grey cat with dark yellow 'owl eyes' (reminiscent of her Aunt Matilda) and paranoiac to the extreme, thanks to her barn cat mom, Minkie, who I can only assume coached her to 'TRUST NOTHING' and watch out for 'The Sack'. (When my Mom initially picked up Minkie and her brother Sammy from a local farm, the 11 yr old sent to get the kittens in the barn did so with a canvas bag, if you can believe it.)

Myst came with me during my move to Bell St. S. when I was working at Dynomight Cartoons and could walk to work. These were happy, peaceful times for Myst as she was to enjoy the singular experience of being an 'Only Cat'. You know how some cats yearn to be 'only cats', with no other cats, dogs or kids around to harass them? That lasted until Thanksgiving when Arlo turned up at my Mom's back door after a 3 month disappearance! Myst's 'only cat-ness' was over and she wasn't happy about it. She expressed her unhappiness the only way a cat can. She peed. She peed in the hallway, the bathroom, the kitchen, the hallway, the entranceway. This continued, pretty much unabated, for the rest of her life in various homes and apartments. Since Myst was never to return to 'only cat'dom, I can't say I'm that surprised.

But she was a sweet, darling kitty. She was a gentle soul that loved a tender scratch under her chin. If you spent time brushing and really going through the quadruple layer of plush fur, she would make hilarious grunting/chirp noises and lick her paws while you did it. Sometimes she would even deign to let Hank clean her ears (not that cats have that much of a choice, when it comes to persistent Corgis...)

She used to be almost completely round, and, when sleeping it was hard to tell which end was which. She had steadily lost weight over the last few years and had developed arthritis, making it difficult to go up and down the stairs or jump on the couch (she had to give it a few 'go's' to finally hop on. Her 'protest' pees that happened a few times a week increased to daily, then a few times a day, usually in the kitchen, where you are generally stumbling around in your bare feet or socks, trying to conjure coffee.

I realized awhile ago that I was putting off the inevitable. Myst's health was going downhill and she was having a harder time getting around. And the peeing. Constantly. It took everything I had to call the Stittsville Small Animal Clinic and book her final appointment. I didn't know that they put euthanasia as the last appointment of the day, but I understand now why they do it. After I'd phoned, I cried, sitting on the couch, feeling like a murderer. Hank nuzzled up next to me, first on one side, then the other, trying to sort out what was wrong.

Yesterday was impossible. I kept crying; every time I looked at her, I kept thinkng of the tiny felt grey hamster she'd been as a newborn kitten. Then I looked at Hank and realized that I'd lose him sometime as well. Then I felt worse as my imagination and temperament went into full Sue-swing. Then I talked to my Mom and Clayton and settled down a little.

Finally, the end of the day came and we packed Myst in the cat carrier and drove to Stittsville. She meowed the whole time; little yowly, growly meows... similar in tone to her half-brother Saki's ululations, but without his range. I had trouble seeing to drive and kept wiping my eyes on tissues and trying to clean my sunglasses which were steaming up. Finally, we parked in the lot and I just let it out. The sun had turned everything gold and green; the sky was a stark, spring blue with thick low-hanging clouds. Myst was quiet except for an occasional 'what-the-hell-is-going-on?' mew.

We went in and were ushered into a cubicle. I was shaking and kept wiping my face. It felt puffy and I couldn't breathe. Dr. Bickerton came in and I signed the form. It felt surreal watching the pen jerk over the paper; signing her death sentence. Myst was released from the carrier and explored the room curiously. She'd not been back since she'd been spayed by Dr. J. Randall, who had also given her her ear tattoo at the time: HZB6.

The doc explained everything to me, but it was all running together in a haze of tears and guilt. I just pet Myst's fur while she lay on the towel; the little IV set up in her tiny grey arm. I could feel the muscle and fat under her fur. Her brow was its usual puzzled, slightly disapproving line. Finally the deep rumble of her purr came forth and I cried even more.

At that minute, I hated the ease of power that we exercise over our companion animals..they live blissfully unaware that they have no say as to their future under our care. Then, randomly, you set up an appointment to have them killed. You drive them there, sign papers, they are lethally injected, you pay money to the ones who do it for you, because you're too much of a coward to kill them yourself and you go home with the silent corpse in the car. I felt a deep self-loathing and rage, and that was part of the shaking. I felt the ultimate sense that I had betrayed something's innocent and unguarded trust in me.

It didn't matter that she was old. It didn't matter that it was hard for her to walk and that she was incontinent. In my head, I was doing an awful, unforgivable act.

I kept petting her and remembering her, and finally giving the signal for the sedative. Myst relaxed. the little shoulders slumped and her head tilted. I pet her, feeling my face pinch tightly against my skin, my forehead pounding with the beginning of an awful headache. Myst let out a quiet snore. I felt something ease in my chest. She was asleep. The doctor gave us time the entire way, to say goodbyes, to hold Myst, to be ready to let her go for good. I couldn't believe the depth and gentle understanding of these people; to have that perfect empathy and knowledge and love was incredible.

I nodded, numbly letting her know it was Time.
She gave Myst the drug and my body felt like it was being compressed on all sides; that I couldn't take it, that the pressure of the emotion was going to burst me from within. My hands shook as I kept petting Myst, feeling the life ease from her, a thin soul running like smoke from the edges of a fleshy envelope. I knew it had to happen, but wished with everything in me that I could push it back, fix it, make it better; make her better, but I couldn't.

We stayed with Myst and just held her. She was gone; no purrs, no snoring, no licking her paws and making her annoyed grumbly sounds; just empty and soft and cooling, except for the heat of my hands.

I was wrung out; a damp cloth squeezed of emotion and tears. The doc took Myst and we went out to the front of the clinic. The technician was understanding and kind, we said the right words to each other; but my voice was croaky. I was half in reminiscence and half there. It was surreal paying with a bank card for something so unlikely. Only 2 hours before I'd bought groceries with the same card. Life and death. $124.00.

Dr. Bickerton brought Myst out in the carrier, wrapped in a towel for a shroud. She handed me the carrier and I staggered through heart-felt thank yous. What better or more gentle person could help you through something like this? Someone who healed and when healing was impossible, sent those trusting, aching creatures onward. The doctor said: if you need to talk, it's ok. Call me. I nodded numbly, sniffling and moving through the open door; penetrating my own envelope between what had just happened and what was to be.

The parking lot looked exactly the same. The sun was still going down; gold and the lawns were the intense green of spring. The sky was a richer blue and the clouds looked like thick shreds of cotton candy, indigo on the bottom and white with grey. It looked like time had stopped and I thought of Auden's poem:

"...Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come..."

W. H. Auden

It is probably vaguely sacrilegious to quote Auden for a cat. But what the hell. It was death, and I watched as Clayton slid the carrier/coffin into the car and the words kept going through my head.

We drove quietly home and my face pounded with tears and pressure. It was getting a little darker as we began to prepare the grave. I dragged a shovel from the shed and dug deep. It was rich soil, mixed with clay and I knew I would plant catnip and a rose on top of it. It would be ok. I kept digging. Clayton cleared raspberry canes that were trying to blind me.

We lifted Myst, wrapped in her shroud. She was limp and soft, heavy and quiet. We laid her down and talked about her. She was a sweet cat, without a mean bone in her body. What could be better than to be recalled as never having been mean? Can most people say they've never been mean? I placed boards across the shroud, and refilled the loose soil. Clay tamped it down and we piled stones over her. It was finished.

Remember when you have light and love and youth in your hands; that sprightly kitten, the goofy puppy...hold on to that joy and the intensity of that love. Hold on to it.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Get your JAM on!

Comics Comics Comics.

It is that time of the year. The Comic festivals, cons, parties, celebrations, free comics, etc are coming (or in some cases are in full swing). What better way to get your comic fix than by coming out to a free Comic Jam in the Nation's Capital? This month, the Ottawa Comic Jam group's event takes place Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 at its usual home, the Shanghai Restaurant, 651 Somerset St. W. Ottawa ON K1R 5K3. Our theme this month is Open!

What do you mean, Open Theme? Is Sue too lazy to pick a theme? Nosirree Bob! This month, our Open Theme is literally that. Bring your own work to share; if you're cranking out comic pages for publication (book or web) bring it to the Jam to let others check it out! Or, participate in our traditional jam where everyone works on continuous stories, each adding a panel until we get to the end and have a hilarious and weird conclusion!

Ultimately, look at this April's Jam as almost a 'mini-con' in anticipation of the Ottawa Comiccon happening May 12th-13th. Only at the Shanghai, the tables are free and we don't have to bus to the airport n__n. Bring your zines, comics, buttons, t-shirts, whatever promo you have and shill to your fellow artists. We're broke (yes, it is tax time), but there are no greater supporters of indie and zine comics than indie and zine comic-creators.

Everyone is welcome to this event. Come out and get excited about comics in Ottawa and see what everyone is up to!

Cheers and hope to see you April 25th.

PS--I WILL be bringing back-issues of the lovely indie comix anthology by yours truly: "Abraxia's Dream" 1-3, "aBraxIa" #4, and if I can get them printed in time, the sweet and ground-breaking mini "Ivy & Dummy" (c) 2012 Suzanne A. Marsden.

PPS--Even if you don't have current work (or physical work) to promote, feel free to bring business cards to hand out w/ your links and such to your art and comics.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Who reviews the reviewers?

I am in great spirits! Creatively, February is my 'go' month, I believe, thanks to St. Brigid (who reigns over fire and creativity n__n). I also think that part of my creative burn also stems from February 1st being Hourly Comic Day (invented by John Campbell)

I finally was able to scan and post my Hourlies and you can find them on my Deviantart page! Huzzah! I find it hilarious that I reference 'Iron Chef' not only this year, but last hear as well. What can I say, mysteriously, after my Gastric Bypass, I became interested in the Cooking Network.

Another very Cool Thing that has happened was receiving my contributors copies of the 'The Antigonish Review' Winter 2012 issue. I reviewed Carol Little's "Hide Your Life Away"; which actually was featured in the Hourly Comics 2011 and 2012 (coincidence?! :-) To read the review of Carol's book, head on over to the Antigonish Review's site.

The Comic Jam has been going very well as of late. I just finished uploading the January Jam's art and tweaking the site. The Orleans/ East End Comix Jam, run by Dwight Williams on the 3rd Friday of the month has had two meetings so far and the artwork is posted.

Also, for fun, Westin Church, Nadine Fazio, Clayton Jacobs, Colleen Temple and I started the 'ArgleBlargle Art Blog of Collective Creativity' to try and boost each other's creative impetus. It has been fun so far. I should be posting links to some of our ancient "Drink & Draws" on the site, which date back to 2005 or so (I think?)

In the meantime, I am keeping busy planning my Next Big Road Trip which is from here (Ottawa, ON) to Key West FL with my Mom. We have been accumulating some cool incidental desinations to check out in our travel-log, but if anyone has some suggestions, feel free to share!

All best, and big hugs