Neil Gaiman says:

Neil Gaiman says:
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

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