Neil Gaiman says:

Neil Gaiman says:
pic by Allan Amato

Daily Comic Journal

I'm taking the opportunity to post a semi-regular comic journal on this site. If you'd like to start at the beginning, head to February 10th, 2011.

To view the 1,000 Themes Project, please head over to my Deviantart page. Thanks!

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.

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.