Death of a Cat and a Character

Two weeks ago our beautiful sweet Siamese Boris died. We miss him greatly, not just as a pet but as a friend who always seemed so tuned in to our moods and feelings. He was almost eighteen and had a great life and a good death – yet this does not make the sadness any less, only “cleaner” perhaps, since there are no regrets.

Apart from all the “usual” mourning, I have an additional, specific problem. Boris was also a character in our books – a mostly silent one but still part of most of our backgrounds. (I blogged about the cats in my books two years ago, here).

Boris in ‘Philosophy – a Discovery in Comics’

 

We’re about halfway working on our next book and of course Boris has made his appearance. So what do I do, do I keep drawing him? Or do I just drop him from my pictures? Do I need to address his absence in any way, and how can I do that without distracting from the theme of the book? (which is World Power, something most cats have little interest in)

After pondering it for a while, I came up with this solution, in the first panel of a chapter in which I discuss the progress of the book with my brother:

That’s Yiri holding Boris’ picture next to what I call my “deity drawer”, a small cupboard for incense, some god statuettes and assorted spiritual books. It’s also the place where I put pictures of the dearly departed. (The deity drawer is featured in my book about Religion)

So there.

It is addressed. Boris gets his place among the legendary mortal supporting comics characters.

And we will have to face the problems of the world without him from now on – quite literally in our lives but also in our books.

Sleep well, dear Boris, you will live on in our hearts.

boris

Of Cats Past, Part Four

The nicest cat I ever lived with (apart maybe from Siamese Boris) was Bloem, a feisty, sociable, intelligent small black female who had all but literally clawed her way out of the garbage cans of Amsterdam as a kitten to set up home with me, in 1999.

In 2004 I drew her into a comic adventure for my (then) stepdaughter Ellen, on her ninth birthday. I called it The Riddle of Nine and later translated it into English, giving Bloem (which means “flower” in Dutch) the name Daisy.

 

 

You can read the full story when you click here – it is a mix of elements from a number of children’s books, movies and comics I love, all drawn together in a tale of nine riddles and set in Neil Gaiman’s world of Sandman, the Dreaming (post-Morpheus, for those who care, it’s a story featuring the Daniel-Dream). I was delighted when Neil Gaiman himself read the comic online and commented on it in his blog: “As far as Sandman fanfiction tributes that are also excellent kids’ comics go, this is the bees knees.” 

But I was even more delighted that Ellen loved it, and has read and re-read it many times since.

Now, eight years later, it has also become a story of remembrance of Bloem, who sadly died in 2007, only eight years old.

 

Bloem 1999-2007

 

Of Cats Past, Part Three

For seven years, I was the proud owner of four cats – or more accurately: I was proudly owned by four cats, which is quite an army.

They provided me with ample material for my daily webcomic in 2005-2006:

 

Yes, I was a blonde once. And “mauw” is indeed Dutch for “meow”.

 

Of Cats Past, Part Two

I’m going through my archives looking for comics I drew my cats in – and here’s one from 2003 featuring Tijger, a typical tabby: vibrant, affectionate, dominant and fierce.

 

(That’s me in the lower bit, consoling Johan. In 2003, I was a stepmother to three children and living in a small house with a garden.)

I experimented here with a non-linear flow of visuals, influenced by colleague Michiel van de Pol, who makes wonderfully free and wacky comics and cartoons. I still like the pace of this comic, and how I sort of successfully camouflaged the fact that I’m not good at drawing backgrounds by just adding a few props.

Of Cats Past, Part One

I looked through my archive to see when I drew my first cat-comic – and it’s this one, from 1999, about my sweet albeit a bit grumpy Scottish kitty Djinn:

I’m pleasantly surprised with the way I drew Djinn, and I really like the dream-sequence. But I’m less enthusiastic about the way I drew myself, I was going for some funny abstract comic figure, but to me it now mostly reflects how I could not grasp my self-image in that period – both graphically and metaphysically.

This comic was originally in Dutch – I translated it just now and lettered it with my own handwriting font I made on www.myscriptfont.com. It’s a quick, easy and free way to make your own font!

 

Philosophical Cats

I like to write and draw about my own personal life – in fact, all of my comics have autobiographical elements in one way or another. I especially like to draw our cats, beautiful Siamese Boris and his dark sidekick Toto. They both appear in ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’. In fact, Boris’ dreaming sparks the chapter about what human consciousness is, compared to that of other animals.

From: ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’

 

After ten pages exploring different features that may define consciousness, such as Logical Thinking, Self-reflection, Use of Symbols and Language, I draw the following conclusion:

 

Our cats also make an appearance in the two books that follow the Philosophy book – about Religion and Science (both published in The Netherlands and not in translation – yet). I really like drawing them and us in our natural modus, which is: lying in our kingsize bed.

 

From: ‘Religie in Beeld’ (2011)

 

In the book about Science, I use the cats in a similar argument as in the Philosophy book: what makes a scientific mind? Why have animals no science?

 

Isn’t the natural curiosity in cats the same as in humans? And isn’t that curiosity the base of science…? Yet, humans like to experiment and categorize, and that is not something a lot of animals do. Still, that may be mostly due to their lack of opposable thumbs – not lack of intelligence.

So – wouldn’t our cats monitor the barking-frequency of our neighbor’s dog if they had a chance…?

From: ‘Wetenschappen in Beeld’ (2012)

 

More comic cats to follow in the coming weeks… so keep an eye on this spot!