A year ago, someone posted this photo of Cookie the calico cat on Reddit, and they gave me permission to share it here with you. This is exactly how I’ve always imagined Patches when writing her scenes, right down to her fluff and color patterns. Like Patches, Cookie was homeless before being adopted, and she is very intense about getting people to feed her. Rock on, Cookie!
The Puma Years: A Memoir is my favorite book I’ve read this year. It’s the true story of a young woman who, feeling like something was missing from her nice, safe life with a soul-crushing white-collar job, went on a trip to Bolivia and visited a ramshackle wildlife sanctuary. There, she was assigned to care for Wayra, a puma with a troubled past due to being a victim of the illegal wildlife trade which killed her mother and placed her in an abusive home as a kitten.
Over time, Laura—the author—bonds with Wayra, but the path is not an easy one. Wayra distrusts people, and rightfully so, and she is kept in an enclosure where she is very unhappy. One of Laura’s jobs is to take Wayra on daily runs, as pumas like to roam, but the big cat is almost too much for her to handle safely.
You might wonder why they didn’t just let Wayra run free into the Bolivian jungle, but Wayra never had a mother to teach her to hunt and navigate the wilderness. In one especially heartrending episode, Wayra does escape. But she cannot deal with her freedom, so she constantly circles the camp and becomes a danger. When Laura finds Wayra and tries to put her on a leash, Wayra lashes out, and the wounds require stitches.
But Laura does not blame the puma. She realizes she handled the situation in the worst way possible. Laura writes:
It’s me who has these ropes, ropes that held her when she was a tiny, mewling puffed-up ball of fur, that tightened around her neck. That whipped her when she was sad, that took her mother and everything she knew away.
Other dramatic passages tell of the outbreak of a forest fire that threatened the entire sanctuary and the lives of the many animals and people there. Laura and her friends risk their lives to dig a ditch, clear away the plants, and make a firewall. It appears many times that all might be lost for the big cats and their caretakers. But at last, the fire burns out, and when Laura visits Wayra in the aftermath, something magical happens.
Wayra, who had never swum in the nearby river—unlike a typical puma who has no fear of water—decides to go for a swim. Laura enters the river with her, and the two of them frolic in waters that I personally would be too scared to explore.
For most of the book, the relationship between Wayra and Laura seems like one step up and two steps back. I don’t remember ever crying so much over a book, but the journey is worth it. In the end, things do work out for Wayra. But Laura reminds us that deforestation and the illegal pet trade and the super-sketchy “zoos” of Bolivia require much more work to solve—a work Laura continued long after the events of The Puma Years.
If you have ever loved a cat, or wondered how those of us who do can form such strong bonds with our feline friends, then you need to add The Puma Years to your reading list. It will break your heart and sew it back together many times, and give you a glimpse into the nature of these magnificent animals.
A few weeks ago, I told you the story of my Hello Kitty ice pack. Shout out to my friend Ashley who found a couple on Ebay—but they were like fifty bucks. That’s a lot to ask for an ice pack, so I looked around for some Hello Kitty comic books.
That’s how I ended up with an excellent used copy of Kitty’s fortieth anniversary collection, Hello 40: A Celebration in 40 Stories. Thanks to this blog’s readers, I had just received an Amazon gift certificate that covered the cost, and Hello Kitty has joined the Big Box of Comics.
The hardback edition is gorgeous, from the metallic red lettering on the cover to the overall design and the non-stop cuteness of the short comics that showcase a wide variety of art styles, from watercolor painting to paper cut-outs. While many of the vignettes revolve around Kitty having a birthday party or eating cake with friends and family, she also crash-lands a spaceship and explores another planet, meets a dragon who roasts marshmallows with his flame, goes on a couple of wild roller coaster rides, uses a time machine, stars in a movie, and has fantastic dreams after eating too many cookies before bedtime. Fans of San Rio characters will recognize a few of her friends such as the penguin (Badtz-Maru) and frog (Kerropi).
Sure, some scary or sad stuff happens, but Kitty’s tales always end happily, and no one is ever hurt. When Space Kitty makes an alien monster cry by taking away his shiny new toy—a fallen satellite she and a friend are sent to retrieve—Kitty cheers him up with a giant cupcake, and everyone is happy. Kitty has a knack for winning over her fearsome foes through acts of kindness and irrepressible good humor.
The stories are almost entirely wordless except for text-based sound effects, earning Kitty a place in our wordless comics collection, too. When the characters speak, their words are simple pictures, a kind of emoji-based dialogue.
By now, you know most of my favorite tales involve hyper-violent dinosaur battles, doomed criminals, and ridiculously grim super-hero deconstructions. Hello 40 might seem like an odd addition to my library but, hey, I like some cute stuff too! Whether you’re looking for a kid-friendly book or you want to indulge your own inner child, Hello 40 is sure to bring a smile to your face.
I don’t recall what injury I’d suffered when my girlfriend at the time gave me her Hello Kitty Ice Pack, because it must have been about fifteen years ago now. It’s been so long that no one even manufactures the ice pack anymore—and that is tragic, because my Kitty was taken from me this year.
Let’s take a moment to memorialize the world’s cutest healthcare item.
Hello Kitty was always there for me when I burned myself cooking, or when I jammed a finger or toe like some kind of clueless monkey. She was there for me around 2015 when I pulled out a kitchen drawer too quickly and it fell on my toe. The corner of the wooden drawer just about crushed my toe, and the pain was so awful that I couldn’t even sleep for a week unless I kept my toe entirely encased in ice like Captain America. The toenail turned black from all the blood gathering under it, and the damage to the cuticle was so severe that for a while I actually had a second toenail growing out on top of the old, dead nail. It took nearly a year before my toe was right again.
Another agonizing time Hello Kitty helped me survive was in 2016 when I had some inexplicably excruciating pain in my mouth and jaw that was so intense I gave serious consideration to going out like Kurt Cobain just to make it stop.
It turns out the pain was most likely caused by a sinus infection which also laid me low for months and was impinging on the roots of one of my molars. The mystery wasn’t solved until a dentist removed that molar for unrelated reasons and we saw the root of the tooth was covered with infection.
Let that be a lesson to you.
Last year, Hello Kitty came to the rescue for one of my neighbors. I was outside smoking on the balcony of the apartment complex when the neighbor’s daughter fell through their front window. She had been playing all rowdy and fell against a screen that couldn’t support her, and out she tumbled. I saw it happen.
The poor girl’s head hit the pavement so hard that I heard the sickening crunch from the other side of the complex. I hope I never hear that sound again. I grabbed Hello Kitty and a second ice pack from my freezer and ran down to their apartment.
The girl went to the hospital that night, and it turns out she had fractured her skull. I find that particularly horrifying because one of my earliest memories is from when I was about five and staying with my grandparents during the summer. This neighborhood kid I played with all the time fell off a wall and cracked open his head on the concrete below. Blood spilled everywhere. Years later, because the scene kept popping up in my dreams until I wasn’t sure if it was a real memory or not, I asked my grandmother about it. She was surprised I remembered it, but she said the boy survived.
So did the neighbor girl. Kids are so resilient sometimes. Not long afterward, she was back to raising hell on the property, running around and shouting and banging on the metal fence around the pool like it was a percussion instrument. She’ll probably grow up to become a drummer. Anyway, her mom eventually stopped by to return Hello Kitty and fill me in on the saga.
A few months later, an adult neighbor injured herself, so I let her borrow Hello Kitty and my backup ice pack. Sadly, that was the last I ever saw of Kitty. That neighbor moved out this year, and she took my bloody ice pack with her. Bitch, give me back my Kitty!
I can’t find anywhere that sells Hello Kitty Ice Pack anymore, so I’d be grateful if you can find one for me. Kitty and I survived the depths of hell together many times, and she was the cutest thing who always made me smile regardless of the horrors we confronted. I have since replaced her with other ice packs, but Kitty can never truly be replaced.
Long may she run.
One night, around sixteen years ago in Phoenix, I was walking home from a local bar called Shady’s, which was a nice place to meet friendly people and strike up casual conversations or a game of pool on the single bar-box table by the booths. Shady’s also had a cute fireplace filled with candles, a fun jukebox with loads of alt-rock, and a cozy outdoor patio for smokers. The bar had closed, and I had more than a few pints in me, but the house my girlfriend and I were renting at the time was only a leisurely twenty- or thirty-minute walk away.
I was just north of Los Olivos Park when I encountered a kittycat wandering the suburban streets. She was quite talkative but seemed to be in good health: no apparent injuries, no visible infestations or wounds, a shiny coat, and a friendly, perky attitude. I pet her for a bit and chatted with her, assuming she was someone’s cat who had gotten outside and was exploring the hood. Then I said good-bye.
She followed me.
Normally, I would have waved her off and told her to go home, but I was feeling super relaxed, and she was cute. So, I just talked to her as we went on our merry way. I figured any cat who meowed to the high heavens like she was doing must be hungry, and my girlfriend and I had plenty of cat food at home. (We had two male cats at the time.)
The house was on the corner of the rather busy 32nd Street, and as I approached home, the cat wandered into the middle of the street. I admonished her with thoughtful, drunken guidance such as, “What the fuck are you doing, kitty?! Get the hell out of the street!” She didn’t seem to care.
That turned out to be a bit of foreshadowing about what a reckless, rowdy hell-beast was following me. Eventually, I made it home, and the cat was right behind me. I went inside and got a bowl and some food for her, accidentally waking up my girlfriend who was like, “What are you doing?”
When I told her a kitten had followed me home and I was going to feed it, she was totally on board. The cat continued to meow at the top of her lungs until she shoved her face in the food bowl and chowed down. We all hung out for a bit until kitty seemed to have eaten her fill. I went inside and went to bed.
This all happened the night before I left for the weekend on a solo trip up to Flagstaff with my acoustic guitar in search of some nature inspiration for new compositions. I had a great weekend and was happy with many of the ideas I came up with while jamming in scenic areas such as Midgely Bridge. I eventually recorded the songs Midgely Bridge and Tadpoles based on that trip.
But when I came home, I discovered the lost kittycat had, in the span of a few short days, moved into our attic, been coaxed out by my girlfriend and one of her friends, and was now living in the house! Despite being well-fed, she still meowed as loudly as an air-raid siren, and my girlfriend had named her Piper—due to having quite a set of pipes on her.
I was, at first, unhappy about adding a third cat to our household, but what could I say about it? It was my drunk ass who picked her up in the streets in the first place!
So, Piper joined our feline family and proceeded to raise almighty hell. Don’t get me wrong: Piper was an absolutely adorable kitty who loved to snuggle and cuddle and play. But she was also apparently unaware of her mortality and her volume. Sometimes I had to shut her in one of the bedrooms for my own sanity when she would not be quiet, and sometimes she created absolute chaos with zero regard for her own safety.
I think if Piper had been born human, she would have been a stunt woman and put the illustrious Zoë Bell to shame. One of her more memorable stunts in recent years was jumping on a dinner table to attack a cooked turkey. She didn’t land on the table. She landed in a bowl of mashed potatoes, freaked out, grabbed a huge portion of turkey, and launched her potato-covered self off the table to feast on her prize.
Other times, she would just go into total destruction mode and maul a piece of art or furniture. But it was hard to stay mad at Piper for long, because she was just trying to have fun, and she was so damn cute. She was, in her own way, a little hell-raising anarchist with a punk-rock attitude, but she was also incredibly loving and apparently unaware of the damage she inflicted. Piper wasn’t trying to be a bad kitty; she just had a rowdy fire that could not be quenched.
Piper Kitty passed away last week. In her final days, she refused to take food or water and was quite disoriented. But she took a sedative that calmed her down, and she died comfortably cradled in the arms of the woman who loved her and adopted her.
I don’t believe in the afterlife, but if there was one, Piper would be there right now tearing the ever-loving shit out of it and raising all kinds of unholy hell. Then she would act like nothing had ever happened and come looking for a snuggle. And who could resist?
Big hugs and cuddles go out to the cat who followed me home one night and screamed her way into our hearts. Long may she run.
Matthew Flinders was a sailor, explorer, mapmaker, and navigator who served in England’s Royal Navy and once sailed with William Bligh after the events recounted in Mutiny on the Bounty. History remembers Flinders as the man who gave Australia its current name, and for completing the first circumnavigation of that island continent.
But history also honors the cat who made that voyage and many others with Flinders. If you visit the Mitchell Library in Sydney, you will find a statue of Flinders and, very near to it, a plaque and statue of Trim, the black-and-white feline adventurer who was born on a ship at sea and enjoyed waging war against one of the true terrors of nautical life: the pestilent vermin who sought to eat the sailors’ food.
The first time I read about Trim, it was in the hilarious and detailed history of Australia, Girt by David Hunt. Today, I was reminded of Trim while reading the small but delightful 100 Cats Who Changed Civilization by Sam Stall. Each short chapter tells the tale of a noteworthy cat, from the first known cat to be named thousands of years ago to exceptional cats of the current century, from cats of well-known authors and heads of state to cats in recent popular culture. Trim’s chapter is the second to last.
I highly recommend both Girt and 100 Cats Who Changed Civilization, but their summaries of Trim’s life pale in comparison to the affectionate memoir penned by Flinders himself. You can read it for free online at The Flinders Papers.
With a little exaggeration, as cat lovers are prone to make, and a great deal of love and respect for his sea-faring companion of many years, Flinders describes Trim’s travels, travails, and triumphs. I sometimes worry that my fiction stories involving a space-traveling cat living with interplanetary rogues and brigands will strain the reader’s suspension of disbelief. But when reading Trim’s story in Flinders’ own words, and the stories in 100 Cats, I am reminded of the great variety of character and capability to be found among felines, many of which defy our stereotypical ideas about what cats can do, and feel, and accomplish.
Flinders’ memoir about Trim ends with an epitaph. Here are its final lines:
Many a time have I beheld his little merriments with delight,
and his superior intelligence with surprise:
Never will his like be seen again!
Trim was born in the Southern Indian Ocean, in the year 1799
and perished as above at the Isle of France in 1804.
Peace be to his shade, and
Honour to his memory.
—Matthew Flinders, 1809.
Every now and then, I read a tragic story that breaks my heart, but no comic-book adventure has ever broken me so relentlessly as We3. A friend who isn’t really into comic books got into Grant Morrison thanks to the live-action show Happy—based on the four-issue series of the same name published by Image—so I’ve been digging into the Morrison archives. Along the way, I realized I’d never read what many people consider to be one of Morrison’s best works, if not the best. We3 is an action-packed story brought to life by Morrison’s long-time artistic collaborator Frank Quitely, and though I’ve enjoyed Quitely’s artwork for years, he outdid his own genius on We3. Before we delve into the book, let me just say that this story features one of my all-time favorite things: a cat who absolutely kicks ass.
The cat’s given name is Tinker, but she is only referred to in the story as “2”. Tinker is part of a team of three normal animals who have been surgically altered and had their brains messed with so they can become killing machines encased in high-tech armor to perform military missions and assassinations instead of having human soldiers do the job. Joining Tinker in this horrifying experiment are the dog Bandit—referred to as “1”, and the only one of the three to re-discover his real name in the story—and a rabbit named Pirate (“3”) because of a black spot over one eye.
Each of these animals was someone’s beloved pet before the story began. Instead of telling the reader this fact through flashbacks or exposition, the creative team shows it much more powerfully with “lost pet” flyers on the covers of each issue. When you realize what has been done to these hapless animals, the covers hit like a punch to the gut.
When the higher-ups decide that these lost and kidnapped animals need to be killed—decommissioned, per orders—the three of them escape their containment facility and run away. Their combat modifications and training make them dangerous to society, so the military pursues them. One of the many tragic aspects of this story is that the trio doesn’t mean to be dangerous murder machines. These animals were forced against their will to become horrors in the service of the same humans who want to put them down.
Nowhere is this more strongly portrayed than through Bandit’s canine emotional crises. Bandit truly wants to be a good dog. He wants to protect his beloved animal allies in We3 and also help humans, but he is forced into situations where his combat programming takes over and he kills humans. In the aftermath of the killings, his simple, mournful repetition of “Bad dog” hits home more powerfully than pages of dialogue or narrative captions could ever do.
Tinker does not share the dog’s remorse. She thinks the whole thing stinks. When Bandit tries to save a human body to convince himself he is a good dog, Tinker bluntly tells him the man is dead. As the two animals fade into the horizon while arguing, the panels reveal the human is annihilated from the waist down. In a combination of graphic images and minimal, broken dialogue, Morrison and Quitely set up the tension between the cat’s no-nonsense and apparently correct assessment of the situation with the dog’s potentially delusional idealism.
Each animal’s cybernetically enhanced speech pattern says volumes about them. On the first read, I had trouble understanding their speech, but it all became clear to me upon the second reading. Bandit the dog is haunted by regret over what he has been made to do, and he struggles to lead his “pack” in a volatile and untenable situation. Pirate the rabbit is the most simple-minded of the trio, only speaking in one-word sentences, but that doesn’t stop him from delivering a heart-wrenching reminder to his comrades that they are friends and are all in this together. Sadly, Pirate’s speech degrades into mere electronic noise after he suffers an injury.
Cat-lover that I am, I especially enjoyed Tinker’s dialogue. Her feline disdain for just about everything is expressed through the word “Stink”, rendered as “ST!NK” or, when she is really angry, “!SSST!!!NKK!” Compared to the peaceful rabbit and optimistic dog, Tinker appears to be the least bothered by all the killing. She seems at times to revel in it. Tinker is also the group’s cynic who doesn’t believe the trio will ever find a home, because “home” no longer exists for any of them—a point of contention that leads to an argument with Bandit.
And what is home? What does “home” mean to Bandit after all the awful things the team has endured? To the dog, home is a simple concept. “Home is run no more.” Home is a place where these involuntary machines of war can find peace and rest, and that is Bandit’s hope for We3. But as the story progresses, it’s impossible to escape the feeling that Tinker is right, that home and peace will be forever denied these unfortunate animals because of what’s been done to them—and what of their lives and identities have been stolen from them.
Quitely employs many innovative and dramatic approaches to action. A video by Strip Panel Naked does a good job of analyzing the groundbreaking visuals in this story, so check that out. Regarding the page where Tinker hacks and slashes her way through a series of panels filled with her enemies, I am reminded of what Scott McCloud taught in his book Understanding Comics, where he asserts that part of the magic of comics is what happens—but is not shown—between the panels, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks. Quitely gives us two-dimensional panels rendered in 3-D with Tinker in action, demonstrating how the cat is a fast-moving agent of destruction. While Tinker’s opponents exist entirely within the panels, she flashes like lightning through the spaces between them.
Go, Tinker! As Bandit says in a dramatic moment, “Gud 2! 1 Protect!”
Quitely also does amazing things with panels-within-panels to show a sequence of fast-paced actions in a slow-motion strobe effect, and he often employs elements of the scene’s environment to create panel-like divisions, such as rendering trees in all black to create dividing lines, or using the metal structure of a bridge to divide a series of movements across that bridge.
For a few pages, Quitely captures the narrative in an insane number of more than one hundred tiny panels to show footage from multiple security cameras in the containment facility—only to present a spectacular release from all that claustrophobic tension by finishing with a two-page double splash where our heroes burst into the night.
We3 has been collected in paperback, hardcover, and a second hardcover “deluxe” edition with ten new pages of story. But I recommend you read We3 either in digital format or in the original stapled comic-book format so you can see all the amazing two-page spreads without any part of them disappearing into the gutter of a bound book. Like I said in my recent review of the Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil, it is a rare and beautiful thing to see a comic book story where script, art, and overall design are perfectly married for maximum narrative and emotional effect. We3 is one of those perfect unions.
Collector’s Guide: It’s hard to find the original three-issue printing, but you can easily find a reasonably priced collected paperback on Amazon. Current prices on the deluxe hardcover are ridiculous. Instead, I suggest getting the $10 digital edition so you can fully appreciate the two-page spreads.
that night we hid from rain
under cover of a metal carport
lightning crackled overhead
and the warning drizzle became an onslaught
i only felt safe with you
it didn’t matter how long we hid
so long as we stayed together
your sense of adventure inspired me
your intractable desire to hunt
your constant presence at my side
to hell with the storm
for thinking it trapped us
we were never cornered
that parking lot belonged to us
we hunted across its asphalt expanse
exterminating the small things
locusts moths and lengths of string
property lines and contracts we did not recognize
agreements of strangers we did not recognize
we owned our hunting ground
for as long as we survived
hours passed beneath our metal canopy
before the clouds relented
we acknowledged their awesome power
no different from ours
forces of nature
embodiments of will
we gloried in the surrounding chaos
knowing we were its equals
i have never forgotten your eyes
your nearness at night
how you touched your face to mine
saying everything without language
but i have often wished
to live as you lived
to demand this earth obey me
and answer to my whim
to remain indomitable
when hope evaporated
to rule everything
—for Ellie Kitty, who loved to take me on walks at 3 a.m., whatever the weather.
My cat-o-lantern is carved on a 6-inch tall pumpkin and is based on a clip-art image I pulled from the web. The small size made it tricky, since even my smallest kitchen knife was too big to cut the tiny shapes. I went with an X-acto knife for cutting and a miniature screwdriver for scraping.
Instead of sketching this week, we devoted our sketch time to framing and listing several of our favorite pieces from the past year. It turns out to be quite a process: selecting and ordering frames, photographing each piece, and coming up with something compelling to say about them for the listing. Add to that unpacking, assembling, packing, and uploading, and you’ve suddenly got a pretty big project on your hands.
But, at the end, the final framed piece of art gives you a feeling of satisfaction. You’ve taken an idea and made it real. In today’s world of goods and services performed virtually and delivered by email, we sometimes lose an important reward: that day you can step back, take a look at what you accomplished, and know it as a tangible thing.
Ellie the Studio Cat advised us that it was entirely too nice a day to be drawing inside, so the two of us chilled at the little picnic table outside sketching prehistoric animals. We’re doing some very rough studies to get a feel for rendering these ancient critters with a combination of Sharpie and fine-point pens. And yes, Ellie does look like she’s scowling in this photo, but she is just relaxing, contentedly hanging out for sunshine and sketching.
Anyway! Trilobites seemed like they would be simple, but their unique anatomy presents some conceptual challenges. Since this sketch we found some more photo references from the Burgess Shale that depict a few different types of trilobites with anatomical variations. We will master the trilobite yet!
Rod Ruth has a pencil drawing in Album of Prehistoric Animals that makes a great reference for Diatryma feathers and anatomy. This was the easiest one of the bunch to pin down where we would want fine lines versus bold chisel-tip inking. Smilodon smiles on, with Rod Ruth’s cover of the same book giving a perfect snarly pose to work from.
The skull of Dunkleosteus appears in one of our favorite books, Extinction. The interesting plate structure of this placoderm’s head easily lent itself to bold black lines.
An Archaeocyathid from the same book was rendered in ink by one of the contributing artists, so we studied the way light and shadow define the curves.
Here is our first rough pencil study of a panel by Bob Powell with a whacky sci-fi wasp from another planet who comes to earth in a globe of pure force. The sketch isn’t so great, but this is how we get to know our subjects.
Our previous posting of Somewhere Between Mars and Earth got some encouraging response. We returned to it and filled in the lower right corner with more mega-doodle madness. Framed, it looks pretty darn trippy.
Our first Sharpie study of And One of Them Was Destroyed felt good enough that we want to do a more finished version on some high-quality artist paper. While we get materials together for that endeavor, our two-page sketch can enjoy this 12×18 frame!
Last but not least, we framed our little frog from our book of watercolor paper postcards. It will list on eBay soon, and we will be picking up another book of those blank postcards. In the next round, though, we will take care to leave a border around the edges. Frog looks great, but another one of our cards really needs to be matted to a 5×7 frame to preserve the details at the edges. Live and learn! UPDATE: Diving Frog sold on eBay to an overseas buyer. Rock on!
Scratchboard artist Joe Robertson’s work caught our eye at a local art festival last year. What a magnificient mountain lion he created! This print is called Mountain King. You can get one of your own online at Joe’s Art Gallery.
sharpie marker on cardboard (24×8)
An art magazine arrived in the Martian Mailbox with this full page ad featuring paintings by Michael Reafsnyder. Since we don’t yet have the space to produce large-scale abstract expressionist canvases like this, we just drew one. Thus, imaginary studio. Besides gigantic canvases full of splashy splattery modern art, our imaginary studio also contains Ellie the studio cat, random sculptures, and a giant work-in-progress of the Silver Surfer zooming in front of a sun.
Ellie the studio cat cares less about what goes on the canvases than about how fun it is to make cat forts out of them.
There’s just no telling Spidey anything when that symbiote gets a hold of him!
In other news, Ellie the studio cat enjoys her fan mail. Okay, she doesn’t really enjoy it the same way we might, but paper is paper. You can lay on it. To cats, that’s pretty important. Ellie especially prefers brown packing paper. She will happily sprawl on any fan mail you send her on crunchy paper.
Even after twelve quarters, we still receive inquiries into the nature of the cryptic phrase ‘mars will send no more.’ A page dedicated to our secret origin illuminates all.
But in another sense, Mars is our virtual garden. Or maybe a plant in our garden, grown from a digital seed. We tend it, trim it, prune it, feed it, groom it, give it love, and even worry that someday Mike Baron will show up and make us take down the whole thing, since he invented the phrase. It’s scary, sometimes: having a digital pet someone could just turn off at any time.
Blogging is like writing a book you can never touch. Paper burns, but what do pixels do? Where is the page when you turn off your machine? When we were kids, we read books about magic. When we became adults, we lived in an electric world made of it.
And you know what? We love it. Why do 7000 people drop by every month to look at 7 or 8 pages in the Martian Archives? We don’t know. But we do get a kick out of being referred to by such notable sources as The Atlantic, who referenced our scans of America’s most famous comic book: The safety instructions found on every airplane! Interestingly, they don’t reference the exact post. Instead, they use a URL for our tag archives for the word airplane: https://marswillsendnomore.wordpress.com/tag/airplane/
What if we posted something new tagged with airplane? It wouldn’t matter what the post was really about, as long as it had a tag for airplane. We could post propaganda for the Martian Underground Resistance, in hopes that Atlantic readers will someday join the revolution. Or, we could just leave them a greeting card with a cute cat and a cozy scarf on it.
Ellie doesn’t care that today is sort of her birthday. And really, she wouldn’t care even if we got the date right. That’s just how cats are. We envy and emulate her ability to live in the moment free from cultural expectations and rituals. When you think like a cat, any day is just as special as any other. No one day in the solar cycle represents more of an opportunity than any other for love and affection, for bonding and relaxing, or for just zipping about the yard scratching trees.
Above is her too-cute-for-words picture from the Humane Society ad. It seems she had been there before. Someone adopted her but then brought her back. Poor little Ellie. She even had multiple names. Anyway, we met her, she rubbed her face on our hands, looked at us with her big blue eyes. Its been love ever since.
I never met Andy Bach, but I dig his tiger. Acrylic on some sort of art paper, it measures 17.5 x 23 inches. Andy painted the tiger in fifth grade. Since I bought it in 2009 or 2010, he should be wrapping up junior high about now.
Most visitors to the Martian Headquarters assume I painted the tiger, but no. I bought it. The Alwun House Foundation hosts Salon des Enfants, an annual children’s art show in partnership with local schools. The galleries in the first story of the house display visual art. Children perform music and dance on the stage in the back yard, entertaining a huge crowd of parents and community. All the money from the art sales goes directly to the kids. Andy’s big red tiger cost me $20. I always wonder what he did with the cash!
It’s the worst time of year to go walking in Scottsdale looking at galleries and the SMOCA (scottsdale museum of contemporary art). It’s 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, and humid as a motherfucker. On the upside, no one else is crazy enough to be there in this weather. You can talk at length to the people who run these galleries, and the sidewalks are clear. Which is nice, because you may have to pass out on them. Anyways, the point is that we stuffed our brains full of high-priced abstract art and then came home to paint our impressions of it. All of it, at the same time.
Awwww… Look what our art teacher made for us. It even includes the name of our virtual cat. Now that’s personalization!
SO CUTE! She also included an eraser shaped like a guitar pick — with a flaming skull. Hell yeah! We’ve already used it to erase grid marks from canvas.
2022 Update: Patches now has an octopus friend.
Leo was my big fluffy snuggle buddy for many years. He forgave me for trying to shave him with my electric hair trimmers. I forgave him for stealing my bacon right off the kitchen counter. Leo’s favorite comic book was the Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil. He liked that best because he loved spending three or four solid days on the couch with me while I read the entire TPB collection cover to cover. Leo was a big kitty under all that fluff. He didn’t mind my throwing an arm over him like a big orange teddy bear to fall asleep with him.
Leo was not well the last year of his life. We knew he was living on borrowed time, but he loved to cuddle until the end. Leo died Thursday afternoon. I’m glad I got to share fourteen years on this planet with him. Leo, my boy. I miss you already.
Maggie in Violet. Acrylic over collage on canvas.
A couple days ago we posted a painting that needed corrective eye surgery. Our art teacher advised us to burn the photo reference to really tune in to the painting itself. Well, it was digital. After pouring gasoline on our hard drive and throwing lit cigarettes at it, we did our best to reconstruct the eyes. We gave her perhaps a half dozen minor procedures — strictly outpatient.
She seems more confident now, albeit a bit intense. Did you know that people respond to large pupils? Dilated pupils send a visual cue to your viewer that you are very, very interested in them. Certain pharmaceutical chemicals enlarge your pupils, and you may notice people respond to you differently in those times. (Please do not drive a car on MDMA, kids.) Eye tests can do it, too.
Regardless, all the doubt and hesitation we mentioned before becomes acute when you go to do eye surgery on a painting. It isn’t like touching up a tree or some Kirby Krackle. It’s someone looking back at you while you reconstruct the window to their soul.
You know what the awesome thing is, though? White paint. If you screw it up, your worst case scenario is covering all your mistakes with white paint and starting again.
And remember: your cat doesn’t give a damn about the whole enterprise anyway!
Genus. What can we say? The pictures say it all: Anthropomorphic animals posing for your viewing pleasure. We find it more than a little disturbing that cartoon animals violently murdering and torturing their bodies is promoted as acceptable children’s entertainment, but cartoon animals enjoying their bodies in loving ways is considered suitable only for 18 and up. No wonder our culture is infatuated with war: Violence good, sexuality bad.
But you don’t need us to play thought police for you… You just dropped by to see some cats! It seems impossible to find a complete set of Genus these days, and back issues go from $5 to $30 on eBay. We were lucky enough to find a few on our top-secret 50-cent rack. Now who whould let a cute kitty like this go for 50 cents?