Strange Animals / 2021 / #2: Not at Home

#JustCatThings / (Detective Comics) Comics / Artistic license

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I’m writing this sitting at my neighbourhood café, and I’m thinking about some of the little things I missed last year.

For most of 2019, this was where I came for breakfast, after which I’d sit for a couple of hours and either write (this is where I finished writing a whole graphic novel longhand) or read a book. I got to know both the owners, and their giant, old and very friendly dog after whom they’d named the café. It went on hiatus when the lockdowns started, and only opened back up in September. They shifted to a mostly-outdoor seating, and opened with a limited menu. The old, friendly dog had died, and they’d got a new one who looked like she might’ve been the older one’s daughter. I started coming back in November, and for a while, I could feel how restricted things still were – everyone wearing masks, food served entirely in takeaway containers (which it still is) and only two or three tables occupied.

It’s only recently that it’s begun feeling normal. They’ve expanded the outdoor seating to accommodate more people while maintaining social distancing, the menu is back to its old self, and I can come here and sit for a few hours and write without worrying about the next set of customers not having a place to sit.

I’m not a big people person, but I need what some of my closer friends call my “human time”. Sitting and writing at a café with the buzz of humanity around you is a good way to get some human time without much effort.

The final thing I miss about this place is a cat called Luna. She was the official café cat, adopted around the same time I started going there. At first, they were just fostering her, and they were calling her Loki. I liked her instantly, because Loki is the name of my own cat as well. They landed on Luna, but I didn’t take that personally. From then till February last year, she was always around. She was an incredibly friendly cat – not very snuggly, but she’d climb up on the chair next to me and sit, or she’d lounge by my feet while I was there. And for a cat who was constantly meeting strangers, she was remarkably tolerant of being petted. The one time she disappeared was when she was pregnant, like cats do. As I write this, I asked one of the owners about this, and he tells me that she actually brought her kittens here once to show them off.

Last February, right before the lockdowns, I came here and she wasn’t around, and the owners told me that she’d fallen off a tree and died. It was upsetting news, and I still think of her every time I’m here. I’m writing this as the new big, friendly dog plays with two puppies brought here by customers, and I wish she was around. She’d probably be sitting on top of a wall and wailing down at them for taking up her space.

I have a lot of pictures of her, because I ended up spending a surprising amount of time with her, and the owner sent me a couple of pictures he said I could use. (Fun fact, Google Photos doesn’t pull most of these up when I type “cats”, because her fur looks exactly like the concrete behind her.) Look at this beautiful grumpus.

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I had two new books come out this week. There’s Home Sick Pilots #2, with Dan Watters, Caspar Wijngaard and Tom Muller, from Image Comics. This book has particularly been fun because each issue is better than the next – I lettered #4 last week, and it’s better than the first three, I promise you.

And then there’s Future State: Dark Detective #1, with a lead story by Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, Jordie Bellaire, edited by Paul Kaminski and David Wielgosz.

I was given the brief to bring a Blade Runner/cyberpunk aesthetic to match the art, and it was a lot of fun to execute. I got to create a new caption style that I privately refer to as “angry blogger Batman”, and I’m particularly pleased with this title page:

Speaking of this book – starting March, the same team will be taking over Detective Comics, starting with #1034, and I’m delighted to say that I’ll be joining them on it. My struggle to not misspell the name as “batsman” continues.

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Outside of work, I’ve been taking it easy. Like I said last time, it made sense to push my creative aspirations ahead till I actually feel well-rested enough to take them on, rather than forcing myself to be productive. However, production on the short comic I’m creating with Rosh continues. He just posted this image to Twitter:

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This week’s reading:

  • The Creep – John Arcudi, Jonathan Case & Nate Piekos: Not an obviously interesting book, the main hook being a private eye lead character with acromegaly and a personal connection to his case, but I enjoyed its melancholic tone and existential mystery, and the art by Case is lovely – moody, versatile and expressive.

  • Revival – Stephen King: “Delightful” is a weird word to use for a horror novel, but this is a genuine delight – a warm, human novel about loss and ageing that pulls that rug out to reveal … well, I think that part’s better experienced. My first King in 15 years, and I’m happy it was this one. It snuck up on me halfway through the reading that it’s got a Ray Bradbury riff going on, and this pleased me.

  • Redfork – Alex Paknadel, Nil Vendrell, Giulia Brusco & Ryan Ferrier: I read an early pitch for this years ago, and it’s wonderful to see what it turned into. A grimy yet beautiful story of the soul despair caused by exploitation, told via Lovecraftian horror. Nil’s visual storytelling is a great match for Alex’s excavation into humanity.

  • Joyland – Stephen King: Jumped into this because of how much I liked Revival. It’s not bad, but it’s not got the same magic. Does pick up in the second half. They seem to have been written in the same period, sharing stylistic notes and some themes, so this feels like a first draft to that, because Revival feels far more solid and purposeful.

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Half a month down, I’m kind of enjoying 2021 so far, personally. I’m working less, and the work looks like it’ll reduce even further after March/April (I’m averaging 250 pages a month till then, and 100-150 pages a month after that).

I tried to figure out what would be a good measure for thinking, “Okay, this is fine. This is how my days should look.” And I think my touchpoint is that I can afford to watch a movie every day. I don’t have to, but that I have the time for it. That I’ve done everything I need to, and I can sit in one place and stare at one screen for two hours and that doesn’t make me feel anxious. And that’s every day. I’ll let you know when that happens.