Endlessly StrangeSKETCH CHALLENGE NO. 8
About the Challenge
First of all, the Sketch Challenge: Draw either Death or Emily the Strange.
The Commissioner Proviso: Must include at least one of their respective pets.
And now, the reason: Our beloved fur baby, Yami passed away this past week.
The request to sketch Death (from Neil Gaiman’s Vertigo Comics “The Sandman”) actually spawned from a recent article that I had just read. The short article is about Siouxsie Sioux, the legendary lead singer for the goth music band, Souixsie & The Banshees. And quite frankly, when I first laid my eyes upon Death in the early 90’s, the first person that came to mind was Siouxsie. Suddenly, I was hearing the opening beats of their seminal track, Cities In Dust and remembering how the only time I’d see the video was on MTV’s 120 Minutes (you know, back when MTV actually played music videos).
Death, as a comic book character, is an immortal being who is the overseer of all death and life. It is said that every living thing encounters Death twice in their lifetime: Once when they are born — though no one remembers that meeting with her — and again when they die. Unlike other personifications of death, Death doesn’t guide the dead soul to a particular after-life; rather, she is a gateway into what lies beyond. In other words, she really is “just the delivery guy” … she’s not in charge of what happens once the package is delivered.
Despite her duties, Death is a warm and caring person who has taken a mature and maternal role to her family members (also known as The Endless; Destiny, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair and Delirium). Although not much is known about her own personal life, we do know she keeps a collection of floppy hats at her home and has two goldfish, Slim and Wandsworth, that she cares for. One day every century, Death takes on life as a living being (not necessarily as a human) to understand those creatures that are within her realm. That’s what I like most about her; she is very empathetic and amongst other things and she knows that her family is more important than her job.
Of all the Endless, I relate to her the most; not only in her outer appearance, but in every aspect of her life. Although she can appear however she wants to or needs; Death is usually a young, stylishly dressed (in black, of course) woman with pale skin, wearing a silver ankh and an Eye of Horus tattoo around her eye. Not that I was too much of a stylish young lady in high school and college, but yes … I did wear lots of black and had lots of silver jewelry including a silver ankh. I was what one would have called, an 80’s Goth Chick. (No, I don’t have a tattoo. But that’s beside the point …)
Internally, Death is genuinely concerned about those she is close to (her family) and those she encounters during her “working hours.” As mentioned above, she is very empathetic and “in tune” with what others are feeling. My job is very much like that. In a nutshell, I care for other people and their families to make sure that their sick loved ones have what they need in order to be safely discharged from a hospital stay. There are a ton of other duties that I have, but for the most part that is my core responsibility. And it’s a lot tougher than you’d think it would be; juggling between what’s best for the ill person versus what they (or their family members) want. It involves a lot of empathy and understanding in order to guide them to the safest choice.
Another aspect of Death I can relate to is the importance she places on her family. She genuinely cares for her siblings and worries about them as a mother would. Although I am not a mother (not by choice), I would like to think that I am maternal. Family is very important to me and those that I love will know how much I want to make sure they are okay. Losing our cat Yami, this past week has left a hole in my heart; especially since she is the last of my fur babies to have been around when Hubby & I were trying (desperately) to have (human) children. Along with our other fur babies that have since passed (Rain, our first cat and Kozzy, our first dog), Yami was our family; the fur kids we had because we couldn’t have human kids. Her arrival at the “Rainbow Bridge” meadow this week feels like the end of an era; that period in my life where I knew that my fur babies would love me unconditionally regardless of whether I could carry a child or not.
“When the first living thing existed, I was there waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights, and lock the universe behind me as I leave.” — Death
I first stumbled onto Emily the Strange in the mid 90’s while at one of those funky Queen Street West shops in Toronto. I immediately felt akin to this 13 year old kid, as she reminded me of myself in high school: A skinny girl with long black hair, always wearing black and always just a little bit strange for most of my high school peers’ tastes. She often appeared not to care about what conclusions other people thought about her (which, by the way, was far from the truth!). AND she was named “Emily” which — as a child — no one else but one other HS classmate shared. (Waaaay before MY name became the No. 1 baby name, peaking in 1999!)
What had started out as a marketing ploy to promote the Cosmic Debris clothing line evolved into a cultural phenomenon for young girls who — like Emily the Strange — celebrated non-conformity and strived to cultivate what makes each of them unique. It began as stickers distributed at concerts, record stores and skate shops and eventually turned into a brand on its own; producing not only a clothing line but a comic series, young adult novels and even a Nintendo DS game. There was even a Kickstarter campaign that successfully produced the first ever Emily the Strange animated music video.
Emily the Strange had her own “posse” that consisted of her four black cats who accompany her in all her adventures, each with their own distinct personality. Sabbath, with his signature notch on his right ear, is the newest to the group and is the resident trouble-seeker. Miles, identified by an X over his right eye, is the creatively cool artist who tends to be less vocal and more mellow than the others, even if he’s known to be the fastest cat in town. The thinker and schemer of the gang is Neechee; this six-toed, striped-tailed cat is an old soul who tends to get lost in the darkness amidst his own deep thoughts.
And then there’s Mystery. She is the Leader of the Pack and is the only female in “Bad Kitten Club.” Although she’s definitely the prettiest kitty, typically shown with her pink star collar, she is definitely no softy. She has a menacing meow and definitely loves her naps. Of all the cats, Mystery seems to be the closest to Emily and therefore seems to be the one that has been with her the longest.
Mystery reminds me so much of Yami, both in personality and in looks. Even though Yami had long been the youngest of our pets (pre-Kirby, of course), she was definitely the leader of the pack. She was very vocal with her meows which often times we took as her complaining about something or another. (“My food bowl is empty!” Or “You guys were gone for too long!”) Although in the beginning she hated sleeping on our bed, she eventually began to look forward to “nap time with Mommy” (Hey … I love my naps!) so she could snuggle up beside me. I think I will miss that the most; not having her next to me in bed. That, and not hearing her purr as we cuddled. Or not hearing the jingling of her collar as she bounced her way to greet us when she’d hear us opening the front door. And yes, I will definitely miss her “complaining” as well.
“I know I’m strange, but what are you?” — Emily the Strange
The reason I want you to include either Death’s goldfish or one (if not all) of Emily the Strange’s cats is because pets play such an important part of every day life. I personally think pets have a way of keeping one grounded; not just by the responsibility of caring for another living being, but because pets (whether they are fish or cats or dogs) will love you unconditionally. That is something very humbling to realize. Many times, you won’t realize how much they’ve become part of your life until they are gone. And sadly, pets are never hear on this earth long enough to repay them for all the love and joy they’ve given.
That’s it; lesson over. Have fun with this challenge. I promise, next week I’ll be less mopey. And next week, I promise we’ll be back to sketching superheroes again!
SKETCH CHALLENGE NO. 8 (Closed)
Death or Emily the Strange.
Must include Death’s goldfish or Emily’s cats.
9:00am Friday, Septenber 5, 2014.