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Showing posts with label covid-19. Show all posts
Showing posts with label covid-19. Show all posts


David Foohey from July 2016

This is a post I had hoped that I would never have to write. Dave — David Thomas Foohey — was my oldest friend. “Was,” of course, being the key word. And “was,” in this case, is one helluva hard word to write. On the night of May 2nd, 2022, my wife and I had a visit from two officers from the Ottawa Police Service. They came to tell us that Dave was found dead in his home. He had been dead for quite some time, about three months. His neighbours, as is often the case in situations like this, had noticed that his mail had piled up and, presumably after attempts to contact Dave had failed, were worried and had contacted the police. We still don’t know the cause of death, but given that the police do not suspect foul play, it was some form of “natural causes.” That, too, is hard to write.

David Foohey and Von Allan circa 1986
Dave and I first met when I was 8 years old and we developed a friendship that survived our childhoods and had deepened as we both grew into adults. His friendship meant the world to me; I was a lonely, isolated, and shy kid. Very introverted. Dave and I met shortly after I had moved from a small town in the Ottawa Valley to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Ottawa was far bigger than anything I was used to before and pretty damn intimidating. To say I had “culture-shock” was an understatement. Dave was also shy and we bonded over so many different things: comic books, role-playing games, and pro wrestling in particular, but also pop culture and, as we grew older, life in general.

David Foohey's fantastic oatmeal cookies
There were so many things that I’m going to miss. He had a “secret” recipe for these unbelievable oat cookies that just knocked my socks off. They were incredible and very hearty, but he guarded that recipe — despite my best efforts to get him to share it! — like it was state secret. He loved animals, but especially cats. The cats he had in his life were mostly rescues and he gave everyone of them a good home: Logan, Garfield, Mr. Kitty, Cecil, and Thomas. He was wonderful with dogs — probably because of his background with seeing eyes dogs as well as his general decency — and he looked after Rowen, our ol’ girl husky, a number of times while we travelled to various conventions or other events. He loved games and gaming, both traditional board games, role-playing games, and video games. And he was a truly gentle and decent human being, something that we need far more of in this world of ours.

David Foohey circa 1994 in Von Allan's apartment
If we had any differences, it was really that as I grew older I became less introverted. There were a number of reasons for that. One was that I had managed to lose weight and, through those efforts, grew in confidence. Later, when I wound up working at and managing Perfect Books, a local indie bookstore, I was forced to deal with a broad range of people and that, too, helped me grow out of that “shy shell” that was my armour for so much of my childhood. Dave, on the other hand, had a hard time with that and remained pretty shy and introverted throughout his adult life.

His shyness was not unwarranted, though. Dave’s parents had him quite late in life. His dad was, if memory serves, about 50 years old (!) when Dave was born. Dave’s dad, David Edmund Foohey — Ed for short — and his mom Mary-Anne Coughlan, had marital problems and their marriage broke up while Dave was quite young. Both of his parents were also legally blind; Dave’s dad was blind since birth and his mom was legally blind, though my understanding is that she did have some limited vision, though even this degraded over time.

Photo montage of Dave Foohey and Von Allan from July 2016
Ed was also one of the most capable men I had ever met; his blindness never stopped him. Or rather, he never let either his blindness or how this culture treats disabled people in general stop him. Not everyone has the ability to do that, of course, and this society and culture needs to be far fairer and kinder to those of us who, through no fault of our own, struggle in one way, shape, or form. Ed had earned a PhD from the London School of Economics and later become an economist, first with Alcan Aluminum and later with the Canadian federal government. And he wrote a remarkable essay on his childhood at https://bobo.blackspheretech.com/?p=182 — seriously, go read that when you have a chance. It is well-worth your time.

Dave’s mom is trickier. She wound up living in Vancouver, but never had a key role in Dave’s upbringing, at least that I’m aware of. I have a distant memory that I might have met her, but I’m not sure. I do know that she was not particularly stable; there was one scary situation that did affect Dave. Ed had custody of Dave, something that was fairly remarkable for that time, and Mary-Anne did have visitation rights. When Dave was around 7 years old, she briefly “kidnapped” him. I put kidnapped in quotes because it was a peculiar situation that I wish I had more knowledge of. My understanding is that this situation did not last for very long (perhaps a week or two, possibly a little longer), but must have terrified Dave’s dad. I do know that the police were involved and Dave was eventually reunited with his father. Part of the reason that I met Dave in the first place is that this event screwed up his school year; Dave was one year older than I am, but Dave was held back one year. I don’t know if this was because of trauma, circumstance, or something else, but as a result we wound up being in the same grade when he should have been one year ahead of me.

Why did Mary-Anne do it? I’m not sure, but Dave was not physically harmed, though his emotional well-being was a different thing altogether. I do not write this to cast any aspersions on his mom. I have had some experience with parental mental illness and these are situations are never easy. As far as I know, she did a terrible thing, but I don’t think there was malicious intent. How do I know? The short answer is that Dave, as a teenager, wound wind up staying with her for a couple of weeks here and there. That was often in Vancouver, quite far from his life here in Ottawa. That tells me that something was resolved between both Ed and Mary-Anne, perhaps even legally, and she was trusted enough that Dave could spend time with her. However this was resolved, it did allow mother and son to rebuild their relationship, at least to some extent. Dave rarely talked about his mom, though, so I was left with a number of questions and very few answers. Still left, really.

I write this mainly to give some context; Dave was loved by both his parents, but they were both distant with him, too. He and his dad did not have a “touchy-feely” relationship, at least that I’m aware of. Part of that was generational, I think. And if you read Ed’s essay that I linked to above, you can catch glimpse of why. What I do know is that Dave was an only child and had difficulty sharing his feelings. He was quite guarded about this aspect of himself. He’s obviously not alone; while our culture is changing, both boys and men still have a hard time expressing and discussing emotions and feelings. I have to be careful here; in no way do I blame either of his parents for this; it’s partially a “nature versus nurture” situation and also a societal one. In other words, it’s over-determined. To put it another way, Dave was who he was regardless of any of this and I loved him for it.

That also doesn’t mean that Dave wasn’t sensitive. He was. In fact, he was one helluva gentle human being and I dearly wish more people had his sensitivity. He often listened to me blather about my emotions and feelings with patience and wit. He could be damn funny, but most people didn’t see that too often. Dave really had to get to know you before he let his guard down. He was also supportive of my art and comic book endeavours, watching (probably with some degree of shock) when I left the bookstore that I was running to set out on an art career. He saw all the hiccups and false starts; the failures and frustrations. He also was able to see my grow as an artist and that is something I take quite a bit of solace in.

His mom died in 2004 at the age of 62. Far too young to die and I’m not clear on exactly what happened. Dave was not particularly surprised by her death, but — again — it was difficult to get him to talk about it much. She also died in British Columbia and Dave didn’t attend her funeral. It was difficult to get him to talk about that decision, too. I think he felt that he had already placed her loss. He might very well have been right. This type of thing is always so personal and I think — hope, really — that he was happy with that decision. Life carried on and he seemed to be okay.

His dad died in 2008 and this one was much harder. His dad was in his 80s and, while frail, was still pretty feisty. Dave was living in the same small apartment building that my wife and I were in, but he would regularly visit his dad to help out with cleaning, groceries, and that sort of thing. And my wife and I also were able to have both Dave and his dad over to our place a number of times, primarily for holidays, and these were always a great deal of fun. Ed was such a gentleman, in the classic sense, and I can still picture him in my mind’s eye; with the holiday meal finished, Ed would sit in a rocking chair with one of our cats on his lap, telling stories.

I still vividly remember the day that two members of the Ottawa Police Service dropped by to let him know that his dad had been found dead in his home. They found me first and, while they were noncommital, I was pretty sure I knew what had happened. I had to bring the police to Dave to break the news. That was a tough, tough day. My wife and I gave Dave the privacy he needed while he discussed what had happened with the police, ready to intercede if and when he needed us. While Ed’s death was sudden, he had died of natural causes. Again, that is easy to say but very hard to place.

Given his dad’s age, his death really wasn’t a surprise, but I don’t think Dave was at all prepared for that loss. Worse, Dave had been working as an accountant in the federal government, in a department that was then called Indian and Northern Affairs. I know that Dave had been working on some of the Residential School claims and that this was extremely difficult work. Despite his accounting work, Dave wound up becoming informed about a truly awful chapter in Canada’s history; a chapter that is still unresolved. Words can’t describe the horrors that so many indigenous children went through in this country, something that many people are still not prepared to face.

At any rate, that combination — the death of his dad combined with the nature of his work — significantly and negatively effected Dave. No, scratch that. Saying that doesn’t go far enough. “Destroyed” would be a better word. That combination destroyed him. Worse, his superiors in no way, shape, or form gave him the support he needed or the help he needed to grapple with this trauma. His PTSD. Trauma and loss can effect us differently; one person can just be wrecked by a situation or an event while others aren’t. It’s part of the reason why I don’t believe in trying to “rank” or otherwise qualify loss and trauma. It is what it is and we all react differently to it. Often our reaction is influenced by exactly where we are in life at that particular point in time.

In a way, Dave was lucky. His dad was incredibly capable and his estate was in good order. Dave wound up inheriting a house in a beautiful and expensive part of Ottawa. That house was fully paid for, so Dave would only need to deal with municipal taxes and general upkeep. On top of it, Dave’s dad had an investment portfolio that Dave also inherited. Lastly, Dave was both the executor of his dad’s will and estate and the sole beneficiary. From a financial point of view, Dave was okay. His dad made sure of that. Given what we know about so many people in our society, he was better than okay. Financially.

However, emotionally Dave was not okay. Not even close to okay. He could not easily talk about the losses and trauma he had suffered. I supported him as best I could through all of this; talking with the police, trying to find his dad’s body at the morgue before we discovered that the body had already been transferred to a funeral home, going to that funeral home and dealing with all of the arrangements, breaking the news to his neighbours, dealing with the will, and so on. Dave was clearly hurt, but he could not really talk about that hurt. Again, there’s no fault or blame in how he dealt with and processed his dad’s death. He did the best he could. It was just so difficult to see someone I loved not be able to share the burden of loss.

Then things got worse. Dave wound up quitting the government entirely. Here I do blame his supervisors; he was never given the support he desperately needed. The department itself dealt with a great deal of “burnout” (what a euphemism that is) and Dave was clearly just a cog in a very big machine. When he couldn’t handle it, he walked away. What should have happened? Well, first off he should have been given assistance if and when he needed it. Second, he should have been put on stress leave. Hell, unions have fought for that right and, while many workers in Canada do not have that right, it is an important right and needs to be much broader. Every damn worker should have that right.

To his credit, Dave did seek out some help from his doctor who referred him to a psychiatrist. This he did on his own and I dearly wish he had reached out to me for some help with this; visiting doctors, especially when one is dealing with trauma, is not easy. Having a friend with you, both as moral support and as an advocate, can be and often is helpful. However, it would be an intrusion in his privacy. Dave chose to go a different route and tried to handle it as best he could on his own.

I did manage to talk with him about what the psychiatrist told him. This was really the only time he opened up about it with me. He basically said that the trauma “popped” his brain. He tried some prescription anti-depressants to help, but the problem with meds like this is that they can often take a long time to get “right.” In Dave’s case, the medicine emotionally “flat-lined” him. He phrased it this way: all of his emotions, not just the sad ones, were shunted off. Not sad, not filled with loss, but equally missing out happiness and joy. There was just nothing at all. As a result, Dave gave up on the medications. And, as far as I know, he never went back to them.

Von Allan and his deceased Siberian Husky Rowen at Dave Foohey's House
Dave never did wind up working again. He wound up moving into his dad’s house. That house, in an older retired neighbourhood, became his prison. I don’t think that’s overstating it. The house was really meant for a family; it was big and old and meant for a post-World War II-style nuclear family. Living all by himself in that house was… well, not a good situation. Worse, Dave had wealth but little income. He could rely, as far as I know, on investment income from the stock and bond portfolio, but this was always unpredictable and variable.

He did have a cat or two and they helped. And early on, he did have a roommate and that helped, too. But the roommate eventually moved on and was not replaced. Then it was just Dave, a cat or two, and that house. Both my wife and I urged him to sell the house. He couldn’t do it. I think I understand; it was both his childhood home as well as a direct connection to his dad. I think that for Dave selling it was anathema; it would have been like cutting off his own arm. However, at the same time the house was expensive to maintain. Property taxes alone were high and that, combined with day-to-day expenses, created a number of financial problems. I should add here that I’m partially guessing; while Dave was guarded about his emotions, he was even more guarded about money. Both my wife and I would ask him how he was doing for money or even offer to help out if we could, but he always deflected. I think he knew, probably, that selling the house was the practical thing to do. It would have resolved a lot of the financial issues that I suspect he was having, but — again — he couldn’t do it. Again, to be clear, I don’t blame him for that. Whatever the reason was, he just couldn’t do it.

This was all made worse by his social isolation. Living in that house and not working meant that his social circle became that much smaller. We did manage to get him to visit us from time to time and we did visit him from time to time as many of the photos that accompany this piece attest, but it was always impossible to get him to leave for an extended period of time. In other words, getting him to go on a vacation was a bridge too far. Getting him to even stay with us overnight was nearly impossible. And, as the 2010’s continued, the visits became less frequent. We used to see him on all the major holidays combined with various weekends or whatever throughout the year. As time went on, it just became the major holidays. And then even those became unpredictable and less frequent. Dave, I think, retreated from life.

When we did see him over the past few years, he was obviously declining. I say “obvious” because he became harder to talk with. His physical well-being seemed to be deteriorating; we’d see him one time and he had gained weight. Another time, months later, and he had lost a lot of weight. Maybe too much. Then the weight was put back on. Back and forth, forth and back. My suspicion, and it’s only that, is that he was surviving on canned stews and other poor quality food, assuming he was eating regularly at all. The cognitive issues were that much worse; his memory wasn’t as crisp as I was used to. He also seemed to be getting paranoid; I vividly recall one conversation that I had with him where he claimed that he couldn’t read an illustrated Lovecraft book outside in his backyard because the neighbours were uncomfortable and judging him. While I’ll never know for sure, I doubt that anyone who happened to notice could even determine what he was reading.

Selfie by Dave Foohey with his cat Cecil
Things got worse. He was supposed to visit us on Christmas Day in 2017; this was a long tradition we had had with him. However, his cat Cecil was having health issues and Dave called to cancel. It was the only time I ever remember him crying; Cecil, after a bad few weeks, had died that Christmas morning. Dave was unable or unwilling to take him to a vet, even an emergency vet, so he had stayed with Cecil until the very end. I was shocked; we’ve had to put a number of our animals down over the years and it was unthinkable to me to not bring them to a vet to end their suffering. Again, I’m not saying this to judge Dave or anything like that; what I am saying is that the idea of bringing Cecil to a vet either didn’t cross Dave’s mind or he felt that he couldn’t afford to pay for Cecil’s end of life care. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that Dave was unable to talk with us about Cecil’s health until that poor little cat had died.

Dave fully retreated after that. I don’t know if this was sparked by Cecil’s death or a coincidence, but reaching him was basically impossible. We’d leave phone messages that were never returned. Worse, his answering service would “fill up” and leaving further messages was impossible. He would not return emails. We’d try sending postcards and letters, even containing a self-addressed stamped envelope sometimes, and these weren’t returned. We became desperate, reaching out to the Ottawa Police Service to arrange a wellness check. We were told that we need to try visiting him in person before the police could intervene. I should add here that Dave lives fairly far away from us and, worse, none of us owned a car. We were always reliant on either public transit or taxis. Anyway, given the situation, I hopped on a bus and went down to his house while my wife stayed home to look after our animals. I have to admit that we both thought he was dead. I still vividly remember getting off the bus and beginning the approximately 15 minute walk to his house. That was one helluva tough walk. A walk filled with dread. A walk filled with sadness. A walk filled with questions. A walk filled with remorse.

Dave in 2018 at his home after I thought he had died
As I neared his house, I could see a pile of mail in the mail box. I was positive that he was dead and, in a minute or two, I’d be calling the police from his front steps. With a lump in my throat, I approached the door and started banging on it with my steel toes. After a little while, I heard a commotion inside and Dave opened the door. I almost cried with relief. He was okay; or, as the saying goes, okay for not being okay. In fact, he was bewildered. He didn’t understand why I was upset or what the problem was. I remember calling my wife to tell her that Dave was alive and “okay” and she burst out crying. We had been so worried and the relief that he was alive was almost overwhelming. At the same time, there were obvious points of concern. His sense of time, his isolation, his confusion about why we were worried, and his gentle dismissal about his absences. The phone? He was having problems with the phone company, and rather than deal with it, he just let it go. Email? Too much spam so he gave up looking at it. The self-addressed stamped postcards and letters? Never got around to answering them. What was the big deal?

It’s hard to put into words how shocking this was. The Dave I had grown up with was the epitome of responsibility. He was an accountant, after all, and — stereotypes aside — was incredibly responsible. As a kid and a young adult, Dave was always on top of things. That Dave didn’t let anything slide by. This Dave? Well, in many ways he was still the same Dave, but in many other ways he was clearly not. Reconciling the two was pretty damn difficult.

I took him out for lunch, my treat, and, given the stress, we had a relatively nice time. Both my wife and I hoped that our anguish over whether he was alive or dead might make an impact. Maybe he’d stay in touch, at least better than he had been? Maybe he’d be more proactive, knowing that we loved him and worried about him? Maybe… maybe things would change for the better?

Sadly, it became pretty clear that nothing changed. Our little intervention made no difference at all. Dave continued to withdraw from the world around him. Offers to help him find work, suggestions to volunteer in the community, offers to hang out, all this and more fell on deaf ears. Again, I don’t blame Dave for this, though I’m profoundly saddened by it. I had seen similar behaviour in my mom, but the circumstances and situation was different. In my mom’s case, her anxiety, depression, and struggle with schizophrenia was paralyzing. She literally could not get out of bed some days and her retreat from the world was as a result of this. She had also been hospitalized a number of times for so-called “nervous breakdowns.” In Dave’s case, the details were different, but the end result was the same.

Dave in 2018 at a local diner in Little Italy after I thought he had died
One of the most difficult things about mental illness is that unless one really “bottoms out,” there’s very little aid given to people in our society. All of the Bell “Let’s Talk” campaigns don’t matter if one can’t get help when one needs it. Worse, there’s a conundrum here; what if one doesn’t think they need help? How does one help an adult that doesn’t not admit that they need help? Even “admit” here is a tricky word because that implies some type of denial. I’m not sure Dave was ever aware that he was in trouble. Or, if he was, he may have felt that these troubles would pass in time.

Dave could function, nominally. I suspect he could visit a grocery store and present as normal. I suspect no clerk or other customers really took any notice of him; he was still quiet and respectful, at least when I was with him, and I think most clerks might have just thought he was a bit quiet or — maybe — “odd.” He certainly never had any “episodes” (i.e.: an obvious mental health crisis) on the street that would have allowed some type of formal intervention. He was never hospitalized for depression. He was never hospitalized for any mental health issue at all.

He lived in a decaying house, on a quiet street, by himself. Alone is not a synonym for lonely. Dave might never have felt that he was lonely. I don’t know. From the outside, I think he was, but at the end of the day only he would know for sure. We were desperate to help him. We loved him dearly and it was brutal to watch him decline. For me it was especially hard because I had experienced this before with my own mom. Seeing it again, albeit with significant differences, was not easy. The feeling of powerlessness combined with a looming sense of inevitability is extremely difficult to communicate to someone who has never experienced it. Like an oncoming storm that’s still very far away, but coming all the same.

It is brutal to watch someone you love decline. And both my wife and I had to make a decision. There is only so much one can do. Dave’s behaviour was harming us. At some point we had to accept that he was living the life he wanted to, even if he wasn’t “well.” And, perhaps, a life that the “other” Dave, that younger healthier Dave, would not have accepted, either. We would always be there for him, but we couldn’t resolve any problems for him. As a matter of self-preservation, we had to pull back. At the end of the day, all we could do is be there for him, no questions asked, if and when he decided to reach out.

New Year's Eve 2016 Group Selfie with Dave Foohey, Samantha Boswell, and Von Allan
He never did. I suspect the pandemic made things that much worse. Given my wife’s health (she’s immune-compromised), we couldn’t risk much personal contact since COVID began. We had already made the decision to pull back from Dave to protect ourselves, but COVID basically cemented that. It hurt. Dave knew my wife’s health situation, but he never reached out to see how she was doing. That hurt, too. Do I blame him? No, I don’t, but the sting was there all the same. It did confirm to me that his mental health was not good; old Dave would have touched base. This Dave? He couldn’t do it, for whatever reason. Perhaps it never even crossed his mind.

Did Dave do anything wrong? No. What’s hard about this is that there’s no one really to blame. While I do hold his supervisors at Indian and Northern Affairs responsible for the lack of support they gave him, that was also 14 some-odd years ago. It’s not their fault. Nor is it his dad’s fault or his mom’s fault. It’s no one’s fault. It just is. And that’s hard. It’s also senseless and that’s hard, too.

Dave was 49 years old. He had a lot of living still to do. I dearly miss my friend. I miss what he was and I miss sharing what he could be. What if he had been able to gain control of his mental health? What could he have done? Where would he have gone? What joys could he have shared? The sting of death is not just the loss of what was, but the loss of what could be. There is an old poem, written in 1856 by John Greenleaf Whittier titled “Maud Muller.” It has a line that has stayed with me all of my life: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

A photo I took of Dave when he and I took a litle weekend trip to Montreal
I miss my friend. I miss what could have been. The three of us (Dave, my wife, and I) had loosely talked, way back when, about growing old and maybe buying a house together down east. Dave’s dad was from the Maritimes and I think the notion of moving back there one day appealed to Dave. It wasn’t a firm plan or anything like that, but it was an idea of three friends who loved each other and wanted to support one another. I miss that Dave.

Death is awful. The loss of loved ones, human or otherwise, always is. I think back to the experiences we shared together. Reading comics. Playing role-playing games. Watching pro wrestling. Playing cards. Hanging out. Talking. It hurts that I’ll never have that experience with him again, but I’m glad I had them. I can say that he helped me, especially when I was a kid, more than I ever realized. I was able to relax with Dave, something that — given my own history — was not so easy for me to do. I’m glad I told him, more than once, that I loved him. One of the last times we saw him, he said it back.

To love and be loved is, at the end of the day, what I think life is all about.

Dave was loved. And that’s important.

Dave is remembered. And that’s important, too.

Goodbye, Dave. I’ll miss you forever.


Photo of a young Von Allan with his mom in Dave Foohey's backyard
“We find in the myths no sense of bitterness at the harshness and unfairness of life, but rather a spirit of heroic resignation; humanity is born to trouble, but courage, adventure, and the wonders of life are matters of thankfulness, to be enjoyed while life is still granted to us. The great gifts of the gods were readiness to face the world as it was, the luck that sustains men in tight places, and the opportunity to win that glory which alone can outlive death… The dangers of this view of the world lay in a tendency towards lack of compassion for the weak, an over-emphasis on material success, and arrogant self-confidence: indeed the heroic literature contains frank warning against such errors.” — Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson, GODS AND MYTHS OF NORTHERN EUROPE

This is the last photograph I have of my mom and I together. Taken by Dave in his backyard.

Recent Podcast Interviews with Von Allan

I've recently been a guest on three different podcasts chatting about comics, art, COVID-19, and mental illness. In no particular order, here goes:

I was interviewed by Tim Midura and Kyle Welch on their Pages and Panels Podcast. This is a wide-ranging discussion of comics, my ongoing series WOLF'S HEAD, the situation at Diamond Comic Distributors, the documentary film I AM STILL YOUR CHILD, and on and on! I really enjoyed this one and I think you will, too. The interview can be found at https://pagesandpanels.squarespace.com/blog/2020/6/12/pages-and-panels-vol-2-23-von-allen-and-wolfs-head or downloaded directly as a MP3 right here (just right click to download).

Not to be outdone, I was also interviewed on the Out of the Basement podcast. Out of the Basement is a local podcast from here in Ottawa, but with social distancing due to COVID-19, it was handled remotely. This chat ranges from comics to D&D and was a lot of fun. This interview can be found at https://outofthebasement.ca/pod/ootb/out-of-the-basement-podcast-episode-91/ or downloaded directly as a MP3 here (again, just right click to download).

Lastly, the always lovely Kevin Midbo had me on to chat about the early stages of COVID-19 and how it was effecting folks in my neighbourhood here in Ottawa. Kevin is great and the discussion, while short, was terrific. It can be found at https://www.vancouverislandmentalhealthsociety.org/artist-and-comics-creator-von-allan-on-life-during-covid-19/ or downloaded directly as a MP3 right over here.

Share the Love

Wolf's Head Share the Love Teaser Illustrated by Von Allan
As everyone knows, these are difficult times. COVID-19 has spread like wildfire and, here in North America, we're most likely only in the initial stages. The death toll has been shocking; coming to grips with that is not easy to do. And, of course, the knock on effects throughout all of our lives has been shocking (not to shocking if you happen to have lived in the global south, something that writers like Vijay Prashad have articulated so well).

The economic effects will also take some time to sort out. In the short term, COVID-19 has led to layoffs and unemployment insurance claims in the United States we have never seen (as Doug Henwood details here). A similar situation exists here in Canada.

Comic books have not been spared. Not only are comic shops and book stores closed in much of North America, but Diamond Comic Distributors stopped shipping comics and graphic novels to retailers. Worse (as Calvin Reid reported in Publishers Weekly), Diamond has also halted payments to publishers. This might (I stress might) be catastrophic both for publishers and the creators they employ.

I have had a difficult relationship with Diamond over the past few years. Without going into details, this is partially why WOLF'S HEAD has appeared in so few comic book shops. The good news for both me and Von Allan Studio is that it means that we're not affected by Diamond's recent moves. The bad news is that we've seen the same shrinkage in sales that many others in comics have been seeing.

For the immediate future, I'm scrambling to get WOLF'S HEAD into ComiXology as fast as the process allows. Hopefully there will be good news on this front in the not too distant future. I'm also considering serializing WOLF'S HEAD as a free webcomic (and if you happen to have any thoughts on that, please do let me know). In the meantime, physical copies of WOLF'S HEAD are still available in the usual places throughout the world (Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Chapters/Indigo | Waterstones | Abebooks | and so on). If you are in a position to support the series financially, please consider buying some copies (either for you or for you and for folks you think will like it). If you aren't, please consider "boosting the signal" on social media (here are Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook links).

Please do take care of both yourself, your loved ones, and (maybe especially) strangers in your community.

Lastly, I tend to default to reading through difficult times. Especially poetry, but usually poetry that is usually at least one thousand years old. I find comfort in the fact that these poets, my fellow human beings who died hundreds of years before I was born, shared so many of the same joys and sorrows that I do. That you do.

I'll end this post with one poem that I love:

by Chia Tao (779-843), translated by Mike O'Connor

At first light, you ride
swiftly over the village bridge;

Plum blossoms fall
on the stream and unmelted snow.

With the days short and the weather cold,
it's sad to see a guest depart;

The Ch'u Mountains are boundless,
and the road, remote.

(from THE CLOUDS SHOULD KNOW ME BY NOW, edited by Red Pine and Mike O'Connor, published by Wisdom Publications).

Crossposted to https://wolfs-head.vonallan.com/

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