Gareth Gaudin documents his mom's dementia in his daily cartoon series. (Gareth Gaudin)

From Cosmic Kitty to Legends: Victoria cartoonist looks over his legacy

Gareth Gaudin has turned each decade of his life into comic magic

Comic book alley.

It’s right in Victoria’s downtown on Broad Street, and from the corner you can see several comic book shops. There once was eight of them, but today there still resides one that’s the oldest to stay in the same location (31 years): Legends Comics and Books.

And as that little shop has served the comic book lovers of Victoria, so has its owner, Gareth Gaudin. He has certainly made a name for himself, perhaps best known for his comic Perogy Cat, a comic the Barenaked Ladies enjoy. Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies actually sings two versions of his tune The Perogy Cat Theme Song, as well as does a dramatic reading of the book available for purchase.

There is an undeniable charm and playful humour to Gaudin’s work and his approach to his business. It may or may not come from one thing: Gaudin absolutely loves comics and has devoted his life to them.

Gaudin got his first date with his now-wife because of a comic he drew. His shop’s best-selling comic book is one he made that features his daughters as main characters, and he is now the head of the Comics and Graphic Novels department at Camosun College.

This year, with Gaudin reaching his 50th birthday, he realized that every decade has marked a significant achievement that has to do with graphic novels.

“I realized that all these decades that had passed, the year I turned 20 I came up with this new comic book idea and I worked with it for 10 years and then the year I turned 30 was when I created Perogy Cat, and then the year I turned 40 was the Monster Sisters, and I just turned 50, so I was like, ‘What is it?’”

But before we get into what the next thing is, let’s go back through the decades.

In 1983, at age 10, Gaudin had a few years of writing, drawing and publishing comics under his belt (he started when he was five), and was doing a comic called Cosmic Kitty.

“It was Garfield meets Godzilla,” Gaudin said.

Gaudin soon after started working in Legends as a teenager, being the “kid sidekick.” His love of comics was always evident, and when the owner decided to sell the place, Gaudin was ready to take it. He didn’t want to do it alone, however, and that’s when he found his co-owner, Lloyd Chesley.

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“Lloyd was the best customer we had and the one that read all the good comics, so I realized if I was going to be the cartoonist who doesn’t read comics – I spend all my time drawing them – team up with a guy who spends all his time reading them.”

The two make an easy pair, animatedly bouncing off ideas and discussions about the artistry of graphic novels.

When Gareth was 20, he had the idea to turn the skateboarding magazine he made in his teens into a full-time comic book. In January, 1993, Magic Teeth Skateboarding Magazine became Magic Teeth Comics issue No. 1.

“My teens were devoted to skateboarding magazines with comic strips in them and my 20’s were all about comic book zines.”

It was the year of Gaudin’s 30th birthday, in a late-night history of art class, when a classmate crush inspired arguably one of his most popular comics: Perogy Cat.

“I was sitting next to this really cute girl and overhearing her talk about her diabetic cat, and I created the Perogy Cat,” he said.

Not only did the plump feline help him win the girl (they are now married), but Perogy Cat has been in 28 tattoos of fans (that Gaudin has seen), the star of three graphic novels, dozens of comic books, a hardcover children’s book, starred in numerous animated rock videos, and is loved by the Barenaked Ladies.

“I put all this effort for years into making my comics look good and be detailed and then it was the Perogy Cat, the most simplified character I’d ever come up with, that kind of struck.”

Perogy Cat went on to become Legend’s mascot and star in The Magic Teeth Dailies, Gaudin’s other project of his 30s, in which he committed to drawing a single cartoon every day for the rest of his life. The project slowly evolved to be like a daily comic diary.

“For years, in my bag I carried with all my art tools, I had a piece of chalk and I’d say, if I get hit by a car, I was going to draw my own chalk outline before I died,” Gaudin said.

In 2013, at age 40, Gareth created Enid Jupiter & Lyra Gotham: The Monster Sisters, a comic book series about the adventures of an intrepid sibling duo, aka his daughters.

“It’s like a treasure map of Victoria using preteen girls as sleuths trying to figure out how to stop a monster attack.”

While working on the series, Gaudin was artist in residence at the B.C. Museum which helped with the historical and architectural explorations of the books.

The series has meant a lot to his daughters.

“They love it. They still dress as themselves at Halloween,” he said.

And now in 2023, Gaudin has turned 50 and the big question is: what’s next?

“I think it’s documenting my mom with dementia,” he said. “She’s such a great muse. There’s enough there cause she has a fantastic life, that I think I’ll be writing that for awhile.”

“Documenting my mom’s dementia in cartoons has been very helpful for both of us, it allows us to find the humour in the horror and to constantly strive to enjoy every moment we have together. The cartoons have really, really helped me come to terms with losing my Mum. As slow as it is, it still pains me to watch her slip away.”

As he has done throughout his life, Gaudin uses comic art as a tool to get at the heart of life, and turn the messy, beautiful and challenging moments into something tangible, impactful and just a little bit more magical.

“It’s an almanac, a family history, and a snapshot of an era that is quickly passing by. Documenting it has encouraged me to ask a lot of questions of her childhood and we’re bonding over her still-intact memories of growing up in Dundee, Scotland in the 1940s.

“It means a whole lot, especially the idea that one day I’ll get to look back on all these chapters and relive the best times that we’ve had.”

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Gareth Gaudin documents his mom's dementia in his daily cartoon series. (Gareth Gaudin)