“My thoughts or worries came out of my head and into the comic pages” Susie Gander on the creation of Perrywinkle

One of the most eagerly awaited debuts at this weekend’s Nottingham Comic Convention is Susie Gander’s Perrywinkle – a mix of personal reflections on her own battles with cancer, along with a kick ass super heroine who manifests as Susie’s voice of conscience during her treatment. Ahead of her convention debut we catch up with Susie to hear the inspiration behind her inspiring story.

Tell us a bit about the inspiration for Perrywinkle, did you get the idea during your illness or afterwards? And what inspired you to tell your story as a comic.

Susie Gander: Perrywinkle was formed during my chemo sessions. They were long days, in at 9:30am, out by 4:00pm.I had 4 bags to go through, plus washes and steroids. Sat in the hospital my mind just wandered off and you start talking to yourself, its weird but she just sort of stuck. It’s like my inner voice became visual 🙂 I started doodling, so my thoughts or worries came out of my head and into the comic pages. The first draft was understandably very rough and I became so ill I had to stop, I didn’t pursue it again until I received a message from a young girl who had drawn her nan as Perrywinkle and explained to me her nan was sadly suffering with cancer, but it was her nan as her hero…. this is what Perrywinkle was about, I started again and completely redrew all the previous pages and finished the story.  

We love the mix of superhero action and personal reflections, was important for you to keep that personal element in rather than just go full superhero? And do you find those are the parts people identify with more? Was it hard writing about yourself rather than a character?

SG: The personal reflections are definitely the most important, these are what our raw emotions were like at the time, but these are also the key pages that highlight the symptoms, treatment and range of emotions you may go through when fighting an illness, the real – life of the situation, but it needed to be done in such a way, that it won’t be too sad or scary for young people to read, Perrywinkle was a way to raise the same message, but in a more positive and constructive way.

Writing about myself was easier, it was simply how I was feeling, but it almost worked as a therapy, to see the positive in a situation, as that how Perry would need to react.

We also love the way you have Perrywinkle change costume when you change treatment and she come out without hair – was it important for your heroine to represent this part of your illness in such a confident manner?

SG: Thank you so much. Absolutely this was vital. I was told I had cancer , 30 mins before I was brought into the “wig” area.  Don’t get me wrong, the work these women do is amazing and they help so many people, but it felt so unnatural to me personally. I immediately said no I would pass on the wig. The ladies insisted I try due to my young age. A few weeks later I picked up my wig, wore it out the hospital and for about 3 hours. Looking in the mirror, it just didn’t feel right. The first moment you embrace the baldness in town centre was so liberating and real. I needed to bring this feeling across in the comic. 

You originally released it as a webcomic and then redrew The pages for this collected edition, what was it like revisiting those pages and were there any challenges in redoing them?

SG: Revisiting them was great fun, it was quite interesting to see where my mind and “shakey” hand at the time was compared to now. Looking at different camera angles for certain scenes etc. Great fun 🙂

Tell us a bit about your inspirations artistically – I see a lot of 90s image styles in there like Michael Turner, J Scott Campbell and Marc Silvestri!

SG: Thank you so much, I am so honoured you have said that. You have listed my top 3, particularly Michael Turner. He was my all time favourite, since my first Tomb Raider and Fathom comic, very missed. 

Plus a bit of Disneys styling on Atlantis, I adore the look of Kida in that film. 

You’re debuting it at Nottingham, are you looking forward to your first time behind a table? 

SG: Absolutely it going to be great fun and a great experience and I am also very nervous, but there are so many supportive artists, writers, lettered and friends who have helped me so much. Thank you to all of them 🙂 

And finally will we see more Perrywinkle after this or do you have other characters and stories you’d like to develop?

SG: PerryWinkle will be appearing in the True Believers 2018 Charity Comic with a two page short. 🙂

Chemotherapy has left me with some fertility issues and we are undergoing IVF at the moment, I have been wondering if I should continue the similar therapy for myself with drawing and raising awareness there. 

I have nothing lined up at the moment, but I am trying to think up a story for a good horror comic, its something I have always wished to do, I love a good spooky 🙂 

You can find Susie at table L48 at Nottingham Comic Convention this weekend where you can buy Perrywinkle in person with 20% going to the Bloodwise Charity. Or you can pre-order the book from Susie’s website here.