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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > May 2017 > Back in the saddle

Back in the saddle

Katherine Collins, creator of the comic Neil the Horse, saw her career end when she transitioned. She’d like it back


Katherine Collins is known throughout her Vancouver neighbourhood of Commercial Drive as the woman who sings. She is the woman who sings on the street, the woman who sings at the Safeway, the woman who sings at the bank. When Collins does speak, it is akin to a performance piece, with flailing arms, a lilting voice, and a beaming face. “I’m the biggest ham in the world,” she said with a laugh, something else she does often and easily.

Collins’s small apartment is modest and homey. Vintage travel posters and California fruit-crate labels hang on the walls, and personal photographs are scattered throughout. Bookcases front much of the wall space in her living room. A few shelves contain novels by the likes of Alice Munro, but most are filled with comics. There are volumes of reprinted newspaper strips like Terry and the Pirates, Prince Valiant, and Krazy Kat, and slipcased hardcovers of vintage Donald Duck. Some shelves are devoted to old New Yorker cartoon albums and books by the magazine’s artists and authors. On the floor, an antique wooden trunk is filled with clipped Sunday comic pages from early-20th-century broadsheets. Stacked on and around the trunk are two boxes filled with recent purchases still to be shelved.

When I visited Collins in February, a pile of original art spread out on the dining-room table was the only visible evidence that this 69-year-old woman with perfect pitch once was the cartoonist Arn Saba, creator of Neil the Horse, a rubber-band-legged character drawn in a style reminiscent of early Disney cartoons and best remembered for a unique 15-issue run during the black-and-white-comics boom – and bust – of the 1980s. Saba spent more than 15 years combining his love of cartooning with his love of music to produce the adventures of Neil and his friends: Soapy, a feline grifter, and Mam’selle Poupée, a living doll in search of true love. Collins had dusted off the large boards and sheets of film in preparation for a collected Neil the Horse volume Conundrum Press will publish this spring, the first time the character will appear in print in nearly three decades.

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About Quill & Quire

Graphica Spotlight: Katherine Collins, Neil the Horse creator gets back in the saddle; The legacy of groundbreaking art director Margaret Paull.