By Joe Gordon
I first met Rod McKie through my time editing the Forbidden Planet Blog, another friend made through shared love of comics and books and art.
(How many of us have had that? It’s one of the wonderful things about our comics community).
With both of us living in Edinburgh, we were able to meet up, and we especially made a point of trying to do this after Rod was recovering from a cancer treatment, a few years ago. The radiotherapy had to target around his throat, leaving his voice a whisper for quite a long time, as well as making swallowing difficult and leaving him struggling to sense any sensation of taste for months. We determined to go out together, mostly because we wanted to, but also because I wanted to try and help him, at least a little, and I thought it would be good for his morale as he started his slow recovery.
We would meet up in town to go to some of Edinburgh’s many galleries, and enjoy the art. Along the way, us being us, we would make some humorous and sarcastic comments about artwork we didn’t like as much, and have a good giggle. There was, I must be clear, no meanness to this, it was just a little fun between us, conversation made while admiring the works that we really loved, or going around the Artist’s Book Market the Fruitmarket Gallery held, where artists of all strips, including comics folks we were glad to see, could have a table to sell their art, books, comics and other works.
Along the way, while walking in galleries, around town, in cafes and pubs, we also had good conversations about anything and everything, but especially about our shared loved for comics art. Talking about new works we had seen, admiring some of the new talent coming through as well as our favourite Old School creators.
These trips would all include a break in a nearby patisserie. When Rod was still recovering from the cancer treatment he had trouble swallowing as his throat had been damaged, and his taste buds hadn’t recovered. No problem, our ingenious minds came up with a cunning solution: as well as cakes, they had chocolate mousse. Mousse is soft, so Rod found to his delight he could swallow it without angering his recovering throat, and his damaged taste buds could pick up some of the taste. Needless to say, next time we went out we made sure to pay another visit to the patisserie as well.
With the pandemic we haven’t seen each other in person for over a year; thinking back, I think the last time we got to meet up was last January, for the annual Turner exhibition in the National Gallery of Scotland. A bequest to the gallery, the collection stipulated that the works be shown each January, when the winter light best suits Turner’s work, which has made it a bit of an annual diary event for many here.
When I was told Rod had been rushed to hospital earlier this month, I was hoping all that week that he would recover, and that when he did we would go out again, as the galleries re-opened, and of course, afterwards, we would have happily devoured some cake together. That’s not going to happen now, it’s never going to happen again, and that’s just wretched; the galleries will re-open, but I won’t get to share those spaces with my friend again.
My thoughts go out to his family, who must be reeling ,not just with grief but with the suddenness of it all; having, sadly, been through sudden loss, I know first hand how it adds a layer of shock and a strange unreality to the grief, that horrible sensation as your world is shattered just like that.
Despite the facts their minds and hearts must have been in a thousand places, they still reached out to let me know what was happening because they didn’t want me to find out from social media, an act of loving consideration for which I am extremely grateful.
I will let others here talk about Rod’s work across a broad range of international publications. All I have to add is that I am shocked and hurt by his loss, and that I will miss my friend.
Joe has been a bookseller since the early 1990s, with a special love for comics, graphic novels and science fiction. He has written for The Alien Online, created & edited the Forbidden Planet Blog and chaired numerous events for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He’s more or less house-trained.
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