The ComiQuad: Local Spotlight on Cathy Leamy

Boom! Wham! Pow! The ComiQuad , having (mostly) escaped the clutches of criminal mastermind “Senior Year,” has triumphantly returned! This time, it brings with it a new superpower: local artist spotlights! The CQ’s third installment features Cathy Leamy, a Boston-based cartoonist who has created such family favorites as “Diabetes is After Your Dick!” and “Geraniums and Bacon.”

All images accredited to Cathy Leamy.

ComiQuad: Where did the term “MetroKitty,” the URL of your website, come from?

Cathy Leamy: Aww man, I wish I had a good origin story for all of these things. People always ask “‘Geraniums and Bacon’, where does that come from?” and I got nothing. It was just a turn of phrase.

I was just trying to come up with a domain name and I was just jamming words together. It was either going to be that or MetroPie and, in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t choose MetroPie because that lends itself to unsavory interpretations.

In your diary comics, you refer to yourself as Kitty, yes?

Yeah, mostly. It was just kind of a pet name for myself, I guess?

Which came first, that or your domain name? Did you call yourself Kitty after the domain name or the other way around?

Oh god. I don’t know, man, I’ve got a lot of names.

So Kitty isn’t a name that you’ve had all of your life?

No, not at all. Not at all. It was a relative’s name, and I know sometimes I would use it for names, but not for myself. I remember when I was starting college I was thinking “I’m going to get people to call me Kitty,” and then used Kitty as email login, but nothing ever happened with that at all. And then I tried it again for like five minutes at my new workplace when there were like, four other Catherines, and, nah, that didn’t take either.

Kitty was also my anonymous Internet name before I felt comfortable about who my name was.

The cover to "Mindful Drinking."
The cover to “Mindful Drinking.”

Why do you art?

There’s something about comics. I like telling people things in a really entertaining way. It can be information, it can be stories. I like attention, comics get attention, and comics are just the medium where I just did it.

I don’t know if it’s because I grew up reading British kids’ comics. I guess that and children’s books were my first mediums. Maybe in my head I was like, “This is how you tell stories.” And it’s just never left.

There’s something that connects more about comics. And I just really really like that. And I have to do it for an audience, I can’t do comics just for myself. That final step needs to be fulfilled or it just doesn’t do it for me.

When did you first start drawing?

Oh god, my whole life. As far back as I can remember.

Fourth grade was around when I started drawing comic strips. I know I had been reading the British kids’ comics for years and maybe I had been doodling stuff already, and we still had a subscription when we moved back to America. I got super into Garfield, Foxtrot, and those ones, so that’s where I started making up my own versions of those characters and drawing in that style.

When did you first decide that you wanted put your comics “out there” for the world to see?

I’d say around 2007. This was back when they had the Boston Zine Fair. I definitely attended one of those and tabled at a couple of them and that was right around the time I was like “Hey! Minicomics! Look at this thing!” and I had never really encountered any of the mini scene at all.

I got into the [comics] scene for a few years, and then was still just making like one issue of “Geraniums and Bacon” a year and showing up at the zine fair once a year, and then, I think around 2007, I just met the guys who were just putting together the Boston Comics Roundtable. They were tabling at the zine fair too.

I met them around the same time I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. Through a lot of talk therapy, I got to the point where I was like “Wait, it’s totally okay for me to do comics and have it be a big part of my life.” I don’t have to just find just fulfillment from my day job. I don’t need to put all my stress on that just to find the perfect day job.

I can have a really awesome day job, and do this as well.

That kind of personal legitimization and finding a peer group at the same time, that’s where I started really getting at it, and putting tons more online and getting into anthologies and everything.

What is your day job?

I do web programming at a hospital. So when you go to the doctor’s and they bring your chart up on the computer? I do that.

Actually, dude, I got into grad school!


Yeah, I’m going to grad school starting in January. I’m going to get a master’s degree in health communication. Over at Tufts.

I want to get more into medical writing and into the medical comics! That’s kind of taken off, and I want to push that as much as I can.

A sample from "Geraniums and Bacon 6."
A sample from “Geraniums and Bacon 6.”

What inspired you to create comics that deal with medical issues?

This goes back to high school, or even grade school, where I liked to draw cartoons to explain things. I must have heard someone say, “Do a comic book version of a book report,” and thought, “Teehee, I’m going to try that.” It came out really bad, it didn’t really address the book at all.

In high school, for Academic Decathalon, which is basically “Nerd Bowl,” I would make cartoons out of it. I would make cartoons about the World Health Organization and stuff like that.

It’s not like I was thinking “People will learn from this,” it was just more like, “I like drawing cartoons!” And that’s it.

In 2007 and 2008, comics got legitimate in my head, and then, I want to say like three years ago, I read about a “comics and medicine” conference and thought that that was the coolest thing ever.

Because then I had been working for the hospital for about five years or so by that time, and had been thinking, “Damn, I’m in health care and I love comics! This is so awesome! I’ve got to go to the next one.”

Then I went and was like, “Holy crap, what did I just go to? That was amazing.” I totally thought it was going to be people drawing Superman punching smoking or cancer as a supervillain, but it was all these different ways of doing comics. It wasn’t really a comics audience either, it was mostly clinicians and researchers and people interested in comics.

After that, I was like, “Holy shit I’ve got to do this, this is what I have to do.”

Ever since then, I’ve gotten madly in love with it. Doing “Mindful Drinking,” “Diabetes is After Your Dick,” stuff like that. It’s been wonderful. This is what has driven me to go to grad school. I want to get even better at this.

Do you have a favorite comic that you’ve produced?

It’s probably “Diabetes is After Your Dick.” It just hits the spot so well.

It hits the right mix of humor and comics and setting out to do exactly what I wanted it to do.

A sample from "Geraniums and Bacon 5."
A sample from “Geraniums and Bacon 5.”

What are your goals for the future?

Aaaaaah, this is really difficult. They’re not solid. I just know I want to continue making healthcare comics and reach a larger audience. I’m hoping to polish my skills. I’m hoping to network and get access to projects in grad school that mean I can do larger-scale things where it’s not just, “I photocopied this thing to put on my website.”

I’m hoping to have the network and bandwidth and energy. I guess with my day job sometimes, and everything going on, it’s hard to say, “Okay, I’ve made this comic” and put in the huge effort of disseminating it all over the Internet.

It’s more like, “I’ve put it on the Internet, I’ll let it go viral on its own.” I’m hoping to have more of the impetus to do stuff like that.

Do you have any more ideas that you’re bouncing around for more healthcare comics?

At some point, I do plan to do this: I really want to do a follow-up to the “Diabetes is After Your Dick” comic, where it’s not specifically about diabetes awareness.

I don’t know how familiar you are with diabetes, but one of the complications is bad things happen to your feet because lack of circulation, lack of nerves. You might get a cut and not notice it for weeks and, oh shit, we’ve got to chop your leg off.

Foot care for diabetics is really important.

And I was thinking, if only the diabetics and foot fetishists teamed up, everybody would win! [laughs] I love it.

I kinda want to do a sexy guide to diabetic footwear.

Overall, what interests me is health and wellness and preventative care and how do we get ourselves and people to do behaviors that we know we should do, but don’t. One of the things that appeals to me is reframing behaviors as positive things you can do.

For example, “Oh god I’ve got to check my feet because I’ve got diabetes.” Instead of it being this awful, scary, sucky thing I have to do all the time, what if you could make it be a pleasurable thing you can do with a partner?

What if you could reframe it like that? And that’s what I’m hoping to do.

I’m looking forward to doing that one. That’s going to be sexy [laughs].

Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

Besides this, I do still plan to make my own personal comics. I’ve got the perpetual graphic novel script that never gets finished, [and] still plan to keep doing Geraniums and Bacon. I think the challenge is still being able to make time and have fun with my own comics.

Thanks Cathy!

Interview edited for length.

About Jon Erik Christianson

Jon Christianson (COM/CAS '14) is the zany, misunderstood cousin of The Quad family. His superpowers include talking at the speed of light, tripping over walls, and defying ComiQuad deadlines with the greatest of ease. His lovely copyeditors don't appreciate that last one. If for some reason you hunger for more of his nonsense, follow him at @HonestlyJon on Twitter or contact him at!

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