Honors nursing student Marie Hodges shows her creative side with self-published cartoon book

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February 12, 2018

Have you ever seen a comic book made of drawings on Post-it notes? About horses and cowboys and cowgirls? And places you can find hay (including your cereal)?


Marie Hodges

Marie Hodges created a book with her drawings about horses.

“’Hay!’ and other painful things found in my boot: a comic ode to horses and related circumstances” is such a comic book. Barrett Honors College senior Marie Hodges created the book, which is now available on Amazon.

The book contains numerous comics -some hilarious - that Hodges drew about horses and the people who live with them.

You may notice that on the Amazon page for the book, it says it is created by an aspiring cowgirl. Does this mean ASU has a horse riding major? Well, no, actually, but there is the university’s English Equestrian Team.

Hodges’s major is nursing. What does nursing have to do with horses?

“There is almost no correlation between nursing and being a cowgirl,” Hodges said. “I view them both separately, as things I do.”

Hodges got her first horse when she was eight. At age 10, she got another horse that she would ride for a decade. Her family lives in an acre of land in Gilbert, Arizona, which makes it possible for them to own horses.

“We did the local 4-H club in Queen Creek and did all sorts of riding disciplines together, with my favorites being a tie between Team Sorting [penning cattle by number and timed] and Gymkhana [speed events like barrel racing],” Hodges said. “I also trail rode my horse a lot around our neighborhood and know many people in the ‘horse world.’

During her freshman year in college, her faithful steed was put down and she took a break from riding. Now, if Hodges ever needs to ride, she exercises her sister’s horse.

“I consider myself ‘aspiring’ because most equestrians, including my sister, are better than me,” Hodges said, “and horseback riding is my stress relief, more of a thing I did than a sport. I guess in that way it’s somewhat related to nursing, which is a stressful career choice.”

Hodges said her mom always wanted horses growing up and it was her idea to acquire them when they had the capability to own them. Her parents ride occasionally, with her father enjoying feeding and caring for the family’s horses. Her brother and sister, who went through the same 4-H club activities as Hodges, also ride horses.  

 “My sister is really intense about it - she's literally picking a college to go to based on whether she could competitively ride for them. She thinks it would be really cool to get into the Olympics,” Hodges said.

Hodges said her family has two horses - Wyatt, their “go-to, standby, amazing ranch horse”, Fitzwilliam, Fitz for short, who is her sister's horse, and one donkey named Penelope, a wild rescue animal who the family attempted to tame “with limited success.”

Hodges said she and her family are “horse people” and consider their four-legged friends members of the family. “They are as much a part of our family as anyone.”

“And yes, most horse people know each other. It's leftover courtesy from the Wild West as well as comparatively few people ride here in the Phoenix metropolitan area,” she added.

Hodges said she started creating her book about a year and a half ago when she was attending one of her sister’s all-day horse shows and was “bored out of my mind.”

“I was talking to one of my best girl friends in Chicago on my phone, and for some reason she mentioned comic strips on Post-it notes and sent me a couple pictures of some,” Hodges said. “I was intrigued and found Post-it notes and a pen in my purse. My sister was sitting next to me when she wasn’t riding, and so I began making comics about horse shows and sticking them to her as a joke.”

Marie Hodges drawing

A drawing by Marie Hodges

Hodges took home her Post-it note drawings and showed her family, who encouraged her to make more. As she started noticing more funny things about the horse world, she wrote them down and turned them into comics.

“I’ve done comic strips all my life, actually, mostly informally,” Hodges said. “What I like about doing them on Post-its is that I have exactly one square to be funny in, and it helps localize the humor. It’s really just blossomed from there.”

Marie Hodges comic pretty to look at

In this comic, horses are "pretty to look at."

Marie Hodges comic

A comic titled "What the neighbors see."

Hodges had about 150 of these comics when she decided to publish them on Amazon.

“I was mostly encouraged by my family, who swore that they were really good and that other horse people would enjoy them,” Hodges said.

Hodges started by making an appointment with an ASU librarian to gather information about self-publishing. “I knew absolutely nothing about publishing. She was really helpful and gave me (information about) the site CreateMySpace, as well as copyright information.”

She used CreateMySpace templates to format her book.  Hodges said she liked the creative process more than the publishing process, which required her to scan images, reformat them, and lay them all out in a 100-page book. She also copyrighted all of her comics.

“On the first book I had my artsy friend help me reformat, but on the second one I’m doing I’ll probably just do it myself,” Hodges said.

Hodges also enjoyed using CreateMySpace because it gives her $5, roughly 30 percent, for every copy she sells, although she isn’t doing this for the profits.

“At a normal publisher, I would get around one percent, but I would have more access to the market,” Hodges said. “I just did this because it was easy and publishing houses are hard to get into, particularly for niche markets.”

The self-publishing process cost her $85: $55 for copyright and $30 for a subscription to CreateMySpace. She said she hasn’t come close to making it back, but it’s just her hobby.

“For me, it’s not about the money, and I went in knowing that,” Hodges said. “My book is only available online. Someday I also want to make a website for it.”

While Hodges has taken out time to pursue her creative interests and self-publish a book, she has kept up with her honors requirements.

 “My thesis was done my junior year,” Hodges said. “I made an education tool to test teaching of the importance of medication adherence for Parkinson’s disease, and tested this tool on my fellow nursing students. It mostly worked.”

Hodges said her nursing specialty will be in telemetry, with a focus on cardiac care. She is looking to work out-of-state or at the Mayo Clinic.

“Nursing is a dream career for me and there's really nothing else I would rather do,” Hodges said. “I find it both a fascinating challenge and on a list of things I'd never thought I'd do. I think it's the only career I could go to work and come home in a better mood then when I came in.”

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