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Avril Brown Presents:


The time has come.

I’ve been thinking about this for roughly four years now, and I finally feel this is the right moment. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for me to get another tattoo.

I absolutely adore body art. Tattoos can be beautiful and interesting and personal and inspiring. For me and many other inked people out there, our tattoos mean something. They have a story behind them, a reason for their being. They are an intimate representation of a part of one’s soul.

True some people get the rose on the small of the back or the bicep barbed wire simply because it looks cool. I spent a half an hour with my tattoo artist designing my third, and during about five of those minutes a chick walked in, looked at some flash art on the walls and picked out a butterfly she described as “kinda cute.” Not a lot of soul depiction there. There are some of us, though, who chose our art to represent things or people we love.

I got my first tattoo during my freshman year in college. I walked into The Tattoo Factory in Ithaca, New York, ready and willing to become an inked individual. I went with a close friend who wanted to get her own body art done for personal reasons that are not mine to divulge. Our artist was, for lack of a better word, just plain cool. He was covered in art and piercings, he had wicked hair and a totally sweet personality. Not to mention he’s a fantastic artist. He designed what I asked for but in slightly a different angle, making it infinitely better than what I had originally planned.

I knew I wanted my first tattoo to be a shark. I have a deep respect and fascination for these creatures. Over the millions of years they’ve been on this planet pretty much the only thing that has changed about these nearly perfect hunting machines is their size. They are survivors. I wanted their strength to be the basis for my first piece of body art.

Our artist warned us before he started that tattoos are addictive. People realize it doesn’t hurt as much as they thought it would, and it looks fucking awesome. He was right. Rogue was born that day, and I knew as soon as I saw her in the mirror I couldn’t stop there.


I formulated a plan for three more. I wanted a nature related theme, something that signified of my love for the creatures of this planet (be they real or fictional) while also representing strength and tenacity. So I decided on four powerful animals to represent the four elements of life: water, earth, fire and air. Rogue (named for, surprise surprise, my favorite X-gal), would represent water.

Earth came my sophomore year in the form of a leopard. Pound for pound leopards are some of the strongest cats in the animal kingdom, being able to drag prey heavier than they are halfway up a tree. They also happen to be very pretty kitties. I wanted the cat to be climbing up some rocks with his head turned over the shoulder, looking out. Ken, my second tattoo artist who dressed like he stepped out of a sixties malt shop, originally designed the exact opposite of my request. First off, it was the length of my calf even though I explained it was to be smaller in size so it could fit on my lower back while leaving room for two others in the future. The cat was climbing down through a bamboo forest with a bubbling brook snaking through its legs. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fabulous piece of artwork, it just wasn’t what I wanted. He was kind of an asshole about it, but I got him to design a piece more along the lines of what I was looking for and Baby was created. I got the name from a film called ‘Bringing Up Baby’ starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and a leopard named Baby. If you’re into romantic, slapstick comedies from the thirties I highly recommend a viewing.

Junior year brought fire, and the creation of River, my phoenix. Ken managed to survive another year at the Tattoo Factory, which seemed to go through artists like beer through the human bladder. This time around he was more accommodating. We scheduled a time for me to come in and talk him through the design I had in mind. I wanted a classic phoenix, red and orange flames, head turned and mouth open in a silent screech. He wanted to make sure it didn’t look too much like the Pontiac Firebird decal. We both ended up happy. Well, two hours of a needle jabbing my tender flesh was no picnic. He had no other appointments that afternoon so he had time to “really noodle the hell out of this one,” which translates to more color and more time under the needle. Not exactly a painless present, but totally worth it. The name was a joking suggestion from one of my roommates, but it seemed to fit so I stuck with it.

The fourth and final element came in the form of a dragon to represent air. From the Eastern style to the Western, there are plenty of depictions of dragons out there and I looked through a plethora of images to help me visualize what I wanted. After much debate, Verity was conceived. My fourth artist (Ken was gone by my senior year) truly captured what I had in mind, and the colors really stand out. This one was even higher up on my back, directly over my ribcage, so admittedly this one kind of hurt. The needle seemed to vibrate in my bones, but the pain is fleeting and a small price to pay for such stunning work. My dragon was named for a character in a fabulous fantasy series who sacrifices his human consciousness to become a dragon and save his people from a fate worse than death. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb, is the name of the series for those of you into dragons, castles and telepathic links with animals.

Now the time is ripe for a new piece. I’ve tossed around several ideas over the last four years as to what would be my next tattoo; one involved linking my four elements in some way, others were radical new ideas. I never really felt passionate about any of them…until now. Gambit and Rogue are not just my favorite X-Men characters, they are the reason I became a comic book fan. As mentioned before, I was (and still am) a big fan of the original animated series. The whole team pretty much rocked, but it was the sexual tension and sparkage between the Cajun and the River Rat which captured my heart as well as my imagination. Those two characters just happened to be on the cover of X-Men when I stopped to check out the comic book stand in Walgreens ten years ago, something I had never done before that day. I’m not going so far to say I am a believer in fate, but with incidents like that I can’t help but wonder.

A semi-formed picture has taken shape in my head, but I am requesting audience participation to help me complete the image. My general idea is the queen of hearts playing card in which the queen has a white streak through her hair and the whole card is charged with Gambit’s purple, flame-like kinetic energy. Or the queen of hearts and the joker, with the likeness of Rogue and Gambit, respectively, both encircled with the crackling purple fire. This is to be located on my shoulder blade and I am open to suggestions; however I do not wish to vary too drastically from these ideas. If anyone has any artistic talent in addition to free time on your hands, I welcome submissions.

Why Rogue and Gambit, some might ask. Why comic book characters? I’m becoming more and more immersed in this colorful and imaginative world, and I feel something awakening inside of me. Something is changing, both in how I view the world and how I view myself, and I want to commit myself to that change. That is what a tattoo is. It is a permanent commitment to an alteration of flesh. I’m pretty fed up with hearing “But it’ll become all saggy and wrinkled as you get older.” Everything is going to become saggy and wrinkled as I get older, not much I can do about that. Plus, if I’m lucky enough to find a significant other as I proceed along this life, I sincerely doubt that person is going to give a flying fuck if some of my skin ends up having a bit more color to it than just liver spots.

So yes, I am a gigantic nerd who is going to have fictional characters eternally etched onto my body, but this is my choice, and I believe in the reasoning behind it. My art aids me in my battles against inner demons and serves as everlasting reminders that true strength can come in many forms. Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge a tattoo before you hear what it has to say. Open your ears and your mind and listen to the tales that body art has to tell.

Avril Brown

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