A Behind-the-Scenes Look

My name is Susan Mattinson and I'm the minister of
​First Presbyterian Church in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

​​You might say that I'm full of Shep! *ba-dum tsssss*

​​Here are the answers to some FAQ's...

How did you come up with the idea for “Pastor Shep”?

I’m proud to say that I draw like a six year old with over twenty
​years of practice! By that, I mean that I don't have any formal art
​education or complicated computer programs. I use paper,
​pencils, inking pens, and coloured pencils to create all the comics
​by hand and then I scan them onto the computer. I love that I still
​create pictures with essentially the same materials that I used
​when I was a child!

The character of Pastor Shep was created while I was in
​seminary. I was struggling to make sense of the role I would have
​as a minister. Ministers are supposed to be leaders and there’s
​this idea that they're more equipped or more spiritually developed
​than the people in their church. But at the very same time,
​ministers are just Christians like everyone else—quirky, making
​mistakes, and trying their best to understand and to live their
​faith day by day. In my mind, ministers are essentially sheep who
​are shepherds…“sheepherds”, if you will.

Where do your jokes come from?

The inspiration for the jokes comes from a lot of different places.  
​They're mistakes I’ve made, funny stories of my own or that other
​people have shared with me and allowed me to use; they’re
​things that I could see going wrong, even if they haven’t actually
​gone wrong. Sometimes they're simply funny puns, plays on
​words, things misheard or misunderstood, or odd Bible ​
​references—like in the case of the “Jehu’s Driving” comic. I
​actually had a number of people contact me to say they looked
​up the scripture reference themselves, just to make sure it was
​really ​in the Bible!

What’s with the weird combination of animals?

I use an impossible combination of animals in the comics. There
​are sheep, but there is also an octopus, turtle, a couple types of
​parrot, a chicken, goldfish, snake, spider, whale, and various
​other creatures. I do that to represent all the different
​personalities and even mobility issues of people in our churches.
​For instance, in my mind, the goldfish in the goldfish bowl
​represents someone in a wheelchair, or who is bedridden, or who
​is otherwise unable to get around by themselves. And yet, we see
​the goldfish still welcomed and taking part in the life of the

What is a picture pageant?

The picture pageants have been a unique offshoot of the Pastor
​Shep comics. It started one winter when I realized we didn't have
​enough children to stage a live Christmas Pageant in our church,
​but that children would still be coming to our Christmas Eve
​service. Wanting something that would still appeal to children in
​the audience, I wrote out the basic Christmas story and illustrated
​it as though the “Pastor Shep” characters were performing a
​Christmas pageant. On Christmas Eve, I read the story while
​projecting the pictures onto a large screen with an LCD projector.
​It went over really well! Actually, “Pastor Shep’s Picture Pageant”
​is now a published book! There is also a CD option that gives
​churches access to the raw pictures and story files. That way, a
​church can put together their own LCD presentation to use
​during the Christmas season. I hope to keep making various
​picture pageants and making them available as a unique
​resource for churches.

Do you see this as a ministry?

I absolutely consider “Pastor Shep” a ministry—a comic strip
​ministry! It’s cute and it’s fun, but I hope people also find the
​deeper layers in the comics—messages about what it means to be
​a part of a varied faith community; what it means to be a leader
​by being a servant; and what it means to have the humour and
​faith of a child. It’s easy to get frustrated, or point out the flaws
​and failings of the Church, but it’s my prayer that “Pastor Shep”
​will instead inspire people to celebrate the quirky family of faith
​that we’ve come to know and love. Truly, it’s a large and
​colourful tapestry that we get to be a part of, so let’s enjoy it!

Pastor Shep © Susan Mattinson, 2012-2019. Reproduction permitted with permission of creator.  All Rights Reserved.
First Pastor Shep drawing...
drawn a few years before I started the strip and crinkled by neglect.
first pastor shep crinkled christian comic cartoon pastor shep susan mattinson
​All comics are hand-drawn, inked, and coloured with loving care. 
The finished product is simply computer-scanned and cropped.
pastor shep comic hand drawn ink color creative process susan mattinson
Each comic is drawn roughly as a storyboard 
to sort out movement and timing.
storyboard pastor shep comic rough drawn movement timing susan mattinson
Publications in which
​Pastor Shep appears:
  • The Link Magazine Saltburn by the Sea Methodist Church.
  • TSANZSRS conference presentation in New Zealand (May 2016) and Australia (April 2016)
  • Various church bulletins, mail-outs, newsletters, websites, and social media around the world!
livenet.ch german webportal christian comic pastor shep translated cartoon des tages livenet susan mattinson
Many "Pastor Shep" comics have even been translated into German!
It's meeee!

headshot photo susan mattinson artist author pastor shep