Tag Archives: obituary

Harlan Ellison: A Memorial

Harlan Ellison died in his sleep. Not a bad way to shuffle off this mortal coil as these things go but I am reasonably confident that he would have preferred some form of corporeal immortality to what dreams may come. I never got to meet the man but he wrote with his heart on his sleeve so I feel like I know him and that, I think, was responsible for most of his appeal. Neil Gaiman once wrote that “writers are liars” but Harlan Ellison was the exception that proves the rule: he was, in his art at least, completely and brutally honest.

I think that maybe this is one reason that he took such umbrage at being identified as a “science-fiction writer”. There’s a certain sense that science-fiction (and fantasy, horror, and comics for that matter) don’t mean anything because they aren’t about real things. This is true to a certain extent. Most of what passes for popular fiction in both its prose and graphic form is hollow, a bronze titan with feet of clay ready to collapse under the weight of its own conceits. Ellison’s fiction, both fantastic and otherwise, was as solid as Mount Everest and (hopefully) just as enduring.

Ellison’s work is special because he combined several traits that are rarely found in a single individual. The first of these is a childlike lust for life that became truly poignant when combined with an adult’s sense that mortality is essentially unfair.  Read a story like “Jefty Is Five” or “Grail” and you’ll see what I mean. 

Ellison was also full of rage, not merely angry but burning with a pure, righteous fury at humanity’s cowardice, cruelty and stupidity. There are some who would characterize him as a misanthrope but I’ve always thought that Ellison was a true humanist who was constantly frustrated by the fact that far too many people are content to waste their small span of years as bigots, dupes and trolls. Some would argue that he hated the internet but I think that he was just annoyed that a small fraction of humanity took the greatest invention for human mass communication since the printing press and turned it into a cesspool where monsters bred unchallenged behind their pseudonyms and avatars. This is the Ellison you’ll see in “’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” (my personal favorite), and “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.”

Of course none of that would matter without a fine eye for details and character. Ellison’s people seem to be shards of himself, refracted onto paper through his typewriter in black, white, and a thousand shades of gray in between. And funny too. Only Twain was funnier when Ellison was trying. Read “Prince Myshkin, and Hold the Relish” and “Paladin of the Lost Hour” and you’ll see what I mean.

Ellison was prolific as few writers of his quality are. Among modern writers only Stephen King can compete with Harlan Ellison in term of both the quantity and quality of words produced and even he falls far short on both counts. Ellison wrote almost everything, in almost every genre, and almost every media. The stories I’ve mentioned above barely scratch the surface of Ellison’s genius. All are collected in Harlan 101: Encountering Ellison along with many other classics and this is just the surface of an ice burg big enough to drown a dozen Titanics. 

Harlan Ellison died in his sleep but read and share his work and it will live on so long as humanity dares to dream.


Scott Eric Kaufman: He helped us see and understand things. Rest in Power.

scott-eric-kaufmanThe brilliant Scott Eric Kaufman died on Monday and fandoms are in mourning for him.

Scott was a regular guest on Graphic Policy Radio with good reason: he was incredibly insightful about things others missed. Scott was a Professor of Visual Rhetoric. That means he analyzed how images communicate ideas. He also was a journalist and editor at Salon. He was a humorist– the human medium/autobiographer of two hilariously grouchy old-man cats. He was a lot of other things that made him entirely singular in our world.

Scott wasn’t just a friend of the show. He was also a friend. Our last conversation was me talking about some of the challenges I was facing and our discussion was remarkably frank and honest and dare I say it, healing for me.

We’d never met in person. But he was my friend. Other than going on each other’s podcasts the bulk of our communication was on Facebook. And on Facebook Scott was an entire human being. He was fearlessly emotional and honest. I’d like to think that means I knew him. And in a world where expressing pain, frustration or any negative feelings is seen as a sign of weakness, Scott challenged us to be more human and vulnerable online. It’s why our friendship felt real. I think we need to challenge ourselves to be as REAL as Scott always was.

I’m too sad to make his signature “So Jump Off that Building, Your the Goddamn Batman” memes but damnit, someone should.

Here is a quintessential SEK essay at Salon: Anatomy of An Iconic Image: How this photograph of a protester in Baton Rouge could come to symbolize a movement

Listen to his Graphic Policy Radio podcast appearances (you can find these all on iTunes too)

Jonesing for Jessica (Jessica Jones Episode 4)

Daredevil Season 2

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Agent Carter Season 1

And of course his own podcast: The best Game of Thrones podcast: The Lawyers Guns and Money Game of Thrones podcast.

But now for his writing…

One of my major frustrations with so much comics criticism is that so called critics don’t ever analyze the art. They talk about characters, story arcs — everything but how the panels are used. Scott always talked about the panels because he was an expert at visual medium.

Watching Watchmen: How unfilmable novels become unwatchable films. (seriously, this is the Watchmen take you have not read anywhere else and need to)

At least explain why John Romita Jr. is one of the top 50 comic book artists

The Dark Knight Returns and The Zack Snyder School of Literal Filmmaking

Organized chaos: Behind every cherished moment at a Comic Con is a team of individuals desperate to please

“I did indeed f*ck up”: How an online campaign against a transphobic comic completely changed the tenor of the debate

But always, always on the Zack Snyder and how awful Randian fanboys are ruining superhero movies.

Ayn Rand’s warped superheroes: Of course Zack Snyder’s vision of “greatness” owes everything to “The Fountainhead”

You can find most of his writing at http://acephalous.typepad.com/ and a compendium of his work on visual rhetoric through 2013

A person is not just their writing. But I’m sure you will find something in this that speaks to you. After you read his writing about it you will enjoy the comic or show you love with new eyes.

You can help his family pay for his final medical expenses here (in other countries we don’t do this. Scott would probably want me to point that out).

Rest in Power, Scott.

Caliber Comics on the passing of founder and CEO Gary Reed

This morning it was announced that Caliber Comics founder and CEO Gary Reed has passed away unexpectedly. The news shook many and resulted in an outpouring of thoughts and memories of those who knew him.

Caliber Comics has now released a statement as well:

It is with deep sadness that Caliber Comics announces the passing of its Founder and CEO Gary Reed. Gary had been a publishing and guiding presence in the comic industry for over 25 years. Having owned a series of comic shops, starting up one of the first major comic-cons, King Con, in the Detroit area, establishing his own publishing company, Caliber Comics in late 80s, Gary also wrote numerous critically acclaimed comic and short stories. Just some of the names that had their early starts at Caliber included Brian Bendis, Guy Davis, David Mack, Vince Locke, James O’Barr, Patrick Zircher, Jim Calafiore, Ed Brubaker, Mike Carey, and Michael Gaydos.

“When Gary and I decided to re-establish Caliber Comics two years we had a long term plan to make the company once again a beacon for independent creator owned titles and help launch the careers of up and coming writers and artists where we could.  And Caliber Comics will continue to move forward with its publishing and multi-media endeavors as we execute this vision.  My deepest thoughts and prayers go out to Jennifer and their three daughters at this time.” Comment Eric Reichert, Vice President.

Our thoughts are with the friends and family of Gary Reed.

Death by Batman Uppercut

death_by_batmanAn obituary in the The Ledger in the Tampa Bay area had an interesting obituary recently. Stephan Merrill was listed as passing away due to an “uppercut from Batman” on February 12.

That’s not a typo according to his fiancée Stephanie Vella who said the deceased would have been “honored” to have died that way.

Merrill’s death was sudden, and there was no initial cause of death. When it came time to write the obituary, the family still didn’t know the cause. The newspaper’s policy is that a cause of death must be listed. A joke was made which got the family to laugh, and they decided to go with that reason.

At first the newspaper didn’t want to publish it, but after an explanation from the family, the newspaper allowed it.

Merrill was a comic book fan, so to honor him, his friends and family wore superhero shirts, and the celebration included Captain America’s shield made from flowers, and a quote from The Avengers.

(via ABC Action News)

Jerry Fine, Who Brought Siegel and Shuster Together, Passes Away

superman-75-years-logo-310513The world might have never had Superman if it wasn’t for Jerome Fine. Jerry Fine, passed away on December 25 in Cleveland Heights at the age of 97.

The story goes that at some point in the 1930s, Fine heard that his friend Joe Shuster was transferring the Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Fine had known Shuster from elementary school and even did a comic strip with him called Jerry The Journalist where Fine was depicted as a grasshopper.

Fine was also a cousin to Jerry Siegel, and encouraged Shuster to team up with Siegel when he arrived. The rest become history as the two would create an icon.

Fine’s brother, Irving, carries on the family legacy as a founding member of the Siegel and Shuster Society, a non-profit group formed to honor the two men and their creation.

Here is Fine’s obituary from the Cleveland Jewish News:

Jerome Fine, age 97, died Dec. 25, 2013. World War II Army Air Corps veteran.  Beloved husband of the late Gladys Fine (nee Dworkin); devoted father of Jeff (Sandie) Fine, Michael (Claire) Fine of Calif., and Karen (Michael) Weinberger of Akron, Ohio; loving grandfather of Chad (Andrea) Fine, Jason (Genelle) Denzin, Brandon (Edyta) Halprin, Evan (Brandy) Halprin, Troy, Kasey, Darcy and Daniel Fine, and Erin (Rabbi Matthew) Cohen; loving great grandfather of seven; dear brother of Irving (Gloria) Fine and the following deceased: Ruth Stein, Annabel Fine and Mildred Kaplan.

Services will be held at Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz Memorial Chapel, 1985 S. Taylor Rd., Cleveland Hts. Sunday, Dec. 29 at 1 p.m.  Interment Bet Olam Cemetery. Family will receive friends at the Jeff and Sandie Fine residence, 6801 Silkwood Ln., Solon Sunday following interment until 9 p.m. and Monday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m.  Friends will be received at the Karen and Michael Weinberger residence in Akron Tuesday from 1-4 pm only.

Donations to charity of choice.

This site has a connection to this story, as Chad Fine, mentioned above is a cousin of mine. My, and our, thoughts go out to him and his family.

(via Cleveland.com)

Fantagraphics Co-Publisher Kim Thompson, RIP

We received the following from Fantagraphics on the passing of co-publisher Kim Thompson. Posted without edits.

Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson died at 6:30 this morning, June 19. “He was my partner and close friend for 36 years,” said Gary Groth.

Thompson was born in Denmark in 1956. He grew up in Europe, a lifelong comics fan, reading both European and American comics in Denmark, France, and Germany. He was an active fan in his teen years, writing to comics — his letters appeared in Marvel’s letter columns circa early 1970s — and contributing to fanzines from his various European perches. At the age of 21, he set foot, for the first time, on American soil, in late 1977. One “fanzine” he had not contributed to was The Comics Journal, which Groth and Michael Catron began publishing in July of 1976. That was soon to change.

“Within a few weeks of his arrival,” said Groth, “he came over to our ‘office,’ which was the spare bedroom of my apartment, and was introduced by a mutual friend — it was a fan visit. We were operating out of College Park, Maryland and Kim’s parents had moved to Fairfax, Virginia, both Washington DC suburbs. Kim loved the energy around the Journal and the whole idea of a magazine devoted to writing about comics, and asked if he could help. We needed all the help we could get, of course, so we gladly accepted his offer. He started to come over every day and was soon camping out on the floor. The three of us were living and breathing The Comics Journal 24 hours a day.”

Thompson became an owner when Catron took a job at DC Comics in 1978. As he became more familiar with the editorial process, Thompson became more and more integral to the magazine, assembling and writing news and conducting interviews with professionals. Thompson’s career in comics began here.

In 1981, Fantagraphics began publishing comics (such as Jack Jackson’s Los Tejanos, Don Rosa’s Comics and Stories, and, in 1982, Love and Rockets). Thompson was always evangelical about bandes dessinées and wanted to bring the best of European comics to America; in 1981, Thompson selected and translated the first of many European graphic novels for American publication — Herman Huppen’s The Survivors: Talons of Blood (followed by a 2nd volume in 1983). Thompson’s involvement in The Comics Journal diminished in 1982 when he took over the editorship of Amazing Heroes, a bi-weekly magazine devoted to more mainstream comics (with occasional forays into alternative and even foreign comics). Thompson helmed Amazing Heroes through 204 issues until 1992.

Among Thompson’s signature achievements in comics were Critters, a funny-animal anthology that ran from 50 issues between 1985 to 1990 and is perhaps best known for introducing the world to Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo; and Zero Zero, an alternative comics anthology that also ran for 50 issues over five years — between 1995 and 2000 — and featured work by, among others, Kim Deitch, Dave Cooper, Al Columbia, Spain Rodriguez, Joe Sacco, David Mazzuchelli, and Joyce Farmer. His most recent enthusiasm was spearheading a line of European graphic novel translations, including two major series of volumes by two of the most significant living European artists — Jacques Tardi (It Was the War of the Trenches, Like a Sniper Lining up His Shot, The Astonishing Exploits of Lucien Brindavoine) and Jason (Hey, Wait…, I Killed Adolf Hitler, Low Moon, The Left Bank Gang) — and such respected work as Ulli Lust’s Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Lorenzo Mattotti’s The Crackle of the Frost, Gabriella Giandelli’s Interiorae, and what may be his crowning achievement as an editor/translator, Guy Peelaert’s The Adventures of Jodelle.

Throughout his career at Fantagraphics, Thompson was active in every aspect of the company, selecting books, working closely with authors, guiding books through the editorial and production process. “Kim leaves an enormous legacy behind him,” said Groth, “not just all the European graphic novels that would never have been published here if not or his devotion, knowledge, and skills, but for all the American cartoonists he edited, ranging from Stan Sakai to Joe Sacco to Chris Ware, and his too infrequent critical writing about the medium. His love and devotion to comics was unmatched. I can’t truly convey how crushing this is for all of us who’ve known and loved and worked with him over he years.”

Thompson was diagnosed with lung cancer in late February. He is survived by his wife, Lynn Emmert, his mother and father, Aase and John, and his brother Mark.


Around the Tubes

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It’s Saturday, yay!  Here’s the news you might have missed including the passage of a legend.

Around the Blogs:

The Source – Gene Colan (1926-2011)

When Comic Books Ruled the Earth – Gene Colan 1926-2011

MTV Geek – A Legend Passes: Comic Book Artist Gene Colan (1926-2011)

Bleeding Cool – The Ken Penders/Archie Comics Lawsuit ContinuesSeems to be a hell of a lot of these going around.

Comicvine – Daredevil Returns To New York This July!Should be interesting….

Bleeding Cool – No Such Word As Superhero – DC’s Retailer Roadshow Hits Baltimore – Collectors Cornered #2Some more info about the DC relaunch/reboot.

Con Coverage:

Bleeding Cool – San Diego Comic Con Exclusive T-Shirts – And Where They Came From

The Beat – SLG to demo digital comics at Comic-Con

Southeast Missourian – In its sixth year, Cape Comic Con continues to grow as it celebrates comics and games

CBR – Marvel Announces Creator Lineup for 2011 New York Comic Con

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The week is up and here’s tons of reviews for you to decide what to pick up this week.

Around the Blogs:

ICv2 – Filming Begins on ‘The Dark Knight Rises’I’m still waiting for my call as far as my casting…. just saying….

The Beat – Jeffrey Catherine Jones: “The fear has left me”The comic book industry lost a talent yesterday.

Graphic Novel Reporter – American Library Association Annual Conference, June 23-28, 2011Libraries are embracing the comic book format, and the various panels at this upcoming conference shows it.

Around the Tubes Reviews:

IGN – Alpha Flight #0.1

IGN – The Amazing Spider-Man #661

IGN – Astonishing X-Men #38

IGN – The Avengers #13

Comic Book Resources – Avengers #13

IGN – Avengers Academy #14

IGN – Batman #710

IGN – Batman and Robin #23

Graphic Novel Reporter – Cat Eyed Boy, Vol. 2

IGN – DC Universe Online: Legends #8

IGN – DMZ #65

Graphic Novel Reporter – DMZ, Vol. 1: On the Ground

IGN – Fables #105

IGN – G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes #1

IGN – Herc #3

IGN – Hulk #33

IGN – Invincible Iron Man #504

Alternative Magazine Online – Lenore: Cooties

Graphic Novel Reporter – Luthor

Comicsgirl – Mal and Chad Vol. 1: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!

IGN – Malignant Man #2

Good Comic Books – Moriarty: The Dark Chamber #1

Ely Standard – Noche Roja

IGN – Rocketeer Adventures #1

Comic Book Resources – Rocketeer Adventures #1

IGN – Sigil #3

IGN – Silver Surfer #4

IGN – Star Wars: Jedi – The Dark Side #1

IGN – Supergirl #64

IGN – T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #7

IGN – Thunderbolts #157

IGN – Ultimate Comics Avengers vs. New Ultimates #4

IGN – Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #158

Graphic Novel Reporter – Unwritten, Vol. 2: Inside Man

Graphic Novel Reporter – The Very Best of Dick Tracy: Bullets, Battles & Bad Guys

IGN – Witchblade #144

IGN – X-Men Giant-Size #1

IGN – X-Men: Prelude to Schism #2

IGN – Comic Book Reviews for 5/18/11

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