Comics has lost its greatest champion and best friend.
It’s a wonderful thing to be able to say of a person that they left the world a better place than they found it.
Tom Spurgeon did that. He did it with journalism, and he did it with humanity. He left us this week at the untimely age of 50, but he has indeed left us, the readers and lovers of comics, better off than we were when he first arrived.
His site, The Comics Reporter, has been an essential read for anyone interested in comics since he launched it in 2004. It covers the world of comics with incredible breadth, from corporate superheroes to tiny indy comics, corporations to creators, manga to BD to what-have-you. For the past 15 years, it has been the essential portal to the comics internet. Much of it was simply links, but Tom published original content as well, including lengthy, Rolling Stone-style interviews and Bart Beaty’s annual reports from the Angouleme Comics Festival.
Alex Dueben remembers Bill Schelly, who passed away last week from multiple myeloma.
Bill Schelly passed away last week from multiple myeloma. Schelly discovered comics fandom in 1964 and shortly after launched his own fanzines, where he wrote and drew. The most notable was Sense of Wonder. Schelly went on to be one of the great writers about comics. He was also one of the chroniclers of fandom in a series of books including The Golden Age of Comic Fandom and in his column for Alter Ego.
I interviewed Schelly in 2018 and we spent much of the conversation discussing his book Sense of Wonder. Schelly originally published the book in 2001 discussing his youth in comics fandom, but in 2018 published Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom–The Whole Story. The new edition of the book was significantly longer, covering decades more than the original edition had, but more than that, Schelly wrote about being gay, about living in the closet and coming out, about the queerness of fandom back in the day. He wrote about his family and the death of son at a very young age. It was, in many respects, his best book.
The 42-year-old colorist died of cancer this past weekend.
Comic artist/colorist Justin Ponsor, whose work graced the pages of comics for Marvel, CrossGen, Image Comics, DC Comics and others over the years, died this past weekend after a long fight with cancer. Ponsor was 42 and shared the details of his medical battles (and a lot of humor) over the last few years on his “Blarg.”
Ponsor began his career in the mid-1990s at Wildstorm, working on titles like Danger Girl, Divine Right and WildCATS. In the early 2000s he went to work on CrossGen’s titles, including Scion and Sojourn. In 2004 he started working for both DC and Marvel, the latter where he’d spend the majority of his career, working on titles like Ultimate X-Men, Gambit, Phoenix: Endsong and Young Avengers, among many others. He touched probably every major Marvel character over the course of his career, working on interiors as well as covers.
The news of Ponsor’s passing was revealed on his Facebook page:
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Passings: Eisner Hall of Fame artist Russ Heath passed away last week after battling cancer, his grandson, Lee Kosa, reported on Twitter. “His mastery of the craft of illustration encouraged me to pursue the arts and it is a joy to see my son now filling his own sketchbooks. Thank you for passing along the joys of drawing and storytelling,” Kosa wrote.
In the late 1940s, Heath began his career at Timely Comics, which eventually became Marvel Comics. While there, he drew many of their Western titles like Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt. Later his work expanded to include their superhero titles, as well as war comics for EC Comics and DC Comics, where he co-created The Haunted Tank and worked on Sea Devils, G.I. Combat and Our Army at War, among other titles. He also worked on the “Little Annie Fanny” strip that appeared in Playboy, even moving into the Playboy Mansion in Chicago for a time while working on it. Later he’d move into animation, where he worked on G.I. Joe, Godzilla and “Pryde of the X-Men.” Heath was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2009 and received the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Award in 2014. He was 91 when he died.
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Passings: The Belgian artist William Vance, creator of the French-language series XIII, has died at the age of 82 from Parkinson’s disease. Born William van Cutsem in Belgium in 1935, Vance served a year in the military and then studied for four years at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. He began working for Tintin magazine (not the eponymous series, as stated in one obituary) in 1962, drawing four-page stories, and then launched the his first series, Howard Flynn (written by Yves Duval). He also was the artist for Bruno Brazil, and then he took over as the artist of Bob Morane, a series that had been started by Dino Attanasio. In 1984, he and Jean van Hamme launched XIII, a complex series partially inspired by Robert Ludlum’s Bourne character. Vance illustrated 18 volumes of XIII, which sold over 14 million volumes and was adapted into a television series. In 2010 he announced his retirement due to Parkinson’s disease.
A brief remembrance of French comics creator Annie Goetzinger, who died unexpectedly last week
French comics writer and artist Annie Goetzinger died unexpectedly on December 20, at the age of 66. Goetzinger had a 40-year career in French comics, but her work was relatively new to English-speaking audiences: NBM published Girl in Dior in 2015, following it up with Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen, in 2016; her biography of the French novelist Colette, The Provocative Colette, is due out next August.
I was slightly ahead of the game: When I was at Angouleme in 2014, I asked Philippe Osterman of Dargaud to point out some French titles that would be popular with American audiences. He handed me a half-dozen graphic novels, and Girl in Dior was the one that caught my eye immediately. So when NBM brought Goetzinger to the MoCCA Fest in April 2015, I arranged to interview her.
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Passings: Indian cartoonist Mohan Tadi, described by one admirer as “a humanist cartoonist” and another as “the first cartoonist to introduce European satire to telugu journalism” has died at the age of 67. (Telugu is an Indian language.) Born in Andra Pradesh in 1951, Mohan studied at Andhra University and began his career in 1970 as a sub-editor at the Vishalandra Telugu, a daily newspaper. He worked for several newspapers and as an independent journalist as well as a cartoonist; he was also the head of animation for Sakshi News.