The Smash Pages family reflects on Tim O’Shea

Earlier this week popular blogger Tim O’Shea passed away after a long battle with cancer. Sadden by the loss, Smash Pages family have a few words we would like to say in remembrance of our colleague and friend.

JK Parkin
Tim and I have been involved together in some form of comics blogging/journalism for more than a decade. He was my first editor in the industry, actually; I still remember getting notes from him on my first few posts for The Great Curve. Later, I’d rope him into helping us out at Blog@Newsarama; he was a big supporter of ours, and constantly was asking why Kevin Melrose had stopped doing a feature called “Quote Unquote,” where he’d round up interesting comic-related quotes every week. So I roped Tim into taking it over. And when we started Robot 6 at Comic Book Resources, he was really excited to kick off his weekly Talking Comics with Tim column. His interviews were already pretty well-known at places like Comics Bulletin, and they became a staple of the new site.

And the guy spoke with everybody. He was a big believer in comics, as an art form and as a community. But probably more than anything, he was a big believer in the individuals who made the comics. Writers, artists, colorists, letterers, editors … we’d have lengthy email exchanges about people he could reach out to, voices that might not have been heard or were off the beaten path. Tim wanted to talk to all of them, help them promote their work. In one of our phone conversations after he was diagnosed, around the time we were talking about setting up Smash Pages, the conversation turned to what his legacy would be. He was dying, didn’t know how long he had and had been thinking a lot about if and how he would be remembered by the comics industry. I told him not to worry, and over the past few days, seeing the number of creators who talked with Tim at some point in their careers … Tim left his mark.

Tim with his wife with Ellen Vance in 2015.

Another great thing about Tim is he never phoned in an interview. He put a lot of work into researching his questions, which I think is why he was able to get the kind of material he did. He always came from a place of compassion, of wanting to understand creative choices … and occasionally to shine a light on causes he thought were important. I’m reminded of this interview he did with Greg Pak, about Bill Mantlo and his influence on the writer’s work. I’m also reminded of this one, with Joshua Cotter, which was about his book Driven by Lemons but really became about the creator’s depression. Tim could relate first hand, so he knew where Joshua was coming from — and he gave him a forum to share it with others.

Given the number of interviews he did, there are plenty of places you can find his writing, whether it’s right here on this site, over on CBR, at Comics Bulletin … I’m lucky, though, because I have all that, plus a hell of a lot of emails that we exchanged over the years. Yes, this is where being a hoarder comes in handy; I was looking through my Gmail archives and found several exchanges where we talked about various things during the day-to-day grind of comics blogging. I looked through a few of them on Sunday, as I realized I still had them; messages between me and Tim and Kevin and Chris and Tom and everyone else from Robot 6. It struck me how supportive and kind he was to all of us, complimenting us on our latest post or on an interview we scored or just asking us about our families. I guess we were always “Talking with Tim” but might not have realized it at the time.

Tim was a journalist, a storyteller, a compassionate human being … and he was my friend. Goodbye, Tim. And thank you for everything.

Tom Bondurant
I think “enthusiastic” is too small of a word to cover what Tim brought to his writing. Tim’s love for comics of all kinds came through clearly, whether it was his “Talking With Tim” interviews or just his interactions with people. Even when he wasn’t an official part of our group he was a faithful reader and active commenter. We never met in person, but Tim encouraged me to get active in my local fandom because he knew people throughout the country. Tim projected his personality very clearly, and it was easy to be his friend. I know a lot of people have missed his voice and will miss it even more now.

Carla Hoffman
It should have been hard to find the words to talk about Tim, his life, career, friendship and passion for comics, but as it turns out, there are just so many words it’s hard to know where to even start. The beautiful memorial written by JK Parkin that details his career as a cornerstone of comics journalism. There’s a long list of tweets and other social media posts from comic book writers and artists, all stopping in their day to pay respects to a man who’s love of the medium of comics helped others find new titles, stories, and perspectives. His peers have paused to give their respects to not just what he did for the industry but to his character and heart. Long time followers of his interviews and writing, even his humble songs, stopped to say something about what he gave them in return for his enthusiasm and hard work. There are just so many words for Tim O’Shea because he has given us so many in return.

Thank you, Tim. Thank you for being brave and funny and including me in everything. I’m so glad you were here for the time you were.

Corey Blake
The great Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter once wrote, “Tim O’Shea keeps marching to the beat of his own drummer.” And he did. He maintained a long-running interview series, talking with and writing about what interested him in the world of comic books.

Tim O’Shea accepting the Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation Harvey Award for Robot 6 in 2013.
Many years ago, we were both a part of an attempted resurrection of The Comics Reader, a fondly remembered fanzine from the pre-internet days. And then later we ended up back together at CBR’s award-winning Robot 6 blog. I would occasionally email him meekly asking for advice or to get his take on something. Working remotely as a freelance contributor to a blog is a largely isolated experience, especially for someone like myself who has more experience collaborating in person with actors and performers. He somehow overcame that isolation and had his finger on the pulse of what was going at Robot 6 far better than I ever did. And he always helped me feel a part of and valued. I so appreciated him, and I’m grateful that we briefly got to meet in person.

Sadly, he passed away this morning after a long battle with cancer. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Shane Bailey
Corey summed up what I was feeling on his post. I hope he’s in a good place with a lot of comics and happy. I hope his family is doing as best they can with this devastating loss. I know from experience even when you know it’s coming it’s still a huge blow that you never really recover from. It’s a sad day.

Chris Mautner
I was extremely sad to hear of the passing of my fellow comics blogger and friend Tim O’Shea. Though we never met IRL, Tim always had a kind word for me and my work back when we were part of the Robot 6 crew. I was always stuck by his love for comics, his dedication to highlighting the work of stellar artists (via his “Talking With Tim” series) and his all-around kindness and decency. He was a thoughtful and lovely person and I will miss him dearly. My thoughts and prayers, as ethereal as they are, are with his friends and family.

Michael May
This is really sad news. As a colleague of Tim on Robot 6, I can verify that every single nice thing that everyone is saying about him is absolutely true. He was a lovely man and a cheerleader for comics. I’m sorry he’s gone but glad that he’s finally at peace after his long fight with cancer.

Stephanie Chan
Tim and I never met face to face, but we have been friends online for over 10 years. I first got to know him when I came aboard as the web designer of Blog@Newsarama. I felt like the ‘new kid on the block’ and he was this cool industry journalist, who was already well established and respected in the comics community. He had a big reputation! But he was so easy to talk to! He was always so encouraging. If he caught me posting a slightly sad status online, he’d check in to make sure I was okay. How he found the time to talk to me not only about the site, but about anything from a funny anecdote to being supportive when I had a relationship breakup was beyond me. He was not only a master of words, but a master of comfort.

I found that it was oddly appropriate that I got word of Tim’s passing while attending the Jim Shooter panel during Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. Calgary Expo 2017 is the first con I attended under the Smash Pages media label. It was time to grow Smash Pages. I went to get to know creators and set up interviews. In the past, I had been mostly the backend girl, the one that did the site maintenance, the graphics, the photos, and all the other nuances that went into it, while leaving most of the content “to the pros” like Tim.

The O’Shea family – Colin, Ellen and Tim.
When Smash Pages was being conceived, John Parkin rightfully made sure Tim was there from the beginning. There was so much passion from Tim! Alas, it was shortly after this time that he was diagnosed with the tumour. He didn’t know if it was going to be benign but it didn’t seem to matter back then. He was so casual and nonchalant about his condition, it got to the point where he was going to the hospital, I would think, “okay, Tim! Have a good treatment! Get well soon and we can chat more when you’re out!” Even after he went into hospice, everything was still warm, at ease, and with comfort. Even as he became more quiet and inactive online, his positive attitude made it difficult to have the conscious reality that I would possibly be blogging without Tim.

I excused myself from the panel, took a breather and reflected. Even in his passing, I immediately felt Tim encouraging me to step up my game and make Smash Pages the best comic news site it can be. And even though he’s gone from mortal existence, I know Tim is still our biggest cheerleader, and he is still here with me, with John, with all of us. And it became even more evident as I went online to read all of the accolades from family, from friends, and from the comic book community. They all have the same theme. Tim was always compassionate. Tim gave new creators a voice. Tim gave the confidence to persevere. Tim gave hope. He loved all of you.

But that was exactly who Tim was and still is! Always encouraging. Always supportive. And always the biggest heart in the room.

Brigid Alverson
Tim O’Shea left this world a little better than he found it. And I can’t think of any higher praise than that.

I first got to know Tim because of his kindness and his enthusiasm for comics. When I started the Good Comics for Kids blog, he interviewed me about it for his Talking Comics with Tim column. When I started writing for Robot 6, he would often e-mail or Tweet me if he liked something I wrote. That meant a lot, and Tim really helped me feel at home there.

To have someone in your professional circles who is quick with a kind word—that’s a big deal. But things went even farther with Tim and me.

A few years ago, he started talking openly on Facebook about his struggle with depression. Reading his posts made me realize that I had been shoving my own depression to the side for too long, and that I needed to deal with it head-on. As I went through that process, I felt that Tim was truly an ally. He got it; he had been there himself. There weren’t too many other people I could talk to about it so openly. That I am happier, calmer, more in control of my life now than I was two years ago—I owe that in large part to Tim.

When Tim discovered he had cancer, I tried to be an ally to him. I had just been through breast cancer treatment, and I was confident that the doctors could cure anything. “It’s awful now, but in a year you’ll look back and say ‘Boy, I’m glad that’s over with!'” I told him.

Tim out with his buddy Doug in 2015.
I was hopelessly naïve. Tim’s cancer was ferocious, and it kept picking him up and then slamming him down like a cat toying with a mouse. Each moment of hope was followed by a setback. When he realized how severe it was, and that he would start forgetting things, he did me a great honor: He asked me to interview him, partly as a way of sharing these things with the world, and partly to create a permanent record so they would not be forgotten. In a series of lengthy, often funny, always rambling conversations, he talked about the past, the present, and the future—and he shared with me his realization of what was happening as it was happening.

Through it all, Tim never lost the essence of his Tim-ness. By the time I came to know him well, he had reached the realization that his anger was part of his depression. He wasn’t perfect, but he was well aware of his flaws and worked hard to overcome them. He didn’t let them wreck him. In the interview we did, he said,

My son and my wife gave me a gift that I fully accepted two weeks ago when they finally got me to hear that yes, you are in incredibly angry person and without medication you cannot manage the depression that manifests itself as anger, but no matter what, every day and in every action that you overreact, there is never a doubt that you will come back to the center and you will be the father or the husband that you needed to be.

I saw him most often when he was at that center—funny, encouraging, and most of all, kind. But I also knew he was no saint, and I liked him that much more for it.

That said, Tim faced the trials, the indignities, and the uncertainties of brain cancer with incredible grace. He found humor in the most unlikely places, often cracking up his doctors and the other medical staff who cared for him. (In this we are kindred spirits—I laughed my way through my cancer treatment, not because I wasn’t scared but because it made me feel better.) Comics fan that he was, he wore a carefully selected comics-themed T-shirt to each one of his radiation treatments. In between treatments, he enjoyed life, taking a trip to Nashville and going out for karaoke with friends.Even after he went into hospice, he remained gregarious, and his Facebook page was a parade of well wishes and photos of visitors. And here I have to add that Tim was blessed with a truly exceptional family who supported him, laughed with him, and made this time of grace possible.

It is my great regret that Tim and I never met. We did plan a meetup once, at Baltimore Comic Con, but then I bought a set of living room furniture and decided I couldn’t afford the trip. I thought there would be another opportunity, but there wasn’t.

But I’m still glad I got to know him, even if at a distance. Not only did I treasure our friendship, but knowing him made me a better person. The encouragement he offered to me and others and the enthusiasm with which he wrote about comics and creators that he loved have permanently changed the face of comics for the better. The honesty with which he faced his depression and the grace with which he faced his disease are models for those of us who, like him, must face our flaws in order to grow and thrive. Comics are better. We are better. And as long as we keep sharing the things he shared with us, Tim will never really be gone.

Tim’s obituary can be found here. Those wishing to pay their respects in person can attend H.M. Patterson and Sons Oglethorpe Chapel in Atlanta, GA from 5 to 6:30 PM on Friday May 19, with a prayer service at 6:30 PM. Family and friends are also welcome to attend the Mass of the Resurrection at Our Lady of the Assumption Church at 10:00 AM on Saturday May 20, with Rev. Jim Duffy as the celebrant. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul or to the Hero Initiative.

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