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Chris Reilly, the Harvey- and Ignatz-nominated writer of such comics as Punch and Judy and The Trouble With Igor, passed away June 9 at his home in Rhode Island, according to USA Today’s Whitney Matheson. He was 46.
Reilly had a long relationship with SLG Publishing, where he contributed to its Haunted Mansion anthology series, and wrote for and edited Strange Eggs, working with Steve Ahlquist, Ben Towle, Derf, Jhonen Vasquez and other creators. He also penned a Gumby one-shot for Gumby Comics, and contributed to The Tick 20th Anniversary Special published by New England Comics Press.
“Chris’s writing was as manic and unpredictable as he was,” Towle wrote in remembrance of his friend. “’Madcap’ is an overused term, but his writing was indeed madcap: sometimes dark, always funny – in a way that used to be a lot more commonplace during the ‘black and white boom’ than what followed. Beyond his actual comics storytelling, though, Chris was a consummate storyteller of all varieties. Answering a call from Chris entailed an hour-long commitment at a minimum. Get a few beers into Chris at a con hotel bar and he’d regale you with stories about being bitten by a rabid raccoon (he thought it was a cat and tried to pet it), playing in a band with Cheetah Chrome (‘Gothic Snowtire’) or trying Flaming Carrot-style to read every single submitted single issue comic in one sitting the year he was an Eisner Awards judge.”
Reilly served as a judge for the Eisners in 2007 alongside Matheson, who shared her memories of working with him. “The job, which required five of us to determine the year’s most notable comics, was a fun but exhausting one. On the first day we met, I remember Chris, myself and fellow judge James Sime stayed up the entire night talking about comic books,” she recalled. “After that, Chris treated me as if we’d been friends since birth.”
In 2011, in what Towle referred to as “the most bizarrely ignored comics events of late,” Reilly and collaborator Kevin Atkinson sued DreamWorks Animation and several other entities for copyright infringement, claiming the character Minion in the 2010 movie Megamind was based on their character Kingfish, created in the 1990s as part of their Rogue Satellite Comics series. The case was referred to mediation in May 2012, and both parties agreed to dismiss the case in August 2012.
SLG Publisher Dan Vado posted a statement about Reilly’s passing:
Chris was also one of the sincerest people I knew. He was an evangelist for SLG even before we started publishing his work. He always did his best to not only sell his own work but to sell the work of others whom he admired. His own measure of success was not how his books sold or how they might have been reviewed, it was how the people around him reacted to his work. I think he would have fun with the oddness of people posting messages to him on his Facebook page in his passing.
His good-natured insanity is going to be missed around the SLG booth. Oddly, so will that occasional late-night phone call in which he would relate his latest tale. We were all better for having known him and we will all be a little poorer in his absence.