Passings Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
The world was saddened to learn of Robin Williams’ passing on Monday, and the circumstances surrounding his death only made it more tragic. Most of us, however, prefer to remember the comedy legend through the times he made us smile.
Perhaps it was his goofy silliness as the alien Mork, or his stellar voice work in Aladdin, or the way he managed to fill out the form of an old lady in Mrs. Doubtfire. He had loads of dramatic roles as well, from The Fisher King to Dead Poets Society. Williams could make you empathize with the hurting soul underneath the clown, the man behind the facade.
For all his versatility — from playing a cartoon bat trying to save the rainforest to a frightening stalker working at a photo booth — it’s a shame Williams was never in a superhero movie, especially in an era when the likes of Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and Anthony Hopkins have embraced such genre roles.
Oh, wait. Williams did play a superhero, of sorts: He was Popeye the Sailor Man.
Reading and watching some of the countless tributes to Robin Williams, who passed away far too soon on Monday, I was reminded that, in addition to being a father, a husband, a comedian, an actor and a philanthropist, he was also a comics fan.
“I used to get excited emails from comics stores all over America when Robin Williams would drop in to buy Transmetropolitan issues,” Warren Ellis recalled Monday on Twitter.
A semi-regular customer at Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles, Williams discussed his love of comics in a video interview we spotlighted in 2010 on ROBOT 6. In the clip, he fondly relates his latest reads: Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ, and Taiyō Matsumoto’s Tekkonkinkreet. Watch the brief interview below.
Blues musician Johnny Winter passed away Wednesday in a hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, according to a post on his Facebook page. He was 70. Although details are scant, Variety reports that the Texas-born singer and guitarist had been touring in Europe, and had performed Saturday in Austria.
While Winter’s passing is noteworthy due to his contributions to music, he also has a connection to comics: He and his brother Edgar Winter famously sued DC Comics in 1996, claiming they were defamed, and their rights to privacy and publicity violated, by Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such, a miniseries by Joe Lansdale, Timothy Truman and Sam Glanzman.
The Winter brothers, who were born with albinism, objected to the “villainous half-worm, half-human” characters the Autumn brothers, who share not only the musicians’ first names but also their distinctive physical traits — long white hair and an absence of skin pigment. They argued their reputations were damaged because the characters were depicted as “vile, depraved, stupid, cowardly, subhuman individuals who engage in wanton acts of violence, murder, and bestiality for pleasure and who should be killed.”
Felix Dennis, who passed away this week at age 67, was the founder of a publishing empire that included the men’s magazine Maxim and the news magazine The Week, but he also has a place in comics history as one of the defendants in a famous U.K. obscenity trial that drew support of many prominent figures of the time, from John Lennon to Germaine Greer.
Dennis was one of the editors of the British satire magazine Oz, which published a mix of prose, art, poetry and comics. Stung by criticism that they were out of touch with youth, the editors in 1970 placed a notice in the magazine inviting schoolchildren to contribute to a special issue. About 20 teenagers came to London, singly and in groups, to create and edit a special “Schoolkids” issue. (One of those students, Charles Shaar Murray, described the experience 30 years later, and another contributor, David Wills, has posted the full issue online.) Although the “Schoolkids issue” was created by teenagers, it wasn’t necessarily created for them. On the other hand, teenagers were obviously already reading the magazine, as that’s where the call for contributions appeared.
(Warning: Potentially NSFW image below.)
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.”
Longtime New Yorker cartoonist Charles Barsotti, famed for his dog cartoons, passed away late Monday at his home in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 80 years old.
According to the Kansas City Star, he had undergone undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation following a March 2013 brain cancer diagnosis, and spent several weeks in hospice care.
Born in 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, Feldstein began his career as a teenager at Eisner & Iger Studio, doing menial tasks initially for $3 a week and then, after World War II, freelancing for publishers like Fox Comics. In 1948, he approached William Gaines, who had become publisher of EC Comics following the death of his father Max Gaines, and began a working relationship that would last for decades.
Although Feldstein started at EC as an artist, he soon wrote his own stories; within a couple of years, he was also editing most of the publisher’s titles. He’s credited with co-creating iconic anthologies like Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Terror, Panic and Shock SuspenStories and helping to develop a stable of contributors — Otto Binder, Will Elder, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Al Williamson and Bernard Krigstein, among them — whose influence is still felt in the industry.
Veteran British writer Steve Moore, one of the original contributors to The Fortean Times who’s also credited with teaching a young Alan Moore how to write comics scripts, passed away over the weekend at age 64.
The news was first reported this morning by Strange Attractor, a journal for which Moore regularly wrote. “Steve was a warm, wise and gentle man, with a surreal sense of humour and an astoundingly deep knowledge that covered history, the I Ching, forteana, magic, oriental mysticism, martial arts cinema, science fiction, underground comics and worlds more,” the remembrance states.
A contributor to 2000AD, Warrior and Doctor Who Magazine, Moore’s list of accomplishments includes pioneering the Future Shocks story format and co-creating “Red Fang,” “Valkyries” and Axel Pressbutton. A longtime friend of Alan Moore (no relation), he wrote “Young Tom Strong” and “Jonni Future” in Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales, as well as a novelization of the film V For Vendetta.
Word has only recently begun to circulate about the Dec. 25 death of Dallas Fantasy Fair founder Larry Lankford, a prominent figure in both the Texas and national convention scenes of the 1980s and early ’90s. He was 53.
“I will always remember him as a pioneer of the Texas convention scene,” Arlington retailer Cole Houston wrote on the funeral home’s memorial page, “someone who got me started as a convention vendor, inspired the tiny conventions I produced, and brought me and other attendees of the Fantasy Fairs memories that will last a lifetime.”
A veteran of the D-Con sci-fi/comics events held sporadically throughout the 1970s, Lankford launched the Dallas Fantasy Fair in 1982, attracting such guests as Frank Miller, John Byrne and Gil Kane to the inaugural show. By 1988, the convention had become so successful that he spun off three smaller two-day events in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Those were followed in 1992 and 1993 by a series of well-remembered Dallas Minicons, one-day expos that drew about 500 attendees each.
Raised in Oakland, Turner was a self-taught artist who drew cartoons for Army newspapers while serving during World War II with the 477th Bomber group. Following his discharge, he worked as a police clerk while also creating strips for a number of publications.
In 1959, the black daily newspaper the Chicago Defender began publishing his all-black strip Dinky Fellas, created with the encouragement of his friend Charles Schulz after Turner expressed a desire for a comic that reflected his childhood experiences. But it wasn’t until Turner diversified the cast, introducing kids from different ethnic backgrounds, that Wee Pals was born.
“All the kids were different,” the cartoonist recalled in a 2009 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “White, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, black. It was a rainbow. I didn’t know that wasn’t the way it was other places. Oakland was that way before the war. We were all equal. Nobody had any money.”
Gary Edson Arlington, who in 1968 opened the San Francisco Comic Book Company, widely considered the country’s first comic book store, passed away Thursday at age 75.
His 200-quare-foot Mission District shop quickly became a magnet for early underground cartoonists, attracting the likes of Robert Crumb, Ron Turner, Bill Griffith and Spain Rodriguez (the store’s employees included Simon Deitch, Rory Hayes, and Flo Steinberg). Arlington was, in the words of Lambiek, a guru and “godfather” of underground comics, who “encouraged and directed many artists on their path to publication.”
“San Francisco was the capitol of comix culture in the ’60s and early ’70s,” Art Spiegelman told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012, “and Gary Arlington’s hole-in-the-wall shop was, for me, the capitol of San Francisco.”
But Arlington didn’t stop at retailer and guru: Under the banner of the San Francisco Comic Book Company he also published such important early underground works as Skull Comics, Slow Death Comics and San Francisco Comic Book.
Legendary pornographer Al Goldstein, whose Screw magazine published the work of cartoonists ranging from Wally Wood and Robert Crumb to Art Spiegelman and Peter Bagge, passed away this morning in Brooklyn at age 77. Premature reports of his death had circulated earlier in the week.
His attorney Charles C. DeStefano told The New York Times the cause of death is believed to be renal failure.
Considered a pioneer in his industry — Screw debuted in 1968, six years before Larry Flynt’s better-known Hustler — the colorful, controversial agitator who was arrested 21 times on charges of indecency and described by New York magazine as “among the earliest of the First Amendment porno-warriors.”
Goldstein’s Screw folded in 2003 after 1,800 issues because, he said, “the Internet will give you all the porn you want” (the magazine was later relaunched by former employees).