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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.”
Making comics is hard, and writer Chris Reilly was fed up and ready to quit—except, being a comics writer, he didn’t put it quite that way: “Prior to this book I was about to throw in the towel, feeling as though as my guilt, fear and sorrow had tossed a blanket over my joy and beat it with a pillowcase of frozen hate balls,” he wrote in his blog last December.
Then fate intervened, in the form of a little green lump of clay. Reilly is writing a brand-new Gumby comic to be published by the eponymous Gumby Comics in September. Jorge Santillan, his collaborator on Punch and Judy, is illustrating the 24-page one-shot comic, which will feature two characters never before seen in the 55-year history of the character: Gumby’s grandparents. Like all good Gumby comics, it is chock full of joyous non sequiturs:
There’s a new player in Clokeyville, an off-kilt philanthropist named Mr. Golfer! What is Golfer’s secret? What are the Wooly Mammals? Why are there astronauts selling the founding fathers the Andrew Jackson? Who stole Picnic Park? Who is helping the nefarious Blockheads? And most importantly, how did Gumby become King of the Pirates?
And how is Chris doing now? “Working on this book has completely recharged my batteries and chased all the gremlins out of the garage,” he wrote back in December, and with more issues on the way, it looks like he will be busy for some time to come.