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Pioneering cartoonist Morrie Turner passes away

morrie turner2Wee Pals creator Morrie Turner, the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist, passed away Saturday in a Sacramento, California, hospital. He was 90 years old.

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.”

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Comics A.M. | Animator and blogger Michael Sporn passes away

Michael Sporn

Michael Sporn

Passings | Animator and blogger Michael Sporn died Sunday in New York City from pancreatic cancer. He was 67. Sporn’s short film Doctor DeSoto, based on William Steig’s book, was nominated for an Oscar, and his The Man Who Walked Between the Towers won several awards. He created animated adaptations of a number of children’s books, including Lyle Lyle Crocodile and Goodnight Moon, for HBO. In comics circles, he was also known as a blogger who turned up cool bits and pieces of animation and art. [Variety]

Publishing | Torsten Adair crunches some numbers from The New York Times 2013 bestseller lists, looking at each category and, in some cases, each publisher separately and breaking down the charting books into easy-to-follow pie charts. [The Beat]

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Comics A.M. | Author’s crusade to get Bill Finger credit

Bill Finger, by Ty Templeton

Bill Finger, by Ty Templeton

Creators | Author Marc Tyler Nobleman tells Michael Cavna about his crusade to gain recognition for Bill Finger as one of the co-creators of Batman — including a push to have Google honor him with a Google Doodle on his birthday: “As it currently stands, even the mighty Christopher Nolan could not legally credit Bill as co-creator. However, prior to The Dark Knight, I asked DC if they could use non-subjective language to acknowledge Bill. I proposed: ‘Batman was first called “the Dark Knight” in Batman #1, in 1940, in a story written by Bill Finger.’ DC publications already regularly credit Bill for that story, and the movie’s title doesn’t even include the word ‘Batman’ — it is wholly a phrase coined by Bill Finger. Alas, they said no.” [Comic Riffs]

Passings | Tulsa, Oklahoma, cartoonist Larry Pendleton, who created the syndicated single-panel cartoon Graphic Nature, has died at the age of 59. [Tulsa World]

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Gary Arlington, pioneering retailer and comix guru, passes away

gary arlingtonGary 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.

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Comics A.M. | U.K. political cartoonist Leon Kuhn passes away

Art by Leon Kuhn

Art by Leon Kuhn

Passings | Chris Bird pens an obituary for Leon Kuhn, a British cartoonist who was active in socialist and progressive causes and whose work appeared regularly in the Morning Star as well as in The Big Book of Bureaucrats. He often marched in demonstrations carrying placards of his cartoons. Kuhn died last week at age 59; the sole news article about his death simply says he “died under a train” at a London subway station and that the death is not being treated as suspicious. [Counterfire]

Manga | ICV2 rounds up Viz Media’s announcements for the beginning of 2014, including three new series. [ICv2]

Creators | Jonathan Hickman and Tom Brevoort talk about Avengers #24.NOW, which kicks off the All-New Marvel NOW initiative. [USA Today]

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‘Screw’ magazine founder Al Goldstein passes away

Illustration by Danny Hellman

Illustration by Danny Hellman

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).

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Comics A.M. | ‘The Dandy’ artist Charles Grigg passes away

Korky the Kat

Korky the Cat

Passings | Lew Stringer reports that British artist Charles Grigg died Wednesday at age 97. Grigg is probably best known for drawing Korky the Cat, whose adventures graced the cover of the weekly comic The Dandy for decades, and he drew a number of other strips for The Dandy and The Topper as well. After he retired he had a second career drawing naughty postcards. [Blimey!]

Retailing | The direct-market trade organization ComicsPRO has announced its annual membership meeting will be held Feb. 26-March 1 in Atlanta. [ICv2.com]

Creators | Art Spiegelman talked to students at Lakeland College recently and then sat down to answer some questions about his love of comics, how his depression affected his work, and whether he has any regrets about the way he portrayed his father in Maus. [The Lakeland Mirror]

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Veteran Superman artist Al Plastino passes away

al plastino

Prolific artist Al Plastino, who in recent weeks lobbied for the return of his original art for the 1964 story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy,” has passed away after a battle with prostate cancer, Mark Evanier reports. He was 91.

Born Dec. 15, 1921 in New York City, Plastino began illustrating for Youth Today magazine after he graduated from the High School of Industrial Arts. His first comics credit was on Dynamic Publications’ Dynamic Comics #2, cover-dated December 1941.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Plastino returned to freelance work and learned in 1948 that DC Comics was searching for a new Superman artist; according to his website, the publisher paid $55 a page at the time. For the next two decades, Plastino drew Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Superboy, Superman, Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and with writer Otto Binder created the Legion of Super-Heroes and Supergirl.

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Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing passes away

doris lessingDoris Lessing, the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Grass is Singing and The Golden Notebook, passed away Sunday in London at age 94. Although she was best known as a novelist, poet, librettist and playwright, Lessing also tried her hand at graphic novels with Playing the Game, a 1995 fantasy drawn by Charlie Adlard.

Born in Iran in 1919, and raised in the African bush in Zimbabwe, Lessing began her writing career at age 15, selling short stories to South African magazines. An opponent of apartheid, her first novel The Grass is Singing (1950) addressed racial politics, while her breakthrough work, 1962′s The Golden Notebook, featured anti-war and anti-Stalinist messages and became a pioneering work of the burgeoning women’s movement. She wrote more than 50 books.

In 2007, the 88-year-old Lessing became the oldest author, and only the 11th woman, to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. As The Guardian recounts, she was returned to her London home after a day of shopping to find reporters on her doorstep. When she learned she had won the prize, which comes with $1.5 million, Lessing replied, “Oh, Christ,” adding, “I couldn’t care less.”

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Modern Tales founder Joey Manley passes away

joey manley2Joey Manley, founder of the pioneering webcomics site Modern Tales, passed away last night in a Louisville, Kentucky, hospital due to complications from pneumonia. According to his longtime partner Joe Botts, he was surrounded by family and friends. Manley was 48.

A publisher, editor, podcaster and author, Manley launched Modern Tales in March 2002, establishing one of the first workable (and profitable) subscription models for webcomics. He soon spun off Serializer, an alternative-comics site originally edited by Tom Hart; Girlamatic, a female targeted site initially edited by Lea Hernandez; Graphic Smash, the action comics site; and Webcomics Nation, a webcomics-hosting service.

The collective “Modern Tales family,” which closed in April, had published work by such creators as Gene Luen Yang, James Kochalka, Howard Cruse, Chris Onstad, Shaenon Garrity and Dylan Meconis, among many others.

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Comics A.M. | Acclaimed editorial cartoonist Roy Peterson dies

Roy Peterson

Roy Peterson

Passings | Roy Peterson, editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun, died Sunday at the age of 77. During his 40-year career, Peterson won more National Newspaper Awards than any other Canadian creator, but he was remembered by his peers chiefly for his sense of humor and his mentoring of younger artists. [Vancouver Sun]

Publishing | CNN contributor Bob Greene profiles Victor Gorelick, the editor-in-chief and co-president of Archie Comics who began working for the publisher at age 17, in 1958. [CNN.com]

Creators | Craig Thompson talks about the short story he wrote and drew for First Second’s Fairy Tale Comics anthology, and he reveals an interesting fact: “For six years or so, my entire income was based on drawing kids’ comics for [Nickelodeon] magazine. Later on my career shifted to drawing ‘serious’ graphic novels aimed at adult readers, but I’ve always wanted to revisit my more fun and cartoony style.” Former Nickelodeon editor Chris Duffy is the editor of Fairy Tale Comics. [Hero Complex]

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Mike Dimayuga, ‘Colt Noble’ and ‘Hero House’ artist, passes away

mikedimayugapageMike Dimayuga, the artist of the webcomic Colt Noble and the Megalords and the Arcana graphic novel Hero House, has passed away, according to reports from multiple industry professionals.

Dimayuga worked with Tim Seeley on Colt Noble and Hack/Slash #23, and illustrated a story in Action DoubleFeature #3, published digitally by Four Star Studios, co-run by Seeley. On Facebook, Seeley paid tribute to Dimayuga, whose work he first encountered through DeviantArt.

“I met up with Mike at San Diego Comic-Con for the release of Colt Noble at the Image Comics booth, and was really surprised to find he was suffering from MS,” Seeley wrote. “It had clearly not slowed him down at all artistically, and hadn’t put any kind of damper on his attitude. Via the Con Mike became friendly with all my collaborators, Steve Seeley, Mike Moreci, Mike Norton … everyone liked the dude immediately.”

James Asmus, who penned the Action DoubleFeature story illustrated by Dimayuga, wrote on Twitter, “Comics lost one of the kindest, most dedicated pros I’ve ever known. Mike Dimayuga’s passing is a genuine loss.”

In 2009, Hero House writer Justin Aclin described Dimayuga’s contributions to the project, saying, “Mike’s enthusiasm and tireless dedication to the book have truly kept it going in its darkest days. It’s no exaggeration to say Hero House wouldn’t exist without Mike, and there’s no way it would look half as good as it does without him.”

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Comics A.M. | Zip Comics relaunches as Z2, with Pope & Haspiel

Escapo

Escapo

Publishing | Calvin Reid talks to publisher Josh Frankel, who is relaunching his Zip Comics (the publisher of Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland) as Z2 Comics. The first books under the new name will be reprints of a sort: Paul Pope’s Escapo, which he originally self-published in black and white, and Dean Haspiel’s Fear My Dear, which first appeared as a webcomic at Act-I-Vate. Escapo will be colored and Fear My Dear will be re-colored. The company will publish strictly graphic novels, no periodicals, and they will be distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors. [Publishers Weekly]

Passings | Toledo, Ohio, cartoonist Pete Hoffmann, whose comic strip Jeff Cobb was syndicated nationwide, died last week at the age of 94. Hoffman was also a ghost artist for Steve Roper and illustrated the panel cartoon Why We Say, which explained the meaning behind common sayings. He “got ambitious” and decided to strike out with his own strip, and the result was Jeff Cobb, a serial about an investigative reporter, which ran from 1954 to 1975. In this 2004 interview, he talks about his work and shows off his first published drawing, which appeared in the Toledo Times when he was four years old. [Toledo Blade]

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Forbidden Planet NYC regular killed in random attack

jeffrey babbittTwo to three times a week for more than a decade, Jeffrey Babbitt made the trip from his home in Brooklyn to Forbidden Planet in Manhattan to buy comics or to simply talk with the staff. But then last Wednesday, while on his regular pilgrimage, the 62-year-old retired train conductor was attacked in Union Square, just blocks from the store, and struck his head on the pavement. Babbitt was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where The New York Times reports he was eventually declared brain dead and passed away Monday morning.

According to the newspaper, the attack was apparently random, from an assailant who proclaimed he would “punch the first white man I see.” Police arrested 40-year-old Lashawn Marten, who allegedly also struck two men who tried to help Babbitt. Marten was charged with three counts of assault; in the wake of Babbitt’s death, those will most likely be upgraded.

The longtime comics fan, who cared for his 94-year-old mother Lucille, was by all accounts the kind of person everyone liked. Forbidden Planet manager Jeff Ayers described Babbitt to the newspaper as “just a really, really, really sweet guy.” He visited Babbitt at the hospital, where Lucille sat part of the time at her son’s bedside.

The store’s employees are said to be deeply affected by Babbitt’s death, and are now worried about the welfare of his mother. They plan to establish a fund to help with her care.

Comics A.M. | ‘Beetle Bailey’ creator Mort Walker turns 90

Beetle Bailey

Beetle Bailey

Creators | Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker received messages from the likes of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dolly Parton and Prince Albert II of Monaco ahead of his 90th birthday today. The cartoonist, who introduced Beetle Bailey in 1950, still supervises daily work on the strip at his Stamford, Connecticut, studio. [The Associated Press]

Creators | Gene Luen Yang discusses his newest work, Boxers and Saints, a 500-page, two-volume set that examines China’s Boxer Rebellion through the eyes of two very different characters. [Graphic Novel Reporter]

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