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‘Truth’ writer Robert Morales passes away

truth1Writer Robert Morales, who collaborated with Kyler Baker on the 2003 Marvel miniseries Truth: Red, White & Black, passed away this morning in his Brooklyn home. He was 54.

“We spoke on the phone for many years, at least once a week and often more. I am shattered,” author Samuel Delany wrote in a Facebook post announcing Morales’ death. “His many friends will miss him deeply. He had agreed to be my literary executor, and the idea that he would pre-descease me never entered my head. For me and many others he was an indispensable friend. To say he will be deeply missed is an incredible understatement.”

A longtime entertainment journalist and former arts editor at Vibe, Morales had worked with Baker on satirical cartoons for the magazine before the two reunited for Truth, published during a period when Marvel was taking creative risks with such comics as Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix, and Ron Zimmerman and John Severin’s Rawhide Kid, and its short-lived Tsunami imprint.

Controversial almost from the moment it was announced, Truth uses the Tuskegee Experiments as inspiration to re-examine the history of the Super-Soldier serum, depicting a regiment of black soldiers who undergo medical experiments during World War II in an attempt to recreate the lost formula that produced Captain America.

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George Gladir, co-creator of Archie’s Sabrina, passes away

GeorgeGladirGeorge Gladir, the longtime Archie Comics writer who created Sabrina the Teenage Witch with Dan DeCarlo, passed away Wednesday, the publisher confirmed.

A 2007 recipient of the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing, Gladir began working for Archie in 1959, initially penning one-page gags for Archie’s Joke Book before moving on to other titles, including Archie’s Pal Jughead, Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica and Archie’s Madhouse. It was in that last title, in 1962, that he and DeCarlo introduced Sabrina, the well-meaning witch who became a sensation, inspiring two animated series, a television movie and a live-action sitcom.

“I think we both envisioned it as a one-shot and were surprised when fans asked for more,” Gladir recalled in a 2007 interview. “We continued to do Sabrina stories off and on in Mad House until 1969 when we were flabbergasted to hear it was to become an animated [TV series].”

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Comics A.M. | ‘Philémon’ creator Fred dies at age 82

Philémon

Philémon

Passings | French cartoonist Theodor Friedrich Otto Aristidès, aka Fred, passed away Tuesday in a Paris hospital at age 82. He was best known for Philémon, his surrealistic comic about a French farm boy who fell down a well into a fantasy world akin to Wonderland. Fred was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême in 1980, and had been the oldest living recipient. [L'Observateu de Beauvais]

Creators | John Layman, who’s writing  the 900th issue of Detective Comics (No. 19 in the New 52 continuity) talks about his plans for that and his creator-owned series Chew, and contrasts the two: “Well, the cases are weirder in Chew. There is an element that’s the same – you introduce a conflict, and then you have a detective with a certain skill set resolving it. … Batman’s just happen to be gadgets and fists. I guess if there’s a formula in the skeletal layer, it’s probably the same.” [Hero Complex]

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Comics A.M. | ‘MAD Magazine’ artist Bob Clarke passes away

Illustration by Bob Clarke

Illustration by Bob Clarke

Passings | Bob Clarke, one of the original artists for MAD Magazine, passed away Sunday of complications from pneumonia. He was 87. Best known for his “Believe It or NUTS!” parodies, Clarke actually began his career at age 15 as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip before joining the Army, where he worked for Stars and Stripes. At MAD, he also drew “Spy vs. Spy” for many years, and illustrated the famed January 1961 back cover congratulating John F. Kennedy on his election (the front featured Richard Nixon; the editors were hedging their bets). [The News Journal]

Creators | Charles Soule talks about taking the reins of DC Comics’ Swamp Thing: “Swamp Thing isn’t just a horror book by any means — it’s also a book about superhero action and philosophy and humor. This is a title that’s open to just about anything.” Soule’s plans include new supporting characters and short story arcs that build up to a bigger structure. [USA Today]

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Comics A.M. | Marvel’s Axel Alonso on rise of Latino superheroes

Miss America Chavez from "Young Avengers"

Publishing| Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talks about bringing more Latino characters — and more diversity in general — to the Marvel lineup: “People out there reading our comic books are of all sizes, creeds and colors and it’s our responsibility to make them feel included. This isn’t some PC initiative, this is capitalism. This is about supply and demand.” [Fox News Latino]

Passings | Webcomics and minicomics creator Luisa Felix (Candy Blondell) has died at the age of 60. [The Comics Reporter]

Creators | Grant Morrison discusses winding up his run on Action Comics: “Symbolically I’m not a big fan of dealing with politics in superhero comics because I think it diminishes both sides of the argument, but I do have my own take on things. I’ve got my own politics and so they do tend to find their way in. And really for me, its more symbolic, the way story winds up to tackle all those issues and looks at them through the perspective of Superman and Red Kryptonite and weirdness. So it’s gone underground. I think the early Superman was very much more aligned with the anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian current, because I think when Superman started out that he was what entered into.” [Comics Alliance]

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Comics A.M. | Burglars make off with $10,000 comics hoard

Crime | The burglars who broke into Flea Market Comics in Mobile, Alabama, left the cash register alone but stole $10,000 worth of comics, according to owner Stephen Barrington. The thieves cut three locks off Barrington’s storage units and replaced them with a combination lock, presumably so they could come back and get more. “It just left me deflated,” he said of the theft. “People would come in just to look at the covers on them because they were such a various period from the ’30s to the present and like I said anything on a display; they took.” [Fox 10 TV]

Passings | Kiichi Toyoda, the first editor-in-chief of the Japanese manga magazine Shonen Sunday, died Jan. 10 at the age of 87. Shonen Sunday is the home of Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 and Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. [Anime News Network]

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Retailer Gordon Lee passes away

Gordon Lee, the Georgia retailer who famously fought off charges of distributing materials harmful to minors, passed away Sunday following complications from a series of strokes. He was 54.

The popular owner of Legends in Rome, Georgia, Lee was arrested in 2004 after participating in a trick-or-treat event in which thousands of comics were given away for free. Among the books was Alternative Comics #2, which contained an excerpt from Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel The Salon depicting a nude Pablo Picasso in a non-sexual context. The comic accidentally was given to a minor, whose parents filed a complaint with the police. Although Lee acknowledged the mistake and offered to make a public apology, he was arrested and charged with two felony counts of distributing material depicting nudity or sexual content and five misdemeanor counts of unlawful disposition of materials to minors. Several of those counts didn’t name victims.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund became involved with the case in early 2005, challenging the constitutionality of the law as well as the counts that didn’t name victims. Subsequently, the felony charges and two misdemeanor counts were dropped. However, the case trudged on, with charges dropped and then refiled, hearings postponed and then, in November 2007, a mistrial was declared before opening statements could be finished. Finally, in April 2008, Lee’s case was dismissed entirely.

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Comics A.M. | Golden Age artist Marion Sitton passes away

Marion Sitton

Passings | Dr. Michael J. Vassallo notes the passing of Marion Sitton, who drew romance, crime and Western comics for Timely and Atlas (earlier incarnations of Marvel) as well as Fawcett, Quality and other publishers. He was 92. [Timely-Atlas-Comics]

Publishing | Heidi MacDonald interviews Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson, who was selected by readers of The Beat as the Comics Industry Person of the Year. [The Beat]

Organizations | Babymouse creator Jennifer L. Holm has joined the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board of directors. [CBLDF]

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Comics A.M. | National Cartoonists Society splits webcomics award

National Cartoonists Society

Awards | The National Cartoonists Society initiated a webcomics award last year, and this year the organization is splitting it in two, one for short-form works and one for long-form. The challenge with including webcomics, says NCS President Tom Richardson, is that to be eligible, creators must make the majority of their money from cartooning. “That isn’t an easy thing to quantify anymore. With online comics, we need to take into account site traffic, professionalism in consistent and regular publication, online community activity and other factors that are the hallmark of professional online work,” he says. “In some cases, it’s pretty obvious the creator is making a career out of cartooning. In some, it’s not so obvious.” [Comic Riffs]

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Rick Olney passes away

Rick Olney, the comics advocate, publisher and convention promoter perhaps best known for his public conflicts with creators, passed away Friday at his home in Mohawk, New York. He was 58.

Founder of Organized Readers of Comics Associated (ORCA), Olney became a somewhat-notorious figure in recent years for his dealings as both a publisher and a convention organizer. He was accused by several creators of non-payment for their work for his company TightLip Entertainment, and misleading others about his conventions. No shrinking violet, Olney frequently responded to the claims online with charges of libel and harassment.

Olney, a former Marine and National Guardsman, is survived by his wife Barbara and five children. His funeral was held today in Whitesboro, New York.

Barefoot Gen creator Keiji Nakazawa passes away

Keiji Nakazawa, who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima as a child and wrote the internationally acclaimed Barefoot Gen about his experiences, died Dec. 19 of lung cancer. He was 73.

Nakazawa was 7 years old on Aug. 6, 1945, the day the bomb was dropped. As he recounted in his autobiography, he was walking to school and stopped to answer a question from an adult, when suddenly, in an instant, the whole world changed: “a pale light like the flash of a flashbulb camera, white at the center, engulfed me, a great ball of light with yellow and red mixed at its out edge.”

He was standing next to a concrete wall, so he was partially shielded from the blast, although he was covered in rubble, and a nail went through his cheek. The adult he had been speaking to was burned to death on the spot. There was more horror to come: His father, brother and sister were killed when their burning house collapsed on them. Nakazawa recounted these events, which his mother told him about later, in a 2007 interview:

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Comics A.M. | Final Dandy print edition features Paul McCartney

Publishing | The final print edition of the 75-year-old children’s comic The Dandy arrives Tuesday, featuring a cameo by none other than Paul McCartney. When it was announced the publication would move online, McCartney wrote the editors explaining it was his lifelong dream to appear in the comic; tomorrow he’ll be seen along with Desperate Dan. [Daily Mail, Daily Mail]

Passings | Jeff Millar, the co-creator, with Bill Hinds, of the comic strip Tank McNamara, has died at the age of 70. [Houston Chronicle]

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Spike and Angel artist Franco Urru passes away

Franco Urru, the Italian artist best known to American readers for his work on Spike: Asylum, Spike: Shadow Puppets and Angel: After the Fall, has passed away, reports IDW Publishing Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall.

“Between flights now, I just got terrible news that Angel artist and wonderful person Franco Urru passed away,” Ryall wrote this morning on Twitter. “Rest peacefully, dear friend.”

Urru, who began working in comics in Italy as an assistant, inking, penciling backgrounds and conducting research for established artists, broke into the U.S. industry in 2006 with Spike: Asylum. “I landed into that wonderful script after a friend showed my pages to Chris Ryall,” he told The Comic Book Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2009. “At the time Brian Lynch had written his first story for IDW and I started to work immediately on the covers of the entire mini. After finishing the first cover I realized that I was exactly where I wanted to be.”

In Italy, Urru worked in a variety of genres, ranging from fantasy to superheroes to erotic comics. His death follows the passings this week of alternative comix pioneer Spain Rodriguez and 30 Days of Night and Willow Creek artist Josh Medors.

Comics A.M. | New Booker Prize chair welcomes graphic novels

The Man Booker Prize

Awards | Following the nomination of two graphic novels for the Costa Prize, the new chairman of the Man Booker Prize said he would welcome submissions of graphic novels as well. [The Telegraph]

Passings | Former Wizard staff member Marc Wilkofsky, whose efforts on behalf of Friends of Lulu earned him their Volunteer of the Year award in 2005, has died at the age of 42. He was also an enthusiastic member of the NYC Comic Jams. [Andrew Kardon, The Beat]

Conventions | Richard Bruton files a comprehensive con report on the recent Thought Bubble festival in Leeds, England. [Forbidden Planet]

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Comics A.M. | Two graphic novels crack Costa Book Awards shortlist

Dotter of Her Father's Eyes

Awards | Graphic novels for the first time have made the shortlist for the Costa Book Awards (formerly the Whitbread Awards): Mary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes in the Biography category, and Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart in the Novel category. [The Guardian]

Passings | Indian politician and former editorial cartoonist Bal Thackeray has died at the age of 86; Thackeray was in the news most recently supporting fellow cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who was jailed briefly on charges of sedition. [The Comics Reporter]

Awards | The Australian Cartoonists Association has bestowed their highest honor, the Gold Stanley Award, on David Pope, cartoonist for The Canberra Times. [The Canberra Times]

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