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Artist and cartoonist Irwin Hasen passed away Friday morning at the age of 96. Hasen most famously co-created Wildcat with Bill Finger and the beloved orphan comic strip Dondi with Gus Edson.
“[Hasen] was DC’s last surviving artist from World War II,” comic historian Michael Uslan told the New York Daily News. “So DC’s ‘Golden Age of Comics’ has come to a close, 77 years after it began.”
As far as I can recall, it’s the only picture I ever took of him. Now, with Dylan taken from us, far before his time, and long before the many, many people who’s lives he’s touched ever thought they’d have to let him go, I’ve found myself thinking about that photo, about that moment, about how Dylan never got a copy of it, about what he might have been thinking when he brought me over to that wall, wanting me to take his picture. The other side of death is the deep scary mystery that we humans, even after all this time, don’t really know how to truly approach or comprehend, but I need to believe that such a vivid and thoughtful person as Dylan can’t just stop existing. I need to believe that this photo is some kind of message from Dylan from the other side of his life and not an irony. This photo needs to be a victory.
—Theo Ellsworth, author of Sleeper Car, on the photograph of the late Sparkplug Comic Books publisher Dylan Williams you see above. I gasped audibly the first time I saw this picture and read Ellsworth’s post about it — how it was taken at the request of Williams, who’d already battled the cancer that would eventually claim him and was well aware of the challenges he might again have to face. And as I’ve made my way through the tributes and anecdotes and encomiums popping up all around the comics internet, I’ve been moved almost as powerfully time and time again.
Through the tributes of his fellow cartoonists and publishers, a picture of Williams emerges. He was a kind person who provided many friends with empathy they felt they could never properly return. He was an ethical person who ran his publishing business in a way that centered on treating, and paying, his artists fairly. He had an eye for talent, able to spot not just good cartoonists but also the good things about not-so-good cartoonists, both of which he nurtured to make them better. He was a comics die-hard who made contributions to the form in nearly every conceivable way—retailer, distributor, cartoonist, publisher, historian, organizer. And he really, really loved Alex Toth.
Williams became a force within the small press community through his creation of Sparkplug in 2002. A cartoonist himself (best known for his comic book series Reporter), Williams helped many cartoonists who might otherwise have trouble getting published, including folks like Chris Wright, Dave Kiersh, Edie Fake and Jason Shiga. Sparkplug and Williams very quickly became known as one of the more prominent indie comics publishers. As fellow Robot 6er Sean Collins noted, “he had an eye for really sharp writing that you don’t see in other artcomics publishers.”
I never had the opportunity to get to know Williams well, but he always struck me in our brief meetings and conversations as a warm, genial person who cared fiercely about the medium and the cartoonists he championed.
As Tom Spurgeon notes, there may well be outstanding medical bills and other costs Williams’ estate might have to face, so let me encourage everyone to please take a moment to purchase something from the Sparkplug store (I made a few recommendations here the other week). Similarly, a benefit auction enacted to help Williams with his medical costs is still ongoing and will be continued over the coming months.
Everyone at Robot 6 would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to Williams’ family members and friends. This is a deeply felt loss and he will be missed for many, many years to come.
Bleeding Cool is reporting that Barry Blair, the founder of Aircel Comics and one of the more prominent figures in the black and white boom of the 1980s, died Sunday after suffering from a brain aneurysm.
He complained to friends of an ear ache previously and was on medication as a result. However he felt so ill, he was eventually taken to hospital, but it was too late.
Blair’s Web site has a rather brief eulogy up for now.
A rather prolific cartoonist, the Canadian-born Blair produced a number of manga-influenced comics (at a time when manga was barely causing a ripple) under the Aircel imprint, such as Elflord and Samurai. The line is probably, however, for publishing the Men in Black comics, which, of course, eventually became a popular movie. He later worked extensively on Richard and Wendy Pini’s ElfQuest series. He also worked in animation and for Malibu Comics (which bought Aircel during the b&w implosion).
Blair is perhaps best known for the number of erotic comics he produced, which include titles like Leather and Lace and Sapphire (published by NBM — last link NSFW). These books frequently came under controversy and criticism due to the fact that the main characters in these comics frequently appeared to be childlike and/or under age of consent.
The Internet turned out in full force last week to pay homage to the illustrious cartoonist and illustrator David Levine, who passed away last Tuesday. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more notable articles:
• Here’s the New York Times’ official obituary.
• Tom Spurgeon, meanwhile, does his usual excellent job chronicling the artist’s life and talent.
• David Margolick recalls his relationship with Levine for The Daily Beast, which also has a nice gallery of art.
• NPR has words and pictures, as well as an interview with political cartoonist Mike Luckovich.
• British cartoonist Steve Bell pays homage here.
• Finally, here’s a lengthy remembrance from New York Magazine.
The New York Times is reporting that famed illustrator and caricaturist David Levine passed away today at the age of 83 after complications from prostate cancer.
Mr. Levine’s drawings never seemed whimsical, like those of Al Hirschfeld. They didn’t celebrate neurotic self-consciousness, like Jules Feiffer’s. He wasn’t attracted to the macabre, the way Edward Gorey was. His work didn’t possess the arch social consciousness of Edward Sorel’s. Nor was he interested, as Roz Chast is, in the humorous absurdity of quotidian modern life. But in both style and mood, Mr. Levine was as distinct an artist and commentator as any of his well-known contemporaries. His work was not only witty but serious, not only biting but deeply informed, and artful in a painterly sense as well as a literate one. Those qualities led many to suggest that he was the heir of the 19th-century masters of the illustration, Honoré Daumier and Thomas Nast.
The above link comes courtesy of Eric Reynolds at Fantagraphics, which published a collection of Levine’s work, American Presidents, in 2008. Most of Levine’s work, however, was done for the New York Review of Books and they have a nice, searchable gallery of his work online. I would also encourage you to check out this excellent Vanity Fair article on Levine that ran last year.
A staff artist for Dell Publishing from 1941 to 1982, Tripp is best known for his work with John Stanley on the popular Little Lulu series of comic books. While Stanley is acknowledged as the author of the series and provided layouts, Tripp was the illustrator for the comic during it’s lengthy run.
In addition to his lengthy time with Lulu, Tripp also worked on Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny comics, as well as several Disney adaptations, including Dumbo and The Reluctant Dragon. He also served in the Army during World War II, and was stationed in the Philippines.
According to his obituary in The (Lakeland, Florida) Ledger, Tripp is survived by three sons, one daughter, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Bissette has an excellent appreciation of Stanley and Tripp’s Lulu on the Schulz Library Blog, along with the official announcement from Tripp’s son in the comments. I’ll be updating this post throughout the day as more obits and remembrances start to appear.
UPDATE: Tom Spurgeon has a lengthy and well-considered obit up at his site.