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Gone But Not Forgotten, 2014 Edition

16 Comic-Related People and Things We Said Goodbye To in 2014

1. Stan Goldberg (b. 1932)
If you’re an Archie fan, then you’re a Stan Goldberg fan. It’s that simple. That one-shot where Archie met the Punisher? Goldberg.  Those “Archie Marries Betty/Archie Marries Veronica” alternate-future stories? Goldberg. That very-special-episode story in which Moose was diagnosed with dyslexia? Goldberg. For almost 40 years, he joined Dan DeCarlo, Henry Scarpelli and other talented artists in presenting the misadventures of the Riverdale High gang for the company’s many books, including its flagship title Archie (for which he was the primary artist from the mid-1990s to mid-2006). And if that’s not impressive enough for you, he was also one of the last remaining members of Marvel’s famed bullpen, starting out as staff colorist in 1949 (at age 17) and coloring pretty much every story and cover produced by Timely/Atlas throughout the 1950s. As Atlas turned into Marvel, he drew covers and stories for their line of humor books (usually under an alias to keep Archie’s editors from finding out he was working for the competition) while working with artists like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby to create color designs for all the crazy new characters they were coming up with. “As Marvel’s one-man coloring department, it was he who determined that the Thing would be orange, that Spider-Man would be red and blue-black, and that Iron Man would be red and gold,” said Marvel editor Tom Brevoort in an interview. “While he may not be as well-known to the masses as Stan Lee or Jack Kirby, Stan Goldberg… was likewise one of the pioneers of the Marvel renaissance.”Died August 31

2. Al Feldstein (b. 1925)
Think back to the time when you first discovered MAD magazine, and when you started to recognize the styles of the artists who stuffed every issue with their zaniness. Dave Berg, Mort Drucker, Frank Jacobs, Don Martin, Sergio Aragones, Angelo Torres, Antonio Prohias — all of them (and more) were hired by Al Feldstein, the guy Bill Gaines brought in to edit MAD after founding editor Harvey Kurtzman jumped ship. Feldstein started out freelancing for smaller publishers in the 1940s before arriving at EC Comics in 1948, writing and editing stories for EC’s legendary line-up between 1950 and 1953. He left the company after Gaines was forced to shut down most of his books, but he returned in 1956 to edit MAD, and for the next 29 years he was the guy who… well, here’s how his obituary in the New York Times put it: “The founding editor, Harvey Kurtzman, established [the magazine’s] well-informed irreverence, but Mr. Feldstein gave Mad its identity as a smart-alecky, sniggering and indisputably clever spitball-shooter of a publication with a scattershot look, dominated by gifted cartoonists of wildly differing styles.” On top of that, he’s also the guy who put Alfred E. Newman on the cover and made him a star. So… he did good, is what I’m saying. Died April 29 

3. Dick Ayers (b. 1924)
Richard Bache Ayers started out drawing cartoons while serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He later enrolled at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School in New York City, where a fellow by the name of Joe Shuster took a liking to his work. “Next thing I knew, I was penciling a bit here and there,” Ayers said in a 1996 interview. Assisting Superman’s original artist in his art chores turned out to be a great starting point for Ayers’ career; he worked for a number of comic publishers in the late 1940s and 1950s, co-creating the horror-themed Western character Ghost Rider (no relation to the flaming skull dude) in 1949. One of his freelancing gigs was with Atlas Comics, and it was his extreme good luck to be assigned the inking duties on hundreds of pages containing Jack Kirby’s Western and monster stories, because that experience led directly to his involvement in early Marvel stories starring the Fantastic Four, Ant-Man, the Hulk and other fast-rising stars. It was during this time he became the penciller for Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, drawing almost every issue during a decade-long run. The 1970s saw him moving over to DC, doing layouts for Kamandi, Jonah Hex and other DC titles; later credits included AC’s FemForce, Archie’s Mighty Crusaders, and a mini-series revival of the original Ghost Rider, with whom he collaborated with writer Dan Slott. “All of us who are working in this industry today — we only get to do this because we stand on the shoulders of giants,” Slott wrote on Twitter after Ayers’ death. “I consider myself extra lucky that I had the chance not just to work with one who was so talented, but who was also a man that was kind and thoughtful.” Died May 4 

4. Morris Weiss (b. 1915)
Inspired by the work of artist James Montgomery Flagg (who would later become a good friend), Morris Weiss broke into the comics business in the mid-1930s, acting as letterer or art assistant for newspaper strips like The Katzenjammer Kids, Minute Movies and Joe Palooka. He morrisweisstransitioned into comics around 1943, took time out to serve in the U.S. military during World War II, then returned to comics in 1946 drawing and writing for Timely Publications, the company that would later become known as Marvel. He had a knack for creating humorous material, and editor Stan Lee put him to work on books like Patsy Walker, Tessie the Typist, Pinky Lee and Weiss’s own creation, Margie. When work was harder to come by in the 1950s, he found his way back to syndicated newspaper strips, providing art, scripts or both on such features as Joe Palooka (1962-70) and Mickey Finn (1960-76). His artistic versatility earned him acclaim among his peers, but he was also well-known for his commitment to social causes.  “As a young man, Weiss proposed that the National Cartoonists Society start a fund to aid its indigent members, an idea wisely adopted,” wrote his son, artist Jerry Weiss, in a tribute to his father. “In the early 1970s, he wrote and drew a storyline for Mickey Finn about a then nearly unknown issue, the strain on a young family raising an autistic child. In real life, Weiss and his wife founded the Miami Society for Autistic Children and became deeply involved in providing care and education for autistic children in general, and for my younger brother in particular.” Died May 18

5. Fred Kida (b. 1920)
One of the reasons I do this annual wrap-up of comic artists that have passed during the year is because it’s a nice way to honor the many professionals who have given so much to the business. On the other hand, I have to admit it’s a little sad going through the names and realizing we’ve fredkidaalready lost so many Golden Age greats, all of them with so many stories to tell. Case in point: Fred Kida, who started out as an inker and background artist in 1941, eventually moving on to his most prominent Golden Age characters, the daring pilot known as Airboy and his sometimes antagonist/sometimes ally, the cleavage-baring Valkyrie. He stayed with the feature until 1948, and then proved his versatility (and knack for drawing both beautiful women and dastardly villains) by moving on to crime, romance, humor, war, Western and horror comics. Starting in the mid- to late 1950s, he helped friends meet their daily deadlines on their newspaper strips, most notably Flash Gordon; before long, he was ghosting daily and Sunday syndicated strips for some of the biggest names in the business, while finding time for oil painting and his own strips. His return to comics in the 1970s saw him act mainly as an inker on Marvel titles like Ka-Zar, Luke CageIron Man, Shangi Chi: Master of Kung Fu and The Defenders before doing his own pencils and inks in 1979-80 on Captain America and What If…? In 1981, he was brought in to do the art chores for the syndicated Amazing Spider-Man strip, which he retired from in 1991 at the age of 70. Died April 3

pran-RIP 6. Pran Kumar Sharma (“Pran”) (b. 1938)
For more than four decades, Indian illustrator Pran Sharma — just “Pran” to his fans — chronicled the challenges of Indian life in a comic book about a wise old man named Chacha Chaudhary (“chacha” being a Hindi term of endearment for an uncle or respected village elder). Together with his brawny friend, Sabu, the white-moustached fellow outwits criminals and tricksters thanks to a mind that “works faster than a computer.” Chacha Chaudhary first appeared in 1971 in a children’s magazine and later starred in a series of comics read by millions and translated into 10 languages; he was adapted for a children’s TV show in 2002. Among Pran’s other well-known characters was Billoo, a lanky and good-natured teenager who played cricket and got in trouble with various authority figures. In Pran’s own words, there was a good reason why humor was the basis of all his stories: “If I could put a smile on the face of the poor, I would consider my life successful.” Died August 5

7. C. J. Henderson (b. 1951)
Under “About the Author” on his personal homepage, Chris “C.J.” Henderson counted the following jobs among the ways he made a living while writing his fiction: “movie house manager, waiter, drama coach, fast food jockey, interior painter, blackjack dealer, book reviewer, stockman, English teacher, roadie, advertising salesman, creative writing instructor, supernatural investigator, bank guard, storage coordinator, children’s theater director, card shark, film critic, dishwasher, magazine editor, traffic manager, short-order cook, stand-up comic, interview & general article writer; toy salesman, camp counselor, movie booker, street mime, lounge lizard and as a senior editor of legal publications.” With a résumé like that, it’s no wonder his writing career was equally diverse, with hard-boiled mysteries and sci-fi novels sitting side-by-side with fantasy and horror comics on his bookshelf.  Perhaps best-known to fiction lovers as the writer of the Teddy London and Jack Hagee mystery series, he started writing comics in 1986 for Eternity’s Ninja and Reign of the Dragonlord, later moving on to write stories starring the Punisher, Batman, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice. He leaves his wife and artist daughter, Erica, with whom he collaborated on Baby’s First Mythos, a children’s book that teaches ABCs and numbers using the Cthulhu mythos. Died July 4 

8. Larry Latham (b. 1953)
Are you under 40? Did you have a childhood? Was it magical? If you said yes to all three, then thank this guy. The pride of Broken Arrow, Okla., moved to California in his younger years with dreams of breaking into film production, and soon found himself in the assistant animation training program at Hanna-Barbera. He worked his way up from storyboard apprentice to producing and directing, working for some 30-odd years at Disney, Universal, Marvel, Filmation and other studios on projects like The Smurfs, Super Friends, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, Pac-Man, Richie Rich, Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Challenge of the GoBots, 1994’s Spider-Man, Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, The Tick and TaleSpin (for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program). A real-life jack-of-all-trades who could design, animate, and direct with the best of them, he also did work for the underground comix scene (most notably Betty Boop Funnies) and, in the final years of his life, created a popular long-running webcomic called Lovecraft is MissingDied November 2 

9. Jeremy Dale (b. 1979)
It’s hard when someone who’s relatively young passes on, especially when it’s evident they had so much to offer the world. Most of the comics community learned of Dale’s passing on Nov. 4 from a Facebook post by his wife and comics collaborator, Kelly: “It is with great difficulty that I share with you this awful news. Late in the evening of November the third, my husband Jeremy Dale passed away. He was hospitalized, and surrounded by his friends. His doctors say he passed without pain or suffering.” The Atlanta native contributed his art to books like G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Popgun, but he will probably be best remembered for his creator-owned fantasy title, 2013’s SkywardTo quote his friend and fellow artist Hoyt Silva: “R.I.P. Buddy, I’m sure many more adventures await you skyward…” Died Nov. 3 

10. Chris Reilly (b. 1967)
If the measure of a person’s life is the number of stories he leaves behind for his friends to share with others, then Chris Reilly’s life was one of the better ones. You don’t have to go too far online to find friends and colleagues talking about his passion for comics, his amazing ability to go without sleep, his talent for finding himself in the middle of any good time, and as John Teehan points out, he “could take a punch or a kick to the head like no one else.” His Twitter bio defines him as a “comic book writer, B-movie dork, cartoonist, writer for the Comics Journal & SLG Publishing, Punch and Judy, Igor, Disney’s Haunted Mansion, Gumby comics,” but to his friends he’ll always be a lot more than that. “Chris had a way of making everyone excited about comics, which is clear when you see how many talented artists he worked with on his many personal projects and the creators who contributed to the anthologies he edited,” wrote collaborator Jennifer de Guzman. “All of us will miss him.” Died June 9 

11. Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (b. 1923)
All together now: “Na na na na na na na…. Batmaaaaaan!” Hired by producer William Dozier to help create the Batman TV show for 20th Century Fox Television and ABC, Semple wrote the first four episodes and served as story or script consultant for all the rest, making sure the other writers adhered to the series’ bible that he wrote (among other rules, Batman could never be shown breaking any laws while in pursuit of criminals). It was Semple who came up with the idea of the colorful biff-bam-pow graphics during the fight scenes, named every device in the Batcave “Bat-this” and “Bat-that,” and had Robin cry “Holy [fill in the blank!]” at every opportunity. Later, he produced screenplays for the similarly campy Flash Gordon and Sheena films. And yet for all that kookiness, he could also crank out a serious script when needed, penning big-screen thrillers like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor. Although he never made much more than a few hundred dollars per Batman episode, he often said his time working with the Dynamic Duo was the high point of his career. “I think Batman was the best thing I ever wrote, including those big movies,” he said in 2008. “As a whole work, it came out the way that I wanted it to, and I was excited by it. I once went down to a fancy wine-tasting benefit in Princeton. When people found out I wrote Batman, they mobbed me! I was astounded.” Died March 28

12. Casey Kasem (b. 1932)
Radio was in Casey Kasem’s (né Kemal Amen Kasem) blood right from the start; he covered sports games while in high school, then later worked as a DJ/announcer on the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network while serving in the army. After his discharge, he tried his hand at acting, but it was his voice — smooth, genial, almost the opposite of what most people expected from the disc jockeys of the day — that people always came out to hear. Along with his longtime gig as the host of the syndicated radio show American Top 40 (which launched July 4, 1970), Kasem was widely known as one of the greatest voice actors in the business, lending his pitch-perfect pipes to animated versions of Robin (Super Friends), Mark (Battle of the Planets), Cliffjumper (Transformers), Alexander Cabot (Josie and the Pussycats) and Peter Cottontail for a Rankin-Bass stop-motion Easter special. And then there’s Shaggy Rogers, that cowardly companion of crime-solving canines that Kasem voiced for an incredible 40 years (he came out of retirement to play Shaggy’s dad in 2013’s Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated). “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars…” Died June 15 

efram-zimbalist alfred-BTAS      bob-hastings commissioner-gordonBTAS
13-14. Efram Zimbalist, Jr. and Bob Hastings
It was a hard year for fans of both ’90s superhero cartoons and mustachioed father figures. First, Efram Zimbalist, Jr. — a longtime stage and TV actor who enjoyed a late-career leap into voice acting — died May 2; along with becoming Batman’s loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth, in several TV shows and animated films, he gave voice to Doctor Octopus in 1994’s Spider-Man and Justin Hammer in 1995’s Iron Man. Then on June 30, fans learned of the passing of Bob Hastings, an actor who started out playing Archie Andrews on the radio in the 1940s and capped his long career by playing Commissioner Gordon in DC’s animated universe. In between, he also voiced Superboy in The Adventures of Superboy during the 1960s and squeezed in a few appearances on the 1970s Wonder Woman show when he wasn’t guest-starring on pretty much every other show on the dial. “He was just one of those actors who was never off the screen for very long,” said comic writer Mark Evanier. “Even in his eighties, he could still play youthful characters and could even sometimes squeeze out a line or two that sounded just like the teenage Archie.”

archie-RIP 15. Archie Andrews (b. 1941)
A hero without a cape, Archibald “Archie” Andrews heroically died as he lived, an everyman hero who proved you didn’t need fancy powers (or even a decent-running jalopy) to save the day. He met his end in the second-last issue of Life with Archie while trying to stop an assassination attempt on Kevin Keller, his friend and Archie Comics’ first openly gay character. (In the story, Keller is a newly elected senator who’s pushing for more gun control in Riverdale after his husband was involved in a shooting.) “Archie is not a superhero like all the rest of the comic book characters,” said Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO, explaining why they chose to kill off their main character. “He’s human. He’s a person. When you wound him, he bleeds. He knows that. If anything, I think his death is more impactful because of that. We hope by showing how something so violent can happen to Archie, that we can — in some way — learn from him.” rip-archieloved And while “This issue… someone dies!” stories are often seen as a cheap publicity stunt — especially when the character in question is as valuable a property as, say, Superman or Captain America — comic reviewers had a hard time hiding their admiration for the way Archie Comics said goodbye to its flagship character. “Even in a medium where the deaths of major characters have become as regular as clockwork, it’s rare to see one like this that makes a statement about the character that’ll outlast all the hype surrounding it,” said Chris Sims of Comics Alliance. Died July 16 of injuries sustained from a gunshot wound 

16. Saturday morning cartoons (b. circa early 1960s)
A weekly tradition for millions of kids ground to a halt this year, as The CW became the last TV network to formally dedicate a block of its Saturday morning programming to animated shows. For the first time in more than 50 years, kids didn’t wake up this fall and haul their bowls of Fruity Pebbles and Coco Puffs to the front of the TV to watch the Snorks, Smurfs, Super Friends, Ghostbusters, Gummi Bears, X-Men, and umpteen gangs of crime-solving teens with goofy sidekicks. It’s the end of an era, but it’s an end that was a long time coming; NBC was the first to pull the plug in 1992, with the others following one by one, choosing to air infomercials and low-cost educational programming instead. What happened? Blame the government — or more precisely, the Federal Communications Commission, which changed the rules in the 1990s to require networks to broadcast a minimum of three hours of “educational” programming a week; the weekend morning slots, already losing young viewers to rising concerns about childhood obesity and changing family dynamics, were the obvious first choices. Of course, it’s not as if the cartoons all disappeared; kids can get their animation fix from DVDs, streaming services, YouTube clips and entire cable channels devoted to animation, making the weeklong wait for animated entertainment seem almost quaint. Still, it’s a little sad knowing we may never hear those stirring words again: “After these messages, we’ll be right back…” Died September 27, mourned mainly by aging Baby Boomers and Gen Xers