Tag Archives: comic artists

Gone But Not Forgotten, 2015 Edition

31 Comics People We Said Goodbye To In 2015

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1. Murphy Anderson (b. 1926)
Carmine Infantino might have kick-started it. Jack Kirby might have jolted it to life. But there’s a strong case for bestowing the title of “Mr. Silver Age” on Murphy Anderson. Born in Asheville, N.C., Anderson moved to New York City in his teens and got into comics in 1944 by drawing for Fiction House. He did a two-year stint on the Buck Rogers newspaper strip and worked for a few different publishers before settling down at DC in the early 1950s. There, he belted out dozens of memorable science-fiction covers and hundreds of pages of interior art for titles like Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space before going all-in with the superhero revival. Superman, Batman, Hawkman, Supergirl, the Spectre, the Justice League… if they were published by DC, chances are Anderson worked on them as penciler or inker at some point in his fifty-plus-year career. “He was often employed as a kind of utility player, able to handle any position,” cartoonist Mark Evanier wrote in appreciation. “He frequently worked in the office, so he was called upon to do rush covers and ink jobs, to retouch the artwork of others and to work on merchandising art. At times, the DC staff could be very fussy how Superman, Batman and their other superstars were drawn, but Murphy was a guy who always drew them ‘on model.'” Died October 23

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2. Irwin Hasen (b. 1918)
Like they say in the real estate business, it’s all about location, location, location. Born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, Hasen fell into cartooning at age 19 because, as he told the New York Times in 2011, the National Academy of Design was right across the street from his apartment. He later found work at Harry “A” Chesler’s shop, cranking out pages for The Green Hornet, The Fox, Cat-Man, The Flash and many other titles. His DC portfolio in the 1940s included long stints on Green Lantern and Wildcat, the latter of which he co-created with writer Bill Finger. He returned to DC after his Army discharge in 1946, and drew Johnny Thunder, the Justice Society of America and Green Lantern before going on to create Dondi, a hugely successful strip about a war orphan that ran from 1955 to 1986. “Hasen was DC’s last surviving artist from World War II,” comic historian Michael Uslan told the New York Daily News at the time of his death. “So DC’s Golden Age of comics has come to a close, 77 years after it began.” Died March 13 


3. Earl Norem (b. 1923)
A Brooklyn boy, Earl Norem fought the Germans in World War II fought the Germans in the Northern Apennine Mountains of Italy; by age 20, he was a squad leader and staff sergeant in the Italian Campaign. Returned stateside after a injury ended his military career, he embarked on his illustration career, producing covers and interior art for men’s adventure magazines as well as such magazines as Reader’s Digest, Field and Stream, Ski, Real West and Discover. Many of the magazines he worked on were published by Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management Company, which gave him an “in” when Marvel was looking to expand its line of black-and-white magazines in the 1970s. The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, Dracula Lives, The Haunt of Horror, The Hulk, Planet of the Apes, The Savage Sword of Conan, Tales of the Zombie — his lush illustrations graced them all, as well as the cover for the 1978 Silver Surfer graphic novel. Fans of Masters of the Universe and Transformers will also recognize Norem’s contributions to those franchises, even if they didn’t know he was the artist responsible for many He-Man and the Masters of the Universe magazine covers and four of the Transformers Big Looker Storybooks. Not one to sit idly by (see also: “squad leader at 20”), at the time of his death Norem was working on a trading card assignment for Topps’ Mars Attacks! franchise. “He was a true super hero to me and to all who knew him,” wrote daughter Andrea Norem-Thompson in a Facebook notice acknowledging her dad’s passing. “A kind gentle, modest soul, his legacy will last a lifetime.” Died June 19

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4. Tom Moore (b. 1928)
Tom Moore’s career as a cartoonist started the way more careers should: he made fun of his boss. While serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, he drew a cartoon of his captain that got him a call into his superior’s office. Instead of the punishment he was expecting, he was reassigned to be a staff cartoonist. “I thought, ‘I can really do this for a living,'” he said in a 1996 interview with the El Paso Times. After his discharge, he moved to New York to study under Burne Hogarth (Tarzan) and others at the Cartoonist and Illustrator School in New York . From there, he started freelancing for Archie Comics in 1953. In 1961, he moved back to Texas with his family to work in public relations and do freelance cartooning on the side (including art assists on Snuffy Smith), but he returned to Archie in the 1980s, primarily as inker for the relaunched Jughead book. After his retirement, Moore taught commercial art at El Paso Community College and, in 1996, received the honor of having his work displayed in the El Paso Museum of Art.  “I think it’s such a kick that my stuff is going to be hanging at the museum,” he said. “Who knew Archie would have such universal appeal?” Died July 20 

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5. Herb Trimpe (b. 1939)
Technically speaking, Herb Trimpe isn’t the co-creator of Wolverine; it was Marvel’s art director, John Romita, who sketched out his likeness based on Len Wein’s ideas. But Trimpe had the honor of introducing Wolverine to the world in Incredible Hulk #180… not that he thought he was making history at the time: “It was just one of those secondary or tertiary characters, actually, that we were using in that particular book with no particular notion of it going anywhere.” Trimpe started out in Marvel’s production department in the mid-1960s before moving on to art chores in 1967. He was soon tapped as main artist on Hulk, handling pencils and co-plotting for almost every issue between 1971 and 1975 (including Wolverine’s debut). Trimpe later became Marvel’s go-to guy for its licensed titles, including Godzilla, Shogun Warriors, G.I. Joe, The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, NFL SuperPro, Robocop, Star Wars and Planet of the Apes. His unceremonious firing in 1996 led to an article in the New York Times that discussed his transition from full-time comic artist to grad student to public schoolteacher. He stayed active in comics throughout this period, freelancing for Dark Horse, Image and IDW before returning to the character he’s best known for with an eight-page Hulk story in 2008. Trimpe “gave the Jade Giant a sense of pathos and scale that set the bar for every artist that followed him,” said Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. “Like a Hulk-punch, Trimpe’s art truly exploded off the page.” Died April 13

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6. Jay Scott Pike (b. 1924)
Philadelphia’s Jay Scott Pike started his comics career in the late 1940s, working on Westerns and romance books for Hillman and other publishers. He spent most of the 1950s working for Atlas (Marvel) on war, horror, western and romance books, gaining a rep as the go-to guy for jungle ladies — or any kind of lady, if we’re being honest. He moved on to DC in the 1960s working mostly on their romance titles, with one notable exception: Dolphin, a water-breathing beauty who first appeared in a 1968 issue of Showcase. She made few other appearances in the years following that one issue, but she’s still kicking around the DC universe today. Aside from his work in comics, Pike did paintings for calendars, men’s magazines and advertising campaigns, working with clients like Ford, Proctor & Gamble and Pepsi. He returned to comics in the mid-1990s after a long hiatus, doing layouts and pencils for DC, including an adaptation of the series finale for Star Trek: The Next Generation. In a 2010 interview, Pike didn’t mince words about why he spent a large chunk of his career depicting the female form: “It’s my favorite subject.” Died September 13rip-alan-kupperberg
7. Alan Kupperberg (b. 1953)
If you were a comic fan in the ’80s, there’s no way you did not see some of Alan Kupperberg’s work. One of the great utility players, Kupperberg could write, draw, ink or letter with the best of them. He started at Marvel in 1974 doing one-shots and fill-in issues, and showed his versatility working on team books like The Invaders and The Defenders. Pretty soon, it was hard to find any character at Marvel or DC he hadn’t worked on, with notable runs on Blue Devil, Firestorm, C.O.P.S. and Justice League of America. He also worked on the Howard the Duck and Incredible Hulk newspaper strips in the 1970s. Oh, and he’s the one-man show behind the 1983 one-shot Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men, which is all the proof you need that Marvel used to have a sense of humor. When asked what he thought was the highlight of his career, Kupperberg took a long time to answer, because he wanted to say everything: “How many people, think of the entire world, get to live out their dream? Not only have I walked with giants, but in the end I’ve been granted the same magic powers they had. I get to sit down in front of a blank piece of paper and create an entire world every day — and it’s the best time I can think of having.” Died  July 16

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8. Tom Koch (b. 1925)
If you were ever a fan of MAD magazine, then there’s a good chance you’re a big fan of Tom Koch’s work.  From 1957 to 1995, Koch (pronounced “Cook”) was one of MAD’s most prolific writers, contributing more than 300 pieces to the magazine. One of his pieces, 1965’s “43-Man Squamish,” remains MAD’s most requested reprint 50 years after its initial publication. Born in Charleston, Ill., Koch moved to Indiana, where he worked as a journalist and broke into comedy by writing an estimated 3,000 sketches for legendary radio comedians Bob & Ray. That radio work led to his decades-long association with MAD, as well as staff and freelance work in television for shows like The Lucy Show, Petticoat Junction and All in the Family. “People would say I must have had such a great life doing this,” Mr. Koch once said in an interview. “But it was the kind of work where every morning I would wake up and think, ‘My God, I wonder if I can do it again today.’ There is no way you prepare to do it, or even know how you do it.” Died March 22

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9. Lou Silverstone (b. 1924)
You think accountants can’t be funny? Don’t let anyone who knew Lou Silverstone hear you say that. Growing up in Plainfield, N.J., Silverstone attended the University of Illinois after his discharge from the army. After a few years as an accountant, he realized his dream of being a comedy writer and landed a job at MAD, becoming one of the “usual gang of idiots” from 1962 to 1990. His pieces included riffs on politics, sports and American culture, but he’s best known for his film and TV parodies; his first job was a send-up of TV’s Bonanza (“Bananaz”) in 1962, and he lampooned Adam West’s Batman in MAD #105. He later worked for MAD’s competitor, Cracked, for a few years in the 1990s. He also dabbled in writing for TV, animation and comic books over the years, most notably contributing to Tower’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents in the 1960s. “Silverstone’s involvement in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents came about when he was writing sexy stories for men’s magazines and contacted former MAD artist Wally Wood about perhaps drawing a comic strip for one of those publications,” Mark Evanier wrote in a blog post saluting Silverstone. “Wood instead recruited him for the new comic he was drawing for Tower, and Lou created the character, Menthor.” Died March 9

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10. Dexter Taylor (b. 1931)
The image above? That was the first time my younger self laid eyes on Little Archie. I knew all about his teenage self — even saw a few episodes of his cartoon from the ’60s — but I was blown away by the idea that Archie could be a kid just like me. The comic above (and many more) was written and drawn by Dexter Taylor, who first started working at Archie Comics in its production department in the rip-dexter-taylor21950s. Around that time, Archie publisher John Goldwater asked for a “kiddified” Archie series to compete with popular kids’ strips like Dennis the Menace and Peanuts. Writer/artist Bob Bolling was tapped to design the characters and, when the designs were approved, write and draw the comic. Little Archie was a success and was soon turned into an 80-page quarterly, with Bolling doing about half the stories in each issue and the other half were by Taylor, his assistant. Together, the two helped shape the not-terribly-original idea of pint-sized versions of Archie and the gang into a fully realized world of wonder, adventure and (all too often) the many painful and heartbreaking moments of childhood. After taking over the title in 1965, Taylor worked on Little Archie until the book’s demise in 1983, as well as contributing to other Archie titles like Archie’s TV Laugh-Out and  Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals. Died April 13

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11. Leonard Starr (b. 1925)
Best known as the artist who created the newspaper comic strip Mary Perkins On Stage (1957-79) and revived Little Orphan Annie (1979-2000), Starr  started out the same way a lot of other artists did: in the trenches, doing art assists for the Harry “A” Chesler and the Funnies, Inc. studios. He soon graduated to working on pretty much everything, from Human Torch and Sub-Mariner stories for Marvel, to Don Winslow of the Navy for Fawcett, Mr. District Attorney for DC, War Against Crime for EC, Adventures into the Unknown for American Comics Group, Young Romance stories for Simon and Kirby’s studio… you name the genre, chances are Starr tried his hand at it. In 1955, around the same time a lot of comic artists were changing careers, he moved from comic books to comic strips with uncredited work on Flash Gordon; this led to Mark Perkins On Stage, a soap opera following the backstage adventures of a young actress. He sporadically contributed to comics in the 1970s and ’80s, but children of the ’80s might best know his name from the credits for ThunderCats; he acted as story editor and head writer for the show, with scripts for roughly two dozen episodes credited to him. Though he retired from cartooning in 2000, in 2006 he drew new artwork for covers for On Stage reprints published by Classic Comics Press. Died June 30

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12. Cliff Voorhees (c. 1930)
Like Leonard Starr, Cliff Voorhees was one of those artists who seamlessly moved from animation to comics to illustration and back. After doing in-betweener work at Disney on films like Lady and the Tramp, he went back to art school and worked in newspaper strips (The Toodles) and magazine/newspaper illustration before heading to Western Publishing to draw comics for their Gold Key line. He mostly worked on comics based on animated characters, especially Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Goofy (as Super Goof), Chip n’ Dale, and the Beagle Boys until a year or so before Western got out of the comics business in 1984. What makes his work for Western all the more impressive is that he did it in what amounted to his spare time; starting in 1969, Voorhees returned to his animation roots and became one of the most prolific animation artists in the busniess, doing layouts for Filmation (The Brady Kids, Star Trek, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, GhostBusters, BraveStarr), Hanna-Barbera (The Smurfs, Kwicky Koala, The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang), Marvel Productions (Muppet Babies), Film Roman Productions (Bobby’s World, Garfield and Friends)… let’s just say if you had a childhood between 1969 and now, then you’ve seen a lot of this guy’s work. Tune in to this podcast to hear an interview that Steve Hulett of The Animation Guild recorded with Cliff in 2011. Died April 6

rip-rogerslifer13. Roger Slifer (b. 1954)
Roger Slifer was one of the many comic fans in the 1960s and ’70s who found their way into the business through amateur fan publications. He started as a writer for Marvel in the mid-1970s and later got into more editorial work, including overseeing Marvel’s Classic Comics line and film adaptations. He moved to DC in 1981, where he was the company’s first sales manager to specialize in the direct market before moving on to becoming an editor. While at DC, he and artist Keith Giffen created Lobo, the intergalactic bounty hunter who first appeared in an issue of Omega Men and later proved extremely popular with fans of his brand of over-the-top satirical violence. Slifer was a huge advocate for creators’ rights and left the industry in the mid-’80s over the issue, moving to Los Angeles to become a producer on animated shows like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Jem and the Holograms. On June 23, 2012, he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking near his Santa Monica home; the accident left Slifer seriously injured and he was placed in an induced coma for several months. He spent more than a year in hospitals and nursing homes in Los Angeles before his family took him back home to Indiana to continue his rehabilitation. Died March 30 

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14. Yoshihiro Tatsumi (b. 1935)
Born in Osaka, Japan, Yoshihiro Tatsumi wrote and drew comics in a realistic style he called gekiga (“dramatic pictures”). Aimed at an older audience, gekiga is to manga what “graphic novels” are to “comic books” in North America — an attempt to show how the medium is capable of much more than the kid-oriented material that most people associate with it. Though he had been working since the 1950s, he wasn’t very well known outside Japan until the 2000s, when Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly started producing annual collections of his work. His 2008 autobiography, A Drifting Life, won numerous international awards, including two Eisner Awards in 2010. In an appreciation that appeared in The Guardian shortly after his death, Jennifer Lucy Allen praised his ability to tell simple stories about the human condition: “Tatsumi had that magic touch all great storytellers have, illuminating many corners with economical light, telling simple tales that unfolded to reveal many subtexts, implications and messages…. His characters are never likable, but they depict the true breadth of human society and individual action.” Died March 7

rip-Mizuki-Shigeru15. Shigeru Mizuki (b. 1922)
Well-known for his stories of ghosts and monsters based on folklore, as well as his accounts of the horrors of war, Shigeru Mizuki said he drew inspiration from his own wartime experiences. As a conscripted soldier in the Japanese army, he lost his left arm during a U.S. air strike in that war, and he often experienced the harsh treatment enlisted soldiers received from their superior officers. “You were never allowed to retreat (from) the front, you had to stay until you died,” he told Agence France-Presse in an interview earlier this year. Rank-and-file soldiers like him, he said, were treated “not as human beings, but were thought to be something less than horses.” Surviving the war, his best-known books were his GeGeGe no Kitaro manga depicting battles between the one-eyed ghost boy Kitaro and rival spirits and ghosts. The AV Club’s Tim O’Neil, reviewing Drawn & Quarterly’s release of a translated version of Mizuki’s 1971 biography of Adolf Hitler (titled, simply, Hitler) praised Mizuki for weaving a “deceptively simple cartoon style” with a “highly composed illustrative mode for rendering historical detail.” A museum dedicated to Mizuki opened in Sakaiminato, Japan, in 2003; more than 100 statues of his cartoon characters attracts tourists and fans from around the world. Died November 30

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16. Dennis Eichhorn (b. 1945)
Dennis Eichhorn’s younger years in the deepest wilds of Idaho (okay, Boise) were filled with fighting, sex, and substance abuse, as well as a short stay in prison for selling marijuana and LSD — the kind of misadventures that would later provide lots of good material for his stories. Among comic fans, he’s best known for his autobiographical series Real Stuff, which was illustrated by cartoonists that Mr. Eichhorn knew from his many writing and editing gigs around the Seattle area. Inspired by the works of other drawn-from-real-life cartoonists like R. Crumb and Harvey Pekar, he once described his anthology series (20 issues from 1990 to 1995) as “regurgitations of pithy stories I’d regaled my friends with for years.” Among the many tributes to Eichhorn posted on the Comics Journal website were a few moving words from artist Pat Moriarity, his most frequent comic collaborator: “The real truth, the REAL STUFF, is this — Dennis Eichhorn was a warm-hearted man, as true blue as they come. Most know he was a brilliant writer, but not everyone was lucky enough to hear him actually spin a yarn in person. His verbal storytelling was awe-inspiring. He was the best kind of friend you could ever hope for.” Died October 8 

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17. Jacques Hurtubise (b. 1950)
In 1972, Hurtubise, who went by the pseudonym Zyx, founded the Coopérative des Petits Dessins, a group of French-Canadian comic strip artists who offered daily strips to French-Canadian newspapers. One of his strips, featuring “Le Sombre Vilain” (The Dark Villain) and his sidekick boa constrictor Bill, continued in the satirical magazine Croc, a hugely influential magazine he co-founded in 1979 with Hélène Fleury and Roch Côté. One of the most prominent figures in Quebec’s Bandes dessinées movement in the 1970s and ’80s, Hurtubise was inducted into the Canadian Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2007. Hurtubise was also a Rhinoceros Party candidate in Canada’s 1979 federal election, which (among other things) promised to repeal the law of gravity and provide higher education by building taller schools. “Without Jacques, there would have been no Captain Kébec, no adventures of Michel Risque, no Red Ketchup… in short, I would not have made a career in comics,” said fellow cartoonist Pierre Fournier. “And I’m not the only one who can say that.” Died December 11 

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18. Brett Ewins (b. 1955)
Saying “Brett Ewins was a British comic book artist best known for his work on Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper” is a bit like saying “Jim Morrison was an American songwriter best known for songs about lighting fires” — accurate, but doesn’t begin to do the man justice. Following his first cover for 2000 AD in 1977, Ewins illustrated Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Bad Company and other popular British strips; in 1988, he co-created Deadline, a mix of comic strips and written works aimed at older readers that ran until 1995. Ironically, the stress of meeting his own deadlines exacerbated Ewins’ mental-health issues and led to his removing himself from the comics scene in 1991; he would later channel his restless creativity into painting. A 2012 incident involving police who were called to Ewins’ house by concerned neighbours led to one officer receiving a knife wound and Ewins knocked into a coma and suffering cardiac arrest; the details of his arrest and trial (his charges were downgraded and he was released after nine months in hospital) shone a light on the justice system’s treatment of people with mental illness. London-based journalist Tom Murphy praised Ewins’ sharp sense of design in a moving tribute: “He left his mark on the look of Dredd, while the exquisitely tailored nihilism of Johnny Nemo and — later — Veto Skreemer also bore his unmistakable imprint. Twenty years ago, I even bought a pair of enormous blue shoes from Shellys purely because they looked like something Brett Ewins would give one of his characters.” Died February 16

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19. John Cooper (b. 1942)
Ask Garth Ennis what his biggest regret might be, and he’ll tell you: “I worry that there’s a sizable number of British comics artists and writers who go to their graves without fully realising what a huge difference their work made to readers… A good number of the guys who worked on 2000 AD in its classic period, particularly those who made the leap to American comics, are rightly respected and remembered for what they did. But too many from other British titles fade into obscurity, fondly remembered only by a few aficionados.” He wrote that while praising John Cooper, who took over the WWII aviation strip Johnny Red from original artist Joe Colquhoun in 1978. Action and war were his forte, bringing his adrenaline-infused style to pretty much every British publisher, including IPC, Marvel UK and DC Thomson. For 2000 AD, he was the artist on the first commissioned Judge Dredd story (which was published much later due to its extreme violence), as well as other features like M.A.C.H. 1 and Alan Moore’s Abelard Snazz. Family matters and health issues led to him moving away from comics, and he spent most of his final years painting maritime scenes. “His work combined energy, humour and characterisation with an admirable facility for portraying sudden, violent action that I still find utterly breathtaking,” Ennis wrote. “Like many of the true greats, he made it all look so very easy, when of course it isn’t at all.” Died February 22

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20. Luis Bermejo (b. 1931)
Born in Madrid in 1931, Bermejo moved with his family to Albacete in southeastern Spain during World War II. He learned the comic trade as an assistant to Manuel Gago in the 1940s and worked on several Spanish features before beginning his career as a comic book artist for British magazines in the late 1950s. He worked on Thriller Picture, John Steel, War, Battle Picture Libraries, and Pike Mason in the early 1960s, and started drawing the war-themed strips Mann of Battle and Heros the Spartan for The Eagle in the early 1960s. In 1974, Bermejo and fellow artists José Ortiz and Leopoldo Sanchez joined the agency Selecciones Illustrada, which soon had them all working for Warren Publishing. Bermejo quickly became one of the more prolific artists for Warren, drawing a total of 78 stories from 1974 to 1983, with his work appearing in Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, among other titles. It was during his time at Warren that he adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in Spanish (El Señor de los Anillos, 1979-81); after Warren folded, he followed up that impressive feat with adaptations from books by Isaac Asimov and Raymond Chandler, as well as his own bi-weekly comic Los Aventuras del Capitán Trueno (The Adventures of Captain Thunder). Died December 12 

norman-lee21. Norman Lee (b. 1968)
A proud son of Boston, Norman Lee began his career as an independent inker/illustrator for Dark Horse, and then inked pages for Marvel and DC for more than 20 years, working on books starring Deadpool, Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Jonah Hex and Starman, among others. Affable and approachable, he was a regular face at comic conventions, sharing his passion for comics with fans and fellow artists everywhere he went. During a vacation in March, Lee vanished while snorkeling with his wife in the Cayman Islands, prompting an air and water search that was called off after several days. His body was never found. His Facebook page has been turned into a memorial page that proves how easy it is for someone who loved what they did to touch so many other lives. Reported missing March 5

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22. Rick Ketcham (b. 1970)
In April, Tsunami Studios reported that Rick Ketcham died unexpectedly of natural causes. Almost immediately, the Greensboro, N.C., native’s Facebook page filled with condolences and memories from fans and colleagues, many of them noting his professionalism and willingness to mentor others. Ketcham worked on a number of titles for DC Comics, Marvel, Dark Horse and other publishers, including The Amazing Spider-Man, New ExcaliburBuffy the Vampire Slayer, G.I. Joe, New X-Men, Runaways and Venom. Fellow inkers Silas Dixon and Michael Kellar posted a YouTube video in honor of Ketcham; “The first time I met him, he invited me to come hang out at his studio,” Dixon says. “I didn’t even have my portfolio with me, [but] I told him I was an inker and he instantly wanted to bond with me and help me out.” Died April 28

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23. Francis Tsai (b. 1967)
An artist based in Austin, Tex., Tsai mostly worked in the video game industry (Myst III: Exile, Tomb Raider: AnniversaryStar Trek: Hidden Evil), but he also worked in role-playing games, trading card games, film and TV design, and comics, with his work appearing in Marvel’s Heroes for Hire, Marvel Adventures Iron Man, Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and Marvel Comics Presents. From his webpage: “In 2010 I was diagnosed with ALS, which is a degenerative neuromuscular disease with no known cause or cure. It typically leads to total paralysis and eventually death from respiratory failure. When the disease took my arms and hands, I spent some time learning to paint on my iPhone with my big toe. Eventually even this stopped being an option. With the help of an extremely technically savvy friend I was able to obtain a custom-built computer setup that is controlled via eye gaze. This new system allows me to use tools such as SketchUp and Photoshop to create artwork.” He kept drawing as long as he could, posting his artwork and updates about ALS research on Facebook. “As a fellow artist, I both understand and love the fact that he HAD to always be creating,” Jerry Ma wrote in appreciation. “Sharing his vision with the rest of us no matter what obstacle stood in his way. It speaks to Francis being 110% dedicated to his craft.” Died April 23

rip-michaelgross24. Michael C. Gross (b. 1945)
I’ll admit, when I first saw the headline reporting the death of Michael Gross, I was bummed to hear the dad from TV’s Family Ties had died. But no, this was a different Michael Gross who made his own impact on pop culture. The art director for National Lampoon between 1970 and 1974, he was the guy who came up with the famous cover image for the magazine’s January 1973 “Death” issue, the one with a gun pointed at a dog and the caption “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.” He left that job to become the personal designer for John Lennon and a consultant to the Muppets. In 1980, he headed to Hollywood to produce TV shows and movies — including Ghostbusters, for which he designed the now-famous Ghostbusters logo. And if all that weren’t enough to secure his pop-cult coolness, he was a frequent contributor to Heavy Metal, a gig that led to his first movie credit as associate producer for 1981’s Heavy Metal, the cult classic that merged animation with science fiction, sex and rock music (the way God intended). Though he retired about 20 years ago, he remained active; shortly before he died, he attended the Geekie Awards, a light-hearted annual Hollywood affair honoring geek art, to receive a lifetime achievement award. Died November 16

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25. Michele Wrightson (b. 1941)
If I ever decide to do a list of all the comic people past or present I would want to invite to a dinner party, I might have to reserve a seat for Michele Wrightson, if only because of the many fascinating stories she could tell. In 2011, when The Comics Journal published an article by cartoonist Kim Deitch remembering fellow underground artist Roger Brand, the comments turned into an old-home-week collection of reminiscences about the glory days of the New York City and San Francisco comix scenes of the 1960s and 1970s, with Michele Wrighston, Brand’s ex-wife, at the centre of it. As Michele Brand, she contributed to the first all-women underground comics anthology, It Ain’t Me Babe, with a story titled Tirade Funnies that still resonates today. That comic spawned the ongoing Wimmen’s Comix, where she was also credited as a contributor. She later worked as a colorist for Marvel, Heavy Metal and other publishers, sometimes collaborating with husband Bernie Wrightson on works like the Creepshow graphic novel and DC’s The Weird. “I first met Michele with Bernie Wrightson and their sons, and got to spend some time with them at Ithacon in the late 1980s,” wrote artist Stephen Bissette in a Facebook post. “Sadly, I seemed to be one of the few folks at that gathering aware of Michele’s pioneer comix work…. Make no mistake, Michele was part of the revolution.” Died May 30 

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26. Rick Obadiah (b. 1949)
Anyone who thinks the suits in the corner office are all about crunching numbers clearly never met Rick Obadiah. Put it this way: you just know a guy who can list “comic publisher,” “ad executive,” “theatre producer” and “CEO of a company that turns your departed loved one’s ashes into diamonds” on his CV has got to have a few fun stories to tell. Obadiah co-founded direct-market pioneer First Publishing in 1981 and served as its CEO and publisher until 1992; he was responsible for all the company’s publishing, acquisitions and licensing activities, including Classics Illustrated, American Flagg, Lone Wolf and Cub, Nexus, Badger, and many others. He was also an associate producer for Sable, a short-lived 1987 ABC television show based on Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance that followed the adventures of a freelance mercenary with a day job writing children’s books. “Rick had a fantastic sense of humor and would have appreciated the irony in his dying at the gym,” wrote friend and former First colleague Mike Gold. “Of course, he also would have pointed out that he would have preferred not to be dead.” Died August 16

rip-jayemmett27. Jay Emmett (b. 1929)
“He was always funny. He worked his way through crowds by talking into his cufflinks pretending to be a member of the United States Secret Service, and everyone believed him,” wrote Special Olympics chairman Timothy Shriver in a tribute to his friend. “He flirted with everyone and aspired to end his life as the victim of a raging jealous man. He rarely missed the chance to tell each of us that we were terrific.” Emmett (seen here in 2013 at a panel discussion with DC’s Paul Levitz) was the nephew of longtime DC executive Jack Leibowitz, and he was the last member of DC’s founding family to be involved in the company. He started in the mailroom and co-founded DC’s licensing and merchandising arm, which eventually became known as Licensing Corporation of America. As DC was acquired by bigger companies, he worked his way up the corporate ladder, eventually serving as the Warner Communications executive responsible for both the publishing division and the Warner Bros. movie studio when the first Superman movie came out. He also negotiated the settlement with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster that restored their credit to the property they created. Emmett left Warner in 1981 to become a powerful figure in  professional sports, working in the executive branches of the Baltimore Orioles, the San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox. Larger than life and a source of stories until the end, Emmett played a huge role in creating the modern licensing industry. Died June 22

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28. Jack Larson (b. 1928)
Chances are Jack Larson would have preferred to see stories about his passing start with the headline “Playwright Jack Larson Dies at 87,” but in life he often noted with good-natured resignation that he’ll always be remembered as the guy who played Jimmy Olsen on Adventures of Superman. Larson was an aspiring Broadway actor and playwright in 1951 when he was offered the role of Clark Kent’s and Lois Lane’s younger Daily Planet colleague. Fearful of being typecast, he was hesitant to take the role, but he relented when his agent said the show didn’t have a sponsor and probably wouldn’t make it to air. Larson agreed to film 26 episodes; the series ending up running from 1952 to 1958, with episodes running in syndication for decades. Larson gave up acting after the show ended and started a new career as a playwright. Later in life, he returned to acting with roles in 1991’s The New Adventures of Superboy, 1996’s Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (in which he played an unnaturally aged Jimmy), and the 2006 film Superman Returns. “If I’ve learned anything from my career,” he once said, “it’s that you don’t really know the value of what you’re doing. So, you had better do your best with whatever is at hand. You never know what will outlive you.” Died September 20 

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29. Yvonne Craig (b. 1937)
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only young fellow whose first TV crush was Yvonne Craig, the actress who played Barbara Gordon/Batgirl on the third (and sadly last) season of the Batman TV show. A trained ballet dancer, at age 20 Craig moved to Los Angeles to pursue a dancing career and found herself cast in film roles. Before Batgirl, she appeared in two movies with Elvis Presley, starred in the 1966 cult film Mars Needs Women and appeared in several TV shows including The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., McHale’s Navy and The Wild, Wild West (she also played Marta, the green Orion slave girl who wanted to kill Star Trek’s Captain Kirk). By far, though, her highest-profile role was Batgirl, and she took pride in the fact she performed all her own stunts in the show. Later in life, she was a real estate broker and involved herself in philanthropic work, including supporting free mammograms for women who couldn’t afford them. “I meet women today who tell me that they grew up viewing Batgirl as an important role model,” she said in a 1998 interview. “If they choose to know me in that context, well, I’ll take it.” Died August 17

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30. George Barris (b. 1925)
From an early age, George Barris had a passion for customizing cars; before he had graduated high school, he and his brother created a club for owners of custom vehicles called the Kustoms Car Club. Resisting his family’s desire to join them in their restaurant business, he moved to Los Angeles at age 18 to start his own custom shop. His work for private customers soon attracted the attention of Hollywood, where he and his brother built cars both for personal use by studio executives and as props in films. When ABC needed a Batmobile on short notice for their upcoming show, they turned to Barris, who used a 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura as a base and completed $30,000 worth of work on it in just three weeks. Barris retained ownership of the Batmobile until an auction held on January 19, 2013, where it sold for $4.6 million. You can read more about the Batmobile, the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty, the Munster family’s Koach Kar and a lot of other custom jobs at his websiteDied November 5

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31. DC’s New York street cred (b. 1934)
It didn’t come unexpectedly, but that didn’t make it hurt any less for some nostalgic fans. On April 10, after more than 75 years in its New York City birthplace, the head offices of DC Comics (formerly at 1700 Broadway, as seen here) officially decamped for Burbank, Calif., to be closer to its parent company Warner Bros. “DC Comics has been part of New York City — and vice versa — for decades,” DC wrote on its corporate Facebook page. “It’s never easy to say goodbye but we are excited about the future and everything it holds.” Most staff and fans were nonchalant about the move, but there were a few nostalgic tears shed: as Paul Levitz, who served as DC’s president for seven years in the 2000s, wrote, “New York won’t be quite the same without a DC Comics, and as a New Yorker whose life was shaped by his city and by the DC offices, I can be sad about that.” For their part, Marvel turned to Twitter to express their feelings about their Distinguished Competition’s move the only way they know how. Officially moved April 10