downthetubes regularly tries to pay tribute to comic creators no longer with us. We list those we have noted who died between July and December 2019, and others reported elsewhere, here.
2019 has been a difficult year for the family and friends and work colleagues of several great artists, writers and actors known for their work on comics media projects…
There have also been major changes in the US comics industry that reflect wider changes in comics publishing, and we have noted some of these, too.
This is Part Two (July – December 2019 | Part One (January – June 2019) is here
Established 1952. Fate made public 3rd July 2019
DC Comics announced that apart from an end-of-year issue and the occasional special collection, Mad would cease regular publication of new material. New issues will also only be sold in comics shops and on subscription. A sad day for US comics publishing.
Eddie Jones – American Actor
Born 18th September 1934 | Died 6th July 2019
Eddie Jones was known for playing Clark Kent’s father Jonathan Kent in the ABC television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Charles Borden, head of The Agency, in the SF television series The Invisible Man.
Ernesto Colón Sierra (Ernie Colón) – Comics Artist and Editor
Born 13th July 1931 | Died 8th August 2019
The Puerto Rican comics artist was well known for his wide-ranging career illustrating children’s, superhero and horror comics, as well as mainstream nonfiction.
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he was raised in the mainland US from age 10, his comics career after studying at was then New York City’s School of Industrial Art in 1955, when cartoonist Ham Fisher hired Colón to ink backgrounds on the long-running comic strip Joe Palooka, an assignment that ended after approximately one month following Fisher’s suicide that December. He began his career in earnest at Harvey Comics, on titles such as The Friendly Ghost, Casper.
The Comics Journal notes he worked in virtually every genre, including fantasy (he co-created Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, with the writing team of Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn); sword and sorcery (Arak, Son of Thunder, co-created with writer Roy Thomas); horror (Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, Weird Tales of the Macabre); science fiction (the Ax and Medusa Chain graphic novels); TV and movie adaptations Droids, Bullwinkle and Rocky and Battlestar Galactica; erotica (Strip Search); in addition to superhero titles such as Dr. Solar, Man of the Atom, Tiger-Man, Damage Control (which he co-created with Dwayne McDuffie) and The Grim Ghost. At times, he even ventured into syndicated newspaper strips, briefly ghosting Star Hawks for Gil Kane, and working with Alfredo Alcala on the Star Trek strip.
Suleiman Bakhit – Comics Author
Born in 1978 | Died 14th August 2019
Suleiman Bakhit was a Jordanian entrepreneur who produced superhero comics in various media for Arab youth. He was described as “fighting to change how the West sees Arab youth – and how Arab youth see themselves – one superhero at a time.”
A few years before he died at age 41 while undergoing medical treatment after a long battle with cancer, he travelled to the Oslo Freedom Forum to give a speech on his work. While speaking, he held a comic book in his hand and referred to it as a weapon, but one that doesn’t kill: “A weapon of hope, a weapon of inspiration, it’s a weapon of heroes.”
“Suleiman was among the most renowned comic book authors in the Arab world. His life had been devoted to the development of inspiring comic book heroes for the youth of Jordan and the region,” noted Alsharif Nasser Nasser on the World Economic Foundation web site in a tribute. “… Over the span of over ten years Suleiman sold over 1.2 million comics that featured characters who were positive hero images. Suleiman said that this was his way in which he could spread seeds of imagination, seeds of possibility and seeds of positive heroism among youth. The World Economic Forum added that it was also a way to promote hope, tolerance and gender equality, notions all considered anathema to extremist groups.”
Massimo Mattioli – Italian Comic Artist
Born: 25th September 1943 | Died 23rd August 2019
Award-winning Italian comics genius Massimo Mattioli died aged 75, a creator perhaps best known for the violent funny animal strip “Squeak the Mouse“, a tale of a psychotic animal that author Paul Gravett suggests was surely an influence on Matt Groening’s Itchy & Scratchy.
Mattioli debuted in 1965, in Il Vittorioso with “Vermetto Sigh”, but was also published in Corto Maltese and Frigidaire. Three years later he moved to London, where he made comics for Mayfair magazine. His many credits – some never published in English – include “Pasquino” for the Paese Sera newspaper and the character Pinky, published in Il Giornalino.
Mattioli was recognised with many prizes, including the French prize Phenix in 1971, the Yellow Kid in 1975 and Romics d’Oro in 2009.
Nigel Dobbyn – British Comics Artist, Illustrator and Writer
Born 9th March 1963 | Died 24th August 2019
A hugely talented British comic artist, illustrator, photographer, poet, web designer and writer, Nigel’s passing was a huge shock, aged just 56. He is very much missed.
Nigel’s first comics work was the fanzine Killing Stroke, on “Lyle: Blazerider” with Shane Oakley; and strips for later issues of Harrier’s Avalon title in 1987. His first published work for 2000AD was a “Future Shock” which appeared in Prog 588, cover dated 20th August 1988, written by Steve Dillon; he would draw two others, one by Hilary Robinson, who he would go on to work with on “Medivac 318“, which they co-created. His other credits include, mist recently, “Ace Trucking” with Eddie Robson, but also “Trash” written by Paul Kupperberg, “Red Razors” with Mark Millar and “Strontium Dogs” with Garth Ennis.
His many other credits include his superb work on Classical Comics’ Macbeth and The Tempest (with Jon Haward); Digimon for Dark Horse, which led to work on Panini’s UK Digimon comic and a great many other licensed characters, including Panini’s Spider-Man and Friends, right up until, sadly, the company was no longer able to create new strips; and “Simba Khan“, as inker and colourist working with Jon Haward for Aces Weekly, a strip written by Paul H. Birch.
Donald Rooum – British Atheist, Anarchist and Artist
Born 20 April 1928 | Died 31st August 2019
A lifelong anarchist, a much-admired comics tutor, Donald’s cartoons appeared in Peace News since 1962. He also produced the “Wildcat” comic strip for Freedom magazine since 1980 – a coloured book collection came out in 2016, published by PM Press – and , and “Sprite” in The Skeptic since 1987.
Lee Salem – Universal Press Syndicate President
Born 21st July 1946 | Died 2nd September 2019
The much-loved editor and former president of Andrews McMeel Syndication passed away after suffering a severe stroke on 19th August, announced Andrews McMeel Universal (AMU) Chairman Emeritus John McMeel and AMU Chairman Hugh Andrews.
“Lee was respected and revered by associates, creators and representatives throughout the media industry,” said McMeel. “His contributions have been immeasurable. Over four decades, he was instrumental in discovering and nurturing relationships with creators as trusted editor, sound adviser, valued friend and insightful champion to extraordinary talents such as Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy), Gary Larson (The Far Side), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Bill Amend (FoxTrot) and many others.”
“The impact that Lee had on the lives of our creators and associates cannot be underestimated,” said Andrews. “A skilled negotiator, his ability to simultaneously advance the best interests of creators and AMU is unparalleled. It is hard to imagine AMS without Lee’s fundamental involvement; his legacy lives on through entertaining millions of people around the world with the work of our creators.”
“Working with Lee, you never felt like you were being edited,” said Gary Trudeau. “He was more like a Good Samaritan who, for no reason at all, had stopped to help you do better work, or, in my case, keep you from embarrassing yourself. And in times of trouble, he turned into a human firewall, taking all incoming from irate clients in stride, talking them down with that calm, reasonable voice of his. Lee made wildly insecure artists feel supported and safe and empowered to take creative risks. He will be missed terribly by all of us.”
“I respected and admired Lee tremendously,” said Bill Watterson. “It goes without saying that he had an enormous impact on my life. I’m grateful for the years we worked together and honestly, I could not have asked for a better editor.
“Lee had a sharp eye and he understood writers. He found cartoonists with strong, quirky, inimitable voices and brought a new type of humor to the comics pages. More than that, he stood up for creators as they pushed boundaries, and his calm, unflappable personality made him an ideal firewall. This deep support made my work possible.
“Lee’s passing really seems to mark the end of an era. The media landscape has changed irrevocably, and I think it’s fair to say that Lee’s tenure at Universal created the final flourishing of American newspaper comics. I think of Lee often and will truly miss him.”
Christopher Dennis – “Hollywood’s Superman”
Born 1967 | Died 2nd November 2019
Born in 1967, Dennis was just another kid in Hollywood working as a waiter when his customers kept remarking how much he resembled Christopher Reeve, the actor who famously first donned Superman’s tights in 1978’s Superman. Sensing an opportunity, Dennis put on his own cape and started walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard, and spent the next several decades posing for tourists in exchange for tips. Sadly, his fortunes turned and he ended his days homeless.
Mitchell Berger – Lawyer and Comics Consultant
Died 12th November 2019
Lawyer, editor, and lover of “all things cartoony”, according to his friend and cartoonist Ed Hall, Mitch Berger lost a long battle with a rare form of cancer.
Convention organiser, book editor, co-publisher of Exhibit A Press, Jackie Estrada, administrator of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards noted on his passing that as a lawyer, Mitch also played an important role in the comic “Wolff & Byrd”/”Supernatural Law,” consulting on the proper legal terms to use and what procedures would actually happen in the various kinds of cases Wolff & Byrd took on. He also had lots of suggestions, including offering many puns, a hobby he and the late Batton Lash shared.
Mitch’s involvement in comics included having attended the School of Visual Arts with Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman as his teachers, and he worked as an assistant to Harvey for a while. He was on the founding board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and he published a periodical called “Bullseye,” devoted to editorial cartoons, much loved by fans.
From 2010 to 2014 he also provided a feature to NPR called “Double Take,” spotlighting editorial cartoons. “As an editor at NPR News, he frequently used my cartoons in their wildly popular “Double Take” feature,” recalled Ed Hall. “It was always a thrill to be included, because I knew just how discerning he was.”
“Friends, fellow fans, and family will attest to Mitch’s unending generosity, he was certainly extremely kind to me in spending his time to offer sage advice,” Noted author, editor and comics historian Craig Yoe on his passing.
“Astonishing, most of all, was Mitch’s passion and love for his first wife and then his second after his first passed. I have honestly never witnessed such mutually deep love affairs and care for each other. To say Mitch was lucky in love is an understatement.”
Tom Spurgeon – comics and comics industry commentator
Born 16th December 1968 | Died 13th November 2019
Tom Spurgeon edited both The Comics Journal and The Comics Reporter and as Michael Dean notes here on TCJ, guided readers through some of the comics field’s most tumultuous years. Aged just 50, his death came as a shock to many within the US comic industry and beyond and his sage advice and analysis of the industry will be much missed.
• There’s also a smashing tribute to Tom here by Andy Downing on the Columbus Alive web site, but unfortunately you’ll have to indulge in some internet wizardry if you want to read it fro within the European Union
Purita Campos – Spanish Comic Artist
Born 18th August 1937 | Died 19th November 2019
Award-winning Spanish comic artist Purita Campos is best known in Britain for the strip “Patty’s World“, which ran in Princess Tina. She was 82.
“Purita was absolutely the top girls comic artist in the UK in the 1970s and 80s,” noted fellow artist David Roach, “drawing for comics like Princess Tina, Valentine, Romeo, Bunty and Mirabelle among many others.”
Thomas Stanford Lyle (Tom Lyle) – American Comic Artist
Born 2nd November 1953 | Died 19th November 2019
Comics artist Tom Lyle was pwrhaps best known for his work on Starman and Robin for DC Comics, and Spider-Man for Marvel Comics. His comics career began in the mid 1980s, penciling titles such Airboy, Strike! and Airwolf for Eclipse Comics.
Lyle made his mainstream comic book debut in late 1988 as the co-creator of DC’s Starman series with writer Roger Stern, but it was his work on the 1991 Robin miniseries – and the two sequels, 1992’s Robin II: The Joker’s Wild and 1993’s Robin III: Cry of the Huntress, all three written by Chuck Dixon – that transformed him into a fan-favourite artist.
Gahan Wilson – American cartoonist for The New Yorker and more
Born 18th February 1930 | Died 21st November 2019
An author, cartoonist and illustrator best known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations.
”My big break came when the cartoon editor for Colliers – who, like everybody else, thought the readers wouldn’t understand the cartoons I did – left to become the cartoon editor of Look,” Gahan said of his own career. “In the interim, the art director took over. Not being a trained cartoon editor, he did not realise my stuff was too much for the common man to comprehend, and he thought it was funny. I was flabbergasted and delighted when he started to buy it! He wasn’t in all that long, about a month and a half, but by that time my cartoons had started to appear. The guy who had gone to Look saw them in Colliers, and I guess a great dawning occurred, so he started buying them for Look, and that was it – I was now a big-time cartoonist! Absolutely foolish, but that’s the way it happened. That was the chink in the armour, and I just got through it.
”Art should lead to change in the way we see things. If some artist comes up with a vision which gives a new opening, it usually creates a lot of stress, because it’s frightening. Like Cubism reveals there’s this whole other reality to reality, or Stravinsky comes along, and there’s a riot! This is art. It’s very disturbing. If you really see a Cézanne, you never see anything the same way afterwards. It’s heavy stuff, very powerful. And the artist – literary, graphic, or whatever – does an amazing thing. The creative artist is automatically an outsider, because he sees through the world that everybody else takes as the final reality, and he’s a very scary kind of guy.”
• Gahan Wilson – Official Web Site: gahanwilson.net
Founded in 2008 as a permanent, online, collection, the Gahan Wilson Virtual Museum is the largest repository of the cartoon art of Gahan Wilson. You can access the Collection for only $9.99 for a six month membership.
• New York Times Tribute to Gahan Wilson (Registration Required)
Howard Cruse – Comic artist and writer
Born 1944 | Died 26th November 2019
Howard Cruse was a pioneer of gay comics, the son of a Baptist minister, born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944. The racial turmoil he observed in that city during the early 1960s provided the basis years later for his internationally acclaimed graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby. First published in 1995, it has won both Eisner and Harvey Awards in the United States, a Comics Creators Guild Award for Best Graphic Album in the UK, and the Prix de la critique at the International Comics Festival in Angoulême.
His comic strips and humorous illustrations have appeared in Playboy, The Village Voice, Heavy Metal, The Advocate and numerous other mainstream American magazines, as well as in underground comic books such as Snarf, Bizarre Sex and Dope Comix.
Some of his ground-breaking work was exhibited in Brussels at the Galerie Comic Art Factory earlier this year – and the gallery released a thought-provoking video interview with the award-winning artist.
• Howard Cruse Official Web Site: www.howardcruse.com
Jun Quintana Lofamia – Comics Artist
Born 1st December 1937 | Died 3rd December 2019
Pinoy comics artist Jun Quintana Lofamia’s death was announced by his daughter Mylene Esteban on Facebook and mourned by fellow Filipino artist Gerry Alunguilan, who died just a few days later. Sometimes credited as Jun Lofomia, Jon Lo Famia, and June Quin Lofamia, he started working as an illustrator/artist in 1967 for Liwayway Publishing, Inc., the publisher of the leading comics magazines in The Philippines and was a regular contributor to the magazine Liwayway (pronounced “lee-why-why”).
Lofamia drew regularly for Creepy, Eerie, and less often for Vampirella magazines during the Warren ownership years (1970-1983), his pen and ink style very characteristic of the top artists during the Silver Age.
According to writer Zedric Dimalanta in his comics and animation-themed blog, Lofamia was among the first Filipino Wave artists to be hired by DC Comics in the early 1970s. He continued to contribute to both Pinoy Comics and American Comics.
His many credits also include work on Fox Animation Studios films such as Anastasia and Titan A.E. in the early 1990, and he was also a guest artist on a set of Marvel hero trading cards.
Hsu Mao-Sung (許貿淞) – Taiwanese Comics Artist
Born in 10th July 1937 | Died 7th December 2019
Hsu Mao-sung, one of Taiwan’s earliest and most influential comic artists, died at the age of 82 of heart failure at his home in New Taipei, according to his daughter, Elizabeth Hsu (許綺芬).
In a career that spanned six decades, he was a consummate comic strip artist, initially publishing under his real name, Hsu Song-Shan. Starting in the 1950s, he reached universal acclaim with such titles as Martial Arts Emperor, Martial Expert Meteor, and Fei Fei.
When the Kuomintang started imposing censorship on comic books many artists decided to quit the field, but Hsu persevered and came through it with his love of comics un-quashed.
“Drawing is what I love, and I also had an unshirkable responsibility to my apprentices,” Hsu remarked, explaining what kept him gritting his teeth and fighting on.
Hsu’s 1998 The Past and Present of Tamsui won a Golden Tripod Award from the Taiwan Government Information Office, and in 2004 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Taiwan Golden Comic Awards. Two years later, he took first place in the National Institute for Compilation and Translation’s annual Excellent Comics Awards, and in 2017 he was honoured with a Special Contribution Award at the Ministry of Culture’s 8th Golden Comic Awards.
Starting in middle age, he developed an interest in Buddhism, and his final masterpiece – published just last year – was The Buddha, a 760-page hand-drawn story published over three volumes by Dyna Books, a masterful exposition of the Triptaka Koreana and of sacred text, carefully detailing every stage of the life of Siddhartha Gautama from birth through enlightenment to parinirvana. It has been nominated for a 2019 Golden Tripod Award.
“Hsu created throughout his life and was an inspiration to younger generations,” Taiwan’s Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) said in a statement released by the Ministry of Culture after his death.
“Drawing comics is demanding work,” he told Taiwan Panorama earlier this year. “You’ve got to be scriptwriter, director, actor and narrator all at once, and you’ve got to be able to capture readers’ attention with pictures, dialogue, plot, and writing.” A truly masterful piece is a work of art worthy of passing down to future generations.
On Hsu’s old desk, he kept a small mirror that he uses to try out characters’ expressions. “My brain never stops. What’s most worrying is that I often find myself talking to the characters in my dreams.”
Having spent a lifetime in the comics world, he long ago had stopped drawing a line between reality and fantasy.
“People used to say comics were just kids’ stuff, easy to draw, but in reality there’s a complicated process behind them, especially the more realistic ones.”
Born 20th January 2019, died 21st December 2019
The brilliant Filipino artist, writer, historian, publisher and promoter Gerry Alanguilan, better known in the Philippines by his stage name Komikero, died aged 52 earlier this month.
He had been ill for some time, battling what he once called “chronic illness”, but he largely buried concern for his health under good humour and a continued passion for his craft and others who shared a love of comics and more.
“He is alive forever through his works,” noted Filipino artist Mervin Malonzo. “But the comics community will still miss him. He inspired me and many other people.”
Earlier this month, Gerry posted this inspiring piece of advice to aspiring creators:
“You know I’m getting old and I start to get a different perspective on things. One such thing is humility. I think giving due importance to humility is overrated. So what if a person is ambitious? Was Muhammad Ali humble? He was still the f****** greatest. He would not have reached the heights he reached if he was humble.
“Having a healthy ego isn’t bad. In fact, for an artist, it is essential. Because it is that belief in one’s self (and sometimes an overinflated belief in oneself) that is the fuel the fires one’s creativity beyond what was thought possible.
“Be ambitious! Be arrogant even, as long as you hurt nobody, as long as you don’t step on anybody, nobody should care about what you do to reach your dreams.
“You sold only 20 copies of your photocopies mini comic book? Be proud of it! As long as you reached someone, touched the life of someone, and you’ve done your work honestly and with integrity, you have every f****** right to be proud.”
Ellie deVille – British Comics Letterer
Died 24th December 2019
Prolific comics letterer Ellie deVille, best known for her work on many strips for 2000AD, mainly credited as “Ellie de Ville”, but whose many credits included Judge Dredd Megazine, Sonic the Comic and more. Her death was a shock: she was taken suddenly, a victim to pancreatic cancer, died early on Christmas Eve. Her friend, Jenny Wackett, who pays tribute to Ellie here on downthetubes, tells us she was lettering for 2000AD right up until the end. Four weeks ago she finished her last piece of lettering from her hospital bed.
Syd Mead – Designer
Born 18th July 1933 – 30th December 2019
While not a comics creator, there’s no doubt the legendary designer Syd Mead, whose film credits include Aliens, Blade Runner, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Tron, along with an unrealised remake of Forbidden Planet, has and remains a major influence on comic artists across the globe. He will be much missed.
Bill Mevin – British Comics Artist
Born 1929 – Died 30th December 2019
Perhaps best known for his work on TV Comic‘s “Doctor Who” strip and his work on later episodes of “The Perishers” with Maurice Dodd for the Daily Mirror, he had been in hospital for a while.
His many credits also included “Bugs Bunny”, “Droopy”, “Space Patrol” and “Supercar” for TV Comic, “Bill and Ben, The Flowerpot Men”, “The Herbs”, “Morph” and “Pogle’s Wood”, among others for Pippin, and “Happy Families” for Whizzer & Chips in the 1970s and 1980s.
This is Part Two of “Those We Have Lost in 2019” – Part One (January – June 2019) is here
Mitchell Brown has posted numerous tributes to comic creators and comics projects on the Facebook Comic Book Historians Group. Mitchell started his tributes when he couldn’t find a comic-specific year-end list of people we’ve lost: past tributes appear on Comic Lists here