We’re sorry to report the passing of American comics writer and novelist James Hudnall, who died earlier this week aged 61, a day before his 62nd birthday.
He had recently been working on a new episode of the fantasy adventure, Age of Heroes, drawn by John Ridgway, but the script, based on James novel of the same name, had not been completed.
Artist Matt Cossin, who was working with Hudnall on a crowdfunded comics project Agenda, announced the news on Facebook, stating “James’ sister, Susan, has informed me that my good friend, writer and collaborator, James Hudnall, has passed away.
“James was one of the very few kind hearted, genuine people I have ever met. I still can’t believe it.”
“I’m so sad to learn that my friend and collaborator James Hudnall has passed away,” noted film director Christopher Cooksey (Moonlight). “He was a wonderful guy and a joy to work with. He worked as a script doctor on The Quantum Terror and was probably one of the greatest writers in comics.”
“He was Intelligent and astute on a myriad of subjects,” notes comic artist David Williams. “He loved the comic book genre. He was a great writer and we had some great conversations over the years. I wish we could have worked together. The creative paths just never coalesced. One of my many regrets. He will be missed.”
“We had a robust discussion about Trump’s wall. I was enjoying it but I thought I’d let him have the last word,” commented artist Brian Bolland on learning of James passing from writer David Mack, revealing the writer had wished him luck in a new project. “He posted photos of his rehabilitation. I had no idea. It was the last word.”
Often a controversial figure in the world of comics, noted for his libertarian opinions on both US and international politics (from 2009 to 2012, Hudnall wrote commentaries and cartoons for Breitbart.com), his talent as a writer and his commitment to passing on his thoughts and advice about creating comics, through his web site, YouTube tutorials and Twitter page, should never be disputed.
Born in Santa Rosa, California, on 10th April 10, 1957, the award-winning James Hudnall, a US Air Force Veteran, enjoyed a comics career that included work for Marvel, DC and Image, although he described himself as a creator who liked to work on the “outside” of the industry.
After living in England while young he became interested in writing for comics on his return to the United States, initially working as a marketing director for Eclipse Comics in 1985. They published his first series, Espers, initially drawn by David Lloyd in 1986, the story of people with advanced psychic powers who had lived secretly among us for centuries. The creator-owned story went on to be published intermittently during the 1980s and 1990s by Marvel and Image.
James comics credits also include Alpha Flight, Legends of the Dark Knight and Godwheel (Marvel and Malibu’s first crossover)
His Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography for DC Comics, with art by Eduardo Barreto, coloured by Adam Kubert, published in 1989, was praised as one of the best comics of all time by Wizard Magazine, and was cited in the US TV Guide magazine as an inspiration for a The X-Files episode.
He received an Eisner Award nomination in 1993 with artist Robert P. Ortaleza for the graphic novel Sinking, published by Marvel’s creator-owned imprint Epic, which told the story of a man’s descent into clinical paranoia and schizophrenia.
Working with artist Andrew Paquette, he created the six-issue series Harsh Realm for Harris Publications in 1993, a series that followed a PI searching for a wealthy couple’s son after he disappears into a virtual reality. The comic was turned into a short-lived TV show on Fox by The X-Files creator Chris Carter in 1999, but Hudnall and Paquette had to launch a lawsuit against the show after it failed to credit them as its creators.
“He was a very prolific and extraordinarily talented and helpful individual,” former Harris Publications creative director Mark Mazz told Newsarama. “James’ Harsh Realm series… is a high point that many have always looked to as a high watermark. [His] passing is a great loss and he will be sorely missed.”
While still writing comics, including adapting the manga, Macross II manga into English and writing the Macross II: The Micron Conspiracy comic, and working on other manga-related projects, the 1990s and 2000s saw Hudnall refocus on other pursuits, including being a writing teacher, lecturer, publisher, and internet engineer. He began work on an unpublished historical adventure, originally “Aquilla” but re-titled Thracius to avoid any confusion with the similarly titled 2000AD strip, a story for the short-lived British comics anthology STRIP Magazine, with art by Mark Vigouroux, who he also worked with on the Humanoids series Aftermath.
The series title was an issue he was more than happy to resolve without any acrimony but sadly, the title folded abruptly before it could begin its run.
The Secrets of Writing, published in December 2015, offers a detailed explanation of the writing process in all media and he continued to offer guidance through his video tutorial series Creative Secrets, which includes interviews with creators such as writer Chuck Dixon and artists Val Mayverik, and P. Craig Russell, and much more.
The series also includes a moving tribute to artist Baton Lash, who died in January 2019 – and offers an insight into James own character and personal philosophy on life and working in comics.
In 2014, Hudnall’s diabetes resulted in him having his right foot amputated, followed by his right leg in 2015, his many fans supporting his rehabilitation and, in 2017, a move in to a new home in San Diego through GoFundMe pages.
A collection of his graphic novel 2 To the Chest, was released in 2017, the year he was also awarded an Inkpot Award for his career in comics.
The webmaster and founder of The Freedom Forge website, which he described as “a site for free thinking creative people”, he gained crowdfunding for his project Agenda, with art by Matt Cossin, last year.
The series, planned as a sries of 48-page quarterly comics, imagines a situation where six people had the power to change the world, but each had separate agendas. What would be the consequences of their actions and what kind of world would result?
He had also recently been working on completing a new story for the fantasy adventure Age of Heroes, first published in black and white by Image Comics. Co-created with British artist John Ridgway, James had begun adapting parts of his novel of the same name for a sixth issue, for publication by IDW.
He released Hell’s Reward, a prose collection of short stories set in the world of Age of Heroes in 2013, the first book in a planned series of novels.
John has been colouring previously published pages of Age of Heroes and posting them to his Facebook page. James announced he was working on the script for Issue Six at the end of March, and had completed five pages John had begun drawing, and was shocked to learn of his sudden passing when I spoke with him yesterday.
“James had been a colleague since I drew The Agent graphic novel for Marvel Epic immediately after finishing with Hellblazer,” he commented online. “I won’t forget him.”
His series Blue Cat, with artist Val Mayerik, featured in early issues acesweekly.co.uk. and delighted readers of the digital anthology, and publisher David Lloyd, who James worked with on the early days of Espers, paid a heartfelt tribute to him on Facebook yesterday.
“He was a tough guy, who could really take it on the chin. If, like Jim, I had lost my foot because of the cruelty of fate, I’d have whined like a rabbit in a snare. Not so with Jim – he just got on with it, and surmounted the problem with pragmatism and fortitude in the way he seems to have tackled any other difficulties he encountered.”
“Jim was also one of the great Aces of Aces Weekly,” he added, “who enthusiastically came on board to support us in our earliest days with Val Mayerik on the great story, Blue Cat. He was also responsible for upping the degree of hype I naturally employ – citing Stan Lee’s description of The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine for Fantastic Four as exactly the sort of thing we should do with ours. I took the advice: it was, after all, the truth!”
downthetubes extends its sympathies toward James family and friends at this time.
James D. Hudnall, born 10th April 1957, died 9th April 2019
With thanks to David Lloyd, Robyn Hall and John Ridgway
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The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.