We’re sorry to report the passing of American comics writer and poet Tom Veitch, brother of comic artist and writer Rick Veitch, who has circulated an obituary online, providing information about his life and work which we have included and expanded on here.
Aged 80, he was, sadly, another victim to COVID, and his passing has left his family in some financial difficulty, seeking support from his fans around the world.
Tom is perhaps best known to many British comic fans for his work with Cam Kennedy on the creator owned The Light and Darkness War, the creator-owned series The Nazz, drawn by Bryan Talbot, a look at the idea of the superman, published by DC Comics; and My Name Is Chaos, with John Ridgway; and issues of Animal Man, working with Steve Dillon.
More of you will, however, know him as one of the principal architects of the Star Wars Extended Universe, he and Cam Kennedy working directly with George Lucas on Dark Empire, and more.
His passing has left his wife, Martha, in some financial difficulty. Anything anyone can do to help will be gratefully appreciated by donating via this GoFundMe page.
Thomas (Tom) Veitch was born 26th September 26, 1941, the eldest of six children, growing up in Walpole, New Hampshire, and Bellows Falls Vermont and was educated at Columbia University. He wrote his first novel, The Transfigured, aged just 23, and a second, WHATS, in 1963.
From 1963 to 1965 he was an active participant in the literary florescence of New York’s Lower East Side through the St. Mark’s Poetry Project. His first published work, Literary Days, appeared from Ted Berrigan’s “C” Press in 1964. Other early books of poetry include Toad Poems, Cooked Zeroes, My Father’s Golden Eye and Death College.
From 1965 to 1968 Tom was a cloistered Benedictine monk in Weston Vermont. The copper-enamel crucifix he sculpted still hangs in the main chapel at Weston Priory.
In 1968, he moved to San Francisco where he met his wife, Martha, wrote a novel The Louis Armed Story and edited his own poetry journal, Tom Veitch Magazine. In 1969, he began collaborating with artist Greg Irons on many underground comix, including The Legions Of Charlies, Deviant Slice, Slow Death and Skull Comix. He also wrote scripts for comix illustrated by Richard Corben, Jack Jaxon and brother Rick Veitch.
“The underground movement in the 1960s reclaimed comics as an adult medium and lead directly to the graphic novels of today,” Bryan Talbot, who worked with Tom later in his career, told downthetubes. “Tom Veitch was probably the most ground-breaking writer of the time.
“His strips, drawn by artist Greg Irons, were visceral, outrageous and genuinely shocking. Their The Legion of Charlies graphically depicted the Charles Manson family murders and the Mai Lai Massacre, a subversive and angry statement against the Vietnam War that was years ahead of films such as The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now. It blew me away at the time, showing me exactly how powerful a medium comics could be.
“In the 1990s I was astonished when I was contacted by DC editor Karen Berger to be asked whether I would like to draw The Nazz, Tom’s 200-page, four-part prestige format creator-owner tale of absolute power corrupting absolutely.
“What was most astonishing was that Tom, who I’d never met, had specifically requested me. It turned out that he was a huge Luther Arkwright fan.
“It was an honour to meet and work with him on the project, the script of which I still consider one of the best post-Watchmen superhero stories.”
“I needed a cover for Tom Veitch Magazine and Greg told me he needed a writer, but what brought us together was pharmaceutical psylocibin,” Tom recalled of those days in a recently-published retrospective feature about Greg Irons, “a shared trip in which we bonded like two lost brothers.”
In 1973, he won the Big Table Award for Poetry. Two more novels were published, Antlers In The Treetops, with Ron Padgett and Eat This!.
In 1976, Big Sky published Death College & Other Poems with an Afterword by Alan Ginsberg. Returning to Vermont in 1982, he worked for Hemmings Motor News.
The Light and Darkness War
In 1988 he began collaborating with Cam Kennedy on the Marvel/Epic Comics series The Light and Darkness War under editor Archie Goodwin.
“The Light and Darkness War came out of my anger and sadness over the Vietnam War and what it did to an entire generation of men,” Tom said in 2015. “As Steve Bissette notes in his Afterword [in the Collected Edition], The Light and Darkness War is an outgrowth of underground comix about the Vietnam War I did with artist Greg Irons, especially ‘The Story of Vince Shazam.’ Most significantly, perhaps, the story also arose from my intense dream-life and my own belief in an afterlife.”
“The “big take-away” from The Light & Darkness War is, once again, the relationship that I developed with the artist, Cam Kennedy,” Tom said of the book in 2018. “He’s a certified genius at depicting the technology of war. Combine that with my own mystical tendencies, and you have a brew guaranteed to tear the mind apart and stimulate the depths of the imagination!”
It was my privilege to reprint “Light and Darkness War”, as part of Marvel UK’s short-lived Meltdown anthology in the 1990s, a project instigated by Paul Neary. Both story and art blew me away, in terms of concept and the telling.
In a tribute on Facebook, spanning Tom’s work on Star Wars and more, his longtime collaborator and friend, Mike Beidler, notes “One shared regret is our failed attempt to bring Lazarus, Huff, Engle, Slaw, Lasha, Lord Na, and other L&D War characters to the big screen. (That’s another interesting story in and of itself, which involves Universal Pictures, Bruce Willis, director Peter Hyams, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and director James Cameron.)
“Considering the degree to which CGI has advanced since L&D War was first published, it may very well be that earlier attempts would have failed miserably given its epic nature. It was our hope, however, that a hardcover collection of the series, which Titan Comics published in 2015 and for which I wrote the foreword, would inspire filmmakers to once again take on the challenge of bringing Tom and Cam’s vision to life, to tell the tale once again – in a different medium – of vigilant and honorable warrior spirits fighting against the “outer darkness” that threatens to extinguish the light inside of all of us. Tom – and the friendship he extended to me – kept that light on inside of me.”
“Cam Kennedy and I got the idea of sending our Marvel/Epic Comics series The Light & Darkness War to George Lucas and proposing a new fully painted Star Wars graphic novel,” Tom Veitch himself said of his entry into the film franchise’s “Extended Universe”. George loved the idea and asked me to send him plot ideas.
“My first idea, believe it or not, was to do a series called ‘The Jedi Chronicles’, which would delve into the history of the Jedi Knights. He said he preferred that we take off from the ending of Return of the Jedi and tell the fate of Luke, Leia, Han, et al. So I put together the concepts that led to Dark Empire.
“Now, it should be noted that we had feedback from Mr. Lucas on the plotting of Dark Empire. And our editor, Archie Goodwin, also had a hand in the plotting. He was ‘Mr. Star Wars’ to us, having written many great Star Wars comics for Marvel, as well as the newspaper Star Wars comic strip with artist Al Williamson.”
Dark Horse released Tom and Cam’s Dark Empire in 1991, followed by Dark Empire 2 and Empire’s End in 1995. Kenner released four toy action figures based on the series in 1998 and elements of the story were later incorporated into Star Wars films. Wikipedia credits the series with “sustaining the profitability of Star Wars in the 1990s.”
Outside of Dark Empire, Tom also wrote Tales of the Jedi, which featured the first appearances of the Knights of the Old Republic, his work considered foundational to the modern Star Wars Expanded Universe we have today.
“Tom was just as crucial to Star Wars as [Timothy] Zhan, and rarely was appreciated as such by many of the wider fandom/publishing world,” noted one fan of his work, in response to Rick’s announcement of Tom’s death on TheForce.net. “He also collaborated with Lucas more than almost any other author was able to in the early ‘Extended Universe’ days… Tom was also the single focal starting point for the entire Old Republic era and all that’s come from it.
“… You can go far enough to even call him the original Star Wars prequel writer, just as Zhan was known to be the most prolific sequel writer. Star Wars just lost an absolute legend and one of the founding writers of the modern franchise. What a shame.”
“We are very saddened to learn of the passing of Tom Veitch,” commented a spokesperson for Dark Horse. “Tom’s contributions to the Star Wars expanded universe are unforgettable, among his many other legacies. He will be greatly missed.”
The Nazz, Animal Man and More
Through the 1990s and 2000s, Tom was an active writer of mainstream comics, including The Nazz with artist Bryan Talbot, Clash with artist Adam Kubert, and My Name Is Chaos with artist John Ridgway, and Animal Man, for DC Comics.
“The Nazz is about the release of superpowers that are natural and innate to every human being,” said Tom of the prestige comic series, in 2018, also recalling it was based on a story he wrote in the 1970s about a Jesus-like character who was as ugly as the Elephant Man. “And it is about what happens if your mind (and ego) are not up to understanding and dealing with what you have unleashed and what you have become. Michael Nazareth suffers a classic ego inflation.
“… The Nazz is definitely a cautionary tale – but it’s a message to Westerners to watch your ass if you get involved with the mystical paths of the East. (Hinduism more than Buddhism) It’s not all the happy hippy light and consciousness you think it is. In fact, it’s profoundly dangerous and a test of your whole being.”
“While Tom will be remembered for many impressive accomplishments in his career, how many writers can say that they inserted themselves into a story and lost to Animal Man in a fistfight?” a spokesperson for DC Comics noted on Twitter, also noting his many other achievements.
“I remember being introduced to Tom by Karen Berger at one of the UKCAC in London,” artist and writer John Ridgway recalls of his work with Veitch in My Name is Chaos. “Tom had written Light and Darkness War, drawn by Cam Kennedy and was having success with Star Wars – Dark Empire (again with Cam). He was being commissioned by DC Comics to write three completely different stories and I was to draw one of them.
“Tom initially asked me to work on The Nazz but, on reading the story outlines, I much preferred My Name is Chaos as it was a science-fiction story. After the convention, Tom was to travel up to Preston, to Bryan Talbot’s home to give a talk to the Speculative Fiction Group. On the way he stopped off at my home in Bolton and I drove him around the local countryside – Anglezarke and Rivington, and up to Chorley , all on the West Pennine Moors.
“Tom’s imagination on My Name is Chaos sparked my imagination to draw Mars, the huge machines and the Martians. The idea of the enormous structure of the Earth space station came from the form in which plastic kits are sold. I noted that the hero’s name was Thomas Valis (same initials as Tom). Years later, I was amused to note that J. Michael J. Straczynski used his initials for Jeffrey Sinclair and John Sheridan, the two central characters in Babylon 5, which I also drew.
“I recall that I would have liked to draw My Name is Chaos in full colour and painted a picture of Thomas Valis swimming with a whale and sent it to Karen. Years later, I learned that she had sent it on to Tom and it was then hanging on his wall.
“I started colouring a couple of pages of Chaos for amusement,” John shares. “As I no longer had the original artwork, this involved scanning in the pages from the trade paperback comics, and erasing the original colouring. When working on STRIP Magazine, I suggested that My Name is Chaos would be suitable for it to be reprinted. This meant resizing and modifying the pages to change the size and proportions of that title’s format, but when it folded, I didn’t progress any further.”
A Spiritual Legacy
A life long spiritual seeker, Tom founded and moderated the popular internet message board, “Lightmind Forum” devoted to discussing various metaphysical schools of thought. He published a spiritual memoire, The Visions of Elias (A True Story of Life In The Spirit) in 2016, through his own Sky River Press.
Tom also owned and operated Old Bennington Books, a bookstore in downtown Bennington, Vermont, for many years.
Paying tribute, Mike Beidler noted on GoFundMe, “Tom was a great friend with whom I shared much. As a young mid-20s Naval Aviator and die-hard Star Wars fan, I collaborated with him on his Star Wars: Dark Empire saga and wrote the foreword to his more-recent hardcover collection of The Light and Darkness War series. Many emails and phone calls over the decades, sharing manuscripts and ideas, working on film treatments together, talking theology and speculating about spiritual things, and just enjoying each other’s intellectual company… I will miss him greatly.
“There will definitely be a Tom Veitch-shaped hole in my heart until I join the Force and see him again face-to-face.”
Our sympathies to family and friends at this time.
• Tom’s passing, taken by Covid before he could finish all his arrangements, has left his wife, Martha, in some financial difficulty,. Anything anyone can do to help will be gratefully appreciated by donating via this GoFundMe page.
• Tom Veitch, 26th September 26, 1941 – February 2022
Tom is survived by his wife Martha Veitch of Arlington, daughter Angelica Veitch Stasolla of Brunswick ME, two grandsons Tommy Walls and Jacob Walls of Brunswick ME, sister Wendy Lillie of Rockingham Vt, and brothers Robert D. Veitch of Minneapolis, MN, Rick Veitch of West Townshend VT, Michael Veitch of Woodstock NY and Peter Veitch of Chester VT.
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The first-ever collection of one of the underground’s greatest art rebels. Greg Irons was a psychedelic poster artist, underground cartoonist, book illustrator, and a tattoo art virtuoso.
This retrospective book spans his groundbreaking career, including obscure material and never-before-seen private work.
The Light and Darkness War
Helicopter pilot Lazarus Jones is consumed with survivor guilt and remorse after his crew is killed in Vietnam. Spiraling into depression and alcoholism, Laz crosses the threshold between life and death, only to find himself battling once more alongside his lost comrades, in the ultimate war between Good and Evil…
Tom Veitch wrote several Star Wars stories. Highlighted here is Dark Empire.
Six years after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, the battle for the galaxy’s freedom rages on. The Empire has been mysteriously reborn under an unknown leader, wielding a new weapon of great power. Princess Leia and Han Solo struggle to hold together the New Republic while the galaxy’s savior, Luke Skywalker, fights an inner battle as he is drawn to the dark side, just as his father…
Bronze Age Star Wars notes each issue of Dark Empire came with extensive in-universe endnotes in which Veitch laid out the history of the Old Republic. These notes formed the basis of his Tales of the Jedi comics and, later, the The Knights of the Old Republic saga.
“If power corrupts, then super power must surely corrupt superlatively…”
Michael Nazareth seeks perfection through the ancient idea that the life force itself is the doorway to obtaining superhuman powers. His search for the key to opening the door leads him to India and a grueling plunge into the darkest secrets of yoga, tantric rituals…and the warrior’s madness. This is the story of THE NAZZ, as he returns to America, a man transformed by his experiences into something more than human…but far less than what he once was.
When Nazareth inadvertently kills a mugger with his bare hands, he becomes the focus of intense public scrutiny and is invited to join the Retaliators, a group of government sponsored crime fighters created to exploit America’s fascination with heroes. THE NAZZ is the tale of one man’s obsession with becoming such a hero… and mankind’s attempts to elevate him to the status of godhood.
My Name is Chaos
Who will decide the shape of the future? My Name is Chaos graphically examines two astounding possibilities. Thomas Valis, an uncommon man in uncommonly trying times, has been chosen by ancient, immortal beings to be Earth’s first superior human. His brother Steven, a brilliant, horribly scarred scientist, creates superhuman Mandroids using the marvels of 21st-century science.
These two types of super-beings – cosmically endowed and artificially created – provide the foundation for a drama of intensities, reaching from the depths of a war-torn Earth to the sands of a newly-colonised Mars… and beyond.
During his years as a Benedictine monk, Tom Veitch formed lasting friendships with two spiritual visionaries, both who were former Trappists. As he approached his time of dying, one of those men, whose religious name was Elias, agreed to discuss in depth the whole extent of his spiritual life, covering a period of more than fifty years.
Here, for the first time, Elias reveals how God came to him in dream and vision, moving him to abandon the world and take up the devotional life of a cloistered monk. He shares his investigations of the teachings of the East and his extensive involvement with the writings of C.G. Jung and with Jungian analysis. Finally, as he approaches death, Elias describes how he finds himself at peace with God and already immersed in the reality of the afterlife.
This book is no fantasy — it’s the real deal. Patiently, and with considerable wisdom, Elias laid out for Tom not only the experiences themselves, but his thoughts about them based on a life-long study of theology, psychology and the great religions both west and east.
Profound, but not a solemn book, The Visions of Elias is laced throughout with humor and a lightness of tone. As Elias said, he wasn’t setting out to preach. He just wanted to tell his story for the record, for he knew that soon he would be going to the One who calls us all, and leaving this world forever.
• Tom’s passing, taken by Covid before he could finish all his arrangements, has left his wife, Martha, in some financial difficulty,. Anything anyone can do to help will be gratefully appreciated by donating via this GoFundMe page
All art featured copyright respective creators and publishers
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.