Over the weekend news of Alvin Buenaventura’s passing was confirmed. Buenaventura was 40 and as the publisher of first Buenaventura Press then Pigeon Press was one of the indie publishers who helped change the landscape of comics forever with his passion and devotion to detail, with such Cartoonists as Vanessa Davis, Lisa Hanawalt, Matt Furie and many more on his roster. Buenaventura Press’s books were always at the top of the production chart, but with 2008’s Kramer’s Ergot #7, a table-top sized anthology of the greatest cartoonists of the day to that point, he achieved a high point in comics history for ambition and summing up a generation of art and artist’s. It’s the defining statement of indie comics of the Aughts, and i doubt it will ever be surpassed.
If anyone could even try it. The expense of printing the book (which cost $125) and ensuing legal troubles caused him to shut down Buenaventura Press in 2010. He came back with Pigeon Press, however, and continued publishing fine comics from Nick Mandaag, Simon Hanselman, Charles Burns and more.
Like everyone, I knew Alvin, and spoke to him at every small press show he was at. Above is a picture of him and Jerry Moriarty, whom he published at Buenaventura Press in 2009. He was a kind, unfailingly gentle man, who always went out of his way to be helpful and courteous. I’ve sampled some of the outpouring of grief on social media below, and on his Facebook page.
Tim Hensley, whose book, Sir Alfred, Alvin was readying near the time of his death, posts about him on Blog Flume, a group blog that Alvin once posted to. Hensley confirms the cause of death one might expect for someone so young, making a sad event even sadder.
Dustin Harbin posted a comic and remembrance here:
Alvin was kind to me in all our run-ins over the years, in his sleepy, sad way. We never worked together but I always admired his incredible attention to detail in publishing, not to mention his deep deep knowledge of comics and cartoonists. Every artistic community needs an Alvin, someone learned and knowledgeable who wants to stack new, bright things on the revered dusty old things they love. All while prioritizing quality and voice over profitability, often to the detriment of his businesses. This is an easy world to eat yourself up in. I miss Alvin and wish I had known him better.
And a selection of other tributes:
Written September 23, 2006, I can revisit the inspiration and influence that Alvin Buenaventura had on my life https://t.co/hyH1prZumZ
— Floating World (@floating_world) February 13, 2016
So sad to read that Alvin Buenaventura has passed away. Rest in peace. Thank you for supporting my comics, and so many other people, too.
— yumi sakugawa (@yumisakugawa) February 14, 2016
— Henry Chamberlain (@H_Chamberlain) February 15, 2016
— Jay Babcock (@jaywbabcock) February 15, 2016
Shocked and very saddened to hear of the death of Alvin Buenaventura. Too young, but so much achieved. Godspeed, mate. #comics
— Nick Abadzis (@NickAbadzis) February 14, 2016
Alvin Buenaventura era un grande amante delle cose fatte bene, stampate bene, confezionate in modo sempre… https://t.co/pm0Hp4bKQq
— igort (@igoruto) February 14, 2016
I'm heart broken to hear about the passing of my friend, Alvin Buenaventura. It's a huge loss for comics and everybody who knew him.
— Joseph Remnant (@JosephRemnant) February 13, 2016
My dear friend & the first publisher of my comics, Alvin Buenaventura, has passed away. I can't find the words. pic.twitter.com/UHin5u0nOw
— Lisa Hanawalt (@lisadraws) February 13, 2016
See you later, Alvin. I know you'll be missed.
— Jaime Hernandez (@xaimeh) February 13, 2016
I remember talking to Alvin Buenaventura about Kramers Ergot #7. He took a huge risk to make it happen, to make a special piece of art. RIP
— Van Jensen (@van_jensen) February 13, 2016
RIP Alvin Buenaventura. A huge inspiration for Tugboat Press and everything I've done. So sad he's gone.
— Tugboat Press (@TugboatPress) February 13, 2016
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So saddened to hear the news of Alvin Buenaventura's passing. Alvin was, I think by anyone's estimation, one of the most important publishers of comics in the past decade. His taste was impeccable and his generosity was as humbling as it was encouraging. I was honored to share meals with him, tables with him (like the one pictured here, in France, with Anders Nilsen and Jeffrey Brown), and stay at his house. We compared our Daniel Clowes and Archer Prewitt pieces (his were so mouthwateringly great) and I was proud to help him with print questions whenever I could be of help. He was everything that I love about comics, about the possibilities and permutations of this insane medium. He managed to elevate the form without pretensions or snobbishness, and I always admired him for that. I benefitted directly from his love of the comics form and I join thousands of others who can count themselves lucky enough to have benefitted from the works of Art he shepherded into this world. We'll miss you, Alvin. Thank you for all you were. (Thanks to June on Facebook for the photo, 2005)
Finally, while i was looking through old Beat costs for pictures of Alvin, I found a link to his Flickr gallery of his 2009 trip to Angoulême hanging out with R. Crumb, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes and Adrian Tomine, back in what I would assume were happier times for him. It’s a good memory to hold on to.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.