Pop culture writer John Tebbel passed away yesterday. An occasional contributor to ComicMix and frequent commenter here and at other comics sites, John was probably most familiar to the comics world as the husband of Martha Thomases, herself a comics writer and DC’s publicity manager for most of the ’90s. He was also an expert on animation and you can find some of his articles on the subject scattered about the internet. He and Martha also co-founded Comedy Magazine.
I must have first met John 20 years ago at some comics function or other; the event is lost in the collegial mists of the comics world. But after that we shared scores and scores of conversations on every topic. When I first moved to New York, I was a bit of a waif, and Martha—who I worked with quite closely during the early years of Friends of Lulu—and John took pity on me, inviting me to dinner in their home. They also threw two fantastic parties every year—a post-AIDS Walk get-together in the spring and a Hanukkah party that somehow centered around donuts. John had an encyclopedic knowledge of animation and film and getting together with him and Martha was always an opportunity to share my nerdiest obsessions and learn even more about them.
John was witty on many subjects but at one of his parties they ran out of milk or something. He said he was going down to “the downstairs refrigerated storage unit.” “What’s that?” I asked, baffled. “The deli,” he explained. I have to admit that I’ve borrowed the phrase—so typical of cramped Manhattan life—and used it many times since, but I always imagined John in my mind when I said it.
As these things happen, I wasn’t as much in the same circles as John and Martha in recent years, although running into them on the street or at a shop was a frequent occurrence—that’s New York, a small town and a giant faceless city. I didn’t see him during his illness or reach out to Martha as I should have…and I regret that horribly. My only advice in these situations is that if you wonder if you should….the answer is always yes.
John leaves behind Martha and his son Arthur. My heart is heavy for them.
He didn’t leave behind many photos of himself on the internet. I found the above, with Arthur on the right in the Dr. Manhattan T-shirt. John’s sense of humor would approve of his face emerging from an explosion of balloons, I think. He had a great appreciation for the absurd and the whimsical…not a bad way to live a life, all things considered.
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.