tom_spurgeon.jpeg

It would be an understatement to describe how shocked the comics community has been at the loss of Tom Spurgeon. He has been a one of a kind advocate for the medium of comics in his life. The enthusiastic way in which he talked and wrote about comics has helped many to expand the way they see comics.

In honour of Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Beat created a special “Five for Friday”. Five for Friday was a feature that ran on The Comics Reporter seemingly every week or every other week, where Tom asked readers to respond to a question with five answers. It could be naming five comics published before 1960 that you’d recommend to contemporary readers, or as broad as naming five comics published this year you really liked. It was a fantastic way to push you to think beyond your own personal circle of interests. His question on old comics forced you to think about what comics were published before then that would still be interesting today. Peanuts and Walt & Skeezix comes to mind, but it was an effort to think beyond that. It was a wonderful feature that showcased different people’s opinion or answers on a wide array of things relating to comics.

So in honour of Tom, we asked the following: Name your 5 best memories of Tom Spurgeon. It can be ways he influenced you, or the things he did that touched you the most.

- Advertisement-

If you have memories of Tom Spurgeon you’d like to share, please send responses to info @ comicsbeat.com. We’ll keep posting them as long as we keep getting them.

 

Here are my answers.

  1. Answering Tom’s Five for Friday weekly request was a way to challenge myself and finding new ways to approach comics. Responding to his feature every week gave me confidence to begin writing about comics.
  2. He changed the way I see comics many times over the years. Whether it be by showcasing work from artists I’d never have discovered otherwise, but also by expressing his opinion on the comics landscape. It’s affected me in ways I can hardly express.
  3. His ongoing commitment to finding out who needed help or monetary support in his People, Places In Need Of Funding he did daily was inspiring. He used his platform to bring to attention the difficulties, financial or otherwise, that cartoonists are facing.
  4. His interviews, whether they were at the end of year of not, were always insightful. When I began interviewing cartoonists for The Comics Beat, I always aspired to come close to what he did.
  5. I met Tom Spurgeon for the first time at TCAF 2019. I moderated a panel with Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore about their new book BTTM FDRS and Tom attended the panel. He stayed after the end of the panel and chatted with me. He recognized my name from my writing on indie and small press comics. I was floored. He referenced not just specific pieces I wrote, but also specific lines I’d written. He encouraged me to keep going and suggested I get down to Columbus for CXC. I said I would try my best to attend. Knowing I’ll never have a chance to meet him again is heartbreaking.

Andrew Farago

  1. The realization, every Monday when Tom ran responses to his “Five For Friday” questions, that I’d once again missed his deadline, something I managed for the entire history of The Comics Reporter. At least this one’s on time.
  2. Comic-Con International was trying to drum up some press coverage for WonderCon during its San Francisco era, so they brought out a few prominent members of the comics press, including Tom. I caught up with him at the Cartoon Art Museum’s fundraising party, and he introduced me to the concept of a “lifetime allotment” of certain comics. “I’ve read all the Aquaman any person should ever read. You probably have, too. I’m done.” He was a master at subtly changing the way you looked at comics, and I’m forever grateful for that.
  3. I want to say that Tom was the smartest guy on the Comics Journal message boards, but worry that’s the worst possible epitaph for him. Or anyone. Hope he’ll forgive me for that.
    3.5. No one was better with a well-timed pop culture reference than Tom, both in person and on social media. I tried my best to keep up with him, but never came close.
  4. Tom posted some of the very first interviews I ever conducted on The Comics Reporter. And conducted some of the very first big interviews anyone ever did with me. I never thanked him enough for that.
  5. I’ve lost track of how many years I hung out with him in the back row at the Eisner Awards, as he covered the ceremony for The Comics Reporter, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity. It was like a comic book master class every July.

Jim Dougan

My top 5 memories of Tom, off the top of my head:

  1. That he was kind enough to review my (and Danielle Corsetto’s) debut graphic novel (Crazy Papers) and give us a thoughtful and fair review
  2. His posts on the TCJ message board and his Twitter feed, just in general
  3. A very funny, and hardly mean-spirited, but not-for-public-consumption story he told Nick Bertozzi and me about a famous comic artist at NYCC one year
  4. His leadership role in CXC, one of the truly great contributions to American comics culture, ever
  5. The essential nature of The Comics Reporter, not just for his fantastic writing and trenchant criticism, but for his “Happy Birthday” posts, his “If I Were In {City}, I’d Go To This” posts, and his con recap posts.  It really made comics feel like one big (dysfunctional) family.

I didn’t appreciate him enough while he was around, and I’ll miss him very much.


Gil Roth

  1. Taking Tom & his girlfriend out to our favorite restaurant in Toronto at TCAF this year. (My wife & I took Tom there every year, but this one was special.)
  2. The time he got a Wildwood comic strip out of my fave Hegel quote: Elements Toward a Philosophy of Right, Introduction, §13, Addition (H). [PIC BELOW]
  3. Seeing him overwhelmed but happy at the end of the first Cartoon Crossroads Columbus.
  4. Seeing him aghast when I gleefully told him about Larry Johnson’s 4-point play to beat the Pacers in game 3 of the eastern finals in 1999.
  5. Every moment we got to share over the past 23 years.

Brian Nicholson

1. Him describing the original appeal of direct market comic shops as that they had “all the comics”
2. His frequently writing about feeling old when he would go to CAB or SPX and see generations he didn’t know or felt out of touch with
3. Editing the Fort Thunder issue of The Comics Journal and interviewing Mat Brinkman and I think Jim Drain too
4. The way the autobiographical bled into his reviews and blogging in a way that felt ego-free, just an honest reflection of comics being a part of the tapestry of his life and relationships
5. Him asking Twitter who ran the Tumblr I ran, and then linking to reviews I wrote regularly.


Kevin Czap

  1. I loved the interviews on CR, often with a cartoonist I greatly admired and wanted to learn more about. His interviews always felt so satisfying – long and full of good questions that got the subject to open up in ways you didn’t see in too many other places. I had a lot of respect for Tom because of the way he would write about the ongoing concerns that the community faces. For someone who would talk about how awful he used to be on message boards (before my time), he wrote with an egoless seriousness about issues of money, health, and legacy that touched every generation of cartoonist.
  2. The way he would walk by my table at a convention and ask how things were going, or how he’d say “hey buddy” when I walked up to him during the mingling hours of a convention. Often I got a sense that he was on his way somewhere, or that he was in the middle of something else, but just that he made that little time meant a lot.
  3. His unabashed reverence for Lucy Shelton Caswell. I just always found it so charming.
  4. The first time I visited my partner’s childhood home, I saw a strip of Wildwood cut out and taped to her brother’s bedroom wall. I’d never seen this comic in real life before, and I was very excited to tell Tom the next time I saw him – I don’t know if he believed me.
  5. Unquestioningly, my most enduring memory of Tom will always be the day he commanded a room full of peers and strangers to direct their attention to me while a smiling cavalcade (led by a comics/self-publishing hero) presented me with a novelty-sized check. I feel embarrassed by how selfish this memory might seem, but that moment completely changed my trajectory – it made me think about my career as a cartoonist in a different light, and the things I’m doing now can be traced back to that moment. Getting the award seemed to explain why only a few months prior Tom had started talking to me at conventions and ordering my comics. I thought this observation was funny but I think it kind of bummed him out. Of course, looking at the archives of CR, I can see that he was linking to my stuff almost as soon as I had entered the community. The fact that Tom continued to go out of his way to champion my work the whole way through was massive. It wasn’t just that someone was paying you compliments, but the Comics Reporter himself. That moment connected me to more than just Tom’s good graces, but also to his Columbus family, the people who he ran CXC with, and my fellow Emerging Artists – I’ll have connections with these people forever. Tom said I had a “comics community heart,” a very flattering compliment that I think very clearly applies to him in spades.

Ken Eppstein

1. Tom treated me (and every small press and unheralded artist) as though they were important.   It’s tempting to repeat this one x4
2. With apologies to the host site OF this list, Tom kept me informed about comics better than other journalist.
3. Tom was so funny.  So incredibly funny. He had the best jokes and stories.”I will save this comics industry to the ground” is one of the greatest lines ever.
4. Tom moved to my hometown and made the comics scene here a magnitude better.
5..The times we would meet for coffee, he’d walk up and look at my messy, oddly formatted notebook pages puzzled.  “what are you working on?”  “I’m writing a script.” “(pause) Really?”  Multiple times.


David Brothers

  1. Tom was an old guard guy who greatly appreciated the new guard, be they comics makers or writers about comics, even if we were getting into it with each other.
  2. I’m a notoriously bad friend at comic conventions and hate to make plans, but when Tom invited me to breakfast at Emerald City with Robin Inkstuds McConnell, I showed up and had a grand time.
  3. He introduced me to the work of Grass Green, creator of Super Soul Comix, which introduced me to the black side of underground comix.
  4. Most of our interactions shifted from email to less-frequent IRL after I left writing about comics and started working conventions, but he always checked in on me if we were at the same show to make sure I was happy and see what I was up to at Image and elsewhere.
  5. The Five for Fridays were always a delight, even when I didn’t know the first thing about the topic, and his site was daily reading for years. I’ll miss him.

William J. Pfeifer

1. Interviewed me for The Comics Reporter back when I was writing regularly for DC. Besides hosting a fun, insightful conversation, Tom gave me the chance to live my childhood dream of being the subject of a long, career-spanning Comics Journal type interview.

  1. Doing both the Five For Friday pieces and celebrating everyone’s birthday on The Comics Reporter. Amidst the serious journalism, these features were fun and made comics feel more like a community.

  2. The serious journalism. Tom was the best, no kidding.

  3. His love of all sorts of comics. Whatever his personal feelings about a book or creator, he could be enthusiastic about old super-heroes, modern web comics or anything in between. He obviously had a special fondness for the independent comics and cartoonists he’d been celebrating since his Comics Journal days, but all were welcome.

  4. Every so often, Tom would advise readers to take a moment to write to a creator that meant something to them and let them know how they felt. I always meant to write a note to Tom letting him know how much I valued his work, but of course, I never did. Damn.


John Jackson Miller

Tom and I were the same age, and both sort of in the second generation of staffers at the respective publications we worked at in the 1990s — him at the Journal, me at Comics Buyer’s Guide. The publications had long had a tumultuous relationship for a variety of reasons, but that had seemed needless to both of us. Our staffers were all fans of Fantagraphics’ output, and my first article sale ever had been to the Journal years earlier. Tom, for his part, saw us as all serving different audiences: we were the “old school,” while Fanta was the “art crowd.”

Along with Eric Reynolds, Tom worked with us to build a channel between our offices. When a headline-craving creator tried to prank the industry with his own death, our team at CBG and Tom at the Journal worked in parallel to root out what we both suspected to be a hoax. It was a shot at all media outlets, many of which had grown too reliant on press releases and internet postings; e-mail interviews had largely replaced phone calls, opening up a lot of potential for abuse. Tom exchanged notes with us during that process, with the result that we released a joint story exposing the hoax from coming from both CBG and the Journal. Someone online responded that hell had frozen over – but the truth was that Tom felt that news was an important thing, not to be undermined; whatever wound up in print in our respective publications would impact the record forever. We completely agreed.

Tom and I stayed in contact after we left those publications; my e-mail archives are full of our discussions of comics sales over the years, some of which provided answers for his TCR posts. For my part at Comichron, linking to TCR never required a second thought; his reporting was diligent above all, and I was not surprised at all to realize last night that he was the first person I followed on Twitter. He was a singular figure in the history of comics journalism, and a swell person to boot. He’s already missed.


Graeme McMillan

1. The thrill of recognition when I was starting out and realized that Spurgeon was reading me. He was the real deal, even then. (I’m old, I can say that.) To this day, I feel like he was being too polite when we’d talk and he wouldn’t just tell me to stop wasting his time.

  1. The kindness he showed me when I had to bail on doing an interview with him because of my father’s death; I remember extremely clearly, more than a decade later, how much his down-to-earth reminders that what was happening was far more important than talking about comics helped at a time when I was, basically, a complete mess who thought that I couldn’t let anyone down about anything, no matter what.

(I did the interview on the plane home after the funeral; it was shitty because of where my head was at, and I’ve always felt bad that I wasn’t more entertaining or interesting; Spurgeon was pleasantly dismissive of such thoughts.)

  1. His response when I told him that he and I were both on a Prominent Comic Creator’s private list worst case scenarios for comics journalists, along with a third I’m-not-naming-them-here journalist, as told to me by a mutual friend. The best word is probably “tickled”; he thought it was ridiculous and funny and confusing that the three of us were on the same list, but decided that it was probably a badge of honor for all three of us, somehow.

  2. An email I got from him after he’d heard that an entirely separate Prominent Comic Creator tried to start a fight with me at a comic convention. It’s very silly, but having him write, “I got your back,” felt like… validation? Having someone I respected to that degree say something as simple as that about something that I was feeling pretty embarrassed about meant a lot. Also, considering the creator involved, the mental image of the two of them fighting is utterly amazing, trust me.

  3. This essay: http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/sickness_essay/


Gabriel Roth

1. His annual birthday posts for Jack Kirby, which collected a bunch of Kirby pictures as examples of the King’s “awesome image-making power.” It’s the single thing that most helped me appreciate Kirby.

  1. His review of Joe Daly’s Dungeon Quest, which introduced me to this wonderful cartoonist.

  2. We Told You So, which is a terrifically entertaining book to read and an essential history of something very important that would otherwise have been lost to time.

  3. His stanning for Xaime Hernandez.

  4. The way his site took every possible opportunity to display carefully chosen images from the world of comics, from every era and nation and style, all next to each other, making me see things differently and discover things I wouldn’t otherwise have known about and remember things I hadn’t seen for decades and otherwise convey the great meta-message of all his work: Look at this incredible profusion of wonderful comics, look at it, it’s so beautiful, look, look, look. Go, look.


A. David Lewis

He always wished me happy birthday on his site. It may have been a small thing but, for it to come from him and his site, it made me feel like I had in some way made it in comics.


Dani Shuping

I didn’t know tom well, but he influenced me via his writing on a daily basis. he was what i aspired to when i wrote reviews. and i don’t remember when, but at some point he followed me back on twitter. we didn’t interact much, but meant more to me than anything else in this world.


Mike Everleth


There was a period of time where I was a major reader of The Comics Reporter and I would send Tom Spurgeon random comics links I thought he might be interested in. Every time I did, he made me feel like I was making a major, valuable contribution to his site and giving him something special.

The main link I remember sending him was to a comic book adaptation of an obscure Canadian movie starring a young Jodie Foster. When I sent it, I’ve always remembered what Tom wrote to me personally: “The Internet is that much cooler today.”

 


Brian Doherty

Five important things Tom Spurgeon did for me (and in some cases for others)

1) Editing the Comics Journal thought most of the 1990s. I have had occasion to deepdive back into the TCJ archives lately, and the sheer energetic mad mighty unbelievable achievement of human and editorial acumen and loving obsessed EFFORT that putting out that package that regularly boggles the mind, positively Victorian in its indefatigability and joy.

2) Marking where and when comics-related events were on COMIC REPORTER site with his charming “If I were in XX, I’d do YY”; a act of generosity toward the “Team Comics” he poo-poohed out loud but was the best, most noble exemplar of in reality that summed up Tom, both very thoughtful and a lot of effort to do.

3) Many years of sitting together in the cheap seats at the Eisners, on years when Tom wasn’t at one of the Adult Tables, enjoying him cracking wise (in all senses of the term) with pointed, loving, sharp observations about all categories, books, companies, artists; each comment would in my dreams have been the start of a half-hour chat we never got to have.

4) The idea for my next book was formed in conversation with Tom, a book he’d have done a way better job at than me yet which he never let me believe that for a minute as he, likely unaware how important it was to me, helped me think through the whole thing and make it seem doable (though it will be far, far harder without him to rely on for insights and all the help and sense of connection he selflessly gave).

5) Tom wrote to me not long ago “I charge $10 billion to convince cartoonists that things aren’t so bad, but here’s a freebie….” followed by exactly what I needed to hear to get over a difficult blow; sums up his mordant but lovingly sighing sense of his own burden, born nobly, as Godfather of the Comics Community (I won’t call it “Team Comics” in respect, but…..) with humor but deep, above and beyond the call loving friendship for someone who wasn’t even by any means that close to him in any real sense, but who is crushed by his passing.


Alison Sampson

1. When I rediscovered comics after decades in the dark, it was Comics Reporter I turned to, and thatcatholic view has shaped where I have gone in my (what is now a) career since.

  1. He published work my first comic, Genesis, on his site, putting a newbie on a par with industry veterans, in a very kind move. Sales let me eat, I needed it, but he thought it was good. He never treated me as anything less.

  2. Having someone you want to please is a good thing.

  3. We had lunch in Seattle right before I went and looked round the Fantagraphics office, on my first visit there. It was mostly me just listening.

  4. I always felt he was a “steady centre’ to comics. When he started CXC, and Katie Skelly deservedly won the inaugural prize, I thought, YES. This is like a rock we can build on. I honestly don’t know what we are going to do without him.


Hisham Zubi

1) Meeting Tom when he was a guest at the Stumptown Comics Fest so I could tell him how much I appreciated his work.
2) His collection of tributes when Dylan Williams passed away.
3) When he did the painstaking work to compile a list of comic creators and institutions by City/Region.
3) The extra efforts he made one year to get the winners for the Stumptown awards through social media when the results weren’t posted.
4) The epic sequence of interview s he did to mark the end of the 2010s.
5) The communism feel of features like Five For Friday, If I was in . . ., and Birthday Recognitions.


Sean Kleefield

  1. The first time Tom paid me — some random schmuck on the internet — a real compliment, he said that my blog read like I “walked in from a different room down the hall to which no else seems to have access. A cool room.” He didn’t know me from Adam at that point and his highlighting my crude ramblings was deeply validating.

  2. When I first introduced myself to Tom in person — at the opening of the new Billy Ireland Museum, where it was stuffed to the gills with comics notoriety — he lit up like that was the best possible thing that could have happened that day.

  3. A couple days later, he kindly gave me a special call-out on CR, joking that I looked “strangely over-healthy, like one of those guys that runs four miles to work and can lift a small car over his head.”

  4. Every time I saw Tom after that, regardless of where we met, he always asked if I had run there. When I saw him last at TCAF, he added that that joke would never not be funny to him.

  5. Tom very kindly provided a blurb for my next book, which isn’t due out until June. He was so amazingly complimentary and effusive about it, I was genuinely touched. He could’ve written something blandly generic, but he really put some effort into making it clever and specific. (How many people can say their book was positively compared to “a mad crash down a steep hill hoping to scoop up some village’s bouncing wheel of cheese set loose on the valley below”?) It had gone to my editors first, though, and I didn’t get a chance to see what Tom said until literally an hour before I learned of his passing. I’ll be forever honored and humbled that Tom spent what turned out to be at least part of his last month on this planet engaged with my writing, and doing what he could to elevate my success.


Stephen Harrick

1. Meeting Tom at CXC in 2016. It was a busy weekend for him, and he took time to chat with a person he didn’t know–we had emailed previously, but never met before that.

2. His annual “Here’s Something Potentially Nice For Comics: Please Consider Writing Six Fan Letters This Year,” which inspired me to write dozens of creators/retailers/fans over the years (and will resume shortly).

3. Making The Comics Reporter one of the two comics sites I visited every morning for years, because of his keen insights and thoughtful commentary.

4. Hearing Tom and Calvin Reid whisper to each other during the recording of the “More to Come” podcast, to learn what time it was.

5. His ” Let’s All Finish Updating Comics 2017: Scene By Scene” post, in which he referred to himself as a “Kang-like dick.”


Robert Boyd

I mainly knew Tom as an editor and writer. I would see him occasionally at conventions.

My time working for Fantagraphics ended before Tom’s began. But even after I left, I continued contributing to The Comics Journal and therefore Tom was my editor. I got to know him at first via email then only later at comic book conventions. I thought his Comics Journal was the peak period for that magazine. Here are 5 memories of Tom, his writing and editing.

1.       “What I Saw at the Marvelution” published in The Comics Journal No. 177, May 1995

“Note #6: “Lunch sucked.”

Burgers and sandwiches. Side salads and a cake-thing for dessert. If it wasn’t free, I wouldn’t have touched it. If it wasn’t Marvel, I wouldn’t have had seconds.”

http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/briefings/commentary/1864/

2.       The Comics Journal #210, 1990. This was the issue with “The 100 Best Comics of the Century”  which I contributed to (along with many of my favorite writers about comics, including Bart Beaty, Charles Hatfield, Eric Reynolds, and, of course, Tom Spurgeon.)

3.       “Comics Made Me Fat” (Originally published at TCJ.com in September 1999)

“I’m a big, fat guy. I stand six-foot-three-inches and weigh somewhere around 400 pounds. I say ‘somewhere around’ because at a certain point, without easy access to shipping scales, you really don’t have any idea – as far as the standard medical scales go, I weigh ‘tilt.’” http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/briefings/commentary/1865/

4.      Comic Art Brooklyn in 2014. I saw Tom there and he wasn’t going to be there for the second day so he asked me to write about the panels. He slid my bits into his post about the show. http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/everything_i_still_remember_about_cab_2014_and_icaf_2015/

5.      Tom almost died in 2011. He wrote about that time quite movingly. The Comics Reporter

When he surfaced from this incident, I wrote him offering my help. I also suggested (morbidly, I guess) that he make a will. He wrote me, “Not only do I have a will now, but I wrote my CR obituary (it’s modest, I swear)!” He accomplished a lot since then, including founding CXC. I wonder if he kept the obit updated. I wonder if we’ll see it. I hope so.


Christopher Brayshaw

1.  “Reviews are fine, but you should really start doing interviews.”  Joe Matt; Mike Mignola; Frank Miller; Dave McKean; Alex Ross; 10 hours on the phone with David Mazzucchelli around Christmas, snow sifting down outside my apartment windows.

  1. Relationship dissatisfaction; job dissatisfaction; the sense of being at right angles to my city.  I’d drive 3 hours to Seattle to eat dinner w/ Tom & talk late into the night at Five Coins or elsewhere.  One trip I let slip that I might, just maybe, be turning killing myself over & over in my mind.  Tom’s response, immediate:  ” “Don’t drive home, sleep on my floor, stay until you don’t feel that way any more. Even if it’s a week. Even if it’s a month.”

  2. Watching network coverage of Princess Diana’s death in Spurge’s living room with him & Vancouver friends, Bumbershoot weekend 1997.

(& later, I’m pretty sure he was with us when Bumbershoot ‘s Dorothy Allison/Michael Ondaatje/James Ellroy panel broke up in chaos after Ellroy’s dog lunged at Ondaatje’s crotch, sending Ondaatje scrambling up onto the back of his chair.)

  1. “What do you really want to write about?”  “Realism in art.”  & that was the genesis of one of the only good things I ever wrote about comics, “The Monument Carver’s Store,” on Kirby’s then almost-unknown “Street Code.”

  2. The minister in him was so pronounced, deeply curious about, & hoping to conjure, psychic and/or emotional and/or critical improvement in everyone he met.

He was so inexplicably kind to me.  That I survived my twenties says so much about his rigorous editorial eye and the quality of his friendship.


Oliver Ristau

  1. That day when Tom added my belated contribution (HERE)
  2. That day when Tom allowed me to do some extended asides (HERE)
  3. That day when Tom announced the dumbest FFF ever (HERE)
  4. That day when I became a long distance contributor to FFF (HERE)

  5. That day when I started my own FFF in desperation and Michel Fiffe adapted a famous line straight out of Tom’s rulebook (HERE)

Five for Friday forever!


Heidi MacDonald

  1. Tom and I had a complicated relationship. If you look back at old Beat comment sections you’ll see us squaring up often. No quarter asked nor given – and thank god the TCJ.com message boards are wiped from the internet because ….oh mama. There was pettiness, condescension and passive aggressive behavior on both sides, and I was no angel. On my side my ire was stoked back in the aughts on one of the very first “blogging” panels I was ever on. I think it was in Chicago? It was me and Tom and Mark Evanier, maybe. Tom mentioned that he got all his blogging for The Comics Reporter done in a few hours every morning, and I internally called bullshit because I woke up and worked all day and then all night and tumbled into bed at 3 am, thinking about The Beat all the damn time.The reality was, though, that I was jealous that Tom was faster and more organized than I would ever be, and made far fewer typos and always found perfect images and could spit out vivid metaphors on command.  While I struggled to write a daily link blog post, Tom had editorial features and monthly series, and things like Five for Friday that we’re emulating now. Tom was hard on me – links to The Beat were often scoldings – and on the early, rare occasions when he’d link to something I wrote with praise, it was well-earned and secretly, my day was made.I sometimes joked privately that for comics journalists Tom was the angry Irish dad and I was the wacky socialite mom. He was principled and I was a pragmatist. Despite my being older than him, Tom was kind of “Old Skool” and I was more “New Things Now!” But we both wanted cartoonists to make a decent living and not slave away for droppings. As time went on we became less fierce rivals (because the internet passed by the blogging era and moved to other things that we both struggled against) and also because Tom was an innately kind and giving person. (See below) We found the common ground, and we were still finding more of it all the time. He graciously appeared on several of my “Comics Journalism” panels at SDCC (pictures of some are floating around the internet.) and even moderated one, asking hard questions of the whole panel. Tom was always telling us we had to do better, which was and is hard, but is the only reason to keep doing this. Tom was also incredibly hard on himself, much much too hard on himself. But he made me be harder on myself and made me better. I didn’t always enjoy it, but it was needed.
  2. Back in the day I wrote that I couldn’t find a CD of the ballet scores Orpheus and Apollo by Stravinsky at Tower Records, and Tom bought the CD and sent it to me. I promptly ripped it for iTunes and still listen to it and think of him every time.
  3.  Another time, I mentioned in a post that my computer needed costly repairs. Tom did one of his “consider giving” posts, even though I hadn’t asked for it (and this was before Indiegogo etc.) and the response paid my rent for several months. One unknown benefactor actually sent me enough to pay the rent by himself. It was money that was badly needed and kept me going through a very rough patch. Thank you for that, Tom.
  4. Our last conversation was at SPX. He was at Baltimore and apparently I passed him on the street but didn’t see him. I looked for him the next day at the show, but didn’t see him and didn’t have a chance to talk at the Ringoes. I expected to see him at CAB but he wasn’t there…I sensed that maybe something was amiss. At SPX, as always, we had a quick shot of gossip, some observations about the kids, and as always he asked “How are you doing?” in a way that indicated that he really cared about the answer. Later he told me that Olivia Jaimes was at the show – was he trying to get me to search for her? Perhaps. I still don’t know who she is, and he took that secret to the grave.
  5. Given his prep work, the birthday greetings are still rolling out posthumously on The Comics Reporter. It’s a bit eerie.Today is my birthday but you would never see a birthday greeting on TCR for me.Tom did it once, and listed my age. Society is not kind to women as they grow old, and back then I didn’t want it listed – and to be fair Tom had dug up my birthday on an INCREDIBLY OBSCURE forum that I had to sign in to. I asked him not to run my age but he said that’s how he did birthdays. So I never got any more birthday greetings on The Comics Reporter.I was going to mock up a “Happy 58th Birthday, Heidi MacDonald!” post but that’s the kind of self-serving grandstanding that I know annoyed Tom.I so wish he was here to post it himself. Tom, I promise I will keep trying to do better.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom at Comic Con several years ago. We had exchanged emails prior and he was just as friendly in-person as he was electronically.
    Tom was always helpful to my Collected Comics Library podcast and would gladly post a link to my site whenever I would ask him to or he thought it was something that someone else would like.
    As a collected edition guy I always looked for for to his weekly I also like his weekly “This Isn’t A Library: New, Notable Releases From Comics’ Direct Market”. Tom was always a tough critic and I don’t always agree with his takes.
    I’ll miss his “Five For Fridays” and I was honored to be included on his “Happy Birthday” shout-out every year.
    Little know fact about the The Romita Legacy book: Tom was unable to full-fill his contract so I was brought in to finish the second half of the book with interviews with John Romita Jr. Tom and I emailed each other over this and I’m forever thankful that he was so cooperative that the book was finished. He will be missed.

  2. I cried when I found out. I only interacted with Tom a handful of times through e-mail and Twitter, but he was always so kind and gracious to me.

  3. I remember enjoying being on a panel or two with Tom back in the early 2000s. At the time, when SDCC was on the rise, I mentioned something about what I thought was the media’s condescending use of the terms “geek” and “nerd” to describe everything associated with comics. Tom made it clear this issue was completely unimportant to him.
    When I worked at Variety in the early 2000s, I edited a special report on Stan Lee. I had read and really enjoyed the book Tom and Jordan Raphael had written about Stan, and I called up Tom to see if he wanted to write an article for the section. He sounded very pleased with the offer, but refused, saying he wasn’t sure if Stan had gotten over some of the things in the book enough to speak with him for an article.
    Tom always had good recommendations for new comics readers, and I remember him recommending Las Mujeres Perdidas as a good L&R volume for my wife to try out. I wished I had thought of that first … ;)
    I wrote something in which I referenced the way the Image Comics founders had struck out on their own at least in part to find creative freedom. Tom commented and made sure I acknowledged the financial toll that early Image’s frequent failures to deliver had on the industry, and he was right.
    I was stunned that he put up my old blog’s logo every year with a birthday wish. Few of us who write and edit for a living are anywhere near that organized or that thoughtful that they’d extend their efforts far and wide enough to include me. I was a die-hard TCJ reader in the 1990s and I always enjoyed reading Comics Reporter. He is missed.

  4. Tom’s book about Stan Lee is worth seeking out and reading. Hardcore Lee apologists hated it, but I thought it was fair and balanced.

  5. As somebody who occasionally contributed to the 5 for Fridays, I’ll add mine.

    Exchanging e-mails with Tom about weight loss and gaining it back again, which was something we both went through.
    Meeting him at San Diego and discussing what were the best panels I had seen so far.
    Responding to his “Do You Know Me?” TCAF Unidentified Photos and helping him name a handful of people.
    His thanking me and linking to my coverage of smaller shows like King Con and more recently the Guelph Comics Jam.
    His defense of comic books stores. Writing that if they didn’t exist, we would all wish that they did.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.