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RIP Anne D. Bernstein

Animation writer/cartoonist/comedy writer Anne D. Bernstein passed away yesterday after a long illness.

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Animation writer/cartoonist/comedy writer Anne D. Bernstein passed away yesterday after a long illness. Anne was best known for her work on Daria, the quintessential disaffected 90s girl, but she had a long resume of animation work. In comics she was the comics editor of Nickelodeon Magazine back in the 90s and had the distinction of doing the cover for the first issue of Drawn & Quarterly – their first ever publication.

Anne was one of my best friends. When we met back in the day she was working for Nickelodeon and I was working for Disney Adventures so a mock rivalry was set up that we joked about even though it was non-existent.

In truth, I was jealous of her greater freedom at Nickelodeon to hire indie cartoonists like Kaz and Sam Henderson to do kids comics – but I got to make Darkwing Duck comics so I guess it all evened out. Anne and I were two eclectic comics ladies in the 90s and beyond and at first it was a whirlwind of loft parties (CARTOONISTS LIVING IN GIANT DOWNTOWN LOFTS CAN YOU IMAGINE IT), art openings at Max Fish, comedy shows and all the other groovy things you could do even before the internet. I’ve always liked things that were weird and unexpected, and so did Anne, so a friendship was forged.

Anne was one of the most interesting people you could ever encounter. She was incredibly smart and funny. We were a lot alike but had very different tastes, although we both liked the classics – Clowes, Hernandezes, Panter. She was incredibly fashionable, with a wardrobe of stylish vintage clothing that she scoured stores to find. (When I moved to her neighborhood back at the turn of the century she gave me a detailed run down of not only all the thrift stores in the hood, but also what days they threw out their trash, and explained how to bleach old lace with lemon juice, something I wish I remembered how to do.)

She had amazing taste in mid-century everything and nearly all the furniture in her apartment was vintage. (In contrast, I put together every piece of furniture in my apartment myself except the sofa and the piano.) She owned a fantastic collection of books and comics and cool shit. I admired her ability to pare down her belongings to just the neat stuff, and she was incredibly knowledgeable about everything she collected.

Anne was, I suppose, a pre-Internet person, by which I mean the kind of person who knew all the cool stuff even before Google put it a click away. All her vast knowledge about the things she loved was scoured from books, experience and a network of people who shared her interests – it was analog and deep. Some would call this being an eccentric, but I can’t think of a more noble description. 

I tried to find a photo of her from one of our girl dates but Anne wasn’t the kind of person who photographed her food. We were so busy talking and laughing that we didn’t take photos, I guess. The photo above is from her Facebook page, which I don’t think she would have minded.

We had so many adventures together. Anne was always in the know about the most eccentric but appealing events going on, cartoon shows and puppet theaters. On one especially amazing evening we watched Mark Newgarden screen some of his vintage cartoon collection while a live jazz band improvised a soundtrack. On another we had drinks at a fancy cigar bar where every other female appeared to be an Eastern European young woman of the kind sometimes referred to as “yachters.” She tried to take me swing dancing one time and that was a complete disaster for me although she was cutting up the floor. And of course we hung out at San Diego and MoCCA and wherever New York cartoonists were gathered. 

She was so funny and fun and kind and sweet and smart.

I don’t remember exactly when Anne began to get sick but it was a mystery illness that came on and sapped her strength day by day, year by year, the kind of disease that was fatal but slow, and gradually took away her physical abilities, drop by drop. It was painful to behold, and Anne fought against it, sometimes in ways that seemed foolish, but looking back, she was living the only way she could, embracing life and experience to the last drop. I tried to help her out with tasks and errands as much as I could, which was taxing and tragic but necessary. Her last few years were greatly eased by her companion, Alan Kaplan, and I’m very grateful that he was there for her and I send my condolences to him for his terrible loss.

The last time I saw her was before COVID, when she was in a nursing home. She couldn’t speak, but we managed to find a way to laugh and joke anyway. It was a good day.

There’s a lot more to say, more memories to be treasured. I know no one who knew her will ever forget her, but I hope her work isn’t forgotten. She was a woman in comics and later animation when neither was very easy, and made work on her own terms – including writing The Daria Diaries. In his own memory of Anne, Jerry Beck quoted its last lines as a fitting epitaph for her, and I can’t think of anything better: “Lying here on my bed, staring at a fascinating crack in the ceiling, I consider the past year. I’ve left a place where I don’t fit in and moved to a whole new place where I don’t fit in. […] Anyway, the sun is setting, the moon is rising and I can hear the lonesome sigh of the wind outside my window – no, wait, that’s Quinn’s blow dryer. The future is an enormous question mark, and I don’t know what lies ahead. I only know that if it moves, I’m shooting it.”

I miss you, Anne, and I won’t forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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