0804-02-John and Arthur.jpg
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.


  1. Thank you, dear one.

    And then there’s the time he sand the Little Lulu theme song at a Friends of Lulu party.

  2. Lovely tribute, Heidi. I knew I had “made it” when I was invited to one of those wonderful Chanukah donut parties. I grieve for Martha and Art and I will miss John fiercely.

  3. So very sorry for your loss, Martha. I see from Heidi’s tribute that you must have many happy memories to enjoy.

  4. I first met John through volunteer work many moons ago at MoCCA and always had great fun talking with him. I found John not only knowledgeable and witty (as already noted) but also friendly, generous, and quite willing to roll up his sleeves or lend an ear. Like Heidi, I’d fallen into different circles in recent years so I was unaware of John’s illness and find this sad news indeed. With fond memories and sincere sympathies.

  5. My condolences to Martha and John’s family on this sad event.

    Those early Friends of Lulu years were pretty wild and I still have fond memories of the people I had the pleasure to meet.

  6. In addition to knowing every conceivable detail about animation (and comedy) John knew the location of the most delectable and digestible morsels of deliciousness in Manhattan (and probably some other cities that I never got to visit with him). What could be better than gourmet lunch with intelligent conversation and a surfeit of smiles? We should all continue to celebrate that tradition with love.

  7. John learned to read by reading his comic books. He would ask me “What does YOU spell.”I would tell him “YOI”. After spelling the words a few times, he put it all together and read.

    He would have read the phone book if no books were available.

    I will miss him forever.