Thursday, August 12, 2010

Three Years


Today is the third anniversary of Mike’s death and I still can hardly believe it. I remember getting the phone call that Sunday night with near perfect clarity. I never really went through the “anger” stage (I felt too beaten up for that) but now, if I think about that night too much I do feel the need to break something. It passes quickly, thankfully. What has also passed is that weird phenomenon where I would start an email to him only to remember that it was pointless and feel an overwhelming sense of loss every time. Now there’s just the occasional, unbearable need to ask his advice on something and knowing I can’t. Suzanne and I still miss him terribly and, every once in a while, we’ll just look at each other and realize we were both thinking about him at the same time and we’ll sigh. If we’re home, we usually snatch up Charlie and mercilessly subject him to that “Rockabye Baby on steroids” thing Mike would do to him while going, “EENH-EENH-EENH-EENH!” We had forgotten about that until Todd showed up in Durham the week Mike died and demonstrated it for us. We laughed our heads off and I think that was the point that we realized that, as bad as things were, we might be all right.

As August 12th has approached, I’ve found myself listening again to the Fanboy Radio interviews Mike participated in, sometimes by himself and sometimes with Robert Kirkman or Skottie Young. It’s just so nice to hear his voice and I’m really grateful that he did them. And I found a way to download the videos of him on YouTube, shot when he was on a convention Spider-Man panel with John Romita, Sr. He doesn’t talk much but he’s there. I don’t know if all this is healthy but it has helped, though I haven’t quite gotten up the nerve to re-read his MODERN MASTERS book.

But I don’t want this to be too sad so I’ve posted above a drawing Mike did for me after I graduated college and he still had a year to go. We started at the same time but, while all of my community college credits transferred, some of Mike’s didn’t. So his stay at VCU was extended. I don’t think he minded. Mike had to work to save up for college, which was why we were able to attend at the same time. (Like most things in life, I had college handed to me on a silver platter when my parents came into some money just when I was ready to go.) In his mid-to-late twenties and prematurely gray, he always felt like the “old man on campus” but it was a beneficial time for him. He was exposed to other art forms and other creative people. He was taught by Don Early, one of the best figure drawing teachers in the country. And working to pay his own way, I believe, taught him the work ethic that carried over into his comics career. Mike may have been slow but nobody could say he was lazy. He didn’t sit around playing video games or watching movies when he should have been working. He started early and finished late. He was just a perfectionist.

Mike was always working on his comics portfolio, even during school. He’d finish a set of pages and then start on the next, usually discarding the earliest set as unacceptable. If you’ve ever seen his pre-career sample pages, you’ll see a lot of the style evident in the New Warriors piece. Mike was in his Brian Stelfreeze phase and was trying to emulate him. And he was also trying to work in (against his own preference) some of that cross-hatchy, fussy stuff that was all the rage, hoping to appeal to editors. But (if I remember correctly) he had seen some people at conventions show portfolios with lots of panel-to-panel continuity but with the occasional pin-up or two to punch up their presentation. He decided to do that and started cranking out glorious pinups of Dr. Strange, She-Hulk and some others.

My senior year in college, my girlfriend at the time was digging on the drawings and, though he couldn’t quite bring himself to like her, he told her she could have one as sort of a peace offering. She picked an awesome color drawing of Starfire from the Teen Titans. Much to my eventual regret. We didn’t end well and I can only imagine what happened to that piece. I have a photograph in which you can see it hanging on the wall in her dorm room but you can only just make out what it is.

I really wish I had that drawing.

In 1991, I was working a horrible job at a catering company, really putting that filmmaking degree to good use, and had an apartment right across the street from Mike’s. I was over there all the time, as soon as I was off work. I’d pop in and play videogames with Mike’s roommate Ron and our friend Quentin and just hang out. I’d graduated college without a plan, without any real goals and still months away from meeting Suzanne. I was coasting through life. But not Mike. As always, he had a goal and a plan to achieve it. Whenever I dropped in, Mike would be diligently sitting at his table, working on his drawings. Either for class or for his portfolio. I wish I’d ever had one-tenth of his drive. At some point during this, and my memory fails me at this point, Mike did the above drawing for me. It was probably for my birthday because we were both pretty broke all the time and I would always pester him for drawings. And, of course, there’s the whole Nova thing. Although Mike had the audacity to put him in that damned brown costume they had him in.

The note at the bottom promises the second half of the piece. As far as I know, it never materialized. I say “as far as I know” because, for some reason, I never got this one. I found it in a portfolio of Mike’s college-era work in his house. You can imagine how it made me feel. As soon as I found it, I knew I had to share. So here it is, folks. I know you’ll love it as much as I do.

I miss you Mikey. And thanks for the drawing.

21 comments:

emilio said...

Hey Matt,
Stopped by to let you know you're all in my thoughts today.

PJ said...

The reason I hadn’t replied to your last email was because I got to thinking about this very topic and had to compose myself, he is still very much missed.

Warren said...

Beautiful post, Matt.

Christian D. Leaf said...

Excellent memories, Mafus. Hold on to 'em!

Heywood Jablomie said...

Was thinking of you this morning.

This is a very nice post, thanks for more of your memories of Mike.

Sweet pic of the new warriors, I always liked them.

James Figueiredo said...

Hi.

My name's James, and I've been a fan of Mike Wieringo's work since I first saw it, many years ago - I believe the first story of his that I ever read was a Spider-Man arc where he teams up with Ka-Zar on the Svage Land. But it might have been a Flash story (I can't be sure, the publication schedule of American comics in Brazil was kinda screwy back then).

I was shocked when he died (he was one of the creators I admired that I fully expected to actually meet), and found your blog at the time. I've been reading regularly ever since.

Apart from it being a pretty cool blog on its own regardless of your connection to Mike, and your own art being pretty awesome, I wanted to thank you for sharing your memories of him with us, and for all the cool art by him you've been posting, that otherwise we'd never have access to. That is truly generous of you, and I'm very grateful that you're willing to do that.

Best,
J.

Rich Faber said...

I can assure you, Matt, that all of the emotions you're feeling are both healthy and normal. I watch videos and look at pictures too. The videos are the hardest. Those are the ones that hurt. I find it hard to hear the voice I miss so much, but it's also comforting at the same time. I'm happy to know that our Boy will always have those, so he can really see and hear his mommy.

After nearly a year, I still get the urge to call her to ask things like, "Hey, where'd you put that ..?" only to realize that she might have known, but I probably never will. You are very lucky to have these treasures that Mike unwittingly left you. I've found a few of those myself, and as rare as they are, they are most precious to me. I think you probably feel the same way. Cherish that art.

Today I'm going to the accountant to drop off the boxes of taxes that we were on the way to do two years ago, when we suddenly had to go to the ER. There's some closure in that, knowing it's the last piece of "normal" we had. A task that we began but didn't complete, before our lives changed forever. Like so many other things now, it's painful in and of itself for what it represents.

"Normal."

I miss that, and I'm sure you do as well. Keep doing what you're doing, Matt. It's all the right thing, and healthy. Trust me.

Peace, buddy.

Rich

Cully Hamner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cully Hamner said...

I was writing something about Mikey this morning for my own blog, and went to grab a pic of him to post with it. As soon as I saw it, I just burst into tears. I haven't cried over losing Mike in a couple of years, and I honestly thought I wouldn't again.

God, I miss that guy.

Squeeze said...

It's been three years. Some days it feels like ten and most days it feels like yesterday. I miss you two guys talking on the phone. I miss Mike calling Charlie "Cease-to-Be-Lowz" (all one word but I didn't know how to express it without spelling it phonetically.) I miss that we didn't get to tell him that we started calling Charlie "Cease to be Loud" when he used to meow really loud. I miss you guys laughing about something stupid that was the 'run-into-the-ground-du-jour'. I'm scared to death that folks will begin to forget who Mike was. Thanks to his friends who still keep in touch with Matt either by phone or email or posting here or on their own blogs about Mike. I'm going to fire up the Tellos app on my iPhone now and marvel at how beautiful the art is. And I'm going to give Charlie extra smooches tonight, much to his dismay. Maybe some extra catnip too.....

Josh said...

I was wondering whether that was an old drawing of yours or Mike's. It looks great. I think Nova's original costume is probably my favorite of the three I've seen, because the first time I remember seeing Nova was in the book How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, by Stan Lee and John Buscema. I decided some years ago that Mike was my favorite artist. Mike was one of the best. He always will be.

Brian said...

Squeeze,

Please give Charlie a belly scratch for me.

Adam Hutch said...

Matt, you guys were in my thoughts this morning.

That's a great find. I would've loved to have seen Mike on the New Warriors.

Leanne said...

Been thinking about you guys today. Thanks so much for sharing these memories, Matt. Mike is still so missed.

Paul Rogers said...

Hiya Matt & Suzanne, I'm hugging you both tonight. I loved, *Loved*, the Nova/New Warriors piece Mike did for you, I've never seen that before, what a treasure! Not a day goes by that Mike is not in my thoughts, as he is with you, your family and so many other people who knew, loved and remember him. Love you guys and Love to Mike. I Miss you buddy. Paul.

Joe Alexander said...

Matt, I cannot believe it has been three years. I still remember the way I felt that day. I was in shock, all the while at my workplace, not knowing how to share how I was feeling to anyone here. I feel for you, and let me echo everyone else here who has said that all of your thoughts are very normal and understandable. The extraordinary thing is that you share them with us. I love the insight you give, one that only a brother could.

So often we only get to see the artist in their professional role, and only after they have been "polished" enough to make it into the mainstream. When Mike started his blog, I loved it more than any of the others out there. Maybe because I'd had the pleasure of chatting with him so much. But I find that same pleasure reading your views, checking out your artwork, etc. I am especially grateful that you both allowed us into the world of seeing an artist develop and mature. I love the old artwork, how you share he had a Stelfreeze phase, etc. Things like that are the vulnerable insights that are really cool that you share with us.

I don't think I will ever go to HeroesCon without thinking about Mike, I know that. But I am so glad that you continue to share memories and reflections from time to time. Thank you Matt.

Tim Perkins said...

Hi Matt,

I wasn't able to post something here until just now, but I just wanted you to know that like the rest of the guys here, you are in my thoughts too.

I think we all react and handle these things differently and I see nothing wrong with how you are handling this by revisiting happy memories of your big brother.

If we miss his artwork and the fun it exuded then surely it is obvious you must miss him even more.

Thanks for sharing these memories and this great piece of art.

I think the tagline he included says it all.

Be well and have fun!

Best Wishes,
Tim...
("j)

todd said...

i read this when i got home the other night and just cried and cried. i wasn't brave enough to come back to comment until just now.
but, there--i'm crying again.

a beautiful post, matt--a wonderful tribute.

i never saw that new warriors piece either.

thanks!
love ya, brutha~!


"eenh-eenh-eenh-eenh!"

阮艳 said...

感謝分享 功德無量............................................................

陳嘉容 said...

woo ~ woo ~ thx alotsˋε ˊ..................................................................

华瑗泽 said...

It is never too late to learn.......................................................................