Monday, August 13, 2007

Remembering 'Ringo 

When the phone rings before 7 AM, a small pit forms in your stomach as you scramble for the phone thinking "this can't be good news." Of course, nine times out of ten it's a wrong number or empty air.

Today was that one other time.

I can't really believe Mike Wieringo is gone. It isn't real to me yet. He was in great shape. He exercised regularly. He complained about working long hours (like all of us!) but never about feeling tired or weak. Hell, we talked on the phone two days ago and it was just another chat with 'Ringo. I had no idea what was around the corner. Neither did Mike.

I had the honor of working with Mike as a writer and as an inker-- in fact, I probably inked more of his pages than any other penciler-- and he was a joy to work with, every panel, every time. His work was deceptively simple-- there was so much knowledge and thought in every single line he put on paper. His work had a subtlety and sophistication that I really wasn't aware of until I began inking him on a regular basis. Then I noticed things like a small waver in a line indicating a muscle just starting to tense, or a tiny nick next to an eye to show slight annoyance or the beginning of a smile. His characters moved and breathed. His storytelling was crystal-clear. The worlds he brought to life were breath-taking. And whenever I inked him I tried my damnedest to capture all of that; to not screw up anything he'd given me.

Mike was one of my biggest boosters. God love him, he thought I was the very best inker for his pencils. The first time I worked with 'Ringo was as a writer/inker on a one-shot called Spider-Boy, and we were always trying to think up other projects that I could write-and-ink for him. More recently, I'd been stretching my penciling muscles, and Mike was nothing but encouraging and supportive. As I've developed my own sense of storytelling and pacing, the fact is no one has influenced me more than Mike.

The last time I talked to Mike we agreed that both he and I drew "action" not "violence" and, unfortunately, that limited our commercial viability in today's market. Mike commented, a bit bewildered, that only a few years ago his style was "The Look" that all the editors wanted to give their characters, but somehow, suddenly, that had changed. I'd been thinking about that a lot, even before I got the news about Mike, and this is what I decided-- this is what I was going to tell Mike the next time we talked:

Mike's art was about hope, not hopelessness. He drew heroes, not martyrs. And if that was wrong, thank you Mike for never being right.

I have a lot of framed original art on my walls, almost none of it pieces I've worked on. It just seems out of place to me to hang something I've worked on next to a Caniff or Kirby. The one exception is the cover to Fantastic Four 517, penciled by Mike Wieringo. It's my all-time favorite comic-book series, from a run I am very proud to have been a small part of, penciled by an exceptional artist and dear friend.

And it's never coming off the wall.

Karl Kesel
August 13, 2007


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