Remembering Michael Turner

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, one of my favorite comic book artists, Michael Turner, had passed away at the age of 37. I had been a fan of his for as long as I could remember - his career was taking off a few years after I had started collecting comic books.

My first love will always be Jim Lee, but Mike will always be a personal favorite. I loved his art, it always made the stories better. Witchblade was my favorite book when it started out. He even got better when Fathom came out. When he broke off from Top Cow and started his own company, I followed.

What made Mike more of a role model than his incredible art was his spirit. As I just said, I loved Fathom - the book he had created. There had been several months that had passed since I had seen a new issue (which, in comics, really isn’t all that unusual). During a trip to my comic book store, I mentioned to my LCS guy, “What’s up with Fathom? Why’s it so late?” to which he answered, “Dude, didn’t you hear? He has cancer!” Of course, I felt horrible.
That was in 2000. One removed hip, three pounds of removed bone, physical therapy, radiation and too many health ups and downs to count later, it’s 2008. In that time, his star continued to rise. He did the covers for DC’s Identity Crisis (right) as well as a story arc for Superman/Batman. Any comic that he had a part in saw an increase in sales. He was still attending conventions, and the lines for his autograph were always packed. Even though he was in pain, he still pushed on. He didn’t HAVE to work…he could have just sat on the side and let others in his company do the work. But he loved it, and he loved the fans. He had his special cushion-y chair to sit in as he did autographs and the occasional sketch, and he always did it with a smile.

Throughout the years of reading comics, going to conventions and living on the West coast, our paths had crossed several times, leaving me with some wonderful memories of the man who other artists remarked was “one of the best of us.” Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • When I first met him at the Chicago Comic Convention many years ago, he had really liked my thumb ring, which had waves on it (Fathom, underwater, waves, get it?). He jokingly asked me if he could have it, and I replied for $15 he could. He then asked to try it on. He put it on his pinky, and it got stuck. After much pulling and laughing, we got it off, and he drew this marvelous sketch for me in return for my troubles. He rarely did quick sketches for people, since there were always a lot of people in line - I was lucky that his finger got stuck!

  • The year the Mike started his own company, Aspen MLT, me and my sister Fatima were lucky enough to get to work at their booth during the convention. It was a ton of fun! I had to leave early because I had to catch a plane to LA. I’m sitting at the airport talking on the phone and reading my comics, when who saunters over to the gate but Mike Turner! So I sneak up to him and ask him to sign my book. He looks up, surprised, and laughs. He invites me to sit and chill with him before the flight. He got on the plane before I did, but when I boarded I passed by him and he waved hello. Of course, my seat was pretty much in the back of the plane. Once we landed, it was a while before I actually got off the plane. But as soon as I got into the terminal, who’s standing out there waiting for me? Mike! He actually waited for me to get off the plane and walk with me to baggage claim. I was really touched. Then once we got there the president of X-Systems (my boss) came up to me and in my head I prayed that he wouldn’t yell at me in front of Mike Turner, which he didn’t. Anyway, he didn’t have to wait for me - I’m sure he was excited to get home and he was probably really tired. But he did, and for that he will always have a place in my heart.

    At the convention this year, the day after he passed away, a bunch of artists took turns sitting at his booth doing free sketches for fans in his honor. It was really touching to see people who had worked with him, who called him friend and brother, come together with hugs and tears. If there was one thing I knew for sure about Mike, is that he surrounded himself with good people. I definitely missed my Aspen people this year - Peter, Frank, Mark, Vince and everyone else, and the booth was so empty without them. So it helped to see all of these talented artists come together.

    If you’d like to read other artists speak about Mike, click on this link. It has artists who had worked with Mike, as well as those who only knew him in passing, and some of them were Mike’s closest friends.

    I guess another reason why his death has hit me so hard is because it reminds me of my mom. She had a long battle with cancer, but she fought it. In the end, it was just too much. But after her passing, I had realized how much she had touched the lives of others, how much other people loved her.

    Cancer sucks.

    Rest in Peace, Mike.

    If you would like to send condolences to Michael’s family you are encouraged to do so. Please send them to:

    Aspen MLT, Inc
    C/O Michael Turner
    5855 Green Valley Circle, Suite 111
    Culver City, CA, 90230

    His company Aspen Comics is also encouraging anyone wishing to do so to send a charitable donation big or small in Mike’s name to The American Cancer Society or the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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    2008-07-10 12:05:23

    Marie says

    Same here. I didn’t know Mike personally, but I know he has some great friends. This also brought back my aunt’s death, it hasn’t been a year since her passing yet. My father had a tumor in his throat, but luckily he got it out before it could advance.

    I just keep thinking, cancer is such an ugly thing. It’s not right for something like this to exist.

    2008-07-10 14:49:19

    Michelle says

    Thanks for sharing your memories of Michael Turner. I didn’t know him but I was a fan of his art. His talent will be missed but his spirit will live on in his family, friends, fans and comics.

    2008-07-16 10:27:43

    G says

    Mike Turner :( One of the guys that got me back into collecting comics.

    OT: Oh hey it’s me G, one of your Plurk buddies. Nice blog you got here– care to exchange links?


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