3 years ago today I heard one of the most shocking things of my life.
Mike Wieringo had passed away. From a heart attack.
Mike Wieringo was. NO. Mike Wieringo IS my favorite artist ever.
Mike was 44. Mike was a vegetarian. Mike worked out. Mike was healthy. It was a freak thing. Taken before his time.
Mike Weiringo was personally responsible for my appreciation for comics and art as I know it.
June 1995. Robin issue #19. I remember I was excited because I thought Tom Grummett, who had drawn the majority of Robin 1-14 (aside from a few issues drawn by the Fabulous Phil Jimenez -and i’m going to give him the biggest hug if I ever meet him!- and a few issues drawn by the also taken before his time Mike Parobeck.) was coming back, but after I opened the book my mind was blown. No it wasn’t Tom, BUT it was amazing. IT was literally like animation frozen in time. I’d never seen anything like it. The energy popping of of each page was incredible. It was nothing I ‘d ever seen. It was Mike Wieringo.
At this point I was only reading one comic, Robin. I adore Robin. There is no other comic I hold in as high regard as Chuck Dixion’s run of robin 1-100 (even when I found out he was basically aping Stan Lee’s Amazing Spider-Man 1-100.) I mean, Tim Drake was a real person to me. He messed up. He had to lie to his dad. He had to lie to his girlfriend. He had to deal with the equally hot Spoiler! I mean, Robin getting trapped underground and missing his date, who instead blew him off and went out with another guy and then he FELL ASLEEP when she tried to come clean! oh my god! (my love of Robin and the whole Dixonverse of Batbooks will have to be the subject of another post!). Over the next year, Mike only drew maybe 7 out of 12 subsequent issues. Every issue not drawn by Mike was a disappointment. He finally left interiors for good at issue 31, but, he stayed on covers until 46. The book never seemed the same to me. Follow up artist, Staz Johnson, was acceptable, but not Mike. It wasn’t until Pete Woods came on at issue 75 that the book picked back up speed. (but again, another post)
I’d missed Mike’s earlier run on Flash (where he co-created Impluse, who would go on to become one of my FAVORITE comics ever even if HE didn’t draw it) with the un-comparable Mark Waid. The greatest issue during this run was Flash #0 where Flash goes back in time only to run into 9 year old Wally West and essentially gets to do tell himself that “no matter how much life sucks now, it’s going to be AMAZING, just hold on” a story that even to today, brings me to tears (that’s going to be the recurring here).
After leaving Robin, Mike bounced around here and there, a Rouge mini, and so on, before finally landing on the one book that would change everything for me.
Up to this point I was solely a DC kid. And primarily a Batman kid, at that. I knew Spider-Man, I liked Spider-Man. I’d just never read a Spider-Man comic.
Sure, this time in Spider-Man history is generally regarded as the WORST time in spider-man history (despite the fact that each Spidey book was drawn by an AMAZING artist, Mike, Steve Skroce, Luke Ross, Romita, Jr, Joe Beneitz!), but I didn’t care. I loved every issue. Well every issue Mike drew. Like Robin, he wasn’t there for every issue, but it was enough to keep me entertained. To this day when I think of the definitive version of Spider-man, it’s either John Romita, Sr. or Mike.
After Marvel decided that they weren’t done killing Spider-Man and decided to fire everyone and hire the two guys who would only ruin it more, Mike and his Sensational writer, Todd DeZago jumped into Self publishing with Tellos.
Tellos, at first seemed like just another Battle Chasers (that’s ANOTHER story) knock of. A sword and sorcery book. Nothing too special, right? Except it had a tiger. And it had one other thing going for it. After 8 issues of subtle hinting and clues we get a bomb dropped on us. WE find out exactly what is going on. And it hits you right in the gut. Another issue that I openly admit brings me to tears.
After 10 issues of Tellos, Mike went back to regular comics, and back to DC for, well his last time, with Adventures Of Superman with the FREAKING amazing Joe Casey. A run that I enjoyed but was surprised to learn that Mike was not really a fan of. Most notably, infamous for an issue released on September 12, 2001, featuring the twin Lex Corp Towers broken and smoking.
After Superman, Mike returned to Marvel and working with Mark Waid to do the work of his career. And possibly some of my favorite comics, ever.
Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four is my favorite comic ever. EVER. Nobody knows this. More than Spider-Man. More than Batman. More than ANYTHING. Despite the fact that they’re awful, I still secretly love the FF movies because they’re the FF. (although, really, the INCREDIBLES is the best Fantastic Four movie.)
Mark and Mike went in with one issue (which was only 9 cents!) fixed every problem with the Fantastic Four. And then they did it again the next issue. And again. And again. And then they were fired.
And they were immediately hired by DC again to do.. well as much as I can tell either:
Eventually, the powers at be at Marvel wizened up (and fired the guy who fired them) and they were rehired to complete their run.
A run that ended up featuring the team meeting God, who was, naturally Jack Kirby. Doctor Doom reuniting with his lost love ONLY TO KILL HER AND USE HER SKIN AS MYSTICAL ARMOR! Franklin Richards trapped in IN HELL! Spider-Man stealing Johnny Storm’s pants! And issues explaining not only why Mister Fantastic pretentiously calls himself Mister Fantastic but also dealing with how guilty he feels for turning his wife and best friends into freaks, both of which naturally bring me to tears.
After FF ended, they were set to move directly on to Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, a book created especially for them, but instead Waid left (most likely after hearing Marvel’s idiotic Spidey plans, went and did Legion at DC, only to have DC reboot Legion AGAIN 5 isues in. .) and Wieringo stayed on with Marvel and Peter David, instead, (David, had been offered Spidey in the 1980’s only to be fired before the ink dried was super excited for the chance!) both of them tried to do the best they could but nothing notable came from it. After a year, Mike left and bounced around Marvel. He did a couple of issues of Ms. Marvel and a Spider-Man/Fantastic Four mini series.
and That was it. Mike died shortly before issue 4 of Spidey/FF came out.
His last unfinished project (more Spider-Man/FF) was eventually finished by his friends as a charity book for a Scholarship Fund.
An interview book/artbook series, Modern Masters had just completed a volume on Mike. I was halfway through reading it when he died. I’ve never been able to finish reading it.
A Tellos collection, (scheduled to set up a second series) unfortunately shipped a couple weeks after he passed. I’ve never even cracked it. It’s sitting on the shelf next to me. I can’t bring myself to read it.
As much as it seems to say it, because this was a person i’d never met, his death really affected me. No artist influences me more. Practically everything I draw is inspired by him. My version of Spider-Man is 100% Mike Wieringo’s Spider-Man, a terribly amateurish version, but still.
There was an energy and feeling that his comics brought to me and I’ve never been able to recapture since his passing.
So there we go. It was long, and rambly, and 3 years overdue. But, there it is.