A post from my old Marvel blog written the day after the passing of artistic great Mike Wieringo. I don’t have a scan of the What If page mentioned in the piece.
Unless you’ve been spending your time away from the Internet, or you only get your information from Marvel.com, you’re already aware of the event that’s been haunting all of us these last two days. Sunday night, my friend, Marvel artist Mike Wieringo, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. He was 44 years old.
Outside of possibly Ralph Macchio, who edited Mike’s long run with Todd Dezago on SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN, I’m probably the guy here on staff who worked with him the most. And no two ways about it, he was a favorite of mine, both as an artist and as a person. There are a small handful of single comic book issues that I feel represent the pinnacle of what I’ve accomplished in this business; Mike drew more of them than any other artist. He was the valued penciler on a FANTASTIC FOUR run with Mark Waid that’s my absolute favorite series of books that I’ve ever had a hand in.
Other people will give you the facts; that Mike was a vegetarian, an animal-lover of extraordinary sensitivity—he felt more strongly about his cat than just about anything else in the world. And Mike was fit, exercising regularly to try to counteract all of the long hours spent hunched over a drawing table. There was no outward sign of any illness, any weakness—in fact, mere hours before the cardiac episode that took his life, Mike posted the page at the left to Marvel’s FTP server, for a WHAT IF story he had been working on. He did suffer from chronic back pain that sometimes made it difficult to get work done, but as far as anybody could tell, that was the worst of it. There was no warning, no indication of any possible difficulty.
Mike was like his artwork: open and inviting and cheerful. He was a favorite at conventions, both of the fans who’d come and speak to him, and for whom he’d dash off quick sketches, and of his fellow professionals, many of whom he mentored and counseled as they broke into the industry. Mike genuinely loved comic books and the work he did, even during those times when it seemed like he was out of step with the industry, his work labeled as too cartoony or too childish.
And now he’s gone, suddenly, irrevocably. And, in some grim irony, I’m reminded of Mark Gruenwald, another healthy, vibrant comic book creator who inexplicably passed away eleven years previously, to the day, at the age of 43. August 12th is not a good day to be working in this industry—especially not the young at heart.
If there’s anything to be taken away from this event, any lesson to be learned, then I suppose it’s this: enjoy life. Savor it and treasure it. Figure out what makes you happy and do it—don’t waste any time. Because there are no guarantees.