UPDATED: Comic Book Community Remembers Michael Turner
WWC: Remembering Mike Turner
The comic book community is still reacting to the passing of true superstar artist Michael Turner this past week, after his long and courageously public fight against cancer. As a tribute to Mike Newsarama thought we'd gather statements from Turner's fellow professionals, fans, and friends, many of whom (as you can see by the sentiments below) were all three at the same time.
The following is a compilation of reactions posted by pros on their blogs, made publicly at this past weekend's WizardWorld: Chicago, emailed to the comic press, or emailed or given to Newsarama.
If any pros or fans would like to express their own feelings here, you can reply to this story below and/or email your thoughts to email@example.com with the subject line "Michael Turner", and we'll update this tribute as appropriate…
You beat it buddy.
No what anybody says—you won. I know you’re in a better place now. There’s not a doubt in my mind. It’s what you’ve always done—transcend. And why would I expect anything different from you pal? Ever since I met you a decade ago, you’ve beaten everything that’s every stood in your path. Cancer? Please! That piece of shit was just the latest thing you toppled over on your way to a place far better than the crappy world we’re still stuck in. It’s what you were born to do Mike—win.
My earliest memories of you take place back in the Century City offices of Top Cow Productions, where you would play watchdog to Frank Mastromauro, David Wohl, and myself as we’d all sneak in games of NFL 2K1 in your locked and darkened office. I still remember the time we almost dove under your couch as Marc Silvestri banged on the door looking for his highly in-demand Witchblade creator. But I knew that when I was with you, I would always come out unscathed.
Mike, you always come out on top.
One thing you and I will always have is our classic Pop-A-Shot battles. Only a handful of people know that you and I had an endless feud of tiny rubber balls and rotating backboards. And even though I’d manage to sneak in a victory here and there, you never ceased to edge my best score before the night was out, taking the Pop-A-Shot crown home with you. Yet you never let me leave without buying me a sympathy beer for my losing efforts. Because even though you claimed victory in every facet of your all-too-short life, you remained the most genuinely caring individual I’ve ever met.
You’ve given me so many things Mike. You believed in me as a friend even when I was an eighteen-year old jerk out of high school ten years ago. You believed in me as an editor when I’d never been given so much as menial task at Top Cow five years ago. And recently, you believed in me as a creator at Aspen when I pitched you the most insanely ludicrous story ideas all the time. I owe my career in comics to you brother, and I’ll continue on knowing you’ll always believe in me still--no matter how far-fetched my goals are.
Speaking of far-fetched goals, when you started Aspen MLT, Inc, you resumed the role of watchdog, but now you oversaw a huge family of creators and artists instead of three slacking friends. But unfortunately, like all things in your life, it didn’t come easy. We work in an industry where people laude the efforts of superstars who created comic book studios in the 90s, when you could’ve sold crap on a toilet roll with a variant cover and still make a profit. But yourself and Frank Mastromauro started Aspen in 2003 when comic books were merely an afterthought to movies and video games, and oh yeah—you were fighting a legal battle for the rights to your own creation. But you beat the odds and now we’re celebrating our fifth anniversary this year. You guys are what I consider comic book idols.
The people closest to you knew this about you. It’s why we all secretly wanted to be with you all the time. Heck— we wanted to be you. You were what we wished we could be in our lives. You were giving when we were selfish. When things were tough you fought harder. You never backed down from a challenge, and you fought on with that trademark smile of yours. You forced everyone around you to try be better in our own lives.
A blessing I will cherish in my heart until that day we WILL meet again Mike is that I was able to old your hand one last time and have our last production meeting just the two of us last night. I know you’ll forever know the love and adoration I have for the worlds you created. You know I’ll keep my promise. Those worlds will thrive in the memory of your spirit my dear friend. Count on it.
And so will all the loved ones you’ve touched in your all-too-short time here Mike. From the brief encounters with your fans to your late-night parties where you brought all of together, we will never stop working to make sure your legacy lives on. You are bigger than this world Mike--you transcend us all.
You will always be in my heart Mike. Thank your for the time we had together and the future we will now share together forever.
I love you brother.
It is with tremendous sadness that I learned of Mike Turner's passing a couple of days ago. He was 37 years old. He was both too young and too great of a person to be gone so soon.
Mike was one of my favorite "convention mates:" fellow pros that I see three or four times per year, and with whom I share a few beers and swap con stories. Mike and I shared a love of pool -- he was a brilliant player, and we would literally take over a table and play game after game until we were either booted out of the pub or lost interest and went onto the closest video game. We were always talking about playing a round of golf whenever I was in L.A. He said he was going to make me cry like a big girl. I told him I was going to beat him with my eyes closed.
Then, Mike was diagnosed with cancer. He lost a portion of his pelvis to the disease. We still talked about our round of golf... the big throw-down would occur when he recovered. He said he wouldn't accept any strokes -- he was going to kick my ass anyway. I watched him endure all kinds of chemo, physical therapy, radiation treatments... and you just had to know Mike to understand how cool he was about the whole thing. He did not complain, not once. He continued to make fun of me and asked me if I would want strokes whenever we got around to the links. There was a time when we were both on crutches -- me after knee surgery and Mike after something a lot worse -- that we considered going out just for the hell of it.
In the last year or so, Mike's cancer took a lot out of him. He always smiled and joked with me but I could tell he was feeling a little rough around the edges. He told me he that when we got out, he was going to beat me with one of his crutches and a Pink Flying Lady ball. My enduring memory of Mike is from last year's Chicago convention: I was playing pool for charity, and Mike and I had lined up an exhibition match, best of seven. He showed up looking very tired, and the game took a lot out of him. I felt bad... I wondered if he wanted to cut the game short. "No f*#%ing way, dude," he replied. "Gotta finish the string out."
I will never feel that Mike lost his battle with cancer. How can you lose when you have that kind of attitude? Mike constantly kicked its ass, and the disease just cheated as far as I'm concerned. And in the end he won our bet: he made me cry like a girl.
I met Mike when we both worked at Top Cow many moons ago. He had the most infectious grin in the entire world…and loved to bate you with a vacant stare, like he wasn’t paying attention, when you where trying to tell him something really important…you’d get frustrated…then that “I got you” grin would come out. I think Mike used to play in the old days (really haven’t seen him much in the last few years…only a glimpse at shows here and there) like he wasn’t the smartest fish in the pond…but it was all a ruse…for those who knew him knew he was always thinking. I remember when he started as an artist…first just doing backgrounds for Marc Silvestri…he was veracious to learn all about the art form…who did what well, who did what not so well…who did no one really know about that he could discover…and then like a human sponge absorb all the good bits from each and make himself better…not in a copying way but in a “make it my own” way…that was the spirit I admired in Mike…he approached art more like a sport…to train…get better at it…then compete…try and kick the other guy’s artistic ass! But not in an egotistical way…but in a sportsman way…hell, he wanted to see you kick his artistic ass cuz that would only make him better the next time! And win, lose or draw there was always that grin
I found this the other day…a page from the Ballistic miniseries I wrote and Mike drew…just a xerox I did balloon placements on. This was his first real…I’m about ready to take on everyone effort…if you can find the issues take a look (but don’t read it…I wasn’t very good back then) You’ll see double page spreads that are simply grand…Mike could somehow make a double page spread twice the size of anyone elses! I know they are the same actual size but somehow he could magically make them look like double sized double page spreads! Check them out!
Mike you’ll be missed!
I had known Mike for years since my days at Wizard, but the last time I saw him was at a mutual friend’s wedding last summer. It was a black-tie affair so he was looking dapper in his tux, despite the fact he was on crutches. You know he was suffering being out of his comfort zone but throughout the ceremony and reception you couldn’t tell he was in any pain. He was always sporting that trademark smile, always made you feel like you were his best friend in the the world, always made it seem like where he was was the place to be. I had a great time with Mike that night, and just watching him made me believe he was really going to beat his illness. He was so full of optimism, life and happiness. I deeply regret I never saw Mike again before he passed away. But I take comfort in knowing he doesn’t have to suffer anymore. I’ll always remember you, Mike. Rest in peace. --Mel Caylo
As comic creators, we work in worlds inhabited by super-powered beings. We're surrounded in our daily lives by high-flying heroes and golden gods, mythic men and women who accomplish the impossible. In these escapist fantasies we know and love, good usually triumphs over evil. But sometimes, despite our best efforts to avoid it, cold hard reality creeps into our lives.
Michael Turner had been battling cancer for years. And much like the heroes he so beautifully illustrated, Mike fought an overcame the illness inside him on numerous occasions. He had the strength and the will to beat it back time and again. For those of us who knew him, it became almost an after thought. If Mike had a relapse, we took for granted he'd be back on his feet before long. We knew in the back of our minds that there was always the possibility things could take a turn for the worse, but that was never part of our reality. Until now.
Mike passed away on Friday. And with him, the worlds of his family, friends and fans immediately fell into darkness. His light, one that burned so brightly to everyone whose lives he touched, be it through his friendship, his smile, his attitude or his comics, was extinguished. We really did lose a hero that day.
Mike's death reminded so many of us of our own mortality. But through his spirit, his talent, his art and the memories of the good soul that he was, Michael Turner leaves behind a legacy that guarantees him immortality.
I never had the privilege to work with or meet Michael, despite how close in proximity we lived to each other. I did, however, have the pleasure of enjoying his art as a fan, which is the purest way, I think, one can appreciate another's work. His art was so beautiful, so evocative and unique, it had almost a musical quality to it. Yes, he drew attractive, even erotic, women, but there was more to his work than just that. There was a dynamism that made his stories a joy to read and his covers a wonder to behold.
Right now, I don't give a damn what Mike drew. I really don't.
I didn't know Mike as well as some did; I guess maybe I knew him better than some others. Enough to say hi and share a handshake or a hug when we ran into each other at conventions. Enough to know he was one of those guys who was graced, in some way, with something extra. The room was a little brighter when Mike walked into it, the party was a little better. He was the same whether he was on crutches and in the middle of treatment, or in remission, or frankly even before he was even diagnosed. He was upbeat and positive and smiling, regardless. He was a good guy, which sounds simple, but to my mind it's about the highest compliment you can pay somebody. Just a good guy.
I know a lot of people are looking back on his work, heaping deserved praise on his art and creativity. People are saying, "Wow, he was a great artist." Sure, but that's besides the point. That's why I say I don't give a damn what Mike drew, because that's nowhere near the full measure of the man. He was a much better man than he was an artist ... and he was a pretty damn good artist.
We'll miss you, Mike. But we're all better for having had you pass through our lives.
-- Ron Marz
Mike and weren't friends.
We knew each other through other people, and through reputation. But ask anyone who knew him, and they'll tell you the same thing, "He was a supremely sensational person."
The thought I always hold for Mike is this:
For whatever reason, if he and I were ever attended the same convention, he always took a minute to swing by and say "Hey." I don't do that for people. And he did. Always. That might not seem like much, but Mike at a convention is something to behold. Lines around the block, tons of sketches to be done, lots of handshakes and photos and comics to sign. He always made time for every one. Me included. He'd always find me. And every time he did, after he left, I would always say out loud that he, "...is such a great guy." And then, every time, a fellow creator and/or a fan would chime in and agree, and tell me some story why. A STORY. A specific anecdote. A nicety. A favor. A courtesy. Honest. This happened at every convention we both went to.
That might not seem like much, but it felt that way. They last time I saw him, when he made sure to come find me, he was on crutches.
And I'll miss that. I'll miss him. Gracious and wonderful people are in short supply.
Mike and I weren't friends. But I would have liked to have been.
Tony Daniel (from his blog: http://tonydaniel.blogspot.com/):
Michael and I never really got the chance to get to know each other and I regret that. We had a conversation or two, said 'hello' to one another at a con or walking to or from hotels. Much like my relationship with most other artists in the industry. I never belonged to a studio, and I've always enjoyed the solitude in my work.
What I do know about Michael is that he was a unique voice in this industry. He had a flair, a style and a passion immediately identifiable as his own. Not many get to achieve that. I've admired his work as the years went on. Especially knowing that he was battling cancer, the fact that he turned out beautiful work month after month. The fight to keep on, to be his best no matter what has left me in awe of him.
I thought of him a few months ago and I thought about writing him and wishing him well. I don't know why, I just had an urge to. I regret that I did not. I am sorry.
I know he has touched many, many people, including me, even if it was only through his example.
Rest in peace, Mr. Turner. The industry has lost some of its shine.
I am so sad to hear of Michaels Turner's passing. By all accounts he was a nice guy who had a special connection with his fans. I personally admired his ability to launch his own imprint and do it successfully. That's harder than folks think, and requires a tremendous amount of dedication, being both an artist and a businessman. In and around this workload, he was waging his battle against a terminal illness. Michael was an inspiration, and he will be missed. Jerry Ordway
I was only lucky enough to spend a few hours in person with Mike. But he dazzled me with his great intelligence, curiosity, and enthusiasm; by the absolute joy he took in the creative process; and by the easy, beautiful warmth and openness he radiated.
My deepest condolences to his family and his many, many, many friends.
-- Greg Pak
Though I never knew Michael personally, I've enjoyed his work for years, he was a truly gifted artist. I can only offer my heartfelt condolences for his family and friends and add my thoughts and feelings to those of the comic community at this very sad time.
There's so much that can be said about Mike. He was a good guy, a great boss and an amazing friend to have! If there was a hole that needed filling, Mike always seemed to know how to fill it and what size shovel to hand you. When times were tight, for all us kids in Top Cow's offices, Mike would buy us some lunch. If work was light, he always knew someone in comics or out that needed work done. There never seemed to be a shortage of excitement, fun, or adventure around Mike. Even when times were dark for Mike personally, he always seemed to have a smile and a funny line to throw out there to make sure you were smiling just as big as he was.
I found out about Michael Turner via text message at a small dinner party out on Shelter Island. My dinner companions were teasing me, assuming it was some new gig or contract negotiation or my agent with news or something else presumably important enough to interrupt our evening. But it wasn't. It was a friend telling me Michael had died.
The rest of the weekend I was in a bit of a daze.
I can't say I knew Michael very well; we'd been on a panel or two together; hung out at the bar at various conventions; and worked together, along with Jim Lee and Tim Sale, on the "Heroes" covers for TV Guide (I remember admiring his assertiveness in the conference calls during the planning of those covers, and how I wished I had the strength of will he did to just cut to the chase and get the job done). What I can say is that from the moment we met, he was nothing but kind to me. He was nothing but gracious during conversations in person or over the phone, and when I didn't recognize him after his chemo left him bald, he was absolutely game to joke with me about my shock upon realizing just who it was sitting next to me. I didn't know him all that well, but it feels so strange for him to be gone.
Mike was a really good, decent, talented guy. I'm really, really happy I knew him and got to work with him. And I'm really, really sad for all those people who loved him and admired him and got to know him and laugh with him and got to work with him, and don't get to do that anymore.
Gone at 37. That sucks.
I found out early yesterday that my friend Mike Turner had died of complications from the ongoing treatment of his cancer. He was 37 years old. I’ve spent the day sort of coming around to writing this.
I met Mike at the beginning of both our comic book careers, when we were working at the Top Cow studio in Southern California in the early 90’s. Mike quickly became a superstar with the success of Witchblade and helped Top Cow re-invent itself and flourish. He was one of the most driven to succeed guys I know, and he did so brilliantly.
Up until I moved to Florida in 1999, I would hang out quite bit with Mike both when I was a part of the Top Cow studio and also when I wasn’t. Mike was a standout in the studio very early on. He was always a friendly and fun guy, very competitive with the Playstation, and like all of us happy to be making comics for a living. He did well with the ladies, was talented and hugely successful at his chosen craft, and was an avid fitness and sports guy in a studio full of people like me who rarely left their drawing table except to grab fast food. I never begrudged Mike any of his success because he was always a great guy who worked hard and never put anyone else down. He could have, he was the big dog in the studio behind Marc Silvestri, but he didn’t. After I left Top Cow, I would still sometimes hang out with Mike at his condo when we were both on comics deadlines, watching movies all night and drawing, bullshitting, and occasionally finishing pages. Those were very fun times, and they’re times I have thought back fondly to over the years.
I remember when Mike first started complaining of hip pain when he would go mountain biking, but I had already left for Florida by then and was busy with the new CrossGen Comics when his diagnosis of bone cancer was first discovered. I saw him a few times a year after that, usually at conventions, through the ups and downs of his treatment. He was always the same Mike, always in good spirits, often tired but still friendly and positive. During those years he formed his own company with his own characters and was very dedicated to it, surrounding himself with like-minded good friends of his and doing very well. I know most of those guys, and my condolences go to them. They were a very tight crew, and this must just be devastating.
A lot of people are going to talk about how great Mike was as a comic artist, and that is true, but I am remembering a funny nice guy who helped make my time spent in Southern California some of the best years of my life.
Mike Turner died last night. He fought the same cancer my son Sam had for eight years.
He was 37 years old. His friends and family were with him.
There was never a nicer guy. There was never a greater pal. He was a friend and mentor to Sam. He's been a big brother to my daughter Audrey.
In terms of his legacy, in addition to the dozens of covers that he did for Marvel and DC, I'm pretty sure that the only interior work he did outside of Top Cow or Aspen was our 6 issues of Superman/Batman.
Bringing Kara back to the DC universe as she was originally intended, as Superman's cousin, was the story we told.
Supergirl now will always have some of Mike's joy and spark.
Doing Soulfire with Mike and Aspen was a blast. It was so inspiring working with him. Whatever he touched as a creator, writer or artist was the finest.
Did I mention he was the world's greatest guy? And there is a reason why the people at Aspen, like Frank and Peter and JT, are so loyal and of such fine character. Mike brought that out in everyone.
I know you know all this.. but I wanted to write to you and this is what came out.
Supergirl is crying right now.
I know that much.
Dan DiDio (who spoke with Newsarama in Chicago):
For me it’s a personal thing because Michael was one of the guys I considered a true friend in the business. He’s somebody I met when I first started here [at DC], when I didn’t know many others, and he embraced me like a long-time friend.
We worked a lot of things out and had great success together. And we stayed friends, even when he went to work for Marvel. None of that stuff mattered. Michael was one of the great spirits in comics, and just one of the all around good guys.
The last time I saw him was at Wizard World LA and he came in a wheelchair and he just looked worn and had the weight of the world on him… I literally said to him “What the hell are you doing here? “, and he said “I’m here for my fans. I’m here to see them .” It was important for him to be there. People responded well to him, and that’s just the kind the guy he is, and people remember him for that.
Mike Turner (cover artist on Identity Crisis and JLA) was always smiling. Always. And over the past few weeks – as I wrote to him and knew things were getting worse – I always tried to keep that in my head. He didn't have a cocky smile (and he'd earned the right to a cocky smile). It was a true smile. A real smile. But writing about smiles doesn't do him justice, so let me share the one story that does.
It was after we finished Identity Crisis. We knew we would be doing JLA together. That was always in the plans. And then he decided that he was going to start doing covers for Marvel. And so...man, I remember him telling me this story in L.A. like it was yesterday...he tells me that he's making this deal with Marvel. And then, the guy who he's negotiating with from Marvel says (as he should say): The only catch is, if you want this deal with Marvel, you can't do the JLA covers. You have to be just with us or the deal's off.
I choke inside because I assume this is where Mike tells me why he can't do JLA (and listen, I appreciate that that sometimes happens. That's the business).
And then Mike says to the Marvel guy, "Okay, then I'm out. Deal's off."
I can't believe it. As he tells me the story, it's clear he means it. He's fully ready to walk away from his entire deal and the crazy Marvel money.
And then Mike lets loose with this awesome smile – one of the best ever smiles and says, "One second later, they caved. I'm in for JLA."
I guess that's where the story was supposed to end, but of course, me being guilt-ridden me, I somehow feel guilty that JLA got in the middle of his negotiation, so I start telling him, "Listen, please...you didn't have to do that. I'd understand and..."
No, Mike protested. "I made a promise to you."
And right there...I can picture that moment...I'll never forget that moment. Right there, Mike wasn't just some guy who drew the covers and sold some copies. He wasn't the guy who could do that movie poster feel for your book (look at his first Flash cover), always making every 60 year old character suddenly seem brand new. He wasn't the guy who made every book we worked on jump off the shelf (think for a moment, he was the only true 'name' on Identity Crisis. Why do you think people picked it up from issue one?). And he wasn't just another superstar.
He was my friend. A good friend. And a friend who would've given up something he really wanted. For someone else. In life, those are the friends you treasure.
And I treasure Mike Turner.
I should also say, in all the time he was on JLA -- with all the sickness and all the crap he was going through, he was never late, never complained, never once did anything but be himself and smile.
He has no idea how much I'd taken his lesson to heart – long before today.
So forget the half-mast flag. Wear your smile loud and proud in his honor.
Rest easy, Mike.
There are no good beginnings to this story because it ends with the tragic loss of a great man. But then again, this is no story. My heart has been devastated by Mike’s passing on Friday after his long standoff against cancer. Reading the tremendous outpour of sympathy, everyone seems to agree that the comic book industry lost one of its finest. But that doesn’t even begin to describe it. The entire world has lost one of its finest.
Sure, Mike was an incredible artist. From the very beginning, it was clear that his skills were set at a different level. And with all the talented artists out there, to say Mike was among the best really speaks volumes about his work. His fans were legion, and come con season, his lines were endless. For over four years, I have had the privilege to sit beside Mike during signings. I saw firsthand the diehards who gathered hours before the signings so they could be sure to get a signature or two. And while I know they cherished his work and the comics they collected, what they really held dear was that chance to meet him and to talk to him...Because it wasn’t just about the art. It was the man himself.
Michael Turner had an aura about him. I know, it might sound corny, but those of you who had the pleasure to meet him know it’s the absolute truth. His positive energy shined a bright light onto anyone and everyone he came into contact with. He was smart; he was funny. And, when he got really excited about comics or a story we were working on, he’d get this big grin, his eyes would light up, and he’d say, “Dude…sweet.” He loved life and never let the darkness creeping around inside his body get the better of him. With all that admiration and success, it was also remarkable what a “regular” guy he was. Down-to-earth and humble, he never suffered from an excessive ego and truly appreciated each and every kind comment he received regarding his work.
In the game of life, Mike was an exceptional player. Did you ever know that guy who simply excelled at everything he did? Sure, a lot of it came through hard work and determination, but other aspects just materialized out of thin air. Be it table games, sports, video games or the like, he just got it (and don’t even get me started on poker – Mike was the only person to make me feel nervous when I held a flush in my hands during Texas Hold’em). I used to think, ‘this guy is just one lucky bastard,’ but over time I realized there was something else going on.
Being an avid hockey fan, I remember how Wayne Gretzky simply dominated the game. He was the Great One. Players, coaches, and commentators always spoke of his hockey-sense - the way he saw the ice and skated not to where the puck was, but to where it was going to be. Mike was that way in life. He just saw it better than anyone else I ever met. He was the Great One. He enjoyed every bit of life he could and faced adversity with a sense of strength and determination that was simply astounding.
I count myself extremely blessed to have been able to work with Mike for as long as I did. Every book we did together will forever hold a special place in my heart and mind. He was my collaborator and my friend, and I will miss him more than anything.
David Finch (who spoke with Newsarama in Chicago):
Mike was a great guy. I've known him for 14 years, ever since his first day at the studio. I remember him walking in the door. As a matter of fact, I was one of the guys looking at samples -- we were trying to find somebody, because Marc [Silvestri] needed a background assistant. That's actually how Mike started. We started as interns, just doing our own things. But Mike started specifically as a background guy. When he first started, he was a little sensitive about that for, what, maybe a week. Then he surpassed us all pretty fast. And you know, he never looked back. He redefined Top Cow, and really, all of us -- Top Cow guys especially -- he made our careers.
He was a good friend. He never complained. Ever. As a matter of fact, I haven't talked to anyone that he's said anything to. It's just not his nature. At the show, we knew he was sick. We were getting updates. We found out Friday night. I was at the bar with Marc Silvestri and Joe Benitez, and both those guys were there Mike's first day too. For Marc, Mike was like a son. Marc doesn't have kids. And all of us, even though we've kind of gone different ways, we're like kids for him. So of us, Marc is the most upset. This was really hard on him. It's a bittersweet day for Marc because his movie just came out. He's very excited about that. But then, I'm just glad we got to find out together.
Jim Lee (from his blog):
Image Comics ushered in a new generation of young, talented creators and one of the brightest, the most affable and most ambitious was young Mike Turner. He stood out because not only was he tall, handsome and smart as a whip, but because he had dreams beyond just comics and more importantly, made those dreams come true.
I liked Mike a lot. We socialized mostly after hours during cons but since he had family and friends in San Diego who I also knew, we had a chance to hang out here as well, and he was just a great guy to shoot the shit with. Like Dave Stevens, Mike made comics more glamorous and cooler ahead of its time. He also always made sure to put the fans first, and it's been truly heartwarming to read all the accounts and tributes to his good nature and his big heart.
I had known about his worsening condition for some time now as I work right next to Joel Gomez who was pals with Mike back when Joel worked at Top Cow and Aspen, but even that knowledge couldn't soften the blow of his passing. It is particularly bittersweet to me that his death fell during the Wizard World Chicago convention as that is where I remember him being at his very best many years ago. Not because of the long lines of fans waiting to just meet him (because that was a normal occurrence, really) and not because of an amazing cover or comic he had just published (again, there are too many to list as I was a big MLT fan) and not because he always looked like he was having the time of his life (which he truly was--I still remember hanging out at his condo in LA, marveling at the view and toys), but because he was on stage at the Wizard World Awards show with Sam and Jeph Loeb, inspiring everyone in the room with his determination to not let cancer take him down.
And even when it got bad, Mike still made appearances at shows, drew gorgeous cover after gorgeous cover, and damn if he still didn't make it all look easy.
Cancer took its toll but did not defeat him. Mike will continue to inspire, through word and picture, anecdote and hilarious, tall tale.
Rest in peace, Mike.
Man, that guy had charm. I saw it shine very brightly on the convention trip we took to Auckland, the most (and best) time I'd ever spent around Mike. We'd been hornswoggled into appearing together on an afternoon kids' show to promote the con, and only a few minutes before air did we find out that the hosts had been promising their TV audience all week that Michael would, taking suggestions from viewers calling in, design and draw a new super-hero live on the air.
I can think of a half-dozen comics artist who would have balked at this, particularly given the 300-second advance notice and NO DRAWING MATERIALS PROVIDED, but instead Mike and his posse cheerfully rounded up a half-punked Sharpie and some blank drawing paper from God knows where and made it all happen as planned. Mike was tired that day, and neither of us was particularly thrilled over how much we were being treated like trained seals (while Mike was drawing, I was answering comics trivia questions while having Nerf balls bombarded at my head), but Mike knew he was making kids happy, so he sucked it up. (He was a better sport about it than I was.) I was, in between the beanings, really impressed with the guy. He was one class act and a pleasure to be around.
I never actually met Mike, somehow, so all I know is how crushed Geoff Johns and Jeph Loeb are by this loss of their close friend, and my heart goes out to them and all Mike's other friends and family.
Marc Silvestri (from his Saturday panel introduction):
Our friend died last night, and it's a loss for everyone. It's an especially deep loss for people who knew him, because this was a unique individual, and personally, the strongest man I've ever met in my life. And that is not even remotely an exaggeration. Michael has been sick for a long time. He's been sick for years. But he never showed it. Not once. Hardly anyone knew he was really as ill as he was. He left us last night. I will miss him dearly. The industry will miss him dearly. He has given a lot to all of us, and what he is going to be giving to people who follow in his footsteps.
And Mike, you're never going away, brother.
Joel Gomez (from his blog):
I started my career as a comic book artist at Top Cow Productions assisting various artists on background duty to help maintain the ever-dreaded deadline. I was fortunate to be working in such a creative capacity, and even luckier to have known several superstars of the art form, including Michael Turner. I remember when I assisted him on Tomb Raider #25 … it was huge deal at the time, as Mike was returning to draw Lara Croft for the first time in a long time since his smokin' hot Tomb Raider/Witchblade crossovers. The book was a huge crossover event for Top Cow...featuring new characters, a triple team-up of Witchblade, Fathom, and Tomb Raider, all drawn by the company's top dogs.
A good number of us from the studio were planning a trip to Hawaii around the same time Tomb Raider #25 was to be done, including Mike and myself. Needless to say orchestrating such a crossover event with the multitude of artists and storylines....well, it was no surprise that 4 days before we were to enjoy our vacation there were 10 pages left to draw. Mike comes by my desk with this goofy grin..."Dude, let's put this puppy to bed! I think we could really kick ass on this book and cool our heels in Hawaii...whatta you say?".I was thinking "Wow, how are we gonna do it?" Of course I said yes. Mike says" Sweet....hey, round up the guys...lets do a couple a rounds of Halo."
We of course finished the book in the nick of time, Mike and I were up for two days straight working from his apartment till the 11th hour. We chatted about what ridiculous drinks with umbrellas we would by for one another just to keep us going...and of course there we were ,the very next day, cooling our heels on the beach. I look over at Mike and he gives me a nod and hang loose gesture as we toast our drinks, saying" you just gotta enjoy the ride, dude!" That was Mike...through and through he always found a way to rise to the challenge...find the positive in every situation...it was part of his charisma. And it was what I will miss most about him...
Billy Tucci (who spoke to Newsarama in Chicago):
It really, truly is heartbreaking. It's devastating. It doesn't make sense. It's not fair. He was one of the good guys. You know? He is one of the good guys. I told my wife, who was crying on the phone as I told her, the same reaction. There are so many jerks in the world and someone like him, who was so generous and warm and engaging and a really true friend... It's just terrible.
For anyone that might not have heard the news today, we lost one of the comic greats last night. Michael Turner, after waging a valiant fight with Cancer for the last 7+ years, Passed away last night at the age of 37.
To say I knew Mike would be a vast overstatement since I only saw him once or twice a year and it was usually just to say hello but I knew many of his friends very well and have come up in the industry hearing stories of Mike's kindness and devotion to his thousands of fans and the smile that always donned his face even when the Cancer he suffered from was at it's worst. year after year, even when in great pain, Mike would travel around the country to as many conventions as he could to show his appreciation to anyone that loved him or his work as well as pumping out cover after cover month in and month out even when the pain got so bad that he had to draw flat on his back. Mike set an example for all of us to follow whether it be work ethic or a general positive outlook on life even when things are at their worst.
They say that an artist is special because he or she is the only being in the world that is immortal. The works they create can live on forever far after the artist is gone. Mike proved this by showing all of us what is possible with hard work and determination and he created characters and worlds that will stand the test of time and keep him living in the artwork he drew.
If you knew Michael or his work, please take a moment tonight to pray for Mike as well as all the family and friends that are mourning his loss. If you're not familiar with Mike, please take a second to look him up and see the kind of art he created. We lost one of the great ones today at far too young an age and our industry is poorer for it.
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
Till we meet again,
Joe Quesada (from a statement read in Chicago):
In this all-access world, very little remains that one would consider is rare. Michael Turner was one of those things -- one of those individuals who come around once, maybe twice in a lifetime, a cut above the rest of us, special in every way, undeniably touched by God or whatever higher power you believe in. I had the good fortune of knowing and working with Mike, and because of this, I consider myself incredibly privileged, as it allowed me the opportunity to have been touched by his talent and grace, and for that I will always be thankful. Mike it was a rare pleasure. Godspeed.
Mike Perkins (who spoke with Newsarama in Chicago):
I'm saddened by the news of Michael Turner passing. I remember when he was first ill, and I was working on a Witchblade crossover. It was like this Aliens/Predator/Witchblade/Darkness overkill. I heard he was ill, and I was living in England then, so I sent him some nice Twinings Earl Grey to pick him up. I was shocked to hear he's not here anymore. And saddened.
J. Scott Campbell (from his blog:):
As many of you know, Aspen comics CEO, creator of Witchblade, Fathom, and Soulfire, and all around inspiring artistic talent Michael Turner died this weekend after a very long and courageous battle with cancer. Like many, this news came as a tremendous shock Saturday morning because despite the toll the disease had taken on him over the years, the guy always appeared to be healthier looking, more fit and tan, and just happier and more energetic than the rest of us at comic book shows. I truly believed he would outlive us all.
Many might be surprised to know that despite our very similar paths in life, I didn't really know Mike all that well. Sure, we spoke on the phone several times over the years, exchanged pin-ups and covers for each other's creator owned projects, and even came very close to being partners in the original Cliffhanger comics line-up in the late 90's along with Joe Mad and Humberto Ramos. But in the end, we just remained acquaintances, sharing pleasantries at conventions like passing ships in the night and catching up on each-other's goings on through mutual friends and colleagues. Which is why I'm a little startled at how much his passing is affecting me today. Perhaps it's because of those intertwined paths.
You see, we both broke into comics, Image Comics, around the same time and around similar ages in the early 90's. I joined up with Jim Lee's Wildstorm Studios, he joined up with Marc Silvestri's Top Cow. I was fortunate enough to have break-out success with Gen 13, he had breakout success with Witchblade. We also both seemed to simultaneously garner a mutual reputation for drawing sexy women in what would be defined as the "Image style", and seemed to be constantly linked and compared with each-other around this same time. later we both broke away to create our own very successful comic book sensations, Fathom and Danger Girl. Like I said, we just seemed to be linked in some sort of strange cosmic way, like brothers in comic-dom. Constantly competing with each others success, and ultimately, becoming much better craftsmen from that spirited competitiveness. bottom line, I think we made each other better artists.
When I first met Mike, I'll be 100% honest, I don't think we clicked. He seemed to be a bit arrogant to me, perhaps a bit full of himself for my taste. He just seemed to be good at everything and would make sure you knew it. But as the years went on I began to realize that I had Mike all wrong. He wasn't arrogant at all, he just had a lust for life. He lived life to the absolute fullest. No day, no time was wasted. The guy wasn't only a comic book artist, but an avid skier, a scuba diver, a trained martial artist, the list goes on and on. And what may have initially seemed like him being full of himself was really just an intense drive to be the best at what he could be. It goes without saying that the guy wanted to take on the world. Not only constantly taking risks with new creation after new creation but having the balls to create his very own comic book company. Trust me, you need to have a healthy ego to succeed in this business. You have to believe in yourself more than anybody, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, and Mike just really and truly believed in what he was doing.
I didn't know Mike Turner as well as I wish I had, but his life is a real inspiration to me and will continue to be. He's taught me not to let the "bad" in life get you down, and to pursue your goals and your dreams no matter what obstacles life throws in your way. And most importantly, to get outdoors, breathe in the fresh air and live every day to the fullest because everyday is a gift to be cherished.
You will be missed Mike.
J. Scott Campbell
CrissCross (from his blog):
I've gotten to a point in my life where i need to start recording people, places and things... because you just never know when the good times or great things will end.
You see this picture?
[editor's note: see the Flash image in the upper right-hand of this story]
I thought this was the coolest depiction of the Flash that i had ever seen to date. Why?
It's a simple piece, it's RED... can't beat that. And can't MISS that. I was looking for a FF comic and this cover pulled me right to it. I didn't buy that Flash comic, but i did notice it. Which is what one would go for when paired up against tons of other comics vying for your attention.
And it worked.
I think, in my personal opinion, that this piece is the best in Michael Turner's career. The composition, and the concept of it all just says..."FLASH!"
You can hear the music from the Flash TV series rippling in your head.
Definitely made me wanna create.
You know earlier when i said that I've gotten to the point in my life where i feel i need to record things?
I remember when Michael Jordan was playing basketball and a reporter asked Magic Johnson about how he felt about MJ as a player. And Magic said," You'd better get your VCR's recording, because he's only here for a limited time and then he's going to retire. And after that, all you're going to have are memories of arguably the best basketball player that ever lived. He's going to retire and that's it. No more basketball. Just slow motion video feeds of what he used to do."
I paraphrase of course. But what he said was true. All too soon, the best of what happens in a particular culture of life can be taken away from us. What you have left is the great works on which to pontificate, study and enjoy.
Michael Turner passed away from his battle with cancer at age 37.
I just had my 40th birthday party and someone asked me, "How does it feel to be the big 4-o?"
And I said, "Blessed that I lived to see it!!"
I come back from the best party i ever threw for myself this weekend to find emails that yet another of our number has passed before 45.
All these young cats leaving before we want them to.
I wanna say "before their time", but really... who am I to say that?
It just really drives home that biblical tenet that tomorrow is never promised to us and we have a limited time on this world and we have to make our mark....hopefully one that won't be erased...
and affect people's lives with our spirits while we have the time.
I'm sure as I write this, Michael has done this in his own way. In the eyes of his family, in the imaginations of his fans and in the eyes of God.
It makes no sense why young people have to die of such an evil, debilitating disease.
Why it has to take away the best of us.
But God has His time, and we had Michael for a time.
I pray his family finds the peace they need during this time.
I have never had the chance to meet Michael, but like all secret languages, an artist can look at another's work and know him or her as if they've met on the street and had coffee and an omelet croissant and told each other their stories.
Regrettably, Michael's story was shortened by an unfortunate ending.
And his brilliance was .... well.. a flash.
God bless the Turner clan.
Ethan Van Sciver (who spoke with Newsarama in Chicago):
Geoff was very close to Michael. They were really good friends. I never really was friends with him because I never really spent time with him. But I will say this about him. Michael Turner, from what I could see, was so patient and so giving and so incredibly loyal to his fans that he would sit in that booth and he would sign for legions and legions of people and draw for them and just have a smile for everybody. On a Saturday night at a convention, and it may have been this one, a couple of years ago in Chicago, I realized that Michael Turner was in the hotel room next to mine. He was going back to his room the same time I was. And I just decided I was going to go introduce myself to him. So I put out my hand and said, "Hey Michael. I'm Ethan Van Sciver." And he just smiled this huge smile and said, "Oh! Ethan! It's nice to meet you finally." Cheerful, upbeat, happy. Took time to chat with me, even though I could tell he was, like, really, really exhausted and maybe even sick at the time.
It's such a loss. It really is such a loss for this industry to lose Michael Turner. He was a wonderful artist and a good friend to so many people in the industry. We kind of knew he was sick and we kind of knew it was coming, but it came too soon. It really came too soon. And it's very sad.
I never met the man, and It's unfortunate that most of what I know of Michael Turner I've only learned after reading the many eulogies that have appeared in the days since his untimely passing. The overwhelming consensus is that he was a man of remarkable strength, courage, and congeniality, and knowing that he maintained a company, continued to produce artwork, attended conventions and treated his fans very generously, despite the considerable pain, complication and fatigue caused by his illness makes the petty excuses many of us have for slacking off work seem embarrassingly trivial. For this he should serve as an example to us all. Condolences to his family, friends and colleagues, and to his many fans.
Though I was a big fan of Michael Turner's, I never met him, but I'd see him at cons, usually at the head of a huge line of eager fans who he never seemed to disappoint. There's one memory I have that sticks in my mind. It was a couple of years ago when I was on a panel -- I can't even remember where or what it was about -- and Michael walked past the open door. He was on crutches due to a recent medical procedure relating to his cancer, and I had heard people talking about how difficult and painful it must have been. But when the moderator of the panel shouted a hello to Michael (prompting a huge round of applause from the audience), he smiled and waved back, and it was just the biggest, most genuine smile you can imagine. He was truly happy to be there. I thought to myself that if the rest of us can face adversity with even half of this man's courage and bravery, we can handle anything. I never met him, but Michael Turner will always be an inspiration to me.
I really suck at this sort of thing, but I was stunned to hear that Michael had passed away this weekend. We all knew his condition had become worse over this past year, but the guy was so cheerful, upbeat, and positive that I guess we sort of expected him to beat the odds again.
Michael was one of the real gentlemen in our business, and treated his multitude of fans like gold.
Despite the constant pain, the guy would sit and sign for fans for hours, never complaining, always with a smile.
We are going to miss him. He was one of the good guys.
I was fortunate enough to hang out a little with Mike at a con' a few years back. We'd never met before but, five minutes in, you'd never have guessed. He was just a warm and open guy, like someone you'd lost track of but still knew from way back. And we're talking about one of the industry's real superstars, here.
What a cool guy. What a fighter. And what a huge loss to the world of comics.
Joel Elad (former marketing and sales director at Top Cow):
I’ve been sitting here the past couple of days trying to remember the first time I met Michael Turner. It was definitely at a convention, at the Top Cow booth, and Mike was in his element. I guess the first thing I noticed was that “boyish grin” he always had, and then I noticed his love for his craft. (And, yes, I noticed his wonderful artistic ability as well.) I used to make sure that at every con I went to, I’d spend some time watching him draw and getting to know him and the Top Cow crew. I remember thinking how cool it was that we both came from Tennessee, and the little things like meeting his mom when he launched Fathom.
As the years went by, and my familiar face was recognized by Mike, Frank, Peter, and “the gang” as it were, I got to spend more time with everyone, I started reselling more and more of their books during the day and hanging out with them afterwards. It was always a treat to hang out with Mike, stop by the studio to say hi, and I can’t sum up the “why” in a few words. It’s more than his sense of fun and enthusiasm, more than his deep appreciation for being able to do something that he loved to do and having that freedom to create and excite people.
For me, it all came down to his energy, his spirit, his optimism. No matter what life threw at him, from the business side, making a living with comics and entertainment, all the entanglements, and, of course, his health issues, Mike pressed on with that grin and energy. It seemed like he could shrug off anything. He believed in the power of possibilities, and he believed it 24/7. He didn’t change into a nasty guy or diva when the fans weren’t looking, he was ALWAYS NICE. He made you feel better about yourself, and to be near him was exciting and fun. You could talk to him about anything, and he was happy and grateful for everything he had earned and gotten. For me, Mike defined “class act” and always made me feel included. I was so proud to watch his career and company take off, and was even amused when new fans would “discover” his talent. I guess, for me, it was obvious that he was special, what took everyone else so long to figure that out?
While I can’t remember the first time I met him, I can’t forget the last time I saw Mike. It was the 2008 Wizard World LA convention, Saturday, with a growing line of fans waiting patiently to get some signatures and some face time, and I was wondering if Mike was going to be able to make it. My career diverged from comics so I didn’t see the gang as much or spend a lot of time with them. I was helping someone else get some signatures, and when I got in front of him, my heart just sank. He was in sheer agony from having to sit, but you could see him fight through it as he signed book after book. I meekly said hi, trying not to lose it in front of him.
He looked up at me, and for that briefest of moments, I saw it. That light, that spirit, still shining inside, coming out to the forefront. He lit up and said hi back, and at that moment, everything bad faded away and things were ok. Given everything that he had faced, his spirit was intact, that eternal optimism hadn’t been crushed. That is how I choose to remember Mike because that was his true self. That is his gift, his legacy.
His artistic talent will live on in the printed page forever. His spirit will live on in the people whose lives he touched and made richer. I felt privileged to be a part of his life, and I will celebrate the things he cherished, simply because… that’s what Mike would want.
Like so many in the comics community, I was deeply saddened by the death of Michael Turner. For the most part my relationship with Mike was limited to the occasional convention run-ins, where that handsome guy was always smiling and laughing, even as he cranked out sketch after sketch and signed countless autographs for a never dwindling line of fervent and appreciative fans. Even as the ravages of his disease weakened his once athletic body, his spirit never flagged.
Just a couple of years ago I had the opportunity of sitting with Mike on a panel wherein we were both asked to sketch the same character in front of a live audience. I must admit that I've never really cared for this type of panel because I've always felt that it unfairly puts artists in competition with each other. However, watching and speaking with Mike during this made it all worthwhile, and I was so impressed with how genuinely excited, optimistic and appreciative he was about everything-- especially comics. Mike saw comics as influential and inspiring and he felt a certain responsibility to his fans and colleagues to impart that to everyone he encountered. It was truly a joy to behold, an experience that was made special because of him and a memory I will always treasure.
Mike's pain is now over. Ours will remain a bit longer, salved by his rich legacy that belies the brevity of his mortal existence.
Thanks, Mike. I hope we all remain worthy of your appreciation.
Joshua and Jonathan Luna:
Jonathan: During our college years, before we were professionals, I waited in a very long line for a few hours at a comic convention. I was waiting to get a comic book signed from Michael Turner.
Joshua: We didn't know Michael personally, but his career was inspiring.
Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Jonathan and Joshua