I apologize for the bit of an unexpected hiatus from this column over the last few months, but it’s not without cause.
Truth be told, I’ve actually been working on this particular installment of the column for the past month and a half after something very unfortunate happened towards the end of April.
On April 20th, Lewis “Alan” Coil, my close personal friend of nearly 20 years, suddenly and unexpectedly passed at the all-too-young age of 56 years young.
News of Alan’s passing quickly spread across the Internet, with dozens upon dozens of casual Internet readers and professional creators alike (including Peter David, Tony Isabella, Jimmy Palmiotti, Elayne Riggs and even Harlan Ellison) taking the time to personally pay their respects to Alan.
In fact, the amount of online coverage dedicated to Alan’s passing was almost akin to that of a professional comic creator, but given the fact that he was not one, the amount of coverage may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you.
I assure you, though, that Alan was indeed a bit of a celebrity in his own right, and if you’d ever spent any amount of time in the “Comments” or “Forum” sections of any comic-related message boards (including the ones here at Newsarama) you probably saw more than a few posts by “Alan Coil.”
Heck, if you’re an active contributor to such discussions you probably even argued with him a few times, too.
Alan seemingly lived online (and will now forever live online, I suppose) and quickly made a reputation for himself as an equal-part curmudgeonly, impish, insightful, opinionated and knowledgeable commentator of all things comics-related.
However, despite his sometimes “Trollish” antics, it was hard for most people to be mad at Alan for too long because, unlike a lot of people who seemingly post comments online just to complain, it was obvious that everything Alan said stemmed from his genuine love and respect for the medium of comics.
In fact, Alan’s love of the medium was a love of pure white-hot fury and passion for the best comics, creators and practices of the industry that was equally balanced by a blinding rage for the ones that – in his never humble opinion – brought the industry down…
And that’s why he posted about them.
Because he was never shy about hiding his opinions, Alan had an oftentimes borderline adversarial relationship with his virtual peers and professionals alike… but don’t feel bad for him, because this was something he impishly reveled in.
Alan was a smart guy, and as a result he would usually craft posts that he knew would elicit responses – often heated ones from people who disagreed with what he had to say.
Everyone has their own favorite hobbies, and along with reading comics and playing cards, facilitating Internet discussions (and occasionally flat-out arguments) was Alan’s… and considering this I couldn’t help but smile at how Alan’s passing went on to generate so many comments and discussion threads across the forums where he posted.
Truth be told, all of us in Alan’s immediate circle of friends – to say nothing of the few remaining members of his estranged family – were pretty awestruck at the outpouring of well wishes and kind words said about him across the Internet by professionals and frequent online posters alike, including many who had more than their fair share of disagreements with him over the years…
But as nice as these sentiments were, it’s been gnawing at me a bit about how most of the well-wishes were about Alan Coil: The Usually Curmudgeonly But Ultimately Loveable Online Comic Book Forum Commentator and not Alan Coil: .The Man All His Friends Knew Him to Be.
Again, that’s to be expected, as it’s the nature of the Internet, and hey, make no mistake, Alan knew the kind of reputation he had and – again – he reveled in it…
But at the same time… damn… there was just so much more to the man.
Despite what his sometimes brash and off-putting online image lead a lot of people to believe about him, Alan was one of the most selfless -- not “selfish,” mind you – but SELFLESS – people I’ve ever known.
Heck, I couldn’t even begin to recount here the times Alan did things to help me over the years, let alone all of the things he did for the rest of those of us lucky enough to enjoy the privilege of his friendship.
Alan would always be the first one to arrive to any parties or gatherings at my house – usually about an hour early – so he could help set-up, and there was no telling him he didn’t have to do so, as he would just bellow a loud “AWWW SHADDUP!” over any such protests and go about doing so anyway.
The same scenario would then play-out after any such parties, with Alan being the last to leave so he could help clean-up.
Alan loved children and relished in partaking in a “grandfatherly” role to all of his friends children – and our kids all loved him for it. A kid’s afternoon with Alan usually involved him playfully harassing them (only to then stick up for them whenever anyone else tried to do the same, of course) followed by him “secretly” sliding them gifts of comics, treats or other small toys and then giving them sage advice about topics ranging from school to dating to what foods to eat before going to bed.
Alan loved cards and was an all-but unstoppable card-counter when he chose to be. In fact, on Poker Night the only way to beat him was to make huge bets against the odds and hope to get lucky. Mind you, Alan would never use “powers” for overt evil, per say, but I will say that it was a rare night when he didn’t make it to the “Final Two” of any game of Poker and leave it at that.
Alan was a brilliant mathematician.
Alan loved dogs and raised them for many years.
Alan was the first one to offer me transportation to Wizard World: Chicago several years ago when my original plans fell through because he knew that I was supposed to talk to a potential publisher at the show. The trip resulted in me landing my first “big” publishing deal.
Alan was the guy who offered his truck to any of us whenever we were moving large furniture, but he always refused to accept our gas money. (In fact, one time I tried to hide some in his truck only to later find it lying on my kitchen table. At least he took the cookies I offered him, though…)
Alan was the type of guy who did so many favors for his friends that he never wanted disclosed because, to Alan, it was never about him – it was always about everybody else.
(In fact, it was almost an unspoken joke about how Alan “secretly” did little – and sometimes not-so-little – favors to help all of us out over the years, yet we all had to pretend none of us knew that he was helping the other guys out even though we all knew he was.)
As I write this I can tell you, without a sliver of doubt or reservation, that Alan Coil – despite what his online persona may have lead many to believe – was the kindest and most giving people I’ve ever met.
This was Alan… the real Alan… not “Alan the Internet Guy.”
Now that Alan is gone and all that most of us have left is his “online legacy” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what type of legacies we’ll all leave behind us when we’re gone... if any.
Especially those of us who want to create comics.
Alan, despite his extreme passion for comics, never expressed any genuine interest in creating any of his own, and I suspect that this was due largely to the fact that he simply had no desire to do so.
A lot of people who are really passionate about comics often consider trying to make their own comics, just as people who are really passionate about music oftentimes consider forming their own band and people who are really passionate about movies consider making their own short films and so on and so on…
But not Alan.
Rather, Alan simply enjoyed comics and – perhaps more importantly – was content with the role as a reader and online commentator (including writing his own column at another website for awhile) rather than that trying to become a comic creator.
But what about you?
Were you, Heaven forbid, to close your eyes tonight and never open them again, what would your legacy be in regards to your love of comics… or your goal to become a comic creator?
Specifically, would you be known as the guy (or gal) who created comics… or the guy (or gal) who always talked about it but never really got around to doing it?
Yes, Netflix is awesome. Yes, there are some amazing video games out there. Yes, Twitter and Facebook are neat social media tools. Yes, yes, yes, there are a lot of really cool things out there that can bring you a lot of enjoyment in life… but most of these things can also very easily keep you away from dedicating the time, effort and energy needed to create comics – if that’s really what you want to do, anyway.
Hey, don’t get me wrong: There are indeed some things in this world more important than creating comics (such as spending some genuine quality time with your loved ones on a semi-regular basis).
Furthermore, we also all need to engage in some and relaxing activities now and then (I’m looking at you, Super Street Fighter 4 on PS3 and Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook)… but at the end of every day you also have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and then honestly evaluate both where your actions of the day lead you – and where they’ll continue to lead you.
When I pass from this world (hopefully several decades from now resting on a huge pile of money and with a beautiful woman at my side) I’ll go fairly happy because I’ll know that my work – the comics and columns I have a genuine burning desire to create – exist.
I’ll take my last breath knowing I didn’t just talk about creating them, but that I went out and did it.
Sure, it involved sacrifice – but as a result of the time, energy, effort and money I’ve spend over the years my legacy – as I want it to be remembered – will live on.
I’ll leave this world knowing I wasn’t one of the guys that talked about creating comics – I was one of those rare few that actually went out and did it… and that will be part – and I suspect, a big part, of my legacy…
But this isn’t really about me, mind you…
It’s about you.
Ask yourself: What will YOUR legacy be?
Our legacies in the eyes of our family, friends and those who knew us (or simply knew of us via the glory of the Internet) will live well beyond the time we stride this Earth, and given this I urge you all to consider where you are as of today, where your current actions are taking you, and how the two correlate… if at all…
And if they don’t, well, you may want to consider changing that sooner rather than later.
After all, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”
Respectfully and lovingly dedicated to Lewis “Alan” Coil. Neither Wednesdays –nor the comic blogosphere – will never be the same, my friend…
Next Time: As previously promised… “Love For the Shorties”
Dirk Manning is the writer/creator of NIGHTMARE WORLD a web-to-print comic now being loudly and proudly published by Image Comics/Shadowline and the writer/co-creator of FARSEEKER at ACT-I-VATE. He is also a longtime contributing writer for Newsarama and a staunch advocate for comic creators everywhere. He lives on the Internet and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and SoulGeek in that order. If you dig this column, check out the comic online and consider picking-up a copy of NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume One: “13 Tales of Terror” and the upcoming NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume Two: “Leave the Light On” from your local comic shop or Amazon.com, ya’ hear? Thanks everyone! As you’ll someday learn yourself, every single sale helps!
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