Lest We Forget

by BK Munn
2012 was a year of changes for comics, not least because we lost many great creators. Joe Kubert and Spain Rodriguez were among the American giants who passed but Sequential also celebrated the lives of several other cartoonists and writers who left their mark on our favourite medium, including several Canadians.
So here is a list of last year’s passages, lest we forget.
Blaine MacDonald, 1937-2012
Political cartoonist Blaine MacDonald died February 6 in Hamilton. The colourful MacDonald, who signed his work “Blaine”, was the cartoonist for The Hamilton Spectator for 30 years until his retirement in 1993. Born and raised in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Blaine dropped out of art school and drew his first cartoons for The Cape Breton Post where he worked for several years. In 1961 he moved west and landed a temporary gig filling in for Globe and Mail cartoonist Jim Reidford before being hired at The Hamilton Spectator, where he remained for his entire professional career. It was at the Spec where Blaine built a large local and international following, churning out cartoons on all subjects during the years of Diefenbaker, Pearson, Trudeau, Kennedy and Nixon… more
John Severin, 1921-2012
The final proof that Severin is Cracked and Cracked is Severin is the fact that the magazine thrived for years, under Mad’s massive shadow … when Severin was contributing. In the early 2000s, when Cracked ownership changed hands, they couldn’t afford Severin and the magazine went out of business. When it was relaunched a few years later as a slick, color magazine, Severin (…) decided not to contribute because of the questionable editorial direction, and it bombed. Now that it has been sold again, it has resurfaced as a humor website, and quite entertaining, but as a magazine, since there is no Severin, there is no Cracked. …more
Moebius, 1938-2012
One of the most influential artists of his generation, Moebius first came to fame as the illustrator of the Lieutenant Blueberry series of historical western adventure comics. But it was as a fantasy and science fiction visionary that Moebius made his true mark on the world, beginning as one of the founders of Metal Hurlant magazine (Heavy Metal) in 1974. I’m not sure if Blueberry ever made it as far north as Canada, but Moebius has been here at least once. He was the subject of a documentary by Canadian director Damian Pettigrew and the inspiration for the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal. It goes without saying that he was also a major inspiration for many cartoonists and illustrators working in this country…more
Serge Grenier, 1939-2012
Comedian and writer Serge Grenier died April 6. He was 73. (…) For a time, he contributed as a writer and editor to the humour magazine Croc, Quebec’s answer to Mad, a fixture on the magazine racks between 1979 and 1994 and remembered for launching the careers of many cartoonists … more
Jim Unger, 1937-2012
Jim Unger, the creator of the widely-syndicated comic panel Herman, died May 28 at his home in Saanich, BC. He was 75. Born in London, England, Unger had several false starts in his career before finding his niche, working as a policeman, repo-man, and office clerk before emigrating to Canada in 1968. He eventually landed a job as an advertising copywriter and graphic artist for the Mississauga Times in 1971. Asked to fill-in for a vacationing staff cartoonist, Unger soon began churning out daily cartoons for the editorial page on the subject of municipal politics. A popular local success, Unger was encouraged by friends and workmates to syndicate his work. After putting a package together in 1974, he was offered a contract by Universal Press (now Universal Uclick), who asked him to create a humour panel in his distinctive graphic style. …more
Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012
… Bradbury also made his mark in the comic book field, most famously with an unwitting contribution to the efforts of 1950s powerhouse publisher EC Comics. As the story goes, EC editors William Gaines and Al Feldstein began swiping Bradbury’s short stories for their horror and science ficton comics in 1951, plagiarizing the plots and not crediting the writer. Bradbury, being a voracious devourer of all things sci-fi, and a fan of EC comics to boot, soon caught on and politely asked for a $50 fee. Along with a cheque, Gaines sent a note asking for permission to officially adapt more of Bradbury’s stories, and quickly began featuring the writer’s name prominently on the cover, beginning with an adaptation of “There Will Come Soft Rains” in Weird Fantasy #17, with a cover by Feldstein and story art by Wally Wood. …more
Joe Kubert, 1926-2012
…legendary comic book artist, eternal Nazi battler, and the man who can give all of us a comic book schooling. (…) What a career Joe Kubert has had! Starting out drawing comics while still a teenager in the 1930s and 40s, Kubert went on to be one of the premier visual stylists of the Silver Age of U.S. comics, working on signature characters like Sgt. Rock, Hawkman, Enemy Ace, Tor, Tarzan, and many others. …(Sequential covered Kubert’s appearance at the Toronto Fan Expo in 2011)
Spain Rodriguez,1940-2012
…Orginally appearing in 1960s underground press forums like the East Village Other and in Spain’s own Subvert comic book series, Trashman answers the question nobody asked, “What if Jack Kirby’s Sgt. Fury was a horny Marxist from the future?” Spain re-imagines the traditional superhero story from the point of view of a working-class leftist militant confronted with creeping political fascism and corporate capitalism, confronting it with paranoid drug-influenced page layouts and plotting, clunky post-Kirby figure drawing, heavy black inks, and trippy sloganeering and self-referentiality, all set in a fantasy of revolutionary sex and violence. Trashman is really a prole named Harry Barnes who is recruited and trained by the Sixth International to fight the cops and defend the workers. Trashman has several paranormal senses and the ability to change his shape at will, but he mostly likes to shoot people with machine guns in the service of a disjointed narrative –sort of OMAC meets Che Guevera. The Trashman comics are beautiful and funny love letters to a revolutionary ideal. (from my 2009 piece, “3 Superhero Comics That Were Better Than Watchmen”)
2012 in Review, Part 1