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  • Remembering Mike

    I thought I could dive into some work to keep my mind busy, but it’s just not happening. I’ve spent much of the day looking around on line for tributes to Mike Wieringo and grabbing every picture I see. To hold up my end on that, I’ve dug out some old photos. I know I have more than this, but this is what I found in my basement boxes this morning. I warn you that my memories are fuzzy in places, so some details are surely wrong.

    I first met Mike at a New York comicon in 1992 I think. He was only in his twenties, but like a lot of people I thought he was older because his hair went silver so early. He had just drawn Doc Savage for Millenium Comics and had been invited to contribute to a JLA annual by Brian Augustyn and Ruben Diaz. One of my favorite stories of his from later was that this big break was apparently an accident. When Ruben called Mike to hire him for a short story, Mike realized from what he was saying that he was talking about someone else’s samples instead of what he’d sent in. Mike did the right thing of course and said “thanks!” and took the job. I always wonder who that other guy was. Soon after they offered him what became his much loved run with Mark Waid on The Flash.

    mikepose1.jpg

    Not a year later we were in Artamus Studios together. Everyone assumed we just couldn’t spell ‘Artemis’, but it was a play on Toys R’ Us, Art-am-us. Blame Richard Case and Craig Gilmore for that one, I do. At first we were all crammed in Richard’s Hillsborough studio which had no air conditioning- this is North Carolina of course, where you don’t have to cook food in the summertime. Still it was exciting all working together, and Mike was the emerging force in comics. We all drew an issue of Hardcase (for Malibu) that paid for our photocopier. Mike would be in until the wee hours working on Flash. I remember being excited briefly because there was talk of him drawing Captain Marvel for DC, but that didn’t pan out. Mike would show me how to make a dynamic perspective shot work or come in and make a layout work for someone else who might be stuck.

    It was the dark days before Google Image search, so we were always heading to the library or raiding magazine recycling bins for reference. We had a polaroid and constantly took pictures of everyone in the studio in poses to draw from. I’m not sure what I had Mike doing in that first shot- it may have been for some samples I drew of the Fantastic Four that landed me all my work at Malibu Comics. In the background I see that enormous light table that Mike and John Lowe had bought, which was actually a display for X-Ray pictures- we weren’t far from Duke University and all of it’s cast-off hospital and school salvage. Here’s one that I remember specifically as being for an issue of Wonder Woman I drew, in 93 or 94. Mike was posing as a pimp named Big Jake, I think. From the nice door I can tell we had moved around the corner to The Mercantile Building, where we all had separate office spaces in one main suite. It was a beautiful old building with a leaky skylight that never got fixed well. We would all use the Ladies bathroom on our hall because it was much nicer than the tiny Men’s room where the toilet faced right into a wall. We spent a fair amount of time climbing through the windows to walk out on the roof to get some air during the day, and just look around at the town.


    mikepose2.jpg

    Mike was a living animation- his face always did exactly what you (and he) needed for a drawing, and he could always strike the optimum pose for a scene. I remember the Heroes Con that Alex Ross first came to where after meeting Mike, drew a perfect rendition of him hours later in a sketchbook. That corrected a lot of other artists who assumed Alex needed photos to draw a likeness, but as he said, “how could you forget that face?”

    Back then we all worked through each other’s cd collections trying to find whatever music would inspire us to get through an issue. Mike was very open-minded and could listen to lots of different song genres. We often ate lunch down at Lu-E-G’s, a hippy cafe with maybe overly-healthy food but a great staff who would often come visit our offices. We were right around the corner from the house of Doug Marlette, who did the strip Kudzu. Strangely, Mike called me just a few weeks ago to tell me that Marlette had died. For whatever reason we never intersected with him, though we saw his wife around a lot. Hillsborough was an interesting town like that- writer Alan Gurganus lived just a block away as well.

    mikebirthday.jpg

    My all-time favorite shot of Mike on one of his birthdays. We would often all do birthdays at Bandidos in Chapel Hill (everyone liked the chips) and inevitably one of the staff would make you wear the hat and add your picture to the birthday wall.
    Below is another shot from that night, with Mike sitting next to Chuck and Marc Wojtkiewicz. We must have gone to a hundred parties held at their house out in the country. Mike was always being introduced to lovely physical therapists in a never ending attempt to pair him up. It never worked with me at the time either, but a valiant effort on Marc’s part. Mike had a girlfriend at the time who I really liked and wish could have been around for the long haul. He mentioned a few times that he would like to one day start a family, and I have no doubt he would have made a great dad.

    mikemazatlan.jpg

    I always remember one New Year’s Eve when I was single too, Mike met me down at the Buffalo-something bar on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, and we just quietly drank beer and played trivia. We were work-out partners at the gym, which is the strongest I’ve ever been thanks to him busting my chops three times a week. Then we’d sit around in the sauna with other friends talking about comics or The X-Files or whatever geek stuff we were into that made the locals shake their heads at us. A few great parties at my house where we’d either end up playing some wacky game Scott Hampton made up or charades. Lots of trips to the theater. I remember us all heading out to see Pulp Fiction. The last one that a number of us got to watch en masse was the rerelease of The Exorcist when I was back in town visiting. We had fun watching an all new audience of college students get creeped out, then all had an unintentional laugh with modern sensibilities as Regan’s doctor prescribed her Ritalyn.

    As time went on it got harder and harder to get Mike out of his Durham house. As most of the studio splintered and moved away, there wasn’t anyone to go drag him out. Most of his socializing then happened over the phone, and I know tons of those calls were friends trying to lure him to their various parts of the country. I sure did every chance. If only one of those calls had caught him at the right time and convinced him to sell the house and move to a community where he could get back out and interact with people firsthand. You may have read his excellent blog and got a sense of how he let things get to him. I think being isolated magnifies those worries, and being in the world around people gives us the perspective we need to shake that crap off. He had put a lot into his career over the years, and didn’t feel like it was progressing the way it should, that he was being marginalized. This dogged him constantly.

    That’s why if I had any wish short of being able to get him into the hospital earlier, it would be to go back a week and let him see the massive outpouring of love and respect that’s coming from all camps for him now. I know he would be absolutely floored. All the time at shows that he exhausted himself doing laborious sketches- often for free- I keep seeing posts from those lucky fans and the closure that they didn’t ebay the pieces away, they treasured them ever since.

    I’ll probably have some more thoughts tomorrow since I haven’t scratched the surface, and definitely some more pictures thanks to our friend Chris who’s found a few. Here’s one more, again a dinner shot, from a few years ago in Charlotte, just me and my buddy.

    mikeandme.jpg

    Comments

    Pingback from University Update – Duke University – Remembering Mike
    Time: August 14, 2007, 1:06 am

    [...] Forest University Contact the Webmaster Link to Article duke university Remembering Mike » Posted at Parkerspace on Tuesday, August 14, [...]

    Comment from Philip Looney
    Time: August 14, 2007, 4:46 am

    I know when I read the news, I felt shocked and a little empty. I can only imagine how magnified that must be for someone who knew him personally and was such a close friend.

    Pingback from MIKE WIERIGNO 1963-2007 « In One Ear…
    Time: August 14, 2007, 5:12 am

    [...] Kesel remembers Ringo. Warren Ellis takes a moment to reflect.  Jeff Parker pays tribute to his friend.  Peter David seems to be feeling the same loss for words that I am (where [...]

    Comment from Thomas Chad Bowers
    Time: August 14, 2007, 5:56 am

    Thanks for sharing the photos.

    Pingback from Chapel Hill Comics » Mike Wieringo
    Time: August 14, 2007, 6:25 am

    [...] by Mike’s friends: Mark Waid, Todd Dezago, and Karl Kesel Scott Kurtz Jeff Parker Jamar Nicholas A lot of folks loved Mike, so I’m sure I’m missing people [...]

    Comment from chukw
    Time: August 14, 2007, 7:46 am

    Well put, well put. What great pics of our youthful misadventures! I’ll never forget the story of Mike’s old roommate’s car being repo’d….

    Comment from Chad Townsend
    Time: August 14, 2007, 7:58 am

    Jeff

    Unbelievable. I heard early yesterday and was floored.

    This was probably Mike’s favorite place to visit on the web. http://www.drawingboard.org/ I have been a long time member and when Mike showed up and gave you Kudo’s on your work it made you feel like a million bucks. He made a lot of people feel that way on the board.

    I didnt really know Mike but received good compliments from him. Last week I joined deviant art and asked him to make me a friend on there. I feel sad now i never got to correspond more. His age and the fact that he was in good health blew me away. It’s has caused me to reflect a bit on taking better care of myself and work on building stronger friendships with the people I know.

    Take care. I hope all is well with you and your Family.
    Chad Townsend

    Comment from Dana
    Time: August 14, 2007, 10:06 am

    Feels odd, me writing this down, but after a day of phone calls and e-mails reminiscing, this seems like the place…

    Jeff, do you recall a dinner at Casa Mia in NYC sometime in the early 90’s?

    As I remember it…
    Mike had been doing lots of work for the Marvel Creative Services Department. (We’d been “urged” by Editorial to stop using their talent because it was $%*ing up their publishing deadlines, so the team was making a concentrated effort to pilfer DC and Darkhorse talent. Mike was one of our greatest pilfers.)

    Mike had just completed an INSANE project for us. As I recall, 12 penciled and inked Spider-Man trading cards in 3 days.

    He was in town before one of the NYC Conventions, so we invited Mile out to dinner as a thank you.

    Just Mike.

    Aaaaand he showed up with ALL of Artamus.

    Dinner for 4 turned into dinner for 10 or 11.

    Turns out the Artamus team all had a hand in completing the project, so they were all due some grub on the company dime.

    That was one of the greatest dinners we ever had. It’s where I met (in a non-Con-floor environment) you, Chuk, Rich and the rest of the team. One of those experiences that, to this day, helps to define the good times at Marvel. (Any “Three’s Company” moment that ends as well as that meal did is a-okay in my book.)

    Friday, I was going to e-mail Mike about the electrical problems he was having at the house. Monday morning I got the e-mail. I didn’t believe it then, I’m still not sure I do now. Surreal. Unreal.

    No profound closing thoughts or observations. Just the numbing realization that someone I knew, liked and worked with; someone who was very close to people I still know, like and work with, has died.

    Comment from Parker
    Time: August 14, 2007, 11:06 am

    I remember! Man, we were such a bunch of mooches. Thanks for that memory, Dana.

    Comment from Andy Kunka
    Time: August 14, 2007, 11:40 am

    Jeff–Thanks for posting the pictures and the reminiscences: they really help see the person behind the work I love.
    And the work you two did on Spidey/FF is amazing, pure, fun comics.

    Comment from john siuntres
    Time: August 14, 2007, 3:24 pm

    Jeff,

    Great pics and stories about Mike.

    Hope you’re doing ok.

    J

    Comment from Mark Irwin
    Time: August 14, 2007, 4:00 pm

    Hey Jeff, Chuk pointed me over here. Thanks so much for being able to say what so many of couldn’t adequately. I spoke to Mike last week, trying to get him to do some Marvel sketch cards for me, but he was, of course, too busy… While I didn’t know Mike as well as many others, he was always cool to me, and good to see when I made my way down to Heroes. His art was a constant inspiration to me; I will miss having the chance to ink him on cards like I did in the past. But I will miss seeing his art period, no matter who inked it, or if it was inked at all. He was great.

    Comment from Jim
    Time: August 14, 2007, 6:14 pm

    I know he was a great friend of yours, and I think you introduced me to him. So I’m very sorry for your sake in particular, and very thankful for that introduction. I have nothing to add to what I’ve read so far. Though only a casual acquaintance (I think we only had one after-show, in-a-bar sitdown, and a few emails now and then in subsequent years) Mike was every good thing people have said about him personally and about his art.

    Comment from Skipper Pickle
    Time: August 14, 2007, 7:22 pm

    Thanks for this.

    Comment from Rich
    Time: August 14, 2007, 8:13 pm

    Great pics Jeff. Man do they bring back memories. Been tracking down some of my own pics, other shots of Mike in character for our silly comic book renderings. Will post mine soon too.

    Comment from Beast
    Time: August 14, 2007, 9:33 pm

    His sudden death was a major shock. :(

    Hopefully much like Dave Cockrum, you’ll be able to honor him in your own special way. We’re losing too many great writers and artists especially as of late.

    Comment from Matt Wieringo
    Time: August 14, 2007, 10:00 pm

    Jeff, that was beautiful, man. Thank you. I’d never seen those photos. Your observations about Mike were dead-on. Suzanne and I tried for years to get him to move to Richmond so we could be his “pit crew” but to no avail. Your stories about the studio have really cheered me up. I know he was happiest when you were all together.

    Chuck, I’m so sorry we didn’t call you. We didn’t have your number and couldn’t find your email here at Mike’s house. You were on our list to call and, like so many others, you had to find out through the grapevine. I’m really sorry about that.

    Dana, your post made me smile. I remember making myself sick trying to eat my way through all those boxes of Cookie Crisp cereal to get a complete set of those trading cards. After about 20 boxes and no success, Mike said, “What the hell are you eating that $#!* for? Here!” and he gave us his only set. I treasure it to this day.

    Comment from zailo
    Time: August 15, 2007, 10:06 am

    What a shock.
    I didn’t know Ringo, but knew he was an artist’s artist because even with a full work load he would post all kinds of sketches on his blog regularly. Now that tells you that he loved to draw.
    Condolences.

    Comment from Kemp-El
    Time: August 15, 2007, 4:09 pm

    So many memories are flooding back….I’ll miss my Bandido’s “birthday buddy”…Mike’s birthday was one day before mine. I remember taking turns with him wearing that stupid smelly sombrero, but man, that fried ice cream was good. I wonder if our Polaroids are still on the wall there somewhere? I know I’ve got some more pics of us somewhere…I could have sworn there were some San Diego ones….have to keep digging.

    Pingback from Remembering Ringo | Funnybook Babylon
    Time: August 15, 2007, 6:19 pm

    [...] are tons of fantastic tributes out there from friends of Mike Wieringo that let you know more about him than [...]

    Comment from James Engelhardt
    Time: August 15, 2007, 8:26 pm

    Jeff-

    I was one of the Lu-E-G’s staff who would hang out with y’all, climb out the window, etc. The menu wasn’t imaginative, but in Hillsborough. . . ? I found out about Mike yesterday. I’m still trying to get my head around it. Writing like this, with people who knew him, helps. I remember he could get a little. . . grim. But he always wanted to give of himself. He was one hell of a guy, and I agree that he would have made a great dad.

    It just doesn’t make sense. . .

    James

    Comment from Parker
    Time: August 15, 2007, 9:18 pm

    James, good to hear from you! I’ll drop you a line.

    Comment from Craig Gilmore
    Time: August 16, 2007, 7:12 am

    Hey Jeff! Thanks for posting all of these great pics of Mike. Rich and I have been passing around what we have run across and thanks for linking to my site where I’ve posted the ones I have. I wish there could be more but I hope these help show the kind of fun loving guy Mike was ‘behind’ the scenes. A great friend and a joy to be around. He even took the trash to the dumpster for me. Nice of you to remind me of that haha! Ahhh, the good old days…

    Craig

    Pingback from Blog@Newsarama » More memories of Mike
    Time: August 16, 2007, 9:03 am

    [...] Jeff Parker, who has a long write-up and several pictures of Mike: Mike was a living animation- his face always did exactly what you (and he) needed for a drawing, and he could always strike the optimum pose for a scene. I remember the Heroes Con that Alex Ross first came to where after meeting Mike, drew a perfect rendition of him hours later in a sketchbook. That corrected a lot of other artists who assumed Alex needed photos to draw a likeness, but as he said, “how could you forget that face?” [...]