Monday morning I found out via my daily read of the comic blogs/news sites that comic book artist Mike 'Ringo' Wieringo passed away of a heart attack that he suffered on Sunday, August 12. At the young age of 44, and being a vegetarian and a guy who worked out regularly, his death came as a complete and terrible surprise to everyone.
Mike had been a pro since the early 90s, becoming well-known for his stint on THE FLASH. Over the years he worked on such characters as SUPERMAN, SPIDER-MAN, FANTASTIC FOUR as well as his creator-owned series TELLOS. I've known of his work for years, and was really glad to see him on FANTASTIC FOUR several years ago. His style was often called 'cartoony', as he drew the characters with an expressive, animated look to them, soft and lush linework that always contradicted the seemingly more prevelant 'dark and gritty' look that seems to be the fashion nowadays. He was a complete perfectionist, always wondering if his latest drawing could be better. But he had the utmost belief in the purity of true heroes, the classic superheroes that mean so much to many of us readers. His artstyle I always felt, reflected the innate fun that must accompany superhero stories.
I never met Mike, nor wrote him any emails. But I would visit his blog occasionally, and marvel at the sketches he would frequently post. Poigniantly, the last sketch he posted, on Friday, August 10, was of his own comic book creation, JAREK from his TELLOS comic. How very touching to read the comments section to that post. The last time anyone responds to a new post of Ringo art.
Monday, when the news had hit the internet, I noticed that several times during the day Mike's website/blog would be down. There were too many visitors to his site and that lead to the crashes. But reading various testimonials to Mike on different message boards or blogs, I am overwhelmed by just how much this man was loved. As an artist, because that's how he achieved his fame, but also a a person. So many people, mosty fans who may have never met him in person, have commented how genuinely nice he came across in his posts and whenever he would write to people. He'd often offer words of encouragement to young artists, or positive critiques of their art.
His brother Matt has begun posting on Mike's blog, expressing his family's gratitude and general surprise on how big an impact Ringo had on people. The testimonials from his fans, fellow professionals and even convention organizers really makes me feel that a huge amount of loss has been felt from everywhere. What a beautiful testament to a person's life to see the type of impact his passing causes. What a horrible shame that the person passes away though.
So sad to think that the communication he built up over the web now becomes a one-sided conversation. But that's one thing about comic book creators. While you won't find too many actors and sport stars talking with their fans online, comic book fans have great oppurtunities to communicate with their favorite writers and artists. And us comic creators that choose to are able to talk with our fans via our various web outlets. That's one thing that I think makes a very special connection between comic creators and fans. More direct contact than lots of other entertainment mediums. Even comic conventions give fans a chance to meet one on one with their favorites. Wieringo definitely had his share of comic conventions, and evidenced by the testimonies online, he was always glad to meet fans and spend time with them.
My condolences go out to Mike's family and friends. If complete 'strangers' confess to breaking down over hearing of Mike's passing over the internet, I can only imagine what it's like for his parents and siblings to lose such a great spirit.
A recent sketch of Mike's from his blog. Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man.