By Eric Drumm In the comic industry, one must have a love of the craft as well as that spark of life that makes the characters leap off the page and into our hearts. If anyone was to ever fit that bill, it would've been artist Mike Wieringo. Drawing Marvel books such as SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN and FANTASTIC FOUR as well his creator owned title TELLOS, Mike's art inspired and excited not just fans but his fellow creators. Mike was taken from the world much too soon at the age of 44 last month, but to celebrate his wonderful life, his friends put together a special gathering in New York City on September 19. To send Mike off right, the night was filled with love, stories and art with all proceeds going to the Hero Initiative as well as the ASPCA. Taking place at Flatiron Joe's in New York City, the bar opened its door to fans, friends and those who wished to remember Mike. With the location chosen and everyone together to pay their respects, there was one thing last thing to add to the equation-what brought Mike Wieringo into many of our lives in the first place-beautiful art. Friends of Mike came from all over to have a drink and celebrate, including industry names such as Marvel Talent Manager and writer C.B. Cebulski, Paul Mounts, Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, writer Todd DeZago and former Marvel EIC Tom DeFalco. Perhaps more than anyone, Mike's passing has affected his creative partner and best friend Todd Dezago. Working together on SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN for Marvel and their creator-owned book TELLOS, the two shared a special bond not only in creative synergy, but as friends. This celebration meant a great deal to DeZago, who feels that this is just the thing Mike would have wanted to see. "First off, I'm so happy to see so many people that are here," speaking of the tremendous turnout to honor his friend. "Not only was Mike my partner, but he was my best friend. It's so good to see so many people come to honor him and to pay tribute to him. I made an announcement earlier in the night that Mike really, really wouldn't want everyone to be sad and mourn him, but to smile and have fun and appreciate comics and each other and all that kind of stuff. He was that kind of guy. "It's been a little over a month now since he's passed away, and I've certainly gone through different stages of grieving with his friends and his family and my family, and we're finally to the point where we're starting to hear his voice making a lot of jokes. So part of me is able to miss my pal, but the other part is able to hear my friend cracking wise in the back of my head when funny things happen. I think I'm at that place. That's the sixth level of grieving, I think. Humor."
"The entire bar was full, as food, beer and Mike stories flowed," noted Jim McCann, Marvel's Assistant Manager of Sales Communication. "It was loud, raucous and filled with laughter. Because Mike would have wanted it that way. It was a night to remember!"
Dynamic Forces President Nick Barucci felt that something like this was necessary to honor his memory.
"Mike was one of the greatest guys who ever lived, it's as simple as that," he said of his beloved friend. "When you think about Mike Wieringo, you think about what he brought to life. He was a nice guy, he was kind to every fan he met, and he never had a bad thing to say about anybody. And even if he didn't feel like someone treated him well, he moved forward.
"The celebration that we are having tonight proves that we are a family," he added. "We are a family of artists, a family that knows each other more intimately than any other family in the world. We know what each other does every week, we know what each other does in their lives. We appreciate each other, we respect each other, and just like a family sometimes we disagree with each other, but at the end of the day we all work hard to do the best job possible.
"Mike did that," Barucci continued. "He did a great job on Spider-Man, he did a great job on Fantastic Four. He worked with great partners, whether it was Mark Waid or Todd DeZago. He created characters, he created events, he brought back Dr. Doom, he did it all. The one thing that we can never ever lose sight of is that Mike makes us appreciate the family that we have. We are each other's family, we are what makes each other tick. The second we lose sight of that is the second we don't appreciate life. This is a memorial for one of the greatest artists who ever lived. This is a remembrance."
While some came to celebrate, others came to draw. Artists came from all over to sketch for a silent auction with all proceeds going to the Hero Initiative-the organization that supports comic creators in need-as well as the ASPCA, for Mike's dedicated love of animals. Forming a makeshift artists alley in the back room at Joe's, friends of Mike's were honored to pick up their pencils in his name. Doing sketches for auctions were Paulo Rivera (MYTHOS SPIDER-MAN), Reilly Brown (CABLE & DEADPOOL), Jae Lee (STEPHEN KING'S THE DARK TOWER), Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Connor, Arthur Suydam (MARVEL ZOMBIES), Paul Renauld, Rodney Ramos, Joe Quesada, Joe's daughter Carly (in her very first professional outing!) and the legendary Walt Simonson. Simonson banged out a superhuman 15 sketches over the course of the night. The artists and industry luminaries also signed a pair of shirts to be auctioned off. Attendees were more than happy to open their wallets in the name of not only Mike Wieringo but the causes that he held so dear. In just two hours, commissions, donations and auctions raised an astonishing $4,000, all for a man that so many called a friend.
Mike Wieringo was a one in a million. A deeply talented artist, he also had that easy-going style that made those around him at ease. He touched the lives of so many with his craft and with his heart. He will be remembered as a tremendous talent, and as an inspiration not only creatively but as the model of a kind and loving human being. This celebration was a way for everyone to heal from his loss, but also to revel in the warm memories that he gave to us all. That night no one was a comic fan, they were a Mike Wieringo fan.
It was a night of celebration, respect and friends. As has been said by many, it's because Mike would have wanted it that way.