From the bouncy signature to the remarkable art that it brands, the world lost one of the greats this week, and what is truly a loss for all of us is that we lost him way too early.
On Sunday, August 12, Mike Wieringo passed away in his home in North Carolina, the victim of heart failure at the ridiculously young age of 44.
As one would expect, so much has been said about Mike over these last few days. Yes, he was an amazing guy, a fantastic artist and beloved by all who got to know him even in the most casual of fashions, but Mike was so much more than any of these limited descriptions can convey. All hyperbole aside, Mike's art…well, much like Mike, it simply made you smile.
He was born in Venice, Italy in 1963 and raised in Lynchburg, NC. In 1991 he began his comic book career with Millenium Publications. It was only two short years later that Mike's career began to skyrocket when he took over penciling duties for DC's Flash series, working, for the very first time, alongside writer and soon to be close friend, Mark Waid. Mike's beautifully clean and bouncy artwork caught the fascination of the comic-reading public and never let go.
In 1995, Mike came to Marvel and penciled his first project for us, a four-issue ROGUE mini-series with Howard Mackie. By 1995, it was evident that Mike's art was special and he got tapped on the shoulder to work on Marvel's flagship character, Spider-Man. For this project he teamed with writer and best friend Todd DeZago to produce 17 issues of SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN over a two-year span. As an artist coming up at exactly the same time as Mike, his run on SENSATIONAL was when I first truly became aware of his amazing talent. It's also where I learned to envy him from afar because he was so much better than us mere mortals.
In 1999, teaming up with Todd once more, Mike co-created Tellos for Image and Gorilla Comics. It was a delightful creator-owned series filled with fantasy and fun at a time when comics were at their darkest and grittiest.
After a second stint at DC, Ringo linked back up with Mark Waid in 2002, and the duo embarked on one of my all-time favorite runs on FANTASTIC FOUR. Ringo and Mark breathed new life into the Fantastic Four and his work has been hailed as some of the best to grace the over 500 issues of the series. High praise when you consider the legends that have drawn the FF over the years.
2005 saw Mike return to Peter Parker and his friends, launching FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN alongside Peter David. Mike provided interior pencils for eight of the first 10 issues, as well the cover artwork for the series' first 19. And much to the delight of Spider-Man fans everywhere (me included!), Ringo crafted variant covers for the 12-part Spider-Man crossover, "The Other," each featuring a different iteration of the Wall-Crawler.
Mike's final published Marvel issues came in 2007 with the SPIDER-MAN AND THE FANTASTIC FOUR mini-series, produced with writer and pal Jeff Parker. In production at the time of his passing was a WHAT IF story that was to be published late in 2007. On Monday, August 13, a day after his passing, we received the seventh page of the issue. It was a very sad day here at Marvel when it arrived knowing that his brilliant talent had been taken from us.
Mike's impact on the comic world stretches farther past even the business and creative aspects. His gentle nature and kind personality touched all of us who had the pleasure to meet and work with him. In his absence, having him taken so soon, many of us have looked for something to console us through the shock and emptiness. To me, it's very clear and simple, God's written a comic book and needed a great artist to draw it.
You'll be sorely missed, Mike.
Here now are a few words from Mike Wieringo's peers at Marvel, while other touching remarks can be found at Newsarama
When I started editing the Spider-Man titles about ten years ago, I wanted each of the books to have a distinctive visual personality. As I had wanted SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN to have a lighthearted almost whimsical feel to it, I had spoken to Mike Wieringo about coming aboard with writer Todd DeZago. Mike agreed and he and Todd had only one request of me—that I allow them to make one of their first villains in the book The Looter. He was an old Lee/Ditko baddie who appeared late in their classic run. Mike and Todd loved the character and really went to town making him cool and even crazier than he was originally. I loved it—and so did the readers.
Mike brought to that book exactly what I'd hoped he would. His version of Spider-Man resembled no one else's. It was unique. And Mike couldn't have been more of a gentleman to have worked with. He and Todd worked hand in glove to make SENSATIONAL such a treat each month. The way the two men bonded was incredible. In fact, so happy was their collaboration, that they both went off to work on other projects together following their Spider-Man run.
I have rarely worked with an artist who gave so much of himself to the character he was working on. And he was cooperative to a fault. If a cover was needed overnight, Mike penciled it without complaint. He was a true gentleman and a top talent whose like we will not see for many a year. Editing SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN was one of the true joys of my tenure as editor on the Spider-Man titles. It was the fun book; the one you could so easily relax with and smile. I miss that book and I deeply miss Mike Wieringo. I only met Mike once at the San Diego Comic Convention. We'd gone out to dinner and had a wonderful time. He was a good guy.
I offer my deep condolences to his family on his untimely passing. Our business is much the poorer for his loss.
Sometimes I had to remind myself that Mike wasn't only my friend, but one of the world's greatest cartoonists, period. Marvel was very lucky to have him breathe life into many of their characters, and this past year I was incredibly lucky to collaborate with him on Spider-Man/Fantastic Four. What a thrill it was to see each page arrive in my email, better than I had imagined in the script. A true giant of not only the comics industry, but the medium has left us. Thank you Ringo, for everything.
Most people remember that Mike, along with writer Mark Waid, was working on FANTASTIC FOUR. The team had been on the series for a little over a year at this point, and had garnered a strong critical reaction. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, Marvel's president decided that he wanted to go in a different direction with the series. So I wound up having to abruptly tell Mark Waid that he was being fired, and Ringo chose to leave with him in a show of solidarity, rather than remaining on the series with the new writer.
A short time later, however, there was a shift at Marvel, and suddenly there was a little bit of elbow room. So I contacted Mark and Mike to see if I could get them to commit to doing a two-issue finale to their run, rather than having it just come to an unplanned stop. I eventually got them both to agree to this.
At the time, Mike was negotiating with another company to work exclusively for them. He'd been offered a generous contract, and the possibility of working with Mark again on what was hoped would be a high-profile launch. So, eventually Mike was faxed the deal sheet for his exclusive, called up the folks at the company and told them that everything looked great, he was really excited to be coming over, and he'd be ready to go just as soon as he did these two last issues for Tom Brevoort.
Well, the folks at this other company got pretty steamed. They wanted Mike right away, and expected to capitalize on the fact that he and Mark had been ousted by Marvel. Words were exchanged, and Mike was told that unless he turned back those two issues he promised to do for me, they were going to take the deal off the table.
Now, understand, Mike was being given generous terms. And he'd promised the two issues to a guy working for a company that had fired his partner and ended his run. He had every reason in the world to go along with this and turn those two issues back. In fact, it probably would have been the smart thing to do.
But Mike refused. He wanted to remain true to his word, and he didn't like being bullied. That shows a lot of integrity from where I'm sitting.
The happy ending, of sorts, is that, when Mike relayed all of this information to me, I spoke to the folks here, and Marvel was able to offer him contract terms identical to what this other company had brought to him. So Mike became exclusive with Marvel, and in fact his run on FF with Waid continued, the decision that removed him from the book having been reversed. I've always felt that every issue of FANTASTIC FOUR after #508 that was done by this team was a gift, that these were issues and stories that were not supposed to have happened, yet did.
I wish I had an anecdote or a funny story to share about Mike, but I don't, not really, so all I can do is try to put into words what he and his work meant to me.
It was another series that brought me back into comics, but it was Mike and Mark Waid's Fantastic Four that kept me here. When I got hired as Tom Brevoort's assistant editor in 2004, I was thrilled because it meant that I would be able to work with one of my "art heroes" on FF. During my first week of work, though, I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. Mike was one of the first freelancers that I ever talked to on the phone, and the first artist I ever got a piece of reference for. I didn't know what to expect from someone who I admired so much, but he was so nice that he made me feel like I might actually be able to do this job.
I talked to Mike on the Friday before he passed away, and he lamented how long the pages of his What If issue were taking him to draw. But I know that the pages were slower than he might have liked in coming because he cared so much about them. Mike wanted his comics to be fun, not dreary, dark or brooding. His drawings were light, but they could pack an emotional wallop when they needed to. Whether he was drawing a super hero or a child or an animal with a sword, his art just made people happy. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to know Mike and to work with him, even for this short amount of time. He will be sorely, sorely missed.
I'm sure he's up there now, sharing studio space with the King.
With the best artists in this business, their personality comes through in the art, they are what they draw. I can't think of a finer example of that than Mike. His work was open, approachable and every line is bursting with life. Even before I worked with him and spoke with him for hours, I could walk away from a 'Ringo comic and feel like I knew the man a little bit. He was in every respect as delightful as his art indicates.
This is a huge loss for comics, and we're lucky for every page we got from Mike. I have no doubt that centuries from now there will still be kids whose favorite comic artist is going to be Mike Wieringo.
In lieu of flowers, Mike Wieringo's brother Matt has asked that donations be sent to the A.S.P.C.A.
or to the Hero Initiative
MIKE WIERINGO MARVEL COVER GALLERY: