This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #18, September 2005.
Over the past two months, our industry has lost two young, enthusiastic pro-active advocates of independent/small press and ‘real mainstream’ comics.
I learned through www.comicsreporter.com that Andy Roberts had passed away on June 18 from injuries sustained after being hit by a motorcycle six days earlier. I met Andy through the Comic Creators Guild in London during the mid 1990s and again later at Caption, the UK’s small press convention held annually in Oxford which Andy was instrumental in organising.
Apart from being a talented cartoonist himself, writing and drawing a regular weekly strip for the Dorset Evening Echo, he was also one of the first to initiate graphic novel sections in the Waterstone’s book chain. I corresponded with him regarding his stocking Strangehaven trade paperbacks and we discussed other appropriate titles for the book trade.
Andy was also singer, guitarist and songwriter for the band Linus.
Shortly after reading that news, I received an e-mail from Stephen L. Holland to say that Mark Simpson was taken ill suddenly and passed away on July 31. Mark of course, was Stephen’s business partner and co-founder of the superb comic and graphic novel book shop in Nottingham, Page 45.
I did two very enjoyable and profitable signings at Page 45 (in 1995 and 1996), and of course Page 45 has been at the forefront of promoting non-superhero comics and graphic novels to both Nottingham’s general public and the world at large. There can be very few connoisseurs of the comic book medium that haven’t heard of Page 45 and their tireless crusade for the acceptance and appreciation of comics by a mainstream public.
While Stephen has been the public face of Page 45, Mark contributed, as Stephen puts it, “a unique aesthetic which can never be replaced.”
I last saw Mark at the Bristol Festival a couple of years ago. He was a quiet, unassuming man, but through his work with Stephen at Page 45 has made an phenomenal contribution the comic industry as a whole.
I have been greatly shocked and saddened by news of these two tragedies. Not only because I knew them, not only because of the fantastic efforts they have made to increase public awareness of the ‘real mainstream’ of comics, but particularly because they were both only in their early forties and had so much left to offer.
Andy and Mark both shared a vision for the comic art form, one that strove to surpass the superhero straightjacket and expand comics’ potential readership to the general public.
Both succeeded in doing so to a great degree, and they will be very greatly missed.
As I was just going to press with this issue, I heard the news that my Aunt Doll had passed away on 8th August, aged 92. I believe she was the last surviving member of my father’s siblings. I visited her a couple of years ago while researching my family history and we have regularly kept in touch.
92 is a grand old age and no mistake, but very sad nonetheless.