The Top 10 Creator Deaths in Comics

By | Monday, April 18, 2022 Leave a Comment
This is an idea I've shopped around a bit, but it's a bit too morbid for most people, so I figured I could throw it up here since nobody reads this anyway. I'm not talking about character deaths, but we're looking at the top 10 comic creator deaths in the comics industry. (I'm liberally swiping some of the text from Wikipedia.)
  1. Forrest J Ackerman - Though Ackerman was primarily known and respected in science fiction circles, he did some comic work, including creating the title character and writing the original Vampirella story. Ackerman was susceptible to infection in his later life and, after one final trip to the hospital, informed his best friend and caregiver Joe Moe that he didn't want to go on. Honoring his wishes, his friends brought him home to hospice care. However, it turned out that in order to get Ackerman home, the hospital had cured his infection with antibiotics. So Ackerman went on for a few more weeks holding what he delighted in calling, "a living funeral". In his final days he saw everyone he wanted to say good-bye to. Fans were encouraged to send messages of farewell by mail. Ackerman was ultimately interred at Glendale Forest Lawn with his wife Wendayne "Rocket To The Rue Morgue" Ackerman. His plaque simply reads, "Sci-Fi Was My High".
  2. Bill Gaines - Gaines was, of course, the publisher of EC Comics and is well known as the founder of Mad Magazine. In 1987 he married Anne Griffiths. They remained married until his death in 1992. On Gaines' deathbed, she honored his humor by giving Gaines a "Last Tag", which was one of Gaines' favorite strips from MAD Magazine, depicting a dying man tagging his friend from his deathbed, saying "Last Tag" just before dying. Gaines' wife with her tag fulfilled an inside joke and wish held between the two of them.
  3. Max Gaines - This Gaines was Bill's father and founded EC Comics (originally Educational Comics) in the first place. During the summer of 1947 when Gaines, his friend Sam Irwin and Irwin's son were struck by a speedboat on Lake Placid, New York. Gaines died in the accident, but saved Irwin's son by throwing him into the back of the boat at the last second. The operator of the speedboat was not prosecuted.
  4. Seth Fisher - Fisher had a very brief career, but was nominated for an Eisner for his work on Flash: Time Flies and was praised for his work on Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big In Japan. When he had finished that comic, he took the train to Osaka, Japan to celebrate at a club he knew about where he could dance and let go. But he had always liked rooftops. He hated the idea that he was uncomfortable around heights, and he challenged himself to do what he feared, to not let fear have power over him. So there he was, seven stories up, on a rainy evening. It was in his nature to push the boundaries, but to stay in control. His best friend Langdon Foss noted, "Seth would never take chances that would result in his death. Whatever happened, it was the one chance in one thousand that happens to a guy hanging out on a roof." The following morning he was found dead on the pavement below, having fallen the full seven stories.
  5. Mark Gruenwald - Gruenwald was primarily known for his work on Marvel Comics in the 1980s, spearheading The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and having a lengthy run on Captain America. In 1996, Gruenwald succumbed to a heart attack, the result of an unsuspected congenital heart defect. Gruenwald was a well-known practical joker, and due to his young age, many of his friends and co-workers initially believed the reports of his death to be just another joke. A longtime lover of comics, Gruenwald made it known amongst his friends and families that his one desire was to have his ashes used in part of a comic. In accordance with his request, he was cremated, and his ashes were mixed with the ink used to print the first-run trade paperback compilation of Squadron Supreme.
  6. Joe Maneely - Maneely was an artist for Atlas Comics and it's been posited that, had he not died, he would've helped architect the Marvel Universe in the way that Jack Kirby ultimately did. On June 7, 1958, Maneely had dined hours earlier with fellow laid-off Atlas colleagues, including George Ward and John Severin, in Manhattan. He did not have his glasses with him, having lost them the week before, and was killed when he accidentally fell between the cars of a moving commuter train on his way home to New Jersey. When they found him, he was still clutching his portfolio.
  7. Wally Wood - Wood is often lauded as one of the great comic book artists of all time. But for much of his adult life, he suffered from chronic, unexplainable headaches. In the 1970s, following bouts with alcoholism, Wood suffered from kidney failure. A stroke in 1978 caused a loss of vision in one eye. Faced with declining health (he was scheduled to start dialysis in a few days) and career prospects (a prospective animation project had just fallen through), he committed suicide by gunshot in his Los Angeles apartment. His body was discovered three days later when his publisher at the time asked police to check on him.
  8. Alex Raymond - Raymond is well-known as the creator of Flash Gordon, but also went on to create Jungle Jim, Secret Agent X-9 and Rip Kirby comic strips. On September 6, 1956, Raymond was killed in an automobile accident in Westport, Connecticut. Driving fellow cartoonist Stan Drake's 1956 Corvette at twice the speed limit, he hit a tree and was killed. Driving in a convertible with the top down, Raymond decided to reach his destination quicker rather than stop to put the top back up when rain started to fall. Drake was thrown clear of the crash, but Raymond, with his seat belt buckled, died instantly. Speculation surrounds the nature of his death, with some, Drake included, believing Raymond was suicidal. Raymond had been involved in four automobile accidents in the month prior to his death, which led Drake to say Raymond "had been trying to kill himself". Author Arlen Schumer alleges that Raymond had been having affairs, and that although he and his wife were separated, she was refusing to grant him a divorce.
  9. Jack Cole - Cole is best known as the creator of Plastic Man. Cole killed himself on August 13, 1958. Cole told his wife at about two in the afternoon that he was picking up the mail and the newspapers. Driving to nearby Crystal Lake, he purchased a .22 caliber, single-shot Marlin rifle. He phoned a neighbor between 5:15 and 5:30 pm to say what he was doing, and for the neighbor to tell Dorothy. Cole was found by three boys at approximately 6 pm, shot in the head but still alive. Cole died at nearby Woodstock Hospital. That morning, he had mailed two suicide notes, one to his wife and one to his friend and boss, Playboy editor-publisher Hugh Hefner. The letter to his wife was never made public and the reasons for Cole's suicide have remained unknown. Dorothy never again spoke with her late husband's family nor with Hefner, and remarried approximately a year later.
  10. Bob Wood - Wood was the creator of the infamous Crime Does Not Pay. Wood was arrested in 1958 after confessing to beating his girlfriend to death in a cheap hotel, following an 11-day drunken binge. Wood's clothes were so bloodied, police borrowed a pair of pants from the hotel manager to take Wood in for questioning. He was convicted of manslaughter, and served three years in prison, but couldn't stay out of trouble; gambling had been a longtime habit of his, and with gambling comes debt. And the people who lend money for gambling debts aren't the sort who send collection notices in the mail; in Wood's case, they were prison acquaintances from Sing-Sing. They took their old buddy for a ride one day, and his body was later found dumped along the New Jersey Turnpike.
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