Tom and I first met at a comic convention, of course. It was the heady days of the mid-80’s when comics were in the midst of a sales boom spread across the bigs as well as a dozen new, upstart indie publishers. I was a hungry writer on the make and Tom was a hungry artist on the make. I needed a regular penciler and inker for a back-up feature I was writing, and Tom jumped on board for what would be the start of a collaboration that would last for years and take us both to bigger and better things in our careers.
It’s rare for me to find an artist who can keep up with me and Tom came closer than anyone. Way closer. He was as all-in for comics as I was, living and breathing them, a total commitment. We were both total deadline hawks.
I got a call from DC Comics’ managing editor once because Tom had turned in the complete art for an issue and there was no script for the next issue waiting. I had to point out that Tom had handed the issue in two months ahead of deadline and thirty days before my next script was due. I never let him run that close again. In fact, thanks to my experience with Tom, I built longer and longer lead times into my schedule.
In addition to being a comics creating duo, we also travelled a lot together. Because we were living in the same town at the time we often flew, trained and drove together to summits, store appearances and conventions. Sometimes spending days in each other’s’ company and, on one occasion, an entire week travelling by Amtrak to a Batman retreat and straight on from there to the Mid-Ohio con by series of puddle jumper flights. We were younger then and tireless self-promoters. If that wasn’t enough, we also hiked together, doing sections of the Appalachian Trail. Even out there in the wild Pennsylvania hills it was an effort to stay ahead of him.
Over more than thirty years of friendship we always looked out for one another. I would bring him in on jobs, and he’d bring me in on jobs. To this day I’m working on a regular assignment that Tom lined up for me. Thanks, brother.
We were each a different breed of cat from one another but shared a love for making comics that made everything else irrelevant. Tom was always good company with a wicked sense of humor and the kind of infectious laugh that always made you join in even if it was your balls he was busting.
And he was a straight shooter. You wouldn’t ask him his opinion unless you wanted the unvarnished truth. I think that’s what made him such a good collaborator. I always knew where Tom stood on any subject. He didn’t hold back.
It’s going to take me a while to realize, to really understand, that I’ll never get another phone call from Tom. There will be no more catching up with one another. I’ll still be expecting to see him at a convention. I’ll have to stop myself from asking one of the many students of his that I run into how their professor is doing. Like any loss, there’s a void now that can only be filled with memories. And, there’s a whole lot of fans and peers and friends who are sharing that feeling with me today and will do so for a long time.
Goodbye, buddy and Godspeed.