Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bill Jaaska RIP 1961 - 2009

The comics community is an interesting one, one of names, not faces, that flit in and out of our awareness with extreme rapidity. We end up discussing artists and writers and inkers as though we're on a first name basis with them, because, well, we kinda feel that after we read their work enough. How easily the names trip off of my tongue like I know these people! Loved Sam Rosen's lettering in that issue, enjoyed Bill Everett's work on that issue, or Jim Lee's on this issue. And I've met none of those people.

I can say that i worked with Bill Jaaska, but I never met Bill. Did one issue of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and that was that. Bill was doing a rather strange over-rendered pencil style that did not mesh well with my inks at the time. But that was what needed to be done so I did it. Since it was only a single issue I didn't have the editors give me his phone number so that i could call him. I turned it in, submitted my voucher and moved on to an issue Eternal Warrior.

Welcome to the disconnected world of comics. I've inked plenty of people that i've never met, and any one of them could easily be have died, alone, in a rented room like Bill did, and no one in the comics community or myself would ever know. And thats sad.

As artists, much of what we do it solitary. Many of us aren't great socially and so we retreat into the quiet shelter of our drawings. Its part of what makes us artists, being able to visualize alien worlds in our heads and bring that out on the paper. The internet has been a huge boon to us however, allowing us to communicate at 3 in the morning with people around the world via email and become more connected without having to be over connected.

Still, it took a very long time for the comics community to realize that Bill had died. The story, as it is, is in the blog here, and it makes for interesting and sad reading. While I didn't follow his career, it seems that Bill, after working on some fairly high profile gigs with Peter David on The Hulk, dropped off the radar, and stayed off the radar.

And that's pretty easy to do in comics back then. After inking Batman:Outlaws with Gulacy in 2000, I decided to stop inking professionally and do some other art, so it would have appeared that i dropped off the radar as well. But you could have found my graphic design on the web by Google, and then the blog, and then the web comic. Bill didn't do that, not that anyone can find.

And its sad. Go read. And think about all the comics that you've read and re-read, and start to wonder where some of those people are now.


Daniel Best said...

Damn, that's sad. I must be one of the few who really did enjoy his work on The Hulk.

It's sad that people are forgotten like this...


Another well written and thoughtful post. Very sad story.

How true it is, what you said, about how we, as comic fans, know these names so well, that we can recognize their art by sight if we are obsessive enough about it (as so many of us can be), yet how abjectly ironic that even their fellow artists may pass them on the street without knowing who they are!

While artistic personalities and temperments vary, you so aptly point out that most of us (artists) are solitary souls whose real life exists in our creative imaginations, and the blessed few are able to transmit a joy and wonder through their artistic expression. And while we as fans enjoy basking in the warm glow they create, we are little aware of the personal turmoil and tragedy that seem to dot many a great artists existence (Wood, Cole, etc).

I will have to revisit my Jaaska comics again, and enjoy them in a new light. As we think of those who are no longer with us, we can balance the sadness with the knowledge that they were able to make their mark, however great or small,and that their works will continue to live on, and that they themselves are now in a place where pain and suffering is no more.

R.I.P. Mr. Jaaska.

Doug Hazlewood said...

I inked Bill for several issues on SABLE for First Comics. I also never talked to him on the phone, but I think we may have at least written each other...I'm not sure.

I know Mark Heike knew him and told me what he knew of him. I think even back then that Mark was concerned that Bill would not respond or was hard to get hold of. Mark was from Milwaukee and it sounded like Bill was a troubled soul back then, too.

I was saddened to stumble across the news of his passing today. That was one of my earliest gigs and I was happy when I saw Bill on HULK back in the day. RIP.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

@ doug - it really is shocking how isolated we were as artists in this industry back in the horrible days of... 1995 or so. Sad really. Its just so damn easy to keep in touch these days.

It certainly sounds like bill had problems elsewhere in his life, mentally or physically, so it is very sad.

Anonymous said...

Hi all, my wife (Maija Jaaska) and I are now selling Bill's complete collection of original comic book on ebay:

Thank you,

Shane and Maija

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