Remembering Mike Wieringo

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of Mike Wieringo, a well-loved and -respected artist for Marvel, DC, and many other publishers.  In a time when the “Image Style” of flashy, over-rendered comics were in vogue, Mike maintained a style that was dynamic, fun, and full of life.  Dare I say, “cartoony,” which most fans today use as a pejorative, not realizing that cartoons and cartoony art is what got them into the medium when they were children.

As Image was growing, much of my interest in comics was shifting.  I was intrigued by the work of Lee, Larson, McFarlane, and even Liefeld, but that wore off quickly.  Pinups are fine, but in an almost purely visual medium, storytelling is key.

And in that regard, Mike was a master locksmith.

I fell in love with Mike’s art from the beginning.  His work reminded me of another Mike, Parobeck, who had made a name for himself at DC drawing the Batman Animated Series tie-in comic, and the short-lived JSA book that just happened to feature my favorite team.  Parobeck also infused his work with fun, life, and a seeming simplicity that belied a real gift for storytelling.

One day I was at work at the local video shop, and a fellow came in to pick up a reserved movie, and his ticket read, “Wieringo.”  I asked if he was related, and the gentlemen smiled and said, “he’s my brother.”  Matt Wieringo and I chatted for a few moments while I rang up his purchase.  Matt confirmed that his brother was also a fan of Parobeck, and for some reason, that made me appreciate Mike all the more.

Mike would go on to draw some of comic’s greatest icons: The Flash, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Fantastic Four, Spider Man, and the X-Men.  Mike was one of the very few artists that if his name were in the credits – even if it were just a cover – it would cause me to buy the book no questions asked.

Social Media had not yet exploded into the global consciousness, but Mike posted art and thoughts almost daily on his blog (still available intact at mikewieringoart.com), and a couple of times he and I exchanged quick greetings in the comments on a post.

Ten years ago today, I was looking up something about Mike, and one of the first things to pop up was news of his passing.

A couple of years later, I attended Baltimore Comic Con with a simple goal: find Todd Dezago and Matt Wieringo.  Todd had interviewed Mike for a book, Modern Masters, and I asked them to sign it, and thanked them for their continued work in keeping Mike’s legacy alive.

I retold the story of how we met to Matt, and we chatted for a while about Mike, and about Matt’s work.  At the next table, Todd was delighting my Kidlet with goofy antics, all in Todd’s high-pitched “Choopie” voice from his character in the Perhapanauts.  My Kidlet was hooked.

It’s been seven years since I attended that show.  Matt and Todd have become friends, and we often talk about Mike, from his techniques, to his spirit, to his energy and compassion.  In those talks, Mike is still alive.

Sometimes you can tell how much one artist is influenced by another.  Take Jack Kirby’s influence on Erik Larsen for example.  Other times, it’s harder to find in an artist’s work.

I draw goofy animals in silly situations, and unpolished at that.  But while you may never see it reflected in my work, Mike Wieringo is a big reason I am drawing today.

In a time when I would surely have given up on the medium, Mike’s work kept me engaged, and gave me hope that bright, fun, four-color adventures could still be had at 22 pages a pop.  Mike’s work helped elevate my relationship to comics from fan to “I want to do that.”

It’s been nearly 24 years since I first found Mike’s work in a comic.

It’s been ten years to the day that we lost his talent.

But his spirit, his joy, and his sense of fun live on.  And if I can convey even a tenth of that in my own work, then I am on the right track.

I can say with some certainty, as I approach my second Baltimore Comic Con as a guest creator, I would not be where I am without Mike Wieringo.

Thank you, Mike, for everything.

We miss you.


A few of my favorite pieces by Mike Wieringo

This has been my computer wallpaper for years now.

This has been my computer wallpaper for years now.

Mike's rendition of one of my all-time favorite characters, Usagi Yojimbo (created by Stan Sakai)

Mike’s rendition of one of my all-time favorite characters, Usagi Yojimbo (created by Stan Sakai)

Mike drew this image of the Perhapanauts for his friends Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau, the 'Nauts creators.

Mike drew this image of the Perhapanauts for his friends Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau, the ‘Nauts creators.

Peter Porker, Spider-Ham, has always been a favorite of mine, and Mike was one of the few artists who drew the character with both respect, and a sense of the silly.

Peter Porker, Spider-Ham, has always been a favorite of mine, and Mike was one of the few artists who drew the character with both respect, and a sense of the silly.

More of Mike's Spider-Ham...and a few guests, too.

More of Mike’s Spider-Ham…and a few guests, too.

And another. Like I said...I love this character.

And another. Like I said…I love this character.

Another aspect of Mike's work was his ability to draw beautiful women who were strong and intelligent, without sexualizing them.

Another aspect of Mike’s work was his ability to draw beautiful women who were strong and intelligent, without sexualizing them.

Even when the female character in question was a teenager, there is still an inherent strength within the art, emanating from the character.

Even when the female character in question was a teenager, there is still an inherent strength within the art, emanating from the character.

We came close to a full X-Men book from Mike with ROGUE, but this was always one of my favorite of his X-Men drawings.

We came close to a full X-Men book from Mike with ROGUE, but this was always one of my favorite of his X-Men drawings.

Mike worked with Mark Waid to produce the best Fantastic Four comic since Kirby himself worked on the book.

Mike worked with Mark Waid to produce the best Fantastic Four comic since Kirby himself worked on the book.

Mike even drew Kirby into the book, a tribute more fitting as we are about to celebrate Kirby's 100th birthday.

Mike even drew Kirby into the book, a tribute more fitting as we are about to celebrate Kirby’s 100th birthday.

This page features a key lesson for storytellers, and having it delivered by Kirby makes it all the more powerful.

This page features a key lesson for storytellers, and having it delivered by Kirby makes it all the more powerful.

Mike's Sue Storm was a fantastic character, often shown to be the real core of the team. Feminine, yes, but easily the most dangerous person in the book.

Mike’s Sue Storm was a fantastic character, often shown to be the real core of the team. Feminine, yes, but easily the most dangerous person in the book.

Mike created this for four covers of the book early in his run.

Mike created this for four covers of the book early in his run.

One of the last books Mike worked on was a great limited series, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, written by Jeff Parker. Parker is another favorite of mine, and it was a thrill to read a book by them both. I am lucky to own a couple of pages from this book, too.

One of the last books Mike worked on was a great limited series, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, written by Jeff Parker. Parker is another favorite of mine, and it was a thrill to read a book by them both. I am lucky to own a couple of pages from this book, too.

Mike drew some amazing (ha!) adventures for the webhead...but this quiet piece of Peter and MJ will always be one of my favorite Spidey covers.

Mike drew some amazing (ha!) adventures for the webhead…but this quiet piece of Peter and MJ will always be one of my favorite Spidey covers.

I love The Spirit, and I loved how Mike made this image all about Dolan, subtly expressing Dolan's trust in, and exasperation with, Colt.

I love The Spirit, and I loved how Mike made this image all about Dolan, subtly expressing Dolan’s trust in, and exasperation with, Colt.

Mike's version of the Louise Simonson and June Brigman team, Power Pack. Mike drew children as their own characters, and not simply "small humans." I love how the various ages is represented in their bodies, postures, and the shapes of their faces.

Mike’s version of the Louise Simonson and June Brigman team, Power Pack. Mike drew children as their own characters, and not simply “small humans.” I love how the various ages is represented in their bodies, postures, and the shapes of their faces.

I think this cover to a Spider-Ham special was the last Peter Porker drawing Mike did.

I think this cover to a Spider-Ham special was the last Peter Porker drawing Mike did.

This arc of The Flash is a great one, for no other reason than it includes all of the great speedsters from various generations, including my all-time favorite Flash, Jay Garrick.

This arc of The Flash is a great one, for no other reason than it includes all of the great speedsters from various generations, including my all-time favorite Flash, Jay Garrick.

I don't know what this was for...but there's no way you can tell me that the spaceship doesn't look like a penguin.

I don’t know what this was for…but there’s no way you can tell me that the spaceship doesn’t look like a penguin.

My favorite era of the X-Men is the first twenty or so issues from the Kirby/Roth era. Mike drew the early Iceman perfectly.

My favorite era of the X-Men is the first twenty or so issues from the Kirby/Roth era. Mike drew the early Iceman perfectly.

Mike drew some great covers for his friends, some of whom are friends of mine, including Scott Sava, for his book Dreamland Chronicles, one of Kidlet's favorites.

Mike drew some great covers for his friends, some of whom are friends of mine, including Scott Sava, for his book Dreamland Chronicles, one of Kidlet’s favorites.

Okay...this is a cheat. This is by Mike's brother, Matt, who is just as talented as Mike. It's just not easy to get Matt to accept that assessment.

Okay…this is a cheat.
This is by Mike’s brother, Matt, who is just as talented as Mike. It’s just not easy to get Matt to accept that assessment.

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