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An Ed Piskor Tribute

On April 1st, 2024, cartoonist Ed Piskor passed away. Since then, slews of Youtubers and comic influencers have leveraged the controversy surrounding his death to boost their views and subscriptions, bellowing out political opinions regarding how this affects the entire comics industry, even though the majority of them didn't even know Ed. Nor were they a part of the community Ed helped create. I wanted to wait for some of the hype to die down before I made any sort of comment, because I don't want to be a part of the wave of people taking advantage of the trending.

About a year or so before the COVID pandemic hit, Ed Piskor and his buddy/fellow comics creator Jim Rugg decided to start a Youtube channel to have the kinds of conversations about comics they couldn't find elsewhere on the internet. It was called Cartoonist Kayfabe. They were often accompanied by another friend and colleague Tom Scioli (all three pictured above, penned by me).

I was lucky enough to stumble upon the channel in its earliest days and was immediately hooked. Their video drops coincided with my return to the artform after spending half a lifetime ignoring this dream of mine. Ed and Jim were passionate and insightful, with a wealth of knowledge on comics history and artistic process that I never before had access to. Soon, what started as a mere Youtube channel grew into an entire community of comics enthusiasts that created together, supported one another, and quickly became the lifeblood for thousands of us during global lockdowns. Ultimately, this community catalyzed my start in comics, publishing many of my first works in collaborative projects that shook the independent comics world.

Ed was an interesting character. For him, comics seemed to be more of a religion than just a passion. His dedication and zeal was infectious, despite some of his personality quirks that rubbed some people the wrong way. In those early days, he would often draw live on Youtube and I would join along with dozens of others, sometimes hundreds. He took care to remember everyone who joined. We would all draw as a group, and I learned a lot from him. A LOT. When I finally met him in person, he recognized me from the live sessions and was very kind and respectful to both my wife and I. Not long after that, Jim and Ed featured my comic on their channel in one of their mailbag sessions.

My interaction with Cartoonist Kayfabe waned after that. Everyone has their opinions about it all, how things changed (sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better). From my limited perspective, it seemed to me that Ed and Jim's popularity got too big for the small community. Ed's personality became larger, more "kayfabe" as it were, like the persona of a pro-wrestler. He and Jim made decisions that upset the community, caused divisions. Controversies and shit-talk infected a once-glorious pool of creative waters. That kind of stuff happens. I'm not here to disparage them. They're human. I've certainly made my fair share of mistakes, burned my allotment of bridges.

The main thing I want to say is that Ed Piskor inspired me. What I will always remember him most for was being a guy who took the "underground", "independent," and "outlaw" vibe of comics and brought it into the mainstream. When Marvel approached him about doing an X-Men book, he said I'm doing it MY way. For the first time, in a mainstream book (which normally is so polished and glossy it becomes uninteresting) I saw a style that looked more like my own: rough, cartoony, dynamic, individualized. I will always remember Ed Piskor for that, as well as his failings, because I like people when they are fully human. I don't need my heroes to be perfect. Without Ed Piskor, I never would have had the community that fostered my grown and birthed me into the life I always dreamed of having: a life of making comics!

On April 20th, family and friends hosted a memorial gathering in Pittsburgh and asked for artwork to contribute to a slideshow to memorialize Ed. I was lucky enough to have my drawing accepted. Here is the slideshow, starting at the 4:07 mark where my drawing is featured, but I encourage you watch the entirety of it to relish in the amazing works it contains:

Another great video to memorialize Ed is the recent drop by amazing comics creator/teacher/historian Ben Granoff. He has a four part video series called The Gift of the Piskor, and I am lucky enough to be listed a contributor with some of the greatest talents in the independent comics industry. Many thanks to Ben for putting this together, discussing the true legacy of Ed Piskor!





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