I wrote something for The Beat‘s collective tribute to Tom Spurgeon, but somehow it got utterly screwed up by the time it ran. Here’s the original.
In no particular order:
1. The thrill of recognition when I was starting out and realized that Spurgeon was reading me. He was the real deal, even then. (I’m old, I can say that.) To this day, I feel like he was being too polite when we’d talk and he wouldn’t just tell me to stop wasting his time.
2. The kindness he showed me when I had to bail on doing an interview with him because of my father’s death; I remember extremely clearly, more than a decade later, how much his down-to-earth reminders that what was happening was far more important than talking about comics helped at a time when I was, basically, a complete mess who thought that I couldn’t let anyone down about anything, no matter what.
(I did the interview on the plane home after the funeral; it was shitty because of where my head was at, and I’ve always felt bad that I wasn’t more entertaining or interesting; Spurgeon was pleasantly dismissive of such thoughts.)
3. His response when I told him that he and I were both on a Prominent Comic Creator’s private list worst case scenarios for comics journalists, along with a third I’m-not-naming-them-here journalist, as told to me by a mutual friend. The best word is probably “tickled”; he thought it was ridiculous and funny and confusing that the three of us were on the same list, but decided that it was probably a badge of honor for all three of us, somehow.
4. An email I got from him after he’d heard that an entirely separate Prominent Comic Creator tried to start a fight with me at a comic convention. It’s very silly, but having him write, “I got your back,” felt like… validation? Having someone I respected to that degree say something as simple as that about something that I was feeling pretty embarrassed about meant a lot. Also, considering the creator involved, the mental image of the two of them fighting is utterly amazing, trust me.
5. This essay: http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/sickness_essay/
It’s such a wonderful piece of writing, when viewed through an analytic eye, sure, but it’s also a wonderful encapsulation of Tom as I knew him; the last section, where he writes about sharing his story because he hopes it will make people get check-ups again, and “embrace the inevitable fragilities of getting older with good humor and perspective,” speaks well of him as not only a writer, but also as a person.
I’ve re-read it a couple of times since learning of his death, and it’s overwhelming right now. I know if he was here to read this and I said that to him, he’d say something funny to try and put my mind at ease, but also take pains not to undercut how sad I am. That he’d do that for me, when we weren’t especially close, says everything there is.