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Thursday, 28 July 2011

In Memoriam: Martin Skidmore

Photo courtesy Andrew Moreton. Share Alike Some rights reserved by Andrew Moreton

(Last updated 11/8/11): We're sorry to report that Martin Skidmore, a longtime stalwart of British comics, has died after a long and difficult battle with cancer, aged 52.

He died peacefully, surrounded by good friends in hospital in London, bouyed in his last days by good wishes from many British comic creators, including Alan Moore and others.

An inspiration and a very good friend to many, Martin will be profoundly missed.

Martin, who charted his battle with terminal cancer on his LiveJournal, Japanese Arts and on his Facebook page, contributed a huge amount to the British comics scene as editor of Worlds Collide, the original Fantasy Advertiser (which, despite his illness, he recently revived (sort of) as the online site, FA - The ComicZine), the 1980s British independent comics imprint Trident Comics (which included work by Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar, Eddie Campbell and others) and much, much more, including contributions to web sites such as Freaky Trigger and ILX.

Despite his battle with cancer, Martin seems to have resolutely tried to keep his humour. "Bad health news update," he noted in his last facebook profile post on 15th July. "Exciting new cancers are proliferating all over me, and I am unlikely to have much time left - could still be some months, could be a couple of weeks, depending on when one of the tumours hits vital organs, and there is no predicting that.

"I am now on morphine painkillers - I suspect addiction is not a concern..."

I haven't seen him in the flesh for a number of years, but he has been hugely active online, not just discussing comics but reviewed a bunch of singles every week with many other talented writers (often via the Singles Juke Box), as well as books and Japanese arts, when he wasn’t, as his bio on FA notes, "watching football or other TV or doing his day job as a systems analyst at a top London university."

Martin Skidmore interviews Dave Sim. Photo: Frank Plowright, via Martin Hand
As the editor of Fantasy Advertiser, he was part of the lifeblood of the British comics scene in the 1980s and ran a title that cast an honest light on the comics industry of the period. He published many still seminal articles, not least of which was a guide to writing comics by Alan Moore that I still have lurking in a box somewhere. He was always curious, open to others viewpoints while always having his own, which he made with fervent politeness.

Everything he did, he seemed to do with consummate care. When he launched FA online, it was not before attracting writers included in ‘best music writing in the world’ books, or who had been invited to vote in Sight & Sound’s 10-yearly polls as one of the world’s leading movie critics.

"I am ambitious about this site," he enthused in a pre-launch email. "I want it to be great, and to advance the form of comics criticism. The launch content is a decent start, I like to think, but I am aiming higher."

Martin (centre) with Hassan Yusuf (left), Theo Clarke (right) and Andrew Moreton (far right) at the Royal National Hotel Comic Mart, in Summer 2009
Martin was, without doubt: "A man who helped shape the UK comics scene, and whose passion for the medium and its people was unstinting to the end" -- as noted by the team at Gosh! Comics London in a tribute on his Facebook page.

"Back when I was starting he was an enthusiastic supporter and promoter of me and my work," notes Mike Collins, one of Trident Comics creative team in the 1980s. "He gave me opportunities in Fantasy Advertiser and with Neptune publishing that were invaluable in getting me established. A genuine good bloke."

"Martin's love for comic art and storytelling shone through in everything he did," says ComICA director Paul Gravett. "He was one of the good guys."

A nice guy," agrees David Lloyd. "And one of the major strengths of British comics fandom and its early indie publishing successes."

Martin was the first magazine/fanzine editor of whom I could say, I recognised an actual human being behind the editorial style," says artist, writer and designer Chrissie Harper. "...Martin’s generosity and indulgence is something I’ll never forget."

Martin Skidmore in 2008
Photo courtesy Martin Hand
"These days everyone’s an online omnivore, of course," notes his friend Tom Ewing in his tribute on Freaky Trigger. "But Martin was the real thing: he had an endless, unshowy curiosity, a frank and level judgment, and the depth of experience to give that judgment weight. When he said that something – Tezuka’s Phoenix, for instance – was among the art he loved best in the world, you listened, because you knew he never said that kind of thing lightly. And though he was humble and good-humoured, he was also quietly and rightly proud of the Japanese arts project and the work he’d done for the British comics industry through Trident Comics and the FA zine.

"...Martin was the kind of contributor every community wants – quick to say something welcoming or smart, slow to anger, possessed of a working bullshit detector but enough of a gent to use it wisely."

"This is a passing that many of us knew was coming, not something sudden and unexpected," notes Ned Raggett. "Martin knew most of all. With a directness, clarity and forthrightness that is astonishing, he discussed his situation, through emails and in various posts via Facebook, acknowledging the cancer he had been diagnosed with, the steps that were going to be taken. And he continued on nonetheless, for that was his way.

"...We are mourning him on ILX,' he added. "We will mourn him elsewhere. His friend Tim posted a link to one of his favorite pieces Martin wrote for Freaky Trigger, commenting “it’s a really good way of remembering how Martin wore his great intelligence and his great insight lightly.” Please read it, and note Tim’s wisdom in summing up Martin’s abilities...

"To the end, Martin lived."

• Any donations to Macmillan Cancer Support (http://www.macmilla n.org.uk/ Home.aspx)  who made a massive difference to the quality of life Martin had over the last few months would be most gratefully received.

Comic Creator Tributes

Martin Hand

Chrissie Harper

Tony Keen

Tom Spurgeon: The Comics Reporter

Lew Stringer recalls Martin's comics work at Trident and on Fantasy Advertiser

'Mr Tsk'

Tributes from the Music Community

Freaky Trigger

The Singles Jukebox


Ned Raggett

You can post condolence messages for Martin here on FA.com

2 comments:

Ralf Farthing said...

Thank you for sharing this. Martin was my godfather, a man I grew up sharing a passion for comic art with. I knew him fairly well, but I would never have said we were close. I was with him 2 days before he died and he was on good form if a little tired.

I'm so sorry that it has taken me this long to find this article. He was a lovely guy, if a little misunderstood. He was one of the sharpest tools in my small tool box and is sorely missed. I am glad to learn about his friendships with the comic and music world which I knew existed, but never shared with him.

Ralf Farthing

John Freeman said...

Hi Ralf, I've just approved the comment you made on our tribute to Martin on the old blog. All our posts are now on downthetubes.net and if you wanted to post your comment there, please feel free. Here's the new link: http://downthetubes.net/?p=1319. Martin was a lovely guy, I'm sad I did not see much of him in his final years.

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