Friday, February 22, 2008

Steve Whitaker RIP

Steve Whitaker

I've just heard that Steve Whitaker died suddenly and unexpectedly this morning (Friday 22nd February). It seems that he had been feeling unwell and decided to take a taxi to his doctors. He collapsed in the taxi, was resuscitated by his doctor but died later at hospital.

Anyone who was around the London comics scene in the 80's and early 90's will remember Steve; at 6ft 4in he was hard to miss in his trademark long dark overcoat. He was a world-class colourist who will probably be remembered professionally for his work on the DC Comics edition of V for Vendetta, but he was far more than that; a brilliant draughtsman, painter, teacher and historian of comics, raconteur and ace punster. He was also my best mate.

He will be sorely missed by his many friends.

If you don't know Steve's work, check out his LiveJournal account stickismyfriend, or his Flickr account, Diplodocus Peacock.

There are two "Collective memory" websites devoted to Steve:
http://community.livejournal.com/jellytown/
http://www.flickr.com/groups/steemol/

Further tributes to Steve from:

Nick Abadzis

John Freeman (downthetubes.net)

Martin Hand

Andrew Littlefield

Jenni Scott

(Thanks due to the anonymous reader who first posted these links in the comments)

Left: Steve by Steve



46 comments:

Will Kane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will Kane said...

This is very sad news.

I haven't seen Steve for quite some years, but he was one of the first friends I made in the UK comics biz when I moved to London in the late 80s.
He was always very encouraging to me, enthusiastic about my work, always available to look over my portfolio and always ready with helpful criticism.

A fine tutor, I have fond memories of Steve attempting to explain to (the colour-blind) me the finer points of colour theory when I landed my first colouring job at Dark Horse UK.

Possessor of quite the vast comic and LP collection, he lent his me entire run of Mike Sekowsky 'Mod' Wonder Woman comics when I expressed an interest.

A great draughtsman and a lovely bloke all round, he will be missed.

-WK

Luc said...

Very sad news indeed. And my condolences to his family, and to you on losing your best friend.

Derek said...

He was a real generous soul. A real grand heart.

I can't believe it. I was just thinking about him yesterday and I hadn't seen for over 15 years.

I was on a train and something sparked off a thought/memory and I remembered a lovely weekday afternoon I spent in a cafe in Dean Street with him chatting about Hugo Pratt and other great artists that he was directing me to. I thought to myself that I had contact him somehow and see what he was up to.

He was always willing to share and so full of enthusiasm to a fanboy like myself.

Steve, safe journey mate, godspeed. You've left big impressions on people who knew you for such a short time.

My condolences to all Steve's family and friends. He was a great bloke and sorely missed.

Tony Keen said...

I really don't know what to say about this. It's hard to believe that he's gone.

Martin Hand said...

- thanks matt, for that lovely tribute - the first of many i'm sure, as steve was such a great friend to such a lot of people - sorry you didn't get much sense out of me last night ( - shock was just setting in, i think... )

great photo too, btw ( - one that steve himself liked, iirc )

hope you & lynn are coping ok

x Martin H

monocat said...

crap

rikad said...

Thankyou matt and everyone for saying such lovelly things about steve. Im sure he would have something funny & milliganesque to say about all this, buggered if i can think of anything....

richard whitaker
x

Lee Brimmicombe-Wood said...

I have just spoken with Steve Whitaker's father. He couldn't tell me much more than we already knew.

Basically, Steve was feeling poorly yesterday, so his father packed him into a taxi to go to the doctor. On the way, Steve collapsed. The doctors rushed out of the surgery and managed to revive him, and called an ambulance to take him to hospital. He passed away either on the way to the infirmary or shortly after arriving.

No one knows what the cause is for sure. A stroke is suspected. Steve had suffered a transient ischaemic attack around a year ago, but this was thought to be under control. Clearly this may be related to his death.

There will have to be a coroner's inquest and no funeral arrangements can be made until this is complete. As Steve died at the beginning of the weekend his father will have to wait until Monday before the process can start.

As you may know, Steve was caring for his elderly father. However, he tells me that he is being well looked-after in Steve's absence so we shouldn't worry about him.

I'll pass on more when I have it.

Lou Mazzella said...

I never met Steve in person, and only really knew him as a tremendously knowledgeable scholar who would help contribute to the Grand Comic-Book Database mailing lists. I'm glad that he was willing to share his knowledge. My best goes out to his family and friends.
-Lou Mazzella
Secretary
Board of Directors
Grand Comic-Book Database Project

ross said...

Oh shit.

Matt, thanks for this, and thanks to Tony for mentioning it his LJ or I would not have seen. This quite awful and reminds me that we're not so young as once we were, that we are of the generation that get ill or have accidents more easily. Our parents age as we may always think of it, until it hits us like this. The 1980s were a stone groove for me, when I was actually interested in comics and enjoyed the companionship, support and *knowledge* of those I encountered in the fandom. Steve stood out from all of these, not because of his height and bombastic personality, or sheer fucking *talent* but because he acted as both my compassionate friend and uncompromising critic.

An immense personality. A phenomenal person. I'm very shocked by this news. but I know my sense of nostalgic loss is incomparable to the pain and deeper shock that those who knew him closely still will be feeling. My deepest best wishes and sorrow for them.

And my thanks for having known Steve and marvelled at his drawing and his craziness.

ross

Guy Lawley said...

Terrible news. An old friend, very talented artist, comics historian with few peers and a splendid fellow.

Guy Lawley

Andrew Littlefield said...

I first met Steve when I was about 18 years old, and he was about 29 -so, nearly a quarter of a century ago now. As a young and unformed suburban teenager, I had never met anyone quite like Steve before - someone who not only knew seemingly everything there was to know about comics and pop music but who could also enthuse about Rivette, Sisley, Albert Ayler - high culture, low culture, any culture at all...all wrapped up in a pun, a joke, a spot-on-quote. Steve's love for THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES was as genuine as his passion for KONA, MONARCH OF MONSTER - it was all input, stimulus to thought, and to his own creative work. He lived and breathed the art life ALL THE TIME, and his example was inspiring and challenging and total fun. The kind of fun you think is never going to end.

Time and again, Steve made it clear to me that sharing - knowledge, time - was more than half the pleasure and always the whole point. As others have noted, Steve loved people who could match his own passion and thirst for knowledge, and he was almost as good a student as he was a teacher (and there's no doubting that he was a very good teacher indeed.) For me, it was a thrill to be able to turn him on to my latest jazz discovery, or present him with a new gem by an old favourite. Hearing an alb in his company, or seeing a movie with him, was certain to result in a GREAT conversation afterwards.

Steve's varied life experience, and in particular his time spent as a fine artist at Chelsea School of Art where he worked on the magazine CIPHER with Jake Tilson, gave his opinions on all things aesthetic a unique and highly personal authority. It also meant that whatever project he worked on - be it apazine, comic strip, review, a workshop, a checklist, photos of flats that his friends lived in - was always executed with the eye and mind of an Artist, with a capital fuckin' A.

There's so much more I want to say, but the truth is that Steve's passing has hit me very hard and at the moment it upsets me too much to think about him not being with us anymore. One of Steve's very favourite comics was THE MAN by Vaughan Bode - a beautifully simple story of loss and friendship. All I know is, Steve will never be forgotten by those of us proud to call him a friend.

Richard Barker said...

Steve Whitaker was one of my first friends once I entered the world of comics fandom in 1978 and remained so until I dropped out of the scene some fifteen years ago. He made me laugh more than most people could ever dream of and we shared a love of Steve Ditko, Reed Crandall, The Associates, Peter Sellers and XTC to name but a few. I often thought of him and am sad I never hooked up with him again in recent years.
He was a 'big' man in every way and filled a room with his personality the second he walked in.
It's a sad day.

Ramon Schenk said...

Never met the man. Never spoke to him on the phone. Only knew him as a person across the English Channel that I often playfully bantered with over the 'Net. About Steve Ditko. Charlton comics. Stuff like that.

I'll miss you, Steve.

Ramon Schenk
Contributing editor, Charlton Spotlight Magazine
Senior editor, GCD

Barry North said...

Steve was generous to a fault and possessed the kind of passion for his craft that yielded a tremendous amount for everyone he ever met.

Whenever I wade through my UKCAC stuff it is always Steve's work that makes me pause the longest.

I visited him a couple of times when he lived in Twickenham and that generosity and passion was in full swing as he showed my young son Scott just how "funny books" are made, all the while letting me rifle through his Aladdin’s cave of a workshop/flat.

During those visits I also got to see reams & reams of his sketches, the man could draw and there is a notion in my mind that this world and the world of comics has suffered a truly tragic loss.

I, like those who met or knew him well, will miss him but never forget him.

Rufus Dayglo said...

Matt, truly sad news.

Steve was a lovely fellow, and very generous with his time and knowledge.

I had many overenthusiastic conversations about Jack Kirby with him.

All my thoughts to Steve's family and other friends.

Rufus

Simon Jowett said...

Very very sad news.

The Steve I remember from the early/mid 90s was every bit as generous and gregarious as everyone else has mentioned. And, as others have mentioned, he was an astonishingly good colourist. But what always struck me the most was his entirely personal and distinctive line work and his natural instincts as a storyteller, both of which deserved a much wider audience.

Despite the sadness of the news, just thinking about Steve has made me smile. I bet that's happened to others who posted here.

aqws said...

Sad, sad news.
I didn't know Steve well, but he was the best comics tutor I have ever had.
~John~

I. N. J. Culbard said...

Very sad news.

My deepest sympathies to Steve's family and friends.

TheoClarke said...

Steve was one of my favourite people. He enriched my life for almost thirty years with his enthusiasm and creativity. His imagery is all around me: the small furry creature that he created for Small Furry Creatures Press; the just married car that celebrated my marriage. My ipod is filled with music that he recommended. But mostly I remember the conversations: spinning wildly over our shared cultural landscape and peppered with enormous silliness. I am still in shock at the news so the pain has yet to arrive but, no matter how much this news hurts me, it will be a more than acceptable price to pay for the years of joy and love I shared with Steve.

Anonymous said...

Aye. More here:

http://nickabadzis.my-expressions.com/

http://giddyoldgoat.livejournal.com/2545.html

http://jinty.livejournal.com/477095.htm

http://worldofagwu.livejournal.com/36091.html

dribbs said...

what a shock.
I met Steve in the 80's going to the SSI (as it was known then) meetings.
what a lovely and generous man.
he will be missed

Anonymous said...

It takes a sad occasion like this to enforce the realisation that Steve was far more than just my mate, and meant so much to other people. Will I ever now know the truth about Bill Benulis?

Frank Plowright

Anonymous said...

What sad and shocking news. I hadn't seen Steve for many years, but knowing he was out there doing good things was always a happy thought. I'm deeply shocked to hear of his death and pass on my condolences to his family. I remember him from when we worked together on LAZA7, Cipher and Atlas magazines all those years ago - many years spent working on our kitchen tables - he was quiet, gentle, generous, funny, extremely creative and a great friend. He will be missed.

Jake Tilson

Tony Keen said...

Apologies for spamming.

Steve Whitaker was one of the stalwarts of the comics British Amateur Press Association. I'm pretty sure that he was always in the apa whenever I was, from about 1990 onwards.

B-APA was wound up in 2004. However, there was a special in 2005, a commemoration issue when Andy Roberts died, to which Steve enthusiastically contributed. We can hardly do less for Steve. So I will be editing a commemorative special of B-APA, to be available at CAPTION, a convention Steve always supported. Obviously, I'd like as many ex-B-APAns as possible to contribute. But I don't want to restrict contributions to ex-B-APAns; I'd like anyone of Steve's friends who wants to be part of this to feel welcome.

If you want to contribute, please contact me at keentony at hotmail dot com. I'm looking for contributions of 1-2 pages, by mid-July, preferably as camera-ready copy. Thanks to those who have already agreed to be involved.

Apologies if you end up seeing this in several places.

mrphoenix said...

It is hard to know I'll never hear that delighted chuckle again as he comes up with another observation about Don Heck or his delight at those scampering girlies in Celine and Julie Go boating.

! will miss him. Miss being surprised every time I talked to him by things I would never have expected him to say, much less know so very well.

Jonathan Edwards said...

Very sad news. I'd only recently got back in touch with him through Facebook. We'd been swapping musical recommendations.

shane oakley said...

It was a long time back at an SSI meeting when i first met Steve. Instantly like-able; with a friendly and agreeable nature, a buoyant sense of humour, and a black belt encyclopedic knowledge of comics and pop culture. And after those meetings, a bunch of us used to eat a very late supper at the Chelsea Kitchen, where we'd pass around sketchbooks to jam in, flirt with the waitresses, and chinwag until they turned the lights off. Got a few really nice sketches by Steve, cus, damn, he could fucking draw!
Though we were never close friends, we always had a good crack about stuff, and it always felt relaxed and genuine - even if if was just to swap details of a new marker pen discovery.
And bumping into Steve at conventions, was a constant, gonna be weird and very sad, not seeing that massive man with the massive grin.

Anonymous said...

i have fond memories of showing steve my folio many years ago, he spent the time giving me suggestions and pointing me in direction of different artists i'd never seen. he generally enjoyed talking about comics.

although remembered for his colouring, i was stunned on how modest he was his drawing, it's always stayed with me how amazing they were.

steve was one of the good guys.

laurence campbell

Anonymous said...

Steve Whitaker's knowledge and enthusiasm for comics gave my own fixation some depth and meaning.

He was uncannily brilliant in so many ways it's impossible to enumerate.

He comprehended what made Ditko tick, a task in itself.

He truly understood people as well, in a compassionate way.

I feel his loss terribly.

Mike Feldman

Frank Wynne said...

It's been an age since I last saw Steve, and then only in passing at a bar clinking glasses, but I have wonderful memories of this talented, intelligent, terrifyingly self-deprecating man - and a more talented artist than he (or anyone) gave him credit for. I remember spending three (fascinating, frustrating) months writing a History of Comics for Quintet - all I had to do was shut him up every half-hour and transcribe.

A warmer, more generous, bighearted individual I have rarely met, and I will miss all the drinks we will never get to have.

My heart goes out to his family all to all the friends he leaves behind

Frank Wynne

brendan said...

Steve Whitaker! Oh, what a shame.

Steve and I attended Chelsea School of Art together, about 30 years ago... I first spoke to him when he ambled up to me and started discussing the huge BATMAN oil painting I was doing... Our friendship continued on after college, and Steve coloured up some of my Dredd work for 2000AD - as well as some bits and pieces in Strange Days, I seem to recall.
He was a nice, decent guy and I really liked him.
We always had a good laugh together. He interviewed me for my first ever comics piece in a little zine called Fantasy Advertiser. Back in the days when comics were definitely from the 'wrong side' of the cultural tracks, long before the gentrification into "graphic novels"...

It's good to hear all the comments here (Hi Jake!) and on other sites, noting what a really fabulous, funny, big-hearted guy he was.

God bless you Steve.

Brendan McCarthy

Anonymous said...

Found out the news last night via Eddie Campbell’s blog. Words do not really express the sadness and knowledge that I won’t hear his voice, or see his big mug ever again. Steve was a friend of mine and I got to know him in my and his home town of Bedford when he ran a set of comic book workshops for Bedford Community Arts in 1998. Later he moved back to the town and our friendship developed over the next decade, he would come over to my flat and try out antique pen nibs I’d scored on eBay, drinking many cups of tea in the process. It was really cool in 2003 when he contributed his war comic strip ‘August 1943’ to the small press comic book, I edited and designed, and Ben Sheppard contributed to too, Arcane Adventures.

People have talked of his generosity and a nice example is when he brushed his beautiful colours of the rainbow on Ben’s back cover ink drawing. The drawing was a good one in b/w, but Steve made it come alive with his watercolours, turning the good into the sublime. Sadly Steve never got round to completing his next story for Arcane Adventures, this was to have been Bilqis, name of the Queen of Sheba and involved the themes from the Temptations of St Anthony. Many of you will have seen the various versions of this beautiful woman he put on his Livejournal account. The thing is Steve was a perfectionist, never satisfied, but what I saw of the layouts he did were gorgeous. If only he’d committed his Durabrite pen nib to paper, but we have had a glimpse of his remarkable creativity. Oh and then there’s his never realised adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, sigh.

He was a great bloke and I’m pretty certain that when he reaches Valhalla Jack Kirby and especially Hugo Pratt will have poured a drink for him at the bar.

Adrian Stapleton

Dave said...

This is one of those moments that guts you completely. Steve was always one of those great guys, the true Gentle Giant, that you could talk for hours and hours with on any subject (usually comics). I remember our shared joy on finding an old art shop near Gosh! where the gentleman inside had the most amazing collection of pen nibs I had ever seen before or seen since. Steve and myself spent more time in our first few visits to that store than a months worth of comic shop visits to Fuddly's store.

His work was amazing, as you can see on his blog or ever got to see his sketchbook. Such a talent who kept so much inside and reluctant to let the world see.

I saw Brendan's note above and remember with great fondness the Dredd's they did together (I have the Titan collection on my shelf).

Steve was the guy you wanted to spend more time with and like many here, regret that those moments were stolen by the drudgery of life and career.

God bless you Steve.


Dave Elliott

Anonymous said...

What can I say?

Although I haven't seen Steve for a years I've always had very fond memories of the times we'd meet up at conventions or Dark They Were and Golden Eyed or go drinking with the Crackers crowd...

I always assumed I'd bump into him again one day and have a great time catching up

Steve was an unbelievably nice guy and hearing the news of his passing affected me more than I imagined it would.

Dave Hornsby

Anonymous said...

Regret..... I dont think Ive ever felt this emotion so acutely as I currently do. The sense of loss and hurt is so great. You see Steve and I fell out around 5 years ago. You might say that its common for siblings to quarrel and you'd be right, but it was never the way with us. My brother was my hero, he encouraged and helped me learn how to draw and just simply noticed me at a time when no one else did. I was the only member of our familly to visit him regularly in London, see how he lived and share comicdom with him. We were the same. Twins 10 years apart. So why did we fall out?
The thing with Steve was, like many geniuses, he was faulted in another aspect of his personality. His ability to keep in touch, to arrive on time, to meet deadlines was crap. He was always this way, with friends, familly and professionally. Most people accepted this about him because the benefits of knowing him were so extraordinary, most editors/publishers were not so kind and this cost him dearly on a professional level. I personally think they were lucky to have the opportunity to work with an artist as skilled as Steve and should feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves for not being more accomodating to this gentle man with such talent.
In june 2000 I became a father, what a life changing experience! I was so fiercely proud of myself and new son that Steves lack of communication with me started to become a problem, his usual apologies no longer did the trick, my feelings were hurt. I spoke to him about this a couple of times but knew that the more I pressured him the less likely he was to call. In my hurt state at the time I angrilly scolded him and only succeeded in hurting his feelings and causing a rift between us. How stupid and selfish of me, I knew Steve well enough to know better.
So my lesson is a painful one, and I thoroughly deserve it. I would just like to say that reading all the tributes to him over the past few days has been a great comfort. To know that he was loved and admired so much, because his life was often very hard, too hard for someone so sensitive. I recognise many of the names and have met some of you in comicland in the 80's and 90's. Thankyou all, you're a special bunch of people. Thankyou for being his friends.
How lucky I feel to have had Stephen as my big brother. I am unworthy.

Richard Whitaker

Anonymous said...

This is incredibly sad news and we will all miss him terribly.
As Shane commented previously, my fondest memories are of times shared in the days of the SSI. I was always amazed by his talent, knowledge and gentle nature.

-bucky

Lee Brimmicombe-Wood said...

Sara Browne posted this via facebook.

Steve’s funeral is set for 12/03/08 at 15:15 at Norse Road Crematorium in Bedford. Paul is helping to arrange it and the wake will be held at the Park Hotel we think so far although the Duke of Wellington will probably be the informal after gathering place as Steve loved it for its real ale and sawdust atmosphere. You can call Paul on 07936 137093.

Anonymous said...

I learned the tragic news just today, from Steve's dad, when I called, as I quite often have (sometimes, unfortunately, in the middle of dinner), to speak to Steve.

We met in 1974-75 in an art-school foundation course at Mander College, Bedford, and discovered that we lived on the same block. Comics and cartooning were the connecting point where the friendship sparked. He had even more knowledge than I of the intricacies and histories of Marvel, DC and the independent superhero publishers. Comparing my drawing skill with Steve's I soon decided I was a hack writer, not an artist, so I went into journalism.

After I returned in 1975 to the States (from whence I had moved with mother, brother and sister when I was 7) Steve and I kept in touch by phone, letter and, of late, e-mail. Sometimes, despite the instant communication of today, I miss the old days when we exchanged collectors'-item doodles and scribbles (such as Steve's whimsical letter on a clean strip of waxy toilet paper of the kind once commmon in UK restrooms).

He was my cartooning mentor when we were teenagers. In recent years I have revived cartooning as a hobby and his encouragement kept me going to the point where I have actually sold a few gag cartoons here and there to magazines.
He even gave me tipsa on teaching cartooning--a venture in which he was experienced and which I may yet enter.


I saw him in person on only three return visits--in 1987 and, with my wife, Kim (who also is saddened deeply) in 1995 and 1998.

Mainly he was a great and true friend, always listening to my problems even when beset by his own.

Thanks for the chance to say something, however inadequate.

Sincerely

Mike Mittelstadt
Watertown NY

JQ said...

I only knew Steve through his work at e.on in customer services. He was a great colleague,full of ideas and great wit, and always concerned about doing the right thing for the customer. Much too talented for that job.

What a shame that he left us so early!
JQ

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurence...I didn't know Steve myself but my father might have. What did you mean by "Will I ever now know the truth about Bill Benulis?" He's my Dad and used to create comic books.

Anonymous said...

My apologies...the comment above was intended for Frank Plowright.

sammy wammy said...

Just heard the news. Really, really sad. I only used to see steve once or twice a year (usually at Caption), and I missed seeing him when he stopped attending. It must be 3 or 4 months ago I was at a comics mart on a Sunday talking to Guy Lawley when he said that Steve had been sighted there earlier I almost hung around hoping to hook up, but just hurried onto work. A favourite comic person. Haven't seen him for about 6 or 7 years but the strength of his spirit, generosity and talent mean that I miss his absence really keenly.
I've got a japanese brush pen at home that he spontaneously gave me when I admired his brushwork. I Think I'll dig it out tonight...

Nargis said...

Steve taught me and my class mates comic art. He was such a humble and kind teacher. He was a real sweetheart and was extremely talented but NEVER not once did he ever brag about his work. He was insistant that we done our best and saw the talent in us. We begged him to show us some of his work but he never did. The only piece of work I ever saw was V for Vendetta and even then Steve woud say he was not proud of the work and towards the end it was all a rush to get things finished. Steve you touched our lives and will never be forgotten. I feel so fortunate to have been taught by you. I will never forget the happiness in you face when we all finished our comic pages and you mounted and pinned them all up. No just saying it and I am sure my colleagues would agree but your classes were one of best classes we had. I take what you taught us and promise no to waste it. x Rest in peace Kamerad.

Anonymous said...

just found out at the weakend at the london con deeply sadened on hearing of he,s death this is a great loss he was a genourous and thoughtfull man the little time that I had in hes company will always be treasured and remembered