Science Fiction legend and award-winning author Ray Bradbury passed away Tuesday night at age 91. A statement from Bradbury’s publisher HarperCollins states the author “died peacefully, last night, in Los Angeles after a lengthy illness.” Born August 22, 1920, Bradbury grew up in Waukegan, Illinois, later moving to Los Angeles, California where he spent much of his teen years in libraries.
“Libraries raised me,” the author said in a 2009 interview with The New York Times. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”
While Bradbury’s contribution to the landscape of science fiction is undeniably vast, the author known best for his classic novels “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles” also had a lasting impact on many other entertainment industries. In addition to his fiction writing, Bradbury wrote a number of short essays on the arts and hosted “The Ray Bradbury Theater,” a television show that featured adaptations of his short stories. The writer penned the screenplay for John Huston’s 1956 adaptation of “Moby Dick” and co-founded the Pandemonium Theater Company in 1964. He also frequently attended science fiction conventions and gave many talks, including one at the West Hollywood Book Fair in 2008.
Perhaps less well known, though no less important, was his impact on and love for the comics landscape. Bradbury was a close friend of illustrator and “The Addams Family” creator Charles Addams, who worked with the writer to illustrate Bradbury’s short story “Homecoming.” In the 1950s, Al Feldstein adapted 27 of Bradbury’s incredible catalog of short stories for EC Comics. The adaptations later appeared in two collected editions with cover illustrations by legendary artist Frank Frazetta. Unsurprisingly, Bradbury was a self-described fan of comic strips including “Buck Rogers,” “Prince Valiant” and “Tarzan,” which helped influence his early love of science fiction.
“I fell in love with cartoons when I was three,” Bradbury said in an interview with TOR.com. “I began to learn to read with the comic strips every Sunday. When I was seven years old, I fell in love with the animated cartoons of Walt Disney. When I was nine, I saw ‘Buck Rogers’ in the daily paper and fell in love with the future. I began to collect Buck Rogers. When I was 11 years old, Hal Foster began to illustrate ‘Tarzan.’ I began to collect Harold Foster. That was my super favorite of all time. I collected the whole page for the next two or three years starting in 1931. So those two comic strips, ‘Tarzan’ and ‘Buck Rogers,’ dominated my life and my excitement.”
Over the years, Bradbury provided the introduction to a number of collected comic strip collections including “The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion” and “Collected Works of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.” His work continues to be adapted for comics today, with authorized adaptations of “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” published by Hill and Wang with an introduction by Bradbury.
“The thing about my books is, they’re all graphic novels,” Bradbury said in an interview promoting the adaptations. “They’re all motion pictures. If the word on the page is written like I write it, it’s wild, it’s passionate and it’s explosive and you can’t escape it. So, there’s no difference between a novel and an illustrated novel. There’s absolutely no difference.”
Perhaps most appropriate to characterize Bradbury’s love and encouragement of creativity is a quote from the end of one of his many interviews.
“I leave you with one message: do what you love and love what you do. That’s the story of my life and that’s what I’m all about.”