Remembering Al Williamson (1931-2010)

by  in Comic News Comment
Remembering Al Williamson (1931-2010)

The family of Al Williamson has confirmed yesterday’s report that the legendary artist passed away on June 12 at age 79. According to a statement from the family, he had suffered in recent years from Alzheimer’s disease.

Tom Spurgeon has a detailed obituary for Williamson, whose long career and massive and varied output allowed several generations of fans and creators to be exposed to, and influenced by, his work. Some of those creators have been sharing their memories of Williamson, both personal and professional. Here’s a selection of those remembrances:

Michael Kaluta: “It was Al’s combination of draughtsmanship; composition; drama; and ability to add a sense of reality to an obviously fantastic setting, presented with profound elegance, that nailed my attention and devotion. His storytelling used apt gestures and body language as well as his native drawing ability to reinforce the world he was portraying. Along with the best artists, Al also had the ability to ‘make it look easy,’ to make even the student artist get caught up in reading the story instead of dissecting the art.”

Rick Veitch: “I’m sitting here feeling a lot of different emotions. Loss, of course, because I’ll never get to see Al again. But also amazement at his long and productive life; the kind of wonderful person he was, the astounding talent he had and the generous way he encouraged young artists like myself to pursue our dreams of doing comics.”

Jeff Parker: “When you’ve blown up an artistic hero in your head, it’s always an experience to seem them sitting at a table near you, being real people. I got that bumped up yet another level as Al looked over my pages and chuckled at a panel where I’d drawn the alien lizard kid from his old EC story. These pages would be hard for me or anyone to look at now, but the important thing I’d done right without realizing it was to not be the 7000th kid to shove superhero pages under his nose. Most of it was attempts at the kind of adventure strips he’d read since being a kid himself growing up in Colombia (and thus pulling off better jungle vegetation and lizards in his environments than oh, anyone). But here’s where the experience went on to dominate my psychological landscape. After some nodding, he realized that the line was building for him to sign books. Instead of handing back my art he put it to the side and said ‘come back around and sit down.'”

Mark Evanier: “Al was a great talent and a great guy. I can’t think of anyone who saw his comics and didn’t love the way he drew and I’m darn sure I don’t know of anyone who ever met the man and didn’t enjoy his company.”

Mike Richardson: “I was a fan of Al Williamson from my earliest days reading comics. His Flash Gordon comics were memorable, as was virtually all of his work. I was lucky enough to get to know Al and share some good times  with him. He was caring and always available when you needed him, not always the case with others of his stature. The comics industry will miss his talent, as he was one of the greats, but more importantly, he was a truly good man. He will be sorely missed.”

Ty Templeton: “I met Al Williamson a couple of times, at conventions and at those dinners afterwards, all about twenty years ago.  He left quite an impression on me. First impression:  He was a delightful guy, full of stories, a good joke, or a quick sketch that he could pop out onto a napkin.  I remember him as an authentic, likable human being, and his family was equally so. And, that quick beautiful sketch I mentioned — it wasn’t simply good – it was phenomenal, and he did it in a minute, with a ballpoint pen, or a pentel marker (no rough work, the jerk!), and it came out of him just perfect […] That’s inspiring to see when you’re just starting out in the biz.  And so, at the age of twenty –six, I decided that I wanted to be Al Williamson when I grew up. I’m still working on it.”

Stan Sakai: “I met him just once, at a San Diego Con. He came over to my table, and we talked for awhile. I was actually surprised he knew who I was, but he said he was a fan of my work. Anyway, we talked for a few minutes, and then he came back with a big stack of original art, and said he wanted me to have something of his. I felt like the proverbial kid in the candy store as I went through all that beautiful art. I finally chose a daily strip. His pen and brush work, especially the way he handled the water and mist in the last panel is nothing short of amazing. He did not want anything in return, not even an art trade.”

Jamie S. Rich: “In 1997, Bob Schreck left Dark Horse and ended up forming Oni Press with Joe Nozemack. I stayed behind and took over some of the titles I had assisted Bob with, including the anthology Dark Horse Presents. […] Much of my run with Bob was considered uncommercial, and there was pressure on me not to feature so many of the weird ‘indie’ stories on the cover. […] I hadn’t yet gotten a cover for #120 because I hadn’t yet commissioned my last feature for the issue. There was a hole in the roster. I had to think fast, get something no one could argue with. So, I called Al. It was a long shot, but I thought maybe he’d have something I could use. A new story, an old story, whatever. Turns out, he had a short comic that had been intended for publication elsewhere, but had not been finished. Maybe he could polish that up for me, would that work? Hell, yeah, it would work. I was able to walk around the office crowing that I had gotten new Al Williamson comics. I was greeted with much disbelief. How had I done it? ‘I just asked him,’ I said. ‘He likes me.’ Not bad for a little gal from the typing pool. In one fell swoop, Al Williamson had saved my issue and also made it look like I had game.”

Christopher Mills: “I loved his detailed, lush art style, his noble-but-human heroes, his stunning women, his imaginative and utterly convincing alien worlds. He was as much a master of real-world adventure (Secret Agent Corrigan) as he was interplanetary adventure (Flash Gordon, Star Wars), and he was equally adept at atmospheric horror (Creepy), gritty Westerns and exotic jungle thrills (Jann of the Jungle).”

Chris Ryall: “The great thing about someone like Al, who made such masterful contributions to the comics industry over more than a half-century, is that multiple generations have their favorite Al works. For me, it was always his adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, which I read pretty much every day for a year as a kid. His work there took a more cinematic approach to comic art than I’d ever seen at the time.”

Craig Yoe: “Was there any nicer guy in comics? I think not. And talented? Breath taking! Man, his work evoked in me a sense of wonder when as a teenager I first saw his work in the pages of Creepy and Eerie and then finally found an old EC with his ‘Food For Thought’ story in it at a book store for a quarter. All the beautiful detail certainly was food for thought and I studied that story over and over again.”