by Vince Hernandez
You beat it buddy.
No matter what anybody says — you won. I know you’re in a better place now. There’s not a doubt in my mind. It’s what you’ve always done — transcend. And why would I expect anything different from you pal? Ever since I met you a decade ago, you’ve beaten everything that’s ever stood in your path. Cancer? Please! That piece of shit was just the latest thing you toppled over on your way to a place far better than the crappy world we’re still stuck in. It’s what you were born to do Mike — win.
My earliest memories of you take place back in the Century City offices of Top Cow Productions, where you would play watchdog to Frank Mastromauro, David Wohl, and myself as we’d all sneak in games of NFL 2K1 in your locked and darkened office. I still remember the time we almost dove under your couch as Marc Silvestri banged on the door looking for his highly in-demand Witchblade creator. But I knew that when I was with you, I would always come out unscathed.
Mike, you always come out on top.
One thing you and I will always have is our classic Pop-A-Shot battles. Only a handful of people know that you and I had an endless feud of tiny rubber balls and rotating backboards. And even though I’d manage to sneak in a victory here and there, you never ceased to edge my best score before the night was out, taking the Pop-A-Shot crown home with you. Yet you never let me leave without buying me a sympathy beer for my losing efforts. Because even though you claimed victory in every facet of your all-too-short life, you remained the most genuinely caring individual I’ve ever met.
You’ve given me so many things, Mike. You believed in me as a friend even when I was an eighteen-year old jerk out of high school ten years ago. You believed in me as an editor when I’d never been given so much as a menial task at Top Cow five years. And recently, you believed in me as a creator at Aspen when I pitched you the most insanely ludicrous story ideas all the time. I owe my career in comics to you brother, and I’ll continue on knowing you’ll always believe in me still — no matter how far-fetched my goals are.
Speaking of far-fetched goals, when you started Aspen MLT, Inc, you resumed the role of watchdog, but now you oversaw a huge family of creators and artists instead of three slacking friends. But unfortunately, like all things in your life, it didn’t come easy. We work in an industry where people laud the efforts of superstars who created comic book studios in the ’90s, when you could’ve sold crap on a toilet roll with a variant cover and still make a profit. But yourself and Frank Mastromauro started Aspen in 2003 when comic books were merely an afterthought to movies and video games, and oh yeah — you were fighting a legal battle for the rights to your own creation. But you beat the odds and now we’re celebrating our fifth anniversary this year. You guys are what I consider comic book idols.
The people closest to you knew this about you. It’s why we all secretly wanted to be with you all the time. Heck, we wanted to be you. You were what we wished we could be in our lives. You were giving when we were selfish. When things were tough you fought harder. You never backed down from a challenge, and you fought on with that trademark smile of yours. You forced everyone around you to try be better in our own lives.
A blessing I will cherish in my heart until that day we will meet again Mike is that I was able to hold your hand one last time and have our last production meeting, just the two of us last night. I know you’ll forever know the love and adoration I have for the worlds you created. You know I’ll keep my promise. Those worlds will thrive in the memory of your spirit my dear friend. Count on it.
And so will all the loved ones you’ve touched in your all-too-short time here, Mike. From the brief encounters with your fans to your late-night parties where you brought all of us together, we will never stop working to make sure your legacy lives on. You are bigger than this world Mike — you transcend us all.
You will always be in my heart, Mike. Thank you for the time we had together and the future we will now share together forever.
I love you brother.