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Sisters and Brothers

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but it feels vaguely maudlin and also vaguely like plagiarism. But, it’s Friday afternoon and I have no real work to do, so here goes anyway.

I mentioned that our friend Mike died last month. Chris and I went to his funeral, of course, and, as funerals go, this one was…quite wonderful, really, if such can be said about a funeral. The family invited Mike’s friends to come forward to share stories and memories about Mike’s life, and of the twelve or fifteen people who came forward, most of them began by saying, “Mike was one of my very best friends…” and if that’s not the marker of a successful life, I don’t know what else would be.

But it was Mike’s younger brother’s eulogy that touched me the most, and that I still think about almost every day. The recurring theme of the speech was that as they were growing up, Matt wanted to do everything his big brother would do, and that Mike would call him on it. “You just want to read comic books because I am,” Mike would say, and Matt told us, “And he was right”; or, “You just want to draw because I’m doing it,” and Matt affirmed, “And he was right.” So at the end, Matt said something like this: “I don’t know if there is a heaven, but if there is, I’m sure that Mike is there now. And if I’m lucky enough to make it up there when I die, I know I’ll see Mike there. And he’ll come over and give me a big hug, and then he’ll say – ‘You just came up here because I’m here.’ And he’ll be right.”

That’s exactly how I feel about my sisters and brothers, and how I hope my daughters will always feel about one another.


aimee said…
That left me crying and with goosebumps.

That is beautiful.

Thank you my sweet sis. I feel exactly the same way.
Anonymous said…
If parenting can ever be considered successful, then that post made me feel like we did a good job as parents. I always wanted the four of you to LIKE each other. Of course, you love each other because you are family, but it is also important to like your family. Beautiful post.

Chris said…
matt wieringo/eulogy

In the week since Mike died, I’ve had the chance to read a lot of
what people thought of him. Mike had a lot of friends. Great friends. More
than I think he realized. A lucky few considered him their best
friend. I’m one of them.

Mike had been around for 5 years when I came along so he had a little
time for some peace and quiet. But when I was born, he became my big
brother and I never let him forget it. I think the worst day of his life
was the day I learned to walk because from then on, he couldn’t get
away. I followed him around, sticking my nose into everything he did and
generally making a nuisance of myself.

But that was okay because he was my big brother and that was his job.

He was always looking out for me. Our mother tells the story of when
Mike and I were riding a sled down a hill like Calvin and Hobbes and Mike
realized we were about to crash badly. Mike pushed me off the sled and
took the spill by himself. He got pretty banged up and I didn’t get
a scratch. A few years later, when our school bus was struck by a
jack-knifing semi and rolled into the median, killing three young girls,
Mike and I became separated. He frantically searched through the carnage
inside the bus until he found me. I had lost a shoe in the rollover and
wouldn’t leave without it. So he calmly looked around for it and,
when he found it wedged under a seat, he ripped the seat from the floor
above us and retreived my shoe.

It was around this time that I noticed Mike reading these things my dad
was leaving around the house. The floppy things with all the pictures.
Comic books. But Mike didn’t just read them, he studied them. He
absorbed them. He devoured them. Of couse, if something was that
interesting to my big brother, I had to get in on the action. When Mike sprawled
out on the living room floor with his Joe Kubert TARZANs and Jim
Starlin CAPTAIN MARVELs and Nick Cardy TEEN TITANS, I’d move right on in
with my RICHIE RICHes and MARVEL TEAM-UPs. He’d sigh and roll his
eyes at me and tell me, “You’re just reading comics because I am.”
And he was right.

But he was my big brother and he was doing his job.

Mike dabbled in things like baseball or track and field or karate...but
it was always comics he came back to. He got something from them he
couldn’t find anywhere else and it wasn’t long before he was drawing
his own, still sprawled out on the living room floor. Ever the
innovator, he created his own characters. There was the Uncanny Owl. The
Cardinal and the Blue Jay. The Cosmic Avenger. He drew complete full-color
issues on sheets of blue-lined notebook paper, using both sides of the
paper, just like the “real comics,” displaying a confidence in his
own abilities he seemed to lack later on. And of course, I was there, the
little parasite, drawing beside him on the floor, imitating him as he
was busy imitating John Byrne and Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum. And he’d
sigh and tell me, “You’re just drawing because I am.” And he was

And it was okay. He was my big brother and he took his job seriously.

When Mike was in high school, he drove a sweet ride. A ‘66 Mustang.
He loved that car. It was so cool. So, naturally, I had to have one.
This presented a bit of a problem because I was 11. But somehow, by the
time I was driving, Dad made it happen. Mike laughed and said, “You
only wanted a Mustang because I had one. And he was right.

One day, Mike brought home a kid named Carlton Hill, whom I’d never
met. He had a suitcase full of homemade comics he’d drawn. An entire
universe of comic characters all his own. Best of all, he had other kids
drawing them from his scripts. This was the coolest kid we’d ever
seen. He soon had Mike drawing them for him. Mike had hit the big time,
drawing issues of MUTANTS, THE PROTECTORS and MEGATON MAN. I, of course,
wanted in. When Mike finally decided it was time to pursue his dream
for real, he asked Carlton to let me take over for him. He even
convinced him to let me draw the flagship title, THE AMAZING PIGGY. I waited
for him to say it, knowing it was coming. After all, I only really wanted
to work with Carlton because he had. But he never said it.

He was my big brother. And he was good at his job.

When we were in college, Mike started hitting the conventions with his
friend Paul, showing his portfolio around. He’d started drawing
four-page sequences on this strange, exotic oversized paper I’d never
heard of called Bristol Board. I immediately went out and bought a pad. He
got a big, nifty portfolio to put his art in. Looked a lot like the one
I bought soon after. But something distressing was happening. I was
coming to a frightening realization. For years, our Mom was telling us
how wonderful our drawings were. She’d never let us throw anything
away. But around this time I started realize that Mom’s always think
that. Except Mike WAS good. Really good. And I knew he was about to go
somewhere I couldn’t follow.

When Mike broke in to the business and got assigned to THE FLASH, I was
so proud and excited and happy. But I was also scared. Because our
lives started following separate paths. He was meeting all these wonderful
people whose work we’d admired for years and they were calling him
friend. He moved away to North Carolina and built a studio with these
fascinating, talented people named Rich and Jeff and Craig and Chuck and
Nathan and Scott. They’d just sit in this great place all day and
draw comics and laugh and joke and get paid for it. He slipped into the
life so easily, it was like he’d finally found home. I envied him. But,
whenever I’d visit him, at first alone and. later, with my wife,
he’d always make me feel at home, showing me what everyone was working
on, buying me lunch, giving me advice.

He was my big brother and he was looking out for me.

The studio didn’t last and Mike started working from home. It seemed
the deadline pressures were getting worse with each assignment. Or at
least he was worrying about them more. He was working long hours and so
was I. I visited and called him less and less because I didn’t want
to interrupt his work and cause him more stress. Instead, we
communicated mostly by email and an occasional phone call when he was having
trouble with his computer. We eventually saw each other only twice a year.
At Thanksgiving and at the Heroes Convention in Charlotte. At first, I
didn’t want bother him during the convention. He was working and
greeting his fans and making deals. But as soon as he saw my wife and me
walk in, his face would light up and he’d run around the table and give
us one of those great big bear hugs he’d always give us and yell out
“Ter-Mafus!” or “Brozowski!” and “Squeeze-On!”or one of a
hundred other nicknames he’d come up with on the spot. We’d get a
precious minute or two with h
im before someone would come up to say, “Hi.” He never got mad. He
made sure to introduce me to everyone. He introduced me to Alex Ross
and Mark Waid and Joe Quesada, not because he thought they cared but
because he knew it would mean the world to me. He always made sure to have
dinner with us at least once during the conventions. He’d invite us
along with him and Todd and Craig, sometimes secretly ditching someone
important so we could be together. He took an almost scampish pleasure
in doing that. We had so much fun together. Mike always included us on
every inside joke...and there was always a joke with those three. I
sometimes envied the comradery they had. But the envy was always forgotten
when Mike would walk me up to someone I admired, like Tony Harris or
Art Adams, and happily announce, “I’d really like you to meet my
brother, Matt.”

He was my big brother and I am so proud of that.

My big brother is gone now. And I don’t know what I’m going to do
now that he’s not around to look out for me. I feel lost and alone and
scared. Mike and I weren’t very religious. But I can’t believe
that a soul as sweet and gentle and caring and generous as Mike’s just
goes away. Today, I’m a believer. I believe my big brother is out
there and he’s waiting for me. I believe he’s with Jack Kirby and Alex
Toth and Will Eisner and they’re telling him how much they loved his
work. And when my time comes, he’ll hug me and take me over to
introduce me to his new friends. And then he’ll smile and say, “You just
wanted to come up here because I’m here.”

And he’ll be right.
aimee said…
I think that is the most beautiful thing I have ever read, especially because it is about a brother's love.

So sweet, so sad.

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