I think I’ve felt the need to wait a week to write this since it feels like just yesterday I was extolling the virtues of Dylan Williams and offering a story of why — I wrote something about my friendship with Dylan on my Tumblr, invited people to donate to Sparkplug. Landry Walker and others have said that when the comics community started to come together and speak on his behalf in order to fundraise, Dylan finally really felt the love. I hope that my voice was one of the chorus. I hope that he saw it. Dylan passed away last Saturday, 9/10/11.
I don’t have a lot to say that hasn’t already been said better, and by someone closer to Dylan. But I don’t think it hurts to add some of my own experiences. I know personally, I’m far from home right now, and reading what everyone has to say about Dylan has helped me cope immensely.
Dylan and I met during my first week as an employee at Comic Relief. He was in town for SF Zine Fest, and doing his Sparkplug comic shop rounds. He had worked at Comic Relief almost 15 years earlier. CR was going through hard times, and the owners had almost entirely stopped small press orders. Dylan took half his Sparkplug pay in trade. He just loved comics, and he wanted us to have Sparkplug books in the store.
Over the course of the next 2 years, seeing Dylan every couple months meant a lot. I felt like just some kid tagging along with the cool cartoonists. I mean, I still feel that way. But Dylan made me feel really welcome. He was so subtle, but he knew just when to help you out, to vocalize an invitation and to get around the awkwardness that so many cartoonists can’t overcome.
One thing that I mentioned in my previous post was that Dylan was the only person to give one of my comics a real, in depth review. Dylan posted his review on a new blog: it looked like he was going to start reviewing comics regularly. I was honored (along with Susie Cagle) to be one of the first. I was amazed that he had positive things to say about it, and that he talked most about the ideas presented in the story. Maybe it wasn’t his aesthetic cup of tea (and to be honest, I wasn’t too sure of it myself), but he was still interested in what I was thinking about, and willing to give it his time. I think it was also akin to the encouraging emails that so many artists have talked about receiving from Dylan. I get the sense that Dylan was becoming more sure of his own public opinion – not just in personal emails and on message boards, but in spaces like the Sparkplug blog. Having the confidence that what he had to say would be of interest to more than just the artist.
Dylan was the best, and yet he was still struggling with himself and growing. He didn’t make it look ‘easy.’ He was full of humor, but clearly very serious about his endeavors. I think he expected that from us, and he brought it out in us. To know that he finally saw how much we all loved him, that is amazing. I’m sure he would have taken that love and transformed it into even more positive creative energy. But at least he knows. Now he can rest with it.
Dylan’s review gave me confidence. Just to know that he was paying attention. It gave me the confidence the following Fall to ask if I could help at the Sparkplug booth and put my book on his table. He said yes, even though when APE came, it seemed he already had tons of help. That review is just a memory to me now — Dylan took down the blog as soon as he had an inkling that it might become ‘political.’ People began asking him for reviews. I never saved it and I never asked him for a copy. I guess I just figured I could always ask if I needed it.
I hope I can follow Dylan’s example and encourage others. Start conversations. Be welcoming, engaged, and dedicated to those around me. Foster community. Be a good friend.
My heart goes out to Dylan’s family, to Emily, and to all his friends.