In creating the various remembrance sections for the site, I thought “I really could post in several of these sections”. Mike was a friend of mine, but when I first met him, I was a comic book store owner and certainly I was a huge fan. Funny enough, at one time, I also planned on being a comic book artist and was showing my portfolio at the very same San Diego Comic Con in 1993 that Michael was hired at. I had shown my portfolio to David Wohl (I don’t recall his title, but he was one of the head-guys at Top Cow) who was interested enough to give me his business card and ask that I send more examples to him. Well, that never did pan out, but funny enough to think I was quite possibly standing in the same line as Michael at that time and wouldn’t have given a second thought to just yet another artist trying to break into the industry.
In May of 1995, my wife Jacqueline and I opened a comic book store in Turlock, CA named “Comic Central” which eventually became www.comic-central.com. I was expecting to make big money like I’d seen coming in as I’d worked in a comic book store a few years earlier during the comic boom of the early ninety’s, but what I didn’t know is that the industry had been tanking since I’d been out of it at that level. As most people who’d been collecting or retailing during that time now knows, there were some tough years, as the big name artists weren’t producing anything on a regular basis, so there wasn’t much good quality stuff to sell.
Then, it hit the stands….Ballistic #1. I was blown away to say the least. A second-rate character from Cyberforce teaming up with Wetworks. I hadn’t originally ordered that many copies since it was an artist name I didn’t recognize and the character alone wouldn’t sell the book, but holy shit! The art was simply amazing. I quickly ordered more and told every customer that came through the door that they had to pick-up this book. They were welcome to bring it back if they didn’t like it and of course, not a single copy came back. I recall telling everyone that “if this guy can draw like this on a monthly basis, he’s going to be the next Jim Lee or Todd McFarlane”.
A few months after the three issue Ballistic mini-series wrapped-up, Witchblade #1 hit the stands. This time I was more prepared and ordered a lot for our small and still growing store. Despite ordering many more copies than Ballistic, we quickly sold out and I was scouring for more anywhere I could get them. The book was an instant hit and Michael was quickly on his way to being a superstar.
The next year at the San Diego Comic Con, my friend and I both went with the agenda of meeting this amazing artist. I expected massive lines and an hour or more wait to get to speak with him, but was shocked when we walked right up and started talking to him. He was just the nicest guy, my age (just a few months older) and totally approachable. We stood and talked with him for a long time and more than once during the course of the convention. Both my friend and I looking again and again through his portfolio and salivating at the idea of owning some of his awesome original art. Well, neither my friend or myself had enough money to purchase any at the show, so we left empty handed…but, there was a single piece that my friend just couldn’t live without and once we returned home, he got in contact with Top Cow and purchased the famous “Witchblade (Sara Repose Pinup)” from “Top Cow Secrets Winter Lingerie Special”. God, it’s such a beautiful piece. To this day, it holds up as one of my favorite all-time comic illustrations and as it turns out, it’s the one piece Michael has stated in an Wizard article, that he was sorry he sold it.
A few months later, Michael and Christina Z. (then, co-writer of Witchblade) came up to Northern California for a convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. I was sooooo excited! I got to go see Michael again. This time, my wife and I traveled over to the convention with a box full of Witchblade books for him to sign. He happily did so and also drew a full body sketch and profile of Witchblade for us. There was almost no line again, but there was a little more so than when I’d seen him in San Diego. Most of the people in attendance where there to see Art Adams (another comic great). My wife was amazed at what a nice guy he was and surprised at how very handsome he was. Not at all what she’d expected.
During the next Diamond Comic retailer seminar, I recall the representative from Wizard: The Guide to Comics asking all the retailers what they’d like to see. I told him, that if they put together a compilation of all of the art tutorials they’d been publishing in their monthly magazine and added some new content to it, that we could sell a lot of them. He thought it was a good idea and asked who I thought should do the cover for it, to which I replied, “Michael Turner”, well…it seems as though Mike still wasn’t quite as big as I thought he was as the Wizard rep was thinking more along the lines of Jim Lee or Todd McFarlane. After all, at this point, Michael still hadn’t drawn Wizard cover yet (of course he ended up drawing many over the remainder of his career).
The next year at San Diego Comic Con 1997, Michael had truly “made it”. The lines to get to him had grown to proportions I’d expected to have seen a year earlier. Not knowing if the fame would have gone to his head or not, I made it up the line to Mike and he was the same down-to-earth guy he’d been and was genuinely happy to see me, my wife and my friend. Wow, I didn’t think he’d remember us, surely he must meet so many people that it would be difficult to remember them all. Well, this year, I actually had some money for the first time in my adult life, but still not a lot. I looked through Michaels’ portfolio and there was a two-page spread of Ballistic that I just fell in love with. My heart sank when Mike said that a lady in Alaska had already laid dibs on it and was to be sending him the money. I asked that if she didn’t come through, that he let me know. Even though it was way to expensive for me at the time, I’d find a way to pull together the funds. I ended up leaving the convention without any art, but there were a few pieces I’d really wanted.
A month later, it was my birthday and I received one of the coolest gifts I’d ever received. After we returned home from the convention, my wife and friend contacted Michael and purchased the Ballistic Trading card original art and had it framed for me. It was one of the pieces I’d really wanted while at the show, but my wife told me that we simply didn’t have the money for it at that time (which was true).
A few months later, my friend was contacted by Top Cow. It seems they’d somehow misplaced the original files for the “Sara Repose Pinup” he’d bought and they wanted to make a poster of the piece. They asked if my friend would be agreeable to sending the piece back so that they could get it rescanned. While this was happening, my friend was talking to Michael about the Ballistic two-page spread I’d wanted and as it turned out, the lady that was going to purchase it, didn’t end up being able to get it and Michael wanted to let me know. He ended up getting our store number and calling to let me know, but I’d just left for home to eat a quick lunch. My wife got the call and let him know that he could reach me at home. I just arrived home and the phone rang. I answered to hear, “Hey Thomas, it’s Michael Turner, how’s it going?”. For just a second, I thought, “which one of my friends if f-ing with me?”, but I recognized the voice and knew it was him. I couldn’t believe it. Michael Turning was calling me at home. Holy Shit!!! This guy is my idol and he called me at home! We talked for a bit and he told me how if I was still interested in the Ballistic piece, I could have it (well, purchase it). San Diego 1998 was just a few months away and we agreed that I’d pick it up there. I was so excited. San Diego couldn’t come fast enough.
At the show, I headed straight over to the Top Cow booth and there was Michael with the piece. Not only that, be he’d talked to Nathan Cabrera, who’d done the original color guides to the piece and asked if I was interested in it as well. Hell yeah! I got that and another Ballistic Color Guide at the same time.
Another year went by and it was San Diego Comic Con time again. This year, my wife fell in love with an interior piece from Witchblade. It was Witchblade #5, page 17 which we ended up buying.
Another year, another San Diego, this time, I found the piece that was partly used for a Wizard Cover. It was Wizard #63 from November 1996 and was co-drawn by Michael Turner and Marc Silvestri with inks by D-Tron and Batt. As it turns out, the original Darkness piece from Marc was used, but Michael had re drawn Witchblade for the piece and it was spliced in. The Witchblade pieces finally did get used some years later on Witchblade #103. Frank Mastromauro who I’d also become friends with over the years, asked if he could frame it and he did an absolutely beautiful job. It’s actually the coolest framing job I’ve ever seen.
During the course of these years, Michael would always draw sketches for us. I still have each and every piece I’ve ever gotten in my office / loft and looking at each of them always makes me think of Michael. What an amazing artist and person he was.
Going back a bit, when Fathom was to be launched, Michael did something completely unheard. If a store, were to purchase 1,000 copies, he’d come to their store and do a signing. Well, that was a no-brainer for me. Even if we couldn’t sell a thousand copies (we did end up selling about 600, which was the most we ever sold of a single issue), it would have been worth it to have him come to the store. The tour finally got underway and it was then that Michael first found out about his cancer. The tour was postponed and by the time it picked back up, I’d sold the brick-n-mortar store to go full-time online due to some of my own health issues. While Michael was in recovery, his father passed away, from the same disease that had been diagnosed right after Michael’s.
I got to see Michael and Frank at another store during their tour and spend time with them and it was great to see Michael doing well again. It seemed he’d beaten the cancer. Well, as we now know, he hadn’t. It came back…again and again. I never once saw him be anything but his usual happy, positive self. Always gracious, sitting and signing for each and every fan, even though he was in so much pain. Most fans would never have even known he was in pain.
The last time I saw Mike was at the San Diego Comic Con in 2006. I attended the Aspen panel and took the video posted here. I then saw Michael out on the showroom floor. I wasn’t going to stop him because he was heading somewhere and I didn’t want to keep him from wherever that was, but he saw me and stopped me and we talked for a bit. If I’d known that was the last time I’d get to see him or speak to him, would I have said anything different? Probably not. He knew I thought the world of him and greatly admired him. What more is there?
At the 2008 Wonder Con, in San Francisco, he was supposed to attend and I was excited to get to see him, but at the last minute, he didn’t make the trip. He’d been going through chemo again and it was too difficult for him to make the trip. I got to talk with Frank at length and it was apparent that this time was worse, but I still didn’t know how much worse and thought, “I’ll see him in a few months in San Diego. No, he won’t be there this year, but his spirit will. I’m sure I’ll see things he created everywhere on the showroom floor and I’m sure I’ll see signs saying “R.I.P Michael” on a lot of dealer tables. The comic community will miss him dearly, so will I.
Rest in peace Mike, you deserve it.