I haven’t been involved in the world of comics and comic books for a long time but through the 90s and into the early 2000s I was definitely part of that community. Now that the comics industry is totally mainstream it might seem weird that at that time it was possible for everyone involved to know everyone else, either directly or via another person, especially if your preferred subsection of that scene was particularly niche.
I was in a couple of subsections - the British comics scene, which was so small everyone could fit into a hotel bar twice a year, and the underground / alternative comics scene, which thrived on the zine networks and early Internet. Being “known” in such a community wasn’t a massive achievement - you just did something (in my case write reviews of self-published comics and zines) and became the guy who does that thing, until you didn’t anymore.
Like all communities built around shared interests and happenstance, you meet who you meet. Some of those people because lifelong friends, most fell by the wayside when my activity ceased and the framework for social interaction wasn’t there anymore. And that’s fine. They were all good people and I valued my time with them, but life moves on.
I never actually met Tom Spurgeon and didn’t correspond with him a whole lot, but on hearing of his death this week I was shocked, of course, but also saddened because Tom was one of the few people who seemed to think about comics the way I thought about comics. And that was pretty rare.
The thing about small communities that grow around things as broad a comic books is you get a lot of strange bedfellows. There was never enough of a critical mass of people for your particular thing so you had to share. This wasn’t a problem, diversity and all that, but it did mean having to endure your mates rambling about some Jack Kirby comic , because even though you’d never really read any Kirby and wanted to talk about John Porcelino, they were all you’d got. (And it turned out those Kirby comics were fucking amazing once you got over your prejudice.)
But Tom was one of the few people who, when I read his blog (which I note is still auto-publishing scheduled posts and templates, which is a bit spooky, but shows he was working on it to the end) I felt that this guy on the other side of the world with a completely different upbringing, was like me.
He also edited the best run of issues of The Comics Journal and introduced the world to Fort Thunder. What a star.