Last week I was talking to Sparkplug Comic Books’ Virginia Paine about how we could raise awareness, along with much needed dollar bills, for Sparkplug’s Indie Go Go Fundraiser to release the final books Dylan Williams was working on when he died last year after a long battle with cancer. As I parsed through Google search results to see who’d already spread the word, and on which social media platforms, blogs and interwebs, and who else needed to be cajoled, begged and harassed to tweet, post and status update it; I came across Brett Warnock of Top Shelf’s Twitter feed. It was there that I first read about the passing of the incomparable Kristiina Kolehmainen, Head Librarian of Sweden’s Serieteket Comics Library and Director of the Stockholm International Comics Festival and Small Press Expo.
Kriistina died on March 27, 2012, due to complications from her own long fight against the same disease Dylan fought up to his last day – September 10, 2011. Although Kriistina and Dylan never met, they shared more than an illness and a vocation. From Stockholm, Sweden to Portland, Oregon, USA – Kristiina and Dylan’s own respective little corners of the world – both possessed an unstoppable, nearly altruistic drive to curate and distribute quality comics. The books Kristiina shelved at Serieteket and helped artists distribute and promote for over fourteen years at Swedish SPX were similar to (and sometimes even the same) comics that Dylan published and/or distributed through Sparkplug Comic Books. Both Kristiina and Dylan put in place and maintained systems for readers to discover and read great comics by talented, emerging artists whose work might’ve gone undiscovered otherwise.
I worked closely with Dylan at Sparkplug for over three years, mostly in a marketing and PR capacity. He was a dear friend and collaborator, the likes of which I’ll never know again. Although he never once complained about it, I knew for a long time that Dylan was sick and that it was serious. When I heard the news he was gone, I was sad and upset but I can’t say I was surprised. What did surprise and move me, however, was the outpouring of grief and affection from all corners of the comics community – many of it from people who’d had only passing interactions with Dylan. And what impressed me the most about it was the consistency of what people had to say about him. Across the board, whether they knew him a little or a lot, people said he was kind, generous and, above all, that he encouraged them to make comics.
At the time, I found it hard to reconcile my own personal feelings of loss with those of the comics community at large. But after hearing about Kriistina’s equally untimely end, I now fully understand how the many people who weren’t in Dylan’s inner circle, but whose lives he touched significantly, felt. My heart goes out to Kristiina’s many friends across Europe who are dealing with her loss and I am heartened to hear that this year’s Swedish SPX will be held in honor of her memory.
I ask that the comics community similarly honor Dylan’s memory by pushing this Indie Go Go Fundraiser over the top of its $11,800 goal. Please show Dylan the same generosity and kindness I know he showed you at one time or another. As of this writing, the fundraiser is now over 3/4 funded, thanks to generous contributors just like you. But with the loss of two irreplaceable comics community builders like Kriistina and Dylan over such a short period of time to the sameo the same senseless, all to soon end, I want this campaign OVER THE F-ING TOP.
I know times are tough. I know a lot of you have already generously donated your time, art and money to this cause. I know there’s a lot of worthy artistic endeavors out there that need funding. I know your broke ass cousin in Brooklyn has sent you at least thirteen Facebook messages this week asking you to fund his indie noise rock album on Kickstarter. But I’m still going to ask. I’m going to ask you twice and I’m going to ask you nice. Please, pretty please, consider donating whatever you can. I want to see Dylan’s final projects in print and I want Sparkplug to live on after him.
There’s just under two weeks left, people. Let’s push this WAY OVER the top. I know Dylan would’ve been far too private and proud for this kind of shameless promotion. But I think I know what he would’ve said about the sentiment – that’s great, cancer sucks, but comics are awesome.
If you feel the same way, you can donate here. Thanks for your thoughtful consideration.