I usually love that kind of cartoony, expressive, high energy art. I mean, I loved Mike Parobeck and I was getting into Humberto Ramos, especially when Impulse began his solo series (Wieringo designed and co-created Impulse, BTW). I don't know if the issue was I didn't quite see him as a right fit for either title for some geeky fanboy reason. But let's start at the beginning now that I got that out of the way.
Mike Wieringo was introduced into comics by his father, who was a fan of the medium. Wieringo got so into it that he began drawing his own comics when he was eleven years old. He eventually went on to study fashion illustration at Virginia Commonwealth University. He considered working in comics after graduating but then decided that comics was on the path of dying out and decided to not pursue it. After deciding that he did not have the fortitude to do commercial art, he once again considered a career in comics, which took him to San Diego Comic Con in 1992, where he showed his samples to then group editor of DC Comics, Neil Ponzer. He showed Wieringo's samples around to other DC editors and he scored his first comic book work, drawing a story in Justice League Quarterly numbers 11 and 12. Afterwards, Flash editor Brian Agustyne asked Wieringo to submit samples of the Flash.
Amalgam came from the mega-crossover between Marvel and DC, it was a universe that combined heroes from both companies. Wieringo was tapped to draw Spider-Boy, a combination (amalgamation, if you will) of Spider-Man and Superboy. And it was all kinds of awesome. I remember this was the first time I saw his art and just went "wow". I thought to myself that maybe he'd be better off drawing Superboy (Conner Kent 90's clone version with the jacket) or even Spider-Man.
This was back when I first forgave (yes, I am that entitled with Spidey) Marvel for the clone saga because the titles had great artistic teams on the books, from John Romita Jr to Steve Skroce, Spidey was making a big comeback. As eventually Joe Quesada said on the Spider-Man dvd , once they gave us good Spidey, we forgave them (too bad he'd take it away again with the story I shall never mention again by name). Wieringo's Spidey was just bursting with energy and fun! It was everything Spider-Man was supposed to be.
The run lasted ten issues and Wieringo would return to DC briefly with a short run on Adventures of Superman, back when DC was making a huge effort on getting big creative teams on Superman. But he would return to Marvel and reunite with writer Mark Waid on what was arguably his greatest run of his career.
Waid is an extraordinary writer who unfortunately at the time, had some rough patches in Marvel. The abrupt exit from X-Men after one issue. His Captain America (with artist Ron Garney) that was becoming very popular, but got replaced when Heroes Reborn happened and Rob Liefeld took over (and eventually Jim Lee's Wildstorm). He later on wrote Captain America again but problems once again were getting tense and when Waid was taken off FF, Wieringo also decided to leave. Marvel was met with huge backlash at the time from fans who were already testy because of the time Waid was replaced on Captain America. Fortunately, Marvel would reverse on the decision and Waid along with Wieringo stayed on the book.
On August 12, 2007, Michael Lance Wieringo, aka Mike 'Ringo, died of an aortic dissection. He was only 44 years old. The industry and fans were shocked at the news. I remember being online when the news broke out. I felt absolutely numb when I read the news. It was somehow not real to me that it had happened. I don't know how much of it was disbelief or how much of it was denial. I had just started following his website/blog where he would post sketches and wonderful pieces of artwork. How could it be possible?
In the days that followed Wieringo's brother would update the website's blog to keep fans posted on memorials and tributes. And it wasn't until one post in particular that I finally accepted it. It was a post about his brother cleaning out the home where Wieringo lived. He had gone into the bedroom at one point and mentioned Mike Wieringo's cat. Ever since he had been organizing things in the house, for the majority of the time the cat would just lay on Wieringo's bed, in the spot he would sleep, and the cat barely ever moved from that spot after Wieringo was gone. I read that and it finally hit me. Mike Wieringo was dead, and I started crying. I cried the whole night through after reading that post. It was the first time I had ever cried over somebody's death that I didn't personally know the person. Even now writing this, my eyes can't help but water up.
I read many stories of fans and professionals about what an exceptional person he was. I never had the honor of meeting him, but I would like to say that as a professional, he was truly an inspiration. In an industry that dwelled so much in darkness and even today it's so grim, his work was not only just a breath of fresh air, it was a necessity. It was a reminder. That no matter how dark, and grim, and hopeless things looked like, if you looked a little closer, there will always be that ray of light that will bring you comfort. And that was what his art mean, means to mean, that there will always be comfort. I would like to end this blog with a quote by Wieringo himself describing his style. Thank you all for reading and stay safe. Next week I finish my series of remembrances with Michael Turner.
"I just try to keep things fun. I like to do fun comics. It doesn't have to be realistic to be believable. In fact, I sometimes think that funny [material] might actually add something to certain books."- Mike "'Ringo" Wieringo