Dave Simons: 1954 - 2009
In his career Dave worked with some of the giants of animation and comic books. He was one of the best inkers to work with Gene Colan since Tom Palmer, a fact that Dave was damned happy to hear, especially when that praise came from Gene. He worked with Bob Budiansky on one of the best runs seen on Ghost Rider in the books life, and beyond. He worked with almost anyone you care to mention. His attention to detail and apparent inability to turn in a bad job held him in excellent stead and made him one of the go-to inkers of his generation. His generosity to others was known amongst his peers and there's several inkers and artists who'll happily tell you that Dave helped them along their way and gave them a start in their comic book careers.
Dave was a true visionary who never really got his due amongst the comic book buying public at large. Dave moved from comic books into animation and move through the ranks at a surprising speed into direction and production, along the way he was able to hire people he knew to be out of work and as such was able to provide an income for them. When the animation wound down Dave moved back to New York.
Dave was diagnosed with cancer a few years back and, Dave being Dave, told everyone who'd listen how he'd beaten it stone cold. Sadly that wasn't the truth and he emailed me earlier in the year to tell me some crushing news - the cancer was back, with a vengeance and the doctors had given him anywhere from six months to two years to live. Dave thought this was incorrect and decided to beat them at their own game, but, again Dave being Dave, he never once let on to anyone as to exactly how ill he really was.
Early this year Dave mixed his medication up and fell into a coma that he very nearly didn't recover from. This woke him up to an extent and he began to make moves as to what he was going to do next. He wanted to move out of where he was living and provide a better environment for both himself and his cat, Smokey. Again, Dave was thinking more of Smokey than himself, but Dave's heart was always strong and bigger than most. Ironically it wasn't the cancer that claimed Dave, he'd been fighting an infection that developed into pneumonia. Dave's immune system, already weakened by his constant battles, simply couldn't cope.
My own memories of Dave are varied. I won't post all of them here, as they're very personal at the moment. I contacted Dave in 2004 and interviewed him because I wanted to speak to the guy who made me happy as a lad reading Ghost Rider. Dave warned me that he wrote better than he spoke, but then said he wasn't all that interesting. Sure he wasn't. I later reconnected with him and began to assist him by buying his art and establishing his web-site, which he once said brought him a lot more money than he ever expected. Typical of Dave he never once accepted my offer to do his site out of love and insisted on sending me as many rejected commissions and preliminaries as he could stuff in a package. Working with Bob Shaw, we established the Dave Simons Appeal and it was through the generosity of the comic book community that Dave's last few months were as good as they were. Dave wasn't one to take all of this lying down and kept working on commissions right up to the end. That was Dave. He'd have hated to think that someone had ordered a commission from him and never gotten it. That was typical of Dave and his respect for being such a hard worker carried him through. Says Walter Simonson, "Dave was a good guy, a hard worker, a fine inker, and more than that, he was Inherently Notable! I’m delighted we had a chance to hang out a little at the last NYCC. We swapped sketchbooks, and I very much regret that we won’t be able to hang out and do the same thing the next time around. He’ll be missed."
I was honoured that Dave not only wanted me to write about him on his site, but also on other sites. Indeed we had just begun working on the story of his life and his last email to me was to pass on a lot of names and suggestions. His energy was infectious and we'd also started working on a project that we'd both developed called Donna Thyme - Dave had done the illos and we'd bashed out the concept together. He wanted a script before the end of June so he could start pencilling.
Our last great battle was with the Wikipedia people. Dave asked me to get him onto that site, being the self-promoter that he was. I did so only to see the entry removed as they deemed Dave not to be 'inherently notable'. That fired me up and, fueled by Dave who watched on with a large sense of amusing, although he exhibited public outrage, we got both the Wiki entry up, with assistance from Michael Netzer, and began the Dave Simons Appreciation Society on Facebook. Dave was so tickled that he began to use the term 'Inherently Notable' in everything that he did, although he'd not admit it.
In my last interview with Dave I asked him what his perfect comic book would have looked like. His reply, "Conan The Barbarian. Figures by John Buscema, backgrounds by Barry Smith, costumes by Steranko and the whole thing inked by Wally Wood. Written by Roy Thomas, of course. Wouldn't that have been great?" Like anything that Dave did the answer was yes...
I'll miss Dave...I'll miss his laughter, his joy, his light and his sheer energy. Nothing got Dave down, even at his lowest moments he never showed it. And I know, I spoke to him at his lowest moments.
As time passes and arrangements are made, details will be posted on this blog. In the meantime, if you have a message that you'd like passed on to Dave's family, or a memory, or a tribute that you'd like to make public then feel free to email me and I'll be sure to get it into the right hands.
For now I'll leave the last words to a person who knew and worked with Dave since the 1970s. Says Gene Colan, "Dave was a young man full of life. I was on the phone with him the night before last. His voice was very weak and he mentioned he might go down to Tennessee and be with his Sister. I strongly encouraged him.
"In all the decades I've known Dave and worked with him, he never complained once. Never...about anything. Even with last year's diagnosis, he remained spirited and helpful to his fellow artists, me among them! Adrienne and I loved Dave's art. He had a thorough understanding of pen and ink. There was a joy in his art that beautifully transferred to the board.
"We're very very sad and will miss Dave deeply. I need to believe in Heaven. Perhaps we get all the art assignments we want, with no deadlines and anything we decide to draw is received with joy and celebration. A 'bullpen' where all we do is clown around and draw what we want. I think Dave would love that!"