Monday, May 17, 2021

On the passing of comics scholar Tom Inge

Word is moving through the comics academic community that M. Thomas 'Tom' Inge passed away last week. I didn't know Tom deeply, but for a long time I sent him comics ephemera for his collection at VCU, and articles about Edgar Allan Poe in comics. He was a big fan of my friend, Richard Thompson too.

Tom and I probably met at an ICAF meeting, but we became better acquainted when I was called up from the minors to fill in for two Harvey Pekar interviews at SPX. I did them, and then transcribed them for John Lent's International Journal of Comic Art. Not wanting to miss a wider audience, I offered them to Tom for whomever might do a book in Tom's Conversations with Comics Artists intervew series at the University Press of Mississippi.

Tom instead wrote back, changing one direction of my life - "How about your doing the Pekar volume in the Conversations series?  I don't have anyone signed up for him, strange to say, and you already have two interviews I assume.  Have you resources to locate the previously published ones? " ( Jul 19, 2006)

Never having edited or compiled a book before, I wrote back that I'd think about it, and then a day later, "Tom,  I'm still mulling it over although I'm leaning towards doing it." (Jul 20, 2006)

So I did it, and Harvey Pekar: Conversations came out in 2008. Not learning from experience, I wrote to Tom about doing a collection of Herblock interviews. He responded favorably to me and the Press' editor -

"[Mike] raises the question of doing another volume for the series on the political cartoonist Herblock. I think that is an excellent idea.  It is a shame that we have had not titles yet on political cartoonists, and Herblock is a very good place to begin (we need them on Bill Mauldin, Jeff MacNelly, Pat Oliphant, and Doug Marlette, among lots of others as well)." (May 1, 2008)

Unfortunately the Herblock Foundation never really got behind the idea, and they controlled his rights, so the idea faded away. Tom didn't though and he continued to be a major force in comics studies. I saw him for the last time at the PCA meeting in DC in 2019, I think? I snuck into the meeting and just said hello in passing after watching his panel. One always assumes there's more time...

Tom was one of the best and most productive members of the first group of academics to study comics. He was an immense help to my second career, and to many others, and the field is much richer for his time spent cultivating it. He'll be missed by many.

No comments: