I wasn’t expecting to be posting so soon….
So much has happened since I first got the wake-up call about it from my pal Craig Rousseau Friday morning on March 6 as I was recovering from the bug that hit me so hard the day before I basically slept for 24 hours. That was QUITE the wake-up call. *Norman was on vacation with his wife Jan at the Cayman Islands and he disappeared while snorkeling; search and recovery had been underway since the day before.* My cellphone had two messages from Erick Korpi and Bob Shaw late the night before. Incredulous and sick, I didn’t even want to go online but hours later I did and saw that the small, tight comic book community had consolidated and taken over Facebook. Hours and days passed. It got worse; I got worse; and the world seemed worse off. It’s been a full week and my emotions and mind are gradually recovering from the shock and trauma. Healthier but sadder it’s hard to not be depressed when industry greats Fred Fredericks and Irwin Hasen pass on in such quick succession. What has helped heal and continue to heal is the passage of time and the emails, texts and calls from friends who knew and loved Norm. I’m trying to get back on top of things now and function like I used to and I’m certainly getting there. But it’s clear things have changed and I’m still missing something.
For those who missed out on details of the tragedy as it occurred, my article at the Inkwell Awards summarizes the story with a statement from poor, dear Jan and a link to the People.com press release. In it it quotes snippets from me from my statement about Norman on my Facebook wall. Here it is in it’s entirety from March 9 below. My Facebook account also has an album dedicated to Norm if you happened to know him or would be interested in checking that out. After that I think you’ll have an idea what kind of good guy Norman was and what you missed. He will never be forgotten.
What can I say about Norman Lee that hasn’t already been said in the outpouring of love expressed in social media this past tragic weekend? It’s all true that he was a larger than life personality, much like the characters he delineated professionally. He was a fiercely passionate person; He was very loyal and loving to the end but on the other hand, were you to have wronged him, you would clearly know it. He was driven in his convictions, which is obvious since he was continuously in demand in a highly-competitive market after a solo career of almost twenty years. He had tolerance, endurance, evident not only from his impressive physical prowess but the fact that he worked closely beside me for some time (not easy, ask anyone who has). He certainly inked quicker than me and could tackle the dreaded all-nighter like a champ (I barely could), allowing him to take on multiple issues within a given time (during a dry slump I ghosted/assisted him on a job later, a case of the ‘master serving the pupil’ role reversal which we both found interesting). He cherished his privacy, as his friends would often not know about huge developments/accomplishments in his life until mentioned randomly after the fact which amused us to no end. He was contagiously optimistic and enthusiastic. This would explain the sheer ease how he could network, build a multitude of working relationships with artists, and build a dedicated fanbase. He was brutally honest and called you on stuff. He did this to me a few years ago and I’m glad he did. Yet I forgot about it until a friend brought it up the other day because he had tact and was so likable that you simply didn’t hold it against him. Ultimately, I can honor him by trying to be an even better person. Norm was hope and inspiration personified. He leaves behind a proud legacy of work to the art form of inking. I miss the early days and wish our lives and careers hadn’t pulled us farther apart over time as it often does, leaving us with only flash greetings at conventions, a sacrifice to our dreams and success. But he will always be my friend.