If I had to pick out one reason why I create art today, it would be the influence of Michael Turner. If you’ve ever been really inspired and energized about life because of the accomplishments of someone else, you’ll know what I mean. For me, I get my energy from the life and work of Mike Turner.
I found him just browsing at the comic shop, in the late 90’s. I’d never heard of Witchblade or Darkness, but I quickly became serious about collecting anything and everything published by Top Cow. The company was putting out books that were better than everything else on the market. The art was in the exaggerated Image style, but not sloppy like the Extreme books. It was tight and detailed, dark and sexy, and it all had a very distinctive style.
But the artist who stood out even from the Top Cow class of the time was Mike Turner. His women were gorgeous, his creatures were deadly, and his men (especially Ian Nottingham) were incredible.
I saw him speak at a Panel at Wizard World Chicago in 1999. I regret that I didn’t make an effort to go meet him. I also regret that I drifted away from art and comics, and I didn’t closely follow his work the rest of his life. Sadly, he died in 2008 after several painful years of fighting cancer. My son was one year old, and I was hustling like crazy back then, trying hard to support my family, but I still remember reading the news that day and knowing that somebody special was gone.
Being older and happier now, I’ve learned more about him, and he really was an amazing person. He was an accomplished athlete and Kung Fu teacher as well as an artist. He made some of the best-loved comic art of the 90’s, and his DC and Marvel covers are highly collectible. He recovered from his first bout with cancer, and then made a bold decision to leave Top Cow and start his own publishing company, Aspen. When he passed on, he left the company in the hands of trusted friends, who have used it as a platform to tell a diverse array of stories.
And through it all, if you read what his friends and acquaintances have written about him, he was an incredibly nice generous guy, one who was almost universally liked.
I’ll never be able to draw like him. I’ll never make sure beautiful and creative stories. But he sure does make me want to try. That’s why I have a Mike Turner wall in my office at home, and I wear his name on my art backpack. It goes everywhere with me, even though I don’t usually get any chances to draw during the day. Keeping it near reminds me to keep being inspired.