Celebrating Adventure: The Joyful Career of Mike Wieringo
Mike Wieringo was born on this day in 1963. Known for his work as artist on such titles as Fantastic Four, Sensational Spider-Man, Flash, and Robin, as well as being the co-creator of Tellos, Wieringo was equally renowned for his generosity and warmth of spirit.
Born in Vincenza, Italy, Wieringo developed an interest in comics at an early age and began drawing his own stories at age 11. However, he went on to study commercial illustration, getting a degree in fashion illustration from Virginia Commonwealth University. But a love of comics never left him, and he decided to pursue that field rather than fashion.
Wieringo took his portfolio to San Diego Comic Con in 1992 where he caught the eye of editor Neil Pozner, and soon got an assignment drawing for Justice League Quarterly. This led to his landmark work on Flash with writer Mark Waid and editor Brian Augustyn, who together would create Bart Allen, aka Impulse. This would be followed by a brief run on Robin with Chuck Dixon, and then a Rogue mini-series at Marvel. Wieringo's more light-hearted approach to the Rogue story would convince the editors on that series to tone down many of the darker elements that had originally been plotted into it.
After penciling the Spider-Boy one-shot for the Amalgam Comics event, Wieringo would become the regular artist on Sensational Spider-Man with writer Todd DeZago until the end of that title's run with issue #33. Their run on this title was something of a breath of fresh air following the heaviness and angst that had plagued the Spider-Man titles for much of the '90s, and due to its skillful balance between fun and camp, it has become something of a cult favorite from the era.
His time on the title would be known for its sense of adventure and family, for such memorable stories as “Unthinkable” and the one where God turned out to be Jack Kirby (so obvious in retrospect), but is also notorious for the fan outcry that was raised when Marvel announced that Waid and Wieringo would be replaced as the creative team on the book. The response was so fervent and so passionate that the two were reinstated almost immediately, and their run continued uninterrupted.
His last works were as the regular artist on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man with Peter David, and a mini-series that combined the characters he was perhaps most famous for working on, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four with Jeff Parker.
But while he may be best known for his work on these top tier characters at Marvel and DC, perhaps his thesis statement on comics is his own series, Tellos, which he co-created with Todd DeZago. A swashbuckling fantasy adventure, Tellos is the story of a young boy and his brawny tiger-man companion making their way through a world of pirates and wizards and wonder. Tellos served as statement of how comics can be fun and accessible and exciting without being dour and dark all the time, as well as serving as a true collaboration between writer and artist, all ideas that were important to Wieringo's approach to comics.
Mike Wieringo died of a sudden heart attack in 2007 at the tragically young age of 44. His final, unfinished work, a What If? special written by Jeff Parker, became a tribute to him, with proceeds benefiting the Hero Initiative. Artists such as Art Adams, Alan Davis, Stuart Immonen, and Mike Allred came on board to finish the remaining pages from the book and to pay tribute to their colleague.
Even now, years after his death, Mike Wieringo remains one of the most loved and respected comics creators of all time, not only among the fan-community, but also — and even perhaps more so — among the creative community within comics. On the occasion of his birthday, we want to take this moment to acknowledge the joy that his work has brought to thousands of comics lovers.