Marcus Almand, Fes Works, and myself during an outtake on First Issue.
It is with great sadness that I type these words: my friend Marcus lost a battle with cancer on Sunday night.
I met Marcus a few years ago. We were both on a comics panel at the St. Paul Public Library along with several other local comics folk. I remember it was a rainy autumn weekend, and we were all huddled together in the dry, bright light of the library while the gloom outside made it feel much later in the day. I remember that the panel was fun, and Marcus and I struck up a conversation afterward. I said I was headed to a small geek convention in St. Paul (I can’t remember if it was Diversicon or Arcana). He thought it sounded fun, so he tagged along.
Ever since, Marcus was a frequent guest in my home. He’d wander over for bi-weekly movie nights, art nights, and various other gatherings. One of my fondest memories with him was when he was the only person to show up for a double-feature of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, two films that neither of us had seen before. Our laughter and squeals of disbelief echoed through my apartment building.
Marcus was a comics writer. During social gatherings, he’d often sit on my couch with a notebook, scribbling down ideas and writing scripts. Over the years, we had many long conversations about how the comics industry treated non-white, non-male, and non-straight folks, both inside the funnybooks and inside the business.
Marcus was fun and funny. He’d easily get so excited about stuff that he’d trip over words, like the ideas were spilling out faster than he could talk.
In 2011, Fes Works hatched an idea, and approached the two of us. He wanted to do a video podcast called First Issue, where the three of us would review the first issue releases of comics. The project had an interesting dynamic for a review show: one non-white comics professional (Marcus), one female comics professional (myself), and one person who had never read comic books before (Fes). I’m not sure if the final result was as interesting as that premise, as we are all really awkward human beings on camera. However, we had a lot of fun making the videos, and we ate a lot of good pizza after.
Marcus learned he had cancer during the run of the videos. You can see his body transform in the later episodes.
After Marcus recovered from his first operation, Fes and I took him out to the movies. Both The Avengers and Cabin in the Woods had been released while he was in the hospital, so we had a grand ol’ Joss Whedon binge. That day was a lot of fun.
He seemed to be in pretty good shape after that. He was walking around, attending movie nights, traveling, laughing, and pretty much enjoying life as normal. He didn’t eat the same, and he seemed a little more tired than usual, but that was to be expected.
That changed a few weeks ago. He’d gone to New York to try an experimental operation of some sort. Whatever happened out there did not go well. He walked into New York City. He couldn’t walk on his own anymore when he left.
I visited him in the hospital several times over the last two weeks. I was there almost every other day, and the change in his health each time was dramatic. I’ve lost several family members to cancer, and I’ve seen it before: suddenly, there’s just an internal cascade, and the body starts shutting down. By the last time I saw him, he could barely talk; he just asked me to babble at him and distract him, and babbling is what I did. I feel bad that the last time I saw him was filled with minutiae of my own life.
His dad tells me that he kept his sense of humor right up to the very end, though. I’ll always remember his humor and vitality.
Today, I’m finding comfort in the blooper reels from First Issue. They’re just video of Marcus, Fes, and me laughing at ourselves for being clumsy, awkward dorks. #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6
I’ll miss you, Marcus.