Well, that’s just great…I lost a friend
ESCANABA – William M. Baker, 55, of 505 S. 15th St., Escanaba, passed away Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at his home of natural causes. Funeral arrangements for William M. Baker are incomplete with the Crawford Funeral Homes assisting the Baker family.
Bill Baker had been writing about comics for a decade and a half, including Icons: The DC Comics And WildStorm Art of Jim Lee and books including interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, George Perez, Michael Abon Oeming , and many more, available here.
I knew Bill for over ten years, he was always under foot. Seems like for a while there every convention I went to at some point Bill’s grinning puss would show up, always full of enthusiasm and energy. As you can probably assume…that annoyed me…but I liked him anyway. Bill was one of those guys who annoys you in a way that makes you realize you’re annoyed because you’re apparently missing everything good that Bill is able to see in things. He had the uncanny knack for showing up at the time you least want someone in a good mood around ( sometimes you just want to be in a sh*tty mood and not be pulled out of it by someone who thinks everything is great, am I right?). As I said he was always under foot…but unlike most people who are always around when you don’t necessarily want them around …Bill was also always around when you needed him.
I have three distinct memories of Bill. The first one I won’t tell here because what happens on the road, stays on the road so just chuckle and go “that’s Bill alright”. The second one is of me and my buddy Chris and Him and Randy Zimmerman eating at a red rooster or someplace like that after a convention in Chicago. Bill for possibly the only time I’ve ever seen…wasn’t optimistic. He was watching Chris and I ( we’re both of slim athletic builds) scarf down an inhuman amount of food. It was a dread warning he presented us with about how our metabolism would slow down soon and we’d be fat tubs if we kept eating like that. “you’ll see..you’ll see!” Ten years later I still eat like that and haven’t put on ANY of the fat Bill warned off. I was looking forward to dinner with him this year to point that out. I guess I’ll just have to stand over his grave eating a bag full of cheeseburgers…It won’t be the same without his discerning glare.
The other memory I have is from a convention in Detroit also about ten years ago. I was young in my career and very much living like someone in his twenties trying to make a living in comic books. My friend and I had driven to Detroit in a 78 Oldsmobile with an engine I rebuilt myself (back when I though stuff like that was exciting). The whole way there we had to keep stopping because the car was overheating…or so the temperature gauge told us. Turns out it was some wiring problem and the temperature gauge was wrong…the car was not overheating and we figured that out on the last 1/2 hour of the drive. Oh well…wiring problem no big deal. I have since learned not to turn my back on an electrical problem…specially when the wiring is over twenty years old, because about 1/2 hour into the drive back home the car stopped running. It was an ignition problem…a 15.00 ignition problem that is easily fixed if you are at an auto parts store and not on the side of the highway. I happened to have Randy’s number and called for help. Bill was with him…the exchange went something like this.
me- “my car’s broken down 1/2 hour west…are you still close enough to come and get me?’
Randy- stay put…
Bill ( in the background)- what’s going on?
Randy- It’s Douglas…his car is broken down on I94
Bill- OH F*CK! SON OF A B*TCH!…TELL HIM TO HOLD ON, WE’RE COMING!
Randy-…hold on, we’re coming
Bill was the kind of guy where your problems are his problems. He seemed genuinely more upset than I was. They came and got us and stopped at the first hotel we saw so I’d be able to get some sleep until the auto parts stores opened. The first one wanted 100.00 a night…did I mention I was driving a 78 Oldsmobile, an expense like that would have ruined me.
Bill- “they want HOW MUCH?!…IT’S F*CKING 10PM…they should be SUCKING YOU D*CK TO GET ANOTHER CUSTOMER AT THIS HOUR!”
I tried to reassure Bill and we eventually found a cheap 30.00 a night hotel.
I realize these are the kinds of stories that aren’t as funny unless you knew the guy, but the point is that Bill actually gave a damn about his fellow man.
Bill loved comic books and reviewed probably hundreds and interviewed dozens of big name guys by the time I met him, and yet he was impressed by my work, and was encouraging, and when you are twenty something and driving a car you had to build yourself to get to comic books shows, that means something to you. When you are starting out with no credibility to speak of and no concrete reason to hold onto that you should continue, having someone like Bill think your work matters…well…like I said Bill was there when you needed him.
I didn’t get to talk to Bill about my recent success and my contribution to a Comedy Central cartoon show…and that makes me sad. It would have been good to tell Bill about it. Between you and me some of my motivation in recent years has simply been to not give up because it would have felt like betraying the people who believed in me. It would have been good to tell Bill about it, and show him I did something with the encouragement, and that he was right to believe in me, and that all the little things he did, and reviews he snuck into magazines and websites about an Indy book that most people never heard of, instead of reviewing something more popular, meant a lot. I bet it would have got a big reaction out of him, but really no bigger reaction than any good news he hears…because that’s the kind of guy Bill was. He thought just about everything was pretty great. He looked for the good, the positive. I don’t know a lot of people walking around like that…now I know one less.
I often see dedications to people at the beginning of books naming someone who didn’t actually have much to do with the book and sort of just yawn or give it a pass. Most people will probably yawn or give a pass when I put “In memory of Bill Baker” in my next issue, but I know now why people put those dedications in there…because they did in fact have much to do with the book.
I think I’ll spell something wrong in the dedication though…my spelling errors always drove Bill nuts.