Martin Skidmore, our friend and long-term Freaky Trigger contributor, died of cancer on Wednesday. He was 52.
There is an awful lot you could say about Martin. He was a terrific fellow – even he didn’t seem to realise how kind and smart he was. So if I dwell here on his writing and online presence it’s because that’s how I knew him first and best, not because it’s nearly the most important thing about him. But even in that, Martin was remarkable. He was a genuine polymath, interested in almost everything. If you click on his author page and look at the most-read pieces he wrote here, you’ll see him talking about comics, soul music, football, crime novels, japanese art, food art, films, porn, and Joyce Carol Oates. He was proud of his Comics: A Beginners Guide series, but everything he wrote for us was as thoughtful and useful.
Then bear in mind that the stuff he wrote here was probably a tenth of a hundredth of the stuff he wrote, full stop – on his LiveJournal he reviewed everything he read, on the Singles Jukebox he reviewed everything he heard, he ran sites dedicated to comics and Japanese arts, and every time you met him he’d talk about five other things. The last time I saw him, when he’d been ill for a while, we watched cricket together and he patiently answered a bunch of newbie questions I had. He hadn’t watched cricket for years, he said. He still knew everything about it.
These days everyone’s an online omnivore, of course. But Martin was the real thing: he had an endless, unshowy curiosity, a frank and level judgement, and the depth of experience to give that judgement weight. When he said that something – Tezuka’s Phoenix, for instance – was among the art he loved best in the world, you listened, because you knew he never said that kind of thing lightly. And though he was humble and good-humoured, he was also quietly and rightly proud of the Japanese arts project and the work he’d done for the British comics industry through Trident Comics and the FA zine.
He was absolutely right about these – I’d heard of Martin long before I’d met him, and knew he was genuinely important to the development of British comics fandom and the comics industry in the 80s: other people will tell that story, I hope. I also had a collection of second-hand FAs which were packed with argument, incident, and lively ideas: like a lot of good zines, they were a model for the kind of online communities where we eventually bumped into one another. Martin was the kind of contributor every community wants – quick to say something welcoming or smart, slow to anger, possessed of a working bullshit detector but enough of a gent to use it wisely. ILX would never have been any good without him and others like him in its early stages.
And, of course, he was excellent company in the pub, unfailingly generous with his time and hospitality, and – as the last few months of his life showed – remarkably brave. He was a lovely man and I shall miss him tremendously. There are lots more stories about Martin to tell, and hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to get together and tell them soon.
RIP Martin, and thankyou so much.