28
Jul 11

Martin Skidmore

FT25 comments • 2,801 views

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.

Other tributes/obituaries/threads: Ned Raggett, MJ Hibbett, The Singles Jukebox, ILX, Momus, Down The Tubes Comics, Tom Murphy

Comments

  1. 1
    katie g on 27 Jul 2011 #

    Hear hear.

  2. 2
    hardtogethits on 27 Jul 2011 #

    My goodness. What a lovely tribute to a man who was obviously very special. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  3. 3
    Tom on 28 Jul 2011 #

    Something that should be publically mentioned is what a selfless and marvellous job Hazel Robinson did of helping Martin in his final weeks and months, keeping Freaky Trigger people informed, and encouraging us to visit. A lot of his friends made his last weeks easier and better but I think she made a particular difference.

  4. 4
    Pete on 28 Jul 2011 #

    This is not my favourite thing Martin wrote for FT, but it was the piece that has affected me most.
    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/wedge/2003/08/lawrence-block-and-the-continuing-unease-of-genre/

    Not only was I going through a bit of a crisis with regards to genre fiction, but was reading Block at the time. What is lovely about this piece, like many of Martin’s on genre fiction, is a generosity to those who might dismiss it. He was exasperated a touch by the worlds disregard of fantastic writing and art in genre, but here he gently says why we should care. And of course it helps that he was right.

    It made me read The Affairs Of Chip Harrison, part of which is still my favourite book, and Martin turned me on to so much stuff. He will be massively missed.

  5. 5
    Erithian on 28 Jul 2011 #

    So sad to lose anyone connected with the site that has brought me and many others so much pleasure in recent years. He was at the Doric Arch the evening I first sampled the conviviality of a Freaky Trigger pub table. RIP and warm regards to Hazel.

  6. 6
    DV on 28 Jul 2011 #

    I’m sorry to hear that Martin has gone, sorry I only met him the once.

  7. 7
    Joel Meadows on 28 Jul 2011 #

    So sorry to hear this. I used to know him in the FA days in the 1980s at UKCAC and only bumped into him a couple of times in London. Very sad indeed

  8. 8
    Waldo on 28 Jul 2011 #

    Can I also add my tribute to Martin and assure all those who knew and loved him that my thoughts are with them. RIP indeed.

  9. 9
    enitharmon on 28 Jul 2011 #

    I, too, would like to record my sadness on hearing of Martin’s death this morning. Though I never knowingly met Martin, I feel as though I have lost a member of my family this morning.

  10. 10
    Tom Murphy on 28 Jul 2011 #

    I never met Martin, but came across FA on my first visit to Odyssey 7 in Manchester after I’d started to pick up a few comics at my local bus station, round about 1985.

    It totally opened my horizons to a world of new material and critical thinking that has continued to enrich my life ever since.

    I meant to contact him recently when FA popped up again online, but never got round to it – something I very much regret now. That’s a lovely tribute to him. RIP, and condolences to those who knew him personally.

  11. 11
    Alasdair MacLean on 28 Jul 2011 #

    A lovely, friendly guy, good tennis player too. Can’t believe I won’t bump into him at Warren St, waiting for the tube, listening to his walkman and breaking into a big smile when I poke him in the ribs. RIP Martin.

  12. 12
    simon fraser on 28 Jul 2011 #

    Back in the late 80s Martin commissioned my first ever paying comics job for the Trident anthology. We exchanged a few letters, he was kind , helpful and enthusiastic. We never met face to face. I’d have liked to have thanked him for that as it set me on a good path in life. My loss.

  13. 13

    (I also posted a version of this on ilx, so apologies for the repetition):

    I serious think Martin would have been moved and astonished by all the affection he’s inspired. I never found a way of telling him — or anyway persuading him — what a great writer he was, but I think he did get a sense of how very loved he was, over the last few days, with visitors to his bedside, and heartfelt best wishes pouring in from colleagues old and new. Which I’m very glad about. Those who were close and saw him in recent weeks had sensed there was no good way out of this for a few months, perhaps, but even so we were taken by surprise at the sheer speed of these last few days, and how suddenly and vastly bereft we feel. Sleep well, Martin.

  14. 14
    Hazel on 28 Jul 2011 #

    Thank you for writing this Tom, it’s lovely and speaks about Martin really well.

    I don’t know that I have a great deal to type right now; I will miss Martin very badly, he was a close and very dear friend to me, although I had not known him as long as some others have. I’m not actually wholly sure when I first met him- it would have been on Poptimists when I was first becoming a music writer, around 2005. I got along with him extremely well and as I moved to London and began to attend more FreakyTrigger events, I spoke to him a lot, often smoking outside Poptimism or a general meet, usually at the Blue Posts Newman Street- his Bristol accent tended to bring out my rolling Berkshire yokelisms after a few minutes and he was immensely personable and friendly, even though I am less than half his age.

    One of our friends (I’m really sorry but I have forgotten which) said that Martin was the kind of person who would send a long email of advice and help to someone who contacted him to say that they were depressed even if he had never heard of them in his life before and I absolutely believe that’s true. The number of people I know who, without Martin would not be where they are now is phenomenol; he was incredibly kind to me during a very bleak period of my life in early 2010 when I was unemployed and couch-surfing on the generosity of Mark S- he rewrote my CV and helped me apply for some jobs that ultimately got me out of a cycle of miserable semi-employment and poverty and he has done similar things for many people. I know that even recently he helped friends; paying off university fees for someone unable to pay them out of their disability benefit is something that particularly springs to mind but it was the time that Martin devoted to them and the care with which he gave help, more than any financial value, that was so extraordinary.

    He spoke to me a lot about his various jobs over his career, from washing dishes in a motorway service station to his days as a comics editor to his current job at UCL the thing that stuck out was how well he listened to and understood other people, from fixing logistical problems with university software by shadowing staff and paying attention to their role (something he didn’t have to and certainly wasn’t asked to do) to the way that he described first editing scripts from contributors to Trident, managing authors who he saw talent in, even if their initial efforts weren’t good. He was a man of vast, intimidating intellect and seemed to do more than was feasible to pack into a day, reading, writing and watching an astonishing body of culture of all kinds but he always had time for and was incredibly kind to other people, too, well above and beyond the normal requirements of friendship and he extended that same generosity even to strangers.

    He knew that his friends had sent their love- I read out messages as they came in on Wednesday and he said that he was thinking of all his friends. He had told me several times in the last few weeks that he was feeling very loved and moved by the number of people who offered to accompany him to appointments and who came round to visit. He worried somewhat that this meant his death would disturb so many people; I told him that the huge body of good memories that he left were well worth that and that he shouldn’t apologise for something we all knew he would avoid if he possibly could.

    I am angry that it was not possible, of course but also very glad that he had such excellent friends and was so happy to receive affection (via visits or emails and calls) from so many people.

    There was quite a group of us at the hospital on Wednesday, so after making phonecalls and arrangements we went to the Blue Posts. We drank beer and reminisced on how important Martin was to so many people; he was an extraordinary man and I am crying as I type this so should stop now. We will miss him lots.

    (my current favourite memory of Martin is a recent and abstract one- we were watching TV and he told me he normally thought he didn’t know anyone who’d wear the sort of thing they showed on clothes adverts but it had just occurred to him that I probably would; it was a funny observation and we both laughed about it but it did flag his extraordinary trait of never judging anyone on appearance at all; a fair reviewer, he only formed opinions of people based on their arguments and interests, both of which he was very open-minded about. I suddenly thought of it as Sarah (who was close to him and very excellent these last few weeks in providing care and support) and I were buying ludicrously-coloured tights earlier today and it made me laugh, despite the situation)

  15. 15
    Hazel on 28 Jul 2011 #

    My grammar is total shit in the above, you’ll have to forgive me.

  16. 16
    punctum on 29 Jul 2011 #

    Don’t worry about the grammar, H – a great, evocative and clearly heartfelt piece.

    There are lots more stories about Martin to tell, and hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to get together and tell them soon.

    Well, I don’t want to come across as an opportunistic spammer here but I couldn’t think of anywhere else to put it; Mark, Lena and myself will be DJing at the Hangover Lounge this coming Sunday (31) between 2-7 pm, and since the idea of HL is to keep the music as unobtrusive as possible so that folk can talk and chill out, it would be great to see everyone coming along if you are able to do so, to talk about our memories; the music won’t be mournful but bright, sometimes daft and at other times accidentally profound.

  17. 17
    Fiona Jerome on 29 Jul 2011 #

    Hi, I’m one of Martin’s old comic friends. I had the pleasure of meeting a few of you at his bedside and I’ve run into some of you at joint birthday drinks and things like that. I wanted to say thank you, particularly to Hazel, for giving so generously of of your time and energy to look after him in the last weeks. When I talked to him about it the day before he died he felt profoundly loved, but being Martin also slightly baffled, by the lengths people were willing to go for him.

    This may also sound opportunistic but I think one of the nicest and most productive things people could do to remember Martin in a positive manner is to look up your nearest blood donation centre and make an appointment to give blood. It takes an hour, tops (and quite a lot of that time is spent having tea and biscuits), doesn’t hurt most people, and is something so straightforward to do that could save someone’s life. There’s a central London donation unit on Margaret Street, just off Oxford Circus, where you can drop in and you can look up your local centre at http://www.blood.co.uk. I started donating 20 years ago when an online friend went through his windscreen and died tragically early, and I hope some of you might start now, if you don’t already. Who knows, you may still be giving blood in 20 years time

  18. 18
    skids on 29 Jul 2011 #

    I’m Martins brother (Jon).
    What a great tribute, thank-you.

    I think it was only recently that Martin realised how much people thought and cared about him. The support he received from his friends during his final days was nothing other than amazing. On a personal note I have to add at the support Martin’s friends have given to me has been amazing as well, thank-you.

    I’ll update with details of the arrangements for his funeral etc.

    Thanks again and R.I.P Martin

  19. 19
    Jimmy the Swede on 30 Jul 2011 #

    A wonderful piece from Hazel. Incredibly moving.

    Can I also echo Fiona’s appeal at 17 that contributors consider donating blood? I did so for a period of about four years before I suddenly became obliged to stop after high blood pressure condemned me to a life sentence of medication. It was this forced desisting of the donations which upset me most, far more than having to pop pills every day from now until the day the finger goes up.

  20. 20
    logged-out Elisha Sessions on 2 Aug 2011 #

    i feel very lucky to have gotten martin on myself and pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør’s resonance FM show about science fiction, a couple of years back, now. he was the most prepared and unruffled guest we had that season! anyway if any of you would like to hear his voice (again), it’s here –

    http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2008/04/a-bite-of-stars-a-slug-of-time-and-thou-episode-4/

  21. 21

    Haha he HATED the story we gave him though!

  22. 22
    logged-out Elisha Sessions on 2 Aug 2011 #

    I know! But he didn’t let it get in the way of talking about the deeply interesting stuff that the story SHOULD have been about!

  23. 23
    Andrew Littlefield on 3 Aug 2011 #

    The last time I saw my dear old friend Martin Skidmore was at a comic mart in London, less than two weeks before his death, when he was already very weak and thin and plainly exhausted, but still, from time to time, the same old Martin I’d known and loved for more than twenty-five years. I first met Martin at a Comic Mart, too, when he was in his early twenties and I was seventeen or so. He was in his prime, then, in every sense – full of energy and fun and nicotine and most especially full of chat, about comics and music and art and cinema and politics and books and sex and sport and more.

    It saddens me that so many of Martin’s newer friends never met him back in the day, because, inevitably, the depression that he suffered from in the last decade or so of his life diminished him in some ways, made him quieter, more melancholy, altogether less vibrant. In the 1980s and 90s, Martin was never less than ‘on’ all time, he was like A FORCE OF NATURE, and he could inspire you – and yes, fatigue you – with his passion and enthusiasm and competitive spirit.

    Nonetheless, some things, many things, stayed the same all the years I knew him. He was casually brilliant at maths, and a remorseless opponent in any kind of game you care to name. He was always receptive to new kinds of culture and, similarly, treated everyone he met as an equal, making new friendships quickly and easily. He was terrifically funny about stupid comics, or about idiotic things people had written or said, and he never let you get away with a sloppy thought or ill-considered judgement. He was the greatest list-maker of all time, the sworn enemy of vegetables and spices, and a firm believer in quantity over quality when it came to ‘bargain’ shopping. He was a fascinating ‘reader’ of many different kinds of sport, and a great person to watch football with. He was a benevolent and appreciative editor. Best of all, he was a kind, generous and genuinely loyal friend.

    All in all, I can truly say that Martin was one of the most UNIQUE people I’ve ever met, a real one of kind, never to be repeated – idiosyncratic, eccentric, maddening, simultaneously self-confident and piercingly vulnerable. All of these qualities came out in his writing, I think; you could always tell something was written by Martin within a sentence or two, and he found that pure authorial voice early on, and never lost it. If you never met him, well, you missed out on someone special. But it’s some small comfort to know that all over the internet there are these little pieces of him, little flashes of his wit and judgement and formidable knowledge that can, for a few sad seconds, bring him back to us all.

  24. 24
    xyzzzz__ on 6 Aug 2011 #

    Thanks for writing the tributes, all (Andrew – its lovely to hear about what Martin was like pre-depression – amazing to think he was ‘diminished’ as he was such a bag of energy the few times I was lucky to meet him)

  25. 25
    Theo Clarke on 6 Aug 2011 #

    Like Andrew and Fiona, I am one of Martin’s comics friends who first met him almost 30 years ago. In the last ten years our respective difficulties with depression prevented us from meeting as often as we would have liked. For all of those 29 years, however, we argued; by letter, in person or by email. Martin could, and often did, argue about anything at all. He drew upon vast eclectic knowledge, remorseless logic, a huge love of language, and a mordant wit. I am already missing all of that.

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