University of Washington, Seattle
Though I would describe our relationship as mostly collegial, Tom Inge never failed to greet me with a warm smile and handshake at the various conferences where we crossed paths. Everything people are saying about him in their various tributes – his tireless devotion to the fields he helped inaugurate, his unflagging support of younger scholars – holds 100% true for my own interactions with him.
We first met, I want to say, at one of the late 1990s or early 2000s ICAFs. I recall more than once seeing him and John Lent sitting together at the back of the room, like Odin and Zeus, looking on as we grad student whippersnappers presented at the podium, drawing – whether we knew it or not – on their generation’s insights and breakthroughs. Tom had done so much to prepare and enrich the soil we later worked.
Of the various objects in my shambles of a campus office, the one I’m most proud of is a plaque that says I won the 2005 Inge Award for Comics Scholarship, given annually to a paper presented in the Comic Art and Comics Area of the Popular Culture Association, for material which would eventually make it into my second book, Death, Disability and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond. Running into Tom at the PCA conferences over the years became just a given, like the sun in the sky. To his credit, he never made you feel cowed in his presence; he always had an encouraging word and good suggestions. That also proved the case in Tom’s reader report for my first book, Komiks: Comic Art in Russia. He played an important role in shaping that work.
In recent years I mostly corresponded with Tom for work reasons. But even these short e-mails always bore his congenial stamp. For example, knowing that I write on Eastern European comics, he took the time in one missive from 2012 to tell me about how much he liked going to Palacký University in Olomouc as a visiting professor and his delight at finding a two-volume anthology of Czech comics in Prague. “You probably have them already,” he wrote.
Indeed I did, but in a very real sense I wouldn’t have my professional interests, my career or even the field of Comics Studies to play around in if not for Tom. I am eternally grateful.
Requiescat in pace.