Rest In Peace, Ric Estrada
Ric Estrada was a good friend. There must be close to a million people who can say that, because Ric was always so open and inviting, I think he instantly befriended almost every person that came across his path. Now, I’m normally one of those guys that hands tissues to everyone else during the sad movies, because men don’t show that much emotion, it’s not how I was raised. But I didn’t prepare for this day, and even though I feel I should say something to salute him, I have to admit, it’s hard to do it right this minute, because I am fighting back the tears. For Ric, though, he definitely deserves every tear.
Ric Estrada passed away Friday morning, May 1st, 2009, around 7:00 a.m. He had been fighting advanced prostate cancer for about eight years. It was very painful, but he always told me he was still smiling. His wife Loretta has notified the friends and family, and let us know that he was surrounded by loved ones, and cared for very well.
Ric’s life was amazing, and his career was not limited just to comics. I plan to write more about Ric and what little pieces I know in the future, but honestly, I don’t think I can last that long tonight, so please forgive me for limiting this to mainly his contributions to the comic world for tonight.
The main claim to fame for Ric for a long time was his work on DC‘s war comics, which were some of his personal favorites to draw. I can’t claim this for certain, but my impression was that Ric had fierce loyalty for his adopted country, and his loyalty to the American ideals may have inspired his devotion to the war comic genre. One of my favorites that he did was Amethyst, but I read so many of the comics as a young child, that I had not paid too much attention to the names of the creative team at the time. Imagine my joy after I first met Ric to go back and find his name plastered all over titles like Legion of Super-Heroes, Wonder Woman, Karate Kid, Super Friends… His work ethic was unstoppable, and he could draw quickly, which made him one of the greats: he could draw fast, he could do it well, and he spent a lot of time doing it, which all added up to produce a magnificent body of work that stands up to some of the best artists you can name, even today.
I had mentioned Ric before on these pages, when I remarked that he was “literally the nicest man on the planet I know.” I was so taken in by him that the main reasoned I returned to San Diego each year was the chance to see him and our other mutual friends, to sit and dine with him and just soak up the atmosphere of being around him. Another time, a small group consisting of my friends and I (which I jokingly called the “Vegas Contingent”) paid his way to a poorly-attended Comicon in Las Vegas one year, and he regaled us with story after amazing story all through dinner one night. He had a print of Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, with a blank face of the soldier in the center, and he drew my face in there and gave it to me as his way of saying thanks for enabling him to make the trip. I suspect he did it for some of the others too. It’s framed now, hanging on my wall in the hallway, and I can see it from here, not too far from another piece of his that always makes me laugh. In that way, he has been a constant part of my life for years, and always in my thoughts.
I met his wife Loretta at the San Diego dinners too, and was immediately taken in by her charm as well. A time or two Loretta had to stay at home with the children, and another family member made sure to come and be Ric’s helper. It didn’t matter, any family member had the same friendliness and infectious good cheer. I suspect it may have started out as overflow of good will from Ric, and everyone around him internalized it over the years.
Not too long ago on my venture to join Facebook, I invited Ric to open an account, and within days he was making friends and figuring out how everything worked. One of the 'friend suggestions' I gave him was Howard Chaykin, and they quickly expressed mutual admiration for each others work, with Mr. Chaykin remarking that he always mentioned Ric's name when giving a lecture on storytelling. Even online and at this late date, Ric was still all smiles and complimenting people, and it enabled a few more people to reach out to him in these past couple months.
I was hesitant to say anything more, since I am used to keeping certain things private, but I feel so strongly that more people deserve to know about this man whom I admire deeply. So with these fond memories of him, I would like to share one of the last things he wrote to me, shortly after I had written about our common experiences here at Fodder:
“Though at the time I was raising and feeding a family of eight children, those long hours at the drawing board were instilling the passion, aches and pains of my soul into those comic pages. Then it was, on to the next story. After the first hundred stories one lost track, but the quest continued. Years later, when fans began to respond, I realized those lonely hours weren't wasted but the stories had reached others beyond the four walls of my studio. That satisfaction was greater than money. And you, Travis, are one of those friends who reached out of the blue. Thank you for your kindness. Your friend forever, Ric Estrada.”
This is all I can manage for now. God bless you, Ric. I miss you so much already.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.