Mike Turner (cover artist on Identity Crisis and JLA) was always smiling. Always. And over the past few weeks – as I wrote to him and knew things were getting worse – I always tried to keep that in my head. He didn’t have a cocky smile (and he’d earned the right to a cocky smile). It was a true smile. A real smile. But writing about smiles doesn’t do him justice, so let me share the one story that does.
It was after we finished Identity Crisis. We knew we would be doing JLA together. That was always in the plans. And then he decided that he was going to start doing covers for Marvel. And so...man, I remember him telling me this story in LA like it was yesterday...he tells me that he’s making this deal with Marvel. And then, the guy who he’s negotiating with from Marvel says (as he should say): The only catch is, if you want this deal with Marvel, you can’t do the JLA covers. You have to be just with us or the deal’s off.
I choke inside because I assume this is where Mike tells me why he can’t do JLA (and listen, I appreciate that that sometimes happens. That’s the business).
And then Mike says to the Marvel guy, “Okay, then I’m out. Deal’s off.”
I can’t believe it. As he tells me the story, it’s clear he means it. He’s fully ready to walk away from his entire deal and the crazy Marvel money.
And then Mike lets loose with this awesome smile – one of the best ever smiles and says, “One second later, they caved. I’m in for JLA.”
I guess that’s where the story was supposed to end, but of course, me being guilt-ridden me, I somehow feel guilty that JLA got in the middle of his negotiation, so I start telling him, “Listen, please...you didn’t have to do that. I’d understand and...”
No, Mike protested. “I made a promise to you.”
And right there...I can picture that moment...I’ll never forget that moment. Right there, Mike wasn’t just some guy who drew the covers and sold some copies. He wasn’t the guy who could do that movie poster feel for your book (look at his first Flash cover), always making every 60 year old character suddenly seem brand new. He wasn’t the guy who made every book we worked on jump off the shelf (think for a moment, he was the only true ‘name’ on Identity Crisis. Why do you think people picked it up from issue one?). And he wasn’t just another superstar.
He was my friend. A good friend. And a friend who would’ve given up something he really wanted. For someone else. In life, those are the friends you treasure.
And I treasure Mike Turner.
I should also say, in all the time he was on JLA -- with all the sickness and all the crap he was going through, he was never late, never complained, never once did anything but be himself and smile.
He has no idea how much I’d taken his lesson to heart – long before today.
So forget the half-mast flag. Wear your smile loud and proud in his honor.
Rest easy, Mike.