Apr 6, 2024

About Ed Piskor

Ed Piskor took his own life Monday and it makes me very sad. It’s also makes me angry. So angry.

I never met Ed. We had some brief interactions messaging on MySpace once upon a time, discussing the con scene in Pennsylvania. I felt we had a kinship, for lack of a better word. We’re nearly the same age- born within a year of each other and both came from blue-collar families. We both wear black New Era caps like it’s our uniform. We both went to the Kubert School- he attended one or two years before I got in- and we both left before completing the full three year program. Our comics sensibilities straddle the indie and mainstream, and we both got our starts drawing autobio comics for older writers.

Ed was an accomplished cartoonist and a powerful voice for the medium of comics. Additionally he was one of the best contemporary examples of being a critically and financially successful indie creator. A true cheerleader for the medium, Ed was an evangelist for the international scene, as well as the homegrown, domestic stuff. Through the Cartoonist Kayfabe youtube channel, he and Jim Rugg brought everyone along with them on their mission to ‘read more comics’. Because of their love for the medium and omnivorous reading habits, they spoke with authority. They are authentic in their own comics work, as well: Entertainment, not proselytizing. Art, not propaganda.

Over the last month however, Cartoonist Kayfabe had David Choe on multiple episodes. A problematic individual, to say the very least, was suddenly invited into the clubhouse and given equal weight as legends like Eastman & Laird and Geof Darrow. Between those episodes and all the increasingly click bait-y, negative-attention seeking titles on the Kayfabe videos, they were losing esteem in my mind. Choes continued appearances undermined CKs credibility. I unsubscribed to the channel and frustrated, I moved along. When the allegations that Ed was messaging a teenaged artist for an extended period of time and may have offered career assistance in exchange for sex, the Cartoonist Kayfabe-David Choe rehab program made some sad sense to me.

Bummed, I mentally took Ed off the ‘good ones’ list. I caught some of the disgusting comments online, of course. Comments just using this new information as an excuse to criticize his work, his looks, and speculate wildly about what other deplorable behavior he might be indulging in. I felt betrayed by Ed, and pissed at the orgy of schadenfreude exploding online.

Then Monday came and I decided to open Facebook. I saw the post with the link to his note and Rob Liefelds comment up top. I was interested to see how Ed would address the allegations. I didn’t realize what I was actually reading at first. My curiosity turned uncomfortable, got eerie and ended in cold dread. The comments under his post were of a very different tone. How desperate some of his close friends and family must’ve felt, trying to comment-section their boy back from the edge. Less than two hours after I read the note, it was confirmed he was gone.
From Wizzywig to Red Room, Ed’s more personal work was about the internet and/ or distributed through the internet. He was an innovator at a time when we were all figuring out how to use the web as a delivery mechanism. Considering all this, you would’ve thought Ed was the type of person that’s familiar with the internet rage cycle. A 41-year-old man killing themselves over Internet bullies..? Ed’s a millennial. We remember what it was like before social media. For him to succumb to written attacks by anonymous users, jealous creators or folks just throwing tomatoes… it’s deeply disappointing. Unfortunately, for a man who seemed to spend much of his time in his own head and on the internet, the cacophony of those two places during his final 10 days was too much.

In the Internet Court of Public Opinion, the sentences come swiftly, but time served is usually pretty short. Will Smith assaulted Chris Rock during an awards show, and has a new movie coming out in two months. Louis CK and Dave Chappelle are both still performing and surviving off of their creative output. There's a candidate running for president right now that is a convicted rapist, but lost more support when he said he’d dismantle part of the constitution, than when he was convicted of a sex crime. Robert Crumb is a creep and a misogynist but I’ve never heard of him hitting on high-school-age girls. Joe Matt? Chronic masturbator. Chester Brown actually paid for sex but those women were pros, not teen girls and he wasn’t offering any kind of leg up in the industry.

All those underground and alt cartoonists made their own peculiarities, even ones bordering on criminal behavior, publicly known through their art. As a fan of all these hot-button, boundary pushing underground and outlaw creators, I just don’t see how Ed could’ve been pushed over the edge by a week of internet screeching.… I want to believe there was more to it, and I also don’t. Up until a few years ago, people, even close friends and family, would’ve sworn up and down that Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein were pillars of their communities and patron saints for their creative fields. That was until stories started to be made public, investigations initiated and evidence gathered that led to criminal prosecution.

Ed seemed to have his work/life balance figured out. He seemed like he had strategies for keeping himself mentally healthy. For him to do this with the amount of thought and meticulous preparation that went into his suicide, makes me consider that unfortunately, maybe, this might’ve been just the tip of the iceberg. There seems to be a prevailing cultural assumption that most people who kill themselves didn’t deserve to die. Well, what if that’s not true? Did he intend for his death to have a chilling effect? Is there anything else that would’ve surfaced? Whether it was self-preservation, seppuku or an escape hatch, we’ll never know. It’s a lot of not knowing these last few of days, and that’s tremendously infuriating. There may always be lingering doubts about his reasons.
I’m mad Ed took his life before we could get more clarification. We’ll never have a chance to hear him address his behavior beyond his suicide note. He took himself out before he had a chance to make things right or get a shot at a redemption arc.

There has already been a lot of people blaming ‘the mob’ or ‘the Internet’ or ‘social media’ for Ed’s death. Ed Piskor was a man in early middle-age that was in contact for an extended period of time with a 17 year-old girl. When that girl, now a young woman, shared her story, people had justifiably angry reactions. Ed should have been held to account for his actions. His behavior was misguided certainly. It may even have been unethical, sure, but it wasn’t illegal. The libelous dogpile that exploded after the post started to circulate was reprehensible. At the same time, you can't call the ‘mob’ murderers any more than you can call Ed a pedophile. What happened Monday was Ed’s decision.

Some people want to blame his closest friends. People accuse Jim Rugg of bailing on Ed but, all relationships are built on trust. Even if Ed was under no obligation to share his personal life- his romantic life with Jim, decisions he made in that area, particularly in these times, may cross over and affect other areas of his life. Jim Rugg didn’t text a 17 year-old girl, but because he entered into a working relationship with Ed, he has to deal with Eds correspondence becoming public knowledge. Ending their professional association was a foregone conclusion as soon as these allegations hit. There is a lot of leeway and acceptance of eccentricities in the arts, but even the faintest whiff of child predation is a pretty firm line for most people. Even at that, Ed writes in his note that Jim came to his house, gave him a hug and told him he loved him.
Wednesday night I was swiping through Instagram. Apparently that’s when the algorithm decided to show me all the Ed Piskor tributes and I saw that Cartoonist Kayfabe might’ve posted a new video. I clicked over and had to pause it immediately. Didn’t even get through the breakbeat and I felt a lump. I read through some of the many, many, many comments. Messages of support for Jim and Tom were sprinkled amongst the tributes to Ed and personal stories of how the channel had educated & inspired people all over the world. The tears came. The anger fell away and I was left with an immense sadness I’d been holding back. Ed Piskors passing leaves a colossal hole in the world. We are all exceptionally privileged to have lived at the same time he did and to have experienced his crackling energy and enthusiasm for comics.

If reading this has helped you, I'm very glad. If this pisses you off, I get that too.

RIP Ed Piskor, 1982 - 2024

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