Sunday, July 19, 2015


My friend and occasional collaborator Alan Kupperberg (May 18, 1953 – July 16, 2015) died a few days ago of the thymus cancer he’d been battling for some time now. Every time I think the next one of these damn things will hurt less than the last one, I learn anew that they all hurt and that every one of them hurts more than the last one.

Alan was a comic-book and comic-strip writer and artist. He was a good letterer and could handle every phase of comics production. He worked on all sorts of things. A partial list of his comics credits would include Spider-Man, Blue Devil, Invaders, Defenders, and the newspaper comic strips Howard the Duck, Incredible Hulk and Little Orphan Annie. He worked in animation and advertising. He assisted several artists on projects, sometimes almost entirely ghosting the projects. He did commissions for fans and had a good reputation in that field. Basically, if it involved comics, Alan could do it. He could do it fast and he could do it well.

Memory fails - it often does - but Alan and I probably met through his brother Paul, also a dear friend of mine who has done a lot of terrific things in comics and related fields. The Kupperberg family lived in the same Brooklyn neighborhood that I lived in when I came to New York in 1972. Paul Levitz and Carl Gafford lived there, too. As did the parade of other young comics creators who would end up on our couches when they first came to New York.

Alan was a cocky, funny guy. Most of us were back then. We hit it  off from the start. He lettered a handful of my scripts back in the 1970s: Incredible Hulk, Ghost Rider and the Living Mummy. I have a vague memory of him doing some additional lettering and other work  for me when I was the editor of Marvel’s British weeklies and some of the company’s black-and-white comics magazines. You could always count on Alan to come through for you.

Digression. Somewhere in my Vast Accumulation of Stuff is a cover Alan drew for a fanzine I was planning. It poked fun at DC’s habit of doing covers and stories in which their super-heroes would age into doddering old wrecks. You know, like the doddering old wreck I have become as a direct result of my 43 years working in comics. It was a hilarious piece and, as soon as I come across it, I’ll be sharing it with my beloved bloggy thing readers.

In the 1990s, Alan drew five-and-a-half of my stories. Editor Jim Salicrup had him draw the second half of a Sandman story started by Ross Andru, a Spider-Man story for the Charleston Chew promotional comic book and four Rocket Racer stories. Alan did a great job on all those assignments, but I’m especially fond of the Rocket Racer stories. He nailed the action and the humor of those short stories perfectly. Alas, my attempts to launch an ongoing Rocket Racer book with Alan as the artist fell on uncaring ears after Salicrup moved on to other adventures beyond Marvel Comics.

Alan and I reconnected on Facebook a while back. I’d always hoped I would get a chance to work with him again. His death at way too young an age has ended that hope. What hurts much worse is that I will never get another chance to hang out with him and laugh at his smart-ass quips. Unless, of course, there really is some comic-book heaven for us comics guys.

I could see Alan spending time with the greats, making them laugh and having a fine time. After all his hard work, after his struggle with the cancer that took him from us, he deserves that.

Rest in peace, Alan. We’re gonna miss you.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

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