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Tom Spurgeon, who surveyed the comic book world, dies at 50
Tom Spurgeon by Jesse Hamm.

by George Gene Gustines

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- Tom Spurgeon, a reporter and editor who gained prominence in the world of comic books and graphic novels, covering it in books, blogs and a magazine, died Nov. 13 at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was 50.

His death was confirmed by his friend Eric Reynolds, who did not specify a cause. The two met in 1994 when they were editors at The Comics Journal, a magazine about the comic book industry published by Fantagraphics, where Reynolds is now the associate publisher.

With Jordan Raphael, Spurgeon wrote the biography “Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book,” published in 2003. In a review for, L.D. Meagher said the biography offered “keen insights on how the industry has risen, fallen, survived and teetered on the edge of extinction.”

The next year, Spurgeon and Raphael started The Comics Reporter, a blog and news website that included Spurgeon’s in-depth interviews of comic creators. The site won the Eisner Award, the most prestigious in the comics business, in 2010, 2012 and 2013 for best comics-related periodical/journalism.

Thomas Martin Spurgeon was born Dec. 16, 1968, in Muncie, Indiana, one of three sons of Sandra McFarren, who is known as Sunny, and Wiley Spurgeon Jr. His father was the executive editor of The Muncie Star and The Muncie Evening Press (which were later combined as The Star Press). He took on the additional role of curating their comics pages.

“My father used to bring home the promotional packages from King Features and other comics syndicates and have Tom and Dan and me read the new comics,” Whit Spurgeon, Tom’s eldest brother said in an email. (Dan was the third brother.) “I’m not sure our opinions changed any decisions on what Dad decided to put in the paper, but it was great to be exposed to that stuff and feel like we were helping him decide.”

Tom Spurgeon had an affinity for newspaper strips and amassed vast knowledge of the history of comics.

“He walked that narrow, sometimes difficult line of taking comics seriously without forgetting that they were, after all, comics,” Mark Evanier, a comic book historian, wrote in a blog post about Spurgeon’s death. “He was the best at which he did.”

Spurgeon’s other book collaborations included “The Romita Legacy” (2010, with Brian Cunningham), about father-and-son artists and their influence on Marvel Comics; and “We Told You So: Comics as Art” (2016, with Michael Dean), an oral history of Fantagraphics.

In 2015, Spurgeon became the executive director of the Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, an annual four-day comics festival held in conjunction with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University.

In addition to his mother and his brother Whit, Spurgeon is survived by his brother Dan. His father died in 2001.

© 2019 The New York Times Company

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