I should start by saying that I'm probably not the best person to eulogize the incredibly talented artist Minck Oosterveer, so I'm not even going to try. Selfishly, I want to get some attention for someone who took the time to pay attention to my own work, who was nothing but decent and patient with me as I worked with him in shopping a couple of pitches around to publishers, and was always willing to take the time to simply talk comics, to go on excitedly about what he was working on next, about the frustrations and joys of this and that project, and was generally one of those guys you want out there evangelizing for comics.
But that’s not to say I knew him all that well—in fact, I only really knew him a little. First after he sent a very friendly e-mail following a positive review of his work on his collaboration with Mark Waid, The Unknown where I noticed a little bit of Tim Sale in his work; and I got to understand him a little better still, as a fan at least, after he agreed to an interview at my former stomping grounds, Comics Bulletin. More than anything, I loved this anecdote about getting into comics at a young age:
I grew up with newspapers in the house everywhere. My father was a sailor, a ship’s captain sailing all over the world. When he was at home in our tiny little European country he was sort of homesick but the other way around. In those days the Netherlands formed a pretty closed culture and society and he missed the world. He had this need to taste as much as possible about this world by reading a lot of newspapers every day—and in the newspapers were the dailies comics. And with my dad coming home came the real adventure stories as well. You can't imagine the experiences of a world traveling sailor when you’re not one of them or grow up with one of them. So, in my youth I got a whole lot of real adventure and newspaper daily adventures.
But we really kind of struck up something of a friendship after I pestered him to read a sci-fi script I'd been kicking around on the offhand chance he'd be interested in working on it.
Actually, that's a little bit of a mis-characterization: after finding out during the course of the interview that he always wanted to work on a sci-fi script, I immediately put one together in the hopes of getting him interested and I was kind of amazed in the end that he was. I wouldn’t exactly try this approach—it’s probably irritating to 99% of artists out there and I just happened to luck into the one artist on my first and only try who was interested in my work. Still for about the next year and a half Minck and I struck up a regular correspondence as we shopped around the script to whatever publishers were willing to check the story out. In between talking about the looks of the characters and where we saw the story going, he gave me a little bit of a crash course in the Dutch comic industry and his newspaper strip with Williem Ristier Nicky Saxx, and how there, newspaper strips weren’t just the place for seemingly endless one-panel gag comics and safe satire.
And when I looked at the pages he would send over: I loved the look of his lines, how elegant his women seemed and how it seemed to give the work an air of sophistication it might not otherwise have or even really deserve. Consider his attention to body language, and tone, how he could visualize a fine-looking woman without making you feel creeped out about the whole “male gaze thing.” In fact, he seemed drawn to tough female characters—I think it’s a damned shame we won’t get to see more of his work on the character Cathering Allingham, the brittle but brilliant detective over in The Unknown.
Anyway, with some kind notices but a couple of outright rejections Minck still seemed confident that we might be able to do something with the story, even as he started getting chatted up by publishers here in the U.S.. I took this sort of vicarious pride that people over here were getting as stoked for his work as I was, even if that meant the likelihood of our project actually being a thing was getting to be slimmer and slimmer. And I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed that it felt like the book wasn’t going to happen, but I was still buoyed along by Minck’s enthusiasm. Over at the BOOM! blog, EiC Matt Gagnon, who worked with Minck on The Unknown actually crystallized how it felt working with him:
Minck was incredibly kind and thoughtful, funny and smart, passionate and genuine. As an artist, you literally couldn’t ask for anybody more professional and talented. His art was–is–transcendent. He would turn in beautiful comic book pages, every day, that were damn near perfect.
Like I said, I wrote this selfishly—I wanted to honor someone who I feel took the time to try to buoy me up and who I had the pleasure of working with, even if only briefly. The punchline to all of this is that I never got to meet him. I was pretty disappointed that the one time he would be stateside for a con earlier this year and I’d actually changed coasts and couldn’t make it out to meet him. And in the end, I still really only knew him a little—but I still felt like he was a friend, and I’m going to miss him.
Many of the images here were taken from Minck's site.
And BOOM! is being a class act by offering both trades of his collaboration with Mark Waid, The Unknown through through digital distributors comiXology, iVerse, Graphicly, and mydigitalcomics. It'd be a mistake not to check them out.