I was shocked to hear on the morning of the 12th that the cartoonist Jesse Hamm had died suddenly.
Jesse, as he was for many of us, was my ambassador into the community of comics. I had read comics for years, had made them for even longer, but I had never met any other comics creators. In 1998, I decided to get a half table at the Alternative Press Expo in San Jose. I had never been to a con before, much less tabled one. I had the good fortune to share my table with Keith Knight, but the person who came up to me and invited me to hang out with other comics creators was Jesse. He invited me to a monthly meeting of Bay Area comics makers. I was living in Felton at the time (in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California) and so was able to make it to only a few meetings. But it was through these meetings that I met Jimmie Robinson, Lark Pien, Derek Kirk Kim, and Gene Luen Yang. So Jesse opened a door for me and introduced me to a larger world. And for that I’ll always be grateful.
I hadn’t talked with Jesse in years, but I always kept up with his work online. Apart from his incredible drawing ability, Jesse was also an insightful critic. His writings about Toth made me fully appreciate an artist that I had naïvely written off as the Space Ghost guy. And Jesse’s HammTips were often helpful and clarifying. You can still pick up the collected editions of these on Jesse’s Gumroad page. I highly recommend them. The tips are part helpful aphorisms and part detailed analyses of what makes the art form work. His advice is solid and his explanations clear.
Somewhere out there are people who need to hear a story you’re uniquely able to tell. Art by others, even better art, won’t do; only yours.Jesse Hamm
Jesse was a kind and generous human being. If you look around, you’ll see how many lives he touched and how appreciative everyone is of the support he gave. Jesse was one of the good ones and his loss is tragic. I hope I can learn from the example he set.