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July 29, 2011

Martin Skidmore, 1959-2011

Martin Skidmore, a prolific comics reviewer and editor of the influential fanzine FA who served as editor at the late 1980s/early 1990s comics publisher Trident, died late July 27 of complications due to cancer. He was 52 years old.

Skidmore held degrees from Cambridge and De Montfort Universities, and at least later in life found work as a systems analyst. His lifelong interest in comic books settled in when as a teenager in the 1970s he rediscovered the form through the comics of writer Steve Gerber. Unlike some same-era writers about comics Skidmore's taste in comics continued to develop over the years, later encompassing old comic strips. In recent times he may have been best known as a strong advocate for manga and many of that tradition's great works.

imageSkidmore's editorship of the longtime 'zine Fantasy Advertiser starting in 1984 saw the publication tighten its name (to FA) broaden its focus away from a strict diet of fantasy and into other genres, and generally become more political and engaged with the entirety of the comics medium and it attendant industries. Skidmore took FA to Trident in 1988 (I believe once again called Fantasy Advertiser) when he became that new publisher's editor; that iteration of the magazine was canceled in 1991.

While at Trident, Skidmore edited several of that small publisher's most notable works. This included but was certainly not limited to Grant Morrison and Paul Grist's "St. Swithin's Day," the Bacchus efforts in the anthology Trident, Paul Grist's title Burglar Bill and writer Mark Millar's first professional, a title called Saviour. Trident went under in 1992 with its parent company, Neptune Distribution.

In recent years, Skidmore enjoyed a major presence as an on-line reviewer and conversationalist about comics on several platforms. Skidmore resurrected FA as an on-line effort in 2010. He also contributed to a number of on-line destinations such as Freaky Trigger and The Singles Jukebox. Perhaps Skidmore's most valuable effort at Freaky Trigger was a Beginner's Guide series that painted a broad outline of great comics for curious readers to fill in on their own time.

Skidmore also became one of the more prolific writers-about-comics to find a home last decade on Livejournal when that outlet and its tight feedback circles seemed to become a particularly rich place for comics- and comics creator-related writing and promotion. Skidmore reviewed comics until a very short time before his death, such as this piece on the new Captain America series from Ed Brubaker and Steve McNiven.

Skidmore died in University College Hospital following a long engagement with cancer, the progression of which he wrote about on both Livejournal and Facebook in heartbreaking detail. He is being remembered for his contributions to the British comics industry and to the on-line comics community in a flood of tributes.
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