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Tina Hall interview, 2011
Having always been a fan of all things creative myself and an admirer of illustrative work, the thought recently crossed my mind after a conversation with Seth Fisher’s mother Vicki, that there is no telling what truly great works of artistic expression we miss out on with the passing of each and every creative soul. It also raises the wonder of where the works that they would have created if they had more time go. I decided there isn’t nearly enough tribute to the works that live on as reflection of the individuals. I am honored to have this chance to pay my respects to his life, work, family, and friends with an interview with the woman who knew him best.
Born on July 22, 1972, Seth Fisher was an illustrator whose work appeared in comics (DC Comics, DC Vertigo, Marvel, Paradox Press, Heavy Metal) and several magazines, as well as on cd covers (Squaremeat from Finland, and Bank$ from Japan), and on the concept design for Myst III. In January of 2006 in his adopted homeland of Japan, having just finished working on Fantastic Four/Iron Man, he fell tragically to his death, leaving behind his adoring wife Hisako and their son Tofu.
Q: What was Seth like as a child? Was he always as full of life as he is described in his later years?
A:Seth was funny. He loved to laugh and to make other people laugh. He was unperturbed if people didn’t respond to him right away; he just kept on, and eventually they would come around to responding to him and then they would admire his tenacity, and become his friends. He was very friendly. That’s what people usually remember about him in junior high and high school: some people said that when nobody would talk to them, Seth would.
He had a temper, and would get mad, but he could listen to you while he was mad at you, and conflicts always found resolution. He did some odd things to show his anger at me. One time when he was about 8, I found a jar of my hand cream riddled with little pencil leads. It was some time after the fact that I found them, and by that time neither of us
remembered why he had been angry. I think both of us thought it was pretty funny.
Q: Was he always attracted to illustration? What did he like to draw most as a kid?
A: He had trouble with reading,he was considered dyslexic in grade school,but he loved to learn, loved books. The books that were the most attractive to him were the ones with lots of pictures, hence, comic books, the perfect combination of words and pictures. When he was in the sixth grade, he had a teacher who didn’t do art. I went in to have a parent conference with this teacher, and he told me he didn’t do art, and added that if I was interested in his class having an art experience, I could do it myself. So I did. During that year, in the course of those art classes, Seth realized that he excelled at art. I think that realization opened a door that he didn’t know was there. In the 7th grade, he decided that he was going to be a comic book artist. After that, he never considered any other possible profession.
As a kid he used to draw mazes, small complicated mazes, hundreds of them. He also drew little battle scenes, with tiny guys shooting cannons and guns at each other.
Q:Did Seth always enjoy comics? Which where his favorites?
A:In the seventh grade Seth went to live with his father and his family. So I didn’t see what comic books he read. I do know that he read them, because he told me later, with some annoyance, that one day when he was in high school (because of his influence on his younger siblings), his stepmother threw out his whole collection of comics. For her to have tossed them, they must have been relatively violent ones, but I don’t know specifically.
Q:It seems he was a very positive person. Did you find that an inspiration and reminder to you to do the same?
A:You know, when Seth was alive, I was such a MOM. I was always noticing the things he still needed to learn, trying to get him to put his vast creative powers into more literary work, and so forth. Though I loved to just be with him. He was so FUN to be with. He made hard things lighter. He also reminded me to lighten up, to laugh at myself; that attitude I tried to take to heart. But after he died, I realized the full power of his positive ways, and Yes, it has been a constant inspiration to me. Let me give you a couple of examples that struck me.
After Seth died, one person told me this story: He met Seth at Comic Con in San Diego, and asked Seth to draw a picture for him. Seth had started his picture, but not finished it, when his editor came in and grabbed him saying that they had somewhere to go NOW. She was in a hurry.Seth turned to her and said that he was not finished with what he was doing. Then he turned back to this fan, finished the picture, gave it to him, and said, “Have a happy life.” Only then did he turn his attention back to his editor and go with her.
Second story: When their son Tofu was just 1½ years old, I went with Seth and Hisako, Hisako’s mom, and Tofu visiting in a nice tourist city in the mountains. As we passed by many stores with small attractive goods in baskets outside the stores, little Tofu would, as babies do, pick up things out of the baskets. Seth would stop, say gently and unhurriedly to Tofu, “Put that back in the basket,” and then wait until he had done it. He never grabbed it out of the baby’s hand, he was never impatient. He just waited until he did it, and then we went on.
Another story: At Spring Break of Seth’s freshman year in college,he brought home four of his friends to spend the week with us at our house. We had a foster son at the time who was 13 or so years old. I was pretty strict about bedtimes. Well, the college kids were up until all hours talking and playing games, and I woke up around midnight and saw a light in the living room & went in to see. There was our foster son, with them, having a great time. I said to him sternly, “Glenn, go on in to bed now.” Seth laughed and said to me gently, “Mom, you are always so inflexible in the middle of the night. Go back to bed.” I did.
Q:He also seemed to adore his wife Hisako. Is there anything about her and their son that he might have said in passing that sticks out in your mind most? Do you think they played an important role in his success being as supportive as they are? Does their son share his love of drawing?
A:Nothing sticks out. Oddly, Tofu decidedly does NOT like to draw. In some other ways he is very much like his dad, but not in drawing (though I believe he would have the skill if he were interested).
Q: How would you describe Seth to his fans that never had the chance to meet him?
A:Seth was personable, fun to be with, and at the same time very serious about doing his best at whatever he did. He made an effort to puncture the stuffiness of those who took themselves too seriously, but he did it in such a way that they enjoyed it too. He was thrilled to have fans, and treated them with respect. One of his associates describes him as being aggressively innocent, meaning I think, that he tried hard to retain a sort of non-cynicism about life. He himself described himself as a person of faith, not faith in a religious way,but believing in himself and in others, and in what can’t be seen.
Q: Do you know if there was any one particular subject he liked to do most?
A:To draw, do you mean? He liked challenges of all sorts, so what he liked to do most was something he had not done before. That said, he did love to draw monsters. He said so while he was working on Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan.
Q:Why do you think do you think the world of fantasy etc appealed to him as much as it did?
A:Fantasy is about what may be possible, but that we don’t see in our ordinary lives. Seth loved to try to expand the limits of what was possible, or to see beyond them. He was a mathematician: he majored in Math in college. He loved mathematical challenges what happens at the far reaches of mathematical realities, stuff that I don’t understand at all,
but that captivated him. All those things fit neatly into the realm of fantasy, and that was what he liked to think about. His notebooks are full of “what if” scenarios. What if someone woke up one morning and found himself in the bottom of an aquarium, with huge fish floating overhead?What if you had a house where all the furniture was living animals? What if you could see what was going to happen just before it did? He would push himself to ponder just what would it be like.
Q: What is one little known fact about him that most people would be surprised to learn?
A:I don’t know how little known this is, but Seth was very good at a few things other than art. He was good enough at what they call close in card magic and other sleight of hand to keep a crowded room entertained for a good long time. He also was quite the champion inline skater. When he was in college he used to jump over cars on his roller blades. When he first lived in Japan, he learned to love spearfishing. He never learned to dive with tanks; he would go out in his wetsuit and goggles and his fishing spear and hunt for fish. He did love the sea.
Q:Where can fans of Seth’s work go to view his work and learn more about his life?
A:Go to his website: http://www.floweringnose.com , where you will get a feel for who he was. Then read the blog I started in 2007(under the heading News on the front page)to see more of his art than he showed on his website proper. Here is a link to a very nice interview with Seth by Mike Jozic from about 2001: http://www.comicsbulletin.com/features/99151009093292.htm . And another one from 2005: http://www.mikejozic.co/sethfisherinterview.html 
Q: How do you think he would like them to remember him?
A:I think Seth would like for people to remember him by doing what they love but were afraid of doing for fear they would fail. He would want other people to just throw out both laziness and fear of failure and GO FOR IT with all their energy.
Q:Is there any advice you would give other parents who find themselves dealing with such a tragic loss? (if you dont mind my asking?:)
A:I think that everyone deals with death in their own way. But maybe I have learned something I can pass on. What I have learned is that a pain-free life is not the ideal. The pain never goes away, but joy can exist alongside the pain, not mitigating it at all, but the joy is real too. I would tell parents whose beloved child has died to give themselves space to grieve in their own way. Don’t believe people who tell you to get over it, or be strong, or to do it any particular way.We all do it our own way.
Q:Is there anything you yourself would like to say to Seth’s fans in closing?
A:I want to thank Seth’s fans for noticing and loving his art.There is somuch there to see, but not everyone sees it. You have taken the time. It can enrich your life.