Today is exactly one month to the day that we received the terrible, tragic news of the passing of my friend Eddie Wires. Today it is our honor at AFi to be able to reprint the tribute that Eddie’s best friend Bill "Billy" Mancuso wrote after Eddie’s passing. Some of you will remember Bill, or "Billy" as Eddie always called him, as a toy sculptor working on lines like Palasades’ Muppets and Marvel Legends. I’ve known Eddie for about 10 years. Billy has known Eddie since they were five. Billy and Eddie met back when they were in kindergarten. I’m not sure how many of you have a friend like that, a best friend that you have had your whole life, but it’s such a unique experience to have a friend like that, someone that is not your family and yet you have a lifetime of shared experience.
Eddie had some rough early years with his family and as a result he had very few pictures of himself growing up. Billy is able to fill some of that in. A lot of the tributes so far have been about Eddie’s work and his painting days. This tribute is mostly about Eddie in his pre-Toy Industry days, and it’s a great read about a great man. We all still miss him like crazy.
Before I get to Billy’s tribute I’d like to mention this:
Some of Eddie’s family are doing the Heart Walk in Georgia on October 23 in memory of Eddie Wires. Eddie died suddenly from a heart attack August 12. His family is raising money in Eddie’s name for the heart walk.
Please donate in Eddie’s name for this great cause, even a dollar can help greatly.
Thank you for all your support.
Now here is Billy Mancuso’s remembrance of his friend, Eddie Wires:
I have absolutely no memory of the first time I met Eddie Wires.
Many of the comments from everyone writing about their experiences with Ed have started out with ‘I will never forget the first time I met Eddie Wires.’ That is completely understandable. He is without a doubt, quite memorable. I, however, am unable to call back that memory. That is not to say meeting him was not that much of an experience, no. It’s just that for all intents and purposes, I have never NOT known him.
Ed and I met in Kindergarten in 1977. I have very few memories from before then – riding my big wheel in the driveway, playing with my grandfather in the backyard, drawing Spider-Man and Batman on that handwriting practice paper with the dotted line down the middle (you know the kind). There are more, but those were the first three to pop into my skull – in that order. So you see, for all intents and purposes, I have never NOT known Eddie.
Family vacation in Cape Cod 1985. Ed came with us. Drive-In double header: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure/Return of the Living Dead. Ed, me and my brother, Justin are zombies. What? Did you expect us to be Pee-Wee or Francis?
Since then, I can’t really think of too many things I’ve done without him. We grew up together in New Jersey, getting into any and all kinds of trouble together. If one of us got caught, you knew the other one wasn’t that far away. Whatever one of us was doing, so was the other. In Little League, while other kids were swinging bats and throwing balls, he and I were instead off in the woods fighting for freedom wherever there was trouble (it was tough, too – we didn’t have swivel-arm battle-grip yet!). We’ve captured criminals who had death sentences on twelve systems. We believed a man could fly. We laughed at Jennifer Connelly’s telepathic control over insects. We ran interference for Max Rockatansky so he could get away from Lord Humongous with the tanker. After escaping the effects of 245-Trioxin, we also narrowly escaped Louisville, KY before the low-yield nuke hit. We had a big adventure on our bicycles, found a run-down plywood shack in the woods that we wouldn’t dare go near because we knew who was going to jump out. WE watched the Watchmen, returned with the Dark Knight and defeated the Beyonder. If we hadn’t become them ourselves, then we fought the zombies. We had no names and outsmarted Angel-Eyes at his own game. Speaking of games, we got so good at one in particular that Centauri needed us to help defeat the Ko-Dan. But contrary to popular belief, Terri Griffith was not one of the guys – a little too hot for that.
The summer before our senior year in high school, 1989, Ed and I and a few other friends spent just about every day and night together. I don’t think anything could beat that summer. We were 17, had driver’s licenses, thought we knew everything, actually knew nothing, learned little from our mistakes and when we were capable, ended every day at a 24HR diner somewhere in North Jersey, usually at 4 or 5AM. Sometimes, we even went to work. What exactly we did that summer falls into two categories
: what I can’t remember and what I can’t tell you. The ‘can’t tell you’ category may be a little too TV:MA/LSV for repeating, but let’s just say that even though not everything survived undamaged, everything did survive. That part of the forest grew back. Anyway, at the end of that summer, Ed and his family moved to Georgia. For the next 9 years (which I refer to as "The Dave & Buster’s Years" because I’ve heard so many stories from him about his adventures working there) my phone bills were outrageous and the USPS became very wealthy. I still have all the correspondence from Ed.
"The Last Supper" 1989. The next morning, Ed & family moved to Georgia. back: Stew, Mark, Eddie. front: Me, Steve.
The summer before high school, 1986, was the summer Ed and I created our comic book. We worked on it for years. It transformed heavily over the years, retaining only the two main characters we originally created. In 1986, Alex and Ron were ex-cop, private detectives. By the mid 90’s, they lived in a post-holocaust future wasteland and we had mapped out the entire plot. Ed scripted the first issue and penciled and colored the cover. I inked the cover and penciled, inked and lettered the interiors, which were black and white. It was put together at Kinko’s where we had I think 400 printed up with black and white covers and 100 with color covers. Or maybe 900 b/w. I forget. That was 1998. At that point, Ed was living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and I was in Long Beach, California. We sent a copy to the Library of Congress to get copyrighted then went to as many comic shops we could find and asked if they would give them out for free. I think about eight people in the world other than our family and friends have seen it. Too bad, too. It’s the best damn comic ever made. Subsequently, Ed had written 4 more issues and I had drawn 3 of them, with thumbnails for the first few pages of the fifth issue. Then, shortly after, our toy careers were becoming more successful and all our comic book dreams went on hiatus.
After a stint at Joe Kubert School, I started in-house at McFarlane Toys (Todd Toys back then) in 1994. In 1996 I went freelance and began working a lot for Toy Biz. In 1997 I moved to Long Beach, CA. As fortune would have it, in 1998 Ed and his wife, Jennifer moved to California because Jennifer’s job at Dave & Buster’s presented them with the opportunity – and they took it. After 9 years, I could return to my ol’ trouble-makin’ ways with my ol’ partner, Edi (spelled correctly – a ‘can’t tell you’ story).
My trip out west 1997. Respite in Arizona.
My trip out west 1997. You need to see the Grand Canyon in person. Pictures don’t compare.
My trip out west 1997. Superheroes defending beer & cigarettes in Tucumcari, NM.
I was determined to get him into the toy business (because I knew that’s where he belonged). Knowing of his talent in the painting department because of all the model kits we put together and painted as kids, I helped him put together a portfolio and took him to NY Toy Fair and San Diego Comic Con. You’ve never seen a grown man act this school-girl-giddy in your life. The image you’re picturing of him right now? It’s accurate. After meeting the Toy Biz guys, their reaction to meeting Eddie was much the same as anyone’s: The nicest guy you could ever meet, telling the most captivating, outrageous, humorous stories you could ever hear. Within the next eighteen months, with his talent and outgoing, cherubic disposition, Eddie began to conquer the prototype-painting universe all on his own. I love it when a plan comes together. In fact, he conquered it so well that he needed help with the overload of work. So he dragged his brother Jason into the business (not exactly kicking and screaming, I might add) and his friend, Paul. Anything I sculpted, that team kicked it up a dozen notches. BAM!
In our studio 1999.
Taking out zombies in the House of the Dead 1999. Jennifer laughing at two idiots pretending to be men. Really, we would just run screaming from them.
Every year in San Diego, you could find Ed and me at the San Diego Con. I stopped going in 2006, after Ed and Jennifer; Joe, Lorna and son, Kevin Farrell; and I moved to Georgia (Hasbro got the Marvel license, Toy Biz lost it. Toy Biz was a large chunk of all our incomes which we were about to lose, so we all decided to high-tail it out of really expensive California and homestead in really not expensive Georgia – a previously enjoyed stomping ground for Eddie.), but Ed continued to make the trip back every year. I think he had an obsessive/compulsive need to buy people beer, shots
and dinner. That’s how he rolled. We went to Dragon Con in Atlanta in 2006 where we ran into one of the coolest celebrities you could ever meet: George Takei. We B.S.ed with him for about twenty minutes – and no, we didn’t really talk about Star Trek. Ed and I had met Mr. Takei previously at a convention in NJ in 1986. His mother took us. Ed’s mother, not George’s. I got an autographed picture of Sulu. When I brought this to his attention, without skipping a beat he said,"Yes, I remember quite well. You even had the goatee." Very cool guy. Then was the big one – George Romero (I just realized it must have been ‘George’ day). We were standing in line and Ed had his camera turned on because it took too long to power up and he wanted to be ready when we got to George. Fifth in line. Fourth in line. Third. Second (only one person away!). WARNING! BATT LOW. Click. Well, there’s no pictorial evidence that Ed met his idol (he did get a picture of George while we were standing in line, but not of them together), but "Eddie -Stay scared! – George Romero" written by the master himself on a Dawn of the Dead poster along with the comment, "Sorry for scaring the shit out of you when you were nine." and a handshake was all he needed. And as soon as they invent that machine that can show on a monitor what you’re thinking, I’ll plug in and show you the expression of pure euphoria on Ed’s face. We went to Dragon Con last year and were planning on going next month. I have to admit, I’ll probably never go again. Walking around by myself – well, you get the picture.
Halloween c. 2000. Joe, Lorna, Jennifer, Eddie, me.
Halloween c. 2000. Eric Draven & Dr. Evil killing guess what – zombies.
You’re probably waiting for the part where I tell you how Eddie is such a great guy that he’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. Well, I didn’t want to write this to tell you what you already know about him. I wanted to tell you a few stories about the Eddie you don’t know. A few things about Eddie, my best friend for 33 years. Not about ‘toy industry Eddie,’ his alter ego, a very small part of who I knew and who he was. And it’s coming from a guy who actually has a shirt or two of Eddie’s.
Comic books, toys, movies, TV and music were a huge part of our childhood. OK. Our adulthood, too. And we talked about those things ad infinitum. That’s what geeks do. We like those things. However, that’s not all we talked about because everyone needs a well-balanced meal. And as an adult, those things do not complete the pyramid. Politics, philosophy, religion and housewares were often the topics of lengthy conversations, too. And a plethora of stories about the things we did during the nine years we lived in separate states filled many a late night coffee-drinking session. (Coffee. The little-known fifth basic food group. I know Ed agrees. Vampires ingest blood to survive, Ed & I: coffee.) He told me many stories about working at Dave and Buster’s. I’ve met very few of his friends from there, but I probably know more about them than I should. It may have been stressful at times, but I know he loved working there. And loved those people. I don’t think half the stuff he told me was true. But it didn’t matter. Those were damn great stories. I never even stopped him when he would start to tell me a story he had already told me in a past session. I would love to listen to them all over again. I would do anything to listen to them all over again.
Recently, because of the economic state of affairs, the toy industry has slowed down a little bit. Actually, a LOTTA bit. We began looking toward other means of income. Ed was singing in Joe’s band (Irish Joe and the O’Malley Cats) and having an absolute blast. Normally, I would insert a joke about Eddie’s lovely singing voice here, but he actually can sing. Check out their "The Band of Many Men" and "alex band3" rehearsal videos on youtube. They were going to perform at a Labor Day party at Eddie & Jennifer’s house. I was really looking forward to it. Also, Ed and I began mulling over the idea of dusting off our comic and updating it. You may have noticed things are a little different today than they were in 1988. Maybe we would try an online version. Or on demand publishing. I don’t know. We had only just begun having "business meetings." I re-drew a page from the original comic we did as a test to see if I could still draw. I am pleased to say Eddie loved it. Now, I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know what to do at all.
I miss my best friend. I think I’ll miss him even more as time goes on. We talked no less than four nights a week for an average of three hours per call. What could we possibly have talked about for that long, that many times a week, you ask? Anything and everything. Two sides of the same coin (my side may be a little scratched, but hey). Eddie would tuck in his wife, go down to the studio, wet some paint brushes, put on his telephone headset and call me. Or I would wait til about 11PM and call him.
Yeah, we were up late. I still will be.
I’ll call you later, Ed.
The following is the soapbox and dedication Eddie wrote in the back of our comic book:
For probably the one-hundredth time in my life, Rorschach is dying in the snow. Comics, to me, had been epitomized at this point. This is everything they could ever aspire to be. "The Dark Knight" had returned and everything was right in the world. But a funny thing happened on the way to there from here. You now hold in your hand a comic that has undergone so many transformations, you wouldn’t even recognize the characters. Simply because they’ve changed. Just like Bill and I have changed. No longer the wanderlust high school kids from twelve years ago who had no idea that these two private investigators would met
amorphose into a lot of the views we hold and feelings that we have to the way things were, are, and should be.
We are both at a pinnacle in our lives. Bill is already a professional in the field, having worked for McFarlane Toys and Toy Biz (Spider-Man figures at that). I want to break in so bad that I lose more sleep than most people should. Worrying about the trivial instead of concentrating on the necessary. The best part about CYCLE is that it just feels right. Some of Bill’s best work is in here. And this is my only writing task that practically wrote itself (so, maybe I shouldn’t get the credit. But, I’ll take it anyway).
There’s a lot more to come (hope, hope) from the characters you’ve only just caught a glimpse of. Bill and I have plans to generally run them through a wringer that no mere mortal should have to endure. And we’re going to enjoy the hell out of punishing them and elating them. We hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Thanks.
As Rorschach’s body lies, disintegrated, in the snow, I close the book. It’s five-thirty in the morning and I have to get up in three hours to go to work….
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
I respectfully dedicate this book to my wife, Jennifer. Who put up with all of my doubts and fears for a long time. And helped me realize that the only person who could do this for me was myself. Even though I kind of suspected that anyway.
On a final note, I want to leave you with a lesson Ed and I learned as teenagers. We were at his parents’ house one day and we were bored. In the pantry we found cake mix. Why not? We made a cake. However, next to the cake mix in the pantry was a box of Fruit Loops. That sounded like a great idea- to mix the Loops in with the batter. Crunchy cereal inside soft, spongy cake. Well… no. You see, the amount of heat it takes to make that batter expand and bake into cake also makes the crunchy cereal condense and turn into colorful little pebbles. The lesson: When baking, don’t improvise.
I wish you all long, healthy, happy lives.
And I know Ed does, too.
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