I’ve sort of known this was coming for a couple of days, but I didn’t really want to believe it. Yesterday, I was informed that Bill White had passed away. He was only 51. Far too young for anyone to die, but I know for a fact that Bill packed a lot of life in that short window of time and has untold amount of friends and humorous stories to attest to that. For those that don’t know, Bill had provided most the artwork here at Infinite Hollywood since late 2010. Most notably, Bill took my little concept of Octo Joe, our mascot, and gave him life with Bill’s infamous charm and caricature cartoon style.
Bill was one of the early commenters on Infinite Hollywood, typically leaving a comment about Doctor Who or one of the many other interests we shared. He constantly pestered me to review the Character Options 11 Doctors set and due to my own procrastination and laziness, I never got around to it. It sort of became a running joke between us.
Bill wasn’t just some guy, he was an accomplished cartoonist who had worked for just about every comic book publisher on the planet in one capacity or another. He worked on major properties like Donald Duck, Scooby-Doo and Casper The Ghost. He also did animation work with stuff like Ren & Stimpy and Inspector Gadget. He created his own characters too, like Kaptain Keen and Kompany which almost became a cartoon itself in the mid 1980’s. Chances are you’ve seen of Bill’s work in comics, even if you didn’t know it.
I was always sort of blown away that Bill offered to do artwork for Infinite Hollywood and I was honored to have his stuff on the site. Bill created dozens of drawings for me and was always willing to do more. Sometimes I think he wanted to do more than I asked him for. I could ask Bill to draw anything and usually within hours, he’d have it whipped up. Last year around this time, Bill cranked out several different Halloween cartoons for me and then followed it up with a variety of Christmas ones. Amazingly, here was a guy who’d worked with Marvel, DC and Disney and he was doing artwork for me. Bill never asked me for a dime to do it either.
Bill’s first Octo Joe cartoon, which he drew in “approximately 30 seconds” to apply for the “job”. He would go on to draw dozens of Octo Joe sketches for me. Bill said he was honored to have his work on one of his favorite sites, but the honor was all ours.
When I started putting his designs on t-shirts, he was tickled pink. Although he secretly confessed to me that if I started selling millions, he’d want some sort of compensation of the backend. We laughed, as neither one of us became millionaires off of Infinite Hollywood t-shirt sales. I have been complimented more times than I can remember at conventions about the art on the shirts. I always directed folks to Bill, because without his art, I wouldn’t have had squat to put on a shirt, much less so many different designs. Bill White’s artwork always made us look “professional” and I told him as much on many occasions.
On a more personal level, Bill was as nice of a guy as you could have ever talked to. Although we never met face to face in person, I considered Bill a true friend. We talked about how one day we’d try to find a convention that we could both go to and meet up. I’m truly upset that it will never come to pass now. We chatted through emails quite frequently. Sometimes we’d talk about his art, other times about toys and he’d often mention his wife Sharon, whom he referred to as “Perfect Wifey” to give you an idea of how much absolutely adored her. Through good times and bad, he was there to share a laugh and to lament the foibles of being a grown man collecting toys.
Last year at Christmas, unbeknownst to me, my girlfriend had contacted Bill to do a custom art piece for me. She knew how much I liked Bill’s work and wanted something special. Not only did Bill give her a great rate, just because he liked me, but he did amazing work. The two kept it top secret and I was truly elated to get the gift on Christmas. Bill was even kind enough to throw in a bunch of the original Octo Joe sketches he’d done for me, for free. These pieces mean even more to me now that he’s gone.
I still have several pieces of Bill’s art that I haven’t used yet, which will appear here eventually. I will continue to use the older bits of artwork as well, but I’m truly sad that there won’t be any more. Not because of the art itself, which was always fantastic and full of character, but because I know the man behind it is gone. Bill wasn’t just an artist, he was one of us. He was my friend.
Bill as a Cyberman. He was a big Doctor Who fan and often drew himself in various quirky situations.
In life, Bill was a bit of a renaissance man. He could do all sorts of things, with a quick wit, talented mind and bundles of love in his heart. Although most knew him as an artist, he did theatre shows with local companies and had taken a variety of odds and ends jobs through the years. Bill sort of compared himself to Charlie Brown, because he had rotten luck at times. Yet unlike Charlie, Bill always carried a smile on his face and laughed at himself and his misadventures.
Bill collected toys. He watched geeky shows. He liked Star Wars and comics and Doctor Who and Muppets and Gamera and just about every other nerdy thing that I’ve ever liked… He was everything this hobby/community is about. He didn’t just comment on my blog, he frequented many of the popular toy sites around the web. His presence will be missed, even if some won’t notice him gone. Bill never made a big deal about himself and never complained. He always flew under the radar and kept his comments mostly to praise the work others did to help feed his interest. I think the only complaints I ever got from Bill, were tongue-in-cheek, that’d I’d introduced him to a new toy line here or there. The community as a whole is worse off not having him around.
I’ve enclosed a photo of Bill from 1989 when he portrayed Raphael in department stores across the land. He sent me the photo after we discussed that he had done some of the more famous TMNT artwork that had appeared on promotional items. He joked that I shouldn’t post the picture up, because he’d like to post it himself one day when he ran out of ideas to blog about and talk about his sweaty summer escapades in a Turtle costume. I’m posting it now, because I’m certain that Bill wouldn’t mind. It shows just how genuine of a guy he was and how much he was one of us.
In May of this year, just when it looked like Bill’s professional life was perhaps on a uptick as he got some freelance work for Disney, he was struck ill. I don’t know the ins and outs of the whole thing and I suppose it’s all irrelevant now, but Bill was in and out of the hospital quite a few times. I could always tell when Bill wasn’t feeling well, because there were certain types of posts I just knew Bill would leave a comment on. When he didn’t, I knew things weren’t going good. In true Bill fashion, when he would return from the brink of death, he’d email me about toys and how being sick had it’s little plastic perks. He was every bit as much of a character as the cartoons he drew.
Bill, his Perfect Wife and their pooch, Rocco the Wonder Dog in cartoonland.
For those who haven’t ever visited, Bill has a great blog (right here) that chronicled a lot of his life and random musings. It’s chocked full of great artwork and enough flavor that even if you never heard of Bill until now, you’ll grow to love him. Hopefully his blog stays up forever, because it’s a nice living tribute to the man. It is a little sad that his last post was promising to update more and that he was starting to feel better. There’s tears in my eyes just thinking about it, honestly.
This whole thing has depressed me deeply. I’ve had friends and relatives die over the course of this blog, but I generally was able to keep them separate and not mention it here. With Bill’s passing, it’s hard for me to not look at this place and see little sprinkles of him throughout. He was a lot more part of this blog than I think even he knew. I’m probably going to take a break from blogging for a few days, out of respect for Bill’s contributions here and to get my own head straight. I promise things will come back and we’ll keep on going with a smile, because that’s how Bill would have wanted it. He’ll always have a place here at Infinite Hollywood.
Bill once said that life was better in cartoonland. He loved those old cartoons where every act ended in a song, a dance and perhaps a laugh or two. Life is certainly easier in the world of cartoons and if anyone was ever like a human cartoon, it was Bill. In memory of that way of life, all those that loved Bill should smile and remember that he liked life as he liked cartoons, happy.
In closing, I will miss Bill, but I am very grateful for the gift he gave me. Not his artwork or time, as incredible as that was, but of his friendship. There aren’t many people out there as genuine as Bill White was and I’m a better man for having known him…
And just for you Bill, wherever you are, I’m including this photo of the Al Molinaro toy, in the Octo Joe shirt you were so proud of, because you always got a kick out of seeing him show up in random reviews. One last laugh for old times’ sake. Thanks for the friendship, good times and laughs, Bill.