March 5 2014
Ten years ago today, I was having a chat in the shower with my boyfriend, about the preciousness of life and the importance of enjoying the moment. With the water running we almost didn’t hear the phone ringing.
No clichés, no sage words, no nothing could've prepared me for, or conveyed the shock of the news I received. Our friend Marty had died. I knew it was suicide before I was told.
Martin Emond aka Marty Fuck aka Martywood aka Mikey Martin aka Martin Fuckin’ Emond, Boss of Everything, was the kind of person that you might get to meet once or twice in a lifetime. Much has been written about Martin’s career as one of the finest comic artists of his generation. He was that, having worked with Marvel, DC and Danzig’s Verotik Comics. He illustrated the cult graphic novel White Trash with Gordon Rennie, among miles of other achievements.
I’ve wanted to write something about Marty for a long time, but it’s an overwhelming prospect, trying to encapsulate through clumsy words what a person can mean to others, especially someone as beloved as Marty. I know I can’t come close to doing his memory justice, so I’ll just share what I loved about him.
Marty was a local hero. He had charisma man. If he wasn’t an artist he could’ve been a cult leader, a teacher or a counsillor. He was outrageously comedic, and he had a glow. People flocked to him, to soak up his humor, and be part of whatever that thing was. His friends adopted his mannerisms, and weird way of talking, which sounded hilarious from him but ridiculous from anyone else. A nasal “Heeeeeey bros” became the way we all said hi, even though it made us sound like try-hards.
He was a total fox too, and had a funny style that worked for him, but would make most guys look absurd. He often wore girls jeans, cos they fit his butt better, and a tight white T-shirt, the ever-present silver skull ring, and cowboy boots. You could hear him approaching, those Cuban heels echoing through St Kevin’s arcade where he had his morning coffee. The sound always made my heart leap into my mouth. His company was exciting and restorative. A coffee with Marty would set you up for the whole day.
He was the center of everything, a muthafkn boss, and what he said went. “It’s his way or the highway,” was what my ex-boyfriend used to say, but most of the time it didn’t come to that. People wanted to please Marty, because he was delicious. Freakishly gifted, his art shows were major social events, with work that always delighted. He was a perfectionist, pushing himself harder and harder with each re-invention. His drive to succeed went hand in glove with something like self loathing, but the results were simply the best, coolest, most fully realized archetypes I’ve ever seen in comic art.
His idols became his friends and colleagues, and though he had an ego about his own work, he was incredibly kind to others. Martin was hyper sensitive, and for the most part hadn't a bad word to say about anyone. He forgave people’s fuck ups. He had compassion for junkies, for flakes, for life’s losers, making his circle of friends enormous and eclectic to put it mildly.
Marty wasn’t too excited about having his photo taken, and I never saw him dance, except one time in Wellington when we got down to Kiss’s I Was Made For Lovin’ You. He was Axl Rose’s #1 fan, and could do a perfect impersonation of the ginger ninja. Unfortunately, when Martin finally did get to see G n’ R in concert, Axl couldn’t hold his notes anymore, and Marty regaled us with his interpretation of Axl being on his “ni ni ni ni kneeeees (gasp!) kneeeees (gasp! Pant, pant)”!
He could fight – he had reached a high level in martial arts, and urban legend had it that one night walking home alone, five guys had jumped him. He slayed them all. Another time in Tijuana, a gang tried to rob him. That was a hairier situation, but he reigned supreme in the end, just like his little urchin character, Switchblade.
Not content to be a kick ass artist, Marty was also a musician in his band, Flamejob. Honestly, I can’t remember if they were any good, because every time I saw them I was partying wildly, having the best night of my life, only to be trumped by the next time. There were parties, always parties. For a while we started hanging out at the Vegas Girl, Auckland’s most down at the heel and totally bizarre strip club, where the girls scared us, resembling something from a dark swamp, or a Cramps song. The club itself was really kitsch, so Marty’s band played there of course.
Martin based his characters on his friends. When he developed Switchblade, he knew he’d cracked it, and the time was right to move to Hollywood to take shit to the next level. He lived in Silverlake and had a studio above Meltdown Comics on Sunset. When I came to visit, we went to a hole in the wall tiki bar, where Long Gone John and some other cult celebs (who I didn’t know, cos I wasn’t cool enough) all greeted Marty – like a boss. He’d always had something to prove, and it seemed to me that he had well and truly proven it.
I knew his mental health was becoming an issue in LA, because he told me, and when I visited I saw it. His fiancé was there by his side though, helping him navigate the meetings with cheesy shit talkers, whose suggestions always made him laugh. "How about we do a flip book?" one suggested. "A fucken flip book!" Marty and his girl rolled their eyes. The thing we all came to understand is that in Hollyweird, you can waste a lot of time with people who say “yes” when they mean “no”. There are meetings about meetings about meetings. It’s frustrating, and he couldn't see the value in it. He started to get physically depressed. I couldn’t reconcile it with the person I knew and idolized. I simply didn’t believe that someone so glorious, so absolutely stellar in every way could feel bad about himself. He was the light in the room. He was the one at the top of our pyramid.
“What else do you want to do?” I asked, “Travel? Where in the world do you want to go?” I hoped he could get some perspective, but he was singular in his goal - make Switchblade into a film, leap into the next phase of his career. He also wanted to get married to his girl, but was waiting until he felt better. He never went to the beach to relax, he didn’t eat right. Things got critical, and then, a few weeks after I returned from LA, he ended his life. The irony was Switchblade had been given the green light by a major studio.
Martin's pain didn't end with his death. The baton gets passed from the dead to the living, and we carry that torch always. We carry it, because it was too heavy for them.
Perhaps the hardest thing was seeing the sheer amount of people who had loved Martin, all in excruciating pain. He had a lot of friends. It was just horrible, and the lasting effects changed friendships and alliances forever. Our group tried to cope by sticking together. We shared our meals, held hands, cried a lot, and got tattoos. We laughed spontaneously and raucously over silly things that added levity to the blackness we were traversing. We tried to remember that we were young and we wouldn’t cry forever, but we were changed.
It’s human nature to want to wrap things up nicely, but this is not an essay and there is no ‘closure’. The chords of a song, the scent of night jasmine, many little things can re-invigorate old feelings. Time provides something of a buffer, but I needn’t dwell on it long before I can easily shed another thousand tears. Survivors are left irrevocably changed, and you never stop missing that person.
Martin’s memory is like a diamond – lustrous, valuable, pure, strong and brilliant. In life he was gorgeous. He was luminous, and when I really think about it, he was out of this world. All of him, from his voice to his style, his humility, his kindness, and of course his gift of art, was simply too much.
I know I’m far from alone in missing him. There are many people who think of him daily, and many people who walk the same path. Survivors of suicide, a club you never want to join, but one that envelops most of us at some point.
I hold onto the moment. When creative people are working towards a goal, day-to-day living recedes as the end result takes precedence. I wish there was a simple way to temper that drive and ambition with the only real thing we have – NOW. If we could see that we have more going for us than the sum of our talents, perhaps the future would be less overwhelming. Perhaps not. Depression feels like you’re not in your body, like you are already floating away. If you find yourself in this place, and you happen to be reading this, sit down. Feel your feet on the ground. Hear the sounds around you, and beyond. Breathe in and feel your chest rise. Let it fall. Move your fingers against your palms and know – NOW.
It really is a miracle.
Today, ten years feels like ten minutes. I miss you Marty Fuck! <3 nbsp="" span="">3>