Saturday, February 13, 2016

RIP Alvin

Early Friday morning, I received an email from my friend Rina informing me Alvin Buenaventura had passed away. She had no specifics about what happened.

I later got a phone call from Alvin’s friend Dylan, who informed me what I was hoping was some kind of elaborate hoax was true.

The previous evening I had received a package with the final comp copies of the comic book Sir Alfred No. 3 that we had just finished. There was no note. There were also some uncropped front cover prints he had wanted me to sign and send back to use as an incentive for initial orders of the book.

We had recently been through the usual round of emails and phone conversations resulting from the production process.

He was overworked on many other things besides our project and generally mentioned some health problems, both physical and mental.

He described having some autoimmune issues he said were making it difficult for him to use his hands? Severe arthritis? He said he was taking some kind of medication with unpleasant side effects?

Another time he apologized for being out of contact by saying he had a breakdown. He didn’t seem willing to go into any more details.

He had also got back from a trip to Hawaii and told me he had thought about not coming back.

But the things people always say after a suicide were true as well. His last email was upbeat about the mylar sleeves arriving. Things were looking up, he seemed so pleased, all those usual things.

In general though, most of our conversations were more about stuff like moire patterns on a dot screen, final trim size, file corrections…

Alvin sometimes reminded me of the type of manic/depressive I had read about in Kay Jamison’s book Touched With Fire. He also sometimes reminded me of a Hollywood agent with his Swifty Lazar type glasses and that kind of gifted orientation toward creative personalities.

He was a secretive person who often seemed at odds with himself, a great source of his creativity.

The photos you see of him looking through a loupe on press are indicative of his focus. I asked him about the loupe, and he said it had filters so you could look at just cyan, magenta or yellow at a high magnification. I never knew anyone could do that or be willing to. If you look at even his most low-key books, you will see that kind of attention to the simple matter of the plate hitting the paper.

Because the size of my book meant the pages could not be ganged together, he did 22 press checks. Who does that? I wouldn’t have.

On the other side, he could be erratic. You could talk to him on the phone and the line would go dead, and he wouldn’t call back. There’d be odd absences in contact. He could be cold when he felt slighted, and you’d never quite know why. He was a man of indomitable alliances and longstanding grudges. I grew to not be so thrown by these things as we progressed. It’s even some of the things we had in common.

I do not know the fate of my comic, which I imagine is sitting in a bunch of boxes in Alvin’s place somewhere. It will depend on the disposition of his estate. I hope people get to see what a bang-up job he did on it.

Often in his emails he told me that working on my book meant a lot to him; I sure hope so.
I hope working on my project didn’t cause him any more stress than anyone usually encounters in the sometimes perilous compact of putting a book together.

I’m also remembering, among so many other memories which could fill many other posts, Alvin, after receiving my files, asking for “first refusal” of my next book in his business-like way…

My condolences to his friends and family.