Last night I heard the very sad news that Martin Skidmore had died from cancer at the age of 52. I never met or even communicated directly with Martin, but I've got a lot to thank him for.
Among his many interests and areas of expertise, he used to edit a comics fanzine called FA (previously Fantasy Advertiser).
I discovered FA in 1985, just as I was getting into comics. I'd picked up a few Marvel and DC titles from the paper stall at my local bus station, and when I got a Saturday job I eventually found my way to the Odyssey 7 comic shop in Manchester.
On one of my first visits I discovered FA, which, like all zines in those days, was a real labour of love, typed up and laid out by hand.
It was packed with news, reviews, interviews and lively debate, and it opened my eyes to a whole universe of comics and a way of thinking about them critically that has enriched my life immeasurably over the past 20-odd years and continues to do so.
With the availability of online resources these days, it's important to pause for a second and think how vital fanzines like FA were in those days: for me they were my only way of plugging into a world about which I had a voracious curiosity. I used to read and re-read every page until I virtually knew the features and interviews off by heart.
Last year, when FA popped up again online, I meant to contact Martin to thank him for the part the original 'zine had played in my life and to offer to write some reviews.
Sadly I got sidetracked and never wrote that email - something I seriously regret now.
Martin had a wide range of interests outside comics, as outlined here in Tom Ewing's touching tribute, but whenever a comic or graphic novel moves or thrills me, I'll trace my whole journey through the medium back to Martin and his 'zine.
RIP, and condolences and gratitude to those who knew him personally and helped him through his illness.