Ralph Niese 1983-2020

2020 will go down in history as an almost impossibly challenging year, and earlier this week it truly punched into the surreal with the news that our brother and long time collaborator, Ralph Niese, unexpectedly passed away last Monday evening. Our whole family has been trying hard to process this incredibly deep loss, joining Ralph's family, his fiance Jana and his countless friends and colleagues from across the world in mourning.

Ralph and I met online 11 years ago and immediately connected, sharing similarly oddball perspectives on art, music, movies, food and of course, humor. Damn, did Ralph possess one of the quirkiest and sharpest senses of humor ever. This was made even more impressive considering that English wasn't even his native language. 

When he made his first extended visit to our house, we all fell in love with his unforgettable laugh and deadpan delivery, dispensed each morning in the kitchen as he brewed his "special" coffee while standing in just a t-shirt and underwear, Michelle and the kids uncontrollably cracking up the whole time. We would then spend the entire day right into the late night talking about everything and anything, listening to tunes, drawing, painting, sculpting, customizing and planning out lofty toy and comic book conquests. His old workstation is still intact upstairs to this day.

Ralph meshed seamlessly with Marcus as well, sharing the same birth year and growing up with many of the same interests. On one occasion during a visit, Ralph asked to use Marc's computer to edit a few elements on one of the comics, and both our jaws hit the floor as we watched Ralph effortlessly do things at lightning speed in Photoshop that weren't even on our radar as being possible. Ralph did that a lot, making impossible things look easy. The tales of his talent could fill a galactic library.

We would also clash on the regular, driving up each other's temperatures as we jousted over the details and deadlines of our various projects throughout the years. Sometimes after a dust-up, we would drop out of communication for a month or two, but one of us would always reach out and right the ship, which is part of what made Ralph feel so much like family. True family, with all the scars, dents and tears that real love carries with it. 

It's only too natural to want to curl up and hide from the pain of losing Ralph, and that's what so many of us who really knew him are struggling with right now. As I spent the last few days going through literally thousands and thousands of our old emails back and forth, I came across one in particular that contained Ralph's usual blunt, yet accurate, assessment of death itself:

Reading this really brought me back into focus, because I knew he'd meant every word.

We will honor Ralph here and throughout all the things we do moving forward, doing exactly as Ralph wished in his message above, celebrating the person we all loved and never forgetting the astonishing work that was done while he lived.

We'll meet again, Ralph.