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.


  1. I just wanted to talk to him one more time.

  2. Well said. Ralphs art was always one of the things to look forward to and instantly helped make characters and worlds feel real, both here in the glyos world and his other projects. To this day my favorite bit of glyos history is his Phanost-under-the-helmet reveal in council of travellers, which strikes me as the most badass thing I've ever seen in a comic.

    1. So true, the Phanost reveal is one of the greatest comic moments for me. That imagery is intense. Council of Travelers is one of the best comics ever period.

  3. As far as the Rest in Peace thing goes, I always took it at face value - to mean that someone is now beyond all the pains of living,of suffering through others. Ralph, it seems, was somebody who loved life, not somebody who suffered through it. We only spoke a few times but he was always friendly. I had no idea we were the same age until now... The last thing he said to me was in January : "shit happens. Shall be alright though." So nonchalant... Heh. Matt, Marcus, if anyone can find a link to this one piece of art he did please let me know. It was a blonde woman with parts of a Buildman backpack laying across a machine of some kind, very cheesecake, very Masamune Shirow. I was inspired by that piece, and I'd like to have some sort of copy of it...

  4. I'm sad to hear of the passing of your friend. He seems to have been quite an artist & the world is the poorer place for his loss.

  5. I'm still processing this. Having just gotten into Glyos only a little more than a year ago, it didn't take long for me to connect with Ralph and commission some art from him. Even the brief time I spent as his acquaintance was precious and seeing his new art pop up on my IG feed was always inspiring. Based on everything I've seen from the Glyos community since his passing, my experience was hardly unique. It's a devastating loss.

  6. A huge void has ripped thru the glyos universe. But the trail of the comet that was Niese will been visible for a long time.

  7. I thought 2013 for all of us was a rough one with NYCC that year being rife with insanity. But this one made me do a double take when I first heard about it via the WarlordsOfWor Instagram page. I knew the man very causally just talking with hin via Facebook messenger a couple of times 4 years ago. The man was so much of a part of all your lives at Onell Design that the pain from his death knocked the wind out of me. Kinda like when Alderan was destroyed in Star Wars. I will always enjoy the work he did with you guys over the years, he will be missed but not forgotten.

  8. Matt, about two years ago, I talked with you at Designercon and showed you a Glyos comic I was working on. At the time, you told me, out of the blue, that Ralph would love it. I was floored. Ralph was one of my favorite artists, and the idea that he might like my work was just too much for me. Life got very busy shortly after, and the comic was shelved for the time being. But earlier this year, Ralph started following me on Instagram--unthinkable! I DMed him and gushed about his artwork and how much it meant to me. He was so friendly and kind, and had the nicest things to say about my work as well.

    I told Ralph that when I finished the comic, it was to be dedicated to him and you, as a clumsy, inadequate way to say thank you for everything you both have given us all these years. It's more important to me than ever now that I resume working on it.

  9. Ralph and Glyos always went together in my head. Gonna be really weird to never see his interpretation of the figures again. I commissioned a piece from him back in 2011 and he blew me away with what he came up with. He left behind an insane legacy of art.

  10. Thank you for sharing this, Matt. I'm so sorry for your loss, you guys have had too much of that over the past few years. I still have tears in my eyes (for about the past hour or so since I found out). I never got to meet him in person, but we spoke on Facebook off and on. We literally just spoke 2 weeks ago on November 16th on a post I made about monster clay :(. I can't even believe it, he was way too young (a year younger than me!). My heart breaks for his fiance and family. Being a fiance myself that really hits home, if I lost my Frank I'd be shattered. We WILL see him again, death isn't it, and I look forward to watching God destroy death when the current painful age we're in gets wrapped up to a close.

  11. The thing about art is that, if we are lucky, it both outlives us and allows us to live past when our bodies are gone. It's bittersweet, as nothing can ever replace the human being behind that art, but there's some comfort to be had in knowing that an artist gave something that can be cherished and appreciated beyond their time on this strange rock.

    Ralph's artwork will do just that. A small consolation, and yet, a significant one.

  12. Truly sorry to hear about the loss of Ralph. I only knew him from his work with Onell Design and a few comments back and forth on IG. He offered a few encouraging words when it came to artwork I posted, at least I think they were encouraging... he said my Pheyaos painting looked like over-cooked cranberry goop or something like that. On other pieces he would say "now get in there with more whites!" Seemed like a good and honest guy. To this day, I believe that Council of Travels is some of the greatest comic art and story telling, some of his best work.

  13. Amazing tribute and heartfelt thoughts on a great artist.
    We'll all miss his visions around here. Cheers to you Ralph!

  14. I didn't know Ralph personally, but this has still been such a punch to the gut for me. I can only imagine how this loss must be affecting those closest to him.

    My heart goes out to you, Matt, and to all those who are feeling the loss of Ralph. May we continue to celebrate his life through our love and support of the toys that bring is crazy collectors together.

  15. Ralph was such a generous person and his custom painted toys were always crazy cool. I remember once when he cast one of his toys and made a resin copy for me because the toy could not be found anywhere.

    Here is my Pinterest board dedicated to him :