Sunday, 10 July 2016

Farewell Alan Mitchell: comics and black history writer

Paul Anderson, Anna Chen and Alan Mitchell in Suffolk, March 2016.
Pic by Charles Shaar Murray

Tomorrow we bury our friend, brother, son, and father, Alan Mitchell.

Alan Mitchell 9th November 1960 to 22nd June 2016

In the outside world, it was the darkest period of our lives in a generation. We were about to topple into a post-truth era where politics, economics, race and ethics would all be thrown into the air. However, after years of struggle we were temporarily safe in our new home which was to be a writers’ retreat for myself, Charles Shaar Murray, Paul Anderson and Alan Mitchell.

They say the sound you hear while making plans is the gods laughing. At 6.30pm on 22nd June 2016, the eve of the catastrophic Brexit vote, the wheel of fate creaked round a new notch and the walls were breached. The powers of destruction in evidence Out There crashed in with the news that one of my best friends, my bro, the person I could talk to and share experiences with of racism, exclusion and injustice, had died that morning.

Alan Mitchell, with whom we were going to do amazing things now that the house was almost finished — including his history of black creatives and heroes in comics — had gone and left us bereft.

He had persuaded me to turn my show, Anna May Wong Must Die!, into a graphic novel. He was always brilliant when it cames to matters of race and black history in particular and he thought that this was an important project about the Chinese diaspora and my own place in it. Conversations with him had already led to me adding a new section to the end of a lengthy piece I’m writing about my experience in the far left and how their particular brand of conscious and unconscious racism works.

Alan always understood me with great kindness and insight. He was to be my editor and script consultant, basically holding my hand through the process of adapting to a new writing genre. I’m missing his love, his wisdom, his humour. I’m so sorry for his beautiful children, his family and his mother, all of whom he loved so deeply; for the writer Charles Shaar Murray who brought him into my life 18 years ago. And especially for Sarah Adams who'd found love with him in the last six months of his life.

There are many cruelties to this early death. To pass on at 55 is to feel cheated of the promised three score years and ten. All of us are feeling the Alan-shaped hole left behind, but no cosmic joke is as profoundly hurtful as this talented man working for decades to perfect his art finally reaching a point in his life where he was about to blossom with the conclusion of various projects and the birth of many more.

He was going from strength to strength, inspiring and supporting everyone, and I hope feeling the same in return.

The butterfly broke out of its chrysalis ... and was gone before his beautiful irridescent wings had even unfurled.

So now, in memory of him, we have to channel Alan, allow his spirit to take our hand, and create the most fabulous, soul-soaring body of work within our abilities and beyond.

Loving you always, Alan. Your spirit sister, Anna.

9th July 2016, Suffolk

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