Saturday, June 28, 2008

RIP Michael Turner

I was blown away this morning by hearing of the passing of one of the comic field's truly nice guys and huge artistic talents....Michael Turner.

After doing some digging I found out the some of the details:
Artist Michael Turner has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 37. Aspen Comics’ Vince Hernandez told CBR News Saturday morning that Turner passed away Friday night at 10:42 Pacific Time at Santa Monica Hospital in California.

The news spread quickly at Wizard World Chicago, during what would have otherwise been a riotous night at the hotel bar, the mood suddenly turned somber with remembrances of Turner from friends and acquaintances. A minute of silence will be observed during Wizard World Chicago Saturday afternoon.

Turner is an artist best known for his work on books like “Witchblade,” where he got his start in comics, moving on to titles such as “Black Panther,” “Superman/Batman” and his very own creator owned series “Fathom” and “Soulfire” through his publishing company Aspen Comics. A prolific artist, he’s done work for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics, and has provided covers to some of the best-known comics published in the last ten years, including Brad Meltzer’s “Identity Crisis.”

In 2000, Turner was diagnosed with cancer -- chondrosarcoma in the right pelvis, which resulted in his loosing his hip, 40% of his pelvis and three pounds of bone. What followed was 9 months of radiation. The cancer has gone into remission and returned multiple times since he was first diagnosed.

For anyone who’s met Turner, they’re likely to tell you what a genuinely nice guy he was and how his spirit for life was higher than anyone else they had ever met. Oddly, my path crossed with Turner’s numerous times. We both live in Los Angeles, and on at least five different occasions we would run into each other at clubs or special events around the city. He seemed like the kind of guy who was up for anything and had a great sense of adventure, especially as evidenced by his love and excellence at water-skiing and martial arts.

Turner’s fight with cancer was truly inspirational. He fought it with dignity and grace.
More details concerning Turner’s passing are forthcoming.

Those wishing to send their condolences to Michael Turner's family are encouraged to send them to:
Aspen MLT, Inc.

C/O Michael Turner
5855 Green Valley Circle, Suite 111
Culver City, CA, 90230

Aspen Comics also encourages anyone wishing to make a charitable donation in Turner’s name can do so to his requested charities, The American Cancer Society or The Make-A-Wish Foundation
The entire article can be viewed at: Comic Book Resources (CBR)....

On a personal note, I first met Michael at a convention in Tulsa back in the mid-90's, when I was promoting my Template series...and we we kicked butt in a game of hotel-bar-trivia one night! Michael was just beginnings to shake up the industry with his work on Witchblade at that time.

Over the years I saw him almost annually at most major events around Texas, (and of course San Diego) and he always seemed to be very supportive of the indy and small press creators who would approach him for insight, advice or comments on their artwork and never took a "holier-than-thou" attitude because of his success.

His kindness and compassionate nature, not to mention his incredible artistic talent, will sorely be missed.

R.J. Luedke

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A 21st century Holocaust?

The following was originally posted by author, Gabriel Peter (on It was so startling and compelling, I felt I needed to do my part to share this information:

Read this post. Please do not let its length turn you away from the urgency of its message. Pass this along and get the word out.

As is said in the climax to the article, "If the full truth becomes known to the wider population, then whatever support remains for the state constructed by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il will begin, even more decisively, to ebb away." The following is a horrifying and eye-opening reality.

She was an ordinary North Korean woman. Short in stature with long black hair, Cho Jin Hae and her family lived in the North Hamkyung province. Like most North Korean families, they suffered from starvation. Jin Hae was forced to skip school and dedicate her life to finding sustenance for her family. In a country depleted of natural resources, it could be anything from mountain animals to tree bark and grass.

After her infant sister starved to death in their mother's arms, Jin Hae's father ventured dangerously into China, hoping to bring back some food for his family. However, on his return, he was arrested by the North Korean police, brutally beaten, and later starved to death in a North Korean slave camp.What was his crime? He was found coming back from China with a small bag of rice to feed his five remaining children.

Jin Hae and her family defected to China under the cover of night?choosing to attempt freedom, instead of being imprisoned in one of the slave camps designated for families of "criminals." Hae's mother and her two remaining siblings left behind their five-year-old brother with a neighbor family, since none of them had the strength to carry him. They learned that he was later kicked out and starved to death wandering the streets.But for Jin Hae's family there was no safety, even after successfully making it to China. They were eventually captured by Chinese authorities. Her 17-year-old sister was sold into prostitution -- her whereabouts remain unknown.

The two remaining sisters were sent back to North Korea, where they were tortured and beaten in prison. Hae still bears marks, and has difficulty walking and moving her shoulders. She and her sister managed to escape with the help of Pastor Phillip Buck, an evangelical minister from Seattle and a North Korean activist. Pastor Buck received the "Civil Courage Prize" for helping many North Koreans escape. The North Korean government imprisoned him in 2005 and released him 15 months later. He helped Jin Hae and her sister seek asylum in the United States in March 2008.

Jin Hae and her sister are only two of very few who actually make it to a free country's border. There are currently fewer than 50 -- maybe as few as nine -- North Koreans currently in the process of gaining asylum to the United States.THE HIDDEN GULAGNorth Korea is one of the most unrecognized human rights tragedies of all time. The North Korea Freedom Coalition estimates that anywhere from 400,000 to one million people have perished in Kim Jong Il's slave-labor camps.Satellite photos reveal sprawling encampments decorating the North Korean landscape. Some are more than 20 square miles in size, containing multiple, enclosed, self-contained "villages" for different categories of prisoners: one for "political criminals," another for the families. For example, "Unit 22" is dedicated to family members of presumed North Korean criminals. Images of Nazi Germany's ethnic cleansing may come to mind, and for good reason. Today, a gulag -- a human blood-bath of Holocaust proportions -- is occurring in North Korea.

Besides those hundreds of thousands who have perished in Kim Jong Il's slave-labor camps, many more have died of starvation or from trying to escape the country.One of every four North Korean Christians are in jail, and five out of six repatriated from China die after their return.

North Korean officials practice all forms of torture to get prisoners to confess of crimes that they did not commit -- such as interaction with Chinese, Westerners, or Christians. Those who survive the torture are sent to slave-labor camps with little food rations. Stories of prisoners hunting down rats for food or fighting over a kernel of corn found in cow waste are not uncommon.However, this is considered a rule infraction. Eating food other than the rations provided, along with working too slowly, can result in food reduction -- which spells death for many prisoners who are not fed enough to begin with -- or the practice of being made to sit motionless for hours on end. Some prisoners say this is more torturous than being beaten. Many prisoners tell stories of also being beaten with rods repeatedly. In fact, one Korean woman, who testified before Congressmen Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) during April's North Korea Freedom Week, said she was forced to run naked in negative 25-degree Fahrenheit weather.

Detention cells are frequently used. In these cells, a person cannot lie down or sit, causing the loss of circulation to their legs. Many have died in these cells. Persons trying to escape, and other major rule-breakers, are publicly executed by hanging or firing squad in front of assembled prisoners; and often the prisoners are made to walk by and touch the dead corpse on pain of death.

Abortion and infanticide are also quite common. All pregnant women in the labor camps are made to dispose of their children before or after pregnancy. Many witnesses quoted in The Hidden Gulag, by David Hawk, recount tales of helping North Korean women give birth, only to watch her faint as her baby is strangled before her eyes.


Kim Jong Il's labor camps are modeled after the Soviet system. In 1929, Josef Stalin first began to discuss the expansion of the concentration system, which eventually became known as the gulag (i.e., primitive slave-labor camps). According to The Hidden Gulag, "The [Soviet] regime also did its best to hide the truth about the camps, concealing the vast geographic extent of the slave-labor system, as well as the enormous numbers of prisoners involved... Soviet leaders did everything possible to hide their prison and labor camps from the outside world."In the fullest possible sense, North Korea's labor camps are direct descendants of Stalin's gulags. In fact, testimonies from former North Korean officers reveal that Kim Jong Il's prison camps were built according to the Stalinist model. Furthermore, documents have been found revealing that the Soviet Union sent advisors to China in the 1950s to help the Chinese organize labor camps. One can only assume that such training would leak into China's ally, North Korea. "It is the last bastion of true Stalinism left in the world," declared Open Doors president Carl Moeller during North Korea Freedom Week.


Acts designated as crimes and misdemeanors in North Korea include every seemingly innocent expression or act imaginable -- from sitting on a picture of Kim Jong Il to knocking over a jar of ink. There are arrests for political "crimes," such as reading a foreign newspaper, singing a South Korean pop song, leaving a village or the country without permission, or "insulting the authority" of North Korean leadership, particularly Kim Jong Il or his deceased father, Kim Il Sung.In fact, Kim Il Sung remains president of the country, even 12 years after his death. Every village has an audio speaker that is pre-set to turn on at 6:00 a.m. every morning, telling the people how lucky they are, and speaking of the god-like qualities of Kim Jong Il. Every home is required to have a picture of both father and son, and regular security checks make sure the portraits are well cared for. A lack of electricity, telephones, Internet, and cable keeps the country in the grip of Kim Jong Il's ideology. It has been described as an ideology of state: submission of individuality for the "common good."

Religious persecution is extremely severe, because Christianity threatens Kim Jong Il's tyranny. In fact, Open Doors declared in February that North Korea is the most dangerous place to live for a Christian. The North Korean government is based on a "Cult of Personality," a nation that is forced to worship Kim Jong Il and his deceased father. And while Kim Jong Il lives as he pleases -- even owning a fleet of limos -- his country suffers from malnutrition and starvation. Up to two million North Koreans perished during the famine from 1994 to 1998. Even in the aftermath, the country is unable to provide food for its people. Recent stories report that another famine may be on the way.

Failure to comply with Kim Jong Il's standards results in being sent to the gulag. There, approximately 200,000 North Korean men, women, and children currently labor in primitive conditions, being regularly tortured, beaten, and often executed publicly. In some camps there are few, if any, survivors, because many die before completing their sentence.


Not only are North Koreans imprisoned without trial, but Kim Jong Il also practices the idea of "guilt by association." The family of a presumed criminal can face life imprisonment to the third generation.In The Hidden Gulag, Hawk notes, "Tens of thousands of political prisoners -- along with up to three generations of their families -- are banished and imprisoned without any judicial process for usually lifetime sentences." Generations have been imprisoned without trial -- simply disappearing from their villages.

Even Westerners are not safe. In addition to Pastor Buck, New York businessman Steve Kim was sentenced to five years in a North Korean prison because he was caught helping North Korean refugees.BREAKING THE AWARENESS BARRIERCalifornia Senator Ed Royce (R), who has journeyed to South Korea, declares that it is "phenomenal that in this day and age that we would have a situation where several million human beings starve to death in North Korea, while the aid that was supposed to go to the people went instead to the military and the political party that was focused on developing nuclear weapons."The problem is two-fold. First, Americans often do not want to be made uncomfortable by a situation that they feel they can do nothing about.

Peter Beck, executive director for the U.S. Committee for Human Rights, was shunned by his own mother, who said that she did not want to read a report for fear that it would make her uncomfortable.But isn't that the problem? We squirm at the mention of torture and forced infanticide, but no matter how much we ignore it, it does not make the problem go away.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans live and labor in these slave-camps today. It must become common knowledge to the general public. "If the full truth about the camps becomes known to the wider population," Hawk writes in The Hidden Gulag, "then whatever support remains for the state constructed by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il will begin, even more decisively, to ebb away."One person can be more influential than he thinks. "This is not to say that words can make a dictatorship collapse overnight," Hawk writes. "But words certainly can make a dictatorship collapse over time, as experience during the last two decades has shown.

Totalitarian regimes are built on lies and can be damaged, even destroyed, when those lies are exposed. The greater and more detailed evidence that can be provided, the more damage the truth can do."The second challenge is that we may feel that such a crisis is not "our problem." But whose problem is it? Becoming more aware and wrestling with the situations facing our world today could spell relief for North Korea. Being willing to confront the human rights atrocities in North Korea, reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and communicating to our lawmakers and friends could be the start to breaking the ice of silence.

Many Americans have said they wished they had known about the Nazi Holocaust, so that maybe they could have done something about it. Today, the crisis in North Korea mirrors the Holocaust. We have an opportunity to do what we wish we had done before. We must speak out for freedom. We must raise awareness. Because if we don't, who will?-- Angelise Anderson

Psalm 9:12 "For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted."