Per a statement from Z2 Comics, American writer and artist Ian McGinty died on Thursday, June 8. He was only 38 years old; the cause of death was not given. McGinty worked primarily on children’s comic books, animation, and video games, including Plants vs. Zombies Heroes, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, TV tie-ins “Adventure Time” and “Rocko’s Modern Life,” and creator-owned titles like “Welcome to Showside” and “Hello, My Name is Poop.”
James Ian McGinty was born in Annapolis, Maryland on May 6, 1985, and studied art at St. Mary’s College of Southern Maryland, as well as the Savannah College of Art and Design. His earliest published works were 2013’s “Adventure Time: Candy Capers,” and the vampire comedy title “Suckers,” written by Patrick Shand and published by Zoetrope. The following year he took on “Adventure Time” licensee BOOM! Studios’ “Bravest Warriors” series with writer Kate Leth, pencilling the comic for several issues, before becoming the artist on the main “Adventure Time” title in 2016. He drew the comic for nearly two years, before spending 2018 on the publisher’s “Rocko’s Modern Life” series.
In the meantime, McGinty launched “Welcome to Showside” at Z2 in 2015. The comic, also available on Tapas, follows Kit, a boy defending the town of Showside from ghosts, demons and monsters with his friends, and who also wrestles with the pressure of his father being the Great Shadow King, who wants him to destroy the world. An animated short film, written by and starring McGinty as Kit’s voice, as well as Henry Rollins as the villainous Frank, was also produced that year.
2019 saw the release of McGinty and Sam Sattin’s fantasy OGN “Glint” at Lion Forge imprint Caracal; he also drew a few issues of Oni Press’s “Rick and Morty” comic that year. In 2021, Vault’s children’s imprint Wonderbound published what would be McGinty’s last OGN, “Hello, My Name is Poop.” Written by Ben Katzner, the book followed Will Poupe, a child who’s bullied over his last name, until he learns from a wizard that his nickname is a Name of Power, that he can use against his tormentors. His final credit came in last year’s LGBTQ+ anthology “Young Men in Love,” published by A Wave Blue World.
McGinty’s unexpected passing prompted much mourning on Twitter, where several creatives, including Trung Lê Nguyễn, Casey Nowak, Joey Weiser, Jackson Lanzing, David Pepose, and Kendra Wells, described him as a kind, funny, and generous friend and colleague. Wells and Shadia Amin indicated McGinty had health issues stemming from being overworked and underpaid, with the latter saying “I cannot emphasize how much Ian was constantly working, trying to get pitches done, he even briefly worked in animation and I know he barely slept a lot of the time.”
They both stressed McGinty’s death showed publishers need to pay artists better. It was a sentiment echoed by many, like Vita Ayala, Elise Schuenke, C. Larsen, Nilah Magruder, Cara McGee, Natasha Alterici, Katy Farina, Maddi Gonzalez, D.J. Kirkland, and Wendy Xu. Magruder stated, “No publisher is paying enough that an artist can focus on one book at a time. These contracts are part-time gigs at best, yet schedules are so tight you’d need to make that book your sole full-time focus to make deadline.” Soon after, the hashtag #ComicsBrokeMe began trending, with many writers, artists, colorists, and even editors using it to speak out about low compensation from various publishers.
Casey Nowak added in a thread about the low pay-per-page rates she had working on BOOM!’s “Lumberjanes,” that “Ian always had it worse, and he was just the kind of guy who would be like…’fuck you, I can do this.’ I had the same attitude sometimes. You aren’t gonna break me with your bullshit. But there’s no getting through that. Comics are degrading all the way up and down.” She concludes saying, “God he was so passionate. He was so good at it. He was so excited. I’m so sorry. I knew how exploitable he was. I wish I had talked to him about it more. I’m so sorry.”
McGinty is survived by his parents, James and Laura; younger brothers Thomas and Patrick; and grandmother Shirley, among others. The family suggests donations be made in his name to the charity Hero Initiative, or to “offer a bit of encouragement to a young, creative person navigating a life in the arts.”