Comics creator Ed Piskor, the writer and artist of X-Men: Grand Design, the creator of Wizzywig, Hip Hop Family Tree, and Red Room, and the cohost of the Comics Kayfabe podcast, died on April 1, 2024.

Piskor was born in Homestead, PA, in 1982, the eldest of four children. In a 2013 interview with The Comics Journal, he recalled watching the documentary Comic Book Confidential when he was eight or nine years old and discovering underground comix for the first time. When Robert Crumb showed a drawing on notebook paper of the character that would become Fritz the Cat, Piskor said, “That was incredibly important to me, because, even at a very young age, I immediately made this connection, like ‘ok, I can do this stuff.’” And he did. Piskor taught himself to draw by copying comics, including Spawn and Dark Knight Returns, and he spent one year at the Kubert School of Art.

His first big break came as the artist for a story in Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor: Our Movie Year (2004). That assignment grew from four to 25 pages at the last minute, an experience that Piskor later likened to “cartooning boot camp.” After that, Pekar hired him as the artist for the 2007 graphic novel Macedonia, and Piskor also contributed to the graphic anthology The Beats, another Pekar project.

Piskor’s first full-length solo work was Wizzywig, a story about phone hackers, which he self-published before it was picked up by Top Shelf in 2012.

His next project was Hip Hop Family Tree, a series that began as a webcomic on BoingBoing and then was published in four-volumes by Fantagraphics starting in 2013. It was an immediate success in terms of sales. "We’re close to 20,000 copies in print,” Fantagraphics Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds told ICv2 in 2014. “It’s gone through four printings now, and probably the most interesting thing about it, from my point of view, is that the reprint print runs have gotten bigger every time, which is something I’ve only seen happen a few times over the past 20 years" (see “‘Hip Hop Family Tree”). The first volume was nominated for an Eisner Award, and the second volume won the 2015 Eisner for Best Reality-Based Work. The final volume of Hip Hop Family Tree came out in 2016, and Fantagraphics published an omnibus edition in 2023 (see “Fantagraphics to Omnibize Ed Piskor’s ‘Hip Hop Family Tree’”).

For his next project Piskor, an X-Men fan since childhood, created X-Men: Grand Design, a history of the superhero team that pieced together decades of stories to create a seamless narrative (see “The Overarching History of the X-Men Revealed”). X-Men: Grand Design and its sequel, X-Men: Grand Design: Second Genesis were both nominated for Eisner Awards for Best Limited Series. Marvel published three trades in 2018-19, followed by a complete edition in 2022.

Piskor launched the splatterpunk comic Red Room in 2021 (see “Fantagraphics to Publish Ed Piskor’s ‘Red Room’”); the comic drew criticism in 2022 for a cover, drawn by Jim Rugg, that parodied the cover of Art Spiegelman’s Maus (see “Vernal Equinox Grab Bag”).

His most recent work is Switchblade Shorties, which he serialized online at his Patreon and launched on Webtoon on January 1, 2024.

In late March 2024, as reported by The Beat, a woman posted screenshots of messages that Piskor had sent her, claiming that he had been “grooming” her. Several other accusations followed. The Pittsburgh news site TribLive reported that an upcoming exhibit of Piskor’s art, scheduled to open on April 6, had been indefinitely postponed, and news crews showed up at his parents’ house.

On April 1, Piskor posted what appeared to be a suicide note on Facebook. His obituary was posted later that day.

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