How a sci-fi enthusiast decided to memorialize his best friend
Ed and Manny loved all the same things: Comic books, action figures, Mystery Science Theater , and the work of designer Ralph McQuarrie.
And they really loved outer space epics. One Halloween, they bought a kit and made stormtrooper outfits to wear in a parade. They rigged the helmets up with speakers and everything:
Ed and Manny met in 1997 while working as animators at Nickelodeon. For the next 10 years, they collaborated on comic books, independent animations, and crazy Halloween costumes. Whenever Manny needed a prop built for a Nickelodeon animation, Ed would build it. If you ever got hyped for Christmas by watching Merry Nickmas shorts, you can thank Manny for making them, and Ed for helping him with the storyboards:
Ed was one of the “kindest, gentlest men I have ever known, and thoughtful as well,” says Manny. Which is why his accidental death in November 2007 was all the more devastating. Manny had dropped by Ed’s house after not hearing from him for a few days. Newspapers were piled up outside, so Manny broke the door and forced his way inside, where he found that Ed, who had Type 1 diabetes, had died of hypoglycemia.
Losing Ed meant more than losing a collaborator. He’d also been a uniquely generous friend.
“He knew how much I loved Adam West’s Batman and that I had always dreamed of having a 12-inch figure of him,” Manny says. “But alas they had, at the time, never made one. After he had passed away, I was helping to clean and package up his apartment, and I found a bust he was making from scratch in order to create a figure for me.”
Manny wanted to do something special for Ed; something that could reflect what Ed had done for him and so many others. While packing up Ed’s house, he came across a comic they’d published together called Homecoming:
Ed was obsessed with space, particularly Star Trek and its hopeful, idealistic themes. Almost everything Ed made was related to space.
That reminded Manny of a conversation they’d had about actor James Doohan who passed away in 2004. Doohan played Scotty on the original Star Trek series, and like Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, had arranged for his ashes to be launched into space by a company called Celestis. That’s how Ed wanted to go, too.
So Manny reached out to Celestis and learned that a space funeral was actually pretty doable. The company has been sending small quantities of human ashes into space since 1997, when they launched both Roddenberry and the father of modern psychedelic research, Timothy Leary.
It was the perfect way to send off Ed, who’d spent no small amount of his adult life dressed for the occasion:
Celestis’s services don’t actually cost more than a conventional funeral. Flying ashes into low Earth orbit starts at $1,295, and the ashes are returned to loved ones after the flight. Flying beyond low Earth orbit is a little more expensive, and the ashes don’t come home–instead, the capsule vaporizes as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.
To raise the money for Ed’s flight, Manny and Ed’s other friends decided to hold an auction at a local bar featuring Ed’s work. They called it Resto-Fest:
They lined the place with one incredible portrait after another, all painted by Ed:
And set up an appropriately themed donation box:
They auctioned roughly 70 of Ed’s paintings that night. “We had a tremendous turnout,” Manny says. “He was sincerely loved by everyone.”
And on May 4, 2010–known by nerds everywhere as Star Wars Day–Ed successfully departed for space aboard an UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL spacecraft. It launched from Spaceport America in New Mexico:
Manny still keeps the incomplete Adam West bust on display in his office. It’s a reminder of Ed’s willingness to create the things he thought the world should have, even if no one else wanted to make them. That joyful nonconformism inspired Manny to create some of his own favorite work.
And every November, Manny watches the video of Ed’s flight to the final frontier.
Homepage image via Celestis