Mike ‘n’ Me

(Danya and Mike Parks)

My dear pal, collaborator, colleague, Monster Kid, model kit maker, sculptor and guitarist Mike Parks has passed away after a struggle with stomach cancer at age 66 (I am going to use the present tense throughout this tribute because I’m still having a hard time believing Mike is gone).

Mike and I have been good friends for well over twenty years. We met at WonderFest in Louisville, Kentucky. It was there that our collaborations began. I create the line art for the official WonderFest T-shirt each year (the talented Lee Staton does the coloring). I then try to get that image to Mike ASAP to give him enough time to sculpt his interpretation of my design as a bas-relief standing plaque. He makes a small, limited number of these plaques for sale at WonderFest (they always sellout pretty fast). Here’s a detail of one:

(Photo by Barbara Staton)

Sometimes, when I am a bit behind deadline, I send Mike a copy of my tight pencils of the T-shirt art prior to my inking it, just so he won’t be sweating the show deadline (as much; he always took turning my art into a bas-relief plaque VERY seriously). It wasn’t always a direct or exact translation of my art because of the rules and limitations of three-dimensional art that don’t bind me as a 2-D artist. I look forward to seeing how he tackled those difficulties, as he always comes through like a champ, making my work look better than it actually is, with changes that always adhere to the spirit of what I had created on paper.

A special highlight of WonderFest for me is seeing Mike, his smart and lovely wife Danya and his 3-D interpretation of my T-shirt art.

Danya. Boy, Mike won the spouse lottery with Danya. Intelligent, funny, politically fierce and beautiful (a seemingly ageless beauty; I suspect she’s got a horrific portrait of herself hidden away in her closet or attic), she always accompanied Mike to WonderFest and even did a lot of the heavy lifting in preparation for the show (the weight, bulkiness and size of sculptures makes me really glad I just sell books, shirts and flat art).

Mike and Danya are crazy about animals (Mike is a cat guy. Throughout his life he rescued over 200 cats and built loads of cat shelters). Danya is a vet (animals — not Viet Nam). They are both vegetarians, so we do not share a lot of dinners together, BBQ aficionado that I am. We do seem to always find time, though, to have long chats about many things important to us either at the bar or, most often, up in the Monster Kid Clubhouse, a secret hangout at WonderFest for staff and guests.

Like I said, Mike is one helluva talented sculptor. But before that career (as well as throughout his sculpting career), Mike was an awesome guitarist. Way back when (in the 1970s) Mike was the roadie for the Detroit hard rockers MC5. Mike never lost his rock ‘n’ roll spirit — and that was another subject upon which we bonded. Mike and I could (and sometimes would) talk forever about music. We loved turning each other on to great bands and good music. He introduced me to the music of one of his favorite bands, Kings X.

Mike is one of the most generous (and humble, despite his prodigious talents) guys I know, regularly thinking of others long before he thinks about himself. Here’s an example:

WonderFest began as a model kit show, an ideal venue at which to sell monster and other sculptures. Mike Parks was one of the first garage model kit makers in the world. Early on, Mike noticed a sadly common pattern. Adult collectors would often bring (or drag) their little offspring to the show. The collectors would sometimes drop a grand or more on a kit, but when their kid asked for a couple of bucks to buy something, their dad would snap at the kid, “I told you: I don’t have any money!

Seeing that broke Mike’s heart — and made him angry. So, he began making little sculpted monsters to give to kids for free (even though these mini-masterpieces took a lot of his time and materials). In the sculpting biz, tiny monsters with big heads are known as “super-deformed”. Mike called his super-deformed line “Tiny Terrors”. Mike’s sense of humor saturated nearly everything he touched; his Tiny Terrors were a perfect venue for expressing Mike’s sense of funny. One of my favorites in this line is his Godzilla:

Check out the bottom of Godzilla’s foot!

I already miss this kind, gentle soul. WonderFest, as much as I love it, will never be the same now that Mike’s gone. His death leaves a gaping hole in that event, one that I doubt will ever be filled. It also leaves a hole in the hearts of all who knew him. In our sorrow, though, let us not forget that Mike lived a very rich life, being able to live his dream of making a living at music and art and having Danya as his loving wife. Triple lucky!

Rest in Peace (and Keep On Rockin’), my talented friend. And a massive model kit box full of love and affection to Danya, who took such good care of our lovable guy for all these years.

Please help the kind spirit of Mike Parks live on by donating to his non-profit charity, Felines in Need (Felinesinneed.org).

6 Responses to “Mike ‘n’ Me”

  1. Brent Reid says:

    Wonderful words, William. A fine tribute to a lovely, talented man. Rest in peace, Mike.

  2. Elly Leary says:

    I am twice blessed.
    First to have Danya as a daughter, and then Mike as a son in law (no mother in law jokes needed). Present tense works for all of us. Thank you so much for your PERFECT tribute for Mike and for Danya.

  3. James Groman says:

    William,
    This was absolutely wonderful.
    I have been friends with Mike for over 30 years, starting with a number of conventions he helped organize in Columbus Ohio many moons ago. We worked together on many freelance projects, him helping me sculpt, make molds and casts. He was such a pleasure to know, let alone work with. I watched his sculpting skills blossom and flourish over the years. I remember when he first met Danya, and we all heard all about her for weeks before we met her. They had such an awesome relationship. Stuff of legends.
    Always knew how much he loved your work, (as you probably know, Mike was an amazing illustrator as well) It brings me such joy to know that he got to be friends with you, and share his talent with yours.
    Thanks sir for this loving tribute,
    James Groman

  4. Aaron Albrecht says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. Even though I didn’t get to meet him it sounds like it was a loss for all of us who love monsters or ever looked longingly at a toy dinosaur or put together a monster kit. Your story of the reason behind the Tiny Terrors is wonderful. God bless you and all his family and friends with peace at this sad time.
    Sincerely,
    Aaron

  5. Happened across Bill’s FB page just today. I did not know or know of Mike Parks. Sorry to say that I probably have missed on an amazing talent. I haven’t been to several Cons or like events. But, always seek out Bill if he is in attendance, over the years. Beautiful work, and if we are not involved so very much in these things, we often miss many people.

    Edward Schatz

  6. RIchard Tucker says:

    Bill,

    I’m sorry to see such a loss. You give the man a loving tribute and he deserved it from what you wrote. My condolences to all affected by this far too early demise of a loved, creative soul. I am glad that he leaves you and others such wonderful memories. That’s the true measure of a remarkable human being who lived life well. Always loved those cultures he created too.

    Rick Tucker

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