Woodrow Phoenix is one of Britain's greatest living comic book creators, and thankfully remains so. Creator of Crash Course/Rumble Strip, The Sumo Family, The Liberty Cat, the graphic novelist of unprinted but exhibited She Lives at the British Library, creator and producer of Nelson, Sinister Romance, SugarBuzz, Pop Tarts, Pants Ant, Where's It At, Sugar Kat? and a letterer for so many of his friends' comics through the nineties, he was the first British comic book creator to get significant exposure in Japanese comic books as well. He is also a visiting lecturer on the MA in Children's Books and Graphic Novels at the University of Middlesex.
This is normally the kind of thing I find myself writing in an obituary, and am so grateful, right now, that this is not the case. Because two days ago, Woodrow tweeted "Last week I thought I was going to die. It was Pneumonia. Thanks to the smart, friendly and efficient medics at Lewisham Hospital it will be one more thing to add to my incident list and not the last thing. The NHS is an incredible achievement. We can't let it be dismantled." Yesterday he added "ps: still in bed. But getting better!"
Reaction from across the British comics industry was a mixture of shock, relief and good humour. Here's a small example, as well as some of Woodrow's replies;
Emma Vieceli:Oh my goodness, woodrow! I'm so sorry you went through this and so glad you're coming out the other side. Pneumonia is absolutely terrifying! So glad you're okay xx
woodrow phoenix: Thanks, Emma – it actually felt like one of your broadswords cleaving me in twain, if you want some sound effects for your next d&d night just dial me in :)
Kate Brown:Woodrow!! So sorry to hear – but glad to hear you're on the mend!
ILYA: AARGH. Well done for not dying, thank you. Get well X
woodrow phoenix: Ok since you insist X
Roger Langridge: I somehow missed this, checked your timeline to catch up. Yikes! Hope it's a speedy recovery! All good thoughts your way.
woodrow phoenix: Thanks Roger, I feel somewhat like Jacob Marley rattling everyone's chains but that's good right?
Banx: Wishing you well Woodrow. Hope you make a full recovery. On the plus side that first photo would make a brilliant twitter icon
Will Potter: A relief to see you safe and and well. Hail our fine health service!
woodrow phoenix: We had a great chat about anime in the ambulance! I told them what to add to their Netflix queues :)
Steven Appleby: Oh gosh Woodrow! I am SO happy you are getting well!! Look forward to seeing you some time later this year – surely that'll be possible?! xxx
(And yes, the NHS is magnificent. I've had my money's worth a thousand times over)
woodrow phoenix: I have donated over 100 pints of plasma so I feel we're on the same side
Charlot Kristensen:OMG Woodrow that's so scary, so glad to hear you're recovering
woodrow phoenix: i am so pleased I tidied my bedroom majorly last month!
Pleece Brothers:Blimey Woods, that's bloody scary stuff! So glad you're on the mend now, the other WP. Big up the #NHS
woodrow phoenix: Those are some good good people in that institution!
Kate Charlesworth: Bloody Nora, Woods! Thanks for telling us – at least we can send shedloads of love and good wishes to you AND the NHS xxx
woodrow phoenix: The ambulance team were all lovely: I told them I made comics and one of them showed me her sketchbook and got excited about anime – I gave one of the others a box of Pop Tarts she was admiring, she instagrammed it immediately :)
Rian Hughes: Glad you're still with us, sir!
woodrow phoenix: I am always with you Rian! Saying "do you really need that sentence?" and "What about THAT one?"
I. N. J. Culbard:No way! Sorry to hear you got sick. Stay safe!!
Rufus Dayglo:Get well soon MR P. Having had pneumonia ( I am chrinic asthmatic ) it's very important to rest and take it easy. I made myself ill trying to work after having just recovered. It took a good 6 months to start feeling 'normal'. If we can do anything to help, we are here for you.
woodrow phoenix: You are a Prince among men, Rufus! Asthma is no joke and I have a newly deep appreciation for lung function x
Leah Moore:Omg im so sorry! Im so glad they got you through it. What a shock. Sending much love to both you and the NHS! Xx
woodrow phoenix: They come through for us x
John Allison: Woodrow this is dire news, wishing you well! Hope you're on the mend very soon.
woodrow phoenix: Just being able to breathe without screaming is already tremendously excellent!
John McCrea: damn glad you're on the mend, Woods
woodrow phoenix: Still here, woo hoo!
Gary Spencer Millidge: Hey Woods, glad you're okay mate. The NHS was brilliant for me last year when I had a heart treatment. I don't think most people realise what we have in it. Hope you're feeling a lot better!
woodrow phoenix: Yep, all I have to do now is not let it happen again! I'm glad your team took care of you last year: at least the vow of penury we all took to be comics creators doesn't include medical bankruptcy (tho i'm sure they're working on it in Whitehall)
Hayley Campbell: Holy shit! Hope you're feeling a bit less pre-death. X
woodrow phoenix: I have a new appreciation for breathing without swords piercing my chest
Duncan Fegredo: Glad to hear you survived, and you're not wrong :)
woodrow phoenix: I remember my first payslip with my national insurance deductions and how dismayed I was! That stupid kid didn't know how lucky he was, but I do :)
Woodrow then thanked everyone and explained why he had talked about this publicly.
woodrow phoenix: Thanks everyone for the well wishes! I wouldn't have told you about this but w so much NHS negativity, it's important to stick up for it, show how much we need it and how amazing they are. When I got home I found a souvenir the ambulance crew had left behind. Might frame it :)
Good news, Woodrow, and good luck! Now – what are you going to do next?