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Ed Piskor, ‘Hip Hop Family Tree’ Comic Book Artist, Dies at 41

Selbymay, Creative Commons

Comic book artist Ed Piskor, best known for “Hip Hop Family Tree” and “X-Men: Grand Design” as well as being the cohost of YouTube talk show “Cartoonist Kayfabe,” died Monday, his family announced. He was 41 years old.

“It is with the most broken heart that I share my big brother, Ed, has passed away today,” his sister Justine wrote on Facebook. “Please just keep our family in your prayers as this is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to go through.”

Piskor’s cause of death has not been made public. But prior to his death, he posted what appeared to be a suicide note in which he addressed — and denied — accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior that became public just a week earlier.

The weekend of March 24, artist Molly Dwyer, 21, accused Piskor of attempting to “groom” her when she was 17 years old and called him “a creep.” As evidence, she released screenshots of texts between her and Piskor from 2020, including one that read, “Are you 17 or 18? Imma be so mad if you say 17 because this crushes me at that age.”

Soon after, another woman, Molly Wright, accused Piskor of asking her for oral sex in exchange for giving her his agent’s phone number.

An exhibition of Piskor’s art was scheduled to begin in April at the 707 Penn Gallery in Pittsburgh, but on March 25 it was indefinitely postponed after the allegations became public, according to the Pittsburgh City Paper.

On March 30, “Cartoonist Kayfabe” cohost Jim Rugg publicly broke business ties with Piskor, writing, “In light of this past week’s shocking revelations, I find it necessary to reevaluate my professional associations to ensure they align with my values of respect and integrity. Therefore, I have ended my working relationship with Ed Piskor.”

On Monday morning, Piskor wrote in a Facebook post, “I’m helpless against a mob of this magnitude. Please share my side of things. Sayonara,” including a link to an apparent suicide note that directly addresses a number of people close to Piskor. He also addresses people who have criticized him, including the aforementioned women.

In that note, he said the texts between him and Dwyer that she shared online were taken out of context. He denied he would have made advances on her and said he had been “stupid” for talking to her after he found out how old she was, something he attributed in part to the loneliness of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“I promise my innocence,” he said.

Piskor also denied Wright’s accusations outright, said her actions “border criminal” and added that he believed his family should file a civil suit against her. He denied other claims she made before stating that they had sex twice, but that she had initiated both times.

He also expressed despair about the impact the accusations had on his career, writing, “Now it’s all gone. Art show evaporated. Was about to sign a $75k deal for Switchblade Shorties with Abrams, Cartoonist Kayfabe ends with Jimmy’s ‘shocking revelations’ statement (those words hurt).”

However, Piskor said that Rugg had reached out following the accusations, including coming to his house, giving him a hug and telling Piskor that he loves him. Piskor wrote that he hopes Rugg would help sort out his intellectual property rights and asked him to split their show’s earnings with his family. He also called for his family to sell more of his work following his death, including both originals and having more of his work published.

“I was murdered by Internet bullies,” Piskor wrote. “Massive amounts of them. Some of you out there absolutely contributed to my death as you were entertaining yourself with gossip. I wasn’t AI. I was a real human being. You chipped little bits of my self esteem away all week until I was vaporized.”

He added that he hoped his death “makes people think twice when joining an internet feeding frenzy.”

Piskor’s colleagues in the comic book industry expressed mixed feelings about the creator and his legacy.

“Very sad to hear about Ed Piskor,” artist Phil Hester wrote on X. “Some of you know that someone close to me was in a similar, but not identical situation. Though he isn’t part of my life anymore, my last call to him was to make sure he wouldn’t take this route.” He added in another post, “Very worried for the women involved, who are under some unimaginable pressures right now. I hope they’re getting the support they need.”

Legendary comic artist Rob Liefeld was among those who spoke out following Piskor’s death. He shared a video remembering Piskor on Instagram in which he read from Piskor’s apparent suicide note and discussed the allegations against him.

“We’ve got to be better than this,” an emotional Liefeld said, calling out the pressures that internet criticism places on people. “Whatever mistakes he made, people make mistakes. People make mistakes. What we need to be better at is giving grace to people, and not judgment.”

Longtime respected indie comic creator Evan Dorkin, who’d criticized Piskor in the past and was called out in the apparent suicide note, wrote, “I hurt Ed. I am responsible for that hurt even if I stand by my criticism.”

Others who expressed their condolences included notable comic creators such as Mark Millar, Bill Sienkiewicz, Klaus Janson, J.H. Williams III, J. Scott Campbell and Patch Zircher.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 988 is a free, 24/7 confidential service that can provide people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, or those around them, with support, information and local resources.

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