Born in Wisconsin in 1953, Mark E. Gruenwald was an avid comic book collector and geek, especially fond of the Justice League of America.
So profound was Gruenwald’s childhood absorption of comic book content that he later used the knowledge to create an encyclopedia of Marvel comic books, published in 1982 as The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.
But first, serious matters. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in art and literature in 1975. He then moved to New York City and approached both DC and Marvel for jobs. Both rejected his application for employment but he was called back by Marvel in 1978 and never looked back. By 1982, he was in charge of the popular series Spiderman, The Avengers, Captain America and Iron Man, including substantial writings. He was the lead writer of Captain America for ten years, and created one entire Marvel series: the short-lived Squadron Supreme.
His 1981 marriage to singer Belinda Glass failed and he later married Catherine Schuller.
At Marvel, Gruewald’s love for comic books and his creative talents were rewarded by promotion after promotion. None of it stopped him from his other personality, as Carl Potts explains:
“Full of energy, ideas, and practical jokes, Mark was the instigator and ringleader for Marvel's office parties and pranks. He also promoted a wide range of contests that challenged the physical skills and pop culture knowledge of Marvel staffers.”
When Marvel survived a bankruptcy reorganization, Gruenwald was disappointed at not being appointed editor-in-chief of the newly re-organized company. He turned his attention on a joint project with the corporate former arch-enemy, DC Comics.
Loved, admired and cherished by his fellow employees at Marvel, Mark Gruenwald suffered a fatal heart attack in the early hours of Monday, August 12, 1996, at the young age of 43, leaving behind Catherine and their young daughter, Sara.
Opening his will, his wife could only smile as she read his final wishes. He wanted to be cremated and his ashes put into a comic book.
It took Catherine some time to convince the comic book publisher to do it but, finally, in 1997, Marvel realized the publicity such a stunt could attract. Marvel officers allowed Catherine to sneak in and secretly mix his ashes into print ink which was then used in a 5,000 copy, 100-page, 12-part book comprised of the entire Squadron Supreme comic book series.
His widow wrote in the forward to the comic book:
“He remained true to his passion for comics, as he has truly become one with the story and blended himself in the very fiber of the book.”
- Duhaime, Lloyd, Famous Wills
- Potts, Carl, Marvelous Tales: Remembering Mark Gruenwald and Our Trip to Skywalker Ranch, August 2, 2010, retrieved on Nov. 3, 2010 from http://generaleclectic123.blogspot.com/2010/08/marvelous-tales-remembering-mark.html
- Tipton, Scott, Gone Too Soon: Remembering Da Gru, Sept. 15, 2004, retrieved on Nov. 3, 2010 from http://www.asitecalledfred.com/comics101/82.html