The tragedy of the sudden death of Christopher Reeve, falling on the day of my own birthday in October of 2004, has tormented me ever since - and still does. It has also transformed me and given me a new hope for our world, through the comic books born of a Superman which Christopher exemplified.
It was earlier in that year when I was employed by DPSI, a 3D film animation studio in Beit Shemesh, Israel, that I was given the assignment of directing the art for the conceptual design of a new film the studio had embarked on. The story, Yankee Irving, revolved around the adventures of a young boy with the New York Yankees of the 1930's. Upon receiving the assignment, I was also informed that the beloved actor who had endearingly portrayed Superman in the well remembered film serries beginning in 1978, had also accepted the assignment of directing the film.
The news of this project had notably contributed to renewing a great interest I've had in Christopher Reeve and his personal plight since the tragic accident which paralyzed him after falling from a horse in 1995. Upon hearing of the project, I searched through my original art archives and found an illustration I had produced of a Christopher Reeve like Superman, in 1979 at Continuity Studios in New York, featuring and image of a horse looming over him - produced 15 years before his accident. Now, I know what some may be thinking... "There he goes again saying he prophesied the fall of Christopher Reeve from the horse". Well, I've never said that, actually. All I've said is that I drew this drawing 15 years before the accident and didn't understand it at the time, but there it is. Christopher was a very important figure in our lives then. Everything he did before and after the fall was a very big inspiration to the comics community. This drawing, however, could simply be seen as one more in a series of other such coincidences apparent in some my art. It's perhaps best to leave it at this for now. Everyone can come to their own conclusions and beliefs about it. My primary concern at the time, and one which I began dilligently exploring, was the opportunity through the work on this film, to perhaps meet, or come into direct contact, with Christopher Reeve.
Yehuda Wurtzel, the founder of DPSI who had contacted me to join the studio a year earlier, had by then himself met with Christopher several times in preparation for the project. During our discussions of the work, I questioned him about the state Christopher was in; how he was, how he felt, what his life was like now. The essence of everything I heard was that, difficult as his life had become, Christopher told Yehuda that he was satisfied with the situation he was in. He liked having his life and his family back after the fame, glory and chaos that Hollywood had thrown him into, which distanced him from them. He was happy and content with things the way they were for him, so long as he could advance stem-cell research and help others. I asked how he perceived that people behaved around him and Yehuda carefully explained that Christopher's condition had tuned him into a very lonely man. The kid glove treatment most people show someone in such an unusual state, made it very difficult for him to have true friendships and heartfelt times with most everyone in his life, people about him and people who work with him. This can take its toll an anyone, believe me. I myself suffer a similar condition, at times, looking as if I had emerged from a jungle and put on a suit like Tarzan in New York. Most people simply do not think of, or relate to unconventional appearances - as pertaining to sociable human beings. This can easily become the cause of less heartfelt contact with people, can make someone's life very sad and bring them to lose hope - though they may be surrounded by a family they love, who most certainly also loves them.
To a great degree I understood this to be the case with Christopher. So I added the art I had produced in 1979 to my web site and wrote an article about it. When I asked Yehuda to let Christopher know about this material, he said he'd rather not because he was afraid it might disturb him. Now, there was nothing really disturbing there, actually. It was perhaps only the perplexity, driven by an unintended insensitivity and a sometimes object oriented approach to people which causes those around him to treat him with the snug and careful kid glove treatment he was receiving. This is what makes it appear to be that when someone comes along and approaches him as a human being with a heart and a soul, that this would disturb him. The art and the article I wrote sported a rather uplifting message, which is what I wanted to help Christopher feel.
My interest in Christopher's condition lies in that I've spent nearly 30 years studying the phenomenon of our physical illnesses and have come to very defined conclusions - and accomplished some rather remarkable things with people at a very local level, which are not widely known of. What is important to understand is this: All our illnesses and physical limitations are the result of a state of mind or spirit. The body follows after the mind and the heart. If a person has hope, they will heal and live - if not, then not. Period. I am not the first one to say this, nor the first to help raise a healing strength within someone. Sad as it may be, we have become so psychologically dependant on the economically driven medical profession, that we've come to believe only a pill or a scalpel can heal us. The result is that we become sicker and the hospitals and doctors become richer in the process - and all hope for raising the strength and healing power from within us becomes buried deep inside - and then we die. This is a grave injustice of our socio-economic structure and it must begin to change. We must raise the hope again from within us if we widsh to be healthy and happy. All the doctors in the world can't do this, they actually do the opposite these days, because like any economically driven profession, they need the customers. Many of them. Not all of them. There are many doctors sensitive to this, but the framework of their profession remains economically driven and it's very difficult for the good guys there.
While working on the character designs for the film, I began making plans to return to New York, with Christopher's situation very pertinent to the eventuality that I might work closely, and be given audience with him. I had hoped that we could meet within a comfortable and hopeful environment - and for this I'd need the help of the people who were close to him. I only wished to raise the awareness within him of the bond I felt between us, and inspire a new hope which, intentionally or otherwise, his sometimes exploitive and often insensitive environment would not allow to rise - all in the framework of working with him on this film. These plans finally came to fruition in mid-July of 2004, as I returned to New York in order to work more closely with the art team producing the storyboards for Yankee Irving.
After several months of asking to join the production directors in their visits to his home, where they presented him with the storyboard work we were producing, it became clear that I would not be given an audience with Christopher Reeve for the purpose of giving him the artwork spoken of above as a gift with which to inspire him with a hope for the emergence of healing power from within himself.
Almost 3 months after my arrival in New York, on the day of my 49th birthday, Friday, October 9, 2004, realizing I'd come to a dead end with the one goal I had in working on the film which Christopher was directing. I came to accept that it wasn't yet time for us to meet. On that day, I resigned from my position with the team producing the storyboards for Yankee Irving. On that same day, Christopher Reeve began to suffer from increased heart complications and was given his final rest, one day hence, leaving us in the comics, the film industry and the world, a grand remembrance of a man we'd come to love and revere. A man who showed what the exemplary courage and resolve of a true hero is - and left us with many marvelous works, seen in everything he touched.
The Comic Book industry salutes you, Christopher Reeve, and vows that your death shall not be in vain.
We will tell the world of the proximity of these events which inspire the coalescence of a new body of statesmen and leaders by the comic book creators. We shall tell the world that in giving your life to help mankind, you have also given us a sign - that in your death, you breathe new life into the comics and a new hope for the comic book creators in their fledgling stride towards leading the world into a better tomorrow.
Have peace, Christipher Reeve. Your life and works continue to light the path we walk.
Follow this link to visit The Christopher Reeve Foundation.