Ed Piskor, Comics Artist, Dies After Sexual Misconduct Accusations

The comics artist Ed Piskor, who was best known for his multivolume “Hip Hop Family Tree,” died last week after posting a lengthy note to social media about an accusation of sexual misconduct that led a gallery in Pittsburgh to indefinitely postpone an exhibition of his work.

The death of Piskor, who lived in Munhall, Pa., was confirmed by a funeral home, but no cause was given. Many people read his note on social media — in which he repeatedly spoke of his death — as a suicide note.

Two of Piskor’s relatives declined to comment. The chief of the Munhall Police Department said Piskor died outside of Pennsylvania.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a nonprofit arts group, announced last month that it would not open the five-month exhibition as planned after a woman accused Piskor of trying to “groom” her in 2020, when she was in high school, and posted screenshots from their online conversations.

Piskor, 41, apologized for the messages in his note and said he never should have communicated with the teenager. He also addressed separate allegations from another artist, saying that they had a consensual sexual relationship.

His agent, Bob Mecoy, said the artist had defined himself by his work and was devastated by what the future had held.

Piskor had the feeling “that no matter what the circumstances were, what the truth of the situation was, his career was over, and what he had to offer would be objectionable no matter what he did,” Mecoy said.

In Piskor’s note, he expressed dismay that his exhibition had been postponed, and he criticized what he called online lynch mobs, saying they had contributed to his death.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust said in a statement last month that it had taken the allegation against Piskor “very seriously” and that the exhibition, which was supposed to feature original illustrations from “Hip Hop Family Tree,” would not open as planned.

In a statement after his death, the trust said: “We are deeply saddened by this tragic news. Our thoughts are with Ed’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

“Hip Hop Family Tree” chronicles the early history of hip-hop, with its feuds and friendships. The comic series — for which Piskor did the research, writing, illustrations, lettering and coloring — began in 2012 as an ongoing one-page feature on the website Boing Boing and was compiled by Fantagraphics. Its second volume was named the best reality-based work at the 2015 Eisners, the comic book industry’s equivalent of the Oscars.

The rapper Chuck D, of Public Enemy, said in a statement that he saluted Piskor’s work.

“His detail in story and artwork for myself and all of hip-hop served as an informative cornerstone of visual truth in areas other media couldn’t achieve,” he said.

For Marvel, Piskor created “X-Men: Grand Design,” a chronological retelling of X-Men history that tried to make sense of the twists and turns in the mutants’ lives. The collection was presented on yellow pages, giving it the look of an older comic.

The goal, Piskor wrote in 2018, was to take the thousands of pages of early X-Men volumes and to create a “satisfying 240-page story which includes all the most important elements, but none of the fat, redundancy or deus ex machina from the series.”

Piskor also had a popular comic book podcast, “Cartoonist Kayfabe,” with the artist Jim Rugg. He will be remembered for his boundless enthusiasm and as a proselytizer for comics, said Gary Groth, the co-founder of Fantagraphics and the editor in chief of The Comics Journal.

“A lot of artists are obsessed and a lot of artists are focused and driven, but Ed had a kind of indiscriminate, omnivorous passion,” Groth said. “He loved everything about comics.”

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

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