Ryan O’Sullivan writes:
This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write.
It’s been over a year since Turncoat, the graphic novel I wrote alongside illustrator Plaid Klaus, was successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Thanks to the help of over 900 supporters, I was able to make my very first comic book, and take the first step on a path that would change my life forever. Today I want to talk about one of those 900 people.
His name was James Hagemann.
But first, a bit of backstory about how me and James “know” each other. From 2004-2012 I was furiously addicted to a video game called City of Heroes. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was pretty much just a superhero version of World of Warcraft. Countless hours were spent there, creating my own superheroes, fighting my friends’ supervillains, and procrastinating away my teens. It was perfect.
James also played City of Heroes. When the game shut down in 2012, a whole bunch of us started adding each other on Facebook in that post-shutdown phase where people you’ve played a game with for 8 years promise that you’ll “stay in touch.” You never do. At best you share the odd anecdote or bit of gossip. But by and large, when an MMORPG shuts down, you just move on with your life. But still, you collect the “diet coke” e-friends you made during the years on various forms of social media. It helps with the collective mourning of a game’s passing. James was one of these diet coke friends. I added him to my Facebook in 2012. We never spoke.
Four years later, I launched the Kickstarter for Turncoat, and James donated $2000 to the campaign. At first I thought this must have been a typo. Surely he intended to bid $20, or perhaps — if I was lucky — $200? I barely knew him. Did he really mean to pledge such a huge amount of money to a complete stranger?
But sure enough, he’d meant to. He wanted to see Plaid Klaus and me succeed in our dream, and was willing to help support us. I was absolutely flabbergasted. This seemed so surreal. I thanked him a thousand times over, but he was so chill about it. He acted like it was no big deal at all, which, of course, made it all the more of a big deal.
I know what you might be thinking. Why am I writing about James? Sure, he donated a lot of money. But 900 other people also donated. The campaign was a group effort, right? Why make such a big deal out of this one guy?
Because James died one month after the Kickstarter was funded.
He never received the comic.
To my shame, I only found this out recently. James suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). And, at the time of the Turncoat Kickstarter campaign, he was pretty far gone in his condition. I don’t want to ascribe James a motivation he didn’t admit to, but part of me can’t help feel he knew his time was coming to an end, and that donating this money to someone else’s dream was one of his parting gifts to the world.
To experience this, from a complete stranger, is so damn humbling.
So here’s to you, James, for giving me hope in a world where it’s in short supply. We read all this horrible stuff in the news all the time and sometimes we forget that the world has nice people in it, too. Thanks for reminding me that the good guys are still out there.
If you’d like to help out people like James, donate to the ALS Association and help find a cure for ALS.