Ted Mays, owner of the recently closed Gecko Comics and Book in Honolulu, Hawaii, passed away from a heart attack on January 17th, 2021. He was the heart and soul of the Hawaii comics community for 34 years and we’re all worse off without him. I knew Ted for just over 18 years and wanted to share some of my experiences with him over years because I just don’t know how to process this news any other way than to write about it.
It was August of 2002 when PFC White arrived in the Hawaiian islands and began the search for a new LCS. Those of you who collect comics know that the search for a new shop is similar to the hunt for a new church. Not all shops are created equal and picking your shop is an incredibly personal thing. I took the bus from the Airport Hotel to Kaimuki to take a look at Geckos. I walked in and The Blasters were on the stereo and I was greeted by a tall, lanky man with one of the kindest smiles you’ll ever see. I know not everybody got along with Ted but we hit it off instantly. That little store (back when it was still on Waialae Avenue) was packed with hidden treasures, bursting at the seams, yet Ted knew exactly where everything was. I was serving in the US Army as a linguist at the time we met and Ted had done the same right around the time I was born. Ted, hailing from the Bay Area, listened to punk rock and occasionally we would run into each other shows. There were times in the countless hours I spent at that shop that it felt a bit like looking into a time warp and perhaps seeing an older version of myself.
For a while, I even considered opening my own shop. Ted was incredibly supportive and would take time to explain the ordering process, talk to me about retailer summits, and various other topics long after I realized I didn’t actually want to open a shop. He was not only an endless font of knowledge but he had an innate desire to teach, to mentor, and to share. When I later went to University of Hawaii for my degrees in English (where Ted had gone so many years before), Ted became a crucial element to my success. We would soundboard paper topics, work out details together, and he would frequently make research recommendations. If I was working on a paper regarding colonial problematics in early Black Panther appearances, he was the first to suggest looking towards Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow work for a counterpoint.
This past October, Gecko Comics and Books closed it’s doors. I went and spent a few hours in the shop with Ted on a day the shop was closed. We didn’t really talk much about comics, I realize, looking back at it. We just talked about what was going on in our lives. While we were all sad that the store was closing, Ted wasn’t sad at all. He was excited to spend more time with his grandkids and enjoying time with his wife. It was a new adventure– a true #1 collector’s edition– and he was ready for it. We talked about our families, about politics, sports, the economy, pop culture, and philosophy for a couple of hours while he sorted through Funko Pops he had stashed to sell later. I bought a handful of books, we hugged, and said goodbye. Even though he was headed to Washington, I never actually believed that was the last time I would see him. Surely we’d meet again. I haven’t been to Washington, after all.
I’ve been reaching out to handful of the people that I know shared a love for Ted since last night and it’s been flooding me with warm memories. One year, my birthday happened to be on a Wednesday so I naturally went to the shop. I had had my eye on X-Factor #1, which was up on the wall for maybe $15-20 and decided this was the day. I asked Ted to get it down for me and put it on pile. He handed me the book and said “happy birthday, friend”. I will never forget that moment. My friend Lance, in response to the news, said “a great man lost his life when suddenly his incredibly large heart could no longer bear the weight of its own love.” I can’t think of a better way to say it. We will miss you so much Ted. Thank you for everything.
Farewell to a Friend: My Reflections on the Passing of Ted Mays
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