RIP Toren Smith

Toren_Smith

Tears are streaming down my face right now. One of my closest and best friends died yesterday. Details are pending. But he and I were very close. I had some of the best conversations with this guy and we changed each others lives. In 1982 I introduced him to Anime and Manga and he moved to Japan and started Studio Proteus. He was a major manga provider in the US for two decades. He sold his business to Dark Horse a few years ago and his marriage to the very talent artist Tomoko Saito also ended recently. I just saw him a few weeks back and I can’t tell you how much I miss him. We clicked almost from the start. We just got along so well. Call it a bromance, whatever. We were very good friends and had some of the greatest of times hanging out. We saw eye to eye on so many things, we had so many similar interests. Whenever we got together we would talk until the break of dawn.

He was a regular commentor on this site for many years. I know he made friends with some of my readers here. And he worked with many others.

He was a great guy, a great friend and I will miss him probably till the day I die. He was one of those people that was endlessly fascinating and fun to be with.

My biggest regret of the last ten years is not being able to see him that much. And the last time I saw him I only got to spend about 5 hours talking. Now I’ll never have the chance again.

This entry was posted in Obituary by James Hudnall. Bookmark the permalink.

About James Hudnall

Writer James Hudnall has been producing comics and graphic novels since 1986. His internet career as a web developer started in 1999. James has also worked as a lecturer, writing teacher, salesman and is a US Air Force Veteran.
  • Tom Orzechowski

    It was last night that Lois got a brief word that Toren had died. We had trouble believing it, and she spent some hours last night looking for confirmation which, sadly, did come. Toren’s first office for Studio Proteus was on the back porch of my San Francisco flat, in ’89 and ’90. We spent a lot of time talking about this and that when we weren’t conferring on production matters for Nausicaa, Appleseed and Dirty Pair. While we didn’t doubt that the comics would be successful, it was still exciting watch the company grow into so many more titles. At the same time, he was our conduit for all that late ’80s / early ’90s anime. Toren was one of the most accomplished people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and a fine companion when it was time to find a pub. He led a life that lent itself to many a good story. I’ll make a point of bending an elbow in his honor, and will never forget him.

  • Tom Orzechowski

    It was last night that Lois got a brief word that Toren had died. We had trouble believing it, and she spent some hours last night looking for confirmation which, sadly, did come. Toren’s first office for Studio Proteus was on the back porch of my San Francisco flat, in ’89 and ’90. We spent a lot of time talking about this and that when we weren’t conferring on production matters for Nausicaa, Appleseed and Dirty Pair. While we didn’t doubt that the comics would be successful, it was still exciting watch the company grow into so many more titles. At the same time, he was our conduit for all that late ’80s / early ’90s anime. Toren was one of the most accomplished people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and a fine companion when it was time to find a pub. He led a life that lent itself to many a good story. I’ll make a point of bending an elbow in his honor, and will never forget him.

  • Tom Orzechowski

    It was last night that Lois got a brief word that Toren had died. We had trouble believing it, and she spent some hours last night looking for confirmation which, sadly, did come. Toren’s first office for Studio Proteus was on the back porch of my San Francisco flat, in ’89 and ’90. We spent a lot of time talking about this and that when we weren’t conferring on production matters for Nausicaa, Appleseed and Dirty Pair. While we didn’t doubt that the comics would be successful, it was still exciting watch the company grow into so many more titles. At the same time, he was our conduit for all that late ’80s / early ’90s anime. Toren was one of the most accomplished people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and a fine companion when it was time to find a pub. He led a life that lent itself to many a good story. I’ll make a point of bending an elbow in his honor, and will never forget him.

    • http://thehud.com/ James Hudnall

      I still can’t believe this. Its hard

    • http://www.facebook.com/thewritejerry Jerry A. Novick

      Dear James and Tom,

      I am so saddened by the lose of your friend and co-worker, Toren. I only knew Toren through the work we did together when I was Editor and Sales Manager at Viz almost 25 years ago. But I liked him and very much respected him, and even though we are far removed from those bygone days, I am moved by his passing.

      • Amritas

        Dear Jerry,

        I did not know that you had worked with Toren. I am honored to have worked with him as a translator — a dream come true. I thank him — and James who got us together through blogging eleven years ago.

        Toren was a pioneer and a titan in the manga industry in America, but he was also so much more than that, and hearing from you and others makes me realize what a great man we have lost.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rick.sternbach Rick Sternbach

    I’m so sorry to hear the news. I didn’t know Toren terribly well, but we had some good conversations at the conventions and through him I got to meet other folks in the anime and manga business. I applaud all he did to bring the art form to us here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000266418520 Greg Espinoza

    I just heard about it tonight. I always liked Toren and had tremendous respect for what he did to get quality manga a higher profile in the states. He always treated me decently, and I have a lot of respect for him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000266418520 Greg Espinoza

    I just heard about it tonight. I always liked Toren and had tremendous respect for what he did to get quality manga a higher profile in the states. He always treated me decently, and I have a lot of respect for him.

  • Lex Nakashima

    This is something I never thought I’d see. Toren was a fundamental piece of Bay Area fandom (and manga): never baby-steps for him– I loved the way he leapt into every project he began. I am stunned. A part of my past has been ripped away. I haven’t seen him in years…and now I regret that immensely (though he’d probably smack me for all this schmaltz if he could). Man.

  • Lois Buhalis

    I’m still in shock, and probably will be for awhile. We fell out of touch once Tom and I moved out of the Bay Area, something I regretted then and even more now. Toren always amazed me with his ability to become an accomplished expert at pretty much everything he found interesting, no matter what it was, and his interests were very far-ranging, indeed. He was generous and honorable and incredibly intelligent. He is, and will be, greatly missed.

  • Lois Buhalis

    I’m still in shock, and probably will be for awhile. We fell out of touch once Tom and I moved out of the Bay Area, something I regretted then and even more now. Toren always amazed me with his ability to become an accomplished expert at pretty much everything he found interesting, no matter what it was, and his interests were very far-ranging, indeed. He was generous and honorable and incredibly intelligent. He is, and will be, greatly missed.

  • Lois Buhalis

    I’m still in shock, and probably will be for awhile. We fell out of touch once Tom and I moved out of the Bay Area, something I regretted then and even more now. Toren always amazed me with his ability to become an accomplished expert at pretty much everything he found interesting, no matter what it was, and his interests were very far-ranging, indeed. He was generous and honorable and incredibly intelligent. He is, and will be, greatly missed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/reed.julian Reed Julian

    I hung out with him many a times when he was here in dallas for a con appearance. we got to be friend after a while. I will miss him dearly!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670377586 Tim Pilcher

    Shit. Sorry to hear this, Jim. Toren helped me out securing some image permissions rights for my Erotic Comics: A Graphic History books. Without him, those books would never have happened. I owe him a great debt, and although we never met I could tell he was a lovely guy. He was probably responsible for me getting into manga in the first place, with all his early translations. He’ll be missed.

  • James Swallow

    I’m stunned to hear this. I knew Toren back in the day of early british anime fandom, we’d hang out and go on pub crawls looking for obscure real ales when he visited the UK. He introduced me to some of the greats of manga, something I will always be grateful for. A top guy, a real gent and terrible loss. I’m glad I knew him.

  • James Swallow

    I’m stunned to hear this. I knew Toren back in the day of early british anime fandom, we’d hang out and go on pub crawls looking for obscure real ales when he visited the UK. He introduced me to some of the greats of manga, something I will always be grateful for. A top guy, a real gent and terrible loss. I’m glad I knew him.

  • James Swallow

    I’m stunned to hear this. I knew Toren back in the day of early british anime fandom, we’d hang out and go on pub crawls looking for obscure real ales when he visited the UK. He introduced me to some of the greats of manga, something I will always be grateful for. A top guy, a real gent and terrible loss. I’m glad I knew him.

  • James Swallow

    I’m stunned to hear this. I knew Toren back in the day of early british anime fandom, we’d hang out and go on pub crawls looking for obscure real ales when he visited the UK. He introduced me to some of the greats of manga, something I will always be grateful for. A top guy, a real gent and terrible loss. I’m glad I knew him.

  • James Swallow

    I’m stunned to hear this. I knew Toren back in the day of early british anime fandom, we’d hang out and go on pub crawls looking for obscure real ales when he visited the UK. He introduced me to some of the greats of manga, something I will always be grateful for. A top guy, a real gent and terrible loss. I’m glad I knew him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/madoverlord Robert Woodhead

    I am absolutely stunned to hear this. Toren was a real gentleman, and one of the people who was absolutely instrumental in bringing manga and anime into the US mainstream.

  • http://twitter.com/khyungbird Jason Thompson

    How awful! And he was barely over 50?!? I only spoke to him once or twice, back in 2006, but he was always one of those people on my list of “legendary people I must sit down with someday and really talk to.” What a loss, for the world and especially for those who knew him.

  • http://twitter.com/khyungbird Jason Thompson

    How awful! And he was barely over 50?!? I only spoke to him once or twice, back in 2006, but he was always one of those people on my list of “legendary people I must sit down with someday and really talk to.” What a loss, for the world and especially for those who knew him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahtwocents Tony Collett

    This news hit me hard when I read it this morning (oh, boy). I recognize a lot of names in the comments from the comics I was fortunate to read thanks to Mr. Smith’s efforts, so while it’s too late to say it to him, let me say to all of you: thank you for bringing manga to a hungry fan in Indiana. I’ve wrote an appreciation of Mr. Smith on my blog at: http://www.mahtwocents.com/?p=10962. Not to toot my horn, I just don’t want to repeat what I said or worse, forget something.

  • Bruce Lewis

    Impossible to believe. How could Toren be dead? He’s one of us — the “first fandom” of anime in America. He’s in Gunbuster, for Pete’s sake!

    A sad, sad day. Toren Smith was always a generous supporter of my career in the biz, and never stingy with good advice and encouragement. When I think back on how few of us there were back in those long-ago days before the anime boom in America, and how it felt when our weird little hobby exploded into a global phenomenon, I can’t help but acknowledge that none of the wonder would have occurred if he hadn’t been there to juice it along.

    And now he’s gone. Nothing left to do but climb to the top of the ladder and stare at the headband tied around the handrail. さようなら, スミス トーレン.

  • Lea Hernandez

    My fiance saw the news on Facebook first and told me. I just collapsed across him and my daughter, I was crying too hard to stand up. I talked to Adam Warren at length, with Adam being tremendously helpful in steering me back to the present when I got very sad.

    I’m sorry for everyone’s loss.

  • GC001

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss, Hud.

    My thoughts are with Toren’s family… Especially his wife.

    This is all too abrupt.

  • Mr Artmonkey

    James, I just heard. I’m crushed. Toren was one of my earliest professional connections in comics work, and a friend. I remember a great weekend I spent there with him and Tomoko at his house in San Francisco. He was very proud of his AV system; the cables connecting the speakers were the heavy, netted 1″ diameter for total surround sound to his Laserdisc. I remember spending some time trying to choose what would be best to watch on that, and we settled on Terminator. He was so excited to share, always. I realize how passionately geeky he was, yet in those days (and always) I only ever saw he was cool. I am happy I knew him. I’m sad I’ll not see him again. The next beer’s on me, for Toren.

  • http://twitter.com/clothiersports Brian Clothier

    It speaks volume about the man and his character to read these memorials. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brin.marie.mclaughlin Brin Marie McLaughlin

    Toren Smith was the best man at my wedding. In the interest of accuracy, and to honor his love of niggling details, I wanted to state for the record that he passed away on March the 4th, not March the 5th. Wikipedia has it wrong and somebody’s ‘corrected’ us twice over there, so I figured I’d at least make an attenpt over here to give the accurate information. Thanks, folks!

  • Devon

    I am totally gutted. I just heard the news of Toren’s passing. I was having a bit of nostalgia today listening to Pantera “Cowboys from Hell’ which Toren, Tomoko and Adam played for me for the first time during a visit to Treat Street. So I googled his name to see what he was up too. My heart sunk. We’d lost touch after he “retired.” I wasn’t sure if he’d made good on relocating to the Bahamas. He was always so kind and generous to me. Every visit resulted in stack of great manga. He introduced me to the work of Peter Jackson when his entire cannon consisted of Bad Taste. Gave me a copy a subtitled VHS copy of Nausicaa when all that was available in the US was Warriors of the Wind. Toren and Tomoko introduced me to Evan Dorkin via Milk & Cheese and Steve Purcell via Sam & Max. Fed me chocolate covered ramen and other strange culinary dishes. His influence and inspiration, along with that provided by his cohorts, Tomoko and Adam, has made my world much more interesting and memorable. I am grateful to have known him and will forever cherish my memories of him.