I wish I knew Zachi Teleshia before I heard about his passing because at such a young age, he gets it.
He understood the power of comic books to somebody like him. Zachi was a fan of comics, loved them, grew inspiration from them, and wanted to make his own. And he did. He created and wrote his own comic series, Hero Up! all before the age of 10.
Then you see what Zachi has gone through. His birth mother murdered by his birth father was one thing. In 2008, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a cancer that affects the bones. Zachi created a character as an alter-ego for himself, Venom-Transporter, the leader who could gain strength from any toxin.
From what I read about him, he seemed like a typical kid, a happy, fun-loving individual who loved to create and help out anybody that he could.
Zachi Telesha died on April 29, 2013 at the age of 12. He may have found inspiration in comics, but as a comics fan and creator, I’m finding a lot of inspiration in him.
Rest in comfort and peace, little man.
I know Zachi’s dad, Marc. We were friends in college, where he was first a student, then a student administrator. He and his wife Susie couldn’t have children of their own, so they adopted Zachi when he was, I think, around five or six years old. I lost touch with Marc and Susie over the years, but remember fondly the conversations Marc and I had about hardcore music, and sci-fi, and comic books.
The other day, I came across this image in my Facebook feed:
It happened after I returned from San Francisco, where I and my family had just buried my cousin Sandra. At thirty-three years old, she died giving birth to her son Nate, leaving behind her husband, sister, brother-in-law, niece, mother, father, and a slew of aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends. (Not to mention San Francisco Giants fans the world over.)
What struck me most was that, instead of gloom, the funeral was a casual, light-hearted affair (though my family somehow never received the memo). Indeed, even her widowed husband gave his eulogy wearing flip-flops, jeans, and a wrinkled plaid shirt. Sure, there were tears, but the sadness was greatly outweighed by the laughter. It was a celebration of her life. It was a happy time. We all believed she was watching us from somewhere brilliant, and smiling, and laughing, and missing us dearly.
And yet, when we returned to Pennsylvania, I was still despondent. Sure, the world now had Nate and a loving family to care for him, but it was a dimmer world. I didn’t know Sandra terribly well, mostly due to geography and a significant age gap, but I nevertheless felt as though a light had gone out somewhere.
A few days later, the above image of Zachi came across my feed. Here, instead of sharing something bleak with the world, Marc decided to celebrate his son’s his half-birthday by honouring him with an uplifting and powerful image of Zachi pulling a superhero pose. It’s bright, and cheerful, and undoubtedly a perfect reflection of the type of person Zachi Telesha was. (And this I say without ever having met him.)
Two deaths within two weeks, and both treated not as grey ordeals, but as parties.
Oddly enough, I knew about HERO UP! without quite realizing who was behind it. I had no idea that I had such a connection to someone so brave and strong. Dealing with depression off-and-on as I have done for many years, I rarely look up from my own gloom—least of all my own privilege—to realize that there are people in, dare I say, “worse” conditions than I, who yet carry out their days with effortless joy. I haven’t finished a comic in almost a year, largely due to my negative attitude. Yet here is Zachi, a 12-year-old kid who battled cancer FOUR TIMES, penning a comic book that he could not only call his own, but hold in his hands, with as much vigour and enthusiasm for the craft as any seasoned professional.
So as far as I am concerned, Zachi Josiah Telesha is the single-most influential person I have ever been graced to encounter. I wish I had met him while he was still alive, but am grateful and humbled to know that he left an indelible impression on the world and the people around him. And besides, I can always know him through his comic book work.
Thanks for the comic, Zachi. May you soar through the clouds of Paradise.
(Final thoughts: Sandra’s son’s full name is Nathan Josiah Payne. I’m not sure quite what it means, sharing a middle name with Zachi, but it seems significant all the same.)