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Over the course of my still-evolving career, I've written tributes to two of the greats of the business, William Hanna and Chuck Jones. Never did I envision I would be doing a remembrance article to someone whom I'd interviewed personally so early on in this venture. In October of 2002, animation lost one of its foremost female action-adventure writers, Hilary J. Bader, to breast cancer at the age of 51. Hilary became one of my first interview subjects, and among a select few where I did not have any prior relationship. This loss impacts me profoundly as a woman, an animation fan, and an animation professional.
Hilary J. Bader's best-known works to the animation community tie to SUPERMAN and various BATMAN-themed shows for Warner Bros. Her early works included scripts for the BATMAN/SUPERMAN ADVENTURES, and she would later go on to write many scripts for BATMAN BEYOND, as well as THE ZETA PROJECT. Hilary also wrote for animation-related venues such as the BATMAN BEYOND comic book and the GOTHAM GIRLS webisodes at Warner Bros. website.
I remember the first time I saw Hilary; it was San Diego Comic-Con International 2001. Unfortunately, I don't recall exactly how I first noticed her; I believe someone else I knew sat down to talk to her and said, "Hello, Hilary" while we were waiting for a panel to start. What I do remember, much clearer, are the feelings upon realizing the person I saw was Hilary J. Bader -- kind of a mix of awe and excitement. Though I count several of the foremost female animated writers amongst my friends and mentors (Christy Marx, Katherine Lawrence), Hilary was the first one that really grabbed my attention as a prominent writer of the Warner Bros. action shows. At first, I felt that I would never be able to approach Hilary.
Later during the convention, at a professional mixer, I saw Hilary again and got the nerve to go speak to her. She graciously spent time with me, with images that remain clearly in my mind. Towards the end, I asked her if she would be willing to do a mini-interview with me at a website I wrote monthly articles for (the one I was at before I came to DIGITAL MEDIA FX) regarding writing animation for the Internet, as Hilary was a well-known name writing for a venue that seemed to be staying steady when many other websites folded. Hilary agreed, and we exchanged business cards. As soon as I got home I started formulating the questions to email her for the interview. Because the field of writing animation for the Internet was so new, focusing the questions proved to be a real challenge given my space restrictions, especially since I didn't want to limit Hilary's answers. I'm glad I took that kind of time so that she could answer those questions candidly and in detail.
The last time I exchanged any words with Hilary came in an email from mid-September of 2002. I had a project I was working on involving the use of my older columns, and I wrote to Hilary making sure she consented to my reuse of the interview for the project. Her response: "No prob. Use with my blessing." I did not know of the struggle she faced; the news of her death less than a month later proved to be a blow.
I know I did not get to know Hilary as well as many people in the industry did. But I am so thankful that I found the courage that day at Comic-Con, that I got the chance to talk with her. Most of all, I'm humbled by the idea that I captured and preserved part of her insights to remain after she's no longer here to share.
In previous columns, I've encouraged readers to network and get to know others in the field. This time, I implore them. If the opportunity arises to talk to someone you've wanted to speak to, reach out and grab it. Don't think that you'll try the next time, when it's easier or more convenient or you're braver; there may never be a next time. That doesn't mean to be rude and run everyone over at all costs to do it, but certainly don't cop out. What insight you may grab then, from that one encounter, may serve you well for years to come. And, things don't work out positively, at least you can say you tried and never look back with regret for missing the moment.
Hilary J. Bader brought a wit and wisdom to the Batman and Superman mythos that will be missed by many. I know I will miss her as a writer, and simply for being her.
You can email Shannon Muir at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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