In August of 2006 I journeyed to New York for the first time in my life, invited there by Peter Sanderson to attend the memorial being held for Mark Gruenwald. Two of my fellow writers from the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe - Mike and Anthony - accompanied me.
Many people took turns at the microphone, including Mike. Near the end, Gruenwald’s widow Catherine read from a notebook Gruenwald had written more than ten years before his death which concerned his thoughts on the afterlife.
I thought I was already familiar with Gruenwald’s take on matters of spirituality. Two of Gruenwald’s favorite characters - Wendell Vaughn, the heroic Quasar and Dave Landers of DP7 - were both atheist. In spite of our differences in belief, I had at least admired Gruenwald for being open-minded, such as his treatment of exorcism in DP7#5 (which was where Dave’s atheism was revealed - but at the same time as fellow cast member Randy’s Catholicism). There was also an amusing bit in Quasar#22 where Wendell was visited by the ghost of his father, also an atheist; still a staunch non-believer, his father’s ghost refused to accept his own existence and offered his son a rationalization for his manifestation.
Because of this background I was a little surprised by what Gruenwald had written in his notebook: in there, he expressed his belief in a creator. Not necessarily God, not even something he recognized as a deity, but a creator. This, for me, was exciting; the suggestion that Gruenwald was perhaps more agnostic than atheist comforted me and explained to me his open-mindedness.
Mike drove me to my hotel that evening. As we reminisced over the night’s events, Gruenwald’s spirituality came up. Mike, a Christian, was taken aback by what he had learned, being unaware of the atheist themes in Gruenwald’s work. As we pondered the life of a man whom we had both admired, one of us found new fondness for him; the other, less.